The Truth About Scupper Plugs

I’ve always had customers ask me about scupper plugs, more specifically, they are not sure if they need them and in some cases wonder if  they may be a necessity because they were told so by someone else. Scupper holes are found in sit-on-top kayaks are are designed as a safety feature to drain water out of the kayak, from top to bottom, keeping you from sitting in a puddle or worse making your kayak a bathtub full of water that could then be prone to capsize. Scupper plugs are designed to stop up these scupper holes which stops this water from draining out. The real intent of scupper plugs is to keep water from coming in through the scupper holes. This can happen in choppy water or when there is significant enough weight in the kayak to push the hull deep enough in the water to force water into the cockpit. Now don’t be alarmed, this doesn’t mean your boat is going to sink. It is perfectly normal for some water to enter your kayak via the scuppers. However, if you have water that is consistently in your kayak, it can become somewhat bothersome. If you don’t experience this problem of water coming up through the holes, then you don’t need scupper plugs.

Of course if you are using a kayak, regardless of the brand, capacity and use of scupper plugs, water will enter the cockpit one way or another. This can be from spray, paddle splash, waves or by entering and exiting your kayak. If you are using scupper plugs in these instances you will need to empty this water out of the cockpit. If you prefer not to remove the scupper plugs to drain the water, simply use a sponge or if there is a significant amount of water use a bilge pump. Accumulating too much water in your cockpit or deck area can affect the performance and possibly safety of your kayak. Besides, it’s never a bad idea to carry one or both of those products with you for safety and convenience purposes.

So the truth is, no matter how hard you try, water will always find its way into your boat. Dealing with it is really just a matter of personal preference. Most people don’t enjoy sitting in a pool of water while others don’t mind getting a little wet, especially when it is hot outside. If you do have a little water entering your cockpit and want the convenience of the automatic draining, consider only plugging the scuppers closest to or around your seat area and leave the ones by your feet open.

Dave Graves
Assistant Manager
ACK – San Marcos

How It’s Made – Mixing Kayak Colors

We often receive questions about kayak colors; usually in regards to how they mix colors such as Wilderness Systems’ Camo or Ocean Kayak’s Sunrise . These colorful schemes, among others, are the result of mixing different colored plastic pellets or what they refer to as powders.

During the manufacturing process, these pellets are added to a mold and rotated in a large custom-built oven to distribute even amounts of plastic throughout the entire mold. As the plastic melts it coats the mold to form the shell of the kayak. This process is called rotational molding or “roto-molding” for short. Most people don’t realize it but the kayak’s original form is in these tiny plastic pellets.

Creating the mixed colors is simply done by adding multiple colored pellets. As those pellets melt together, they begin to create the dynamic colors you see in many kayak brands. The results can vary and may end up as striped bands, random blotches, subtle color shifts or even two halves of a kayak that are two different colors.

There is a great program on the Science Channel called “How It’s Made”.  They aired an educational segment on how kayaks are molded. Look below for video or click here.

Dave Graves
Assistant Manager
ACK – San Marcos

Don’t Kill Your Kayak!

We’ve written about how kayaks are virtually indestructible and can take constant abuse (like this August’s The Unsinkable Kayak Blog Topic), but as kayaking has  become increasingly popular, we’ve been seeing a lot more damaged kayaks, most due to improper strapping for transport. Fact is, it doesn’t take much to properly secure a kayak to avoid damage and more importantly auto accidents.

As an example, this Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 was reported to have fallen off a vehicle on IH-35 (a very busy highway in Texas). The Tarpon 100 wasn’t secured correctly and ended up tumbling end over end at 70 mph and eventually it was  hit by a vehicle.  Fortunately no body was hurt, but the damage to the kayak was so severe that there was no way it could be repaired and deemed a complete loss.

