There are plenty of outdoor enthusiasts that have the privilege of owning a kayak. But, unfortunately, kayaks are just like any other object out there in that they aren’t made to last forever.
A kayak can last between 12 and 15 years, depending on how it is handled and stored. Aside from the typical wear and tear that kayaks experience with regular use, heavy exposure to the sun’s UV rays can quickly degrade the lifespan of any kayak.
Now that you have a rough estimate of how long your kayak will last before you need to replace it with a new one, you probably want to learn more about why kayaks last this long. Read below to discover more information about this very topic, along with effective tips on how to extend the lifespan of your kayak.
Average Lifespan of a Kayak
If you’ve been an avid kayaker for several years already, you’re well familiar with the fact that kayaks are quite hardy. The majority of kayaking structural materials can withstand a great deal of stress on the water and bear a considerable amount of weight on board.
Even so, kayaks are like most other man-made objects in that they will eventually lose functionality. So it’s only a matter of time before you have to go out and replace your kayak once it’s past its prime.
Judging exactly how long your kayak will last can be a bit tricky, but most kayaks last anywhere between 12 to 15 years on average (source). Past this point, the kayak material will lose its structural integrity and show noticeable signs of deterioration (source).
It’s important to remember that 12 to 15 years is just the average. Some outliers fall well short and well above this range.
The reason that the lifespan of your individual kayak can be so difficult to pinpoint is that there’s a considerable number of variables you have to take into account. Much of these variables have to do with your maintenance efforts as an owner. Your kayak’s condition is a direct reflection of how much effort and care you put forth to preserve its current state.
There are other variables involved as well, however. We will discuss all of these factors in greater detail next.
Factors that Affect How Long a Kayak Lasts
There’s a multitude of factors that can shorten or lengthen the lifespan of your kayak. Below, we will discuss the most prominent of these factors and ways that you can work these factors to your advantage.
Make & Model of the Kayak
Your kayak’s make and model is one of the most important factors that will determine how long your kayak will last. Some different brands and models are superior to others in quality of both material and construction.
There’s a large selection of inexpensive kayaks available to the public. Of this selection, the product material and manufacturer workmanship are generally inferior to that of the more expensive kayaks on the market.
This makes sense, as the target audience of these lower-end kayaks is the beginner kayak demographic. These kayaks likely won’t even make it past 12 years, which fits the expectations of most novice kayakers.
In contrast, higher-end kayaks incorporate more durable materials that are more expensive. The workmanship is also top-notch. These kayaks are much more likely to go above and beyond the 12-year mark because they’re better equipped for long-term paddling. For this reason, experienced paddlers tend to gravitate towards these higher-end kayaks.
Like anything else, you get what you pay for. Of course, you can find very high-quality kayaks that are fairly inexpensive and very low-quality kayaks that are priced exorbitantly. This is why it’s important to do your own research beforehand. Otherwise, you run the risk of having to buy a whole new kayak just another few years down the road.
How the Kayak is Stowed Away
It should come as no surprise that the storage conditions matter when it comes to the life of your kayak. Without the appropriate storage conditions, your kayak’s lifespan will inevitably be cut short. After all, your kayak will likely spend more time in storage than on the water.
So what exactly constitutes improper storage conditions?
- Leaving Your Kayak Out in the Sun – UV rays from the sun have a negative effect on the exterior coating of kayaks. It gradually causes weak spots within the structural framework, which only worsen with more exposure. For this reason, it’s best to keep your kayak stowed in a place where it won’t be able to receive direct sunlight.
- Stacking Heavy Weight on Top of Your Kayak – Kayaks may be able to handle your weight on the water, but this doesn’t mean that it can bear such a constant heavy load during its time in storage. This perpetual weight compression eventually causes dents. In severe cases, it may even cause cracks within the kayak itself.
- Placing Your Kayak in a High Traffic Area – As a general rule of thumb, you should keep your kayak in a secluded area. If you keep your kayak next to a high traffic area—like where you park your car or lift weights—there’s bound to be an accident down the road.
With all that being said, it’s also important to treat your kayak with care while taking out your kayak from storage and transporting it to and from the launch site. Surprisingly, your kayak is at more of a risk for potential damage than you would believe during transport (source).
Kayaks may feel firm to the touch, but it only takes one seemingly minor mistake to compromise the structural integrity of your kayak. So even though it doesn’t look fragile, you should still treat it like so.
How Often the Kayak is Exposed to Rougher Waters
Physical wear and tear is the main culprit behind why your kayak’s functionality on the water slowly diminishes with time.
It’s a simple fact that kayaks used more than others will have a shorter lifespan. This holds even for kayaks that are used exclusively on calmer waters. You may not be able to see it, but calm, leisurely tours on the water still do a bit of unavoidable damage to the kayak’s structural framework.
Though, rough water conditions are certainly more of an issue for a kayak’s lifespan than calm waters. Rough waters constantly grind and collide against the kayak exterior layer. Over time, this sort of impact can slowly wane on the kayak’s construction until a major issue arises.
If you’re usually fond of paddling in rough waters, you shouldn’t expect your kayak to last as long as the norm. Even if you take special care to maintain your kayak, it’s bound to absorb more damage than the standard kayak. Conversely, those of you that frequent calm waters can realistically expect to keep your kayak for quite some time.
Signs That It’s Time to Get a New Kayak
Now that you have a general idea of how long your kayak should last, you’re probably wondering what the telltale signs are for a kayak that’s on its last legs. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but there will come a time where you have to ditch your old kayak in favor of a new one.
To help you better understand when it’s time to replace your kayak, here are some visible cues to look out for.
When your kayak warps—or bends slightly out of shape—it’s time for you to invest in a new kayak. Warping typically occurs due to exposure to extreme temperatures or frequent exposure to the sun.
These slight structural distortions can seriously affect your kayak’s stability and performance on the water. This can result in a negative feedback cycle, leading to even more damage in the future.
It’s natural for kayaks to have a few dents here and there, especially if they’re used on rough waters. However, there comes a point where these dents may become too serious, leading to stability and performance issues that can increase the likelihood of capsizing.
Your safety should take precedence over everything else. If these dents are seriously detracting from your ability to stay upright, it’s time to move on to a new kayak.
This should be a no-brainer. When a kayak has holes in it, this is a clear sign that you should replace it as soon as possible.
Holes can fill a kayak up with water and cause serious instability as it begins to flood. In addition, you’re much more likely to capsize under these circumstances as the balance and weight of the kayak are thrown out of proportion.
Once a kayak has gone well past the 15-year mark, you may want to consider purchasing a new kayak, even if it looks to still be functional. The reason being that kayaks past the 15-year mark may have hidden age-related structural damage and problems unbeknownst to you.
Again, safety is everything. It can be difficult to do, but you may have to retire your old companion and invest in a new kayak that isn’t in danger of abruptly collapsing on itself.