The recent expansion in kayaking popularity has not been entirely restricted just to inland lakes and rivers. With the improvements in manufacturing, making better kayaks cheaper for the general public to get ahold of, people have been taking kayaks back to their roots, back to the open ocean. Pioneered by the inuit’s, kayaks where initially used for hunting large marine mammals out on the ocean waves, yet today they serve a much more recreational purpose. Throughout this article we at The Kayak Guide will be taking you through the best sea kayaks on the market today, offering 3 mini-reviews to get you started. As well as this, we’ll discuss tandems, inflatables and the best accessories for your new sea faring vessel.
The Best Kayaks for Sea Kayaking
Understandably, sea kayaks need to be made of sterner stuff than their inland counterparts. Where they are never going to be fit for crossing the Atlantic, they do need to be able to take a bit more of a beating than those designed for calm lakes. Because of this, you’ll find that sea kayaks are generally a little more expensive. However, do not despair! In this review, I’ll be addressing three price points, low range, a mid point and the bank breakers for those with a substantial budget. Using this information you should be able to gauge how much a sea kayak is going to set you back, and which price point is best going to match your needs.
Sevylor Surf Kayak
We’ll set things off with a sea kayak that is at the bottom of the price range. First things first, if you’re searching for a kayak on your own, particularly a sea kayak, always check the suitability. There’s a brand of kayak called ‘Sea Eagle’, so naturally if you search for ‘sea kayak’ all of their inland kayaks will come up. Obviously being called Lake or River Eagle just wasn’t as catchy. You should be able to tell the suitability as if it’s under $200 it’s unlikely to be a kayak fit for playing pirates in.
At just over that $200 mark, is the Sevylor Surf Kayak. If you’re a regular, or even a first time reader of The Kayak Guide, then you’ll be familiar with the brand name Sevylor. They have made a number of kayaks that have received a positive review from us, and there’s good reason for that. Their products are always well thought out, well constructed and do as they advertised. I’m pleased to report that the Surf Kayak is cut from the same material.
Constructed from heavy duty PVC, this 10′ kayak is naturally buoyant due to it’s inflatable nature. Where it’s buoyant, it is far from unstable, this kayak can handle a rocking wave without acting like a jet plane ejector seat. It’s lightweight and easy to manoeuvre, which is a real bonus and great safety feature for a sea kayak. When you get trapped in the tide, you need to know that you aren’t going to struggle to paddle against it, with a heavier kayak you always run the risk of becoming stranded. With lightweight materials and smooth tracking, this kayak will see you safely from shore to sea and back again.
Durability is also not compromised on, the heavy duty PVC can take a real pounding and survive unscathed. Furthermore, the kayak has enough storage space and carrying capacity to hold up to 400lbs in weight, which is enough for you and a sizeable lunch. As well as being durable, the Sevylor Surf Kayak is also comfortable with soft padded back rest to make long outings all that more enjoyable. This sea kayak should be considered by anyone on a strict budget or looking to find their sea legs for the first time.
Perception Sport Swiftwater 10.5 Kayak
With the next jump in price, there’s a substantial increase in the number of features and the general all round quality of the product. If you effectively double your budget to the next price point, you can get a Perception Sport Swiftwater Kayak, setting you back a cool $470. Now, as I’ve mentioned, that’s more than twice the cost of the Sevylor Surf Kayak, so what makes it worth the extra money?
Well, the first thing that you should notice, is that this is not an inflatable kayak. This is constructed using the rotomold plastic technique, which creates a lightweight and durable hard bottomed hull. Where inflatable kayaks boast about being resilient, durable and hardwearing (which many of them are) none of them will ever be as rigid and sturdy as a solid kayak. With this increase in tensile strength, your kayak is going to be able to take more of a beating out on the waves, it’s harder to topple and very difficult to crack, all of which are great features for a sea kayak. Due to the least amount of material being used as feasibly possible, this kayak is still light enough for you to generate some real steam even when paddling against the tide.
