Sea vs. Lake kayaking

What is the difference between sea and lake kayaking. I will be a little more precise. If I wanted to take my “ordinary” kayak in the sea at low tide when the water is relatively calm is this exceptable? What about using a sea kayak in a lake?

Thank you for your patients.

Whole lot of ground to cover…
No problem taking a “sea” kayak on lakes, not so easy the other way around. So much depends on what your “lake” boat is and what type and level of paddler you are, your location, your experience, so on and so forth. We need much more info to give insightful feedback.

more like big water vs. little water

– Last Updated: Sep-13-05 10:28 AM EST –

The term sea kayaking is used to refer to big water kayaking where the risks are higher, conditions can be more serious, and the consequences more severe. Oceans, Great Lakes, and any other large bodies of water which pose various dangers all can be considered "big water." Although kayaking is 90% ability and 10% equipment, there are certain kayaks which are made to perform in difficult conditions. While a sea kayak will be great in small ponds as well as oceans, it really comes into its own when being challenged by waves/swells/wind/etc. A recreational kayak is perfect for small/quiet water but due to its high primary stability, low secondary stability, and how difficult it is to rescue from a capsize, it isn't a good choice for kayaking in difficult conditions. If you're absolutely sure the water is calm, warm, and safe, there is no reason why you couldn't paddle big water in a recreational kayak. However, it is up to you to determine if your skills and safety precautions (self rescue techniques, immersion gear, etc.) are suitable for the conditions you plan to paddle in.

“ordinary” kayak?
Could you provide the model or description of your boat?

Presumably, a “recreational” kayak.

– Last Updated: Sep-13-05 12:46 PM EST –

A "lake" is something "smallish" and protected. Given the right conditions, one can have "sea like" conditions on large lakes.

Sea kayaks are better suited for long trips and (with skill) rougher water than a "recreational" kayak.

The other big difference between sea kayaks and recreational kayaks is that sea kayaks have watertight compartments in the back and the front. These drastically reduce the amount of water the kayak takes on. They also make it much easier to remove whatever water is in the cockpit.

Some boats with out these water tight compartments sink.

The biggest difference between sea (and great lake) kayaking is waves, wind, and distance. Keep in mind that you can be blown off shore (not a problem in a small lake).

People use sea kayaks in lakes all the time.

It would be safer to paddle with other people but, you should be fine if you paddle in conditions and situations that you can HONESTLY safely swim in. You should keep to protected waters and keep relatively close to shore.

I take my sea kayak in lakes,
the ocean, swamps and rivers. It is eighteen feet long.

I also take my little nine foot recreation kayak in lakes, the ocean, in swamps and in rivers.



dont forget this important thing
Good comments. You did forget a key factor…

Salt water and fresh water. Salt if MORE boyant thus you ride higher!!! Fresh water…is less boyant …thus lower in the water… Good example is the Great Salt Lake with is 4 times saltier than the ocean. My boat rides SO high in that it bobs like a cork and the key features in the boats design which make is stable are or have become more useless unless I put about 200 pounds of weight in the boat it weigh it down etc.


Not many lake sharks either! NM

I paddle wherever it’s wet
Ocean, lakes, rivers… it’s all good to me.

I do however prefer the ocean for a number of reasons – but mainly because there’s more life along the shore to see. Although there are exceptions, I find tidal areas to be much more exciting to explore.

I don’t think it matters a whole lot what kind of boat you have so long as you’re not paddling beyond it’s capablities.


Sonoma 13.5

– Last Updated: Sep-13-05 11:16 PM EST –

laldybug informs me that her boat is a Perception Sonoma 13.5

Sea kayaks
are long 16’-19’ so they can handle swells and waves without getting bounced around like a shorter boat. Sea kayaks also have watertight bulkheads in the front and rear so they will not sink if the cockpit swamps. They also usually have a skeg or rudder to assist in rough/windy conditions.

Your Sonoma is only 13’7" long, has only one watertight compartment and no skeg or rudder. If you plan to go out in calm conditions and stay close to shore, you will be fine. Just keep a VERY close eye on the weather.

Sonoma 13.5 should be seaworthy…
But I strongly recommend split flotation bags secured in the bow. Like folks have been saying, paddle within your abilities, be aware of the conditions, and practice skills that will increase your confidence/safety in bigger water.

I think you have the relationship between length and seakindliness pretty much backwards. There are good reasons for using a long boat in rough water–very short boats are slow–but if you’re just putzing around in rough stuff, short is great.

Lake Superior Sharks!
I seen 'em! :wink:


Lakes Vs Oceans
Lakes and oceans each have their different risk factors. Even on a small lake you can eat your lunch. The ocean is no more dangerous than inland lakes and rivers. The best advice I saw was stay within the limits of your boat. Learn what it takes to be safe no matter where you go.

Personally I love paddling the ocean where it hasn’t been ruined, for me, by development. That means Baja.

I guess depends on the Lake

– Last Updated: Sep-14-05 5:08 PM EST –

I imagine kayaking out on Lake Michigan is pretty much sea kayaking.

Taking your "ordinary" kayak out on the ocean is fine, if you just want to paddle along the shore, just know your limits, and just as important, the currents in the area, and don't paddle out so far that you are too tired to paddle back.

As far as tide goes, you don't have to wait for low tide, and actually, you would probably want to be careful about paddling as the tide is going out, especially near the mouths of rivers, bays, and other inlets, or you could be carried farther out than you want to paddle back in.

go to the ocean more often…

Care to qualify that…
…or are you just being a dick?

I live on the ocean.

I’m pretty sure I got it right. Yes, short boats are cool for surfing, but long boats are meant for distance and handling the rough water without giving you the roller-coaster ride.

Partial agreement
Built for distance, yes. As to “roller coast ride,” I suspect we’re working from different pictures of what we mean by “rough water” and/or “roller coaster ride.” What I’m referring to is the way that a long hull can be subject to more different forces at any given time as different portions of the hull are on different bits of two or more waves (or dominant wave + cross-chop), or one end of the boat is underwater in a trough while the other is waving in the air, etc.