By Kayak Jay
Kayaking is a year-round activity in Arizona, but September has
to be one of the best months for paddling, Grab a friend and come
on out to one of the lakes.
The Lake Pleasant Paddlers have been active all summer with two
trips a month. Ranger Terry Gerber makes sure everyone has a great
time. Call Gerber at (602) 372-7460 x 202, or e-mail him at
firstname.lastname@example.org to find out about the September
Kayaks come in many styles, shapes and sizes. They also come in
a variety of materials.
The lowest-priced kayaks are made of plastic. Plastic kayaks
are flexible, durable and extremely heavy.
The rough-finish plastic kayaks canít be stored on their hulls,
or they will "oil pan" in our heat. You canít strap them tightly
on a rack without making a groove in the bottom. They can be
stored on end and transported on their side in a "J" rack.
Some plastic kayaks have a shiny finish and are a compound
material that is a little lighter and stiffer. They are easier to
transport and store, but will oxidize in the sunlight and heat and
become very brittle through time.
Some of the early composites would "die" in a year or two, but
the more modern compounds offer a longer life.
The more-expensive kayaks are composites. While the plastic
kayak is generally formed from a rotational spray, composite
kayaks are constructed with overlaying a fiber mat on the form and
saturating it with epoxy resin.
Composite kayaks are markedly lighter than plastic, with the
weight and price dependent on the material used in the fiber mats.
The standard for kayak use is fiberglass. Although fiberglass
boats are about twice the price of plastic boats, they are
lighter, more durable and repairable.
The only drawback in Arizona lakes is they will not withstand
hard bangs against rocks. A 16-foot sea kayak may weigh 70 pounds
in plastic, but the same model might be 45 pounds in fiberglass,
depending on the quality of the lay-up.
Composite boats can be made lighter by using more exotic
materials in the fiber mats.
The next step up from fiberglass is Kevlar, which is a lighter
and stiffer material. Our 45-pound fiberglass kayak might be about
38 pounds in Kevlar. The weight reduction will cost $50 to $75 a
pound. Kevlar boats are stiffer than fiberglass and suffer more
If you want the lightest composite, you will use a carbon-fiber
mat. The 16-foot kayak in carbon fiber will be around 34 pounds.
The reduction will cost about $100 a pound and will give you a
boat that you had better not drop. Carbon fiber is very stiff and
very brittle. It is much more apt to crack from an impact rather
than dent as heavier composites might.
Many of the racing kayaks and surf skis are made with a Kevlar
hull and carbon-fiber deck. My Futura II surf ski has a Kevlar
hull and carbon-fiber deck and weighs in at 30 pounds.
It is living proof that a kayak is difficult to load on a roof
no matter how light it is.
The lightest and most durable kayaks are made from wood with an
epoxy resin topcoat. Dealers donít sell wood kayaks, but you can
make one from a kit.
A well-made wood boat is a beautiful work of art. Building one
is truly a labor of love.
A final word about paddles. They come, in increasing order of
expense, in aluminum, plastic, fiberglass, carbon fiber, and wood.
Although the difference in weight of paddles from different
materials is small, it has a great effect on how you feel at the
end of a day of paddling.
In the case of paddles, the stiffer and lighter materials are
Now that you know more than you wanted to about kayak
materials, donít buy one yet. In future columns we will talk about
design and use.
If you want to give local paddling a try, call Thor at (480)
968-1140 for a rental; call Kayak Jay at (602) 359-1354 for a
lesson or introductory tour, and donít forget to get on the Lake
Pleasant Paddlers list by sending an e-mail to