Why is my kayak flooding?

-- Last Updated: Nov-02-09 11:06 AM EST --

I recently purchased my first kayak, a Perception Illusion 14ft SOT kayak. When I put it in a lake to test it out (after I bought it) the scupper holes let in about 2 to 3 inches of water which stayed under my feet throughout the entire paddle.

I inspected the kayak and noticed that there is a big block of foam starting under the seat and extending back towards the rear hatch. Does foam inside the kayak make it more buoyant?

I'm 6'1 215lbs and had no gear in the kayak during my trip so I'm well under the advertised load limit for the kayak. Before I go plugging up the scupper holes I'd like to know what is causing this issue. Thanks for any help you can give.


– Last Updated: Nov-02-09 11:13 AM EST –

Thar be holes in your kayak

key statement
"putting it in the lake to test it out after you bought it".

The Illusion sits low in the water with just the paddler alone. You’re over half the capacity of the kayak which I don’t suggest doing because they’ll have a tendency to take on water like that. Before you buy again make sure that your weight and the weight of your gear is around half the capacity.

The foam block is not for buoyancy and no amount of foam you put inside will made it so. It’s only there for structural support.

Was there water inside the kayak?
Is there a leak that lets water into the kayak? If so you need to find it and fix i. Check where the fittings and hatches attach, the padeye fittings often leak and can be fixed with some silicone sealant.

Are you sure it was 3" of water over your feet or just a little bit sloshing in as you paddle? It’s normal to have a little water sloshing in through the scuppers.

Did you have some gear in the boat - was the boat trimmed level or to bow slightly higher?

If you are paddling in flat water with no waves go ahead and put the scupper plugs in.

It does sound like you should have done a test drive before purchasing. You should be fine paddling with scupper plugs in unless you paddle in waves and moving water.

Different Designs Among Models
and manufactuerers will make the paddler sit lower or higher in the SOT. If top of the SOT is closer to the hull, you’ll sit lower (and sometimes) in the water if the scupper plugs are not in. At the same time, you are more stable because of a lower center of gravity. Some SOT designs have the paddler sit higher. If you are on the heavier end of the range, sitting high will make the SOT feel and act tippier.

If water is not actually inside the hull, as opposed to the open cockpit area, the boat is not leaking. In textured water, it’s better to leave the scupper holes unplug to drain water (though there will be some sitting on the bottom). If a cockpit gets filled with water because the plugs are in place, the SOT becomes very tippy and you may find yourself overboard before being able to pull the plugs.


Testing prior to buying wasn’t an option in this case but I got a good price - worst case scenario I’ll have to sell it.

The water isn’t in the internal compartment - it’s just in the area under my feet by the scupper holes. The second I sat in it water came through the holes and remained there througout the paddle. More water than should be coming through. It sounds like plugging the holes is my best bet.

The kayak had no gear in it - just me and my paddle.

Plugging The Holes…
is your “best” bet only on flat water. If you are in waves and take on water, your boat will get very tippy.


Both my SOTs have a couple of inches of water sloshing around my feet. It’s the nature of the SOT.

i think it’s normal for SOT’s w/ scupper holes in them to take on water …buy some scupper hole plugs and insert them in the holes…then pull and drain any water while underway while paddling.

If you paddle real fast
the water will go away. But if you slow down, the water will come back. I learned that paddling my surf ski.

The Perception Illusion
can be a wet ride. It was my first SOT and I’m 5’10" @185.

Love the big hatches and if the seals are in good shape, they are watertight.

The hatch in the cockpit with a cat bag is nice to have but I had to keep the seal clean or it would weep inside.

I bought scupper plugs but never used them, instead I bought water shoes.

It can handle some weight. I used it often for 2 & 3 night trips into the ENP and would carry 25lbs. of drinking water along with gear. Although it lumbers and weather cocks when loaded, I never didn’t feel safe in it.

I wouldn’t worry about that water and just enjoy paddling.

Regional Differences

– Last Updated: Nov-02-09 9:15 PM EST –

This guy is from Chicago, and he's asking the question right now in early November. It might be easy for someone from Florida to say "don't worry about the water" or "just wear water shoes", but there's a reason SOTs are so scarce up here, and there's an even better reason that at this time of year you aren't likely to see one at all. I'd guess that some surfers on the Great Lakes might use them, but those people are wet all the time no matter what boat they use. Of course, it's not possible to tell if the original poster was expecting this to be a decent cold-water boat or if it was his intention to use it in the summer.

Your boat is merely taking on water through the scuppers because you and it together weigh enough to depress the scuppers below the water line. Hence, the water will rise through the scuppers to the level outside the boat.

I’m 6-0, 205-210#, and will experience the same phenomenon in my OK Scupper Pro TW (14’-9", 26" beam), and in my wife’s Scupper Classic, a boat more akin to your Illusions dimensions at 14’-1"/26".

