Rough water boat

I know the NDK Romany and Explorer ( and others) are good rough water boats. But what exactly is a rough water boat? Lots of rocker? minimum rocker(this would rule out the Impex Force)? Thought I read somewhere that boats that are good in rougher water have thin bows and sterns. I take it that any sea kayak can handle 2-4ft. seas and 15-20mph winds, this is my current level of paddling and I paddle a Capella 163.

Not looking to start a pros and cons of particular boats, just what if any differences between so called rough water kayaks and “regular” kayaks.

First, you need
a definition of what constitutes “rough water”. How people define that term will affect what they mean by a “rough water” boat. Then you need to know what they want to do with their boat in “rough water”. Then you need to know what traits they prefer in a boat when in “rough water”. Then you need to know if their views and abilities and attitudes are remotely like yours. Or, as Salty may say, “Its not the boat that matters.”

Start simple …
Go get yourself an old school whitewater kayak and go play in some rough water. You’ll learn more than from 150 answers on Pnet.

This is a broad open ended sort of question.

How about more specifics of where you will do most of your “rough water paddling” and your dimensions for starters.

That would at least allow for some broad recomendations.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

You have one.
A Capella 163 is a perfectly good boat for rough water.

If you are new to rough water then your money is better spent on some classes with a good instructor than trying to find the “perfect boat”.

I recently volunteered to be a student in an ACA Level 4 instructor evaluation hosted by Sea Kayak Carolina and taught by Tom Nickels. This is my first exposure to any formal ACA/BCU training and I have to say I was quite impressed by the professionalism and thoroughness of Tom and Scott.

My only other experience with formal training was a surf/beach launch/open water class at Salt Marsh Kayak and a 2 Nigel Foster classes at BCU Week. All the classes were invaluable in allowing me to have more fun safely.

For me the most important thing I learned was to beach launch and land safely.

There’s a lot of truth in that!

– Last Updated: Dec-21-09 4:49 PM EST –


I've been out with some "experienced" folks on the coast on a 10-15 mph day and they say watch out for "rough" water. I looked around and wondering ... WHERE are the "rough" water?

What's "rough" for WW folks and what's "rough" for lake paddlers are quite different.

10' swell maybe "rough" but most anyone who's been paddling on the coast can handle it. On the other hand, 3' surf can toss 80-90% of coastal paddlers...

Sorry for the side track. But I think any boat that has bulkhead and a not-too-large cockpit is a "rough water" boat. Just different boats handle differently. And some paddlers prefer one over another.

How the paddler fit in the boat is probably as important, if not more, than the boat itself. I have a very "forgiving" rough water boat. But put a 220lb paddler in it, it'll be a very unforgiving poor rough water boat that's likely to tip on a 1' wind wave!

I think the right folks could an answer
His question doesn’t really require knowing his ability because his question isn’t “what boat is right for me”. I think if you got a handful of BCU 5* equivalent paddlers and asked them to rank boats they’ve paddled over the years in the roughest ocean conditions they’ve ever been in you’d get an idea. Some folks that know boat design well could say what unique qualities the better ranked boats had.

So while a great paddler may manage with almost any boat and a poor paddler will suffer regardless there still are qualities of some boats that make the superior in stormy weather.

I lack experience to give a good answer, but I’ve heard that narrower (within other limits) can help along with hull that isn’t too squared on the sides. These qualities I believe allow a boat to take hits from the side better.

Here you go!!

– Last Updated: Dec-21-09 5:29 PM EST –

Here's a shot at your question:

1. Not too long.
2. Ample rocker.
3. Full chine profiles. This allowas stability on edge and buoyancy on edge to free the ends...ample rocker.
4. Ample bow and stern volume...not skinny ends.
5. Not too narrow cuz of #3.

Now, if the objective is distance efficiency in rougher seas, you can compromise some of the playfullness and chine volume to gain forward directional stability, speed etc,,,but you lose some handling in surf zones, rock gardens etc.
This would be why a Nordkapp wouldn't be the best rock garden boat compared to an Avocet or Romany, or Chatham 16.

A plug for Nigel Dennis's Explorer: Rough sea hull extended for expedition travel, but retains excellent heavy sea charcteristics.

