Most kayak hull designs are sensitive to the way they are stored. Manufacturers say it is very difficult to mold thin plastic into a large flat surface area and make it stay flat. By the true nature of these materials, they all want to warp in some way. The most common deformation on plastic boats is known as “oilcanning”, where the hull surface becomes caved-in toward the interior of the kayak. A condition which greatly interferes with the kayak’s performance on the water. Once this sort of damage has occurred, it is difficult to undo it.
Looking at the cost of $1000 and up of an investment for a kayak and the material’s constant struggles of wanting to deform, one should try to do anything to prevent this from happening. Improper transport or storage are likely the most common causes of material deformations. Stress on the hull surface, combined with heat over time, are the most leading causes for damage. The blue line in the image below indicates the original shape of this kayak’s chine. The actual position below (white arrow) indicates material deformation due to improper storage, in this case, laying up-side-down on a dock.
BEST: Standing Upright - The best storage position is upright on the stern, with the hull surface flush to a wall. This position minimizes stress. While this space saving method may be common for kayak warehouses, it is the least realistic storage solution for most people. However, for those with the luxury of such space, it is convenient, cheap and ideal for preventing any type of oilcanning.
GOOD: On the Sidewall - A good storage method is to place the kayak laying on its sidewall with the hull against a wall, either on the floor or on a rack. Commercially made racks or webbing slings are available for sidewall storage. This method reduces the material stress on the hull surface, though not as much as in the standing upright position. Avoid having the kayak sit with its sidewall directly on the floor. Use foam to support at the positions before and past the cockpit and avoid placing anything on the kayak’s sidewall while in storage as this will counter act the stress reduction of the sidewall.
NOT GOOD: Upright or Upside Down - There shouldn’t be any reason why a kayak requires to be stored sitting upright with its entire weight on the hull or laying upside down on its cockpit. Doing so completely defeats the purpose of trying to reduce the stress of the hull surface. If there is no room for placing it on its sidewall, then there is simply no storage place for it. Incidentally, carrying kayaks on roof racks in this manner is a bad idea too.
WORST CASE: Suspended from Ceiling - Some think they are clever to store a kayak suspended by its bow and stern from a ceiling to take up less space. This is the worst case scenario of improper kayak storage as the entire weight is centered, forcing the hull surface to sag in the middle. Even if the plastic hull appears to be stiff, the weight is still there stretching at the hull surface.
Something Worth Noting
Now that all good and bad methods have been explored, it is worth noting as to how kayaks are stored at your local supplier before you make a purchase. The only professional distributor with proper warehouse storage methods we have seen is that of Western Canoeing and Kayking in Abbottsford, BC. All of their kayaks are stored in upright position on their bows to the least amount of hull stress exposed. This clearly demonstrates this company’s knowledge, care and interest to provide their clients with high quality products. http://www.westerncanoekayak.com/