Kayak Plugs Demystified: An Essential Guide for Every Paddler

Navigating the serene waters in a kayak is a blissful experience, but the success of such adventures often hinges on the smaller details of our equipment. Among these, kayak plugs stand out as unsung heroes. These seemingly simple components are paramount in ensuring our kayaking journeys are smooth and enjoyable. Join me as we delve into the significance of kayak plugs and learn how to pick the perfect one for your vessel.

What are Kayak Plugs?

Kayak plugs are specifically designed components used to stop water from entering or to drain water out of certain parts of a kayak. While kayaks are inherently designed to be on the water, they aren’t meant to have water inside them. Kayak plugs ensure that the interiors remain as dry as possible, enhancing the safety and comfort of the paddler. 

There are different types of plugs, each tailored for specific parts of the kayak and for different functionalities. Some common types include scupper plugs and drain plugs. While their primary role revolves around water management, they can also play a role in the kayak’s buoyancy and overall performance on water.

Why are they essential?

  • Safety First: Kayak plugs, particularly when used in sit-on-top kayaks, help prevent the vessel from filling with water, which could cause it to sink or become unstable. An unstable kayak can tip over, posing risks to the paddler.
  • Comfort: Nothing’s more uncomfortable than sitting in a pool of cold water while trying to enjoy a serene paddle. Kayak plugs prevent water from splashing inside, ensuring a drier and more comfortable experience.
  • Improved Performance: A kayak filled with water becomes heavier and harder to maneuver. By keeping the water out, kayak plugs ensure that the kayak remains light and agile, making it easier to paddle and control.
  • Extends Kayak Life: Constant water ingress can weaken the kayak’s structure over time, especially if the water remains stagnant inside. By using plugs to keep water out or to drain any water that does get in, you help extend the life of your kayak.

Different Types of Kayak Plugs

When it comes to kayaking, keeping your vessel dry and stable is paramount. One of the ways to achieve this is by using the right type of plug for your specific kayak. Here, we’ll explore the two primary types of kayak plugs: scupper plugs and drain plugs.

Scupper plugs

Scupper plugs are exclusively used in sit-on-top kayaks. But what are sit-on-top kayaks? They’re kayaks that allow you to sit on a molded depression on top rather than inside the vessel. Now, these kayaks come with self-draining holes known as scuppers. While these holes are great for draining any water that splashes on the deck, sometimes you should block them to prevent water from coming up through them, especially in choppy waters.

Features & Uses:

  • Material: Scupper plugs are typically made of rubber or soft plastic, ensuring a tight fit.
  • Function: They prevent water from entering the kayak through the scupper holes. This is especially useful in colder weather or rougher waters where you want to stay as dry as possible.
  • Customization: Given the variety of scupper hole sizes across different kayak brands, many scupper plugs are designed to fit a range of sizes.

Usage Tip: If you’re paddling in calm and warm waters, you might prefer to leave the scuppers unplugged for self-draining. But in colder or turbulent conditions, plugging them up is often the best choice.

Drain plugs

Drain plugs, as the name suggests, are designed to help you drain any water that might accumulate inside your kayak. They’re typically found in sit-inside kayaks, but some sit-on-tops also come equipped with them.

Features & Uses:

  • Location: Drain plugs are usually located at the kayak’s stern or the lowest point when tilted for draining.
  • Function: After a day out on the water, if there’s any water inside your kayak, you simply open the drain plug and tilt the kayak to let the water out.
  • Design: They are generally screw-type plugs, ensuring that when tightened, they form a waterproof seal.

Usage Tip: After each trip, it’s a good practice to open the drain plug and check for any water inside. This routine ensures your kayak remains dry and helps prevent any potential mold or mildew buildup.

How to Choose the Perfect Kayak Plug

  1. Know your kayak. Different kayak models require a specific type of kayak plug. Sit-on-top models usually need scupper plugs, while sit-inside ones might require drain plugs.
  2. Get the size right. The kayak plug shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. It should fit just right to prevent water from coming in.
  3. Choose the right material. Go for plugs made of good rubber or silicone. They last longer and seal better. Make sure your plug won’t wear out quickly under the sun. Some materials can weaken if left out for too long.
  4. Choose a plug that’s easy to put in and take out. You don’t want to struggle every time you use it.

