What Are Scupper Plugs

What Are Scupper Plugs

Sit-on-top kayaks are a wonderful piece of sports equipment that can be a great deal of fun, as well as offering some exercise that most of us could use these days.

What Are Scupper Plugs

But, do you know why they come with scupper holes? And do you know how to use them?

If you’re not sure if you should close some of these off with plugs, and if so, which ones and why, then you’re in luck. In this article, we will investigate these questions, as well as the top features and options of scupper plugs.

So, let’s start off with what are scupper plugs, and are they necessary for all kayaks?

Using Scupper Plugs

Scupper Plugs 2
Photo by Gus Dahlberg

Most sit-on-top kayaks are designed with scupper holes allowing for water to drain from the deck. These help to provide a dry seat, regardless of splashes from paddling or choppy waters. Not only do they keep you from sitting in a puddle, but they also help keep the kayak’s water retention low.

This, in turn, helps keep the kayak from being prone to capsizing. This is obviously an issue when your kayak fills up like a bathtub. Therefore, if you want to limit water coming up from below, you’ll need scupper plugs.

But, it’s not advisable to pursue scupper plug DIY. Especially considering that there are plenty of specifically designed scupper plugs for boats and kayaks. No matter the make and model of your kayak, there’s scupper plugs for sit on top kayaks that will make life easier.

What Are Scupper Plugs – The Pros And Cons Of Use

In certain conditions, scupper plugs can keep you and any gear you have in your sit-on-top kayak drier. Which is seemingly great. It can be fun to flip a kayak to cool off in the water, but we don’t always want to be completely wet when we are on the water.

What’s the downside to using scupper plugs?

Scupper Plugs 5
Photo by Vincent

While it can be useful to limit the amount of water that enters the kayak from below, using scupper plugs also limits your kayak’s draining ability. Plugging the scupper holes will keep the water from entering your deck from below. However, they also stop their primary purpose.

Scupper holes drain water from the deck, so before you plug them, you should ask yourself one important question.

Are you ready to manually drain the cockpit and/or storage deck?

This isn’t necessarily an issue you will always need to deal with. And should you be out on a hot day for some recreational paddling around, you may not need to bother with scupper plugs for ocean kayak (or freshwater ones for that matter). Really, having wet feet or bum isn’t a big deal if it’s nice out.


If you’re cruising around any of our beautiful planets colder environments, then certainly, you will care about having your tush in the wet all day long. Similarly, if you have your kayak loaded down enough to be near the maximum load capacity. Then you’ll be more likely to have water entering through the scupper holes due to sitting lower in the water.

If the scupper holes are plugged, how does the kayak drain?

It doesn’t, so you’d better plan on as much. For those with a sit-on-top kayak utilizing scupper plugs, or equally for those with sit-inside kayak, it’s wise to have both a bilge pump and sponge at hand. The pump will help empty the kayak of large amounts of water, like if you flip, while the sponge is ideal for removing smaller amounts of water.

Another problem with plugging the scupper holes?

Flipping back to the upright position can considerably more difficult to achieve if you have engaged scupper plugs. There is a vacuum-like effect created when there is no place for the water to escape to. So, if you happen to flip, it can be a real pain to get yourself back upright.

Should you plug all of your holes, or just the back one?

Every kayak comes with a differing number of scupper holes, and you may choose to plug them all or just a few. Many of the sit-on-top kayaks have only front and back drain holes, in which case it’s suggested that you plug both, or neither, to ensure you don’t start to tilt forward or back.

If you have a number of scupper holes, it can be easier to flip back upright if the side drains are not plugged. In these instances, it may be best to plug the front and rear hole, while leaving the side ones unblocked.

What Makes The Best Scupper Plug?

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Photo by Michelle Harris

Most of the higher-end kayaks are sold with a supply of scupper plugs specifically designed to fit that kayak. However, many of the less expensive models forgo this feature. And you are then left to source the scupper plugs on your own. If this is the case, you have two choices…

Scupper Plugs vs Foam Balls

It would seem simple enough to just plug up these holes using some foam balls. And indeed there’s nothing stopping you from doing so. Still, we would highly suggest that you use scupper plugs that have been designed to fit your kayak to you won’t have leakage or lose them in rough waters.

Another option is scupper valves…

Designed with the best of both options for those who want their holes plugged and free to discharge unwanted water, scupper valves offer a unique option. They help to keep water from entering through the bottom, while also allowing it to drain out from the top. It’s magic if you don’t understand modern engineering possibilities.

What Are Scupper Plugs Conclusion

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Photo by Mark Sheppard

Hopefully, we have answered the questions of what are scupper plugs, their uses, and the various pros and cons associated with using them in your sit-on-top kayak.

Just remember, most open-deck kayaks are designed to be self-bailing…

If you are planning to head out with a heavier than usual cargo load, or hate having water in your sitting area while your fishing or cruising around, then, by all means, go get yourself some scupper plugs.

Now that you understand scupper holes, you need to get yourself a kayak so you can then plug those holes or leave them be. We’d suggest that if you intend to use scupper plugs, you purchase an option specifically designed for the kayak you own.

Because what’s the point of a leaking plug…

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