After looking at strip, stitch and glue, and skin-on-frame, I think SOF is the way I want to go.

So…I plan on buying a set of plans and building from scratch.

I’m looking to build a 17-18ft. sea yak, narrow and sleek.

Any suggestions on plans and sources?

Covering/wood/fastener preferences?

Traps to avoid?

Tom Yost

Skin and coating source
8.9 oz primo ballistic nylon with 2-part polyurethane coating

Just my opinion but…

If it’s going to be your primary boat You might want to reconsider. I built a SOF about 4 years ago and never use it because it’s not as comfortable as my contemporary boats. Also not as convenient (I consider hatches convenient) and when practicing reentering you’ll find that even with airbags in the front and back, the kayak will be almost swamped after getting back into the boat.

Note: I now that an opinion like this will likely be met with anger by people that love their SOF’s but it needed to be said.


no one should be angry over that
perfectly valid opinion/observation.

@original poster: Tom Yost has many designs available that do many things. Some have likened riding in a sof to being in a hammock on the water. My son says of his Yost: “it is like getting a massage”. Comfort can be a tenuous thing in a kayak, but when you get one that fits and is fitted it can be as comfy as your favorite jeans.

I second the suggestion to look into making a Yost kayak. Great kayaks, simple to build, relatively inexpensive, pleasure to paddle. But you have to get creative if you want a day hatch! And float bags/ sea sock are fairly critical.

Cunninghams Book
The nice thing about building a SOF is that you can build it to fit you and your needs. Cunninghams book will walk you through the process very nicely. One of the benefits of a SOF is that your center of gravity is lower and you’ll feel more comfortable paddling a narrower kayak. If you use float bags and a seasock it will be very sea worthy and allow you to perform rescues easily. They make a great day paddling kayak.

SOF’s are derived from the native
people’s traditional kayaks. The paddlers of these boats invented so many different rolls because coming out of the boat usually meant death. Thus it is best to have a strong rolling ability if you plan to use a SOF as your primary boat. Until you are highly comfortable in the boat you could use a sea sock to limit the amount of water intrusion into the boat. I think you will have a great experience building your boat, that is why I am building mine. My friend owns several boats and I have never seen him in anything but the SOF.

Thanks! …but…
A couple of things after looking over Yost’s and a few others sites…

  1. Where do you put your feet? :wink: No foot pegs shown on any of the designs and the floor is skin. Also it appears that water is easily trapped between sections making bailing a chore.

  2. Like happened to me last night, I’m paddling along close to shore and run across a 3" stump. My plastic boat simply deflects and slides off, no big deal. I can’t imagine a vinyl or canvas skin doing the same thing without ripping or deforming. I understand rock abrasion but stumps and sticks are another story. Someone make me feel good about this.

No anger, just irony
"Comfort" reflects a lot more on the builder/user’s outfitting, than the type (SOF, S&G, Roto, FRP…). You can build whatever fit comfort you want with whatever method.

Don’t blame all SOF for the attributes of yours that others may not share.

To bastardize Cochran: “If it don’t fit, you must admit.”

SOF can be anything you want!!!
It’s a category of building methods - NOT a type of kayak.

Long, short, fat, skinny, high volume, low volume… whatever.


– Last Updated: Jun-16-08 8:10 PM EST –

Item 1: Look again. Most Yost builds have standard commercial rails and footpegs, attached either to teh gunnels or chine stringers. The rest have home made versions, ans some opt to use a simpler foot brace beam or omit.

Item 2: Watch the video from post above or...

Check out Cape Falcon
I built a Cape Falcon SC-1 (last years model) which is a SOF version of a modern kayak. It is ‘bomber’, as they say. Brian, who runs Cape Falcon abuses his SOF boats more than 99% of kayaking humanity and the boats take the abuse with few ill effects. And there are footpegs, backbands and floatbags (although I installed a footboard in mine). Brian surfs his current perfect boat, the F-1, in crashing 12 foot surf on the Oregon coast, not to mention week-long fishing expeditions, etc. The boats are as durable and as comfortable as you want to make them. Check out this jaw-dropping photo series of Brian in the surf:

PS - skin boats are quieter, flexier and lighter than just about anything else, but they make up for it by costing much less than the other kinds of boats, seems kind of unfair, I guess. An SOF and a GP and you’ll be a happy camper…

There really doesn’t seem to be a ‘standard’ way to build these things, except to end up with something ‘boat shaped’.

Yost leaves out all the ribs and ends up with a stout boat, and no paint to mess with.

The coverings are kind of a mystery. Vinyl/cotton/nylon/polyester…guess I have some decisions to make. Wonder if anybody uses butyrate dope/cotton/ceconite like on an airplane?

Ok, back to the footpegs…I see them now. Still don’t understand why the boats aren’t decked where your heels go. I sometimes like to stretch out my legs and relax a bit. My boat shall have ‘heel rester thingys’!

Thanks everybody for the replies!

Point taken…

Yes, I must admit that I was thinking traditional Greenlander style kayak when he said SOF. And I guess with a bit of creativity a person probably could build something comfortable. I remember at the time that I was building I thought about putting in a backband but decided against it because I wanted to make it as much like a native Greenland kayak as I could.


You can
install foot boards or anything your heart desires. That’s the great thing about SOF’s

SOF hatches
The link below has instructions for a simple PVC dry-bag style deck hatch.

This one is on an inflatable/ folder, but it will work just the same on a wood frame SOF. - 5 pages

For footbraces I normally just position a cross

section at my foot location. Standard footpegs can be used also.

I rest my heels on the skin, but you could easily glue

a small extra layer of PVC below your heels, or add a thin ply plate as seen in the link below.