Installing and Removing Kayak Plugs

Managing kayak plugs may seem like a no-brainer, but ensuring a proper fit can significantly improve your kayaking experience. Let’s guide you through the process of installation and removal while sharing some handy tips.

Step-by-step guide

  1. Inspect the Plug and Hole: Before installation, always ensure the plug is free of dirt and debris, as these can prevent a secure fit. Similarly, inspect the kayak’s hole for any obstructions.
  2. Alignment: Position the plug right above the hole, ensuring it aligns well.
  3. Press or Twist: Depending on the design:
    • For Push-In Plugs: Gently press the plug into the hole until it fits snugly. Avoid using excessive force as it can damage the plug or the kayak.
    • For Twist-and-Lock Plugs: Insert the plug and twist (usually clockwise) until it locks in place. You should feel some resistance, indicating a tight fit.
  4. Test the Fit: Once installed, give the plug a gentle tug. It should stay in place and not come out easily.

Tips for easy removal

  • Lubrication: If you find the plug challenging to remove, especially after long periods, use a little bit of silicone-based lubricant around the edges. This can make the removal process smoother.
  • Avoid Over-Tightening: If you’re using a twist-and-lock plug, avoid over-tightening it during installation. This can make removal difficult and potentially damage the plug or kayak.
  • Regular Checks: Periodically check and remove the plugs, especially if you don’t use your kayak often. This practice ensures that the plugs don’t get overly stuck due to dirt or salt buildup.
  • Grip Aids: If your plug doesn’t have a grip or handle, consider getting one with textured surfaces or handles. This design makes the removal process more straightforward and ergonomic.
  • Rinse After Use: Especially for saltwater kayakers, rinse the plug and hole with fresh water after each use. Salt can crystallize and make removal harder over time.


In the vast realm of kayaking, it’s often the smallest components, like kayak plugs, that can make the most significant difference. From ensuring a dry and comfortable ride to extending the longevity of your vessel, these tiny heroes play a pivotal role. As you navigate serene waters or face the thrills of choppy waves, always remember the importance of choosing the right plug and maintaining it well. Here’s to many more safe and enjoyable kayaking adventures ahead!


Q: Why do sit-on-top kayaks have holes in them?

A: Sit-on-top kayaks are designed with self-draining holes known as scuppers. These allow water that splashes onto the kayak’s deck to drain out automatically, ensuring the deck stays relatively dry. Plugging these holes with scupper plugs can provide a drier kayaking experience, especially in colder or choppier waters.

Q: Can I use any generic plug for my kayak, or do I need a specific type?

A: While there are generic plugs available, it’s always recommended to choose a plug specifically designed for your kayak’s brand and model. This ensures a snug fit, which is crucial for preventing water ingress.

Q: How often should I replace my kayak plugs?

A: The frequency of replacement depends on usage and the plug’s material. It’s a good practice to inspect them regularly for wear and tear. If you notice cracks, brittleness, or any degradation, it’s time for a replacement. Typically, with moderate use and proper care, a good-quality plug can last several years.

Q: Do drain plugs only fit on sit-inside kayaks?

A: While drain plugs are commonly found on sit-inside kayaks, many sit-on-top models also come equipped with them. The purpose remains the same: to allow any accumulated water inside the kayak to be easily drained out.

Q: Is it harmful to leave my scupper plugs in all the time?

A: Continuously leaving the scupper plugs in, especially when storing the kayak, can trap moisture, leading to potential mold or mildew buildup. After use, especially in saltwater, it’s advisable to remove the plugs, rinse the kayak, and let it dry properly before storage.


The author, Sophia Monroe, kayaking.

Sophia Monroe

My initial goal to inspire others to embrace the wonderful world of water sports has evolved into a commitment to share my love to the widest audience possible. In a world increasingly consumed by sedentary lifestyles and digital devices, it's vital to reconnect with nature, prioritize physical activity, mental health, and live life to its fullest. I believe that by providing information and resources, we can empower ourselves to embrace strength, vitality, and a life lived to the fullest. Let's embark on this journey together!

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