SOT vs Sit-In for Commuting

-- Last Updated: May-06-11 12:58 PM EST --

I haven't yet even taken a kayak lesson and am getting some strange pressure from local instructors. I'd love to hear your opinions. I will be using a kayak to commute to work during the summer only - I can get wet, as I will be working on and near boats - so very casual. The commute won't take more that 5 to 8 minutes as I can literally throw a stone across the water and hit the other side. It's on a salt water estuary and during the summer motor boats and wakes may be an issue as well as funky winds and sometimes strong currents, sometimes very peaceful. I'm overweight and female - I do not have big hips, tho, so fit shouldn't be a problem.

I wanted to learn to use a SOT, yet I've talked to two local instructors who won't even teach me on a SOT and insist that I use a sit in. My concern is that I will be commuting alone, and so need easy in and out. I might paddle every now and again for fun, but stability and easy access are most important. The boat launch is 10 ft from my front door, and I can either carry or use a hand trailer.

So - considering my circumstances what would any of your prefer to use? Thanks so much!

I’d probably just use a sit on top. Sit inside could allow you to stay drier, but that doesn’t sound like a concern. And a SOT would be much easier to get back on should you end up in the water (but you should learn how to do this and practice it from time to time).

With a SOT , you don’t need a lot of
instruction since there is no roll needed.You can learn paddle strokes from videos if necessary.

SOT tend to be barges SINK are more
hydrodinamicly desinged making for less effort to paddle. Besides…you’ll be hooked in no time and want to paddle really cool boats.

A couple of thoughts;
Why not rent a SOT someplace and try it out. then rent a SINK and try that one out to see which one you like best.

I think if I were in your situation, I would go for the SOT even though I have three sit in kayaks

But if you are in a place where the water will be cold, then a SINK will give you some protection from the cold water spray on those days when the wind is whiping up the waves.

Lastly there is no need for instructions. What ever you get, just get in and paddle, and within a few days you’ll get the hang of it

Good luck on whatever you decide.

Jack L

Find different instructors
You are dealing with idiots. Some of the best kayak instructors in the US help people learn to paddle in SOTs all the time.

SOT kayaks are great for the paddling you are describing.

Post your location and folks here can suggest qualified instructors.

Also check out with lots of information and folks who know SOTs.

CT-RI Shoreline
Thanks so much for the comments - I really appreciate it. I live in CT near the RI border and I am familiar with the area from New London to RI because I had also lived in Providence. So if you could recommend a place anywhere from around New London to Newport that would teach SOT kayaking it would be great - but it would best closer to New London-Groton-Mystic. I am going to check out the SOT kayaker site - thanks again.


– Last Updated: May-07-11 10:15 AM EST –

With that short a paddle, I'd recommend a SOT, too. You can hop on and off easier than a SINK. SOTs tend to be wider & more stable, but heavier than SINKs. You'll have a higher wind profile, too. OTOH, if you're crossing any open water that can get rough, a SINK will keep your center-of-gravity lower and be able to handle waves better.

And, yeah, find some decent instructors. Posture, using your core rather than arms, bracing, and other paddling skills are worth learning from an instructor. Having someone watch you and correct your technique is something you can't get from a book or video. Books & videos (there's a bunch on YouTube) can tell you what to do, but not whether you're doing it.

Good luck. I wish I could commute by boat.

You havent kayaked yet
What I think will happen is that you will find you really like it and this fanciful idea of summer only use will go out the window at the end of the summer.

Presuming you stay in the area.

Then you will be looking for a SINK to prolong your paddling season. And a wetsuit, and a drysuit. And off it goes

Contact someone at ConnYak… sea kayaking club. Perhaps someone there can recommend a SOT instructor if there is such a thing. Kayaking is kayaking.

Buy used. Its not going to be your first and last boat believe me.

Exact location?
A couple of thoughts about the instructors’ responses -

If you are in an area near an ocean, odds are you’ll be doing more than a several minute commute with whatever boat you have by the middle of summer. And on the ocean or at least a bay… they may be thinking that they want to give you skills for the top end of the situation you are likely to find yourself in.

Are you crossing or within range of a tidal flow that could take you out of that estuary? Another reason they may want to give you skills for a boat more likely to handle that.

Understood that a SOT would be easiest for what you state as your intentions. But the skills like self-rescue are usually more likely to take a little help to learn to do quickly are those related to a SINK. For a SOT you still need to handle a possible capsize, but you should be able to watch a video and practice to get that down yourself.

SOT vs. Closed cockpit
For what it’s worth, I’ll echo the sentiments of those who have aleady posted. It will take longer to board, close the spray skirt, etc. for such a short paddle than it is worth. The SOT would be perfect for this IF all you want to do is commute across the estuary. Conditions, as you point out, may be erratic and unpredictable and, in event of a capsize, the SOT can be more easily re-entered and paddled than traditional kayak (I’ve paddled in a few estuaries, such as Elkhorn Slough, and found that even in storm conditions - 35-50 mph winds, waves, etc., they were navigable by kayak).

Gear for an SOT will be cheaper, as well. No spray skirt and little or no need for additional flotation bags inside the boat (which could be done less expensive options than the float bags that fit into closed boats).


Leaning toward SINK
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to all of your comments. I feel like kayamedic knows my personality! I can see myself extending the trips and seasons and getting hooked. That said, I’m also grappling with no real job so can’t afford to buy another kayak for awhile. This commute is for a minimum wage summer job and I’m barely making ends meet.

Additionally Celia has some excellent questions. I started sailing on these waters almost 20 years ago and the winds are very flukey with, at times, very strong currents. Part of my journey takes me around a small point where the waters narrow and of course, it’s a bit difficult to negotiate if the winds are present, too. So - I don’t want my body to serve as a spinnaker for a SOT!!

