Waxing kayak for speed & glide

Ok That’s enough. Thanks for the input.
I know what I’m going to try.

I have an old Current Design Breeze rotomould yak. Fair shape paddles & handles very well. Is there a wax or compound that can be applied to the bottom to make it glide better to give it more speed? I use Turtle Wax on my fiberglass & arialite yaks. (Maybe something better for those?)

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I seem to remember that, if the boat is fast enough, a slick hull loses in the speed category to a textured hull. Something about laminar flow vs turbulent flow.
We’re talking miniscule differences. And my memory isn’t what it was.

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Waxed vs unwaxed will not make a noticeable speed difference. I wax my kayaks so that mud/water scum is easier to clean off. Collinite fleetwax paste is what I use for gelcoat on my power boat, hobie cat, and composite kayaks. After kayaking I wash down the boat and mist with a spray wax before drying to keep up on the protection. I use the paste wax on the kayaks maybe once a year. For plastic kayaks I use they synthetic spray wax only, no paste wax.

I understand that my kayaks will get beat up but most of mine were restored from pretty bad condition, and because I already wet sanded and polished the hull I might as well maintain it.

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There is no magic coating that will reduce drag. If that was possible, we’d all be trying to buy milspec nuclear submarine wax (sadly, that’s not a thing). The simple rule is: smoother hulls have less drag. For a slow moving hull, it doesn’t have to be particularly smooth. A fast sailboat will profit from very fine sanding, though. For an old rotomolded hull, smoothing the sharp edges of any deep gouges and removing any whiskers of plastic may help, but it won’t be much.

I believe what String mentions relates to the dimples on golf balls. Because of the spherical shape and the specific flow regime that golf balls operate in, the roughened surface triggers an early transition to turbulent flow, reducing the size of the low-pressure wake behind the ball, thereby reducing overall drag. This is in spite of the increase in surface friction on the ball due to the turbulent flow. This was called ‘the drag crisis’ for years until the mechanism was figured out. Unfortunately, there is no comparable phenomenon on low speed displacement hulls (which is what a kayak is).


America’s Cup sail boats sand the hull with 600 I read somewhere. That’s probably the max solution. If they don’t have a magic formula nobody does.

String, that was what I have always been told by racing coaches, texture is better.

My kayak has lots of texture.

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what reduces glide is scratches…

however don’t worry about it. Poly flexes a bit in the water and that reduces speed. Ask Santa for a new boat… :grinning:


Techno-fans are great for the industry because they focus on points that over time get built upon, and usually result in advancements for everyone else.

But in following these things I believe it’s common to ask the wrong question and give the wrong focus. I think simple logic will tell anyone that given the same amount of power used for propulsion, a kayak with less drag IS going to go farther and/or faster. The right question is “How much?”
When we know how much we can make a valid decision as to the value of the “improvement” in not just speed or glide, but in actual cost in dollars.
Having now bought and repaired 3 fiberglass kayaks and seen one Kevlar kayak that needed to be repaired, and then I look at my poly kayaks, for what I do I am not satisfied with the argument that the stiff boats are faster and therefore worth more. My fastest so far was an 18 foot P&H that I had to make repairs to, but I was and am not convinced it was fast because it was stiff near as much as to say it was fast because it was only 20" wide and over 18 feet long. It was too long for my shed, so I only had it for about 2 weeks, but it was a fun kayak and no doubt it was fast. If over the time to come I get a chance to paddle Kevlar kayaks and have a side by side comparison I may change my mind, but other then that skinny 18+ foot long P&H, the fastest kayak I have used so far is still a poly kayak.

So the question I would like to see answered is at a given amount of power and paddler weight (meaning the only true way to make a valid test with be some constant power source to be used on all boats tested) *how MUCH faster would a glass smooth hull that is identical in shape and dimensions be in comparison to a scratched up poly hull over a given mileage?
If I were to see a 1/2 MPH or a 1MPH increase the rabbit trail may be interesting enough for me to follow.
But if I were to find that the “better preforming” smooth hull was 3 seconds faster over a mile and over my longest paddling days that will equate to getting back to my home 75 seconds earlier at a cost of $2000 more dollars, and knowing the hull was delicate and would need repairs far more often, I think my interest in the question would end very soon. I’d smile and enjoy what I have, and never give it another thought.

This is about power applied VS resistance to overcome, (also called drag)

The amount of resistance given can only be valid if both kayaks are 100% identical in form, so smoothness and material can be compared to the glide given, for a given amount of power applied, judged over a given amount of time or distance. For winning the Olympics such things probably matter. Even if the gain was 2 seconds faster over a 1 mile course.

But for myself, I cannot see even a small amount of wisdom in spending a large sum of cash to gain a super small speed increase over a 14 hour paddling day.
This is the stuff of good magazine articles. It makes us think, and gives us a broader education. But for the real world it’s probably less then worthless when we consider that the difference in a 2 MPH breeze and a 2-1/2 MPH breeze probably makes as great or greater a difference and the wind is something we deal with but have NO control over at all.

As a gunsmith and shooting instructor I have seen this kind of thing for 1/2 a century. Teckies going to extreme lengths to develop something “new and improved” only to find that there are 2 things they can’t get around —no mater how much you write in manuals and no matter how much money you throw at a project.
Fact #1 is that the variable is usually the human operation------and there are tens of millions of them over which your theories have ZERO influence.
Fact #2 is that the basic laws of physics can be learned and used, understood and studied, but NOT BROKEN.

So this question is interesting to me.

Is there something that could be done to, or put on a kayak’s hull to make it slip through the water better? That’s question #1.

