SOT touring kayaks or surfskis??

I need some advice from more experienced kayakers regarding SOT sea kayaks. I’m looking for one that

  1. is fast and efficient (much more so than an average SOT), tracks well but is still pretty maneuverable, and fun to paddle

  2. can handle ocean chop, swells reasonably well

  3. is decent for light touring (i.e. has some storage and is still comfortable after 4-5 hours)

  4. costs around $1000 (or less) – which presumably limits things to plastic

    Most recreational SOT’s I’ve tried seem to handle like barges (and have questionable secondary stability, so might not be so good in the ocean), so I’m looking for an SOT that is faster, better in the ocean, and more like a touring kayak than a typical SOT. I’ve recently heard about so-called Surfskis – they certainly sound fun and it seems like they might fit the bill in certain respects – I’d be interested in hearing more about their comparative advantages/disadvantages.

    I would appreciate both (a) any general thoughts or advice, and especially (b) recommendations for specific makes/models of kayaks that might come reasonably close to satisfying 1-4 above. Thanks!

At your experience level

– Last Updated: Jun-22-08 7:53 PM EST –

You will find that a WS Tarpon 16 or Heritage Seadart would give you more performance than you need. Both are fine for ocean paddling and don't paddle like barges. There are a few faster SOTs but you would run into issues with stability where you really don't gain very much. Check out the website for suggestions for the latest fastest SOTs.

If you think stability is a big issue a high performance surf ski is not where you want to be looking. To novice paddlers they seem extremely unstable.

Tarpon 160
is a pretty popular hull down here for fishermen who paddle longer distances to reach the fish. For a SOT it seemed to handle pretty good when I did some short test paddles (I am normally a narrow SINK paddler). It has a rear tank well instead of hatch so some of your storage would have to be in dry bag above deck.


Another Option

I went with a Ocean Kayak 13’ Prowler
and am very happy with speed, stability, tracking, and weight at 54lbs. I may have even gone with their 15’ Prowler (56lbs), but dealer did not have one in stock. OK did an excellent job with this kayak: handles are located for perfect balance, large and well fitted front hatch, area with strap for electronics between and in front of legs, very large rear cargo area (my Border Collie loves it), and very good glide. Happy guy here.

RTM Disco?

Another vote for the Tarpon 160.
Not quite as fast as a ‘sea kayak’ but handles some pretty nasty water with thigh straps and is reasonably fast. Also look at a Hurricane Phoenix 160. A drier ride than a Tarpon and a very quick boat.

tarpon 160
Though I’m still a novice, I’m not especially worried about primary stability (i.e., initial tippiness isn’t a major concern – I figure I’ll get used to it). That said, would you still recommend a Tarpon 160 over a surf ski for a fun-to-paddle sot that can serve as a fast, light-touring kayak that is decent in the ocean?

specific advice
Thanks. do you have specific advice/recommendations regarding these surfskis?

hey string

– Last Updated: Jun-23-08 1:14 PM EST –

speak for your self. I too like the Tarpon 160 and find it every bit as fast as a normal sea-yack. matter of fact i have dusted quite a few normal seyacks in it. that said No its not as fast as my QCCs. how ever the Tarpon 160 is as close to a do it all boat that you will ever find, and if you can find one of the older models it had front & rear hatches that were huge! i am not fond of the tank well. wish they would make a tarpon 180!! I too am looking at a futura surf ski with hatches, that wil probbally be the next boat i get.

getting started

Your best bet is probably to find a dealer who rents and/or offers instruction on entry-level skis.

Non-barge SOTs
Check the classifieds on P-Net,, and craigslist for used Heritage SeaDarts, Expeditions, Nomads, and Shearwaters - any of these SOTs can meet your requirements.

Have owned a few sit on tops and paddled
a few more so I will share my experiences. A surfski, while fast really will not have space to take along camping gear. Some have limitted below deck storage. I recently purchased an older Futura surfski for $300 that is 15’x 24" and like it but find I want to add on thigh straps and maybe a seat belt for rougher water paddling. No below deck storage but I store a few things in a dry bag inside a deck bag and it my stuff stays dry. Tarpon 16 is a nice boat. A fair amount of under deck storage. Holds a really decent pace without too much effort. I have attained speeds of 35mph with a Tarpon. Seda Revenge, same thing only in fiberglass. I had an Aquaterra Prism as one of my first boats and did a fair amount of ocean paddling. I bit shorter than the Tarpon but a decent boat. Heritage Shearwater is basically a sea kayak without a cockpit. Heritage Nomad is a nice nimble 16 ft boat but it is a very noisy ride. The water seems to slap the deck all the time. I will add that plastic boats have a bit more versatility. That 35 mph speed I claim to have attained with the Tarpon was while using it as a sled down a steep, Sierra slope. Hauling back up was a bear though. Any of these boats, except the Heritages can be found used for around $500

Be careful with Futura quality
I had Futura 2 about 10 years ago that would take on water into the hull and the only way to empty it was to land and drain it. I had a Futura that was fine but it gt crushed by the movers and just picked up a 15 year old used one in decent shape that is fine too.

Tchuck, you are THE MAN!

– Last Updated: Jun-23-08 11:38 AM EST –

35 MPH in a Tarpon!Were you wearing a helmet?

No Helmet

Thats nothing
Try doing 35 in a Grumman canoe!! L

I Spent Years and $$$ Searching
My first kayak was a 9’ Ocean Kayak Frenzy that I used to play in the surf here in Northern California. I got stuck on SOTs early on. I just never liked being stuck in a SINK, and most of my ocean trips are from the beach in at least moderate surf.

Money is not a big issue for me, and I have, or had, some top of the line composite SOTs. I have a 18’ Kevlar Heritage Shearwater, and a 16’ fiberglass Heritage Nomad. (The Nomad is for sale) I also had a 16’ Fiberglass Seda Revenge. Also own the latest SOT craze from the East Coast, the RTM Disco.

My recommendation would be an Ocean Kayak Prowler, or maybe the RTM Disco, if you are well under 200#

There is a misconception about SOTs being slow. At 2-3 MPH

In many ways the Futura II is perfect but my experience with several of them is that there are major quality problems. Leaks in the rudder pedal pockets in the hull were one issue. Very difficult to fix. One of the other entry level surf skis is probably the best answer in this case.

probably no pfd either