Sit in vs Sit on top

Hi all. I am a canoe person; however my 14 year old son is looking to buy a kayak. I have a pretty good idea about how things work but what I don’t get is the sit on top versus the sit in. What is the difference? Price? Place where you are going to paddle your kayak?

I would appreciate your comments/suggestion/opinion about buying a sit on top versus buying a sit in kayak. Thanks to all and Happy Paddling!!

Location and type of use
A a person sitting on/in a kayak is more in the water than someone in a canoe. So sit insides are more attractive in colder water or weather, where having half of your body tucked under a skirt and inside the boat is warmer. (assuming use of a skirt) Kayaks are more often brought out onto big, dimensional water like coastal areas than canoes - so there is a lot more splash up and wetness of the paddler than on a flat lake.

The second part is intended use. With the exception of refined boats like surf skis and a few similarly high end sit-on-tops, your garden variety beginning SOT often offers less adequate control surfaces for managing the boat than a sit inside. Where a sit inside, if well fitting, will have thigh braces and seat sides that allow the paddler to manage the boat, the really basic SOT you see out there has maybe some straps for the leg to pull up on but really not the kind of control surfaces that are more common in a properly fitting sink.

Of course, if it’s the diff between a total barge of a SINK and a really good high end SOT, the SOT will likely be better.

Sit-on-tops are more common in warm water regions and for surfing. They’re preferred as diving or swim platforms, and by many fishermen.

Sit-on-tops have self-draining cockpits. If you capsizes or falls off a sit-on-top, you right it and climb back on. If you capsize a sit-inside, and don’t know how to roll, you have to deal with getting the water out before you can keep going.

Just like with most things, you will definitely get what you pay for when it comes to SOT’s. You can find them for as little as $300 to $400 but these are generally shorter, less efficient models…not much more than rafts really. They also lack the extra features that would be desirable for extended or touring type activities…a supportive or padded seat, dry storage, rod/equipment holders, etc. They are almost always flat bottomed which tends to make them very stable but not necessarily fast or the best trackers. Like any boat, longer equals faster and better tracking. For an older kid or adults, I wouldn’t seriously consider any SOT less than 12’…14’ or 16’ would be even better. As they are almost exclusively poly boats (and sometimes a little heavier than a comparably sized sit-in), they are pretty tough and hold up for years. There’s an abundance of used boats out there for sale. Check with some local dealers for used or demo models or check the classified’s here or in your local paper. Personally, I’m partial to Wilderness Systems SOT’s (I own a Tarpon 140) but I’ve demoed several decent models from Perception and Ocean as well…again I would lean toward the longer models for speed and tracking advantages. My 14’ Tarpon has a fair amount of dry storage, plenty of additional (and potentially wet) storage, adjustable foot braces (as opposed to the molded in foot wells of some models) and a solid back support that folds down for storage and/or transport. Current models come standard with a padded backrest and seat pads are easily obtained aftermarket (Yakpads, etc.). The scupper holes that are so great for draining away water can also let some in from the bottom as well…not really a problem for a kid or an lighter adult…just someone like me that could stand to lose 20 or 30 pounds! These can easily be plugged and any water that accumulates in the floor from paddle splash, etc. can be easily bailed or sponged out.

Thanks to all
of you guys. I do like the idea of 14’ or longer; also he’ll be doing a lot of ocean; of course you get what you pay; again thanks to all, it’s great to have the input from people who know.

I am in Northern California, and I don’t think I would want an SOT for a climate any colder than it is here.

SOTs don’t require some of the SINK skills like rolling, but it is good to have strong swimming skills as a back up

This post is not a sneak attack by
Pamlico_140, is it?

I appologize sincerely for the accusation – just paranoid.

Doubt it 'cause
there was no conclusion to buy a Palmlico 140. Unlike the end of the second thread by tontomargolis - who I think was/is the same person as the one posing as Palmlico140. The tontomargolis thread where I posted a reply asking if they were the same person got very quickly deleted - gee…

To Mr Shark
I do accept your apology. I have nothing to say but what I state in my post; info about kayaks. I think I have nothing to explain, just that I thank those who answer with valuable advice and information.

are much safer.Two rhings you you have to remember are that if you flip due to rough waters rolling or reentry with a SIS will be dificult at best.Also it’s a myth that SIS’s are better in cold waters.In such conditions you must dress for possible imersion or risk hypothermia.Some SOT’s have excellent internal and external storage capacities.Several have larger hatch’s than those on SIS’s allowing you to carry items that simply wont fit inside the smaller hatch’s common on touring style yaks.External storage of item’s in a tankwell is more secure than lashing things to the decks.While not as fast as touring SIS’s most of the 14’+ perform quite well speed/glide wise.Good luck!

I met Tonto Margolis
a few weeks ago when I was launching out of Horseshoe Cove to paddle the Golden Gate once and he was interested in buying a kayak I had for sale.