So how do you avoid this scenario? Let’s start with what NOT to do. Ratchet straps are one example, they typically attach by means of a hook, if the kayak shifts, the hook can become dislodged. Why would you want to use ratchet straps anyway? They are too easy to over-tighten and will easily damage the structure of the kayak. I’ve seen multiple accounts where ratchet straps have bent the hull of a kayak so bad that the paddler had to adapt his/her paddling technique to correct the direction of the boat. Ratchet straps also cause stress fractures near sensitive areas such as scupper holes and around hatch openings.

On rare occasions, I’ve seen paddlers use bungee cords to secure their kayak to roof racks or trailers by hooking them to pad eyes and handles. Keep in mind that padeyes are sometimes made of plastic and can break under too much pressure, furthermore, bungee stretches — it’s what it was meant to do. When traveling at high speeds, your kayak will stretch the bungees causing them to loosen their grip. This can easily turn into a bad situation.

It is imperative that you use the proper equipment to secure your kayak to your vehicle or trailer. Utilizing a roof rack designed specifically for your vehicle is key. If budget allows, you should also consider “saddles” or “cradles” for your kayak. These will ensure that the kayak stays in position throughout the duration of your trip and also form fit to the kayak to prevent damage or deformation. The great thing about using saddles is that they typically come with the straps you will need to properly secure your kayak. This usually includes bow and stern tie-downs, which brings me to this — secure the bow and the stern! Your bow and stern ties are just as important as the ties you use to secure the kayak to your rack. If you decide to buy your own straps, consider cam straps, they tighten to the fullest extent without damaging your kayak and are easy to use.

When using straps, do take care in how you use them and follow the directions that come with your products to avoid dangerous scenarios. When you tie your kayak down, do not weave your straps through scupper holes as this can cause stress fractures. Secure your kayak by wrapping the strap around the entire hull instead of things like handles, clips or other accessories that can come unattached. Also, tie down any excess strap after the kayak has been secured. I lost one myself because the loose strap hung down behind the car and melted from the exhaust pipe.

If you have the opportunity to visit one of our stores, have a sales associate show you how to best secure a kayak to a roof rack.

Dave Graves
Assistant Manager
ACK – San Marcos

Kayak Weight Capacity

I’m a big guy… I weigh 290 lbs. That being said, finding a kayak to fit me limits my choices a bit.

I can honestly tell you that whatever the listed weight capacity for a kayak, you want it to be at about 2/3 of that when you take into account your weight and the weight of your gear and other accessories. I need a kayak that has a weight capacity of 400 lbs minimum. Otherwise, instead of water draining out of the scupper holes, the water tends to come up and in through the holes. The kayak will still hold up to the weight capacity, but it’s gonna be a wet and possibly unstable ride.

For us larger set body styles, check out kayaks with 400 lbs or more weight capacity.  Some fine examples include the Feel Free Moken 10 and the Moken 10 Angler, Wilderness Systems Ride 135, Ocean Kayak Trident Series, Hobie Outback, and the Malibu Kayaks Stealth 12 & 14. I’ve paddled all of these kayaks and they work well for a guy my size. Finding a sit inside kayak is even more difficult, and finding a freestyle or play boat is nearly impossible.

One other important aspect to consider is where you sit in a kayak. I’m top heavy, if I sit in a kayak with a high positioned seat, it’ll seem a bit “tippier” to me.  I prefer to sit pretty low since this balances out my center of gravity, making me feel much more stable and comfortable.

Assistant Manager
ACK San Marcos

Anchors and Drift Chutes

Both Anchors and Drift Chutes are tools that are always in my arsenal as they each have special uses.  I use my anchor in a few different ways when I’m fishing the local river.  Sometimes I’ll use it to compensate for the current and other times I’ll just utilize the line and wrap the anchor line around a tree branch to hold the boat in a particular location or I’ll use a Brush Gripper.  At the coast I can use the anchor when I’m fishing in the deeper water out beyond the surf line. I may let out about 50 foot of line in my hunt for those big fish.  In cases like these an anchor trolley will come in handy as well.  Check out some additional info on anchor trolleys.

