Great Lake waves- SOT vs. Sea

Hello All. First post.

Been rec-paddling a Pungo Classic for past 4 yrs and recently bought a used Valley Aquanaut Club. Want to get off the inland lakes and into Great Lakes, maybe eventually ocean. Goal is playing/exploring for a few hrs or afternoons, no overnights or long-distance expeditions.

Is SOT or sea best way to go? I’m honestly nervous about capsizing and learning eskimo roll- Valley is more tipsy and a tight fit. Rented a 9ft SOT off Put-In-Bay Island in Lake Erie and loved playing in moderate criss cross waves ( between rocky shore and passing powerboats )

Have opp to get a Cobra Eliminator SOT- wondering if I am making right move to get something to explore along GrLks shores and play in some waves.

Any advice would be very helpful. Thank You.

A few thoughts…
Considering your stated goals, between the two boats you mention, I’d say it’s no contest; paddle the Aquanaut for your bigger water explorations. The best way to get over your nervousness about certain skills is to learn and practice them.

You say that the Aquanaut is “more tipsy and a tight fit”. Since you don’t mention your size and weight, we can’t guess about the fit of the Aquanaut for you, but “tipsy” and “tight fit” (as described by someone not used to sea kayaks), aren’t necessarily bad for a big water sea kayak. For someone not used to sea kayaks, there are a few things that might make you nervous at first glance, but once you learn how to use them, you don’t feel secure without them. For instance…


On textured water, you have a better chance at keeping the boat balanced/upright if it’s not always trying to “sit flat” on the now “slanted” surface of the water (a hull that’s very stable on flat water can be more difficult/impossible to balance well in textured water). Besides, if you paddle any boat enough, you’ll become accustomed to its particular stability, so after a while, you won’t even think about how “tipsy” you once thought it was.

“Tight fit”:

You don’t sit in a sea kayak, you wear it. Without being uncomfortably/painfully tight, you do want to achieve good body contact with the boat. This is essential for good boat control.

Sprayskirt (entrapment problem?):

Many people will look at a sprayskirt and get nervous about possible entrapment if they capsize and can’t immediately roll back up. This is usually an unfounded fear, as it’s almost always easier to fall out of a capsized boat than it is to remain inside (another reason to have a good fit, so that you can easily hold yourself in the boat and facilitate a roll).

About SOTs and big water conditions…

Depending on the specific design and paddler skill, a SOT can handle various conditions very well. In general though, when it comes to “high performance” SOTs, each is designed with a narrow focus in terms of its primary purpose, so it is also less capable in other areas. A well designed sea kayak, on the other hand, is expected to be able to handle a much greater variety of conditions with relative comfort, safety, and efficiency. When it comes to Great Lakes and ocean paddling, I’ll venture to say that any decent SOT will have more limitations than any decent sea kayak. The Aquanaut is a very decent sea kayak (again, as long as it’s also a good fit for your body).


Either Way… Learn To Roll…
it’s not really a chore, unless you make it one. Once you have it, it provides more options around what gear and conditions you go with it.

Of course, you can just go out when it’s flat (and warm) and be safe that way. But (IMO) you would be missing a lot. Good rolling (and good bracing that almost automatically goes with it) will allow you to do more in relatively greater safety.


who rides mostly waveskis and SOTs more than SINKs

At the very least

– Last Updated: Sep-13-09 12:18 PM EST –

a kayak like the Aquanaut you will need to learn basic skills..

Taking an intro to kayaking is a good way to learn a wet exit, rescues and basic strokes.

You don't just fall out of a kayak when you capsize. You have to first remove the spray skirt. You want to have practiced it, before your first capsize. I have no idea why someone would suggest that entrapment is not a risk for a novice? Maybe what Mellisa meant was that once you practice it a few times, it's not a risk. (Edit: maybe entrapment is overrated, as it's pretty easy to get out once you do it, and maybe a lot of people don't even practice wet exits like they should because they are afraid of tipping over?)

For the ACA intro to kayaking class, the students wear a nylon skirt that pops off on a capsize. The students capsize then go through the motions of removing the skirt, then self rescue and assisted rescue with the other students. The class would also have basic strokes, info about the different kayaks, etc.

The SOT takes very little skills to get out and paddle but is far more limited.

Edit: my vote would also be for the Aquanaut if you are the right size. You will need to learn on calm water for a while. (that's what I did for the first several months) Then, everything Melissa said is true, you will balance much better in choppy water, and can take on some very rough water as your skills progress.

I have paddled on Lake Michigan. You can pick and choose places for your skill level with either kayak.

If you are up for the challenge, a kayak like the Aquanaut has far more potential. (on my fist day, I could hardly get in or paddle an intermediate to advanced kayak.)

You currently own one of, if not the
very best model of sea kayak for any level of paddler. The Aquanaut is a great choice and a boat that you could keep in your quiver for many years. If you plan to remain near shore in warm water conditions, the need for a skirt and more skills becomes less, you will however be missing out on the very best the Great Lakes has to offer. Get involved in the appropriate classes and meet people who can help you advance your skills and with whom you can paddle with on occasion. Your boat question has, in my opinion, been answered, now go and get the skills you need to use a very fine boat. Bill

SOT vs Sink

– Last Updated: Sep-13-09 11:14 AM EST –

I own both kinds of boats and go out and play in the surf and rock gardens. Many SOTs have limitations but I personally feel much safer in very bad conditions Solo in a boat I don't have to worry about taking on water if it capsizes, I get sucked out of the cockpit or the skirt gets ripped off the coaming or implodes, all of which I have experienced in my SINKS. A better place for information on SOTs is a site maintained by paddlers who know sit on tops. In the end it comes down to personal taste and experience. A well designed SOT if you are dressed in a wetsuit to match the water conditions would be fine. Private message Sing who posted here if you want information about wetsuits that work well in very cold water.