Don’t sweat it, it’s completely normal and expected.

There are a number of SOTs that will obviate your “problem”, but most are not nearly as performance-oriented as your Perception; most “dry” SOTs will be relatively large displacement barges. One, however, that is relatively dry and yet still an very good performer is the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 16.

You don’t have a “bad” boat, but one that’s right at the limit of appropriate for your weight; others of similar dimensions will be similarly wet, so just dress for it.

If you really want to stay dry, go with a sit-inside and a skirt.

Otherwise, use what you’ve got (apparently a good deal), and be happy as you


-Frank in Miami

never tried a sot

– Last Updated: Nov-03-09 12:36 AM EST –

but was just wondering as I read these posts - is a plug with a built in valve available? This would allow water out when the water level inside the cockpit reached a level higher than the water on the outside, but would keep water from entering, at least through where the plug is, or isn't.
Or, maybe that's the way they are now.
Just wondering

Thanks again
Thanks for all the great responses. Exactly what I was hoping to hear. Hopefully in a few years I’ll have enough expertise to come on here and help the next batch of newbies!

I decided on the SOT because fishing is my main interest and considered the coldness/wetness factor but ultimately felt like I could compensate for weather by wearing raingear, waterproof boots, etc (if anyone has any gear recommendations or links to good threads on the subject I’m all ears). I’ll be using it mostly in spring and summer but those early spring fishing trips can definitely get really cold.

chota mukluk lites
will keep your feel and lower legs toasty. I wore them in my sit on top when the weather started to turn. I also used a thermarest inflatable seat cushion to slightly raise my bottom in case the water that collects near my feet migrated which it does if windy and wavy. Those worked for me but there is a point where the sit on top wasnt appropriate and i went back to my sit inside with neoprene sprayskirt for warmth and to stay dry (with boots still!)

Most Of The Northeast SOT/Fishing Folks

– Last Updated: Nov-03-09 10:29 AM EST –

are using waders, with wading belts, and topped over with drytops or semi drytops. One of the "fears" of using waders is thatthe waders will fill up with water in a capsize and become a "sea anchor." Apparently, this is a legend (especially with neoprene wader and belt). In a capsize, the waders tend to compressed against the body and the wading belt and drytop act to slow infiltration of water. The trick is getting back onto the SOT with some speed and that takes practice.

Before anyone jumps on the use of the waders, I'll say that I have wetsuits and drysuits that I use before I get into waders. But, I have seen videos and read testimonies of the local SOT fishing folks (not "dedicated" kayakers) who pratice SOT re-entry with waders/drytops on. It seems to work for them. Experience beats conjecture and speculation as far as I am concerned.


Yeah, the wader thing.

– Last Updated: Nov-03-09 10:51 AM EST –

FrankNC provided a link to one of those wader-safety demos earlier this year, and there clearly was no safety problem at all. However, the safety concerns about "waders" are real when dealing with traditional waders - the kinds that duck hunters and trappers wear in "non-Florida" parts of the country (the video in question was made by a Florida fisherman). Traditional waders are made of rubber-coated canvas and have built-in heavy-duty knee-high boots, so they often weigh 15 to 17 pounds. The modern fishing waders of the type shown in the video linked by FrankNC weigh about one-quarter of a pound, and are much more similar to rain pants than the waders about which deep-water warnings apply. That's why my point of contention with the maker of that video was that he said he was "busting the myth" about the danger of waders in deep water, but in reality it was an extreme case of comparing apples to oranges. I really think that the maker of that video was simply ignorant of the origin of his modern high-tech, light-weight waders, or that lots of people still have a need for the old-fashioned kind.

Just a Point: Didn’ Post To Debunk You

– Last Updated: Nov-03-09 10:58 AM EST –

or visa versa since I wasn't involved in nor read whatever the heck discussion you were involved with.

I am just providing a possible option for the OP, recognizing that there is a "concern" about that option out there. Please notice that I specifically talked about neo waders, wading belts and drytops, as these are the combos most often used and talked about by the folks in the northeast kayak fishing community.

PS. AGAIN, direct experience is the best teacher.

PPS. Cabelas stocking foot neoprene waders are about $50 (goretex or "breatheable" way more). Some sort of drytop is anywhere from $100-$200. Wading belt is $15. No-name oversized neoprene boots (to go over the wader stocking feet) are $25-40.


Absolutely right
"Experience beats speculation" is my point too. You pointed out that someone might “jump on you” about using waders, so all I’m doing is filling in the details about WHY there is a conflict of opinion about the safety of waders, and that if you consider the actual situation there need not be a conflict at all. It all depends on the “kind” of waders you are using, a point that seems to be forgotten by people who “take one side or the other”.

I think bystrom would suggest you wear
a wet suit, to keep “yurin” inside and off the bottom of the boat.