The Do's and Don'ts of Buying a Fibreglass Kayak

Like if this guide is helpful
The Do's and Don'ts of Buying a Fibreglass Kayak

When a kayaker decides to move up from the beginner's polyethylene boat, a fibreglass kayak is likely to be the first fabric boat he or she invests in. Fibreglass, also known as Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP), is the entry level fibre and resin kayak material. Although more expensive than polyethylene, it is less expensive than the next level of fabrics, including Kevlar, carbon fibre, and some manufacturers' proprietary compounds.

Many people choose their first fibreglass kayak because they are starting to race. The stiffer fibreglass kayak moves more quickly in the water than the more flexible polyethylene learner kayak. This makes the fibreglass kayak speedier and more manoeuvrable. Speed and manoeuvrability taken together also make the fibreglass kayak less easy to control. For the person who enjoys a challenge, the combination is invigorating. For the person less interested in an immediate challenge, a rudder or skeg can make the ride easier.

Whether a fibreglass kayak is chosen for touring, sea kayaking, white water, or racing, a wide selection is available on eBay, where both new and previously used kayaks may be selected at advantageous prices. Once the buyer has decided the purpose for which a new fibreglass kayak is to be used, the selection on eBay makes it easy to identify

Do Know What Kind of Kayak is Desired

Kayaks are made in a wide range of lengths and widths, which relate to the different ways they are used. A kayak used for long trips down a river or on the sea has a very different profile than a kayak designed for speedy manoeuvres in white water. A kayak used for solo paddling has, of course, a different upper hull and carrying capacity than one used for paddling tandem. Making basic decisions about how the use of the kayak is essential in advance of the purchase. Some kinds of kayaks are not often produced in fibreglass, but those frequently offered in the material include those kinds listed below.

Touring Kayak

The longer touring kayak is designed for extended travel, including camping outings that require carrying various kits. Their overall profile is designed for flat waters, such as lakes, canals, and ocean waters near the coast. They may be designed for one or two paddlers and some have rudders. Lengths vary from approximately 3 to 4.6 metres, and widths vary generally between 0.6 to 0.67 metres.

Sea Kayak

Sea kayaking is a British tradition that includes open sea crossings and expeditions. Such makers as P&H still provide sea kayaks in traditional designs. Contemporary sea kayak designs have a strong V-shaped bow and stern to improve directional stability. Generally, sea kayaks are designed for speed, strong tracking, and generous equipment storage, with relatively small cockpits. Many have a retractable skeg or rudder. To accommodate the need for kit and stability, they are large boats, with typical lengths roughly 4.8 to 5.4 metres.

White Water Kayak

The white water kayak is a short, high performance kayak with a closed cockpit to keep the splash out. Paddlers manoeuvre these kinds of kayak in surf and heavy white waters. Training is required for anyone whose plans do not include regularly ending up in the drink. The smallest of these boats run approximately 1.75 metres, with longer kayaks coming in at about 2.75 metres long.

Racing Kayaks

Many of the above kayaks are used in racing. However, the sprint kayak is regulation for certain races. These kayaks are designed at three regulation lengths to accommodate one (K-1), two (K-2), or four (K-4) paddlers. The K-1 is 5.2 metres long, K-2 is 6.2 metres long, and K-4 is 11 metres long. Rudders aid in turning the long kayaks. White-water racing kayaks made for regulation races also are made to specific standards.

Don't Expect Fibreglass to Handle Like Plastic

Some racers may think that paddling a fibreglass kayak compares to paddling a polyethylene learner's kayak as riding a bicycle compares to riding a bicycle with flat tires. Moreover, some agree that the fibreglass boat has so much more bounce and manoeuvrability that it can take a while to master.

The person purchasing their first fibreglass kayak, therefore, has a choice. A safe choice is a boat that is relatively easy to handle from the first outing. A challenging option is a boat that gives the paddler some room to learn new skills. Every paddler understands how their own personality best responds to one or the other choice.