I paddle a SOT on Lake Superior
I bought a Current Designs Altura specifically TO paddle on bigger water, for fishing, and for the versatility that a SOT affords me. I am a big guy at 6’2", 235, and getting in and out of my SINKs while launching here on the very-rocky North Shore means either dinging up the boat or taking a swim. Maybe it’s me, my lack of balance, whatever.

On top of that, I wanted the stability to do whatever I felt like doing when I got out on the water - to fish, take pictures, dive, etc. I’ve paddled a lot of SINK’s and have never paddled one that gave me that ability, nor have I paddled any SINK that was such a breeze to launch and recover as the SOT. It all depends on what you want, though.

Thank You
Thanks for all for the great advice and info!!!

Sorry forgot to mention, I am 5’10" and almost 200lbs, 36" waist. Short and thick, think lager Joe Pesci. :slight_smile:

I guess my comment about “tight fit” has to do with the overwhelmingly large opening and accommodating cockpit of the Pungo Classic.

With very limited free time, I’m looking for is the easiet way to go out and have some fun for a few hrs. I am usually forced to go by myself due to schedule, and I can’t allocate time for clubs or trips right now. This may sound like a wuss-out to more experienced paddlers, it’s just the limitation of the time I can contribute. That’s why I thought the SOT would be better.

I did buy a sea kayaking book yesterday, which I will read and try to learn some different techniques so I can enjoy the Aquanaut Club a little more!


– Last Updated: Sep-13-09 12:06 PM EST –

vote for a SOT. I have a Prowler 15 and have used it often on our north coast of Calif. Very cold water here at 56 degrees so wetsuit/drytop combo works well. Have been in 10-15 swells and have had waves crash over me, my SOT for me is "safer". That said, I don't have the skills/training to take my 15' sit inside in big water to feel comfortable. When dealing with beach landing with waves and rocky shorelines, I much prefer my SOT. Good luck,be safe.

Aquanaut (sort of)
I would lean more toward the Aquanaut for two reason: first, you already own it; second, Great Lake water is cold and a SINK may keep you more comfortable longer in the season. That’s about it.

I don’t think that SINKs are necessarily more ‘seaworthy’ than SOTs. For your stated purposes (paddling a few hours), either type of boat would be fine. Where SINKs really start to shine is on trips, when you need to carry a load in variety of conditions over the course of several days, something that you don’t intend to do. But maybe one day…?

Paddling your Aquanaut, of course, would entail you taking some lessons so you overcome your fear of capsize and entrapment. You should learn to roll which, like riding a bike, seems hard until you do it.

Instruction in SE Michigan
Here’s one:

A winter pool/rolling class might be fun for you. You should be able to find one – some colleges and paddling clubs offer them.

And you can look ahead to these again next year:

Thanks for the links!!! I will check it out!

You mentinoed Lake Erie and Put-in-Bay, so I assume you’re somewhere in Ohio or SE mich. Check out the Riverside Kayak Board in Wyandotte, MI. They hold classes and are a good resourse. They can also help you upgrade or find a boat that works for you. There are Roll Sessions around the Region. EMU hosts them in their pool during the winter. Email me if you want more info on the region.


I’m happy with both . . .
I can relate to your concerns and have found both kayak types to be useful for many of the reasons previously covered.

I have a Pygmy Arctic Tern 14 SINK, which is fast(enough for me) and maneuverable, very dry and will hold enough for trips . . . but . . . I find it difficult to easily get my body into or out of the cockpit because of the tight fit - having to take it slow and easy to maintain balance. So, off a dock or rocky shoreline, it’s easy to spill. Also, it is more of a challenge for fishing or taking down one of our bony NC rivers. So I also have an SOT. (2, actually)

The Native Watercraft Manta Ray 12 is more suited for the rocky places and fishing, but it’s slower. Also, until I build my rolling skills to a reliable level, I feel safer out in open water, solo, for above-mentioned reasons (though I am disinclined to go solo under any circumstances).

Arguing over which boat-type is better is like arguing whether apples or oranges are better. There are days my 61 year-old body is much more tolerant paddling a boat that allows more leg movement and no challenges getting onto or off of - especially if I am paddling where this may be required more frequently. For a long paddle without those challenges, I take the SINK.

BTW, the SOT carries an awful lot of cargo below deck, and it seems many people are happy taking them on trips and camping as well.

It hasn’t been too many years since the SOT was discovered to be a viable fishing platform - and many capable of doing so on the ocean. Perhaps, the potentialities of the SOT have not been fully discovered.

My impression is that it’s best to go with what meets your needs best and not allow yourself to be overly influenced by those who think their genre of paddlecraft is the only true paddlecraft worthy of paddling. For a lot of us, it’s all fun and the big challenge, at times, may be trying to decide which boat to take out on the water!

The cold water
was the reason I had to actually drive down to southern WI to get my boat - not a lot of call for SOT’s in a place where your legs start to go numb after standing in the water for 30 seconds.

I found that SOT’s were hard to buy locally for the same reason. I have a drysuit, however, which I highly recommend for anyone paddling the Great Lakes after September 1st…or even on days BEFORE that :).