You’ll also find that hard kayaks track better. Their defined edges cut through the water as opposed to the soft rounded edges of inflatable kayaks. This basically equates to faster, more accurate, and less energy intensive movement. Once again, all big plus points. If you were to take this kayak surfing you’d be living the actual dream, gliding across the waves with enough point to turn on a sixpence to adjust your position for the optimal ride. You’d be kayaking through tube before you know whats happened.
As well as all the bonuses of a hard shell, this kayak also has excellent bungee storage to the front and to the rear of the hull, as well as knee, thigh and back pads to make sure that you’re comfortable for the duration of your outing.
Ocean Kayak Venus 11 Sit on Top Kayak
Our final price hike sees another $200 jump to around the $600/$700 mark. It’s worth mentioning that where this is the highest price point we are going to discuss, you can easily pay more for a more advanced sea kayak. We are considering working on a page for those more luxurious items so if you have a massive budget, watch this space! On with the next kayak though, and for $700 (although on sale at just $525 at the time of press) you can get hold of a Ocean Kayak Venus 11 Sit on Top Kayak. Once again, it’s a significant increase in price on the last model, and an easy three times more expensive then the most basic sea kayak we discussed. So what enables this kayak to sell at such an inflated cost?
For a start, this solid bottom kayak is one of the lightest on the market, weighing just 40lbs. 40lbs is absolutely nothing, I’d be confident of breaking the sea-speed record in this kayak, it will feel like you aren’t paddling anything at all. As well as all the benefits of solid over inflatable, it’s also done a number on the mid-priced kayak. The storage space has been improved, with designated indented storage compartments toped with secure bungee rope, meaning if you get bowled over by a tsunami, you stuff isn’t going anywhere. As well as storage, the cockpit has had a substantial upgrade. It’s more spacious over the mid range kayaks, with more back support, ok your legs are exposed, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it means you can easily bail out and clamber back in.
At 10’8″ this kayak is like a longboard. For those of you that don’t surf, the longer your board is, the easier it is to catch a less aggressive wave. With this kayak, you have a perfect middle ground, it’s light and manoeuvrable enough to catch a powerful wave well, but also long enough to catch what I like to refer to as the friendly waves. These are low risk, break late, but make for a really fun ride for beginners, and are great to practice your turns on. This kayak therefore has something to offer all ability levels.
Durable as always, this kayak has an impressive 225lb carrying capacity, which is particularly good going considering it only weights 40lbs itself. Finally, for the fashion conscious kayakers out there, this kayak comes in two striking colours. You have the choice between lime green and white, or teal blue and white, both of which I have to say, look absolutely gorgeous.
Tandem (Two Person) Sea Kayaks
If you’ve decided that being out on the open ocean on your own isn’t your cup of tea, you may want to consider a tandem kayak. With all the advantages of single person kayaks, tandems allow you to take out a companion, a first mate to your captain if you like. They can share the experience, and perhaps more importantly, the paddling. Buying a good tandem isn’t easy, especially when it comes to sea kayaks. There are a lot of cheap inflatable tandems that would be perfectly fine on the safer inland waters, but these just won’t hold up on the open ocean. Therefore, just like with one person kayaks, the starting price is going to substantially higher, so we’ll be offering a low and a high price point in this section.
Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable Kayak
You may remember way back in the introduction about me warning you about the Sea Eagle kayaks, saying that there weren’t sea worthy. Well where they technically aren’t, many customers have ignored the instructions and taken the 330 to the open ocean, and to great effect. One of the reasons that this kayak excels at sea, is that it has built in spray protectors, that help keep excess water out of the kayak preventing it from becoming heavy and weighed down. Normally, if you took an inflatable to sea, the waves would crash over the weaker sides and you’d find yourself getting rather wet rather quickly. This simply doesn’t happen with the Sea Eagle 330.
