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I am helping a friend look for a first kayak, used. Can someone explain what oil canning is so I am certain I know what it is? It seems self explanatory, but I want to be sure.

Thanks,

Tom
 

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I'd say 'oil canning' is when the bottom of a kayak wears out, becomes flat (that was for displaced hulls), or is concaved inward, towards the seat, rather than convex, outwards towards the river bottom. It means the hull, bottom of the kayak, has been worn down (scraped over rocks, etc), and the plastic is wore out. It does not have it's original shape.
You won't get the best performance from an old boat that has oil canning, it may not track as well, in the water. But you can still surf it. That is how I'd describe it. anyone else?
 

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Above description sounds right. I don't think performance changes are terribly noticeable but it can create a "hot" spot when you hit rocks that causes uneven wear on the hull. It's pretty easy to fix by inserting some foam underneath the seat where it's oil canning.
 

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You know you have oil canning if your boat looks like this.




Seriously though, everyone has given you useful advice. You can also try pressing on the bottom of the boat to feel if it flexes easily. Pliable plastic is an indication of thinness.

Good luck, and if you're in doubt, take some pics of the boat in question and post them here for feedback.
 

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All true info but brand new boats can oil can. There have been all manner of design efforts to address the issue in flat bottom playboats. The average boater may not be able to notice a difference in performance but a pro can, especially on green waves, not many of them in Colorado though. Play boating pros or green waves. :)
 
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