Awlgrip for a Kayak Finish

Submitted byCA139 onTue, 11/26/2019 - 17:54

Looking for the opinion of people who know more than I for using Awlgrip vs say varnish or gelcoat as a finish for a kayak. Is it a yacht quality finish the best you can get for a kayak? Is it worth it? Is it a good idea? Why or why not?


Tue, 11/26/2019 - 22:33

If you have found something interesting or contradictory in your internet search for information, posting a specific question here might get  more responses.  Writing an essay on kayak finishes is not on my "ToDo' list for this evening!

Also please check out the forum guidelines:

That page starts with:

Forum Guidelines

  • Keep on subject: kayak building, 
  • No anonymous postings: Please use your real name. Your email address is encouraged and is not posted publicly.

To John;

I think my question about using Awlgrip as a kayak finish is quite germane to kayak building. It's not complicated and as a matter of fact I already know the answer; I posted it because from reading this forum I very much respect the posters here as being highly knowlegeable about the subject matter and wished to confirm my thoughts. However, if I posted stating that the debacle of my friend's build was awful and the awlgrip was a crazy way to finish a kayak then it could bias the answer so I was vague on purpose.

I knew this answer but didn't want to bias the reply because this forum seems to have very knowlegeable people whose opinions I value very much.

I honestly don't think that your issues with my questions have anything to do with lack of replies. I think it has more to do with the fact that this forum seems to get 1-2 comments a day total, that very few people are on this forum, and that specifically no one uses Awlgrip because it's such a bad choice. As a matter of fact other than my posts about Awlgrip there simply is no internet presence at all on its use in paddle sports. One custom kayak builder uses it for their decks, that's it. Many kayak people (pro shops, outfitters, even builders) don't know about it, but the ones that could answer me all basically said the same as above.

Regarding not using my name I do apologize for not using it but I am somewhat public figure who deals with a lot of people who are likely looking me up on the 'net on a daily basis. I am not famous nor am I a celebrity but I am well known enough that I just don't want anyone to be able to see what I am doing with my life when I am not at work. For this reason I have *ZERO* social media presence, no facebook, no twitter, no myspace etc etc etc. All internet hits for my name were not of my doing and are public record. Worry not, I won't be here long. I am not really interested in boatbuilding, this is just the final bit of research and last stone I did not turn in my troubleshooting for what might likely be the displeasure of having built the worst kayak ever made in all of human history. 


Wed, 11/27/2019 - 11:30

It's surprising to hear that any competent professional boat builder is unaware of Awlgrip. It's extremely common. 

There are a lot of 2-part LPU (linear polyurethane) paints on the market; Awlgrip is the brand name for one of them. 

Interlux has a similar product, and all the makers of automotive paints have 2K (2-component) paints that are similar.

Many of the competitive paints (to Awlgrip) are easier and safer for amateur use.

Lots of kayak builders use 2-component paint on their boats, though in the US and Canada the fashion in wood boats seems to be clear finishes - which are also available in 2-part formulations.

It's quite common for internet forums to attract people who find it amusing to post a short general question and then watch people give long and detailed answers. Often the original poster never returns to thank the respondents or even add comments. "Look at those idiots wasting their time at their keyboards!" seems to be the attraction.

Hopefully that behaviour has  moved to Facebook where most (of the few) amateur kayak builders have gone.  Either there's not much kayak building going on at all, or people are talking about it at other places than here. There have been a few discussions of this decline in activity, here in the past year.

Even the moderator/owner doesn't participate here much any more. The archives are a good resource; you'll find painted kayak there.

It seems almost all boatbuilders are aware of awlgrip but very few in the kayak world have experience because from those that do or have heard of its use more appropriately categorically have confirmed it's a bad idea. Tt's astronomically expensive to build, astronomically expensive to repair because it cannot be touched up given you can't just sand it as the UV protection is at its surface but has to be redone in a major way with specialized paint booths, is very fragile compared to varnish/gelcoat, suffers deep gouges affecting hydrodynamics and exposes the hulls which are mostly hygroscopic causing osmotic blistering. That's what I heard but I just wanted to confirm it here as the dust settles on the disaster of the build I had the hairbrained idea to help do a few years ago.

