flatwater vs. sea - differences?

in all the reading I’ve done, with what limited understanding I have, I’m not seeing what the major differences are between the kayaks labelled for the sea vs. one’s that are just as long, but called touring.

I highly doubt I’ll do sea kayaking, being that I’m a landlubber. if there are differences, would they still be good for consideration for the lakes I think I will paddle around me?

forgive my noobishness :frowning:


Touring kayak and sea kayak used to mean the same thing. I tend to still use the two interchangably.

Kayak manufacturers started labeling boats that fall between strictly recreational and true sea kayaks as ‘touring’ boats.

touring vs sea
I think sea kayak= hull designed to perform in rough conditions and let the paddler use high skill level by giving him good lock in the boat and reasonably low rear deck -good outfiting. For example, i think something like a Chatham 16 or a romany are true sea kayaks but weren’t really designed for touring as theyre pretty low volume.

Touring-. ideally a real sea kayak with enough gear carrying volume but the label has been stuck to anything with a front and rear hatch/bulkhead.

That’s my point of view. In reality it’s all about as mixed up as hard rock and new metal.

By the way 2 weeks ago i’ve been rafting on the thompson(about 2 hour float down to where it meets fraser) and i wouldn’t be taking a touring kayak down THAT. you’d be fine if you can read the river and manouver accordinly but if you don’t you can probably get chewed up and (hopefully) spit out by one of the holes pretty good.

never dream of doing the Thompson!
only the North and South Thompson’s for me thanks…the Thompson is a whole 'nother ball game! I’m not interested in white water…just cruising a lake or calm river for a day and maybe beaching and spending a night or two. calm and relaxing for me please! I thought those boats with the higher bow’s were rather attractive, but I wasn’t sure what was what. the Cape Horn (which does sound rather seaish) is a handsome boat for instance. I’ve mostly investigated BorealDesign and Wilderness Systems, being those are what are among our retailers here…but if I get chances to test others, I will. I like being open minded.

cape horn
I owned a plastic cape horn 170. cockpit is actually 16x29, not whatever it sais in the stupid ass website. the gay thing about the boat, decent size cockpit hole with totaly huge space inside. i dont know how much foam it would take to make it fit me so i replaced it with an elaho. very stable boat,decent speed,bunch of cheapo touches and very recreational outfitting.

My take
We paddle inland most of the year, rivers to big lakes, and get onto the ocean for a few weeks over the year. In my mind there are differences, but they tend to mostly show up in the higher end boats.

The boats that I see labeled as “touring” boats don’t always have two sealed bulkheads, often not a day hatch, and often more limited deck rigging. These are functional safety factors on big water. Some of this bunch does, but it isn’t universal.

The touring class also often lacks cockpit outfitting and a sufficiently tight cockpit to support skills like deep braces, sculling and rolling. Again, good support of these moves can increase the paddler’s safety margin.

As to length and hull design… at this point in my paddling I would generally prefer to be in a 17 ft plus boat for traveling on the ocean over distances, for overall efficiency and matching the length to possible nasty conditions. And I am generally more comfortable in a 21 or 22 inch wide boat in how it handles waves and conditions than the 24 inch plus width that shows up in the touring boats.

But there are boats out there that don’t fit this profile, and will handle all that stuff fine in the hands of the right paddler. So that part of touring v. sea is a little fuzzier.

Different (now)

– Last Updated: Aug-15-06 11:14 AM EST –

It's a bit confusing.

It used to be that "sea kayak" and "touring kayak" were synonymous. It seems now, manunfacturers are using the terms differently.

A "sea kayak" is basically 16-18 feet long and about 22 inches wide.

"Touring kayaks" tend to be shorter (14-15 feet long) and wider (24 inches wide). To some extent, they are being marketed as "starter" sea kayaks.

What boats (name, length) did you look at? Note that there are some models that come in different lengths.

How big are the lakes you plan to paddle in?

