Venturing out onto the waves of the ocean sure is a thrill. I love it – when I can take my mind off the idea of the Kraken or Leviathan surging out of the depths and gobbling me up. I know, it’s not that likely – but sea monsters, man. But what if you have your own fully armored ocean kayak?
Okay maybe not fully armored.
Still, you can’t let a little risk like that prevent you from having fun, can you? So out I go anyway – and I do enjoy being out on the sea. It’s exciting, unpredictable, and such an escape – there’s nothing like it on land, you just feel so small in something so big.
Table of Contents
- What is a Sea Kayak
- Quick Reviews – Which Is The Best Ocean Kayak?
- Considerations & How To Buy
What really makes the experience, of course, is having the proper gear to be able to appreciate it – like with the Kraken thing above, if you are constantly worrying about being devoured by a horrible beast, you won’t enjoy it as much as you should. So you write your last will and testament before leaving the shore and make sure you’re wearing clean underwear. If you want more kayak reviews then check out the homepage.
Another example, fishing from the beach – it’s just not fun standing in the hammering rain for hours, freezing to death in your jeans and t-shirt. Hence why I wear a waterproof all-in-one and a rain jacket and a hat (the summers here aren’t as cold as the winters, but they do their best).
Okay, I’m rambling a bit – my point is that you need the right equipment. So here on this page, I’m going to look at the best seagoing kayaks that I think you should buy – if I had clams enough I’d buy them all.
What is a Sea Kayak
Good question, Jeeves. Obviously, you can take any kayak on the sea technically. I mean, if it floats on freshwater it’s almost sure to float on salt water. The problem is the unpredictable nature of the sea, as well as the potential for big swells, currents, spray, wind, tides, and covering a lot of distance.
Taking a whitewater kayak on the ocean won’t get you very far, not very fast – and the sea is so big that being able to cover a good distance with ease is essential for most sea kayakers. If you’re careful, and if you’re just having a fun paddle at the shoreline, then anything will do – but if you are hoping to explore hidden beaches and secret coves, you need something a bit more special.
A sea kayak usually has the advantage of length, for better tracking, at the cost of manoeuvrability; a narrow, efficient hull, for improved speed and secondary stability at the expense of initial stability; and a spray deck, to prevent water incursion and keep you comfortable on a more extended trip.
You can head out to sea in a sit-on-top kayak (SOTK), but these tend to be slower and have better initial stability with less secondary stability – therefore most sea kayaks are sit-in type kayaks. There is also a potential downside to SOTK having seal double-hulls – if a small leak occurs in the hull, water can enter the hollow chamber and lead to you getting into difficulties. I wouldn’t say it’s common, but it is a risk you have to take into account.
Initial vs. Secondary Stability
In very simple terms, the initial stability of a kayak is its ability to sit flat on the water – for instance, a raft or a cafeteria tray has excellent initial stability. Likewise, a SOTK has good initial stability. This makes them good for beginners, because they are easy to get in and out of, and feel very stable because they are hard to tip. However, once they do tip beyond their ability, they will likely tip right the way over – like a raft or a cafeteria tray.
Secondary stability is more like edge stability – the kayak may rock from side to side easily, but not roll over like a barrel because it is designed to be stable on its side. This makes it good for turning (like leaning a motorcycle on a bend) and also makes it more stable in rougher waters, such as waves, which can be a big advantage when you are out to sea.
A kayak like this may not be the best for a beginner because they feel tippy, unstable. However, for more experienced kayakers and for anyone intending to go out on a rougher sea, it is usually better to have greater secondary stability.
Quick Reviews – Which Is The Best Ocean Kayak?
1) Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Kayak
The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame convertible kayak is an inflatable kayak with aluminium ribs – this gives it a rigid body and makes for a much better sea kayak than a straight inflatable. It tracks pretty well, for an inflatable kayak, and has the advantage of being much more compact for storage and transport compared to a rigid kayak.
You can get up to two people in the AdvancedFrame. It is stable in the water, but is still an inflatable kayak. Unless you are really pushed for space, you might consider a more robust model as a sea kayak, but it’s still a good choice.
2) Ocean Kayak Frenzy & Ocean Kayak Scrambler
Ocean Kayak is a formidable kayak manufacturer, with well-known models such as the Trident. Their Frenzy and Scrambler models are no exception to their reputation for making quality, affordable kayaks. You can read the full review of the Frenzy at KayaKudos.
The Scrambler is quite similar to the Frenzy, but it is longer at 11.5-feet while the Frenzy is at 9-feet long – therefore the Scrambler seems to track better on the water. They both have stern and bow storage wells with bungees and a watertight storage compartment under the seat.
These are SOTK and what I said above is that a sit-on-top kayak is not a true ocean kayak (apart from by name) – these will handle swells, but have all the drawbacks of a SOTK kayak that I mentioned above. Nonetheless, it is a good choice of kayak for the price but don’t expect to take it out onto the open ocean without trouble; I would stick to coastal waters with this one.
3) Riot Kayaks Edge 14.5
This is a good intermediate yak, with good initial stability for a sit-in style kayak which might suit a newer kayaker. At 14.5-feet long, it’s an excellent choice for a sea or touring kayak. It has good tracking – remember, it’s three-feet longer than the Scrambler, and nearly double that compared to the Frenzy. If you think of it as “price per foot”, then this is a steal compared to those!
It has fore and aft storage compartments, both waterproof. Also, it’s hardly any different weight-wise than the Scrambler, despite the extra length. If you are a newer kayaker who definitely wants to go on the sea and is looking to get experience then this is for you – it will last you a long while.
