Best Sea Kayak – Touring Ocean Yaks Guide
The best sea kayak will usually be able to offer a good combination of speed, stability and comfort. There are some features that can be more useful when paddling on the ocean compared to flatwater.
We’ve put some information together to give you a better idea of what you might want to think about when choosing your next kayak for ocean paddling. We’ve also included some of our favorite yaks for the job.
Top 9 Best Sea Kayaks
1: Delta Kayaks Delta 14 Kayak (best overall)
The Delta 14 is designed to offer a combination of speed and stability, with a multi-faceted V shaped hull and a long waterline.
It has a cockpit that is designed for comfort, with a fully adjustable padded seat that can be easily tailored for different paddler heights and adjustable foot braces. The built-in thigh braces and neoprene padded leg braces in the cockpit are also designed to improve comfort while giving you better control over your boat.
There is plenty of space to store gear for a few days away. The two large storage hatches provide a dry spot for your camping gear. There is also a smaller day hatch that’s easily accessible from the cockpit, letting you keep essentials close by.
The durable Delta 14 benefits from having a rudder for improved open water control and it has bungee rigging and perimeter lines for added safety.
This boat can be ideal for experienced paddlers but can also be a good starter sea kayak because of its good stability and durability.
2: Dagger Stratos 14.5 S (best for women and smaller paddlers)
The Dagger Stratos 14.5 S is a durable polyethylene kayak that can be great for women and smaller framed paddlers. It has a smaller cockpit to allow for improved control and a better fit. For larger paddlers there is a 14.5 L version that is a little wider with a larger cockpit.
This is a stable boat that is designed to be easy to maneuver with good tracking, which can make it an ideal choice for a beginner looking for a starter sea kayak.
The cockpit is crafted to be fully adjustable, with leg lifters and adjustable hip pads, as well as an ergonomic floating back band for lumbar support.
A useful feature of this yak is the height adjustable skeg, which can be raised and lowered from the cockpit depending on the conditions.
There are two watertight hatches to keep your gear safe and dry and there is space for additional gear on the deck with the addition of bungee rigging. You’ll also find perimeter lines for easy grabbing and comfortable carry handles for getting your boat down to the water.
This yak can be great for weekend coastal trips, with enough storage space for a few days away. It can be ideal for beginners and intermediate paddlers.
3: Eddyline Sitka LT
The Eddyline Sitka LT is designed to be maneuverable and efficient, with a shallow V shaped hull for improved tracking and easier edging. The retractable skeg, with multiple adjustment levels, can also help with open water paddling.
This yak has a generous weight capacity, letting you carry enough gear for a few days on the water. The bow and stern hatches can be great for keeping your gear safe and the day hatch is ideally positioned for keeping your smaller items within easy reach. Bungee rigging on the deck can be used for securing additional gear and the perimeter lines can help with re-entries and self rescues.
A nice feature of this boat is the cockpit. It’s spacious enough for taller paddlers but can also be adjusted for various heights and leg lengths, including an Infinity seat with multiple backrest heights and sliding system. There are also adjustable foot pedals and padded hip and thigh rests for better control while edging and rolling.
The Sitka LT is for intermediate to experienced paddlers. It can be ideal for ocean touring and flatwater paddling.
4: Delta Kayaks Delta 17 (best for larger paddlers)
The Delta 17 is a long boat that is designed for medium to large sized paddlers. It has a very generous weight capacity of 410 pounds, giving you plenty of space for you and your overnight gear.
The two sealed hatches can be ideal for holding your camping gear and the day hatch gives you easy access to your essentials while you’re on the water.
The cockpit is built to accommodate longer legs and the fully adjustable seating system can let you tailor the fit for control and comfort.
A nice feature of this vessel is the V shaped hull, which is crafted for speed and tracking performance and can be efficient during longer trips. The rudder can also help with performance in ocean conditions.
This boat can be best suited to paddlers with a bit of experience. It’s a long yak which may be difficult for beginners to maneuver, particularly if you’re also smaller.
5: Perception Essence 16.5
The Perception Essence 16.5 is a durable boat that’s built for speed and paddling efficiency on open water. It benefits from having a retractable skeg to help you control your boat in windy conditions and moving water.
It features good storage, with three hatches, including a day hatch behind the cockpit, and bungee rigging on the deck. You should find there’s enough space for about a week’s camping trip if you pack light.
The cockpit is designed to be comfortable for long trips, with an adjustable padded seat with Liquicell technology that’s built to reduce lower back pain. The adjustable foot braces and thigh braces allow you to customize the cockpit for comfort and improved boat control for edging or rolling.