Questions #2 is how much better -------- and at what cost?

What true value is in that "improvement?

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All things equal poly hulls are not faster. They deform and flex more causing more turbulence.

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OK, but I was not saying they were faster. I said of those that I have used so far, my 2nd fastest is poly. The fastest was fiberglass, but I expect it was faster due to being 14" longer and 1.5" narrower.
The article is good and was worth time to read, but I believe it reinforced my points in the conclusion that less resistance = faster hulls, but never was the calculation given as to HOW MUCH FASTER in percentages, and at what cost?

It’s the value of the speed increase I am asking about. Value measured in 2 ways: percentage of speed increase and in monetary investment.
If the increase is so small that the drop of 2 pounds of weight would do the same thing and to gain that speed by hull finish cost $2000-$3000 I see no wisdom in it. But that just me. Others may disagree, and it’s their time and their money. They can use it as they wish.

When I was racing there was talk of an innovation so Japanese racer created. It was a sharkskin finish that made his boats extremely fast. It never caught on because of the expense of making it. Any anomaly in it made the boat much slower, like a deep scratch would.

I tried waxes and 303. All I saw was water pollution as the wax or 303 dissolved in the water. I gave up and still ended up being a State champion in marathon kayak competition.

Fast is about the boat’s efficiency and the conditioning of the paddler. 303 will keep you rotomolded boat in better condition, but if the boat isn’t fast, and no rotomolded boats are really fast, then an upgraded boat and a stronger training regime would do more.

I tried racing a Cobra Eliminator. It was rotomolded but with a stronger plastic that didn’t oil can. It still had a top limit of about 6mph. I can do that without really trying in my Westside Wave boat.

Fascinating articles and discussion. Save me a lot of experimentation. If you follow my posts, you know speed is important to me. I joined the forum looking for a faster boat and ultimately decided that familiarity with my tubby, indestructible 145 Tsunami is more important. My point is that “speed isn’t everything”, but when you hand power a boat, efficiency is important. In fact, unless you just paddle to enjoy the serenity of a secluded cove, speed is everything.

Get in your car and notice how many vehicles drive the speed limit or under. I understand that paddling a boat may be different. Many paddlers enjoy sight-seeing, but others are going to a destination. For me, the faster I go, the more I see; frankly, looking at a bush as I pass at 3-5 mph give me adequate time to admire it. Admittedly, some things deserve more time and reflection, but when crossing 10 miles of open water, there isn’t much differnece between one mile and the next. The destination is the goal. The difference between 3 mph and 5 mph is 1.3 hours on the open water, which is 2.6 hours round trip that could be devoted to exploring the opposite shore. Even if slowing down by 1 mph to enjoy the scenery, thats 4 miles of exploration.

What makes paddling great is how it can be different things to different people. As important as speed is to me, I gave up my quest for a faster boat in favor of stability. That let’s me pause at time to confidently close my eyes and enjoy the sensation. The best trip I ever had was the longest trip, because it varied between speed, exploration and at times just sitting with my eyes closed, while enjoying the long gentle rollers that rocked the boat like a craddle. Didn’t matter at all that I limped the last four miles, unconcerned that localized thunderstorm could catch me and ruin my day. I recall with great satisfaction the accomplishment and the rewarding experience.

Speed is different to different people. I don’t need a faster boat, I’m not going to scuff off the burrs below the waterline, but this thread has truely been enlightening. What speed tells me is that I’m getting stronger and my paddle technique is more efficient. I also know that going faster doesn’t mean I can’t slow down; quite the contrary, because going faster means I can go slower when I choose. In fact, my experiments with speed show that in my later years, it’s more effective to mix a fast day with a few slow days in between.

Whether a reader is a recreation paddlers or an aspiring paddle racer, this add one more arrow in the quiver. Now I know the rest of the story. Many thanks to all.

I paddle my Extreme with my eyes closed lining up with an object for 40 strokes to see how straight I’m paddling or balanced. I can go slow or fast if I chose. Slow hull can’t go faster. Extreme feels more stable than Hobie Quest or Ocean Trident Prowler which are much, much wider.

Poly cut off any nubs and or pass a heat gun over it fast.

Just remove any barnacles :joy:

I waxed the hull of one of my kayaks. I was putting it on the roof of my wife’s car . I decided to turn it and it decided to leave.
It knocked a ding in the trunk lid and I haven’t waxed one since.

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Unless you are a die hard competitive racer, if you paddle with others and if you can comfortably keep up with the group, your speed is good enough. If paddling sole, who cares.

The only practical issue with 303ing or waxing a hull that I have seen, other than reducing UV damage or making a hull easier to clean, is when loading a boat. Over the years I have seen people when loading a boat from the rear with a recently waxed or 303ed hull accidentally slide their boats off of the car. In one case, it slid off the front, dinged the hood, and went over a bulkhead into the water. The boat was unharmed.

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Turtle Wax hybrid ceramic makes kayaks easier to clean. Salt seems to come off easier.

Good point about slippery boats. Made the mistske of 303 on the hatch covers. It took a while before they would stay on when the hull was thumped.

Agree about speed, but I still like to keep track to measure degree of efficiency and level of conditioning. The body want to take a set and conserve energy. I feel if it isnt pushed, it’ll regress, then at some point it shuts down. If I didn’t take that approach. I’d be paddling at 2.9.mph. i did the math on that one; its not for me.

Not sure if I could go 20 strokes, but I’ve been able to keep on track this year without resorting to lining up a range. Then I verify the track when after landing. Benefit comes from following the posts on edging.