SOT Comparisons

-- Last Updated: Jul-30-07 2:15 PM EST --

My wife has recently surprised me by commenting that she would like a small boat of her own to accompany me on outings from time to time. While I'm happy she is interested, I'm now faced with the usual research and purchase process. The main factors she is concerned about are stability, ease of entry/exit and weight. I'll add that as she is a relatively inexperienced paddler, my concerns are with tracking and manueverability. I think an SOT is the best way for her to go and I'll probably end up buying a pair of them so we'll be compatible in speed, etc. while out on the water. I'm also looking for something that out oldest daughter might easily grow into within the next few years (she is 6 now). To follow is a list of models I've been looking at online so far:

WS Tarpon 120
WS Ride 135
***Perception Search 13 (removing from list for lack of demo options)
Mad River Synergy 12 (SOT/Canoe hybrid)
LL Manta Ray 12
Ocean Prowler 13
Native Ultimate 12 (not technically a SOT)
Hurricane Phoenix 13 & 14 (taking the 12 off the list...doesn't seem to be well outfitted)

I'm shooting for something in the 12-13 ft range to keep the weight down but still have a decent degree of tracking. I'd go as long as 14 if the weight is within reason (the closer to 50 pounds, the better) so I included the Phoenix 14. Price isn't a major concern as most of these models are within $100 or so of each other. Most of these models are available locally to demo (which I will be doing soon) but I was hoping for some input from some of you who may have tried and/or owned one or more of these models to aid in the process.


If you can demo …
… you don’t need our biased input.

Seriously (but that said, I do have a couple suggestions below).

I’ll probably take some heat here from the “my fat 12’ 60+# boat does “X” so much better than those other 60+# 12’ boats” types, but with casual fun boats like those you list only two factors to really consider:

  1. On water fit/feel
  2. Color

    Only you two can decide what you like for either.

    If you find lighter ones you like, so much the better. The usual stuff people rate like tracking, speed and maneuverability are largely paddler dependent (are they even rateable on boats in this class?), so again - you’re back to the demos.

    Depending on paddler size I might thing about getting two different kayaks- and if you’re significantly larger than her make my default suggestion of a Tarpon 160 (Worth the weight! L). Maybe something more like a 140 or other slightly shorter/lighter option from your list for her…

    Another thought - and something a lot less barge-like - with rave reviews all around - would be the RTM Disco. 14’ x 26" x 45-50lbs depending who you ask.

    Depending on your own weights/needs maybe just get 2 Discos. Though slightly less initial stability then some of those 30" wide barges, this should not be an issue for a female with lower COG.

    Lot’s of info here:

    Mfg page here:

    Going by profile, closest dealer to you is probably Scuba Ventures in Shreveport. We’ve got almost 40 dealers in FL now…

SOT Heritage Redfish 14
is my favorite fishing vessel. Tracks very well without rudder. Lots of storage…but 70+ lbs. A local shop here sells the Redfish 12 for $688 (65 lbs) The 10 ft version is a little less weight and $ and would be great for a kid.

RTM Disco
I had never even heard of RTM until this post but it looks like they are pretty well established and respected in Florida. I may give them a closer look based on your and “Cap’n Jimbo’s” reccomendations. Actually, the dealer in Destin, FL is only about 3 hours (maybe a little less) from me so I may check them out sometime soon. While reading his (Jimbo’s)review and noting that RTM was the original designer of the Scupper Pro, that really got my attention. I had actually demoed a Scupper Pro 2 or 3 years ago (probably the last year they were available from Ocean) and had really liked it then. Thanks for the input and the links!

Try this site

Thanks for bringing up Heritage. There are actually 3 Heritage dealers within a couple of hours of me, at least 1 of which demo’s boats. Since I’d be looking to buy 2 boats, the lower cost is definitely appealing but the higher listed weights are a concern. I’ve come to take a lot of those listed weights with a grain of salt as they all seem to be lower than actual weights.

If you like Scupper
RTM Tempo is basically the same kayak as the Scupper. Disco seems like it migh be more interesting though.

