Most sea kayaks (increasingly called performance kayaks) never see salt water! They are used primarily on inland water ways. Why, in this case, would a fresh water paddle enthusiast choose a sea / performance kayak over another kayak or a canoe? The answer lies in the features & advantages of the sea kayak design.
A sea kayak, also called an ocean kayak, is a type of touring kayak that can be used out in open water as found in large lakes or even the ocean. This means that they are designed to be very seaworthy, fit for use even in rough water far from land. Experienced kayak enthusiasts have been known to embark on expeditions lasting days or even weeks. Others have used sea kayaks for long distance, open ocean voyages.
Note: Probably the most remarkable of such voyages was the cross Atlantic journey by Franz Romer way back in 1928!
THE SKINNY ON KAYAKS
Unlike a canoe, which is an open boat, a sea kayak has a completely covered deck and cockpit rim for attaching a spray deck or skirt. These items help to prevent water from entering the inside of the kayak where the paddler sits.
Sea kayaks are very graceful in appearance. They are long, narrow, and sit low in the water which gives them superior straight line tracking. That streamlined hull also allows them to slide through the water easily and quickly. Sea kayaks often feature an upturned bow for wave shedding and better handling into waves.
The low profile of a kayak makes it easier to handle than a canoe in windy conditions chiefly with regard to tracking. In general, a kayak is easier to handle effectively on the water than a canoe – especially solo. They also travel faster through the water.
Typically a solo sea kayak is 15 to 18 feet in length and usually vary in width from 20 to 24 inches. Most tandem sea kayaks are 19 to 23 feet in length.
Note: Generally speaking, a long, narrow craft offers more speed but is less stable than that which is wider and shorter.
Sea kayaks are less maneuverable than other kayak types because of their additional length. They are primarily designed for more efficient straight line paddling, for cargo capacity and comfort during extended use. This type of kayak is great for those who require a relatively large amount of cargo necessary for a long trip, someone who desires a comfortable seat for extended paddles routes, or kayak that is able to cover long distances efficiently.
Sea kayaks are popular with paddlers who want to combine the paddling sport with other activities such as viewing wildlife & scenery, photography, fitness, hiking, and camping. Overnight, weekend, and even week-long expeditions are attainable for enthusiasts with relatively limited experience, and the large internal capacity for cargo enables the boat to carry the necessary supplies.
IMPORTANT DESIGN FEATURES
- Below deck storage is provided through sealed hatches on the fore and aft of the cockpit – bulkheads are placed inside to provide positive buoyancy and safety
- Models are produced in solo configuration with 1 cockpit for a single person crew – tandem kayaks include 2 cockpits (bow and stern) for a 2 person crew
- Some include a drop down skeg system for added tracking and stability while others feature a sliding rudder
- The design of the hull (bottom & sides) plays an important roll in how a sea kayak performs – read Buying a Kayak for more information
THE HISTORY & EVOLUTION OF THE KAYAK
The modern kayak can trace its origin to the native craft of Northern Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. These incredible boats were originally built from a wood frame with seal skin stretched over it. This primitive design has since evolved into modern composite construction materials like fibreglass, Kevlar, Carbon, Roto-molded Polyethylene, and Thermoformed Plastics.
Note: The benefit of using these modern materials allows manufactures to produce lower costing kayaks that are healthy to the environment, ‘easy’ to produce, and are stronger and more efficient than their ancestors
KAYAKS WITH STYLE
Sea kayaks are often categorized into 2 design classifications: British Style or Greenland Style and North American Style. British style kayaks feature more of a curved hull design, whereas North American style kayaks have a more conventional or straighter styled hull.
North American designed boats are often equipped with a foot pedal operated rudder system, which can often be retracted up out of the water when necessary. British designed kayaks have a retractable blade or fin instead of a rudder. Both of these components, rudder or skeg, are intended to assist paddlers in maintaining a straight track through the water especially in a cross wind.
A rudder has the added ability to help turn the craft. While that may initially seem to be a winning advantage, rudder pedals actually present a challenge to the paddler in bracing the legs and steering simultaneously. Since a kayak can be turned using paddle and weight shift techniques, many purists decry the need for a rudder. It really comes down to which style you prefer and feel most comfortable using.
Regardless of style, the kayak’s natural speed through the water enables long distances to be covered in a relatively short time. Though it is advisable for a beginner to practice with loaded boats on shorter day trips first. By doing so, not only will you improve you skill, you will discover the reason why sea kayaks are steadily gaining popularity with paddlers far inland from the world’s oceans.
SEAT YOURSELF IN A SEA KAYAK
Does the sport of paddling a sleek, beautiful sea kayak through picturesque waterways appeal to the outdoor lover in you? Are you looking for a fitness program that will be exciting and enjoyable, one you will always look forward to? Visit the About Us page on our website to learn more about Frontenac Outfitters Canoe & Kayak Centre, or click here to read testimonials from customers just like you!
Select Sea Kayaks to browse over hundreds of our sea kayaks from renowned manufactureres. Even better, make the short trip to our showroom and try one on! Frontenac Outfitters offers you a superior purchasing experience by providing free test paddling of everything in the shop – gear included.
We are ourselves avid paddlers with 30 experience, and we proudly offer one of the best selections of kayaks anywhere! We are happy to explain further about the boats and their features and would love to show you them to you first-hand. We can help you select a boat that will fit you and your needs like a glove. We encourage you to test paddle the boat(s) before you purchase so you will be 100% confident with your choice.
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