First time taking boat in ocean.....?

Do I need to be able to roll a kayak to take it on the coast when I go to South Carolina in a month? Is this going to be a death trap if I don’t?

Any other advice for paddling in the ocean for the first time in a sit in? I’ve rented sit on tops at the beach before and had no problems but I feel unprepared for this? Like my boat is going to sink to the bottom or something…

Roll provides one safety feature
Consider this: being able to roll your kayak will help you in one specific situation where you have turned over your boat.

Now consider this: having a 3000lbs boat and a 200 HP motor will help if the wind is too much to paddle into.

Do you need a power boat to go into the ocean? Only on days where the wind is so great that you cannot paddle into it and would get swept out to sea.

A roll is a safety feature like a PFD, bulkheads, motor, flare gun, radio, or any other safety features. Having each will aid you in some set of circumstances but is not needed unless something goes wrong.

Stay within swimming distance of shore when there is low surf to swim in and you don’t need a roll. Be expert at a paddle-float re-entry and you don’t need a roll. Have a power boat with a ladder handy and you don’t need a roll.

Not being able to roll is no more of a death trap than not having a flare gun although being able to roll will certainly remove some stress a trip in the ocean might cause you.

On the other hand, rolling is fun. Learning new things and becoming an expert is very fulfilling. Try learning to roll if you have the chance.


P.S. This is an armchair opinion based on minimal experience in ocean conditions. I’m assuming that you will evaluate the conditions and make the appropriate choice based on those conditions. In rough conditions where getting knocked over might very well happen, don’t go out without the appropriate safety items like bulkheads/flotation, paddle float, and the ability to roll.

You feel unprepared
For me that statement says it all. It’s true you don’t need to have a solid roll but you do need to be able to self rescue by some other means or you’re just asking for trouble. For your own safety you should be with a group. That will give you the chance to learn from them and make learning more fun.

Rescue Skills

– Last Updated: Aug-04-11 10:25 PM EST –

(I'm amending this as it appears that the first response to this message had been removed, which was what I was basing my original comments on.)

Do you know how to do a rescue or be rescued? This gives you yet another safety net in a group.

Rolling is fun. Don't get frustrated if it takes a while not only to learn but to get to the point that it works all the time. Ocean paddling is the best but at this stage in your paddling career, your best bet is to be with a group that has experience and can help give you confidence.

As for the paddle float rescue: It works best in a swimming pool or flat calm water and that's about it. Bumpy conditions or not knowing how to do it can properly and with some speed can negate any benefits. Right off, I'm not a fan at all of this form of self rescue although I know there are posters here who use it with success.

Go with a group and you'll have fun.

Last of all, what type of boat are you paddling?

More info needed.
You are getting a lot of armchair opinions from non-ocean paddlers. What model boat is it? Can you do a wet exit, re-entry and pump it out. Where are you going paddling exactly - what are conditions likely to be like at the launch, landing and while paddling. Best thing to do is to take a class in coastal paddling before you head out by yourself, unless you are in a protected bay or if the surf forecast is for flat minimal conditions and calm winds.

I live in New England right on the coast and paddle strictly in the ocean in ocean conditions, you know, rocks, surf, current.The only fresh water paddling I do is WW, although not all that often.

Some how I think that just might qualify me to answer the OP’s question.

Second the above

– Last Updated: Aug-04-11 10:18 PM EST –

I've been in tidal races with DCM - I would posit that she is able to talk about ocean paddling.

That said, I agree with seadart about the idea of a group for the first exposure to ocean waters. And I had the same questions about the likely launch environment.

I had the same question as DCM about what boat the OPer has. It is fairly difficult to answer this question unless you know how "rescuable" her boat is by a solo paddler - two bulkheads, affords the chance for a cowboy scramble, that kind of thing.

Whoa - more info about the boat

– Last Updated: Aug-04-11 10:26 PM EST –

Same OPer in another thread - is this the boat you intend to take to the ocean?

"Hey everybody, I'm a newbie and my boyfriend and I just picked up 2 Pyranha Fusions - I believe the River Tour

2nd question. We need skirts - We picked up a Seals Tropical Coastal at REI this weekend and are returning it after finding it leaked in the pool attempting to roll. Can anyone recommend skirts for us? No clue what were looking for...

3rd question My boat doesn't come close to fitting me snugly. How do I go about outfitting it? Can the seat in the Fusion RT be moved forward without damaging the boat?

Where do I find foam to outfit and what kind is best and most economical. ?

Also so far all we have is PFD's, paddles and boats, along with a couple dry bags. Do we need airbags for these boats? The hatch is sealed in the back but what about the front? "

If this is the boat and the status of the paddler for ocean paddling, group or guided tour only. Your self-rescue options out in open water will be limited due to the lack of perimeter rigging - these boats come with the idea of swimming to a nearby river shoreline. And yes, flotation in both ends so at least they float fully up on the water.

Deleted Response
That first reply got my attention also. It seemed to tell the poster rolling is an optional skill that’s over rated. You don’t need to be a sea kayaker to understand that basic skills are not optional.