The extra length of a sea kayak makes it easier to use for longer trips since it's easier to keep it going straight. A shorter boat might be more pleasant to use in twisty, narrow channnels.

A sea kayak is fine for lakes.

If you research drag data you will realise that longer does NOT equate to more efficient. Forget the dogma you hear and look at facts. Longer = more potential speed…for those with the engine to realize that potential. Few have that engine, regardless of what they think.

Salty is right…
As much as I have been in the quest for speed, Salty is right that most people don’t have the engine to take advantage of the added efficiency of a long boat. The difference in speed / efficiency kicks in above the 4.5 to 5 knott range ----or above about 5.5 mph. Most paddlers cannot paddle above this speed for any period of time. Shorter boats (16 foot) are actually slightly more efficient at slower / typical paddling speeds of 4.5 mph or less.


“touring” is pejorative for "sea"
Like Richard & Dick


– Last Updated: Aug-15-06 4:54 PM EST –

Efficiency means a lot of things to me, including more storage capability, a more comfy ride in bigger waves and just allover "suitedness" to my needs for bigger water. I have rarely if ever gotten into the arguments about physics of hull speed that come up on this board.

Much more to it than speed/effort
While it’s likely true many are pushing more boat than they need for their typical speeds - that is only one aspect of paddling - and the sea has a lot more to deal with.

Speed aside - I like the feel of a longer boat for all but play type paddling. Think of it as “manners”.

Longer waterlines will typically feel more stable for same beam (increased waterplane area) - will bridge across more chop/small waves - and resist broaching longer (but can also be harder to get back on line after she goes). You can also look at it as getting the same stability as a wider beamed shorter kayak.

It’s a bit like the difference between a trail/work horse an fidgety pony. Both can carry you, and both can do so at a reasonable pace. The pony eats less, but the horse can give a much better ride if you’ll be in the saddle a while. Over distance the benefits change.

“Manners” translate to more efficient cruising, as it gives you a smoother ride needing less correction.

There is a reason why the general length rule for a sea kayak is “over 16’” - and most are between 17’ and 19’. It’s a sweet spot lying between human power levels and handling considerations over a wide range of conditions.

The other thing to consider is you don’t really want to be near hull speed most of the time. Too much work in any hull. If you cruise at 4 knots - you want that to be a fair bit lower on the drag curve than the boat’s Hull Speed - so you don’t want a 4 knot hull, you might want a 5.5 knot hull. You also need to be able to sprint sometimes.

I like to cruise around 4.5 knots. A bit slow for a QCC700 if you think it’s hull speed number of 5.7 knots matters - but I’d rather be paddling below what a faster hull can do rather than being nearer to the limits of a kayak with shorter LWL. In my QCC 700 example a 3.5 knot pace has me at about 60% of Hull Speed - 4 knot pace is about 70% - and 4.5 is close to 80%. Sprints will take me to 10-15% over Hull Speed (and I’m neither fast nor powerful - fat side of average. More training would let me be comfortable holding more speed over distance).

So if you’re looking at lengths appropriate for cruising speeds (not lily dipping, not racing), better figure a range of 60-80% of hull speed (though 80% of hull speed is pretty much race speed for most folks ).

Calculate Hull Speed for kayaks you own or are considering: (Speed in KTS = SQRT(LWL) *1.34

Then see where 60-80% of that speed lands you. Can’t do math? OK here’s how it breaks down:

LWL: 16’

Hull Speed: 5.36 Knots

Cruising range: 3.2 - 4.3 Knots

LWL: 17’

Hull Speed: 5.52 Knots

Cruising range: 3.3 - 4.4 Knots

LWL: 18’

Hull Speed: 5.69 Knots

Cruising range: 3.4 - 4.5 Knots

Under 3 knots? Who cares - all kayaks are low effort at low speeds.

