sit-on or sit-in

I am ready to purchase my first kayak for Florida streams and intracoastal waterway. People seem to have strongly held opinions on whether to get a sit-on or sit-in. I want to wear regular clothes, and not a bathing suit when I kayak, so I think I want the dry inside. Can someone give me the pros and cons of the two choices. Thanks, Steve

Regular clothes???
Get a Lexus…

If you are not being disingenuous, let me tell you that kayaking is a WATER sport. You will get moist somewhere no matter what.

SOT and quick-drying “regular” clothes
When it’s hot, my sprayskirted SINK steams my lower body.

You can paddle without the sprayskirt, but if you are going to do that you might as well use a SOT, given your warm climate there.

There are synthetic, fast-drying, UV-protecting shirts and pants that look like regular clothes. Can be bought at decent prices from Sierra Trading Post and Campmor, both of which do mail order and Internet order.

Are you going to paddle all year?
If yes, I would get a sink. It can get pretty chilly even down in the keys in the winter.



big debate
if you cruise around kayak and kayak fishing sites, you’ll see there’s HUGE debate on this.

How I see it:

SOT: -Safer because you can’t sink them (as long as you don’t smash the hull. In which case you have bigger problems).

-A wetter ride for obvious reasons

-You have to be more thoughtful about storage. Can’t just throw gear in the boat and go.

SIS: -Drier in normal conditions.

-less concern about storage (see comment above)

-you need a spray skirt if you’re heading for rougher water.

-more difficult self-rescue if you fall out.

-if big enough, you can tandem paddle. SOTs have to be designed for tandem paddle if both paddlers want to be comfortable

Words of caution: Lots of new paddlers look at a SOT and think they don’t have to worry about swamping it or self-rescue. These are skills that should be known and practiced regardless of boat type. No design is a substitute for a PFD, safety equipment, and good judgement.

You have to dress for the possibility
of falling in the water and taking a swim, whether you paddle an SOT or a SINK, so you may want to consider how comfortable you will be dressed to swim, given your year round air temps. You may decide that paddling in relatively flat water with splash pants on over your “dressed to swim” clothes isn’t so hot as being in a sink. You may find that you stay dry enough without splash pants with certain SOT designs and that you aren’t so hot. Sometimes getting wet is is a good thing when paddling-you can get hot!

Personally, I find that storage is less of an issuse for me with a SOT. I find it harder to access gear when paddling my sink. That may because of the cockpit layout of my SOT’s, and the fact that I don’t like cluttering up my deck when paddling a SINK (seems to interfere with my stroke)

As for safety, I would do a little research about my conditions and then take a class or two and rent both types of boats, and see which type will be the better, more comfortable, starter boat for me.

I think Tom Holtley’s site has some good info on hypothermia and SOT’s. Here is the link:

I paddle both types of boats. I think it is hard to find a high performance SOT for touring with others, especially with experienced paddlers covering any distance. However, I love the comfort of the open cockpit design. I am physically more comfortable in an SOT, and if you fish or dive, they make a great platform for these activities. However, I much prefer the way my sink handles any conditions and paddles when trying to cover any distance. I just like the way it moves through the water:)

I also agree that SOT’s are usually safer. However, if you paddle in water that gets really cold or rough, I do believe developing good skills and paddling in a SINK will be safer, as it will minimize your time in the water. Self rescue skills in either type of water are necessary and should be practiced periodically. A comfortable PFD is worth the cost!

just throw gear in the boat and go?
I wouldn’t recommend a lot of loose gear with ANY kayak.

Just my personal preference, but I like gear stowed securely (still accessable if needed) and decks clear.

Florida? First kayak? SOT 100%
Get a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 160 or Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro. Unless you will never go more than a few miles - then get any SOT. Those two will let you cover some distance and tackle more open water as your skills progress.

Practice getting on and off in water over your head many times when first getting aquainted.

SOTs have less gear to deal with, are easier to launch and land, and easier to swim/snorkel/dive/fish from if you are interested in those things.

