Rough Water: Brit or North Am?

This is not an attempt to troll.

It seems like most of what you hear these days is that British Boats excell in rough water (see This is the Sea 1 & 2) and that North American designs are more intended for kinder gentler inland passage type seas (which in my experience isn’t all that gentle).

I’m hoping this will start a discussion on which if either type of boat is superior for open Ocean paddling.

I realize this is a very general question so feel free to answer in huge sweeping generalizations.

I generally think only in terms of Brit boats (I paddle an old Nordkapp) but lately I’ve been thinking maybe I should give the Nor Ams a try. A rudder might be a nice option to have (is that blasphemy?).

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Could you be more specific?
You might consider revising your question to be more specific. Like, what conditions are you referring to so when folks respond we know what we are comparing the boats against. Otherwise, like you say it is likely to be extreme opinions comparing apples and oranges.

Open ocean meaning?

Granted Some Boats Are Suited For
rough ocean conditions. I still maintain superior skilled paddler is more important than a so called “superior” boat.


Open Ocean Meaning
Non-sheltered crossings where the conditions can potentially change en route.

both are suitable…
North American style kayaks and British style kayaks (or looking at their inspired lineage baidarkas vs. greenland kayaks) are all capable of paddling very well in the ocean. Depending on your paddling preference, you might like a bow tha slices through the wave or a bow that rides over them. Same goes with skeg vs. rudder. They both do the same thing (allow you to maintain a particular direction) but in slightly different ways. It all comes down to paddler ability as the differentiating factor.

what is a NA design?
What do you mean by a NA design boat?

Seawards? Eddylines? Mariners? WS Tempests?

Impex OI? CD touring boats?

Many different types of boats in that list alone.

Are you following perhaps the descriptions/categories in the CD catalog?

Even some of these which are not Brit derived have rather good reputations for being good in rough water assuming the paddler is good in rough water.

And then, what is rough water? Surf? Tide races/rips? Large wind waves? Confused headlands?

Agree With Sing
I doubt that many of us have reached anywhere near the potential of the boats that we paddle. I know that as time has passed I am paddling in conditions now that I would not have considered a year ago. I still poop out way before the boat shows any signs of nearing it’s limit.

That said not all boats are created equal. Not all boats are equiped equally. Rough is a subjective term and not judged the same by all. Some good sea kayaks are without a doubt better in rough conditions than others, but I believe that the paddler makes a much bigger contribution to sucsess than the boat does.

Happy Paddling,


NA == CD Soltice

– Last Updated: Mar-31-06 2:04 PM EST –

PNW (pacific north west) is probably a better term than "North American".

Keep in mind that the "rough water" people are takling about is typically stuff near rocky coasts. In these waters, a shorter, more manueverable boat is appropriate.

The basic difference between the PNW boats and the "brit" boats is that the PNW boats tend to be longer and have more volume. The PNW boats are designed to haul lots of stuff. A classic example is the CD Soltice line of boats.

The "brit" boats tend to be smaller volume and more manueverable.

Since most people don't tend to go on long, well supplied expeditions, the brit boat style is generally better suited to the type of paddling people typically do.

The WS Tempest is a "brit" boat.

Thanks schizopak - both
Often the number of major expeditions undertaken in Brit boats is cited as evidence of their superiority at open crossings and challenging seas. Indeed Nordkapps and Explorers have probably been used for more miles of challanging expeditions than any other boats. This means that they are suitable for such use and preferred by those who feel best using them for such.

Recently an Epic Endurance 18 and a Valley Rapier were each used successfully for major outings that previously would have been considered in the realm of Nordkapps and Explorers. This showed that these plumb bowed nearly rockerless kayak designs are also capable.

Many boats are capable…

the This is the Sea factor…
Yes british boats are featured on many of the biggest paddling expeditions, but many of the paddlers are british as well. Also many of these paddlers are BCU paddlers and it seems that this group of paddlers tends to put higher emphasis on expedition paddling than others which would in part explain the disproportionate number of brit boats in expeditions. Plus there is the classic/nostalgic appeal. I’m sure all these paddlers have grown up reading about the exploits of the founding fathers of expedition sea kayaking who paddled Nordkapps and Explorers and wanted to follow in those footsteps. There’s circular logic in the brit boat-expedition reasoning. The original famed expedition paddlers used brit boats and taught others who wanted to also do expeditions and thus used the boats that their instructors used and if they are using those boats on big water then it must be good! I guess we just need more expedition paddlers using different types of kayaks before we can really make a fair call. I believe Jon Bowermaster used the Perception Eclipse for a few of his expeditions.

Looking at non-expedition big water paddlers, I think no one would argue that Greg Barton and Oscar Chalupsky are among the finest. They do long distance big water racing in 30-40 foot swells on their surf skis which obviously have no resemblance to a British style kayak.

CoolDoc Would Be Happy…
heck, I’ve seen Prijon being highly profiled in several expeditions to the artic and annartic in the Paddler and Seakayaking mags.

