Tough and Lightweight Material for Yaks

How come kayak manufacturers can’t seem to make a tough, lightweight material for kayaks?

I went to one of the local boat dealers and they really discouraged me paddling anything, but plastic on the rivers here in the SE. They only recommended RM plastic. They said thermoform plastic could be sliced easily by very sharp rocks or corral and split. When I mentioned kevlar, they said the gel coating on the kevlar could be scraped off by rocks and the kevlar could be damaged.

Any ideas? Is there a material lurking out there that I’m not aware of that is durable, light and tough? Are SE river paddlers destined to paddle heavy RM plastic?

Does the local boat dealer
You mentioned SELL anything but plastic boats?

(Sounds like someone with a strong bias toward rotomolded to me). Each of the current materials has its pluses and minuses. And each of those materials can be a good choice for paddling the Maine coast. (I can’t imagine that your rivers provide an environment that’s all that much more harsh on boats than the Maine coast.)

For shallow rocky rivers
RM is still probably your best best. For open water, you have lots of choices. RM, Thermoformed, Fiberglass, Kevlar, Glass and wood, and SOF.

Whitewater boats
If there was such a material readily availible, I suspect that competitive whitewater paddlers would be using it.

Competitive rodeo/freestyle kayakers use rotomolded poly boats. Slalom and downriver racers use composite boats. Canoists use Royalex or composites.

What kind of kayak are you looking for?

Other than cost I see no reason that it wouldn’t work for kayaks…

Might be a little hot to the touch…

And damned pricey too!!!
Noisy - - probably dents pretty easily depending on the thickness.

Hec - at that rate why not aluminium. Hot in the summer and cold in the winter. You could use a hammer to bang out the dents.

new material
Liquic Logic is working with a new material that should meet your requirements. They have info on their website. On the canoeing side, Esquif is probably going to expand their use of twintex from one of their boats into some of the others. Both materials sound like they have a lot of promise.

Titanium has been done
Necky had two Ti surf boats made for them by an aerospace contractor. Superplastic formed. Ti is a poor transmitter of heat, so they are neither hot, nor cold. Very costly, and these were heavier than needed. I saw a big piece of concrete tossed at one and it bounced off leaving a minor scratch. I applaud Necky for messing around with such a wild idea. It’s doeable and would result in a lifetime kayak. BUT…I thnk Ti would ba an exceptional sea touring kayak material, and you could have a light, salt water inert, crazy strong craft requiring no gel-coat or paint. Probably a million in tooling and 10k a boat! But??

This is one of the reasons such a boat would never work…market is essentially clueless about such materials.

Liquid Logic
I took a look at the Liquid Logic website and saw the milliken fabric that they are experimenting with. It looks interesting. I’ve looked at the liquid logic boats and their touring boats ook like elongated ww boats. I wonder if they would ever consider making a true sleek sea kayak.

What I’m looking for.
I’m looking for a light weight touring boat for overnight trips. The boat would also be used for races down rivers that have small class I shoals with lots of scrappy rocks. I would also like to it take out weekly for training sections on my local lake

I’m a woman and heftying my 64 pound sea kayak onto my roof rack is just too much. I never use the thing except on long, overnight trips. Compared to my sprint boat (SRS delphine) it weighs a ton, but I’ve already chipped and dinged up the fiberglass of the sprint boat. It is 30 pounds and 17 ’ long and I keep dinging it up loading and unloading it.

In fact, I just boat another day tripper Riot Stealth, which is 45 pounds and this is almost too heavy for me. It’s too slow to race or even think about trying to use as an exercise boat.

I know guys that are looking at lighter boats to run rivers.

Yes I do think that there might be a bias toward anything other than RM down here in the SE. It’s very hard to even find anything other than a RM boat in our kayak shops.

A friend recently bought a QCC 700 kevlar construction. He plans to race it down our Georgia rivers. I’m waiting to see how his boat holds up. His wooden sea kayak already took a mild beating from a shoal during a race.

