Kayak Holes: What’s The Deal With Scupper Holes?

If you’ve ever been curious about those small holes in the bottom of your kayak, then this article is for you. In “Kayak Holes: What’s the Deal with Scupper Holes?”, we will explore the purpose and benefits of scupper holes in kayaks. Discover how these seemingly unassuming features can enhance your kayaking experience and provide a multitude of benefits, from self-drainage to increased stability. So, hop in and let’s dive into the fascinating world of scupper holes!

What are Scupper Holes?


Scupper holes are openings found on the deck or bottom of a kayak that allow water to drain out of the cockpit or storage compartments. These holes are strategically placed to prevent water accumulation and improve the overall performance and safety of the kayak. They are designed to allow water to exit the kayak while preventing it from entering, ensuring a drier and more comfortable paddling experience.


The main purpose of scupper holes is to keep the kayak self-bailing. By allowing water to drain out of the kayak, scupper holes prevent it from accumulating and weighing down the vessel. This is particularly important in situations where water can splash into the kayak, such as in rough waters or during heavy rainfall. Scupper holes also play a crucial role in maintaining the stability of the kayak, helping to prevent it from tipping over or becoming more difficult to control.


Scupper holes are typically located on the bottom of the kayak, along the sides of the cockpit, or within storage compartments. The exact placement can vary depending on the kayak model and design. Manufacturers often strategically position scupper holes to ensure effective drainage and optimize the kayak’s performance. It is important to note that the location of scupper holes can impact how efficiently water drains out of the kayak and how stable it remains in various water conditions.

Benefits of Scupper Holes


One of the major benefits of scupper holes is that they keep the kayak self-bailing. Water that enters the kayak through waves, rainfall, or splashing can easily exit through these openings, preventing excessive water accumulation. This not only helps to keep the kayak lightweight and maneuverable but also ensures a drier and more comfortable paddling experience.


Scupper holes provide efficient drainage, especially in situations where water tends to collect within the kayak. Whether it’s rainwater, spray from waves, or water that splashes over the sides of the kayak, scupper holes allow for quick and efficient water drainage. This prevents the kayak from becoming waterlogged and improves its overall performance on the water.


Scupper holes play a crucial role in maintaining the stability of the kayak. By allowing water to drain out, they help to counterbalance the weight of the water entering the kayak. This prevents the kayak from becoming excessively heavy and unstable, reducing the risk of tipping over or losing control. The stability provided by scupper holes is particularly important in rough or choppy waters, where maintaining balance is essential for safety.

Kayak Holes: Whats The Deal With Scupper Holes?

Types of Scupper Holes

Traditional Scuppers

Traditional scuppers are the most common type of scupper holes found in kayaks. They are typically round or oval-shaped openings located on the kayak’s deck or near the cockpit. Traditional scuppers are designed to allow water to drain out while preventing it from entering the kayak, ensuring a self-bailing and comfortable paddling experience.

Bilge Scuppers

Bilge scuppers are scupper holes located at the lowest point of the kayak’s interior. They are designed to drain any water that may accumulate in the bilge area, which is the lowest point of the kayak’s hull. Bilge scuppers are crucial for preventing water from pooling inside the kayak and subsequently affecting its stability and performance.

Flush Mount Scuppers

Flush mount scuppers are scupper holes that are mounted directly into the kayak’s deck, providing a sleek and streamlined appearance. They are often found on higher-end kayaks and are designed to minimize water drag and improve the kayak’s overall speed and performance. Flush mount scuppers offer effective drainage while maintaining the kayak’s aesthetic appeal.

Plug-In Scuppers

Plug-in scuppers are scupper holes that can be sealed with removable plugs. These plugs are typically made of rubber or plastic and can be inserted into the scupper holes to prevent water from entering the kayak. Plug-in scuppers offer versatility, allowing paddlers to choose between a self-bailing or water-tight option depending on their preferences and the water conditions they will be paddling in.

Materials Used for Scupper Holes


Plastic is one of the most common materials used for scupper holes. It is lightweight, durable, and resistant to corrosion, making it an ideal choice for kayak components exposed to water. Plastic scupper holes are often molded as part of the kayak’s construction, ensuring a seamless integration with the kayak’s design. They provide reliable drainage and require minimal maintenance.


