Selecting a Kayak - Sit In or Sit On?

Here is the story. My daughter is 11 yrs old, her Aunt took her kayaking a couple years ago and she loves it. Making a long story short, I am very timid about going kayaking. I had a bad experience in a canoe growing up, and I can’t get it out of my head. I really want to do this for my daughter, and get over my fear. I did go with her once already, and used my husband’s kayak. I was really nervous, and I did fall in, but we got out of the situation, and continued on. I haven’t been back out yet, but I think my fear is a bit less now. My husband and daughter have sit in kayaks, we bought the Emotion Edge. It was highly recommended by the local outdoors center. My daughter said the Emotion Edge does not stay straight very well, and it is not as stable as her aunt’s kayak. Well, I am all about stability. I am a larger person, 5’10" and 250 lbs. I have been researching quite a bit. I think I should get a sit on kayak as it appears they are more stable than the sit in. I like the idea that if I do tip the sit on, the rescue/recovery is much easier. I have come down to 2 models that I feel fit my needs. The Heritage Redfish 10, and the Wilderness Tarpon 100. I would greatly appreciate some advice on this. We typically would be kayaking on tame rivers, recreational only.

Thanks, Karen

If your choice is down to those 2 SOTs, my vote is for the Tarpon. The Redfish is decent enough but it is a little heavy for that small a boat.

are nice stable fishing kayaks but a bit slow on flat water. I have a 120 and use it mainly for river trips during warm weather. My girlfriend loves it. Gets little use during colder months when I paddle a sit in model instead. As far as weight capacity goes, I was told to include the weight of the boat, any gear you bring, plus your own weight. You may want to go with something a bit longer then 10 feet. Have no experience with Heritage kayaks.

Before you buy a SOT,
be sure you can get back on if you capsize. It is not as easy as it looks. You don’t need another experience like your canoe experience. Kayaks that you sit in can be very stable if you get the right one. My advice is that before you purchase any kayak take some lessons. You will be surprised how much confidence they will give you. And a good instructor can deal directly with any fears you may have. Your whole perspective will change.

Sit In Suggestion?
What would be your suggestion for a sit in kayak? In my research I came up with the Wilderness Pungo100, Wilderness Pamlico 100, and the Perception Prodigy 10. Do these sound like good choices?

Go with the Pungo

S.O. T.
I suggest you sit on top.

Ocean Kayak Scrambler is a barge. Not the fastest, but very stable. Same with Cobra Fish N Dive.

Both are also heavy. Will that be a problem out of the water?

Sit On Tops
Sit on tops are more stable than sit insides. They are much easier to get into and out of. They are much easier to get back into if you happen to flip while paddling. There is much less to learn and to deal with with sit on tops. The Scrambler would be a good choice. The Ocean Frenzy would also be a good choice for a young girl. Very stable and light.

You’ve Narrowed Down to WRONG Boats
These kayaks are too small for you.

I’m a kayak dealer. DON’T buy these kayaks; you’ll be very sorry.

A good choice for you would be a larger Old Town, like the 138.

The advice you’ve been getting is horrible. If you can kneel down far enough to get into a sit inside, get one at least 12 to 14 feet long and fairly wide.

E-mail me and I’ll give you my phone number. I don’t have a kayak to sell you, but I will help if you’d like.


agree about the wrong boats
I recently bought 4 tarpon 100s for out church youth group. Great boats for the young people. I weigh right at 200 and the pastor is a bit more and both of us were able to paddle them fine but they were slow for us. But again perfect for the kids.

For your weight, I woudl recommend at the very least a 14 ft boat. It is amazing how short they start to look after a while. (I have 5 - 18 ft or longer)


Filtering thru…
I usually don’t weigh in on rec boat stuff, but I am adding up the height and weight and being female part and have to agree with the post above that says to make sure that you can do a self-rescue in a SOT before you make that a criteria for a boat. I think you are likely to find it a bit more difficult than some of the posts have indicated (I have encountered people who can’t get back onto a SOT).

