You’ve gone through the rigors of picking out the perfect kayak. You shopped around, you found the best boat for your needs, you got the right size and the ideal color, and you’ve even learned the correct strokes and safety procedures. The work is done. Now you can sit back and enjoy being a kayak owner. You’re ready to paddle! Right?

Wrong.

While these are great first steps, owning a kayak actually takes more work than this. There’s a lot that goes into owning a kayak, but one of the most important things you can learn is how to perform proper kayak maintenance. This article will walk you through how to keep your kayak clean, protect it from the sun, and properly store your kayak. It will also cover the little things you need to pay attention to, like foot peg maintenance.

Kayak maintenance is a thing?

Yes! A kayak is a big investment and you’re going to want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep it in top condition. There aren’t engines to break, but there are skegs, rudders, hatches, tow lines, and paddles that can all creep into disrepair if you’re not careful. Taking care of your kayak doesn’t take a lot of effort, but it’s important to make sure you’re at least covering your bases through cleaning and care.

Keep It Clean

Kayaks spend half their lives immersed in water, but that doesn’t mean they’re clean. No matter where you paddle, there’s bound to be gunk and debris that can build up on your boat. This is no big deal unless you let it sit for a long period of time. Before you know it, that buildup is stuck to your boat and has turned your beautiful blue hull into a nauseating mud-green. Have you ever tried to scrub off dried pond scum? That’s not something you want to deal with, trust me!

Before You Paddle

When your boat is in storage, it can get pretty gross pretty fast. Dust, dirt, and cobwebs (and even a few spiders!) can easily sneak into the crevices of your boat. While not usually damaging, this can make for an uncomfortable ride. Rise your kayak with a hose before you set off. Make sure you get the inside nooks and crannies too, as that’s where spiders and insects are most likely to hide out.

To reduce the effect of dirt, debris, and creepy-crawlies, make sure your boat is stored properly. We’ve got an entire article on how to store a kayak. Check it out for more information.

After You Paddle

You likely didn’t pick up any dust or spiders on the water, but that certainly doesn’t mean you’ll be returning home with a clean kayak. It’s a good idea to give your boat a thorough rinse when you get home (or just when you get off the water, if there’s a clean water source available). The makers of Necky kayaks recommend using mild soap as well, but it’s up to you to decide how thorough you want to get.

Making sure your boat is free of sand, mud, seaweed, and any other unwanted gunk you might have picked up while paddling is an easy step to take, but one that will go a long way toward keeping your kayak looking and working like new for as long as possible.

Protect Your Kayak From the Sun

As ironic as it may sound, kayaks are actually very susceptible to sun damage. But don’t worry, you don’t have to start panicking or researching ice paddling just yet. Obviously, you can take your boat out on sunny days. But just be aware of the effect the sun can have on your boat and take the necessary precautions.

Use a Protectant Spray

If you have a sea kayak with hatches, you’ll have to be especially wary of the sun. Rubber hatch covers are highly prone to UV damage and degradation. The same goes for inflatable kayaks, too. For these kayaks, you’ll want to spray them with a coat of a UV protectant like 303 Aerospace Protectant Spray. I’ve always used this spray on my boats and highly recommend the product.

Apply a thin coat to hatch covers and rub in with a paper towel. You’ll be able to see a noticeable shine afterward. In addition to protecting your hatch covers from sun damage, it also repels water. You’ll know it’s time to apply another coat when you no longer see water beading and rolling off the hatch covers. Use it the same way for an inflatable kayak to keep the entire boat protected.

Watch Those Deck Lines

If you have a boat with deck lines or bungee cords (you’ll find these on most sea kayaks), you’ll want to keep a careful eye on these as well. While there’s not as much you can do to protect them from the sun, you’ll need to replace them when they get worn out. After a few years of exposure to the elements, deck lines and bungee cords can weaken and lose their elasticity.

While a coating of 303 can help them, too, the only really effective method of dealing with the wear and tear on these cords is to replace them when they start to lose their effectiveness.

Store and Transport Your Kayak With Care

If you have a plastic (rotomolded) kayak, your boat will actually become slightly malleable when exposed to excessive heat and sunlight. This is something you have to be especially careful about when transporting your boat on a roof rack. The pros over at Wilderness Systems recommend using a rigid bar roof rack in addition to a kayak cradle attachment to disperse the weight evenly. This will help ensure the boat doesn’t warp in one spot. Another good way to avoid this is by not keeping your boat tied tightly to your roof for more than a day.

Whenever possible, you want to protect your kayak from the elements. Keep your boat stored in a garage or under a tarp to reduce exposure to sun, heat, or frost. A good kayak can be a big investment and you want to be sure your boat will last as long as possible in prime condition. Read this article on how to properly store a kayak for more helpful tips.

Pay Attention to the Little Things

If you have a two-piece paddle, you’ll need to keep the ferrule clean. The ferrule (or joint) of the two pieces should come apart easily for packing and stowing. But if it’s not cleaned regularly, sand and dirt can cause friction and the next thing you know, your two-piece paddle is a one-piece paddle. After a day on the water, take the two pieces apart and clean the ferrule to remove any debris. This will ensure your paddle is in tip-top shape the next time you go out.

The same goes for adjustable foot pegs inside your kayak. If you want them to remain adjustable, you’ll have to clean the foot peg rails frequently. Once sand makes its way in there, the foot pegs will go from being able to slide easily to rigid and stuck. Let me tell you: There is nothing more frustrating than getting your foot pegs stuck in different positions.

Now that you’re an expert in kayak maintenance, you’re good to go! By keeping your kayak clean, protecting it from the sun, storing and transporting it properly, and watching out for the little things, your kayak will be in tip-top shape for many water adventures to come. Now all that’s left is to get out on the water.

If you have any questions about kayak maintenance, feel free to leave us a comment below. If you’re new to paddling in addition to kayak maintenance, check out our tips for beginners and get on your way to becoming a pro.