I’m finally going to get my OWN kayak and wondering what my best bet is…first, sit on top or inside? I will mainly be on pretty gentle rivers but do want good handling if I get in some mild white water while also having the ability to use it on the ocean OR in a lake…so something pretty all-purpose but mostly suited to rivers. I’ve only ever used sit inside kayaks and like the closeness to the water but there are things about the sit on top that appeal, like more freedom of movement and exposure to the sun and air. I LOVE kayaking and feel very comfortable with it but am definitely a beginner. Any advice greatly appreciated!
Where do you live?
If you live in a northern state get a SINK if you plan on paddling in the spring and fall, (think cold water splashing on you)
If you live in Florida or a place where it is warm year round a good SOT might be just the ticket
In my area protection from the sun and year round use make sit in kayaks the right fit. Sit on tops have an appeal in warm weather but for year round performance traditional kayaks can’t be beat.
I can sit on top of any of my kayaks.
But it sounds like you have broader goals than you can satisfy with just one boat. If you get into whitewater to any extent, you can pick up a used WW boat for maybe $400. For flatwater, as the other folks said, it depends on what value you put on being warm and dry. There are a few SOT kayaks that are pretty fast and handle pretty well, but most of them are just warm water fun platforms without any serious pretension at covering miles or surfing.
SOTs are easy to scramble on and off for activities like snorkeling. Most can self-rescue pretty well on an SOT, even if they haven’t mastered other open water technique, and the boat doesn’t require pumping out. For anglers, scuba divers, etc., there’s usually convenient gear storage or mounting points.
The drawbacks include that SOTs offer a smaller selection of performance models and materials. Outfitting generally provides a softer lock for boat control. Lack of a cockpit rim usually makes them a little more unwieldy for racking up, etc. Models with hatches are vulnerable to swamping should one fail. There’s less protection from the elements.
Weigh the pros and cons against your intended usage.
Liquid Logic Coupe SOT
is designed to be good on rivers and even some whitewater which sounds like what you are after. I'm not saying a SOT is right for you (you gotta judge), but if you want SOT, check out the Coupe. Just be sure to know that with an SOT you may be sitting in a bit of water much of the time -- the water comes UP the self-bailing drain holes as well as down them. As others have said, in warm water, probably no problem.
I personally prefer the feeling of a sit inside, and around here the water never warms up much. When I have used a sit on top, I typically wear a wetsuit which will give a SOT a bit more range -- my SOT experience is mostly whitewater where getting wet is just part of the deal.
convenience vs extention of your body
SOTs have the sit and go advantage that can be handy a lot of times especially if diving from the boat or getting in and out a lot.
A well fitting sit inside can become an extension of your body much like other sports liking skiing. It can be very rewarding and powerful in many condition to be able to make small shifts in body position and weighting and have that translate quickly to the boat’s behavior. This is one reason why I don’t favor tandems since they give up some of this advantage.
Good thigh straps and such on SOTs can approximate this advantage but I’m not sure it totally matches it.
What is always tricky about these questions is that what you want and hope for in kayaking now may be very different from a year from now if you get out a lot and especially join in with others that have good skills.
Try them out and decide … also
Go here for more information on Sit-On-Tops
posters on this forum tend to have little first hand knowledge.
You all very well answered my inquiry. I do want to be close to the water, have navigational options, and learn to grow with the boat, the water, the whole experience and i don't think SOT would best serve me. I'm definitely going with a sit-inside. Thanks for helping me see and know that.
where I live
I live in between - the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I’d like to kayak at least three seasons of the year, so that, combined with other advice I’ve received, has me pretty well convinced to go with a sit-inside. Thanks!