Notice the favorite rough water kayaks tend to be 21" or wider, in the 16 ft. range,(LWL's closer to 14-15) with full chine profiles, and ample stability???? Not a mistake.

The brochure stuff about rounded cross sections on narrow kayaks doing better in rough seas is misleading.

Hope this helps. Much more could say but stuff to do.

This is really
not about me as a paddler. I am pretty much just a beginner. Not yet really comfortable in conditions I originally stated, seas to maybe 4ft. 15-20mph winds. Its just that after reading all the replies to the Nordkapp LV topic, what sets that boat and others like it apart from "regular" kayaks (capellas chatam`s etc.) Why is it that these kayaks perform better in adverse conditions? This is really my question.

One word . . .

I’m thinking short enough to be maneuverable, narrow enough to have some speed, relatively low decks to avoid windage, low enough volume to sit down in the water a bit, safety features such as perimeter lines, good hatches and bulkheads, reflective sponsorship decals (and the skills to get good sponsors). I think the best rough water boat would be a little different than the best expedition boat just based on designed volume.

I reckon there are many boats that are capable, and some of it comes down to personal preference.

I rest my case
" I’ve heard that narrower (within other limits) can help along with hull that isn’t too squared on the sides. These qualities I believe allow a boat to take hits from the side better."

“The brochure stuff about rounded cross sections on narrow kayaks doing better in rough seas is misleading.”

IMHO The former comment is true from one perspective, the latter is true from another perspective. For example the AA and Pintail are considered “rough water” play boats, but the hull cross sections are quite different. The rounder pintail may allow waves to slip by, but that also may mean less control while the AA may get nudged more, but with the AA a paddler may have more control. Or so some say.

speaking hypothetically, to me boat design features that are good for playing/exploring in rough water as in surf, tide races, confused slop generally, and rock gardens would be those found in modern hulls designed specifically for such use. As in CH16, Mariner Coaster, Whiskey 16, and the SOF F1 by Brian at Cape Falcon.

I read “rough water boat” as a boat that can play AND go distance in rough water.

Basically an all-around boat that a capable paddler can do whatever he/she want to do, be it surfing or speeding from point A to point B with a full load.

So in my view, Avocet and Romany are rough water boats. So are NLV, Pintail, AA, Explorer etc (a long list of them).

It’s easier to define what’s NOT a rough water boat…

Coastal Touring Boat
I do not see that phrase often used in US as a classification for kayaks, but I have seen it from time to time by UK writers. I think it a good classification of the type of boat under discussion as I take it to mean a relatively low volume boat which is at home wandering about the roughish waters of a coastline, but with enough volume for a week or so and an ease of handling which does not require highly concentration all the time by decently skilled paddlers.

Was that a C-to-C roll or a sweep roll??? And do all the squids have to keep their heads down for that to be successful? And hip snap simultaneously? If so, that is some serious teamwork!

10 year old Explorer
and beat all to crap. It’s not all that fast and the spider cracks look like a road map in a metro area…but i always feel comfortable and at ease in “conditions”:slight_smile: Granted conditions aren’t all that in the coastal NC waters I’ve tried, but I am willing to push it in this boat.

Pungo! You have got to be nuts or

– Last Updated: Dec-21-09 9:21 PM EST –

busting the OP.a pond boat doesn't belong in the ocean.
Try this in a Pungo.

from the Discussion page.

No Joke
String, really, would I jest?

Check out this link.

In fact, I think Flatpick was recommending the Pungo for exactly this sort of thing when he started the thread in ppdf.

depends on which coast
The English coast are notoriously ROUGH! Hence the term “coastal touring” boat.

Some part of the Pacific coast can get equally “rough” so the term would still be a good description.

But other part of the west coast, and a good majority of the east coast are relatively flat for most of the “mass paddling season”. A Pungo might be mistaken as a good “coastal touring boat”. :wink:

if you got a handful of BCU 5* paddlers
together and asked them to rank boats, chances are they’d all say NDK Explorer.

Same as if you asked a handful of BCU 2, 3 or 4-star paddlers.

a rough water boat
is the kayak you use just before you get a Greenland paddle.