Buying used kayaks


How to avoid the pitfalls of buying a used kayak.

Go Bananas Watersports has been selling plastic kayaks for over 20 years and is the largest dealership in the state. It's a good guess to say that we've sold over 12,000 kayaks in that time. There should be a lot of used kayaks available in the used market. There would be if they were not being damaged or destroyed all the time. The reasons why kayaks become unsafe to use are varied. Not only is there damage caused just in the usage of the kayak around rocks, reef and the surf but there's also damage caused by cooking the kayak in sun, sitting in the kayak like a beach chair, and dragging the kayaks around on the ground. Most of the damage is avoidable but it occurs none the less.
Here are the four main things to look for in a used kayak to determine whether it's a good buy.

1. Fading

This is a sign of sun damage. Lighter colors fade faster than darker colors. As a kayak fades or begins turning white the plastic looses elasticity and it's structural strength. When a kayak is brought in with a crack and the plastic is faded we'll stress test the plastic first and if it fails we won't try to repair it because of liability issues. Two ways to test a crack to see if it worth trying to repair is to push down on the plastic at the end of the crack. If the crack expands then the plastic is too brittle to weld. The other way to test the plastic is to grab one edge of the plastic with pliers and bend the plastic back. If it snaps before you bend it 90 degrees then again it's too brittle to weld.

2. Cracks

Cracks around the scupper holes on the bottom. - Flip the kayak over and inspect the hull. Pay perticular attention to the drain holes. If the drain holes don't have obvious cracks or welded repairs look even closer. There might be cracks that haven't seperated yet. They look a bit like stretch marks on a persons skin but they are really cracks in the plastic that haven't seperated yet. These types of cracks occur because the owners or previous owners sat in the kayak while it was on the beach or it could have been kids stepping in the seat. When there is weight on the drain holes in the cockpit from someone sitting or standing on them the drain holes are being shoved out the bottom of the kayak because the hull is being supported by sand and the scupper holes are higher than the bottom of the hull. We do not warrentee welds on plastic. The plastic cracked because there was too much stress on that area and a weld is only 50% as strong as virgin plastic. The stress that cracked the plastic in the first place is still there so weaker plastic (a welded rapair) will crack with much less effort.

3. Drag holes in the stern.

People will drag kayaks if they don't have anyone to help them carry it to the beach. Most often across the grass and down the beach but we also see people drag kayaks over cement and across roads too. If you pick up a kayak by the bow handle and drag it it will sand away at the bottom rear of the kayak. Look for uneven wear on the keel at the rear of the kayak. If you notice an uneven flatness to the plastic press on the area and see how thin it is. By the time a hole appears the plastic is super thin over a much larger area and when we try to weld it the hole expands and becomes much larger.

4. Design and construction.

There are a lot of poorly designed kayaks out there. One manufacturer explained that anyone who can rotomold a septic tank can rotomold a kayak. Once people saw that there was a market in sit-on-top kayaks new manufacturers sprang up all over the place. Even the bigger kayak companies that were already making kayaks created seperate smaller companies that sell a cheaper more poorly designed version of their kayaks to companies like Costco and Sam's Club. These types of kayaks are great if you are just looking for something to get you out on the water for the least amount of money possible but don't expect more than that. Some models are so thin (Pelican brand) that we've decided we won't try to repair them anymore. Models with handles molded into the bow or stern make great wrist breakers if you try to hold onto them in the surf. Regular "T" grips on a rope are safer to hold onto when the kayak is twisting and spinning in a wave and you're hanging on for dear life so your kayak won't get away. Don't expect a wide kayak to be more stable than a narrower kayak because most kayaks are being designed for the mainlands colder waters. If the seat is higher than the waterline they have to make the kayak wider to keep it stable. Kayaks that feature seats with a lower center of gravity are narrower and more effecient and just as stable as bigger, wider kayaks and in Hawaii who cares if their butts get wet.