What should be obvious here is the ranges are almost totally overlapping. Longer and shorter both have similar cruising ranges. What’s missing to complete the picture are drag numbers for each across the overlapping speed ranges - but you need to look at specific hulls for that, not just LWL. I suspect the differences would be slight enough to still make the longer hulls more appealing because of handling issues (again - NOT being used as playboats). Longer is often narrower as well - so drag may be almost a moot point in many cases.

Moral of the story - don’t make assumptions about paddling effort based on LWL alone - and don’t assume the only benefit of length is speed potential.

the lakes I will paddle in will be…
small to large. small lakes are local, in the higher altitudes (ie 5000ft) but we are surrounded by some large masses of water, which I do hope to enjoy. examples are the local Kamloops Lake, Shuswap Lake and Okanagan Lake. no doubt I will go around with my brother and visit other sites too, like Boneparte Lake, Green Lake, Lac De Roche (tho I think it’s smaller). I’ve never really been on Kamloops Lake, but I do know that Shuswap and Okanagan can get large waves. Shuswap gets choppy around 4pm every day and being it’s a very popular destination, there’s a lot of speed boat and houseboat activity on it. also, being a big guy, I need a boat that is hardy! chances are my first boat will be something along the lines of a Pungo 140, being it’s cockpit just does the job.


– Last Updated: Aug-15-06 5:45 PM EST –

A Pungo 14 is a "recreational" kayak (nothing wrong with that, they are popular boats). Recreatioanl kayaks tend to be a bit shorter and wider than "touring" kayaks.

These boats are stable (because they are wide). This should be fine for 3 mile trips. For longer trips (let's say 10 miles), you might prefer a longer boat.

A recreational kayak will require less attention to keep it up right compared to a "true" sea kayak (a 22 inch boat). A sea kayak is "dynamically" stable: the paddler takes an active part in the stability (this is not hard to learn). A recreational kayak is passively stable.

Longer boats

– Last Updated: Aug-15-06 6:01 PM EST –

We might be getting a bit off topic here.

"Efficiency" has a fairly common understanding of "speed/effort".

Quote: "Efficiency means a lot of things to me, including more storage capability, a more comfy ride in bigger waves and just allover "suitedness" to my needs for bigger water."

"Efficiency" (especially unqualified) does not typically evoke these meanings in people.


The typical value of a longer boat (let's say about 17 feet), is tracking. If you are traveling long linear distances, a boat that tracks well will be more efficient. There are trade offs and you can go "too long".

The hull speed is typically not an issue for most people because: 1) they don't typically paddle at those speeds, and 2) they typically can't paddle at those speeds for very long.

about the Pungo…
well, to be honest, I probably would want something else, other than a Pungo, but, being how big I am (I have some girth) I don’t think there is anything else that would be a good option. :frowning: besides, it’s a good beginner kayak, for a noob like me, eh?

Other options

– Last Updated: Aug-15-06 6:34 PM EST –

Check out the following

Many people find "true" sea kayaks a bit confining, especially at first.

Do you fit in a Perception Carolina? This boat has a fairly large cockpit and comes in longer lengths.

"it's a good beginner kayak, for a noob like me, eh"

Concidering your interests, a boat like the Pungo might be reasonable (for short trips). Check out what is available used in your area.

You might concider renting (if available) a few times to get some experience.

It's not uncommon for people with a bit of experience to prefer a different boat than what they would have chosen at first.

If you had expressed an interest in longer trips or paddling rough water (eg, the sea), I would have suggested that you look at different type of boat (sea or touring).

Perception Carolina…
as far as I know, nobody here has them…so I would have to go out and explore to see who closest to me, did. Hopefully actually, I will have lost enough weight to buy a better boat, when the time comes. right now it’s rentals and research.


– Last Updated: Aug-15-06 6:40 PM EST –

Well, if the boat is "about right", you may be better off in any boat than nothing (even if you trade up in a year).

You'll likely be able to sell the Pungo for something.

Good luck (I'm going off line for a while).

my take as well