Why choose a sit on top Kayak?
Kayaks are divided into two different types consisting of sit-on-top and sit inside designs. Each design drastically differs from the other and each has its advantages and disadvantages over the other. As the name implies, sit-on-top kayaks lack an enclosed cockpit and thus, rather than the paddler being positioned inside of the kayak at or below the water level, they are instead positioned on top of the kayak above the water’s surface. Therefore, this type of kayak is by far the most popular design among beginning paddlers and kayak fishermen because the sit-on-top design does not make a paddler feel like they are trapped inside of the kayak in the event of a capsize and, they are far easier to reenter if a paddler does accidentally capsize. Let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this type of kayak design.
Advantages of Sit on top Kayaks
- The main advantage of a sit on top kayak is that it has an open cockpit and thus, the paddler does not feel like they are confined within the kayak in the event of a capsize. Also, they are far easier to reenter in the event that a paddler does capsize.
- Because sit-on-top kayaks have a significantly higher center of gravity, they are also generally much wider than most sit-inside designs. They generally have a much higher degree of initial stability (the tendency for the kayak to remain upright when the paddler is sitting in the kayak with the keel directly underneath them).
- Sit-on-top kayaks are literally unsinkable due to the completely enclosed design of their hulls.
- In the event of an accidental capsize, sit-on-top kayaks have self-bailing scupper holes to let the water drain out of the cockpit and thus they are an excellent choice for playing in the surf zone because paddlers do not have to carry a bilge pump with them. It has a large storage space for carrying different items along.
Disadvantages of sit on top kayaks
- Due to their relatively wide beam (or width), sit-on-top kayaks are generally far slower than a sit-inside kayak of lesser width. Therefore, they require more effort from the paddler to propel them forward and thus, they are best suited for short range excursions and for kayak fishing.
- The wider beam width combined with the significantly higher center of gravity causes sit-on-top kayaks to have a much lower degree of secondary stability (the kayak’s tendency to stay upright when the kayak is leaned on its edge for turning and when paddling in rough seas).
- The open cockpit denies the paddler the ability to place their knees against the underside of the deck which limits the paddler’s control of the kayak as well as its maneuverability.
- The wide beam forces the paddler to use a longer paddle than they would with a more narrow sit-inside design and, the longer a kayak paddle is, the longer its movement arm is and thus, the more effort it requires to use it to propel the kayak forward.
- The open cockpit exposes the paddler to the elements and thus offers no protection from the Sun or from waves breaking over the bow or the gunwale. The significantly higher profile causes a sit-on-top kayak to be far more adversely affected by wind than a sit-inside kayak design.
- The self-draining scupper holes in the bottom of the kayak’s cockpit cause it to always have a small amount of water in the bilge.