Why do Kayaks have Holes ?

Kayak paddling, both as a sport or as a pass-time activity, is one of the most mind-blowing experiences for water lovers. But there are a few things about kayaking that tend to confuse both newbies and experienced kayaking connoisseurs.

Why do Kayaks have holes, yet they are required to float on water? Also, do the holes on a Kayak make it prone to sinking ?

As a general rule, all sit-on-top kayaks have scupper holes that are handy in draining the excess water from the deck. The built-in drainage system is imperative since, unlike a sit-inside kayak, a sit-on-top kayak lacks a protective barrier to shield the interior surface from the wet exterior.

Now you have a rough idea behind this seemingly bizarre design, but that is not all on why kayaks have holes. Check out our subsequent sections for further enlightenment on this topic.

What Are Scupper Holes ?

As earlier highlighted, scupper holes are the openings that you’ll find in all types of sit-on-top kayaks. While they are seemingly counterintuitive as they could ostensibly sink the boat, they have critical upsides such as the following:

  • First, scupper holes enhance the Kayak’s structural integrity. 
  • Besides, scupper holes are the drain holes for removing excess water that enters the kayak, especially when there are rapids and waves.

Are Scupper Holes Necessary ?

For efficient performance, all sit-on-top kayaks must feature kayak holes/ scupper holes primarily for drainage, as highlighted above


Also, it is noteworthy that having water in the Kayaks interior is unavoidable. Excess water results from the following causes:

  • Water splashing due to the padding strokes
  • Accidental capsizing of the Kayak
  • Water dripping from the kayak paddle
  • Turbulent waves rocking against the Kayak’s hull

Sometimes, the water droplets entering the kayak can become a considerable menace. In such a case, they’ll weigh down the boat, thus requiring you to use more effort during paddling.

Therefore, the above danger reinforces the apparent need for scupper holes in kayaks.

Where are Kayak Scupper Holes situated ?

Kayak holes are normally evenly distributed on the base for efficient drainage of excess water. Therefore, it is uncommon to find scupper holes scattered haphazardly in the kayak or condensed on one area.

Also, most Kayaks will feature four to eight holes. They are located in a fashion that no particular area of the Kayak will become waterlogged at any time.

Do All Kayaks Have Scupper Holes ?

Scupper holes are undoubtedly a cardinal feature in drainage, but not all Kayaks require them.

Kayaks are subdivided into two main categories that include Sit-inside kayaks & Sit-on-Top kayaks. The Sit-on-Top kayaks do not have an enclosed interior, thus making it easy for kayakers to enter and exit the boat. However, the lack of an enclosure also predisposes the Kayaks to water entry, making them prone to water logging.

Hence, as a rule of thumb, all Sit-on-Top kayaks have scupper holes to drain the unwanted water reserve from the vessel. These holes are expertly and strategically situated so as not to interfere with the kayak’s buoyancy.

On the flip side, Sit-inside Kayaks feature an enclosure/ cockpit where kayakers sit in. Their design, therefore, limits the entry of water into the kayak.

Thus, normally, not all Sit-inside Kayaks have scupper holes. Preferably, for additional convenience, Sit-inside Kayakers can wear a spray skirt which encloses the cockpit’s rim, thus preventing water entry. In addition, a spray skirt facilitates heat retention for the kayaker on the covered body part.

Therefore, the general rule is that all Sit-on-Top Kayaks sport scupper holes but are not a cardinal necessity in Sit-inside boats.

Can Scupper Holes Potentially Sink a Kayak ?

Paddling beginners may have reservations about scupper holes as possible precursors of sinking the boat. Nevertheless, these worries are unfounded as scupper holes cannot sink a kayak and are instead advantageous.

All in all, you need to check the amount of water inside your Kayak as some levels can be harmful. Kayaking newbies often blame the water levels in the boat on scupper holes, but this could be not necessarily the cause.

Sometimes, human faults can lead to excessive accumulation of water, which can consequently affect the boat’s buoyancyFor instance, carrying excessively weighty gear on the kayak will induce more water entry via the edges.


