The Ultimate Guide to Kayak Sun Shades

Imagine gliding along the river on a scorching summer day, the sun beating down mercilessly. Your skin craves relief from the relentless heat, but the desire to be out on the water is stronger than ever. Enter the kayak sun shade – a game-changer that allows you to paddle in comfort and style.

The Sun Shade Solution

The sun shades that have been turning heads on our KAW 173 trip from Junction City to Kansas City are none other than the versatile Versa-brellas from Sport-brella. These simple yet genius sunshades offer two key features that make them perfect for kayaking: a pivot just below the skirt for adjusting the angle without moving the rest of the shaft, and an off-center skirt that provides shade without cumbersome excess fabric.

KAW 173 - Kayaks with sun shades.
KAW 173 – Kayaks with sun shades.

Mounting Made Easy

Mounting the sun shade to your kayak is crucial for a successful and comfortable paddling experience. The umbrella shaft clamp is designed to fit a 1/2 to 3/4″ PVC pipe. To find the perfect position, sit in your kayak with your life jacket and paddling hat on, while your assistant holds the umbrella behind you. It should be within reach for adjusting the angle, but not obstruct your view or interfere with paddling.


Mounting options may vary depending on your kayak. Some kayaks with gear rails, like Dawn’s boat, can utilize Scotty Gearhead Track Adapters and 90-degree elbows to hold the crosspiece securely. Others, like Greg’s kayak with built-in rod holders, may require additional PVC stubs and pipe insulation for a snug fit. Meanwhile, sit-in kayaks like Marcia’s can make use of an A-shaped base and risers.

Further reading:  What to Wear for an Amazing Canoeing Experience

Kansas Riverkeeper, Dawn’s sun shade on kayak.
Kansas Riverkeeper, Dawn’s sun shade on kayak.

Greg Z’s kayak with sun shade.
Greg Z’s kayak with sun shade.

Marcia’s sit-in kayak and sun shade.
Marcia’s sit-in kayak and sun shade.

Steve’s kayak with sunshade (brown kayak).
Steve’s kayak with sunshade (brown kayak).

Enhancements for Stability and Ease

To ensure stability in windy conditions, tie off the sun shade to your kayak using grommets and reinforcing patches at the corners of the skirt. If the front edge tends to flap in the wind, reinforce it with light wire and waterproof tape to create a slight peak that improves your front view without compromising shade.


Rigging the corners of the umbrella skirt with grommets allows you to tie them fore and aft to convenient points on your kayak. Experiment with different setups like one line per corner, a ‘Y’ configuration with a single line, or utilizing deck tie-downs. Remember to use thin rope, such as light-duty paracord or 3/16″ braided poly rope, to prevent interference with your paddle strokes.


Ready to Paddle in Shade

Now that you have mounted and rigged your kayak sun shade, it’s time to hit the water and enjoy all-day shade while paddling. The crossbar ensures stability, while the adjustable tension on the lines allows you to customize the angle and position of the umbrella for maximum comfort. And when strong winds or a desire to lower the shade arise, simply detach the front carabiners, fold the umbrella, and stow it on the deck behind you.


So, the next time the sun blazes down on your kayaking adventure, remember the power of a sun shade. Escape the scorching heat and paddle in cool comfort. Upgrade your kayaking experience with a sun shade from Sport-brella, and let the soothing shade accompany you on every mesmerizing paddle stroke.

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