Rubber scupper holes are another popular option, known for their flexibility and excellent sealing properties. Rubber scupper holes are often used in conjunction with plug-in scupper systems, where the rubber plugs create a watertight seal when inserted into the holes. Rubber scupper holes are highly effective in preventing water from entering the kayak, ensuring a dry and comfortable paddling experience.


While less common, metal scupper holes are sometimes used in certain kayak models. Stainless steel or aluminum scupper holes provide durability and resistance to corrosion, making them suitable for kayaking in harsh or saltwater environments. Metal scupper holes can be a good option for paddlers looking for long-term durability and a more robust drainage system.

Kayak Holes: Whats The Deal With Scupper Holes?

Scupper Hole Size and Shape

Standard Sizes

Scupper holes come in standard sizes, typically ranging between 1.5 inches to 2.5 inches in diameter. These sizes are designed to accommodate the necessary water drainage while preventing larger objects from entering the scupper holes and potentially clogging the system. Standard scupper holes offer a balance between effective drainage and maintaining the kayak’s structural integrity.

Custom Sizes

Some kayak manufacturers offer custom scupper hole sizes to suit specific needs or preferences. Custom scupper holes may be larger or smaller than the standard sizes, depending on factors such as the kayak’s design, intended use, and paddler’s requirements. Custom scupper holes can be beneficial for paddlers who have specific drainage needs or want to modify their kayak’s performance.

Round Scuppers

Round scupper holes are the most common shape found in kayaks. They offer efficient water drainage and are less prone to clogging compared to other shapes. Round scupper holes create a direct path for water to exit the kayak, ensuring effective self-bailing and maintaining the kayak’s stability in various water conditions.

Oval Scuppers

Oval scupper holes are another popular shape seen in kayak designs. They provide a larger drainage area compared to round scupper holes, allowing for greater water flow. Oval scupper holes are effective in situations where the kayak is exposed to heavy rainfall or excessive splashing, ensuring quick and efficient water drainage.

Rectangular Scuppers

Rectangular scupper holes are less common but can provide additional benefits in terms of water drainage. The wider dimensions of rectangular scupper holes allow for increased water flow, making them suitable for larger kayaks or situations where a higher volume of water needs to be drained quickly. Rectangular scupper holes can enhance the self-bailing capabilities of the kayak and improve its stability in challenging water conditions.

Common Issues with Scupper Holes


One of the common issues with scupper holes is the potential for clogging. Small debris, such as leaves, twigs, or sand, can get lodged in the scupper holes and restrict water flow. This can impede the drainage system and prevent the kayak from self-bailing effectively. Regular cleaning and inspection of scupper holes are essential to prevent clogging and maintain optimal water drainage.


In some cases, scupper holes may develop leaks, allowing water to enter the kayak. This can be a result of improper installation, wear and tear, or damage to the scupper hole material. Leaks in scupper holes undermine their self-bailing capabilities and can lead to a wet or uncomfortable paddling experience. It is important to promptly address any leaks by repairing or replacing the affected scupper holes.


Scupper holes may not provide effective drainage in certain situations, such as when the kayak is heavily loaded or in extremely rough water conditions. In these cases, the scupper holes may become overwhelmed by the volume of water or the speed at which it enters the kayak. It is important to be aware of the limitations of scupper holes and consider alternative drainage options if needed.

Kayak Holes: Whats The Deal With Scupper Holes?

Maintenance and Care for Scupper Holes


Regular cleaning is essential to prevent scupper holes from clogging and ensure optimal water drainage. Use a brush or a small hose to remove any debris or sediment that may have accumulated in the scupper holes. Take care not to damage the scupper hole material during the cleaning process. It is also recommended to clean the scupper holes after each paddling session to maintain their effectiveness.


Periodically inspect the condition of the scupper holes to identify any signs of damage or wear. Check if the scupper holes are properly sealed, without any leaks or cracks. Inspect the surrounding areas for any signs of degradation or weakening. If any issues are found, address them promptly to prevent further damage and maintain the functionality of the scupper holes.


If scupper holes develop leaks or show signs of damage, repair them as soon as possible to prevent water from entering the kayak. Depending on the material and extent of the damage, repair options may include applying sealant, replacing the scupper hole, or seeking professional assistance. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a professional when repairing scupper holes to ensure proper and long-lasting repairs.