A Drift Chute, or drift sock as some refer to them, are a whole different ballgame. One of my favorite ways to use the drift chute is while drifting my kayak down a shoreline, I simply attach 8-10 feet of line to my kayak and at the other end of the line goes the chute.  The drift chute causes drag and slows the kayak down allowing me to get enough casts to completely cover the shoreline so I don’t miss any of the big fish lurking in and around the bank.

Pat Pancratz
ACK – San Marcos

Kayak Sunburn

Buying a kayak can be an investment and it is important to consider your boat’s value both in the immediate sense as well as down the road.  When purchasing a kayak, there are certain variables that will maintain a boat’s long-term value and positively influence its resale value.

These variables include regular maintenance and care (such as replacing broken padeyes, bungee cords, carry handles, etc) and any additional improvements or added accessories that broaden the scope of a kayak’s use.  Examples of accessories include items such as flush mount rod holders, a rudder, or an upgraded seat.  These are some of the variables that will influence the value of your boat.

Typically the most important aspect of retaining value is the cosmetic appearance of the boat.  “Looks” will have the greatest impact on perceived value.  Although appearance is a non-functional aspect of the kayak, potential buyers look at the condition of a boat and envision themselves paddling it.  If a kayak has been sun damaged or repaired multiple times, the intrinsic value of the boat will diminish in the buyer’s eyes.  Unfortunately, repair scars are difficult to hide, but sun damage or discoloration of a kayak is incredibly easy to prevent.

Just as there are many products to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays, there are products that do the same for your kayak.  303 Aerospace UV Protectant is a product specially formulated for use on plastic surfaces.  Hobie makes a comparable product called Hobie UV Protectant & Restorer.  Although this product is labeled Hobie, it provides protection for all plastic kayaks.  Using the Hobie Boat Cleaner will lower the number of applications of the UV protectant necessary to maintain a kayak’s cosmetic appearance. These kayak maintainers retail for between $8.99 – $14.99 and work to protect your kayak surfaces from drying out or becoming faded or discolored.

For just a few extra bucks, it is well worth it to use these kayak protectors regularly to maintain the condition of your yak throughout its lifespan.

Chris Steckel
ACK – San Marcos

Costa Del Mar Sunglasses

Many people don’t realize how important it is to match the right sunglasses to fit your personal needs.  The more time you spend outdoors with the blaring sun beating down on you the more your eyes are subject to eye strain.

Costa Del Mar makes it simple and easy to find the right pair of glasses that match the activities and environments you frequent most. While an inexpensive pair of polarized glasses is better than nothing, investing in a really great pair of Costa Del Mar sunglasses can change your whole perspective on the way you see outdoors and particularly when it comes to seeing fish.

Costa Del Mar sunglasses are not run of the mill shades.  Each lens color has a different purpose to keep specific spectrums of light out of your eyes and focus on certain conditions that will enhance clarity and visibility.  There are lenses designed for high noon, dusk, dawn, and all sorts of water conditions. Fishing is a popular use for Costa Del Mar sunglasses.  The ability to spot a fish inshore, or on the open water is amazing.  The 580 lenses have become a favorite among top anglers.  One of my favorite features is the Hydrolite Template – this comfy material is designed to grip the ears so that the sunglasses will not fall off.  It feels like the more I sweat, the better they grip.

Costa Del Mar has several different styles of glasses to choose from.  They have your basic day-to-day eyewear as well as glasses for the avid outdoorsman.  If you are looking for the chance to catch the fish of a lifetime, try adding a pair of Costa’s to your fishing arsenal.  You will definitely increase your chances of spotting that once in a lifetime fish.  Also so that you don’t lose your new glasses, don’t forget about Costa Del Mar eyeglass straps to keep your glasses right where they belong!

Robert Griffith
Store Associate
ACK – San Marcos

Paddle Leashes

Bungee Paddle Leash

I can’t tell you how many times I cringe when I see kayakers not using a paddle leash.  It just seems to me that a paddle leash should be a mandatory item to have; it’s like riding a bike without a helmet.  I have a paddle leash attached to each one of my kayaks.

