Scupper Plugs – What Are They and Do You Need To Use Them? Everything You Need To Know

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Ever wondered what those strange plugged up holes are in your Kayak? I certainly have.

When I bought my recent Kayak I noticed that there were a lot more of these holes than my old beat up Yak had.

So I decided to investigate further and it turns out that these are Scupper Plug. What follows is the information I discovered on my knowledge journey.

What is a Scupper Plug?

Essential Marine Products Universal Scupper Plug Kit (4)

You will also mostly find scupper holes/plugs on sit on top kayaks, which are very popular right now for kayak fishing and they tend to be self-bailing, meaning they will push excess water out of the kayak.

As I mentioned above, the first thing you need to know is that these plugs are designed to fill the holes in Kayaks (and possibly other floating vehicles such as some Canoes and boats).

These holes are designed to let water drain – both in and out of the boat – and are typically found in the cockpit and storage areas.

Think about the last time you went on a trip, how much water was collected inside your yak from water splashing and dripping off your paddle…maybe you have a small hole and water is leaking in…well these holes allow you to remove water more easily when back at home or base camp.

Do I Need Scupper Plugs?

Short Answer: Yes, you need scupper plug on your Yak to allow overwashed water that has washed on deck back out of the vessel.

Scupper plugs will let in SOME water, but they shouldn’t let in too much. Rest assured, because of the design and buoyant nature of a kayak, you’re not likely to sink.

Essential Marine Products Universal Scupper Plug Kit (4)

But time must be taken to check over the plugs and holes before each outing to ensure they are in place and there are no signs of damage.

Of course, water will always enter your yak, be it from water slashing and lapping up and over the sides, of due to a heavy-laden boat and even dripping from the paddle itself. So some water is unavoidable.

As that water pools in your kayak, you will obviously get heavier and lower in the water. This is when the force from the water below forces the water to drain back out of the scuppers.

This helps to keep the water level even around the kayak. Without scuppers, you will simply take on water and become heavier over time, eventually, you’d capsize

Scupper Plugs – Open or Closed?

In most cases, you should leave the plugs open when traveling along the water. Sure, you will get a little wet in the feet and butt department, but they work very well and this will suffice for most occasions and conditions.

Most of us wear waterproof trousers anyway when out of the water and shoes that allow the water to drain out, so you won’t get soaked.

In some cases, if you’re taking on too much water then you can close the plugs, which will prevent water from entering the kayak from below.

This usually occurs when you’re approaching the max-load capacity and are sitting lower in the water than normal.

It all depends on the load you’re carrying and the conditions you’re paddling in. Just remember, if you close the scupper holes, then water that does enter the kayak will not be able to drain out.

There is also the option of plugging a few of the scuppers, perhaps the ones that are close to your seat and leaving the others open.

Where To Buy Scupper Plugs?

You can replace your scupper-plugs if they’ve become damaged over time. They’re relatively cheap to buy from most online stores such as Amazon. Here is one of my favorite brands.

You can also DIY your own scupper plugs using a method as shown in this video, where foam practice golf balls are used to full the scupper holes and provide a quick and cheap way of plugging and unplugging on the go.

There are also “one-way scupper plugs” for kayaks, now how well these work I’m not sure. Some people seem to swear by them, others…not so much.

Water will inevitably find its way into the yak and how you deal with it, I guess it all comes down to personal preference.

Can Scupper Plugs Fail/Leak?

Along the inside of the scupper-holes, you will notice a seam where the 2 pieces of material have been molded together.

It is very possible that this can be an entry point for water over time, depending on the build quality of your boat and it’s use and storage.

Of course, you should first check the outside of your SOTK first to ensure there is no obvious damage or pin-sized holes where water could enter from (easier said than done let me tell you!).

Carts can also be a cause of concern depending on the type you have. If your kayak cart has vertical upright supports that go through the scupper holes, then these can be troublesome over time and can cause damage to the molded plastic.

All it takes is a small dent or nick to break the scupper plug seal.

If you suspect that you have a leak in and around one of your scupper holes, you should contact the manufacturer in the first instance, as they will typically cover this kind o defect under their warranty.

How To Test Scupper Plugs?

If you need to test your supper plugs and holes for leaks, the best way to do this is by filling the boat with water whilst on-land, perhaps in the garden, and looking around the outside and underneath of the vessel in and around those scupper holes for any signs of leaking.

This is the best way to identify faults and/or damage and will save you a TON of time.

Getting Rid of Excess Water

If you’re troubled by excess water than I would highly suggest you carry a sponge or bilge pump. Both are quick and easy to use to get rid of excess water coming in through the scupper holes.

The sponge is a simple and easy choice, there’s nothing to break and they are extremely lightweight and absorbent.

The bilge pump is a little heavier and more expensive but makes light-work of pumping out excess water.

Wrapping It Up

So we’ve established that scupper plugs play an important part in letting water in/out of your kayak in order to aid buoyancy and keep you above water!

You can leave them either plugged in, or you can take them out. It all depends on how wet you’re comfortable getting and the laden-weight of your kayak. It’s your choice!

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