The limitation that some very basic SOT’s have is that there isn’t much in the way of rigging or something to hang onto to help pull your lower bady back over the boat. That’s not a huge issue for a lot of guys because they have longer arms and let’s say a closer relationship to the deck - so they often can get away without that kind of assist. It becomes an issue for women.

If re-entering the SOT does turn out to be problematical, you may want to consider either a more featured (and likely longer) SOT or a combination of swimming lessons and a SINK, since the mid-length SINK’s almost universally have deck rigging somewhere. Or maybe swimming lessons in any case, since it is no fun being nervous on the water and greatly increases the risk of capsize if you are. A scared paddler tends to stiffen up and pull the boat over in ways that a relaxed paddler never will.

Your choice is TOO SHORT
Get at least a 12ft boat. The 10 ft length with wear you out.

The only thing slow on the river than you in either 10 ft boat will be the rocks.

Once you get over your fear and learn to paddle (I’ll bet) you will get rid of the sit-on-top and get a sit-in.

I may be a snob…
I may be a snob, but I don’t feel SOT kayaks are real kayaks. I’m sure I’ll get flamed for this, but I like the sit-in kayaks. I also have no experience with SOT kayaks, but I would think that the right sit-in kayak would be more stable because you are down in the boat, with your weight more towards the bottom of the kayak, as opposed to on top of the kayak. In any case, I’d be looking or trying out some of the sit-in kayaks with the open cockpits. There are certain models of Wilderness Systems and Perception boats that have very open cockpits. The Pungos are one example…if you do have an accident, they would be very easy to come out of the cockpit because the cockpit is so open and large, and yet you are still sitting “in” the kayak. Whatever you do, I’d definitely try quite a few different boats before you buy…in the long run, it will come down to personal preference and what you are comfortable with.

Lots of Bad Advice Here
Go to to get some accurate information about sit on tops, how to re-enter , what might be appropriate for your weight and water conditions.


– Last Updated: Aug-12-07 12:27 PM EST –

only kidding.

I don't know about your other faults but your post doesn't qualify you as a snob. It just tells us your lack of experience.

You really need to rent or borrow a SOT. I agree they aren't really what I like to call a kayak. SOTs fall more in a custom form fitted surf board class but they are stable which proves you haven't paddled one. Surf skis don't count.

You can't compare apples to oranges unless you know what an apple is.

While the Wilderness System
Tarpon series is great, better for you might be the Ride from the same maker. Its extremely stable and is easy to get back on should you flip. The new Ride paddles well, not as fast as a Tarpon, but the Tarpon 140 is going to be wet most of the time at your weight and the 160 is probably more kayak than you need or want. Other options to look at are the Hobie Quest, Native Watercraft Manta Ray, and, if you want a short but table sit on top kayak that will handle your weight, the Malibu Mini-X. The latter is a really nice short kayak that, while not fast, tracks well (goes straight when you paddle).

For a sit inside, the advice to go with a longer kayak is correct. It will have more capacity for you and paddle batter. One person advised the Old Town Loon 138, I have one, but its not a light kayak. Very stable and I love it, but it stays home much of the time in the summer because of the weight. Others suggested the Pungo and Pamlico, both by the same builder as the Tarpon and Ride. Great kayads in 12 foot or longer for larger persons. Very stable and probably the most popular recreational kayaks in that size range.

As for Celia’s concerns about sit on tops and re-enty, it should not be a problem with those I’ve mentioned. All have grab handles and most find them easy to re-enter, much easier than a recreational sit inside. If you fear kayaks and canoes, though, do take lessons. Knowing your craft and how to control it does wonders for building confidence. Also, you will learn self rescue methods.

Lots of Ideas out there
No matter what brand or type of kayak she ends up with, does anyone think a 250 pound person would be happy in a 10 foot kayak?

Not me.

– Last Updated: Aug-12-07 2:01 PM EST –

She may be happy for a short time but then the problems with the lenght and speed will become obvious.

Ok here is an alternative
that I am rally surprised hasn’t come up yet.

Take a look at the mad River Synergy. 12 footer should be just about right.


The only advice they give
is to use a paddle float and stirrup. That might or might not work, but in any event should be tested before a purchase is made.