Until I discovered paddle leashes, the thought of using them never crossed my mind.   When paddling down the San Marcos River I always made sure I wore my life vest so if I flip when going down the chutes, the only items I had to hold onto were my paddle and kayak.   Now with the aid of the paddle leash, I only hold onto the kayak if that happens.

For just a few dollars you’re ensuring that your paddle won’t float away if you happen to drop it.  It’s great for fisherman as well.  Feeling that jerk on the line and not having to worry about placing your paddle away before you begin to reel in your intended catch is a nice luxury to have.

Parents kayaking with small children have been known to drop paddles to ensure their child’s safety.   A paddle leash will make it so you don’t have to save the paddle along with your child.  Anyone who hits choppy water knows what I’m talking about when it comes to making sure your paddle is attached to the boat.  Check out our Bungee Paddle Leash and our Coiled Paddle Leash that we have available so that you won’t be stuck on the water without a paddle.

Assistant Manager
ACK – San Marcos

Kayaking With My Dog

The dusty truck door slams shut as I head home after a long day’s work.  I’ve got my kayak, my paddle, my life jacket, and I’m headed home to grab my dog Cassius (Cash for short).  Cassius is a 94-pound black lab with a taste for river fish and a love for the water comparable to my own.  He’s no stranger to long river kayak rides, and on occasion has passed the four hour mark down the local Texas river systems with me.

Sometimes we’ll put in at a low point and paddle upstream with Cash usually guiding the way some 30 feet ahead of me.  As the trip progresses he understandably could use a break and will swim up next to my right hand side so I can give him a leg up into my kayak.  In some boats, this kind of maneuver would not be practical, or in some cases even possible.  I own a Wilderness Systems Ride 135, a good fishing boat with lots of leg room and stand-up capability. The hull is a pontoon design which distributes the weight more evenly over a broad surface area of the kayak.  This design allows my buddy Cash to jump in and out of the boat without flipping us or rocking it to where I will fall out with him.

It was my dog that I was primarily thinking about when I first purchased my kayak.  I was drawn to a number of boat designs but realized what I needed after renting a few and going down the river with Cash.  He’s a large dog that needs room and on these hot days I need space for my DuraSoft Cooler.  I found that a 12 foot boat or longer works well with a larger dog and gives me the ability to take him with me on our river excursions while still having space for extra gear that I bring.  Recently I invested in a canine life jacket to be safe and make it so Cash and I can go out on the river for 4 hours or more.  That is typically the time I see Cash getting tired and needing some flotation help. The Ruff Wear Big Eddy Float Coat fits him nicely and the Big Tug Fire Hose Bumper Dog Toy is his personal favorite water toy.  Every time I go out on the river with Cash I see the value of my investment sharing all these great experiences with my canine buddy.

Chris S.
San Marcos Store

Coolers – Ice Chest

NRS DuraSoft Cooler

I don’t know why but as soon as my kayak hits the water and I climb in, I’m parched.  A cooler ice chest is a necessity for kayaking – especially longer kayaking trips.  They hold the sodas, the fish, and sometimes, when appropriate the adult beverage.  I’m the type of guy who gulps down 4-5 glasses of water at a restaurant before our meal even gets to the table.  One bottle of water does not suffice for an hour or two of paddling.

Soft-shelled outdoor ice chest coolers such as the Dura Soft Cooler and the NRS 30 Can Cooler fit great in the tank well on kayaks.  These coolers can hold a large number of drinks and ice.  I personally, wouldn’t mix my drinks and fish in the same cooler – I’d use a Catch Cooler bag for the fish.

Hard shelled covered ice chest coolers sometimes don’t fit right, or they are too bulky to fit on a kayak.  I don’t know how many times I get asked if the tank wells are molded to fit a specific model cooler – they aren’t.  Some coolers will fit, some won’t. One in particular that may work well is the Yeti  Roadie 15 qt. or Yeti Roadie 25 qt. If one of these will work, your food and drinks will stay cold for a week.

So when you go out with family and friends, don’t forget the ice chest cooler to hold your food and beverages.

Assistant Manager
ACK – San Marcos