The Essence can be ideal if you’re looking for a fast boat that can handle oceans but be equally at home on lakes and slow moving rivers.
6: Old Town Castine 140 (best for comfort)
The Old Town Castine 140 is a relatively wide craft for its length, which can be ideal if you’re looking for a roomier cockpit. It can also feel more comfortable if you’re new to sea kayaking, as you might feel less confined.
To boost comfort levels, the ACS2 seat is padded and can be fully adjusted for a personalized fit. The seat also has a low profile backrest which is designed to better accommodate your PFD.
There are two Quick Seal hatches, both with CrossLock closures for added security. You’ll also find bungee rigging in front of and behind the cockpit for securing extra items. Another handy feature is the cradle for keeping your phone safe and a sliding tray for keeping small items under the cockpit.
This craft benefits from having thigh braces and adjustable foot braces for improved control and comfort, and you can also add a rudder (sold separately).
This boat can be a good choice if you’re looking for a craft with a larger cockpit that might be easier to get in and out of. It’s built for long distance ocean paddling.
7: Eddyline Fathom
This Eddyline Fathom is built for speed on the ocean. Its hull is designed for efficiency, with sufficient rocker and hard chines to make it highly responsive to edging and turns. As well as its high level of secondary stability, it also has a good amount of primary stability, making it comfortable on both ocean swells and flatwater.
It has plenty of space for a multi-day trip, with two watertight hatches and a day hatch for your essentials. There is also bungee rigging on deck.
This is a durable boat made from ABS-laminate, which is built to combine the high performance of composite with the toughness of plastic.
The cockpit is designed to suit a range of paddlers, with a comfortable seat that allows for multiple adjustments, including sliding forwards and backwards and a height adjustable back band.
The full volume deck also means there’s space for taller paddlers, but the multi-adjustment system in the cockpit means it can also be customized for smaller paddlers.
This craft is for experienced paddlers looking for a fast and efficient yak for multi-day coastal adventures.
8: Wilderness Systems Tempest 170
The Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 is a long, narrow vessel that is designed to offer speed and stability on coastal waters. It features a TruTrak adjustable skeg which can help you maintain control in ocean currents and coastal winds.
This is a roomy vessel, which can be great for a week long trip. You may even find there’s enough room for two weeks if you pack light. There are three hatches in total, all with bulkheads for increased buoyancy, which can help to keep your gear dry. The deck bungees can also provide additional space for gear.
A nice feature of this craft is the reflective perimeter lines, which can help to improve visibility for added safety.
The cockpit is designed for comfort on long trips, with a fully adjustable Phase3 AirPro seat with leg lifters, as well as adjustable padded thigh braces and SlideLock foot braces.
This boat can be a good choice for mid-sized to tall paddlers looking for an ocean touring yak that’s ideal for a week-long trip.
9: Perception Expression 14.5 (best budget)
This Perception Expression 14.5 can be an affordable option if you’re after a yak that can handle both ocean tours and casual lake paddling.
It is crafted from durable polyethylene, which can make it a good starter sea kayak. It’s also designed to be easy to maneuver, as well as offering a good level of speed. The retractable skeg can improve tracking in coastal waters.
The yak benefits from having two dry hatches for storing your gear, with enough room for an overnight or weekend trip.
The fully adjustable seat and adjustable thigh braces mean you can personalize the cockpit for better boat control and improved comfort. You’ll also find sliding adjustable foot braces for support.
This can be a good boat for smaller paddlers, with a shorter hull that can be easier to maneuver and control.
What Is A Sea Kayak And Why Use Them?
A sea kayak is designed to be used in the ocean. These types of boats are generally crafted to handle rougher waters, such as moderate waves and currents. They can be ideal for coastal touring and they can also usually handle flatwater, such as calm lakes and bays.
Sea kayaks are usually long and narrow to allow for increased speed and tracking performance. You may find they also have a rudder or a skeg to help stay on course in open water conditions. Many of them will also tend to have a low profile deck, which can help with rolling and minimize the negative effects of the winds.
These types of vessels are generally more stable in the ocean than typical recreational kayaks, but they can take more skill to operate. For example, you should be experienced in rolling and self rescue before attempting ocean tours.
Video: The Sweeping Kayak Roll - For Sea Kayakers
Are They The Same As Touring Kayaks?
Touring kayaks can sometimes be pretty similar to sea kayaks in that they can offer some nice storage space for several days away. But they are generally different.
Many touring kayaks are often designed for flatwater touring and therefore wouldn’t be able to handle the waves and currents as well as a dedicated sea kayak. Some touring vessels can also be sit-on-top, which is rare for a sea kayak, as these tend to only be sit-inside boats for added protection from the colder sea conditions.
