"Sea" Kayak Vs. "Touring" Kayak

Other than length and materials. I don’t see much differnce between the two. I kayak on the largest man made lake in the country (Lake Mead in Las Vegas.) If I get out in the open lake and hit wind and waves, is the sea kayak going to be better?

Marketing jargon

– Last Updated: Jun-03-10 6:21 PM EST –

For a long time sea kayak and touring kayak were synonymous. I seem to recall that there were touring boats, whitewater boats, and rec boats.

Someone in marketing decided that they could sell more boats if they called those which were not quite sea kayaks but were more advanced than a Swifty or Pungo "touring" boats. So there is now this class of boats that might have been called 'transitional' ten years ago that are now termed 'touring.'

It’s far more than the length

– Last Updated: Jun-03-10 6:34 PM EST –

As above, a "touring boat" can be neither fish nor fowl in some manufacturer's lines, but that's not the nomenclature used by all kayak makers. So I'll assume you are talking about the 12 plus to 15 ft boats that have up to two sealed bulkheads, perimeter rigging and a tracking device (skeg or rudder). These boats will usually have a larger cockpit than a sea kayak, but smaller than a rec boat, hence more control than the latter but not as well fitted as the former... and obviously are in the middle on storage space.

The problem is - just looking at length ignores many of the handling features that have been designed into the hull, and THAT stuff is what separates the higher capability boats from the rest of the pack when the going gets rough. I can point you at a couple of newer boats from Dagger and P&H, the Alchemy and the Delphin respectively, that come in around or under 15 ft and are more capable of handling snotty stuff than a lot of older 17 ft plus kayaks. I can point you at boats in that same length that have ginourmous cockpits and behaviors that would make them very shaky in conditions in which the Alchemy and Dephin shine.

And even within "sea kayaks" there is a large variety of hull designs. If you are going to be handling rock gardens and similarly short confused stuff, probably the best boat in the basement is an original drop skeg Necky Elaho. (aside from the leaky rear hatch) If you want to go straight fast in well-formed, regular seas the best-mannered boat would be the Valley Aquanaut, a full expedition length boat. The Elaho would make life much more difficult.

If you go for skills like rolling and learning how to handle waves and surf early on in your paddling, this will all make sense to you very soon.

A rose by any other name…
Whether it was my heavy and cramped Romany Explorer, my ultralight rudderless/skegless one-off “red boat” or my just right Solstice GT, whenever I passed 100 miles or 4 days on the water it became a touring sea kayak.

And we are packing tomorrow for an 8 day trip up and down Lynn Canal.

There is no difference
they are one and the same

Jack L

a sea kayak is a
seaworthy touring kayak.

But what seaworthy is, that’s the (next) question:


Marketing Coup
That they can sell in such great numbers mountain bikes to flatlanders, and sea-kayaks to us landlocked ones speaks to their marketing prowess.

Of course, at least with kayaks they had the presence of mind to re-name them touring kayaks first.

Disagree a bit

– Last Updated: Jun-04-10 11:50 AM EST –

What is called a sea kayak is about the conditions it is intended to handle. Many who paddle the Great Lakes find conditions that are every bit as dicey as open water offshore. Perhaps the waves have slightly different shapes near shore, or are often steeper, but the difficulty is right up there. (as well as the suddenness with which squalls can come up)

Touring may or may not be part of this, as in longer paddles carrying a bunch of gear. And there are sea kayaks intended to mess around in waves that most people would not want to do long distances in.

Yes, there is the tendency to think of "sea" as having to be salt water, and that can confuse. But I don't know what else you'd use to name kayaks intended for these conditions... big swell or high wind boats? I don't think that'd make things any clearer.

Same things on bikes really. A mountain bike is about something that is equipped to go offroad thru dirt and over rocks and logs within reasonably safe bounds as long as the rider knows what to do. There are plenty of non-mountain offroad paths around here that you'd have to be missing some marbles to try with anything less suitably equipped. However, they got called mountain bikes early on and that is what most people understand to mean a bike with that kind of setup.

People get way too involved in names and labels...

I have stumbled on the word ginourmous ,but will have to look it up later…going paddlin for now …but nice word or typo ?

I misspelled it but it’s legal
It’s officially a word I guess. I really didn’t know that, figured that no one had been foolish enough to make it official. But this came up in the first couple of Google links on the thing.

From an article at http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/2007-07-10-dictionary-new-words_N.htm

“…“There will be linguistic conservatives who will turn their nose up at a word like ‘ginormous,’” said John Morse, Merriam-Webster’s president. “But it’s become a part of our language. It’s used by professional writers in mainstream publications. It clearly has staying power.”

One of those naysayers is Allan Metcalf, a professor of English at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill., and the executive secretary of the American Dialect Society.

“A new word that stands out and is ostentatious is going to sink like a lead balloon,” he said. “It might enjoy a fringe existence.”

But Merriam-Webster traces ginormous back to 1948, when it appeared in a British dictionary of military slang. And in the past several years, its use has become, well, ginormous.

Visitors to the Springfield-based dictionary publisher’s website picked “ginormous” as their favorite word that’s not in the dictionary in 2005, and Merriam-Webster editors have spotted it in countless newspaper and magazine articles since 2000.

That’s essentially the criteria for making it into the collegiate dictionary — if a word shows up often enough in mainstream writing, the editors consider defining it.

But as editor Jim Lowe puts it: “Nobody has to use ‘ginormous’ if they don’t want to.”

For the record, he doesn’t.”

ginormous is a real word, that’s unpossible!


– Last Updated: Jun-04-10 10:58 PM EST –

the manufacturer calls it a sea kayak, it is a sea kayak. If the manufacturer calls it a touring kayak, then it is a touring kayak. Construction, materials, outfitting and hull shape varies widely. What you use them for is up to you.

Glad you asked. I’m with jackl: they are one in the same.

Ray at touringkayaks.com (celebrating our 12th season)

Its not the name
Its the design and features that make a kayak appropriate for the conditions that one expects to encounter.

Are you shopping for a kayak?
Would be better to rent some boats in the 15-to-18-ft length range and see what you like and don’t like about each. See if there’s some consistency to your reactions. Don’t worry about what the marketing dept. came up with for categories of boats. Just scope each one on its own merits.

I’m assuming you are an adult of reasonable fitness and normal human size (i.e., not weighing 400 lbs). The reason I mention the length range is because Lake Mead is big, open, and does get strong wind. The longer boats get tossed around less than short kayaks.

Touring kayaks are sea kayaks
in the remainders section at the end-of-the-year sale

Touring vs. Sea
I don’t worry about the boat I look at it this way: if you can do it with no skirt it is recreational kayaking. If you need a nylon skirt it’s touring. If you need a tight neoprene skirt it’s sea kayaking. Hope that helps. :wink:

Oh man, just wait till I tell my wife…
and oldest daughter that our little nine foot Keowees that we use in the Nantahala river and in the ocean with a nylon skirt are touring kayaks !

And all these years, I thought they were rec. yaks !

Jack L

You use spray skirts?

interchangeable terms
I’d say they were the same. Perhaps a “touring” boat would just be a Sea Kayak that has less rocker and more volume so that it can haul more gear over greater distances more efficiently. Anything under 15’ with 2 bulkheads, perimeter lines, etc… would just be a glorified rec boat (transitional, crossover, day touring). Anything under 10-12’ would clearly be a rec boat, no mater what their marketing says.