More info…
so I guess I wasn’t clear. Paddled in same ocean last year with another person. In a sit on top. Survived. I’m really just asking if I need to be able to roll my boat. If I do roll and do a wet exit do I need flotation.

I have a great PFD and am a moderate swimmer. The shoreline will be visible from the island. I’m more worried about sinking the boat - If that’s possible? I’m assuming though that it is, and am still going out, just want to do it in the safest manner. I have paddled 1+ creeks and rafted the lower yough so I have some experience.

Also I’ve been told not to put air bags in the front of my boat due to entrapment - to the poster who said to place in the front and back? Maybe I’m misreading that.

I will be on Edisto Island paddling out to Otter and Pine Islands, the surf at Edisto is minimal .

The boat is a Fusion touring cross over that is able to run whitewater better than typical bigger touring boats. The rear hatch is sealed and watertight. I’m investing in a skirt and am able to re enter my boat following a wet exit, as I’ve been practicing this in a pool since I got the boat. I also just ordered a bilge pump, after realizing that a sponge is a ridiculous solution to getting water out. (And way too too much time spent sponging water out of my boat) :slight_smile:

Edisto has great spots to paddle
ranging from ocean side surf and calm tidal creeks. Both Otter and Pine offer great walking and shelling beaches. You will be able to pick what is reasonable for you based upon the day and conditions. Some days will be flat and other days too rough to paddle. Tidal swings will be up to 6 plus feet, current will run up to 2 knots, and you will see lots of dolphins. Use the tides to your advantage and expect to sink past your shins in the soft mud at low tides.

What is meant by a roll

– Last Updated: Aug-05-11 9:56 AM EST –

To the OPer - What most people here think you mean by having a roll is the ability to capsize and roll the boat back up again WITHOUT doing a wet exit. From your last post, it doesn't sound like that is what you mean. Or something is not stated right. But capsizing is not a roll.

Being able to roll (a boat back up again) and being able to fall out of it and climb back in (wet exit and self-rescue) are two quite different things. The first will work in most water conditions, the second can often be rendered nearly impossible by waves etc unless you can manage it without using the paddle float via something like a cowboy scramble.

Your Pyrahnna Fusion is not what most would call friendly to a cowboy scramble.

As to air bags and entrapment, you need more coherent advice. I suspect you are talking to WW folks, who are thinking of your being able to swim the boat to a nearby river's edge if needed. I am going to check charts now, but I suspect you want to go a good bit further from land than they are thinking to get to those islands.

Yes, if you don't anchor them and they start popping around as you are trying to exit the boat it could be unduly interesting. But if they are anchored, and you are in ocean bay type water, this is not an issue AND will make sure your boat is floating upright to be self-rescued. The other thing that float bags do is displace water - it appears that you haven't tried pumping your boat out yet. Try it, see how long it takes and how tired that leaves you.

Your boat is fine for what you are using it for. It is not a sea kayak nor equipped to be one -these are two different things.

I just looked at maps, if not charts. Re going out to Otter and Pine islands, are you talking about going over from Bennett's Point (looks relatively simple except for fighting a tidal current, 6 ft tide) or going out from Edisto Beach and around the northern end of St Helena Sound (not as safe)? There is a long fetch of open water to that northern shore and the river mouth if the wind is blowing out of the SE, probably a fairly common pattern during the day.

^what he said
Let’s get some more detail.

Re Celia
Wet exit and reentry is where I’m at. Not able to roll at this point but working on it. I reenter my boat coming over the back end and lowering myself inside. I actually found this really easy but rolling myself upright has proved challenging. I may get a rolling lesson prior to the trip if I can find someone to do it,.

I’m going to paddle out from Bennet’s.

Thanks, clarification
It appears that at least one local meet up group down there regularly goes out from Bennett Pt to Pine and Otter, so it may be worth looking for company. We have always found that we learned more about a new area by going out with others at least once, even if paddling styles were not likely to be a long term match.

You my be one of those happy folks who gets a reliable roll quite quickly, but in the time frame you are talking about I wouldn’t expect it to be so. You probably should expect to have to come in over the back and have to empty tons of water out in a pinch.

One more note re float bags up front - I am guessing that the reason you are hearing this as a no-no is that your boat doesn’t have a pillar up front like the full out WW boats do. The pure WW boats have something up front to make higher levels of WW safe, by having a structure that’ll protect you if the bow gets pinned between rocks. It also happens to help hold float bags in place nicely, like in my ancient little Piedra.

No column does make it a tad tougher to anchor one (or two) in front of the foot pegs so they can’t slip forward. But a lot of people have found ways to handle that by creative use of the rails in front of the foot pegs or by gluing D-rings into the front of the boat to hold the bag(s) forward. I suspect you can make it work.

Thanks for the reply. It probably sounds like people here are being pretty hard on you. But ocean is ocean and there are reasons to be prudent. Ultimately you may want to add a somewhat longer more sea kayak to your fleet, but the boat you have will get you going fine in its intended environment. My other WW boat is a Pyrahnna - I like their stuff.

