Duct Tape and Tarp Kayak




About: High school student in Shanghai American School. Founder and leader of the school's Engineering Club.

In the start of my junior year (High School), I decided to make a boat with a friend. After a month, the kayak/boat was complete, and we tested it out in the school pool. It was a great success - I was able to stand on the kayak and not flip it over!

I also wrote an article, Tungstite the Kayak: Sink or Swim? for my school magazine. Read it if you're interested in the backstory of making this Kayak.

Thank you hyroc346 for inspiration, fellow engineering club members, and coach George for letting us use the pool.


Step 1: Materials

For this project, you will need:

For the boat
12m 1" PVC pipe
4m .5" PVC pipe
1×.5m Wooden plank
50 Zip-ties
2 rolls Duct tape
2 foam blocks (size that fits the bottom of your kayak)
2 1×1' foam pad
Nylon String
1 chair (salvage it from somewhere)

For outriggers (optional)
12m 1×2" wood
4 Water dispenser bottles
8 Drywall screws

For the Paddle
2m 1" aluminum pipe
40×40cm Acrylic sheet
4 nuts, 4 bolts, 4 washers (any size will suffice)

Hand drill

Step 2: PVC Skeleton

Now cut the 1" PVC pipe into four segments: 2×2.5m (top) and 2×2.7m (bottom). These four segments will become the boat's structural frame. Cut each end of the pipe 45 degrees.

Then, cut the 0.5" PVC pipe into: 2×70cm, 2×60cm, 4×35cm, 2×40cm. These segments will become the supporting frame?. Now, take each of the supporting frame and make "legs" on each side. Look at the pictures to see how to make them. 

Back to the structural frame. Making sure that the cuts face each other, connect the two 2.5m segments at two ends using duct tape. It is important that you tape it tightly. Otherwise, the boat may break and sink. You can apply epoxy glue to the joining surface if you have the glue.

Then, combine top and bottom structural frames by drilling holes through each end and forcing in a copper rod. 

Next up: add supporting frame segments. Since it's hard to describe it, I scanned a diagram showing how to do this. 

The credit for this frame idea goes to hydroc346.

Step 3: Attach Chair and Foam

You want to be able to sit on the kayak, so this step describes how to attach a chair to your frame. 

First, take a wooden plank and drill several holes, then zip-tie it to the bottom supporting frames. Drill some holes through the chair and the plank, then use zip-tie to secure the chair into place. 

You need some material to fill up the vacant space under the wooden plank, so I added some blue foam and simply hot-glued it in place.

Step 4: Wrap Skeleton With Tarp

Flip the kayak over, then place tarp over the kayak diagonally (or parallel, if your tarp is large enough). Make sure that the tarp is waterproof BEFORE you put it on. Lay the tarp diagonally, then fold in any excess flaps into the kayak. 

Tape the front and the back tips, then zip-tie the tarp onto the frame. (if your tarp has loopholes). If it doesn't have rings, you can either simply tape it onto the frame or make holes using a hole puncher. 

Flatten out the tarp as much as possible to prevent it from looking too much like a garbage can.

After you're done wrapping the kayak with tarp, add some foam on the bottom of the tarp so that the bottom doesn't get scratched up. 

Step 5: Make Paddle

You will need a paddle to power your boat. First, take about 2 meters of aluminum pipe (PVC is too flexible), then drill two holes at each end, spaced 10cm apart. Cut out a piece of acrylic (20×40cm) and round off the edges. 

Drill holes on the acrylic, making sure that the holes are spaced as they are on the aluminum pipe. Attach the acrylic to the pipe using nuts, bolts, and washers. Don't tighten it too much, as it may crack the acrylic.

Step 6: Attach Outriggers

You may want to attach outriggers if you think your boat is too unstable. Simply attach 4 water dispenser bottles on each side (having outriggers on one side works too). 

Although the boat becomes very stable, there are some trade-offs. It's harder to paddle the kayak as you have little space. However, you can utilize the outriggers as storage area - rope, fishing line, etc. I'm also thinking of using velcro to make detachable flashlight, compass. etc.

Step 7: Test It Out!

I tested it out in the school pool - coach George let us use two lanes :D

I first tested it out without the outriggers - it was rideable, but was somewhat unstable and I had to spend a lot of energy trying to balance. 

With the outriggers, it was much more stable - I could stand on the kayak and not flip the kayak. Don't lean backwards too much though; water might get in through the back. One suggestion I have for you is have the chair placed more in the front, moving the center of gravity to the front so that the kayak won't be tilted so much.

If you also make one, post a picture of yours in the comments! 



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    20 Discussions


    5 years ago on Step 7

    to make it stable, add a piece of PVC on the bottom arching down, it'll stableize and keep it going forward, try it, great insructable!


    5 years ago

    Cool kayak umma try making one. I love stuff like that and I am always fiddling with little projects now ill try this one


    5 years ago

    as a kayaker i have to say this is pretty cool. i love white water how ever i have been trying to find a way to get my son use to the boat on flat water before introducing him to the river i think this is perfect for the job. good job buddy.


    5 years ago

    Commercially made kayaks have a type called Sit Upon; the whole design isn't practical for this construction but they're wider across the base and more stable. Used for pole fishing and general recreation. If you build another boat it's a mod to think about.
    Very cool project!


    5 years ago

    That's just cool.


    5 years ago

    That's just cool.

    Mig Welder

    6 years ago on Step 7

    Took the words right out of my mouth with the second paragraph.

    I urge you to continue with projects like these. I'm a graduating senior in high school this year, and colleges love this stuff. Community service is important, but so is ingenuity and initiative. Keep it up!

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, as I mentioned in step 7, this is one of the things I'll keep in mind if I happen to make another boat. You would simply attach the chairs more on the front.


    6 years ago

    Sorry, I did see that you mention epoxy. I'll bet with a little shopping around you could find some tee connectors to use.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    That's a great suggestion, although it's hard to get those materials in Shanghai where I live. But yes, using tee connectors would make the skeleton easier to make (and stronger).


    6 years ago

    This is a nice project. Did you consider using PVC cement, at least for the joints you could?