Tens of kayaks of different types and sizes sink each year, most of them happening at the dock. When a kayak sinks, the loss can be huge, ranging from personal items and equipment to damage of the kayak and the potential loss of life. To minimize the risk of sinking, kayaks are normally designed with holes called scuppers or scupper holes.

What are scupper holes?

Scuppers or scupper holes are openings found on the side walls of kayaks or any open-air boat (structure) to help drain off water. Typically, scupper holes are positioned at or near the ground level, allowing water or liquids to flow off to the side of the kayak, instead of pooling in the side walls of the craft. Kayak scupper holes are often found at the foot wells, in the cockpit or at the tank well. They are designed to be self-bailing, meaning they automatically drain any water coming in or flowing over the deck.

Standard scupper design on kayaks

For all safe kayaks, the standard number of scuppers is four holes. The holes are designed to ensure that water drains off the deck every time the kayak is at a standstill. Many kayaks are crafted with innovative hulls to ensure that safe-bailing can happen without the need for forward movement. Some kayaks can self-bail within 60 seconds of sitting static.

Scupper plugs

To ensure that kayak users stay dry during their trips, scupper holes usually come with scupper plugs. Typically made of compressible material, scupper plugs fit snugly into the holes and ensure that water is kept out of the cockpit. In fact, some scupper holes have been specially designed and enlarged to accommodate transducers. Scupper plugs (stoppers) are available in different sizes depending on the holes to be plugged. The holes also may have valves to control the amount of water entering a kayak via the hole and to drain any water coming over the side of the kayak during a paddling trip.

For more information on renting kayaks designed with proper scupper holes, plugs and valves, visit the “Captain Mike’s Kayak Academy” site.



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