Hence, while kayaking, carry only what you need for optimum buoyancy of the kayak. 


Still, there are select cases whereby scupper holes can contribute to an increase of water in the deck. For instance, stormy or windy weather may cause water to enter from below the kayak via the scupper holes. But these scenarios are the exception rather than the rule.


Therefore, before blaming it all on the scupper holes, it’s imperative to check whether there are other human-induced causes of kayak flooding. Also, when tinkering with the scupper holes is necessary, you always have the option of plugging or unplugging them.

When Would You Plug Your Scupper Holes ?

Plugging the Kayak’s Scupper holes means that you have blocked the entry and exit of water from the boat.

As a rule of the thumb, you should plug the kayak holes when you intend to have your boat float at a higher level on the water. Conversely, unplugging the kayak holes means it’ll float a bit deeper on the water. 


Here are specific situations when you should plug or unplug the holes.

  1. Consider plugging the scupper holes when you intend to paddle faster. This is probably during the ride to your fishing destination or when you return to your boat launch area.
  2. During windy weather, it would be best to unplug the kayak holes.  Consequently, this would compel the boat to sit slightly deeper in the water and thus counter the impact of the wind. But plug the holes when facing turbulent winds that force water to enter the deck from below.
  3. Besides, it’s best to plug the scupper holes if you are carrying heavy gear. The load’s excess weight will prompt the boat to sink deeper; consequently, water will seep in via the holes. Therefore, plugging the holes prevents water entry into the deck from below.

How Many Scupper Holes to Plug or UnPlug ?

As earlier highlighted, there are approximately four to eight scupper holes, each situated strategically on the boat.

The best kayak holes to plug are the rear ones. It is at the back of the Kayak where the bulk of the boat’s weight is concentrated. Hence, when you keep them plugged, it’ll give the kayak a slight rear elevation while at the same time keeping the area relatively dry.

You should be guided by your size and weight when deciding whether to plug the kayak holes in your sitting area. For instance, for an extra lift, it would help if you plug them. Conversely, if you are relatively light and want to float slightly deep, consider unplugging them.

Also, when it is rainy and there’s a continuous collection of water on the boat, you should keep all the holes unplugged. Lastly, when fishing in cold weather, plug the holes as this will apparently keep the boat dry in the chilly surroundings.

Alternative Ways to Rid the Kayak of Water (Besides Scupper Holes)

Scupper holes are sometimes insufficient in keeping water off the Kayak, and you may be prompted to go for alternative means. The two primary options for ridding the Kayak’s deck of water besides scupper holes include using a bilge pump or a sponge.

Using a Bilge Pump

If you have excess water levels in your Kayak, it will help if you invest in a bilge pump. The component is also helpful in removing water after a kayak capsizes or has an accident.

This is especially significant when using Sit-inside Kayaks that characteristically have no scupper holes and have a tiny space.

A bilge pump will be handy in removing high volumes of water from your kayak at a fast rate. Also, carrying one won’t cost you much space as the manufacturers are considerate of the little room, especially in a Sit-inside Kayak.

Depending on your budget, you can choose between an electric binge pump and a manual one. An electric pump will pump water faster and requires less effort than a manual one, but it is also relatively pricier.

Use a Sponge

If you are low on finances, worry not as an absorbent sponge will still do the job of draining the kayak. Preferably, avoid the typical dish sponge as it’s not best suited for holding a huge volume of water.

Instead, go for a sponge with efficient water absorbance, as it’ll come in handy in draining the kayak faster.


There’s no doubt that Kayaking is a beautiful sport and a worthwhile fishing expedition, but sitting on a wet deck would definitely drain all the thrill. Kayak manufacturers know this and have designed Sit-on-Top Kayaks to have scupper holes.

While some think of them as dangerous, they’re purely innocuous, as this article explains. Primarily they aid in drying the deck, making your kayaking experience comfortable and thrilling. Further, scupper holes allow you to select the float depth of choice and where they prove insufficient, you can use a bilge pump or a sponge.

Thank you for reading to the end.

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