A sea kayak tends to have better secondary stability to allow for better performance in rough waters and waves, unlike a touring yak which may have a flatter hull with more primary stability on flatwater.
Sea Kayaks: The Features To Look Out For
One of the main features of a sea kayak is its stability in moving water. This is generally known as secondary stability. Primary stability is the initial stability of the vessel and how stable it feels when you sit in it on flatwater. Secondary stability is how stable the vessel feels in rough water and when tipped on its side.
Secondary stability can be an important feature of any vessel in ocean conditions because of the likelihood of waves and wind which could cause your boat to capsize. A boat with good primary stability and no secondary stability might be more likely to flip in rough water. But a boat with a high level of secondary stability should be able to ride the conditions, since it can be leaned on its side to allow for better control.
Many yaks designed for the ocean will often have V shaped or rounded hulls, or a combination of both. These types of hulls can offer a good level of secondary stability but a V shaped hull may be a better indicator of improved tracking performance.
Space For Gear
A key feature of a sea kayak is generally the storage space. These types of boats are often built to allow for multi-day trips so they tend to have plenty of room to store your gear for a couple of nights or more.
Dry storage hatches can be a useful feature, as this can let you keep your items safe and dry within the hull, meaning you can minimize your profile for better aerodynamics. However, most yaks will also have bungee rigging on the deck for extra gear and items that you want to keep within close reach during your journey.
Rudder Or Skeg
Most good sea kayaks will usually have either a rudder or a skeg. A rudder can be useful in windy conditions and current, as you can deploy the rudder and use it to move the boat left and right to counter the effects of the wind and current.
A skeg can also be useful in windy conditions, for example in crosswinds, as it can help you stay straight by keeping the stern of your boat more anchored in the water to prevent weathercocking.
Both a rudder and a skeg can help to minimize fatigue when paddling in the ocean as they can minimize the amount of corrective strokes you have to perform in order to head in a straight line.
Deck Bungee Rigging
Bungee rigging can be a common feature on a sea yak both for storage and rescue. Many of these ocean vessels will have perimeter lines around the deck. These can sometimes be around the entire deck of the boat or around the front half and/or rear half.
Perimeter lines can be useful for self rescues, as it means you can grab a hold of your vessel anywhere along its length. This can be particularly helpful during a capsize if you’re unable to reach the cockpit, as it can give you a secure point to hold on to while you re-position yourself for a re-entry.
Important Parts Of A Sea Kayak
The hull of a sea kayak will generally be long and narrow, often with a V shape, to allow for speed and tracking in open water conditions.
The cockpit will usually feature multiple points of adjustability, most notably the seat and foot braces, so you can tailor it to your body shape and height. A comfortable cockpit that fits your leg length, hips and thighs can let you control your boat more easily in ocean conditions.
The cockpit tends to be smaller than on recreational sit-insides to allow for increased control when rolling and edging.
Sea kayaks will usually have storage hatches. These will often have bulkheads to create added buoyancy and keep the area dry for your gear. You’ll also usually find bungee rigging on the deck, which can be used for securing additional gear.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is A Sea Kayak The Same As A Touring Kayak?
The two vessels can often be very similar but a sea kayak will usually have additional features, such as a rudder or skeg and will usually have a lower profile. A sea kayak will also tend to be sit-inside only and have increased secondary stability for rough waters.
How Do You Paddle A Sea Kayak?
Use your whole upper body to perform a good forward stroke, making sure your whole blade is under the water before you start to pull it back, to maximize efficiency.
How Fast Does A Sea Kayak Go?
Sea kayaks are generally faster than wider and shorter recreational yaks but the speed depends on the conditions. Wind and current can affect your speed, particularly in the sea.
Can You Roll A Sea Kayak?
Yes, most sea kayaks are designed to facilitate rolling in the event of a capsize.
Video: Top Tips For Sea Kayak Rolling
There is a huge choice of sea kayaks out there and while they won’t all be suitable for every paddler, we think the best one is the Delta 14 because it’s lightweight, has great storage and has a good combination of stability and speed that can be useful on long ocean tours. It’s also an ideal length for both tall and short paddlers.
However, if you want something with a little more speed, a good runner up is the Eddyline Fathom. This boat has just about everything you want in a sea kayak, including a multi-adjustable cockpit for tailored comfort, lots of space for overnight gear and an efficient hull that’s easy to maneuver.
Cargo space can be important if you plan to head out for several days at a time. Longer boats can offer more room but if you're a smaller paddler, you may find a shorter craft easier to control.