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Sit-In Kayaks vs. Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Posted by Brooklyn Kayak Company on

woman on a sit-on-top kayak

Whether you’re looking for a new paddling experience, or you are just starting out with kayak sporting, you may find it a tough decision which type of kayak to invest in. There are many different styles, and it can be hard to understand which is appropriate for the kind of activity you’re looking to use it for.

The largest sub-categories of kayaks are sit-in kayaks and sit-on kayaks. Each of these kayak styles obviously appear different, however, it may not be obvious what impact the different styles may have on your experience. This post will help you understand what conditions or activities the sit-in kayak and sit-on-top kayak are each ideal for. And, at the end of the day, both will provide an enjoyable paddle!

Sit-In Kayak

Sit-in kayaks are what most people usually picture when they think of kayaks. They are aptly named, as your legs and lower body are positioned down within the hull of the kayak itself. You’ll have an open cockpit in the deck and then a channel under the deck moving towards the stern that your legs extend into.

Given this set-up, paddlers enjoy sit-in kayaks because you tend to stay drier for the duration of your time on the water. Whether you’re on the ocean, river rapids, or a calm lake, your legs will get splashed less because they’re guarded by the exterior hull of the boat. Some kayakers even purchase skirts if they anticipate it being a particularly cold or choppy ride. This is worn around the kayaker’s waist, covers the open cockpit, and prevents water from getting below the deck.

The position of your legs in sit-in kayaks allows you to brace and shift weight in ways that can balance out the boat. This can be helpful to beginners as they get used to paddling. Because your legs are enclosed, it can make it more challenging to recover if you tip over in this type of boat. It’s a learning curve to pull yourself out and then get back over the wall of the hull to reposition yourself properly after a spill. In this respect, sit-on kayaks have an advantage.

Sit-On-Top Kayaks

Sit-on-top kayaks have been gaining popularity. They are quite stable and easy to learn on as kayaks go. As the name suggests, you sit on top of the kayak’s deck, as opposed to being seated lower in the hull like with a sit-in kayak. You don’t have access to below-deck aside from storage hatches with the sit-on kayak.

Since your whole body is on top of the boat, you do run the risk of getting splashed more and getting wet. So depending on your activity, be prepared that you might get wet when using a sit-on-top kayak. These kayaks are also self-bailing as well as flatter, so it’s easier to recover in the case of a fall.

Sit-on kayaks are equally as safe and stable as sit-in kayaks, it’s just a different process of balancing depending on how you sit on the deck. Some boats have notches for your heels if you want to extend your legs out, but some prefer to keep a more centralized center of gravity and kneel or sit cross-legged near the center of the deck.

While there are some climate recommendations for sit-in vs. sit-on kayaks, whichever one you pick should guarantee a good time. Take a break, get out on the water, and enjoy the ride!


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