How to avoid weeds on a pedal kayak

by Robert | Last Updated: November 2, 2019

It’s a perfect day.  The sun is shining, it’s warm, and you couldn’t be happier right now to be out on the water with your family and friends. You’ve been pedaling along and enjoying your day.

Then, you hear a little rustling and see your pedal kayak is going through a pile of weeds and reeds. Even worse, the pedals aren’t generating as much speed as you would expect. Your worst fears are confirmed! You’ve caught weeds on your fins.

We know this is an incredible pain because we’ve been there ourselves! So we’ve put together this guide on how to avoid weeds on a pedal kayak.

Why weeds and a pedal kayak don’t mix

Enjoying the day kayaking aerial photography Tampa Bay, Florida.
Photo by Anita Denunzio on Unsplash

Before going any further, and in case anyone is new to the fantastic world of pedal kayaks, let’s stop to explain why weeds can cause such a hassle that you don’t see in other types of craft. After all, we’ve spent plenty of time in canoes and normal kayaks. These crafts don’t have any problems with weeds because they float right over them.

The big problem with a pedal kayak is the deep fins that protrude from the bottom of the kayak hull. These fins move back and forth and are what causes you to move. The faster you move the pedals, the faster the fins move, the faster the kayak moves.

However, these fins are often so large that they can catch weeds and start dragging dead weeds with the kayak. These dead weeds can cause substantial problems as they’ll slow you down, make pedaling extremely difficult, and could even damage your kayak!

How to spot, identify, and avoid weeds while out on the water

The easiest solution to avoid weeds is to make sure your kayak simply doesn’t run into the weeds! That means the most important thing for you to do is to avoid weeds in the first place! To do so, you need to know what weeds look like from a distance and how to avoid them!

There are a couple of tell-tale signs that you want to look for.

Look for the weeds

Look at the waterline ahead of you. As you will be low to the waterline in the kayak, you may only be able to see ~20-50 feet in front of you. However, when it’s the end of the summer (August) and the weeds have had enough time to grow, you should be able to see the tops of the weeds over the waterline.

Be alert close to shore & in shallow water

A fact of nature is that weeds can’t grow that tall. Most weed brands can’t grow higher than four or five feet off the floor off the waterbed. With your fins extending roughly two feet below the kayak, your fins could hit the weeds in seven feet of water or less. (Five feet of weed + two feet of fin).

If you know that you are in less than ten feet of water, be careful or perhaps look to find deeper water.

If you are in a new body of water and don’t know how deep it is, then try to stay out away from shore. As a general rule of thumb, the further from shore you are, the deeper the water.

What do you do if weeds can’t be avoided

Let’s say you’ve tried your best and you’re stuck in a situation where you have to go through some weeds. Personally, this has happened to me when weeds are the fastest way home and the weather turned nasty. In this situation, there are two strategies you could try to go through weeds without catching some of them on your fins.

Go fast

The first strategy might be the most obvious: go as fast as you can.

The fins on a pedal kayak are always moving since that is what propels the boat forward. The faster you pedal, the faster the fins move, the less likely that weeds will get caught on them!

Consistently going fast is difficult though as moving the pedals can be a workout. Try to "pick your spots" and go fast only when you need to in order to get through the thickest patches of weeds

Go with the current

Another strategy would be to go with the current rather than against. The reason why is the weeds will bend underwater in the direction the current goes. In that scenario, the weeds aren’t as tall and have much less surface area for fins to snag.

It doesn’t work nearly as well as going fast through weeds, but it can certainly help.

How to clean weeds off while on the water

You tried going quickly and with the current, but you still think you have weeds on your fins. The kayak is a bit sluggish and isn’t moving as fast as normal, even though the pedals are getting heavier and heavier.

But, you don’t want to go in and take the kayak out of the water to clean the weeds off. So, try these two tactics to try and remove weeds from the fins.

Pedal backward

The best strategy you can try is to and pedal backward. As a warning, this doesn’t work on every kayak. Only the best Kayaks, like the Bonafide Fishing Kayak, have the ability to pedal forwards and backward.

The reason why this works is pedaling backward can help remove weeds that are wrapped 360 degrees around the fin. While surprising, some weeds do get wrapped all the way around and the backward pedal can help clean that up!

Use a paddle or fishing net to reach under the water

Another strategy, perhaps more simple, is to try and reach under the water to knock the weeds off. This typically works best if you are fishing and have a fishing net with you. Reaching underneath the water to knock the weeds off is difficult to do perfectly, but it can work if you get lucky.

How to clean weeds off out the water

You tried cleaning the weeds off while on the water and it just didn’t work. As a result, you’ve resolved to clean the weeds off the boat while off the water.  Here are a few tips below on how you can clean weeds off the kayak while you are off the water. Keep in mind that these are often much easier than the on-water strategies, but they do carry the unfortunately problem of requiring you to get off the water!

Wipe weeds off the fins

The first strategy is to take the entire kayak out of the water and turn it on it’s side. This will allow you easy access to the fins. However, remember that the kayak is pretty heavy. Ask a partner or friend to help you carry the kayak out of the water and turn it over onto its side.

Now that you’ve completed this part, it’s time to wipe the weeds off of the fins. The difficult part here is that you want to ensure that the fins don’t get damaged. Remember, the fins are what propels you forward in this kind of kayak. If you damage the fins, the entire kayak can be in jeopardy and need to be fixed.

Grab a roll of paper towels and carefully rub-down the entirety of the fins. In most cases, the fins are delicate and you can accidentally break them with your hands. This paper towel barrier should help give you a bit of a barrier and allow you to clean the weeds off without damaging the kayak.

Clean your hull

While you have the kayak out of the water and already have a paper towel roll in hand, it’s worth it to clean off the remainder of the hull as well. Weeds can get stuck onto the hull as well. When that happens, they often dry in the sun and crystallize on your kayak. Not only can this create drag while you are in the kayak, but it also can get your kayak very dirty in only a few minutes.

To do so, simply dip some paper towels into the lake to get them. If you are at the ocean, use freshwater from a bottle or a hose to avoid getting extra salt on your kayak. Then, make sure to scrub the entirety of the kayak to clean off any excess weeds.

Cleaning should only take a few minutes, but it’s absolutely worth it to ensure your kayak stays in great shape and so you don’t get any excess weeds on your hull! If you were in the ocean, the cleaning step also helps you remove the saltwater from the kayak as well!

Final Thoughts

So there you have it: our ultimate guide on how to avoid weeds on a pedal kayak. Hopefully this post has helped you understand how to avoid weeds, what to do if you can’t avoid weeds, and how best to clean up your kayak in case you get weeds on the fins.

See you on the water!

Robert Walker has been a Kayak enthusiast for over a decade. He's owned several different Kayak's, but only recently got into Pedal Kayaks in the last few years. This website is Robert's way of sharing his passion for Pedal Kayak's with the world.