After a while, if you really get the padlding bug, you may want more speed. At that point you can go to SINKS or even Surf Skis (which are still SOTs).

I put 1400 miles on a WS Tarpon 160. Mostly ICW, bays, and ocean. Not one bad thing to say about it - many good things. I never had any trouble keeping up with SINKs on it either.

Big 2nd on Greyak’s suggestion.
I live in northern SC and paddle a Tarpon 160 year round, but in Fla. a SOT has to be the boat of choice. I just spent half a day on the Myakka and half a day in the intercoastal waterway near Sarasota. The Tarpon is the perfect boat.

As for regular clothes, your butt and other body parts will get wet in SINK or SOT so fast drying synthetic clothes are the ticket.

I can’t imagine anyone recommending

– Last Updated: Apr-11-04 6:41 PM EST –

keeping a lot of loose gear on deck:) I simply find it easier to reach secured gear when paddling an SOT, as I am not having to fiddle with getting past my spray skirt. Also my day hatch is a pain!

your blood is too thin from living in South Florida to long!! Ive used my Sot in below freezing temps, no problesm just dress like you would for any other boat in the weather!

Me 3… also Get the thigh straps!!

Another SOT vote here!
The Tarpon and Scupper Pro are good recommendations and for my 2 centavos add the Heritage SeaDart to your list to try before you buy.

Sinking SOTs
There is one way to sink an SOT, and it has happened. Don’t get caught in big swells with an open hatch…

Hey, it never happened to me, but it has happened…

One More
If you want to dive or fish you shoud get an SOT. Otherwise, just get what you like. I would also look at the Ocean Kayak Prowler SOT.

If you wear cotton jeans in any boat you will get your butt soaked. It will take a long time to get dry in the Florida humidity, and you will be very uncomfortable in the meantime…Wearing jeans soaked in saltwater in extreme heat and humidity also leads to some interesting skin problems…

His and Hers

– Last Updated: Apr-13-04 10:34 AM EST –

My husband paddles a Tarpon and loves it. His size makes it more comfortable for him. As for me, I have a Carolina SIS. I tried a SOT and did not get the back support I needed (though I could have at a very large price). I have grown up in Florida and have a ferocious respect for the gators that are in the lakes, rivers and bayous. I feel safer in my SIS, because if I get a gator bump, I don't feel like I will instantly fall over board, or be so exposed as I would be in a SOT. I do not use a spray skirt - don't feel the need, since I am not sea kayaking. As for comfort, I use an inflatable seat, Swift paddle, my Waldie shoes and I am set to go!

The main pro of a sit-in
kayak, to me, is the ease of control of the boat. With a sit-on-top, you’re basically flat to the water all the time. With a well-fitting sit-in, you can edge and lean the boat, roll it right over, hang upside and look for lobsters for a while, then roll back up, or scull peacefully on the surface of the water, looking at the clouds. Handling a sit-in boat involves a lot more balance. You can spend years learning different rolling techniques. To me, it’s a lot more fun, overall.

That said, I’m waiting for the arrival of my first sit-on-top–a racing “surfski” that won’t respond to leaning and edging like a sit-in, but will have its own advantages (in the case of a surfski, raw speed).

Depends a lot on what you want to do with the boat, as others have said.


not entirely
"“With a sit-on-top, you’re basically flat to the water all the time.”"

A fat, stable sit-in is just as unpleasant. I’ll use my brief experience in a Castine as my basis for that assertion.

If that ski that you’re ordering fits correctly, leaning will be useful to enhance turns. I’ve got a racing ski and once I got my balance straight I was able to lean the thing completely on its side. It turns a lot sharper when leaned in concert with the rudder. It isn’t nearly as dynamic as paddling a good sit-in though.

Unless one intends to learn the skills to fully enjoy a good low volume playful sit-in (roles, etc…) then I think a SOT is the choice for Florida if you live anywhere from the central FL south. It’s hot down here.

Au contraire Sanjay.
A narrower SOT with thigh straps can be controlled much like a SINK. You are right, it can’t be edged quite the same way, but you can still get some good performance out of a Tarpon 160.