Inflatable Kayaks

I just bought a inflatable kayak (Sea Eagle)SE330 and being new to this sport I’d like to know how the inflatables match up with the hard shells.At 75 years of age I picked the inflatable for ease of handling. Any input would be appreciated, thank you, Tom Atkinson, 2-20-13. PS I live along the upper Niagara River in Niagara Falls NY.

Mixed Results
First, I don’t have a lot of experience in inflatables. Audrey Sutherland, a world class kayaker and sportsman, uses them exclusively and has written pretty extensively about them, however. Her opinions are a bit hyperbolic, but she is really an inflatable advocate. That she also advocates, in rough conditions, that she get into the boat and be tossed into the ocean by her fellow paddlers to exit the surf zone suggests to me that there are some issues she just glosses over.

As with all boats, however, it comes down to design. Many inflatables are high sided and, as a class, tend to be more windblown than other kayaks. Others, I hear, don’t have this problem. There are more limited hull designs possible with inflatables, however, and I would be skittish taking them in areas where punctures are a possibility (rock gardens, surf/moving water +underwater obstructions).

Sorry I don’t have more to offer on the subject.


My experience - inflatables are slow. I have a pair of Advanced Elements inflatables (their lowest end models), along with hard shells. When we use our hard shell touring kayaks to paddle with friends in a double hard shell recreational kayak, we have a lot of waiting to do. Went on a trip where we brought the inflatables and they rented a rec boat similar to the one they own. On that paddle, they had a lot of waiting to do for us.

There is an article in the Summer 2012 issue of California Kayaker Magazine on Kayaking & Small Living Places that may be of interest. can be read online for free at

Everything’s a trade off
I have both inflatable and hard shell. Just bought the inflatable Innova Safari last fall. Inflatables are great for storage and travel, I can take mine on an airplane. But…, even though it has better glide than other inflatables and some “rec” boats, it would be hard work keeping up with “sea” kayaks. It is a great river boat, which would be what I would say it does best.

I bought it 'cuz I was looking for a good river boat and the Safari’s light weight and ease of storage was a definite plus.

See review of Safari under redmond.

For me, one of the inflatable’s downsides is that it’s more difficult to add stuff to the deck. On a hard shell, I’ve gotten pretty good at installing well-nuts. The patches for the inflatables seem a little more difficult.

Thanks Rick for your input, I’m just getting started and all the help I can get is appreciated. Tom

Thanks Pete, I’ll keep you info in mind and test it out with others when our weather clears. Tom

Thanks redmond, I selected my inflatable with the though that being as I am on the Niagara River it would be a better choice for me and the handling and storage for a 75 year old would be a great help. Tom

I like a bit of current
when paddling an inflatable. They’re ideally suited for a float trip where a river’s currents push you along. The same type of river people like to tube. I suspect you could wear yourself out paddling flatwater because of the effort required to move the 330. If you keep your distances short, and your pace relaxed I think you’ll enjoy your boat more than if you try to cover a lot of area. Sea Eagle makes a pretty good high back seat. If you didn’t get that kind of seat with your boat then you might want to consider upgrading in the future. Sometimes I just lay down in the ducky and let the river do most of the work because I get tired of holding myself up without good back support. Your boat looks to be very beginner friendly and best suited for short float trips.

black and white

– Last Updated: Feb-21-13 3:16 PM EST –


I started with an inflatable and thought it was the cat's butt until I paddled my first rigid boat. I still have the inflatable, but it hasn't been wet in years.

With few exceptions, the difference between inflatables and rigid boats is night and day. If storage and transportation is your biggest issue, then maybe you're stuck, but if you're really interested in the real kayak experience, you've got to try out a sea kayak and preferably a composite boat. Yes there is a tremendous difference--the difference between a balloon and an F-16.

However, be advised that not all sea kayaks are equal either. Take the time to learn something about the different types etc. and if possible, try out several different models and brands.

Good On Ya!
You’ve made one good decision - getting the kayak, whatever it is. It’ll get you out on the water and around other paddlers, and let you see how the SeaEagle compares witho ther boats. I paddle hardshells, but a couple of visited and paddled with me a few years both have high-end folders - and those boats handled as well as anything I’ve ever p[addled with. Main thing is that you’re on the water - just take it easy, watch the weather, the water temps, and your limits, and enjoy!~

You are right for 'ease of handling!‘
To start off, I began with an iflatable used Advanced Elements Expedition due to storage and transportation, and according to other AE owners that I agree with regarding on-water performance: closed cockpit [SIK]; upper end of the AE line and competitive with upper end plastic rec’s and even a few bottom line touring models. When I wanted a lower end open cockpit [SOT], I looked deeply towards Sea Eagle, especially a specific used 330 model I found on craigslist in my area. I never received a response from the seller, which was quite disappointing. I ended up going with a West Marine K1 (extended clone of a Sevylor Rio).

From the reviews I have read about the Sea Eagle 330, I would use it the same way I use my K1. Flat-ish water unless you’ve got some experience in rapids; relaxing paddles where you don’t have much need for speed; you WILL get a bit wet (especially if you are a ‘high angle paddler’) unless you can play some magic with the blades; and at “officially” 26 lbs. dry and probably 30-35 wet, it is quite easy to transport if you have at least a little bit of natural balance.

My only recommendation is to make sure you have a comfortable seat (Sea Eagle sells different versions of seats that fit in the 330), and be ready to look for a longer paddle than many people say you should use in an SIK. Because of the open cockpit with high sides, you’ll need a longer paddle; I’d immediately recommend 230cm if you are anywhere near 6’ tall and especially if you use a ‘low angle paddling technique’.

Inflatables (thanks for the responses)
Just wanted to say thank you to those that responded to my info request about inflatable kayaks.

Tom Atkinson 2-26-13

SEA Eagle - inflatable
I had that exact kayak last year. First time out I got a huge gash in the bottom. I struggled so much when I paddled in the wind. I was out on a big lake and was at the point where I really wanted to give up and not go back to shore. Also it was used qquite frequently but after 3 months it stated leaking air and I could never find the hole. I gave up on it. I bought a hard shell. I am selling my sea eagle for $10 - the cost of the unexpired launch permit for someone who wants to give it a go

inflatable problem
Wow, you sure burst my bubble of enthusiasm with the problems you had with your sea eagle 330. Perhaps you started out in the lake to quickly. I hope mine lasts longer than yours,thanks for the input. Tom

Caring for an inflatable
I’ve owned a couple of inflatables. One was expedition quality, the other an Advanced Elements recreational size. As others have said, they’re slow but if they get you on the water maybe that’s all that matters to you. Did you say the Niagara River? I thought that’s what you said.

One problem with inflatables is that water collects in the space where the side tubes meet the floor. It gets trapped in there and soon starts to stink to high heaven. The only way to get it out is to deflate the kayak, and then it’s pretty difficult to dry it properly. If you leave the kayak inflated for any length of time you’re going to get mold in there. So try to dry it carefully.

I had no problem with the durability of the side tubes, but on the expedition boat a seam in the floor popped, so don’t overinflate the floor.