Suitability of SOTs for river paddling

-- Last Updated: Jan-31-04 7:58 PM EST --

Just curious--how suitable are SOTs for river paddling? I'm talking about the kind of stuff you could paddle a touring SINK in, Class I and II to II+. In other words, how do they compare against sea kayaks, not against WW boats.

Yes, I know the ride will be wetter. Am thinking that would be a plus on hot days.

Now I’m curious…
Do people actually run class II rivers in sea kayaks? If so, why?

SOT’s on rivers? Absolutely! I do almost all my class I river paddling on my Scupper Pro. For class II I use a Perception Torrent SOT.

Dagger’s Pegasus is a fine boat…
…for the river. In fact, the planing hull on

most SOT’s would make them better river runners

than as a flat water boat.

Prijon used to make a model or two that were

specifically designed for class 3.

Though a shorter SOT works better on rivers than a longer one. I prefer my Frenzy at 9’ over my Scupper Pro at almost 15’. The Frenzy will spin on a dime and it wider beam provides a bit more stablity in swift water. The Frenzy being shorter and lighter is a lot easier to portage or line down rapids I don’t care to run.

My tarpon is great for rivers
esp. on hot days. I agree that 16’ is too long. If I ran many rivers with current, I would want a 12’.The 16’ tracks too well.

I paddled the class1 section of yhe Frenckh broad in my Zoar (SK) once. It was great. Very maneuverable.

Once the water warms up I prefer the SOT for the upper schuykill.The long boreing parts you can dangle your feet over the edge & getting out to explore the shoreline is alot easier than in my sink.W/S Ride handels class 1&2 great,at the 13 foot range it tracks well also. SOT’s are way cooler in the middle of summer.

I’ve paddled Class II+ once (rated by other people, not me), using my one and only touring kayak. The reason people around here do it is because it’s the only way to get experience with moving water. No ocean for 1000 miles or so; otherwise I’d go there instead.

Touring boats on class II ? Yep
Each year Zoar Valley Paddling Club holds their annual dice run down thru II/II+ and I see more rec. boats and touring yaks than sots…Tho I agree with Lee…Why?

Three more reasons
If what you’re asking is “Why touring kayaks instead of WW?” there are several more answers besides the one I posted above (push skills level attainable in touring kayak):

  • Camping trips. Some of the more secluded sites in this region are in river canyons. Sea kayaks have more cargo capacity than WW boats, plus on the flatter stretches they are well-suited to covering miles quickly.
  • “Because it’s there.” Kinda like riding a road bike on (mild) off-road trails.
  • I heard one person say it’s a drier ride in a sea kayak than in a WW kayak.

    Of course, none of this applies to my SOT vs. touring kayak question. I just want a hot-weather kayak that can double as a river boat.

Frenzy On The River
The trouble with the Frenzy on the river is the hull shape and built in keel. It reacts very unpredictabily when it grounds out or gets high centered.


– Last Updated: Feb-02-04 1:46 PM EST –

I see no compelling reason not to use a flat hulled SOT for slow moving rivers. You will need thigh straps for moving water.

It is much more convenient for access and egress, and you get sun on your legs.

The speed difference between a skinny SINK and a wide SOT is compensated for by the speed of the river.

There are times and places were I highly recommend SOTs, and others when only a SINK will do, but most of the time the difference between SOT and SINK is just personal preference.

How are thigh straps for rolling?
I’d want the thigh straps, because there are not many slow rivers here. If a SOT does not come with them, can they be retrofitted?

Any recommendations on length? I paddled a rented Tarpon 16 on the Halls and Homosassa rivers in FL but those rivers were just like paddling a calm lake…we paddled both upstream and downstream and could barely tell the difference. The rivers I’ll paddle here (CO) will have more “push” than that. I thought the 16.5’ Squall SINK behaved fine in Class I water but when we did a Class II day I was wishing it turned faster.

I’d still like one as narrow as possible to buy because I might do some upstream paddling also.

Thigh Straps
Thigh Straps are mostly for better control. Most SOTs are too wide to be rolled, but some can.

To be honest, I have been to Colorado, but I have no idea what the rivers are like, so I can’t comment too much.

Yes, but…

– Last Updated: Feb-02-04 2:44 PM EST –

SOTs with properly installed thigh straps can be rolled, but not easily–it's really more of a stunt than a useful skill. Count on swimming when you flip a SOT unless you are a very gifted roller. It's a cool stunt if you can do it, though–you can shut people up when they accuse you of paddling a SOT because you're afraid to learn to roll.

Check the message board archive at for info on installing straps. Hardware is available through that site also. It's not difficult, but proper fit is critical for good control. The factory strap eyes on some boats are not in the right places.

I didn’t know about that website. The comment on factory strap location is relevant, because I’m short and would probably need to relocate them. Most SINK “thigh braces” are on my knees.

Yeah, when I think “rivers” something very different comes to mind than what you have in Colorado. Rivers around here are small, shallow, and twisty. A touring kayak much more than 14 feet would be a pain, and you won’t be doing more than an overnight trip anyway.

Some good reasons

– Last Updated: Feb-02-04 3:17 PM EST –

I paddle SOTs and SINKs, so I have no axe to grind. You already noted the hot weather advantage. I often paddle an SOT when I'm leading group trips for two reasons. It's a lot easier to jump in and out for scouting rapids and, in the event you have to effect a rescue.


– Last Updated: Feb-02-04 8:56 PM EST –

mostly personal preference. Used a SOT once but didn't seems as stable as my sink. was on class II water with lots of tight bends and some underwater obstructions. Also didn't appreciate the water on my rear. Was a hot day but cold water,spring fed from at least 3 sources. Of course your rivers and the type I paddle may be way diffrent as well. Good luck and enjoy what ever ya paddle.

SOT straps are adjustable
so I wouldn’t assume you’d need to move the padeyes.

Class II
Lots of SOTs will handle class II, but you probably want a boat designed more for whitewater. The Frenzy works OK, but it has a strange hull design that hangs up on rocks. It would be a bit slow paddling upstream. I’ve seen two boats that seemed like they would be good. One is a yahoo I believe and the other are the SOTs Aqua-adventures takes on their rock garden trip to mexico, I forgot what brand they are but there is a picture here in this link …

Thigh straps are very adjustable and you probably would be OK with the factory locations, if not it is very easy (if you don’t mind drilling into your boat) to install the inchworm padeyes with blind rivets. (You can see this at the website.) Post the same question on that website under whitewater.)