The nerve… The Prijon’s are freakin’ plastic no less. :frowning: Despite the proven expedition capability of those boats, you won’t see me in one. My butt is too small to fit. :slight_smile:


but the Prijons are definitely British style kayaks in my book. The Seayak is even referred to as “influenced by Greenland-style kayaks” whic is hilarious. (I have a Seayak for sale in WI if anyone wants one. :slight_smile: )


– Last Updated: Mar-31-06 2:21 PM EST –

this is why the whole Brit, Greenland, PNW influenced comments become kinda of weird after awhile and almost entirely dependent on the beholder.

Prijons to me look more PNW influenced than British. They are all wide in the beam. They have the stubby sterns and somewhat of a sheer upfront...

I' ll have to put my glasses on and look again. I just don't see someone packing a thermos with tea in the Prijon... If he did, the Brits would laugh at him. :D


Many boats are capable…

Kind of what I was trying to imply.

  1. PWN boats (CD Soltice): large volume, straight tracking.

  2. Brit boats (eg Romany): low volume, manueverable.

  3. Racing boats (eg, surf skis): low volume, straight tracking.

  4. True Greenland (eg, SOF): very low volume, straight tracking.

  5. Foldables (eg, klepper): wide, stable.

    All of these boats have proven “rough water” capability.

    Some boats also might be concidered as belonging in between types. Eg, the Explorer is between a “typical” brit boat and PWN boat. The Anas Acuta is in betweem a brit boat and a greenland boat.

I agree with all your points but do you really think the Explorer is a cross b/w PNW and brit? I always thought that the Explorer was THE kayak everyone was referring to when discussing British style kayaks. It would have been the Nordkapp 10 years ago but of late the Explorer seems to be the brit boat of choice.

Ok can I throw a
wrench in this? I hear and see the hull design differences and even the plastic vs glass. Ok What about the weight differences? I have a friend (yes hard to believe) and he has a britt boat. It has a very heavy layup. The boat is about 70 lbs. and 16ft. long. I bring this up because I favor my heavy75+lbs. plastic 17+ft monster kayak when the conditions are shall we say nasty. It seems to handle in rough water better than other much lighter boats I have used. So does weight play a part in this. I was told a lot of Britt boats are layed up heavy. And American boats seem to be always looking to become lighter.


Old perceptions crossing generation gap?
I think these are all becoming iconic images we have in our minds of the way the kayak market was a few years ago. When someone says “NA kayak,” I automatically think of boats like the Eclipse, Cape Horns, and Solstice. When someone says “brit boat,” I automatically think of boats like the Sirius, Explorer, and Nordcapp. Everyone is playing to the current market climate to some extent. Lighter layups, lower volumes and lower rear decks are the flavor of the day. I’m not complaining though. :wink:


Anas progeny

– Last Updated: Apr-04-06 2:10 PM EST –

Most NDK and Valley boats have Anas Acuta in their genes.

The Anas was the first sea kayak produced by Valley and all subsequent Valley boats descend from that boat. Nigel Dennis and Aled Williams borrowed a Pintail mold when they were designing the Romany. If you look at a Romany and a Pintail side by side you can see the relationship. [edits made on receiving information directly from one of the designers]

The Pintail is an Anas with rounded chines.

A thread here a short time ago included links to photos of an Anas and Nordkapp side by side. That relationship was obvious.

IMHO, the archtypal Brit boat is the classic Nordkapp - over three decades old it established the 'look' of a Brit boat.

I also differ with the assertion that the Explorer has PNW design influence. The Explorer is a strechted and slighly deepened Romany (its official name is Romany Explorer).

The Anas Acuta is Goodman's adaptation in glass of a fairly faithful adaptation of an actual West Greenland boat.

apples oranges and meatloaf
It’s all good. Try out a CD Extreme or a Mariner Express, mix in a Caribou, QCC and Futura.

back to the question
I think it might help to break down the question into handling characteristics and features rather than brit vs PNW.

Do you favour (brit bias in the spelling:-) a boat that has more or less rocker/ease of turning? Do you like a boat that can be put on edge really easily or one that takes a bit more effort to edge but has more “reserve” secondary stability after you get it up enough to enhance turning? Think of maybe a Nordkap LV vs a Romany or maybe an Elaho vs a Seward Chilco. Edging a wide boat is harder but generally has a greater effect on the hull shape in the water than on a narrow boat. Personally, I like a boat that I can point where I want to, even if it doesn’t track as well once it is there.

As far as rudders go, some boats are more dependant on their use than others and some are more affected by the presence when not deployed. Are you worried about it getting in the way landing & launching or in playing in rough water?

Finally, built into the question seems to be two points: How much stuff do you want to carry, and is there a way to make those crossings less effort to paddle?

Maybe once you hone in on what specifically you want to change, then you can look to see if there is a boat out there that does it for you. And having an excuse to try new boats is never bad!