Par for the course
All boats are going to get dinged up with use, that’s just the nature of kayaking. Given that, you may as well get a boat that suits your weight needs and simply learn how to repair it as necessary. There are a couple of options:

  • Lightweight conventional layup. Glass, Kevlar and/or carbon fiber layups can be made in the weight range you seek, but not all manufacturers offer them. You’ll end up having to do occasionaly gelcoat repairs, but it’s not difficult or expensive. I have pics of the process in a Webshots album at:

  • Wood composite. You can buy or build fiberglass-sheathed wooden boats that are very light (under 40#) in a variety of sizes and designs. Maintenance consists of re-painting or re-varnishing areas that get scratched and occasional fiberglass repairs. Again, it’s no big deal.

    One thing to consider on either boat is to have a keel strip installed. I may add a pound (if that), but it reduces wear and tear, and maintenance on the highest wear area of the boat.

kevlar and fiberglass without gelcoat
are tougher, more flexible and lighter than gelcoated boats. gelcoat is mostly cosmetic, its main purpose is the slick, glossy color, plus uv protection. my two ‘nekkid’ fiberglass boats are 30 years old, are stored outdoors, and have not ‘deteriorated due to uv’. some manufacturers will build boats without gelcoat, some won’t

tuff hull material
I can’t speak about bouncing of rocks, logs and/or other submerged objects in a swiftly running river.

However, I can personally attest to the fact that Hurricane Aqua Sports proprietary thermoformed hull plastic is more scratch/scrape resistant than either rotomolded plastic or gel coat. My experience covers launchings and landings on both very coarse sandy beaches, gravel beaches, stoney beaches, and solid rock ledges. It also includes surf launchings and landings in small surf (1 -1.5’) on sandy and gravel beaches.

Tracer 165
Thanks for pointing me to Hurricane. I like the looks of the Tracer 165. It’s only 46 pounds and you can’t beat the price of less than $1500. I wish it came with a ridder though.

Thanks for all the advice
Thanks everyone for the helpful advice. Although, I think I’ll stay away from Ti boats ; )

My plan is to go to a sea kayak symposium and try some out. I’m not looking to buy until next year.

I’m also going to see how my friend’s new kevlar QCC 700 holds out on the local rivers. He just got it in a few days ago.

I also think there is going to be more and more yakers on our rivers down here. Traditionally, flatwater rivers were the domain of canoes. Kayaks were used solely for ww and the sea, but the introduction of rec boats may have changed this dynamic. I lead the safety boat team for Paddle GA (120 mile, 7 day trip down a Georgia river) so I get to see literally hundreds of boats and people (last year we had over 300 paddlers and around 200 boats). The vast majority of these folks are paddling rec kayaks and they do just fine. In fact, I’m amazed at how wonderfully forgiving these boats are because on many occassions the paddlers don’t have good skill and technique yet they still manage to remain upright! I also think that eventually yak manufactors and designers will start looking to develop high performance rec boats.

Tracer 165

– Last Updated: Sep-29-06 2:58 PM EST –

Expirience with my Tracer is what I based my opinion on. I bought a new 2003 version (i.e. still in the factory wrap) in 2005. It had a rudder bracket installed at the factory (the 2003's didn't have a skeg).

It was relatively simple for me (and I'm not that handy when it comes to do-it-yourself) to install a rudder and appropriate footbraces. I found pretty much everything I needed on e-bay last winter (rudder, sealine foot braces, toe controls, cables) for considerably less than retail and installed it all early this spring. Works fine!

titanium prices through the roof
I heard that titanium prices were extremely high now. Probably the same reasons as carbon fiber - hog wild military spending. I thought about contacting our local specialty titanium forming company about tubing for a Yost folder but decided I didn’t want to get laughed out of the place. If I ever meet the boss at a party I’ll bring it up though. Maybe they would do a kayak just for the publicity. Could you heat treat it to get those rainbow colors?

Kaiser in town has a heck of an extruder left over from the nuke business, but I haven’t heard anything about their business recently. Probably mainly baseball bats and golf clubs.

Possibly true
You may be correct. I have not priced Ti in over a year. It was coming down in price after the cold war, and with improvements in manufacturing processes. However, all the Carbon in these new planes requires Ti framework, as aluminum contacting Carbon Fiber results in a very corrosive deal! Ti is actually a very abundant element. Depending on the source we hear anywhere from the 4th to 7th most abundant mineral. “Black Sand”. Forming Ti can be costly. Contact C-Tek Metals in California. Ti is an amazing material. Very misunderstood, but superb for lightweight / strong / corrosion resistant applications.