Why Does My Kayak Have Holes in the Bottom?

Kayakers must be curious to know the purpose of tiny holes present on their kayaks’ bottom surface. In fact, some even confuse these openings with a fault or leak points. If you, too, are concerned about these holes and want to know the reason behind crafting them, you have come to the right place. Let’s find out why our kayaks incorporate strange holes in the bottom and how we can reap benefits from this thoughtful design.

Scupper Holes – What Are They For?

Scupper holes intend to drain out water that comes into the kayak as a result of the rapid movement of the ocean. Due to these holes, the water keeps running back to the source and does not turn the kayak deck into a pool.

Should I Plug Them?

Scupper holes help prevent the build-up of water in the kayak’s storage area and footwell. A question that may arise in your mind is whether we should plug the holes or keep them open. The answer is that it solely depends on the sea’s conditions, personal preference, and need of the hour. In short, we must acknowledge the factors first that make plugs advantageous or risky, and then decide if we should use them or not.

There are certain times when we want to seal the kayak’s cockpit from the water temporarily. In such situations, scupper plugs play their part. These are rubber- or silicone-made plugs that fit into the hole openings and stop the intrusion or flow of water into or out of the kayak, respectively.


You need not worry about the holes as these are absolutely normal; rather, they are necessary for a kayak. Nearly every sit-on-top kayak is equipped with four or more holes distributed at some distance on its floor. These are generally known as scupper holes and are deliberately included in the construction of this equipment for some solid purpose.

Using scupper plugs can be a creative way to get the following benefits:

Keep Cold Water Out

Kayaking can not be done without exposure to water. Still, we can’t afford to get soaked in cold water in winter. All we can do is minimize the intrusion of water by closing the bottom channels or holes and wearing waterproof and warm clothing.

Upon plugging the scupper holes, freezing water can be prevented from wetting your feet or lower body. So, to make kayaking pleasant in winters, we should use scupper plugs.

Maintain the Kayak’s Buoyancy

It is strictly prohibited to exceed the load limit of boats. In fact, it is suggested not to utilize more than 75% of the total weight capacity. But avid kayakers ignore this precautionary fact and load more weight than it is recommended.

In that case, the buoyancy of the equipment is greatly influenced. The more weight exerted on the water’s surface, the faster and more heavily the water will make its way into the kayak. As a consequence, it becomes difficult for the hull to propagate at a regular pace.

Therefore, plugging the holes helps maintain the kayak’s weight on the lower side by inhibiting water from entering the cockpit.

Drain Water Consistently

Suppose you want to enjoy mild splashes of water but also fear excessive build-up. In such a cade, plugging all the holes will not let a single water droplet enter from the bottom.

Here, the solution would be to plug holes that are located closest to you. By doing so, you can have delightful wetness around your feet. Prefer plugging holes situated near the rear or stern area to drain water through them constantly.


Scupper plugs are not a good option to use in some cases. That’s why whenever you are subjected to those situations, try to avoid plugging the kayak holes and leave them unrestricted since they can provide the following drawbacks:

Not Suitable for Fierce Ocean Waves

Waves can get rough to an extent we can’t imagine. When this happens, boats, canoes, kayaks, and gear are at the peril of strong waves. For a pro kayaker, it might not be a problem to handle relentless waves. However, the ocean would get a chance to push more water into the kayak consistently.

These splashes of water can result in a puddle in a few minutes if not drained out immediately. Thus, don’t make the mistake of plugging the holes in this situation when your boat needs to complete a long voyage or trip safely.

Unblocked holes will continue draining water and drying the deck as fast as possible, thereby keeping you and your kayaking essentials secure.

For longer routes, it is better to provide a path for water to keep getting flushed out of the kayak. On the contrary, in plugged kayaks, you will have to bail water manually or with the help of a bilge pump once you get back home or onshore.

Flipping of Kayak

Despite all safety measures, one wrong move or a sudden burst of waves can flip the kayak by 180 degrees. At this moment, the vacuum developed between the sitting area and ocean water can cause trouble in re-flipping the boat. This vacuum is developed due to the holes being plugged.

So, we recommend novice kayakers or beginners not to use scupper plugs for dealing with such incidents with ease.

Scupper Plugs Add to the Weight

If you use scupper plugs, you must take some safety accessories like a bilge pump or sponge to remove water coming from the sideways. These accessories will, in turn, add a significant amount of burden on the kayak. Thus, prefer using the default self-bailing system, rather than overloading the kayak with additional equipment.

Not Suitable for Rainy Days

While popping plugs in scupper holes, you will be successful in stopping ocean water from getting on board. But that’s not a good idea for a rainy day. The heavy downpours will gather in your kayak, making it heavy and waterlogged.

So, keep the holes unplugged in rainy seasons, or you will be left with no option except for draining water manually.

How to Use Them Properly?

Everything allows us to make the most of it as long as we use it in the correct way. Likewise, scupper plugs also demand careful handling to perform ideally.

The installation of scupper plugs is very simple and a one-man task. Just pop the plugs snugly in the scupper holes. For removing them, use the cord or loop attached to the rear end and pull it outward.
The purchase of scupper plugs also needs your attention. Only those plugs serve the best that suit the diameter or dimensions of the holes. In most kayaks, the drilled holes have a diameter of about 1 to 1.5 inches. But to be on the safe side, verify the size of holes in your kayak.

If the plugs are loose, they will keep coming out and eventually start leaking water. Therefore, it is recommended to test the efficiency of plugs prior to use or at the time of installation.

Pour in half a bucket of water into the boat and see what happens. Water should not come out of the bottom. If it leaks through the floor, this indicates that the installation is either done incorrectly, or you need to go for a bigger plug size. When using a bigger plug, make sure it is not too fit that it becomes extremely difficult to detach it.

After finishing the trip and once the water drains out completely, don’t leave the scupper plugged. The reason being that the scupper holes tend to expand in scorching summers and can cause damage to the plugs.

People also have the choice of plugging a few holes and controlling the drainage of water desirably. Usually, the holes beneath the kayak seat are better to be plugged if dry footwell is wished. This way, neither the drain passage is fully blocked, nor your comfort level is disturbed.


Scupper holes are part of the construction of a kayak. They don’t mean to sink your vehicle into the ocean. They act as a channel or passageway and allow you to empty the kayak after each fishing or surfing session.

They relieve us from throwing the water out and also serve as an alternative to bilge pumps or sponges. Now it’s up to us how we use them.

Rainy weather, choppy waves, and lack of pro-level kayaking expertise go in favor of avoiding the use of scupper plugs. Restricting the drainage passage can put us in a troublesome situation if there are more chances of accumulation of water in the kayak. Similarly, if you don’t have adequate experience of re-flipping the boat back to the upright position, don’t block the kayak’s self-bailing system.

However, winters and overloaded kayaks can force you to insert scupper plugs to ensure a safe and sound trip.