Air Bags
Sea kayaks are typically equipped with air bags for a variety of reasons. One is that there is a LOT of space where water can enter and you can’t easily get it out. If you have bulkheads, air bags add a safety margin should they fail. If there are no bulkheads, the boat will flood and likely sink or bob bow up like a channel marker. It is possible to drain a boat in this condition, but it’s much better to avoid it completely. So, jam the bags in bow and stern, inflate fully and they will not likely dislodge (water will just push them even further into the ends of the boat). I’ve never even heard of an entrapment risk in a sea kayak since the air bags are pretty far away from the paddler.

As for learning to roll, it is really a luxury until you really have a reliable roll. The roll enables you to try more stuff and recover from mistakes, so I think it’s invaluable and it improves one’s bracing skills dramatically. Some form of self-rescue, as others have said, is necessary and I’m not much of a fan of the paddle float, but I was taught the worst possible way to do same back when the device was pretty new. There are other methods, all of which are better and more reliable. This is a method I haven’t tried, but I like the approach.

one of the caveats of all kayaking is that after any self-rescue, you will find yourself in the same conditions which capsized you in the first place, so use judgement and try to paddle in conditions which don’t push your skills too far beyond their limits (this is a fluid situation and even after a small amount of paddling, a novice can acquire many needed skills and be able to handle conditions they could not at the beginning of the day).


Ocean vs river
I’ve seen quite a few thread where people were adviced to either go into the ocean because they’re not ready for the river challenge (Manhattan vs. Newport), or vice versa.

I do both sea kayaking and white water kayaking. I think the only thing similar between these two activities are their NAMES! Even the boats, while both called “kayak”, aren’t remotely the same in look or function!

Having said that, I’d say an exoerienced WW kayaker, with a good roll, will have a lot of build-in skills that can transfer to ocean paddle. But that’s where the skill transfer ends.

On the river, water reading is key. Or you’ll be dumping often. Though in many class II or below river, dumpping isn’t such a big deal since you can swim ashore and collect your witts (and your gear).

On the ocean, there’s usually not a whole lot of obstacles. So you won’t be dumpping into the water nearly as frequent. The equivalence of “water reading” would be navigation, tide and weather knowledge. And unlike in a river, the thing that can dump you tend to be rare but serious: surf, wind, storm.

In short, sea kayakers don’t fall into the water half as often. So many sea kayakers don’t have a roll and are still living and paddling. But it’s the knowledge on tide, current and wind that help them to AVOID condition that eve a good roll might not help…

In the river, you can get into trouble often and get out of it just as easily. On the ocean, “getting into trouble” the first time can kill you.

watch weather…and try to take a lesson
I’ve paddled on the ocean regularly for 7 years.

My suggestions:

  1. Take a lesson from an outfitter on the ocean, using your boat, if you possibly can. This is the best investment you can possibly make. If it isn’t possible, at least find an experienced group of non-professionals to get an informal lesson from.
  2. Be cautious about conditions and check weather reports carefully. In most places the wind can pick up a lot in the afternoon and what was a nice easy paddle in calm conditions in the morning can turn hairy on the return trip, with waves that can easily cause a capsize if you haven’t learned how to brace instinctively. The same waves will then probably capsize you again repeatedly as you try the re-entry that works perfectly in calm conditions.

    What you need to worry about is not whether your boat will sink … as long as you have float bags in it, it won’t - but can you get back in it again, pump out, and reattach spray skirt before a wave causes you to capsize again. It is surprising how much more difficult re-entry, pump out, and reattaching spray skirt is with even small wind waves.

It depends

– Last Updated: Aug-07-11 7:14 PM EST –

Many, many people who can't roll, paddle kayaks in the ocean.

Whether or not that is reasonable for them depends on:

their experience,
the weather,
the size of waves,
the nature of the part of the ocean they are paddling,
the other people they are paddling with,
etc, etc.

It doesn't appear that you have much experience and, while paddling in the ocean can like paddling a pond, it's fairly easy to get over one's head in the ocean.


The Pyranha Fusion is going to be a challenge to get back into in waves without help especially if you haven't practiced it. It might be hard to do even with help!

It would not be easy to empty alone. It would take a long time to pump out the water with a bilge pump.

If there are any waves, all of this would be much harder to do!

In contrast, a real sea kayak is easier for another kayaker to empty.

Your Fusion came with a thick piece of foam. The idea is to stick it onto the bulkhead to provide for flotation in the bow.

I'm thinking of carving out a piece of foam to take up even more space in the bow.

Pyranha Fusion
"I am guessing that the reason you are hearing this as a no-no is that your boat doesn’t have a pillar up front like the full out WW boats do. The pure WW boats have something up front to make higher levels of WW safe, by having a structure that’ll protect you if the bow gets pinned between rocks. It also happens to help hold float bags in place nicely, like in my ancient little Piedra."

The Fusion -is- designed for WW by a well-regarded WW company.

It doesn’t have a foam pillar but uses a very-stiff plastic bulkhead that uses metal brackets to attach to where foot braces are typically attached to the hull.

Pyranha includes a thick piece of foam to attach to the bulkhead.

It would be annoying to have to remove the bulkhead to maintain an airbag.

I was thinking of carving up a foam block to stuff into the bow ahead of the bulk head in mine to take up even more room than the foam provided would.