Demos vs. Reviews
I wouldn’t dream of buying any boat without demoing first but a good review or word of mouth from someone else certainly is helpful. Usually demo’s are short (maybe 30 or 45 minutes at best)and under good conditions. In that short of a time period you may not think to try or look at everything. It’s good for someone to say “make sure you look at (blank)” or “it acts (blank) in a cross-wind” or “after 3 months I realized (blank)”. All comments and opinions are appreciated!

I assume you’re buying new. I’d buy her an Ocean Kayak Scrambler because it’s cheap,fun and light(around 45 lbs) Other than the slowness, it was a great little boat(i owned one)

tarpon 120, stable as a rock, reasonable weight, also very slow.

I also owned(was my ex’s boat mostly) a Prowler 15, which was fairly quick on flatwater,stable as a rock, BUT, it would slow way down in ocean chop and it was an utter monstrosity to handle on land by one person.I suspect the 13 is even slower and not much easier to handle on land.

Consider a necky sit on top if you can find one used, Dolphin or Dorado. I had a dolphin out for a day and it definetely wasn’t quick but it seemed to keep the pace fine through chop and swell,and very stable unlike what some reviews say.

My brother has the Phoenix 14.
Very attractive, quick boat. I had a hard time keeping up with him in a Pungo 120. The Phoenix cockpit was too short for me, but I’m 6’6".

My favorite SOT is the Kestrel

A little pricey but at 39lbs. and handling similar to a SINK. She may keep up with you in this boat.

Go demo a Seadart or whatever
it is called now. It’s 14’, it will keep up with SINKs, it is stable and seaworthy. It is a little bit heavy, use wheels to move it if that is a big issue. You get a lot more boat with 2’ of water line for faster paddling, the 8 lbs difference does not really matter, once you learn how to lift the boat onto the car.

All are good kayaks, depends on the
use you plan for them. and are great places for imformation about SOT’s. also sells kayaks over the net, often with better pricing even with delivery. The outfit has a good reputation. The two are the largest sites dedicated to SOT’s, as well as kayak fishing.

I like my Disco, its sporty than most SOTs, but its a wet ride. Could be a problem, especially if you paddle where water quality is questionable.

If you like the Scupper Pro there are plenty used ones around. I see a tankwell for sale in Tallhasse here on the PNET Classifieds. If you could come up on a matching Scupper Classic for her, you would indeed be old school styling.

Trust me, new SOTs don’t stay shiney long if they get used.

Tarpon 120, Search 12 or manta ray 12
all three of those should suit your needs.

Narrowing the List
I’m taking the Perception Search 13 off the list due to lack of local demo possibilities.

I’m also going to take the Phoenix 12 off the list as it seems a little light on outfitting. I’m also not a fan of the molded in foot wells which may also bump the Ocean’s off the list (although I have demoed Prowlers in the past and liked them pretty well).

I’m not necessarily looking for something exactly like a Scupper, I just thought that it was a good boat when I tried it in the past. It’s design tie-ins with RTM made me give them a second look for their current models.

OK/RTM Scuppers/Tempos…
…are probably very good bets.

But I’m biased -check my handle.

We started out on SOTs -first with a big ole’ barrel of a boat, the OK Malibu II. Big, wide -wiiiiiide, LOL! at 34", and short for its beam at 12’. Stable as land. Heavy as lead (around 65#). A great workout paddle when performed solo.

Moved on to our Scupper Classic, which Sally likes and paddles, which comes in under 50#, and my S-Pro TW, which is now my fishin’ yak, and comes in around 55. As you’ve noted, both paddle relatively well as SOTs, and their weights will work for you. I can easily lift them solo atop our haulers and their racks, one of which used to be a Jeep Grand Cherokee (recently departed) of typical SUV+rack height. With two people, it’s a snap. Boat weights are generally not an issue on the water, but become increasingly important with distance to be carried, heights of cartops and storage racks, and age. I turn 60 in 6 months, LOL!

Even after coming from the barge-like M-2, we found them stable. These days, having moved to SINKs with even narrower, ~22" beams, we find them even more stable. Their stability should work for both you and your wife.