Alternative Solutions to Scupper Holes

Scupper Plugs

Scupper plugs are removable plugs that can be inserted into the scupper holes to create a water-tight seal. They provide an alternative to self-bailing by preventing water from entering the kayak. Scupper plugs are particularly useful in colder weather or when paddling in calm waters where self-bailing is not necessary. They offer versatility and allow paddlers to choose between a self-bailing or water-tight option depending on their preferences and the water conditions.

Scupper Valves

Scupper valves are innovative devices that combine the functionality of scupper holes and plug-in systems. They consist of a valve mechanism that allows water to drain out of the kayak but prevents it from entering. Scupper valves automatically close when water pressure builds up, effectively sealing the scupper holes and preventing water intrusion. This provides a self-bailing solution without the need for manual plugs or constant monitoring.

Scupper Covers

Scupper covers are protective lids that can be placed over the scupper holes when not in use. They provide a barrier against water entry and protect the scupper holes from debris and UV damage. Scupper covers are commonly used during transportation or storage to keep the interior of the kayak dry and ensure the scupper holes remain clean and functional. They offer an additional layer of protection and prolong the lifespan of the scupper holes.

Choosing the Right Kayak with Scupper Holes


When choosing a kayak with scupper holes, several considerations should be taken into account. Consider the intended use of the kayak, the water conditions it will be exposed to, and the paddler’s skill level. Additionally, think about the frequency of use, personal preferences regarding self-bailing or water-tight options, and any specific needs for additional drainage or stability. These factors will help determine the most suitable kayak with scupper holes for an enjoyable and safe paddling experience.

Kayak Type

Different types of kayaks have different scupper hole configurations. Sit-on-top kayaks, for example, usually have larger scupper holes for efficient self-bailing. Touring or sea kayaks may have smaller scupper holes and additional bilge scuppers for improved performance in open waters. Fishing kayaks often have specialized scupper hole designs to accommodate fishing gear and prevent water from pooling in the kayak. Consider the specific features and scupper hole placement of each kayak type to ensure it aligns with intended activities and needs.

Intended Use

The intended use of the kayak is an important factor to consider when choosing one with scupper holes. If the kayak will predominantly be used in rough waters or areas prone to heavy rainfall, it is crucial to prioritize self-bailing capabilities and efficient water drainage. On the other hand, if the kayak will be used in calm waters or during colder seasons, the option to seal the scupper holes with plugs may be preferable to keep the interior dry and comfortable. Tailor the selection of a kayak with scupper holes based on the specific requirements of the intended use.

Installing Scupper Holes

DIY Installation

For experienced paddlers and kayakers who are comfortable working with tools and have a good understanding of the kayak’s construction, DIY installation of scupper holes is an option. However, it should be approached with caution and careful consideration of the kayak’s structural integrity. Follow manufacturer guidelines, consult reliable sources, and ensure proper tools and techniques are used to prevent any damage or compromise to the kayak.

Professional Installation

If unsure about the installation process or the structural integrity of the kayak, it is recommended to seek professional assistance for scupper hole installation. Professionals have the expertise and experience to ensure the scupper holes are properly placed, sealed, and integrated into the kayak’s design. This minimizes the risk of damage and ensures the functionality and safety of the scupper holes.

Tips and Guidelines

  • Before installing scupper holes, carefully assess the kayak’s construction and design to determine the most appropriate location and type of scupper holes.
  • Measure and mark the desired positions for the scupper holes to ensure accurate placement.
  • Use appropriate tools and techniques for cutting or drilling the holes, taking care not to damage the kayak’s hull or deck.
  • Following the manufacturer’s instructions, seal the scupper holes with appropriate materials, such as adhesives or gaskets, to prevent water leakage.
  • Thoroughly test the scupper holes by pouring water into the kayak and observing the drainage and sealing capabilities before taking the kayak out on the water.
  • Regularly inspect the scupper holes and surrounding areas for any signs of wear, damage, or deterioration, and address any issues promptly to maintain optimal functionality.

In conclusion, scupper holes are an integral feature of kayaks, offering efficient drainage, stability, and self-bailing capabilities. Careful consideration should be given to the type, size, and location of scupper holes when selecting a kayak, taking into account specific paddling needs and preferences. Regular maintenance and inspection of scupper holes are essential to prevent issues such as clogging or leakage. By understanding the benefits, types, and maintenance of scupper holes, kayakers can make informed decisions and enjoy a safe and enjoyable paddling experience.

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