Illusion of safety

– Last Updated: Jan-17-07 10:20 AM EST –

Yes, self rescue is easier to learn in a SOT but the decks of SinKs provide a backdrop to brace on as well as attachment points to your boat. I have paddled SOTs in winter. Same rule as SinKs, dress for immersion.

Or just ignorance?

“you have to remember are that if you flip due to rough waters rolling or reentry with a SIS will be dificult at best.”

That’s entirely false. Rolling, once learned and practiced frequently, can be very reliable.

“While not as fast as touring SIS’s most of the 14’+ perform quite well speed/glide wise”

There’re SOT that are quite fast. And there’re SOT that’s quite slow. There’s no corelation between speed and whether it’s SIN or SOT!

I have both

– Last Updated: Jan-17-07 10:56 AM EST –

We have 3 SINKs and 2 SOTs. My wife prefers SINKs but my preference runs to the SOT. They are easier to get in and out of and basically more user friendly. Especially when fishing. The generally narrower SINKs are faster but there are some new SOTs out there that will give the SINKs a run for the money. Especially in the 14' range. Check out the RTM Disco. There is a link on the buyers guide on this site. Some other boats are the Hurricane Phoenix series and Current Designs Kestral. Hurricane uses a different plastic and also has some SINKs that are nice. For proper control, most SOTs need thigh straps while SINKS need thigh braces.
We were out Sunday with air and water in the 40's and wind at 10-15 mph. I was very comfortable on my SOT wearing a wetsuit, fleece shirt and paddle jacket. This was the proper dress no matter which type of boat was used unless you have a dry suit.

“Safer” is the wrong word. “Easier” might be closer to the mark. Making something easier does not automatically make it safer.

This illusion/misconception that SOTs are “safer” can make them more dangerous, as their owners may be less aware of potential trouble, and less likely practice their recoveries in conditions with full gear (which tend to be strapped and bolted all over the place making for even less safety). Also less likely to have means to repair/dewater/etc. SOTs spring leaks too, and few have bulkheads or other flotation.

“you have to remember are that if you flip due to rough waters rolling or reentry with a SIS will be difficult at best.”

Only someone with minimal skills and little SINK experience (that used to describe me not so long ago) would state this as fact. It’s obvious the poster is not speaking from the perspective of having a decent set of SINK skills. I have to wonder if the author has even done SOT remounts in rough water? It can be quite exhausting in short period surf/large boat wake/clapotis over 3’ that makes it hard to time things and keep hold of everything and has you doing many attempts as the kayak keeps flipping over on you. I used to seek out such places to practice with my (otherwise super easy to remount) SOT. On a good day the beach just outside Port Everglades gets short period surf, continuous multiple large boat/ship wakes, and reflection/wrap around from the jetty - all converging on one spot - perfect! Playing there led to outfitting changes (perimeter lines, better gear stowage, etc.), led to longer coastal paddles, and eventually grew into an interest in SINKS and a wider set of skills.

It’s the mindset often found on/attracted to SOTs that’s the problem, not the gear itself.

Like anything that requires effort/practice/skill development - kayaking pays out dividends based on what you put in. 10x so in regards to safety. Equipment is no substitute.

Good Old Tonto!
I know Tonto, and Pamlico is no Tonto!

Well I wuz wrong
I hadn’t realized from what was on pnet that anyone had met tontomargolis in person. Last posts, it seemed that he(?) had only contacted anyone via email. So, was there a masked man around too…

I’ve swapped gear with Tonto
Bought some, sold some, got some freebies. Dealings were done though either eBay or a mutual friend so I didn’t make the connection until seeing a couple of his recent posts here. Wrong coast so haven’t had the pleasure of meeting in person yet…

Anything can fail
SOT’s should be easier to get back onto for someone with little training, but I have and others also stories of people with at least average intelligence, good health and reasonable fitness who really could not get back onto their SOT after a capsize. Even in SOT’s lacking a “fishing pole” handicap. So it isn’t universal that someone will be able to self-rescue more easily in a SOT, it may just happen with better relaibility than with a SINK.

But re-entry skill is so often trumped by whether someone dressed for immersion. It’s been a while since there was a compilation of stories like “Deep Trouble”, but I’d bet that hypothermia would still be the leader in cause of fatalities or near-misses.

I have both
One point often neglected is that SOTs are colder despite dressing for immersion, because they leave more of your body exposed to the wind and spray. In a SINK, the kayak itself blocks that.

I discovered the above because there is a stupid law in state parks here that exempts “whitewater” boats from reservoir closures, such as in winter during partial ice-ups. So I am allowed to take my WW SOT (Prijon Twister) out then, but not my warmer sea kayaks. I wear a drysuit and mukluks but there is no question that without the shell of my decked kayaks, I get colder more quickly for a given thickness of insulation. It’s not just the lack of wind protection–it’s also the fact that I am literally sitting in a puddle of icy water.

Of course, in summer the same phenomenon feels GREAT.

You might end up getting one of each!