sit vs. sink

would someone please tell me the advantages of a SINK over a SOT kayak. Which one is more unsinkable and which one is easier to re-enter while in the water.

I’ll try

– Last Updated: Apr-04-13 4:08 PM EST –

I'm bound to get hit in the head for some things but I'll try to be fair.

SOTs are generally more stable (surfskis not being included in this discussion). They are technically easier to get back on but strength or other physical issues can still make re-entry a problem for some. They are generally better for fishing due to handling gear and better if you need to get in and out a lot along a shore or perhaps for diving. They are often wider which while it helps stability can hurt speed and handling in rougher waves.

SINKs are better at letting the boat be and extention of your body to give better control especially in rougher waters. You sit lower which gives some stability to offset what may be lacking by being narrower. Being typically narrower they tend to be faster (again I'm leaving surfskis and similar SOTs out of this for now). Being "inside" gives you some additional protection from cold especially wind. SINKs generally require more skills for rescue and balance but gaining those is often part of the fun.

In general only SINKs that lack bulkheads (like many small recreation types) are easily sinkable. So in the category of very cheap boats the SOT is often less sinkable.

Both come in a variety of lengths and widths so one must adjust everything I said a bit for each boat.

SINKs with two bulkheads
Will not sink unless the bulkhead or the hatches are compromised. SOT’s are usually considered to be easier to get onto from the water, but I have known of people who couldn’t.

It is more important to find out why you are asking. Where do you want to paddle - what kind of water, etc?

magazine article
There is an article in the current issue of California Kayaker Magazine on different boat types which talks about this. can be read online for free at

Expression 11.5
Does anyone have an opinion on the Expression 11.5 by perception. I have only been on a class II river in a sot a few times and the most fun was when I used a Frenzy in the surf. but I would like to get into more of a touring type if I can develope the skills needed. I think what I need is a transitional kayak.


I am a whitewater guy who started out in SOTs because they were stable and fairly easy to self rescue with. In the recreational category, it’s hard to beat an inexpensive SOT for light paddling and ease of self rescue. You flip it over and crawl back on – some upper body strength and the right technique make it pretty easy, but you can add a stirrup using a paddle and webbing for anyone who has trouble.

Recreational SINKs rarely have both bulkheads and even those that do take a good bit longer to get back in and get all the water out. It can be done, even in rough seas, but it can be difficult even with assistance.

In the performance models you can certainly get SINKs that are unsinkable and SOTs that perform very well.

Because SINKs are typically narrower, they are easier to roll than most SOTs, but once you learn to roll with good technique, even a 31 inch wide SOT isn’t beyond reach (I have rolled a Torrent many times). Once you have a solid roll, the SINKs are awesome in terms of performance and self-rescue (rolling takes very little time).

Much of which is best depends on what you want to do and how warm the waters are (SOTs aren’t much fun in cold water and weather). Likewise, trying to rescue a recreational SINK is almost impossible out on a lake in rough conditions. I always keep a SOT or two for buddy boats – the stability and ease of use (and self rescue) are tough to beat. I paddle a SINK about 99% of the rime (mostly whitewater).


a really good point there
All SINKS are definitely not equal, given the presence or lack of bulkheads.

even if SOT/SINK were equal
sit on tops are generally much heavier and harder to transport. Making the SINK much easier to grab and go for a quick spin on the water.

IMO anything making it easier to get out on the water is a good idea.

sweejay, I don’t think you answered
Celia’s question(s). It really would help in getting you good advice.

The more folks here know about you (strength, experience, size) and what water you plan to boat on (warm, flat, ocean, river, where, when), the more help folks here can be.

Totally agree that making it easy
to get out on the water should is an excellent goal. I also agree for that for the longer (14ft and up kayaks) the weight of the sit-on-tops is a big disadvantage. But at the shorter, “recreational” end (12ft and down), things are not so clear. Little SOTs like the Frenzy are not significantly heavier than SINKs, are more robust, less prone to flooding and easier to enter and exit. Side handles really help though.

jcbikeski has done a good job at
summarizing the general differences and pretty much spot on. I know because we have both in our fleet of 12 kayaks and one old aluminum Grummen.

Each SIT and SOT are good for different situations and body types.