a dark blue, light blue, and orange kayak sit tied up in the water near the short. All three kayaks are filling with water and have significant amounts of water in them

Kayak Filling with Water? Determine Why and How to Fix it.

You’re ready to kayak, and maybe you even find yourself on the water already and all of a sudden there’s water at your feet. And not just a little sprinkle, but sloshing water inside your kayak. If you find yourself in this position, you’re probably wondering why is my kayak filling with water and what do I do about it? 

Sometimes, water inside a kayak is perfectly normal, especially for sit-on-top kayaks which are built to handle water inside the yak. However, if you’re finding that your feet are resting in lots of water, then something may be wrong with your kayak that’s causing all that water to get inside. 

There are several reasons why water may be pouring in and settling inside your kayak, and many of them depend on the type of kayak you have. So, let’s discuss the reasons why your kayak is filling with water. 

a dark blue, light blue, and orange kayak sit tied up in the water near the short. All three kayaks are filling with water and have significant amounts of water in them

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Sit-on-Top Kayak Filling With Water: Is it Normal?

Let’s start with sit-on-top kayaks and why water may be getting into them. Sit-on-top kayaks are meant to take on more water than sit-in kayaks, so the first thing to do is to ask yourself if the amount of water inside your kayak is normal.  

Now, what’s normal may surprise you, as sit-on-top kayaks can accumulate more water than you’d think, especially if you’re a larger person. Many people look at the weight limit of the kayak and assume because they’re below that then the kayak will be fine. 

And, while that is true, I’ve found that if you’re over the 50% mark for weight of the kayak, then you should expect more water accumulating than if you’re less than 50%. So, if your kayak’s weight limit is 350 lbs and you are over 175 lbs, then your kayak will sit lower in the water and will take in more water. And the heavier you go, the more water that you’ll take in. 

So, if you find your feet sloshing around, but you’re above that 50% weight limit mark of your kayak, then that may just be normal. But, if you find that the water makes your kayak unusable, or that it takes on more and more water the longer you’re on, then that’s probably not normal, and you should look into why (which, we’ll explore below). 

Sit-On-Top Kayak Reasons it Could Be Filling With Water

If you’ve determined that the amount of water in your kayak isn’t normal, then it’s likely that there’s a leak somewhere. Finding that leak can be challenging, especially if you aren’t sure where to look. So, I’ve listed the top causes of kayak leaks below to so you have a starting point for how to find, and fix, your leak. 

Hatches and Worn Gaskets

Not all sit-on-top kayaks have hatches, so this one may not apply to you. But, if your sit-on-top kayak does have a hatch, then it’s the first place to look to see if water may be getting into your kayak through the hatch. 

First things first, if you’re using a hatch on your kayak for storage then you should never leave them open. Sit-on-top hatches typically don’t have a way to drain, so once water gets inside (even through just waves or a splash), it’s not leaving until you get to land and dump it out. 

If you’re always leaving your hatch closed and secure, and water is still getting inside of it in large amounts, then there’s either a crack in the compartment or the gasket sealing the hatch is worn down. Replacing the gasket can go along way, but if you find you have a crack, you’ll likely need to go get that repaired by a professional. 

Deck Fittings and Rudders

Deck fittings are any of those extra add on pieces that have typically been drilled into your kayak. These could include handles, deck loops, bungee cords/ties, or anything else that you’ve attached to your kayak permanently. 

Since these add-ons typically involve some type of drilling, if there’s a leak around these it could cause water to accumulate inside your yak. If you suspect this might be the case, then there’s a pretty easy fix as long as it’s small. All you need is some silicone sealant to rub around the fitting and this should fix it right up. 

Few sit-on-top kayaks will have rudders, unless you’ve installed it yourself. Since rudders also need to be secured to your kayak, they could be letting in water as well. The same silicone sealant used for the deck fittings should also work for the rudder. 

Scupper Holes

Scupper holes are essential in sit-on-top kayaks because they let water drain out. Now, in certain circumstances (lots of waves, for example), they can let water in, but in most situations, scupper holes are helping your drain water more than they’re allowing water inside your kayak. 

Typically when people find water filling their kayak, their first go-to to blame is the scupper hole. And in an attempt to fix it, they get scupper hole plugs to block the holes. Trust me when I tell you this, you do not want to do this. If you’re taking water into your sit-on-top kayak then the best thing you can do is leave scupper holes open to drain. 