As previous posters noted, they are wet rides. Then again, kayaking is a wet sport; dress not for success but wetness, and you’ll -for the most part -be OK. The S-Pro is always wet with my 200 +/- lb., but their mostly dry with Sally’s far lioghter weight.

The S-Pro, with its deep-set seat, can be easily paddled sans add-on seat; I use mine strictly with just a backband set atop the rear coaming. The Classic is best paddled with a mid-rise typical SOT seat. Possibly as a result of paddling SINKs, possibly just because that’s the way we feel, we tend to prefer boats with more connectivity and fit, so wide seats with lots of ‘butt slosh’ we find a little awkward & uncomfortable.

And these are tough boats -rocks and boulders up north are nothin’ compared to coral rock down here in South Florida and the Keys with its sometimes near knife-sharp outcroppings. The PE can be (and I’ve done it) easily repaired as well.

And they can be found used as also previously noted, also a good thing. The S-Pro can be had with a TW, a tank well, a depression aft of the seat which I call its truck as it can hold all sorts of things -coolers, dry bags, fishing boxes, fishing crates, gear crates, etc., a very useful attribute indeed.

The RTM Tempo is basically the ‘new Scupper’. I found the Disco the only ride wetter than the S-Pro. I think I was perhaps a tad large for it when I demoed it -it rode low in the water and swamped when sitting still, draining when under way, with my at-the-time 205#. Now, at around 196-197, it might not be too bad.

All that said, and these are indeed good boats for what you seem to be looking at, some of the others noted are also good. The CD Kestral and the Hurricane Phoenix can be light in glass or hardshell plastic, the latter of which will take a beating and still look new like glass, while glass, if not necessarily ‘babied’ but just treated halfway decently, will be able to be kept up fairly well, as well.

All save the Phoenix have stepped foot wells, which don’t bother me at all. Indeed, I wonder more about whether I might break a foot peg, and I note that footpegs can be uncomfortable if pressed too hard for too long with feet shod in thin-soled shoes or booties, whereas stepped foot wells can be paddled barefoot for quite a while quite comfortably -for me and my wife’s 6’ & 5’-7" frames, respectively.

But Greyak has a point, too: for REALLY recreational paddling -at least initially -color and comfort are probably the biggest concerns. And you also seem to understand that a demo paddle answers more questions than do we. More importantly, it’ll probably do a lot more for your wife, as you two start to


-Frank in Miami

Thanks Frank

– Last Updated: Jul-30-07 4:12 PM EST –

Thanks for your thoughts Frank. I've been paddling going on 3 years now and actually started out in a SOT...the Tarpon 140. We added a tandem (Pamlico 135) to the family and while it worked out pretty well for my oldest daughter and I (she's 6, around 50 pounds) my wife and I never "clicked" in the tandem. Now she's willing to give it another try although with a boat of her own. I traded in my SOT a few months back for a light touring boat as I wanted something I could use year 'round...the Tarpon was just a little too wet of a ride to be enjoyed in the late fall and into the winter, even here on the upper Gulf Coast. I'm thinking that a pair of 12 or 13 ft boats may be just the right fit for she and I do float some of the local blackwater creeks and occasionally do some Class I's farther north.

Demo, Demo, Demo
Well, I took an hour or two out of my morning and went and demoed some of these boats I have been pondering. Here’s some of the results (IMHO):

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120: A drier ride than the 140s I’ve paddled in the past but significantly less speed and tracking than either the 140 or 160i (no surprise there), visually attractive boat, pretty mediocre performance

Heritage Redfish 12: Extremely stable and pretty decent tracking, heavy hull drags down speed more than I expected, broken foot peg on almost new demo boat makes me question overall quality, again-pretty mediocre

Native Watercraft Ultimate 12: Stable and tracked relatively well, skeg wasn’t working on demo model, maneuvered very well-did a 180* in 2-3 strokes, comfortable seat, liked oversized footpads but tracks they were in continually slipped from position. Quality level is a concern due to problems with foot tracks and skeg. Paddled slightly better than 2 above models.