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Scupper Holes: How They Provide Structural Integrity

If you are someone who kayaks now and then or at least has an idea of how kayaks work, you should know that they can get damaged pretty easily and can even sink, leading to collateral damage for the ones traveling. 

Scupper holes are openings on the sections of the sidewalks of a kayak. Their presence helps to drain water from the kayak. 

I am sure you have a lot more questions about what scupper holes. So, in this article, I will explain in detail what scupper holes are for in a kayak, how crucial they can be, and a lot more. I would recommend reading the whole article to be fully informed.  

Man in an orange kayak paddling down a body of water in a sit-in kayak

What Is The Function Of Scupper Holes?

Scupper holes are not present in all kinds of kayaks. You will only find them in sit-on-top kayaks.

Generally, the number of scupper holes in a kayak range from 1 to 6. The ideal amount is four holes.  

Scupper holes are present in the lower parts of the kayaks, near the ground. Occasionally, you can also find them in the cockpit, tank well, or footwells.  

How Kayak Scupper Holes Function

As mentioned, scupper holes are ingrained into the side walls of the kayak. The holes, which are vertical in shape, link the boat’s deck to the water underneath the kayak.

These holes enable the water to be drained from the water so that it does not start gathering inside the kayak, leading to complications.  

Hence, scupper holes have been designed in such a manner to drain away any water pooling on the deck automatically.

You might wonder how water even gets into the deck when the holes have been designed to keep the water away at all costs.

This has more to do with the water’s condition or the overall weight of travelers on the kayak. As a result, it becomes more difficult for the kayak to stay buoyant, so water leaks inside.

The pooling water makes it even more difficult for the boat to travel as there is more weight now. 

So, in a sense, scupper holes offer structure to kayaks during dire or potentially dire situations. They are essential in the case of rapid waves or unpredictable waters. 

Scupper Plugs

Scupper plugs are a bonus addition to scupper holes in most cases. Made of small plastic or rubber pieces, scupper plugs come with a small string attached to remove the plugs when they are no longer required easily.  

Scupper plugs mainly cover the scupper holes so travelers can stay dry while paddling. In most cases, they are not utilized, but when boats start taking on too much water, they are pressed into the holes.  

In addition, through these plugs, you can also paddle at a faster pace as by blocking the holes, your kayak sits in a more elevated position in the water.

If you use scupper plugs, ensure you get a size that fits the scupper holes. 

DIY Scupper Plugs

If you are feeling particularly creative, there is actually a method through which you can scupper plugs yourself. I have provided step-by-step instructions below.  

  • Step 1: Choose some foam balls. Make sure they match the diameter of the scupper holes. 
  • Step 2: Drill a hole in the center of the ball. Insert a small piece of paracord so that the plugs are easily removable. 
  • Step 3: Insert a small washer towards the narrow part of the ball. At the paracord’s end, tie a knot. 
  • Step 4: On the other narrow end, tie another knot so that the paracord does not fall out. 
  • Step 5: Your DIY scupper plug is ready. 

If you are looking for a demonstration, click here to watch a quality YouTube video. 

Is It Essential To Have Scupper Holes On A Kayak?

All kayaks don’t need to have scupper holes, yet, if you are using a sit-on-top kayak, it will be crucial to drain off the excess water so as not to damage the kayak or have any sort of accidents.

More importantly, the scupper holes come in handy if you feel like you might capsize during unstable waves.  

While scupper holes can be necessary, the same cannot exactly be said about scupper plugs. It depends mostly on the water.

If you want to be dry and tread through stable waters, you should use plugs.  

Realistically speaking, kayaking is a unique sort of adventure. You will get wet every once in a while, and your deck will likely have little water accumulation.

In addition, sit-on-top kayaks are manufactured in such a way to be buoyant on their own. Paired with the structural integrity of the scupper holes, they can be pretty self-sufficient.  

Still, if you want scupper plugs, ensure you get the removable kind. Sealing the scupper holes completely is not a good idea.  

Performing Testing of Your Scupper Plugs

Since you need the best scupper plugs for the holes, it is always good to test them beforehand. To test scupper holes, first, attach them on land.  

Take a water hose and pool the cockpit of your kayak with water. Check around the sides of the kayak and underneath to see if there is any sort of water leakage.

If there isn’t, you have made the right pick. 

Why Do Only Sit-On-Top Kayaks Have Scupper Holes?

Kayaks are mainly divided into two categories, sit-on-top kayaks and sit-inside kayaks.

I will highlight the overall structure of these two kayaks, and through that, you can learn why one needs scupper holes and why one does not. 

Sit-Inside Kayaks

Sit-inside kayaks consist of a confined area where the paddler is to sit. This sitting area is known as the cockpit. In sit-inside kayaks, as the name justifies, it is far easier for travelers to be more comfortable.

In addition, the structure of sit-inside kayaks is designed in such a way as to avoid water leakage. Hence, there is no need for scupper holes in kayaks like these.  

Additionally, sit-inside kayaks enable the paddlers to wear a spray skirt, which is a protective component.

It slides over the cockpit and covers any exposed spaces through which water can leak inside.

Besides being a useful tool to keep the water away, it helps the kayakers hold onto their body heat. 

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Unlike sit-inside kayaks, sit-on-top kayaks have no enclosed spaces where the paddlers can sit. They have to sit on top of the kayak literally.

As a result, due to no physical hindrances, water can pass pretty easily in a kayak like this, for instance, through the splashes of nearby boats, lakes, etc. 

Over time, the issues this water leakage caused got too noticeable. Thus, the manufacturers incorporated an idea to help with water drainage.

The purpose was to provide more structural integrity to the kayaks and ensure the passengers could have a good time without getting too drenched.  

Hence, now you should know why some kayaks require to scupper holes to be fitted in and some do not.

Final Thoughts on Scupper Holes

After reading this article, you should have greater insight into kayaks. In addition, you should have a much greater understanding of what scupper holes are for a kayak.

I also hope you put all the additional information you have gained into good use.

Wish you have the best time on your kayaking adventures!