With that said, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t causing the issue. If your scupper holes are clogged with debris then they could be causing water to accumulate (by not draining it). If you find a clog, clear it out, and that may solve your issue. But unless you’re in really rocky waters, don’t plug your scupper holes. 

If you want to plug something, check your drain plug. Leaving this open (or losing the plug) will fill your kayak pretty quickly, so when you’re checking your scupper holes, look for the drain plug and ensure it’s in place. 

Seat Fittings

Just like the deck fittings above, your kayak seat has to be secured into the kayak, typically with screws. Where there’s a screw, there could be leakage. So, whether it’s the seat that came with the kayak, or an upgrade you’ve installed yourself, check around the seat for leaks. The silicon sealant works well here, as long as it’s not too big of a leak. 

Crack in Hull

If you’ve got more than a small leak, then it’s likely that there’s a crack somewhere. To find a crack take a flashlight and investigate every inch of your kayak (including inside hatches if you have them). You won’t be able to fix it if you can’t find it. 

Once you’ve located the crack, my recommendation is to take your kayak to a professional who can fix it. Although there are some kayak repair kits you can get, unless you’re a pretty handy person and generally good at tasks like this I don’t recommend them. It takes a steady hand, and only those who are experienced and plan to only fix smaller cracks, should try it. 

Any type of larger crack should be handled by a professional if you want to keep using your kayak. 

several kayakers in yellow and blue sit-on-top kayaks are in a river surrounded by trees. Two kayakers are slightly tipping in the water, allowing water to fill the kayak

Sit-In Kayak Reasons it Could Be Filling With Water

While it can be normal for a sit-on-top to accumulate water, it is NOT normal for sit-in kayaks to fill with water. A little water, getting in – sure, but if you’re finding your feet sloshing around in the water, then there’s likely a serious problem. 

Let look into what can cause excessive water to get into your sit-in kayak and what to do about it. 

Splashes and Spray Skits

In any type of water that isn’t perfectly calm, it’s likely that a splash of water can get into your kayak. For most people in average water conditions, these should be fairly small splashes and not really result in large amounts of water filling your kayak. 

But, if you’re kayaking in an ocean or in rapids, or anywhere with lots of rough water then splashes can cause a serious problem for you. Sit-in kayaks do not have scupper holes, so once that water gets in, it has no way of exiting until you get on land.

So, the best way to prevent splashes from filling your kayak with water is to prevent splashes from getting inside your kayak altogether. And the best way to do that is a spray skirt. This skirt will wrap around the cockpit of your kayak and seal it from water. Keeping the inside of your kayak dry and free of water.  

Kayak Fittings

Anytime you have anything extra attached to your kayak, there’s a chance that those attachments become weak and leaky. Whether it’s a hatch, deck loops, handles, seats, or something else, if it is screwed into your kayak you should check that spot for leaks or cracks. 

If you do find a small leak or very tiny crack, some silicone sealant can help secure your kayak from leaks and filling with water. If it’s anything more than the tiniest crack or leak, you’ll need something more than silicone sealant, which we talk about next! 

Hull Damage

Hull damage in a kayak is never good, and when it’s a sit-in kayak it’s even worse.  But, unless your kayak has broken in half, most hull damage can be fixed. 

While I always recommend going to a professional in order to fix a damaged kayak hull, for sit-on-top kayaks sometimes you can get a kayak repair kit and fix some small damage yourself. While you may be able to get away with it for the sit-on-top kayaks, I don’t recommend this method of fixing hull damage for sit-in kayaks. 

Just save yourself the effort and time, and get it professionally fixed. When you find yourself on the water, you’ll feel more confident that your kayak is completely sealed than if you had tried to DIY a fix yourself. It is costly, but it is worth it in the end. Don’t irreparably damage your kayak in an attempt to fix it, when a professional can do the job. 

What Can I Do if My Kayak is Filling with Water?

If you find your kayak filling with more water than you’d like, and you haven’t been able to identify where it’s coming from, then it’s important to know how to drain water from your kayak.

My main go-to for handling water that is filling a kayak is to use a bilge pump. This device makes pumping water out of your kayak quick and easy and is a piece of safety gear everyone should have on every paddle. 

blue and yellow bilge pump on the bow of a bright green kayak on the water. How to drain the kayak

If you ever find yourself in a kayak filling with water, then I hope you’re now better prepared to identify where the leak is coming from and how to fix it! 

If you’re new to kayaking (or just looking for a refresher), check out our ultimate guide to kayaking for beginners or check out any of our articles below! 

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