If you haven’t thought about protecting your kayak’s carbon fiber from sun damage, it’s time that you do.
Once you’ve invested in a carbon fiber kayak, you want to take the best care of it possible. This will make it last longer and glide better when you paddle along.
Imagine driving for miles to your favorite kayaking spot with your kayak strapped to the roof of your car. Doing something like this exposes your kayak to harsh rays from the sun, which in turn means an increased risk of damage.
Carbon fiber is a robust and advanced material, but it has its weak points. Heat sensitivity is one of them, which isn’t ideal since kayaking is an outdoor activity.
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What is Carbon Fiber Sun Damage?
Ultraviolet radiation, part of the sun’s rays, damages almost all kayaks, but carbon fiber sun damage is particularly common.
The shape and material of your kayak will depend on your adventure’s requirements.
- Plastics can be very tough and have good elasticity, so they won’t break or deform easily.
- Carbon fibre kayaks are smooth and stiff, as light as can be, and have excellent buoyancy. But it’s pretty bad if you bump into something because they are very prone to breaking.
Carbon fiber is a composite material (or polymer) with a sturdy crystalline structure. Composite kayaks are often fiberglass and carbon fabric mixed with epoxy resin.
Conventional laminating epoxy softens when it gets too hot. Eventually, it hardens again, but it is said that the original strength and integrity are lost once it gets that hot.
Apart from this increased fragility, further carbon fiber sun damage includes dents and bulges of different sizes due to heat deformation.
Read also: How to build a DIY dog kayak stand
How Do You Prevent Carbon Fiber Sun Damage on Your Kayak?
You should not expose your kayak to direct sunlight in summer, nor should you store it near heat sources or in rooms that heat up easily.
But what else can you do besides removing the kayak from the sun?
A special kayak protectant provides UV protection and makes water bead and roll off. In addition, some protectants restore minor damage to your kayak’s hull, like small scratches and cracks.
Usually, you spray it on, but you can also apply it as a wax. The protectant can also help prevent the color of your kayak from fading.
For best results, you can apply post kayak protectants every 30 to 45 days.
A simpler and possibly more environmentally friendly alternative (since no substance comes into contact with water resources) is to purchase a cover for your kayak. Whether it’s just for storage or even for transport, a kayak cover meets all the criteria. It keeps all sunlight off the surface of your kayak, blocking UV rays.
However, without proper ventilation, your kayak can get hot under the cover. So it’s best if you leave the cover open at the bottom.
Can Carbon Fiber Kayaks Withstand Heat?
Carbon fibers have high strength and good heat resistance, although very high temperatures can permanently deform your carbon fiber kayak.
Even if your carbon fiber kayak doesn’t literally start melting in the hot sun, it will soon soften. This is just enough to deform it where it touches another surface, such as the roof rack or even the tie-down strap. In kayak terminology, this process is called “oil-canning.”
Continuous sun exposure will do the job quicker than you think. But storing your kayak next to a heat source or in rooms that heat up a lot (attic or garden shed) might cause lasting carbon fiber sun damage just as well.
Additionally, the inside of the kayak shouldn’t be permanently exposed to the sun, so we recommend that you store it upside down.
Can You Repair a Kayak with Carbon Fiber Sun Damage?
If despite your best attempts to protect your kayak, some sun or heat damage should occur, there are some remedies you can try.
You can polish out superficial scratches with a special paste from specialist kayak stores. For more extensive repairs, you’ll need to use epoxy resin.
How to Repair A Carbon Fibre Kayak
To repair carbon fiber yourself, you need a set of materials and tools. These include:
- Coarse abrasive paper (at least 120 grit).
- Heavy-duty Kevlar/aramid shears (like Clauss or Kretzer).
- Carbon cloth (it’s best to use the same material the kayak is made of).
- Epoxy repair resin + hardener.
- Release film (a thin, non-porous material specially designed to prevent bonding with resin).
- Nitrile gloves.
Once you have your working station ready, follow these steps to repair the carbon fiber sun damage on your kayak:
- Remove any loose, cracked or fractured gelcoat, fibers or resin in the damaged area.
- Sand the area with abrasive paper.
- Measure and cut the carbon cloth for the repair in patches.
- Thoroughly mix the epoxy repair resin with the hardener.
- Apply a coat of epoxy to the damaged area.
- Apply the reinforcement patch and wet it with the resin mix using a laminating brush or roller.
- Stretch release film over the repaired area pulling it tight and wrinkle-free onto the hull. Press out any air bubbles.
- Leave to harden fully, then remove the release film.
- Sand down any remaining wrinkles and cover the area with one last thin layer of resin.
Watch the full instructional video on carbon fibre repair here.
Both you and your kayak need proper UV protection when the summer sun’s warm rays glimmer across the sky and invite you out on an adventure.
Sun damage to carbon fiber is annoying at best, and at worst, it can affect the integrity of your kayak in the long run.
Just like sunscreens, kayak protectors and covers can help you protect your kayak from the sun during transport, paddling, and storage.
While it’s possible to repair minor sun damage to your kayak yourself, you should leave major repairs to a professional. In any case, however, it’s best not to let it get that far.