At the same time, a multisport racer who is just learning to kayak in preparation for a quadrathlon may prefer a boat that is not too challenging. Fibreglass is desirable for its light weight and speed; still, it may be well to take advantage of design features that maximise stability such as a rudder and perhaps a flatter, broader profile. It is also important that the kayak suit the waters on the particular course. A kayak with a retractable rudder or skeg can provide a middle ground, allowing the new owner extra stability at the beginning and a more challenging ride later on.

Do Consider How the Kayak Fits the Paddler

Even within a given kayak class and specific kayak design, different kayaks may be best suited to a specific paddler. Factors that need consideration include the below:

Kayak Feature

Needs Accommodated

Bearing Weight

Most kayaks are designed to a maximum load

Interior Layout

Should fit the legs, knees, and hips comfortably; different designs better accommodate people of different sizes

Vertical Stability

Wider, more flat profiles help keep paddlers upright

Directional Stability

A retractable rudder or skeg can keep the kayak on course while learning

Some manufacturers rate their designs for stability on a scale of 1 to 5. This can be a handy guide when considering the purchase of a first fibreglass kayak.

Don't Get Stuck with "Sticker Shock"

If the family needs a larger car, it is not the time to economise on transportation. Likewise, once the beginner boat has become a boring exercise in pushing the current, it may not be the time to economise on a cheap fibreglass kayak that does not offer a new challenge. Similarly, if racing has become a personal goal, choosing anything less dynamic than fibreglass is unlikely to get you over the first weir at Straffan without a ducking.

A fibreglass kayak is likely to weigh at least 30 per cent less than the polyethylene boat most people start in. That lighter weight translates to a great deal more speed on the water. But even a roughly comparable design at the same length in fibreglass costs significantly more than plastic.

All that is simply to say that once the decision to upgrade has been made, the decision to pay more has been made. Stick with it. Buy a used fibreglass kayak from someone who is upgrading to another fibre if need be. But do not create reason for regret on the first outing.

Do Be Prepared for Minor Maintenance

Fibreglass is very durable, so it is unlikely that a typical user would manage to seriously ding a boat, even in white waters. One of the few ways to crack a fibreglass boat is to haul in over a rocky shore fully loaded with kit and personnel. Anyone experienced enough to ride fibreglass is probably experienced enough not to do that. Nonetheless, the occasional scratch does appear. Filling it promptly with resin keeps the boat looking great and prevents a scratch from deepening into a leak.

Buying a Fibreglass Kayak on eBay

People all over the UK find eBay a convenient way to locate buyers who want the specific fibreglass kayak they have on offer. When searching for a fibreglass kayak on eBay, a buyer may simply type "fibreglass kayak" into the search window at the top of any page to discover a range of possibilities. If a specific manufacturer's kayak is already in mind, or a kayak designed for a specific use such as white water is being sought, the manufacturer's name or the use might also be specified to further limit results.

Many people selling kayaks prefer not to ship them due to their size and so specify that they are available for "collection only". To identify kayaks located near to you, use the "Sort By" menu to prioritise those kayaks with "Distance: nearest first".

Other Items to Consider Purchasing

When acquiring a first fibreglass kayak, additional items that may be considered include a different paddle, especially if a different type of kayak has been purchased than that previously owned. The kayak may require a properly sized spray deck and a roof rack if the existing rack is not the correct size. If more than one kayak is to be carried regularly as part of a club, the organisation may want to invest in a trailer carrier.

Conclusion

After playing about in a plastic kayak for some period of time, many people feel the need for speed. They start considering the purchase of their first fabric kayak, which is usually fibreglass or GRP, since these are the entry-level kayaks in this category. The stiffer material makes for a speedier kayak. It also can demand more skill from the paddler, which is a challenge some may welcome. Those who prefer a more stable ride may choose a fibreglass kayak with a rudder or a retractable rudder or skeg.

When purchasing a fibreglass kayak, it is important to decide the kayak's purpose since different designs are better suited to different purposes. A white-water kayak is very different from a touring or sea kayak. Whatever kind of kayak is chosen, it should be selected to fit the paddler. Being prepared for minor maintenance ensures that the kayak be kept in good order for the long term. Whether a new or used fibreglass kayak is sought, options abound on eBay.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides