Sit on Top in extremely cold water??

Hey, I was enjoying a nice solo paddle in the passage canal of the Prince William Sound this weekend, when I saw a large kayak charter boat zoom by with several Cobra Navigator Sit on Top kayaks strapped to the back. Now, the water around here is in the 30’s even in the summer…are there really people who use SOT’s in this kind of water. If not what were the boats doing up here in Alaska. Just something I was pondering. Has anyone used a SOT in water this cold?


I suppose much depends on…
…what the paddlers would be wearing (drysuits over adequate insulating layers? Or jeans and t-shirts?), the types of conditions the boats would be paddled in, and finally, the experience level of the paddlers (no particular order of importance).

Even so, I know that I probably wouldn’t want to paddle a SOT in PWS; but then, I’m a “SINK Snob” anyway. :wink:

By the way Jeremy, do you live in the area? If so, you’re one lucky paddler! :slight_smile:



sort of
Yeah, I’m living in the area right now, but I’m an army officer so its really a temporary respite before going back to much less kayak friendly places… but hey my goal is to get as many day trips in as I can before going.


Just north of you, here in
BC, the answer is generally - no. Sure,they are used in the summer for summer activities around the lake but for 4 season paddling - no.

SOT or Sit-In you dress for the water temps…

Why would the type of kayak matter
if you are dressed properly?The only difference is that your legs are exposed in a SOT. I will admit that my butt has gotten a little cold when water got in the Tarpon seat in winter , even with dry pants on.

Our water might get that cold in the winter - sometimes.

Why not???
You simply dress for the water temperatures. Southern Jersey winter water temps get to about 34-36 degrees. I found 2 layers of expedition weight poly-p under a dry suit and you stay quite toasty in the water. One of the nice things about SOTs is you can always hop off and take a break in the water. You will see plenty of arguments that say SOTs are for warm water use only. I think those are made by people who don’t take dressing for water temps very seriously despite everyone preaching it. If you are not sure how much you need to wear to stay warm in cold water since put on what you think will work and then go play in the water. See how you feel walking out and floating around. No need to even go out in your kayak.

winter safety
No personal opinion on the matter, but several Ct. outfitters prefer SOT in winter for safety, avoiding cold water head shock, gasp reflex, etc. Capsize = still getting wet but head not upside down.

I’ve done it, paddling my SOT in Colorado early spring, water temps in the 30s and air temps in the 40’s or 50’s.

The key is to wear the right clothing, namely a drysuit with synthetic longjohns underneath, plus Chota mukluks or similar boots and gloves. Neoprene dive hood would be useful but I’ve taken the risk of doing without.

The wet ride is not a problem with drysuit on.

I agree with the outfitters Martin described: a SOT in cold water capsize might actually be safer for most people, due to the paddler’s immediately being floated up to the surface as long as he’s wearing a PFD. Remounting a SOT literally takes a few seconds, almost as fast as rolling a SINK.

Depends on SOT

– Last Updated: Aug-18-05 1:04 PM EST –

I can remount a typical short, wide SOT pretty damn quick, but remounting some performance SOTs like the Heritage Shearwater, or Seda Revenge, is not that easy.

Remounting a surfing SOT while getting pounded by 4' beach break is another story entirely, but in beach break there is not enough water to roll, with an SOT you just hop off.

I’ve done it
Down here in winter, though I think temps usually hover in the mid 40s December-February, so some may not consider that really cold water, but I do. Generally for a short paddle in those kinds of temps on my SOT I wear long underwear, fleece jacket and pants, and my sailing foul weather gear (bib and jacket). I’ve never dunked, but I’m mostly paddling in a shallow (2-3’) protective cove near my house, so if I do I’d just stand up and go home to get warm. When I was on the sailing team in college, I capsized in water that cold on more than one occasion without wet suit or dry suit. If you are where you can get warm soon, it is not a big deal, but the times I have done longer paddles in the winter where I wasn’t right by the house I have always worn my dry suit with Polartec 100 underwear on underneath.

Here in VA
we can paddle all year if you so choose. But you need to dress for the conditions. I have several paddle/fishing buds that use SOTs even in winter. They’re usualy in Neoprene or Dry Suits and polar fleece. And we ALL carry the cold weather/water survival gear that will allow use to change clothes, start a fire and spend a couple of hours on the bank warming up in case of a dump. Just doesn’t make sense any other way. Of course we’re usually on low gradient, shallow rivers for the most part…you take a swim, you stand up, walk to the bank and take care of business.

I don’t think my skills and or gear will allow me to do open water in the dead of winter…so I choose not to.

SOT in the winter
I paddle SOT’s all year in Rhode Island. Winter water temps can be as low as 28*F in the bay (when ice is forming), and lower thirties on the open coast. You just dress properly, giving particular attention to head / hands / feet. For touring, I use a drysuit. For surfing / rock gardens, I use a wetsuit. I know, I know, a wetsuit is unsuitable for the coldest winter weather in New England, but thousands of winter surfers, and myself, are just too dumb to figure this out…but then, why do we stay warm?