East coast vs west coast boats?

Perhaps because I now have a boat built on the west coast (a Sterling boat), I’ve noticed on a few occasions people making reference to east coast vs west coast boats. I have taken this to mean not just inconsequential styling differences but design differences such that east coast boats are perhaps more suitable for east coast paddling and vice versa. If so, I would guess this has to do with hull configurations that are more suitable for paddling on longer, larger swells (for west coast boats)…but I’m totally guessing. Does anyone have a more informed view on what makes a west coast boat different from an east coast boat and why one might be less suitable than the other when paddling on the “wrong” (guess I’m quoting myself here) coast?

And as a final comment, I would note that on both coasts there are a range of environments that must somewhat confound a simplistic answer. A protected estuary on the east coast is going to be different from the open coast off Cape Hatteras and so too, I would think, coastal Oregon would be a somewhat different paddling environment from Puget Sound. Anyway, thanks in advance for your thoughts.

It probably has more to do with distribution networks… Never seen a Sterling kayak here though some must be around

On the East Coast there are alot of Greenland style kayaks . Valley has a strong presence.

Same goes for canoes. There are East coast and West Coast canoes. We never see a Hellman here and very rarely a Clipper
Yet Swifts and Esquifs and Hemlock and Placid are easy to find… they are made on the East Coast.

The East Coast has a lot of variety as of course the West does too… geological faults and all. East Coast has a more gentle slope in general but when you get to Maine and Nova Scotia and Newfoundland you can usually throw that vision away. Newfoundland would be right at home on the Pacific cliffs.

It’s kind of hard to characterize a few boats as west coast - most paddlers would include Baja California all the way up to northern reaches of Alaska. In the last few years it seems like there are very few dealers on the west coast selling “seakayaks” - Aqua Adventures here in San Diego, and the next store I have seen many in is a six-hour drive north in Pismo Beach Area, then further north Monterrey/Moss Landing, Santa Cruz, Sausilito in the bay area and then up into Fort Bragg. That’s a distance that covers many Eastern coastal states. Around here th used boats that seem to sell quick are very nible and seaworthy boats that you can play in very rough water - it may be correlation selection becuase I mostly know people who like to play in the sea caves and rock gardens and there are a lot of stable boats for the retired set /flat water paddlers. I visit my son in Oregon often and still see lots of sea kayaks there, does not seem to be a particular brand or model. In reality the most kayaks you see in California on the coast now are sit on tops SOT fishing boats.

I know 3 people who have Sterling boats. Two use them regularly; one decided he liked another brand better.

Nothing universal, bit at one skinny point in history you could day that each coast had landed on a different piece of the greenland design heritage. Really doesn’t matter. A good sea kayak is a good sea kayak.

I’ve not heard of an east coast versus west coast style for boats.

The 2 major different categories which major manufacturers made that there used to be were north america boats and british boats.

The standard north america boat (which probably should have been called pacific north west boat) likely would be something like a Necky Looksha 4. Relatively roomy, high back deck, rudder, not a lot of rocker. Generally made for areas like off of Seattle or inside passage, where they don’t get large swells but do get winds. Good for carrying gear on ong trips in these areas.

The standard british boat would be Valley Avocet. More rocker, day hatch, skeg. Made for the large swells and currents and waves which they get all around the british Islands.

Many boats now are bastardizatons of these two types.

Greenland boats are a special low volume, low back, hard chine, easy to roll boats, but not many were made by major manufacturers.

I wouldn’t use Sterling boats as a comparison under east or west coast type or north america versus british. Sterling are special, not really falling under a standard (but british style probably would be closest).

My boats were made in the East, Midwest, West and China and they all work very well here in the PNW.

In response to the point about distribution for Sterling’s Kayaks, their factory here in Washington is very small, essentially run by 4 people. They have only begun selling through retailers in the last couple of years. They make less money per boat this way but its a necessary step to expanding their brand.

Their boats are boutique, people often fly in or drive cross country to pick them up. Sterling is trying to expand his reach but it’s tough to get a product of their quality while keeping it affordable. If people could get their boats with the same accessibility as tiderace, valley, etc, and at the same price, they would.

@JCorr said:
people often fly in or drive cross country to pick them up. <

I resemble that remark.

@JCorr said:
In response to the point about distribution for Sterling’s Kayaks…

I’ve had 3 shipped to me from them, cross country, WA to FL with no problems.
I have heard of one incident where someone received one with some damage, there’s always the risk.
They use the Eddyline ‘hardened cardboard’ like shipping containers (don’t know what this stuff is really called).

Years ago I had a kayak from Warren Lightcraft shipped to me in a custom made (plywood) container with a beveled top - so nothing could be stacked on it. Worked pretty good (but expensive container).

I used to work at a store that sold eddylines so I’ve unpacked dozens of them. that was always a bitch

Back in the day (1980s), I often heard the term “east coast versus west coast” kayaks, but it probably meant something different back then.

Some west coast designs were sometimes (derisively) called “Puget Panzers” by the east coast crowd, who were fans of skinny Nordkapps, etc. Although there were notable exceptions, the stereotype was that west coast kayaks were wider and more stable for protected waters and east coast kayaks were skinnier, with ocean cockpits and small hatches for exposed waters. These regional differences seem to have largely died out over the years and this distinction is no longer valid (if it ever truly was).

That said, in Greenland and elsewhere, the old kayaks were always designed for local conditions, with variations found from village to village, so local variation makes sense, but local variation doesn’t hold up well to mass production and mass markets.

Greg Stamer

I’ve never really bought into the “protected waters” reasoning to explain why PNW boats were so wide and capacious. Yes, waters on the inside are not exposed to ocean swell, but anyone who’s spent any time on the Salish Sea, to take one example, knows that it can be a nasty place under the wrong conditions. Ditto Johnstone Strait, etc. etc. And in the early days of the sport, all the recreational routes on both the inside and outside waters were explored by those same wide and capacious boats, including Kleppers.

The development of the barge-like PNW cruising boat probably reflects the fact that the coast of BC (in particular) all the way to Alaska offers nearly unlimited wilderness paddling and camping, with communities few and very far between. So a big wide boat is desirable to carry all your food and gear, particularly decades ago before the ultralite movement spurred industry to reduce gear packages.