On the one hand, I think a SOT is more suited to the minimal basic needs that I have right now, on the other, perhaps I should go with a SINK for now AND the near future - it might take me more time to become at ease, but in the long run, I bet it will be worth it. If I go over, I can swim to shore with the kayak if I can’t get back in. I’m still going back and forth, but based upon all of your feedback, it’s where I’m at right now.

I am just guessing that you will
grow in your paddling in a similar way to what I did.

I started kayaking on the shoreline of CT just west of Old Saybrook in a Keowee…little rec kayak. It took not too long before I wanted to go further faster outrun the tidal races (the currents can be strong on the shoreline) paddle out of Pt Judith etc… paddle in March or January… things that my Keowee wasn’t suited to handle. Heck we went across Long Island Sound and went around Block Island (beautiful)

Nothing wrong with a SOT for now…but I will bet you dollars to donuts you will buy a SINK in the fall.

I do remember seeing a SOT or two (Heritage Kayaks) and remarking how hard the wetsuited occupants were working. This was early spring. One said that the only way to keep warm was to keep moving…and that the express reason for paddling was to work out.

The above blabber has nothing to do with your commute for which a SOT would be fine.

This winter I saw that Long Island Sound was colder than the Gulf of Maine!

Sot’s vs SI’s
To get the same stability with a SOT as a SI, it has to be wider or flatter because your entire body is above water level by many inches. The boat is usually comparatively slower or more sluggish.

I think the person who said rent both and try them out is a logical way to go. On a day when it starts to rain, there’s a nice feeling to be tucked under a deck with a hat and rain jacket on vs. sitting fully exposed on a platform. You can certainly get a sit in that’s totally comfortable for you. When I do life guard duty at a symposium, the bulk of the capsizes by novices are in SOT’s because of the higher center of boyancy. Novices like SOTs because they sometimes feel a little trapped in a sit-in during a possible capsize. I have told people in SOT’s to try a regular kayak before they leave or make a decision. They always paddle up to me and thank me because they like it a lot better and feel much more secure and stable.

You will start using the boat for more than your small commute and you have to consider that. Having hatches to carry stuff is nice too.

Look on craigs list in your area
Good boats to look for are Scupper Pros, older boats and go for about $300. Also Heritage Kayaks were made in your neck of the woods, if you could score a fiberglass heritage boat it would out perform many low end sit insides you can afford. IF you could find an older heritage plastic seadart, it’s very seaworthy and designed for coastal paddling. The new Heritage boats don’t look so good. Many of the folks posting on the disadvantages of SOTs do not own one and have only paddled the worst representations. The fact that you are just getting started, don’t have a large budget, and are overweight, leads me to suggest an SOT. I own both kinds of boats and each have their place. But a sleek seaworthy SOT is just fine for your needs. Finding a quality SINK that is not going to be a wide slow rec boat unsage for ocean, on your budget, is going to be pretty difficult.

Speaking of Being Overweight
To put it right out there - I’m assuming that the issue I’d have with being overweight would be difficulty in re-entering the kayak if it went over because my upper body strength would need to pull more weight over the top - is that correct? That’s why people recommend the SOT? I am shaped like a guy - meaning I don’t have ANY hips - I even wear guys pants because they fit better. My weight is evenly distributed - I’m saying this because I don’t have trouble fitting - width-wise - into any sized kayak as I’m not really large in that area. Now I’m wondering if people recommended the SOT because most overweight women have a pear shape, where I tend to be more of, uh, I guess you could say a large banana!

Kayak re-entry.
“I’m assuming that the issue I’d have with being overweight would be difficulty in re-entering the kayak if it went over because my upper body strength would need to pull more weight over the top - is that correct?”

I believe the SI (SINK just sounds wrong) would be easier. Think paddle float re-entry. Easy money!

The best thing you can do is find a club in your area. I joined a nice club and learned everything I need to be fully self sufficient in a SI kayak from the more experienced members. If enough members chipped in we occasionally had experts give us classes at a reasonable cost.

And yes, demo as many kayaks as possible, This can save you from making a regrettable mistake.

Lastly, if all you do is go out and get a SOF then never, ever tryout a sea kayak. It will break your heart.

Try it both ways Ocean View
Go do a test paddle in an SOT and Sink with qualified instructor, learn to do both kinds of self rescues. You will find you are back in the SOT in about 15 seconds. Best option for self rescue is a roll in a SINK which takes a little while to learn, the boats you are likely to afford (Rec style Sinks) are going to be very hard to learn to roll. Paddle float self rescue takes a long time. Yes and my experience is overweight women have a very hard time at it, as do overweight men.

SOT not necessarily easier

– Last Updated: May-08-11 9:11 PM EST –

SINKs can have deck rigging and perimeter line which allow you to stick a paddle float on the end of your paddle to make re-entry easier. SOT's are less likely to have these features. If you use the aids like this, it's a hard call to say that a SOT is easier in a capsize.

As to the idea of swimming to shore - if that's how you are thinking for a solution plz don't try this until you can stay with the boat and get back in. You already said above that there is a narrow point you need to go around that could have wind and current, and narrow spots tend to concentrate current. So what would you do if the current decided to carry you away from land after a capsize? Your way safest bet is to be able to get back into the boat and paddle in.

Re the traditional paddle float re-entry, not the quickest to pick up in the world for some. But there is variation of combining a paddle float self-rescue and a heel hook re-entry, featured in Sea Kayaker, that is very promising if you have a SINK with perimeter rigging to make it workable. It takes away the issue of upper body strength.

Try the Kayak Center in Wickford, RI