Sailing Kayaks: The Ultimate Guide to Kayak Sails

If you’re an avid kayaker, you know that paddling can be a peaceful and enjoyable experience. But there are times when you just wish someone would take over and do the hard work for you. While we can’t teleport your paddle-loving friend into your kayak, what we can do is introduce you to the world of kayak sails.

Green kayak with white sails

Kayak sails are an excellent piece of gear that lets you harness the power of the wind and propel your kayak at faster speeds. Just like traditional sailing boats, kayaks with sails allow you to sit back, relax, and admire the beauty of the water without exhausting yourself in the process.

Advantages of Using a Kayak Sail

White wooden wood boat with a sail

If you’re on the fence about purchasing a kayak sail, let’s explore the advantages it brings:


Adding a kayak sail amplifies the fun of kayaking. It allows you to marvel at the water from a different perspective while traveling faster and covering more distances. Switching things up with a sail adds excitement to your usual paddling routine.


While paddling can get you to fairly fast speeds, it can quickly tire you out. With a kayak sail, you can reach greater speeds with less effort. Whether you want to get back to land quickly or cover vast distances, a sail can help you achieve that.


A kayak sail eliminates the need for constant paddling, allowing you to sit back, relax, and take in your surroundings. It’s the perfect way to enjoy nature without worrying about coordinating your strokes or powering your kayak.

Further reading:  Kayaking for All Shapes and Sizes: A Guide to Water Adventure


Paddling a kayak requires a significant amount of energy. With a sail, you can let the wind do the work when you reach the point of exhaustion. Prop up your sail, let the wind take over, and effortlessly reach your destination.

Kayak Fishing

A kayak sail is a great alternative to pedal drive fishing kayaks. It allows you to power your kayak while fishing, and its quiet nature doesn’t scare away potential catches. You can even troll through the water while dragging your bait behind the kayak.

Kayak Sail Designs

Colorful kayak sail design

Now let’s explore the different kayak sail designs:

Downwind Sail

A downwind sail, shaped like a V, is attached to the front of the kayak and ideal for traveling at high speeds when heading downwind. However, due to its top-heavy design, it’s not suitable for small or lightweight kayaks in strong winds or when heading upwind.

Circle Shape Sails

Circular sails are commonly used and perfect for beginners. These sails mount to the bow or center of the kayak and can only travel in downwind directions. They are easy to collapse and set up, making them convenient for storage and assembly.

L-Shape Sails

L-shape sails are the most technical and challenging to use. They are hoisted on a fitted center mast and can transport the kayak in any wind direction. Ideal for experienced sailors, they work well for both downwind and upwind sailing.

Kayak Sail Materials

Kayak sails come in various materials, each with its own advantages:

  • Plastic sails are durable, flexible, and lightweight, making them efficient on the water.
  • Laminated cloth sails last longer than plastic sails but are heavier and less efficient.
  • Plastic masts are cost-effective but lack strength and durability.
  • Aluminum masts are more durable but can corrode in saltwater.
  • Carbon fiber masts are strong, rust-resistant, and corrosion-resistant, making them the best choice for sea kayaking.
Further reading:  The Joy of Fishing from a Sea Kayak

Choosing the Right Kayak Sail

Blue and white sail attach to a white kayak

Choosing the right kayak sail depends on several factors, including materials, level of experience, and the direction you plan to paddle:

  • Plastic circular or v-shaped sails with carbon fiber masts are ideal for beginners who frequently paddle downwind.
  • Plastic L-shaped sails with carbon fiber masts are suitable for experienced sailors who want to travel both downwind and upwind.

Consider your preferences and paddling conditions to select the best kayak sail for you.

How to Attach a Kayak Sail to Your Kayak

Attaching a kayak sail is straightforward; follow these steps for an L-shape sail:

  1. Attach the sail mast to your kayak by threading it through a hole or mounting it on the deck. Secure it with straps or bolts.
  2. Install the boom, the horizontal beam that holds the bottom of the sail, using hooks or clamps.
  3. Fasten the sail by threading a rope through the bottom and tying it to the boom. Depending on the sail type, you may also need to attach the top to the mast.

Circular sails easily attach to bungee areas or cleats, while V-shape sails have a strap that wraps around the front of the kayak and ropes to secure it in place.

Kayak Sailing Tips

Red and yellow sail attached to a kayak

If you’re new to kayak sailing, these tips will enhance your experience:

Leash Your Paddle

Prevent your paddle from floating away by leashing it when not in use. A paddle leash adds convenience and ensures you don’t lose your paddle.

Add a Rudder

To have hands-free control while sailing, consider adding a rudder to the back of your kayak. A rudder allows you to change direction without relying on paddle strokes.

Further reading:  Tobin Sports Wavebreak Kayak: Your Ticket to Adventurous Waters

Wear a Life Jacket

Whether you’re paddling traditionally or with a sail, wearing a life jacket is crucial. It’s a safety measure that can potentially save your life in case of an accident.

Check the Weather

While more wind may seem ideal for kayak sailing, excessive wind can drag your kayak off course or tip it over. Always check the weather forecast and avoid winds that exceed your sail’s recommended limit.

Inform Someone

When sailing alone, let someone know your whereabouts and the duration of your trip. This ensures that someone can send help if you’re late returning.

Sail Maintenance

Kayak with a sail docked at the beach

To keep your kayak sail in excellent condition, follow these maintenance steps:

Clean Your Sail

After each use, rinse your sail with clean water to remove salt and debris. Use a gentle soap, sponge, or cloth to clean it, ensuring its longevity.

Inspect Fittings

Regularly inspect all fittings, looking for cracks or loose bolts. Address any issues promptly to prevent damage to the sail while on the water.

Proper Storage

Store your kayak sail in a well-ventilated dry area such as a garage or shed. Keep it away from objects that could potentially rip or tear the sail.

The world of kayak sails awaits you, opening up new possibilities for speed, relaxation, and exploration. So, why not take your kayaking adventure to the next level and experience the thrill of sailing? Visit UpStreamPaddle for a wide range of kayak sails and accessories to get started.