It seems I am annoying you and I am glad you are acting so annoyed and peeved at my posts. I am not happy that I am causing you a bother, but rather your (and others' a long the way) reaction of being annoyed or incredulous or derision with me basically confirms the ineptitude and incompetence of the person whose idea it was to build this boat.

What I mean is the most common reaction I get from people is just yours, people think it's a joke and I am pulling their chain in that no one could seriously consider wasting time and money on a boat so bad. Without qualifying this spectacularly bad build and saying it was a disaster and just posting the design as it was, no one believes I am being honest and rather I am being accused of creating this for the sake of bufoonery. The rotten stinking truth is that the boat was a beyond bad buffoonery and in essence the outraged and incredulous responses are not for entertainment purposes or to get people to waste their time, but makes me feel better by confirming how spectacularly bad the design is. The explanations help me understand the why and really that is all I asked of people, because I lack the knowledge, training or experience to understand why such a design is awful other than its terrible handling characteristics and impractical considerations . After spending that kind of time and money on the build and confirming my conclusions it gives me a sense of closure.  If you want I will even post a photo of the finished product so you can see it for yourself. Give me some time to find it because I have to get going.

Thanks for the replies, you did not waste your time for sure and helped me greatly. I appreciate it more than you know.


Wed, 11/27/2019 - 16:12

Thanks for the explanation; I appreciate it.

If you had posted a picture of the actual boat in your initial post, it would have helped.

I'm curious about why you ever agreed to finance the building of a boat that was such an 'outlier' compared to 'normal' boats. It sounds like you have some good kayaks now, so better 'benchmarks' for future choices.

BTW, if you ever find a person suggesting that gelcoat is a good 'finish' for a wood-core boat, you should walk away.

Osmotic blistering is only a factor for some (depending on the resin system) fiberglass hulls which stay in the water all the time - not a factor for small boats which are only in the water for a fraction of their life.

2-part polyurethanes and automotive paints (some of which can be brushed or rolled on, with the right reducer) are excellent kayak finishes.




Here is a photo. 

The reason is a long story that I wish not to post publically but in short I wanted to help someone at a moment that seemed decisive for him that seemed like he had a good idea. What ended up happening is that while he had some training in boatbuilding, our knowledge of kayaking was the same: zero. I had a couple of old plastic boats the wife and I took out and enjoyed from time to time which is why kayaking and paddling is such an awesome sport. You can know literally nothing and the learning curve is so flat that as long as you stay within your capabilities enjoy the water and have a great time for less money, effort, time and liability than anything else except maybe swimming  or fishing.

I had no idea what was proper and not, only the comments and opinions of someone who never should have done this to begin with. Now that the kids are old enough to partake seriously I did a bunch of lessons, bought actual real boats etc. I was waiting on all these things thinking I was going to get something fast, awesome and really sea worthy. Now that I finally invested some time and money in the right channels I see what the sport truly is about after 14 years of dabbling into it very superficially. I love it, not looking back.

My feeling is that once you get into the touring or "sea" kayak level, even with the plastic boats they are pretty awesome. It goes up pretty steeply from there. Composite has more considerations and cost but all I can say is WOW about the ease and efficiency and performance. Even "family" type boats like the Stellar ST17 are mind blowing in their performance, handling and seaworthiness. Technology and design is so good now it's hard to get a stinker unless maybe you select something a little too high performance and tippy for your preferance or skill level. Unless that is you try to re-invent the wheel with the grand idea of using square tires instead of round ones because you think the world didn't know better and you are smarter than everyone else and they should have been using square wheels all along. Which is exactly what happened in my scenario.