Can I Remove the Styrofoam From My Kayak?

If you’ve just gotten a new kayak you may be surprised to find some large styrofoam blocks placed around the inside of the hull. Don’t worry, this styrofoam is supposed to be there, and no it’s not just for shipping or storing purposes. Those styrofoam blocks are important for your kayak’s function. 

The styrofoam blocks in all kayaks are important for maintaining a kayak’s buoyancy and structure while on the water. In whitewater kayaks, those styrofoam pieces have an extra function to keep you from getting pinned if your kayak become damaged. So, no, you should never remove the styrofoam from your kayak. But, if it’s already been removed, there are a few ways to fix or replace it to get you and your kayak back on the water. 

Let’s dive into what the styrofoam in your kayak does for you on the water, before looking into ways of fixing it if you’ve already removed the styrofoam from your kayak. 

can I remove the styrofoam in my kayak - man kayaking on calm river

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What is the Purpose of the Styrofoam in Your Kayak?

The styrofoam in kayaks have some seriously important functions in keeping your kayak floating, structurally sound, and safe for you to use it. That’s a lot to do for a fairly common packaging material. 

The styrofoam in your kayak helps with its buoyancy, maintains the kayaks structure, and can even keep you safe if your kayak collapses in harsh water conditions.  

Kayak Styrofoam Keeps You Floating

First and foremost, the purpose of the styrofoam in your kayak is to help with it’s buoyancy. This means that the styrofoam helps the kayak float on the water before and after you get in it. 

Now, the styrofoam isn’t the only thing keeping the kayak floating, so if it wasn’t there, it’d likely still float. But, if you’re a larger person (in height or in weight), then you may be pushing the weight limit of your yak. If so, the extra buoyancy the Styrofoam gives can be extremely helpful in keeping you sitting higher in the water.

Even if you’re not a larger person, having the extra buoyancy is important in choppier water conditions where it’s better to sit higher in the water than lower. 

Kayak Styrofoam Maintains Your Kayak's Structure

Kayaks can be made of a lot of different materials. Many of the casual kayaks that beginners usually pickup for their first yak (like this Pelican), are made of plastic. And plastic can be damaged or bent fairly easily. 

The styrofoam in the kayak helps to reinforce the plastic, making it less likely to be damaged while in the water or during transport. 

This is extremely important, because structural damage to a kayak can prevent it from floating on the water, which essentially makes it useless. So, preventing structural damage is a crucial part of kayak care. That Styrofoam block helps with this and ensures your kayaks structure an maintain its shape. 

Kayak Styrofoam Keeps You Safe

Now this is only applicable to those white water kayaks that traverse some pretty intense rapids. In these cases the styrofoam in the kayak is strategically placed in a different location than in your everyday casual calm-water kayak. 

This is because when you’re white water kayaking a lot of stress is placed on the kayak. And when that occurs the kayak structure can collapse, pinning you inside. This isn’t great under any conditions, but if it occurs while you’re kayaking down some rapids and you’re stuck underwater, it can be deadly. 

The styrofoam in these kayaks is placed so that if your kayak collapses it stops you from being pinned inside the hull, allowing you to escape. So, if you will be taking up white-water kayaking (which I don’t recommend unless you’re experienced and know what you’re doing), it’s crucial to keep that styrofoam where it is and do not remove or alter it in anyway. 

whitewater kayaking flipping - can you remove the styrofoam from the kayak

But What if I've Already Removed the Styrofoam? Can I Fix it?

So you got your kayak and without really thinking about it, you pulled the styrofoam out. Now what? Is your kayak ruined forever?

No, this situation is salvageable at least most of the time. There are a few different options for what to do if you’ve removed the styrofoam from your kayak. But, I do want to note that the best scenario is having the styrofoam it came with. I wouldn’t recommend these alternatives for anything other than your casual kayak on calm water. If you’re planning to white water kayak please don’t use these fixes as they will not be a sturdy as the initial design and could cause you harm. 

With that said, the main solutions to removing the styrofoam out of your kayak are to replace it, or to use kayak float bags as an alternative. 

Replace the Foam

If you’ve taken the foam out the best thing to do is to put it back in. You can use the original styrofoam if you managed to not rip it to pieces when removing it from your kayak. But, if you need to get some new pieces you can grab some here

If you’re buying new foam blocks, then you’ll need to cut them to fit in your kayak hull. And since this likely wont be perfectly aligned with your kayak shape, you’ll need to be careful that water doesn’t get trapped behind the blocks you’ve cut and placed in your kayak. If this happens it can create some pretty gross conditions with mold and algae that you just don’t want to deal with inside your kayak. So if you do use this method try to water seal it if possible, or be extra careful with cleaning your yak after taking it out. 

Alternatively, a second method to replace the foam is to use closed cell foam, which should conform to your kayaks shape and be waterproof. This is a pricier, and messier method to set up, but could be better overall in the end. You’ll want to do some research on how to set this up, as this stuff can be strong. Do a few practice rounds before pouring this in your yak. 

Kayak Float Bags

If you decide you don’t want to mess with either foam option listed above, you can use kayak float bags to help with the buoyancy of the yak. Now, these aren’t going to do much to help the structure of the kayak – so only use these if buoyancy is your issue. 

Most of these bags are sold as single piece bags, meaning that you only need one for either your bow or stern. But, if you try it out and it doesn’t seem buoyant there are split-float bags that fit all around your kayak hull. 

Either of these should work to improve your buoyancy, but remember this won’t do anything to help with structure or safety. So, this option is only for use in calm-waters to replace the styrofoam. 

I hope you’ve found your answer to whether or not you can remove the styrofoam in your kayak, and what to do if you already removed it. Now, you should be ready to start kayaking!

For other tips like these check out our kayaking tips page so you can be even more confident getting on the water. 

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