4) Perception Essence
Distinguishing this kayak from the Edge above is the inclusion of a skeg rather than a rudder. Otherwise, apart from the length, and the manufacturer, they’re very similar. Okay, so they’re totally different.
The Essence is longer again, and sits low in the water – this means its wetted length is greater than other full-length kayaks which sit higher in the water. What this means is that the kayak has very good tracking, it almost slices through the water. It has a very good balance between stability and speed and manoeuvrability.
Again, this is a sit-in style – this is not a boat for a novice kayaker, but for an experienced yakker wanting to up his sea game. It also has the price tag to dissuade casual buyers, but if you want a very good sea kayak then this is a really good choice.
Considerations & How To Buy
When deciding which ocean kayak is best for you, there are a few things you need to consider. I’ll go through them in a bit more detail below, but to be honest, the basic features are just the same as any other kayak, whether it be recreational, for whitewater or anything.
These features are length, beam (width), stability, storage, and construction material. You really need to consider your purchase carefully – however, if you stick to the guidelines I’ve set out, you’ll have no trouble finding an excellent kayak.
Most good sea kayaks are of the sit-in variety, and they have pretty small cockpits. The reason for this is to help prevent water incursion into the craft, keeping you more comfortable and keeping the kayak stable. Obviously, if you take on too much water, you… Well, you’ll find it difficult to continue with your paddle. If you don’t intend to use it on the sea in anything but calm conditions, this may be less of a concern.
You can get SOTK that are suitable for the sea, but they are generally less stable in a swell and have the distinct disadvantage of getting you very, very wet.
Price is a serious consideration for most buyers. You can get a very reasonable kayak for less than $1000; a second-hand one will set you back much less again. You can also spend multiple thousands on a kayak, the Hobie Oasis, for instance, is quite pricey.
Although it is tempting to get the really cheapo kayak, beware that the cheaper models don’t necessarily have the same build quality that a more expensive one does. The very cheapest are generally inflatable kayaks, and while I don’t have a problem with taking my inflatable out on the ocean for a short paddle or to drop a line in, I wouldn’t take it for a serious jaunt. They get very tiring to paddle, they are slow and have poor manoeuvrability. The big advantage of an inflatable is the stability, but that’s more suited to a beginner. If you’re a total newbie, you may be better off staying away from the open sea until you are confident in using a craft with less initial stability.
Look at my recommendations – any of them will serve you well, and they are all suited for sea use.
Speed is an important factor in choosing a sea kayak – as I said, you will probably be hoping to cover long distances, and the faster a kayak is then the less effort is required to move it along. This means you will get tired less quickly and be able to cover more water with the same amount of effort.
Length & Width
The length and width of the kayak are essential, a very important factor. A longer kayak will track better – go in a straight line. For seagoing adventures, you won’t enjoy a shorter kayak that may turn you about in circles, because it takes so much more effort to keep on a course. At least 11-foot is best, about 15-foot is better for a sea kayak.
The width is important because it factors into both stability and speed – a narrower beam has less initial stability but because there is less drag it cuts through the water better, like a needle. A beam of 23-26 inches is best for a sea kayak.
A well-organised store is best for kayaking at sea – you may well not be able to make land when you need a piece of equipment, so you are much better served if you can access it immediately. Waterproof hatches are ideal, but bungee storage is also great for things that needn’t stay dry (or can be put in a dry bag).
Most sea kayaks have plenty of storage in the form of hatches, open storage and bungees. Look for good seals on the hatches, otherwise, they’re not going to be waterproof for long! And in an ideal world, you’d keep your valuables in a dry bag even so.
A good quality kayak will be made of a durable material such as polyethene or fibreglass. The tradeoffs between those two materials are weight and cost – a fibreglass kayak is much lighter, as much as 30% lighter than a polyethene equivalent. However, it will cost more than polyethene.
The heavier kayak, though cheaper, will be slower in the water and more difficult to transport. It’s not a big difference, so unless you are looking for a professional quality sports kayak, polyethene is likely to be sufficient and will preserve your budget!
Here you need to think about your skill and confidence, and what you hope to do with your yak.
I live near the sea, and I like to go out for a short paddle every so often. If I’m not going far, the weather promises to be fine, and there is no offshore wind then I will happily go out in an inflatable. But remember that the conditions can change quite quickly, and can vary a lot as you get further from the shore. If you intend anything more adventurous, then a proper sea or touring yak is what you want.
If you’re a beginner, an inflatable or SOTK is easier to handle, they’re more stable and turn more easily. However, these can be a bit more treacherous on the sea, especially an inflatable. I find that my Colorado catches the wind nicely – shame I’m not a sailor!
A SOTK wins the ease-of-use and ease-of-deployment contest, but it may not stand up to tougher conditions – if you intend to tackle harder seas, then you should already know how to handle yourself in a sit-in kayak.
Storage and Transportation
A final consideration, storing and transporting the thing. I hope you’re not like me – without a doubt, I would buy first, ask questions later. It would turn up on my doorstep by courier, and I’d be thinking “Hmm, maybe I should have bought a roof rack too”.
If you’re going for a rigid kayak, you need a way of moving it around – roof bars or a trailer, in most cases. Unless you live close enough to the sea to be able to walk it down.
You also need somewhere to store it – ideally somewhere somewhat sheltered, where it won’t get stolen. A garage is great, but I don’t see a problem leaving it in the back yard for a while. I wouldn’t plan on storing it on your car’s roof bars, however – it’s going to go wrong somewhere!
Above all, be safe at sea and happy paddling!