Now the fact that this inflatable can handle the sea comes with a whole range of benefits. All the plus points on inland inflatables once again become valid, their incredible portability, affordability and durability once again become big selling points. It is perhaps the build quality of the Sea Eagle 330 that sets it apart from the crowd. Weighing in at a minuscule 26lbs, this kayak is incredibly light weight meaning paddling is not going to be in any way strenuous. As I’ve previously mentioned, that could be a real life safer when paddling against a strong current or rip tide. It’s also light enough to carry two people with just one person paddling, which is great for when the kids get tired or bored.
With a number of additional accessories available to optimise comfort and portability, this kayak is the complete package, and at just $270 it is not to be sniffed at.
Riot Kayaks Polarity 16.5 Tandem Kayak
Next up we have the opposite end of the price spectrum. From what my research has shown, there is no middle price point for tandem sea kayaks. The jump goes straight from the $300 mark up into four figures. It’s because of this that you really need to be sure that you want a tandem, because you can get two reasonable singles for the cost of Riot Kayak’s Polarity 16.5 Tandem, which is currently price at $1,499. Where there are some cheaper options around the $1,200 mark, but the Polarity really stands out from the crowd. Here’s why.
For a start, this kayak is pretty much as state of the art as it gets when it comes to construction. It’s the fastest rotomold kayak and also one of the shortest, meaning it’s easier to handle than it’s longer brother and sisters giving you that extra edge when you’re catching a wave. It also has Thermolite front and rear compartments, that offer a level of storage that was previous untenable in a plastic kayak. Where this kayak really starts to shine however, is with the seating.
Offering a and advanced fit custom seating system, comfort is absolutely guaranteed. Seating is intelligently arrange to optimize both turning and forward motions, with the rear compartment fitted with sliding foot-braces and the front with quick lock foot-braces to give a solid traction platform. This kayak is a little heavier than others in it’s class, weighing in at a fairly hefty 84.8lbs. To compensate for this, there are front and rear rubber handles to aid transit to and from the water.
If you have a big budget, then there’s no reason not to go for the Polarity from Riot Kayaks. It’s a beautiful boat, with many advanced features to justify the cost.
Three Golden Rules of Sea Kayaking
Sea Kayak Accessories
Once you’ve paid for and received your brand spanking new sea kayak, you’re going to need a few accessories to go with it. Now, a lot of inland kayaks come with oars, carry bags and pumps, the majority of which are useless. Especially the oars. They are even more useless at sea, where paddling is more difficult and water’s more aggressive. The supplied oars will simply snap in half, rendering you not only without an oar, but also stranded. That is a situation we obviously should be looking to avoid so a replacement paddle is a must.
Once again, I will point you in the direction of the Shoreline Marine Kayak Paddle with Rounded Blade. This is the number one best selling kayak paddle, and with a stat like that, you know there’s a reason for it. Fully equipped with drip guards to keep you as dry as possible, these blades really do have it all. They’ve got three positions they can be set out, ensuring a comfortable experience no matter what your wing span is, making them ideal for both children and adults. Furthermore, they disassemble into two pieces for quick and easy transportation. With foam grips for comfort tracking is a breeze with this paddles, the accentuated contour of the blade gives you that extra degree of ‘oomph’ and propels you through the water like a knife through butter. These are absolutely essential for any kayak owner, especially for those who are heading out to sea. I’ve yet to read a bad review for these paddles, so I’m certainly not going to write one.
Lastly, with the majority of sea kayaks being solid based, they lack the portability of inflatables. This means that unless you live in a beach hut, you’re going to need a roof rack to get them to the beach.
Sticking to the budget model, you can pick up a universal roof rack that will fit your surf boards as well for just $22 on Amazon. This rack is a J Rack, which attaches to each end of the roof without any hassle, securely locking your kayak or surf board or canoe for that matter in place, meaning you can drive with the worry that they are going to slide off the back. This rack is sturdy, I have personally never trusted the racks that rely on elastic and ropes, this is something you can really wrap your first around.
Other than a rack and oars, and obviously life jackets, you should now have everything you need to set out to sea. For more information feel free to browse the rest of The Kayak Guide, but for now, happy kayaking!