Thoughts on sit on top sea kayaks

This topic was probably discussed many times already, but what are your thoughts on SOT sea kayaks like the RTM Tempo and DAG MidWay? How do they compare to sit in kayaks of similar dimensions, what are the drawbacks? What are the advantages? How would those compare for recreational and touring use? Does a high freeboard, high volume SOT ride dry like a sit in?

If I lived year round in south Florida, I definitely would have one, along with my SINK. I would use the sit in for long distance and exploring and the sit on for playing around.
My wife and I are thinking of getting a tandem one for snorkling off Key Largo, (easy to get off and then back on).

@Sincress said:
This topic was probably discussed many times already, but what are your thoughts on SOT sea kayaks like the RTM Tempo and DAG MidWay? How do they compare to sit in kayaks of similar dimensions, what are the drawbacks? What are the advantages? How would those compare for recreational and touring use? Does a high freeboard, high volume SOT ride dry like a sit in?

They probably don’t ride as dry, but if the water is warm do you really care! I think the higher freeboard would mean you’d get pushed around by wind a bit more too. Typically, for touring, you’d want more storage space.

The Tempo is really a fishing kayak and the MidWay more of a recreational design. Neither would be that fast at approx 14 1/2 feet and 26.4" and 25.5" wide. If I wanted sea kayak feel and performance I’d be looking at something more like a CD Ignite (16’ x 24") or an Epic.

@JackL do you think a SOT would be uncomfortable for longer distances or is it purely a storage thing?

@kfbrady yep, but wind is an issue on any higher freeboard kayak, not a particular trait of SOTs. As for speed, I think we may have slightly different definitions of what “fast” is :sweat_smile:

@Sincress said:
@JackL do you think a SOT would be uncomfortable for longer distances or is it purely a storage thing?

@kfbrady yep, but wind is an issue on any higher freeboard kayak, not a particular trait of SOTs. As for speed, I think we may have slightly different definitions of what “fast” is :sweat_smile:

Depends on the SOT. a long skinny one would be just as good as a long skinny SINK.
Quite a few years ago my wife came close to getting a Current Designs Kestrel which would have been great.
Most SOTs today are wide and heavy compared to a good sea kayak. It has been quite a while since I have looked at any kayaks, so maybe someone else will chime in here who is knowledgeable and has looked at both.

I paddle only SOT because of chronic back issues. I have owned several. Right now I have a WS Tarpon160 and a Hurricane Skimmer 140. Both are fine for long distances, or at least the 20 mile trips I do. Both have comfortable seats and are not like the barges called fishing kayaks.
I have paddled at 30° F with no problem but you have to be dressed for it. Like a dry suit.
A friend of mine who has owned virtually every high end SINK uses the RTM Disco as her go to boat. I would own that one but I’m too big for it.
SOT allow you freedom of movement you won’t get in a SINK.
If a surf ski can be called a SOT, Stellar makes some that are comfortable and fast, at least for local trips. I wouldn’t want to spend a day in one. The Stellar S18S has the same hull as their SINK.
As far as getting wet is concerned, in calm water , I stay dry in both boats. I have been in some fairly bumpy water with the Tarpon that buried the bow repeatedly. You will get wet in those conditions. The boat had no problems with it. You need thigh straps to stay attached to the boat in those conditions.
The Stellar is a rocket; my other 2 are not but it’s easy to maintain a 2.5-3 mph pace.
BTW,my profile photo is the Tarpon . It was taken as a joke.

There are very serious SOT options from DAG/RTM here in EU and I’m sure those are pretty quick, 7-8 kmh cruising should be easy to maintain over a longer period.

My inflatable Swing 1 does about 5.7kmh cruising (did 21km in 5.5 hours recently) which is pretty good for a 3.1m IK. However, it’s not really the most comfortable ride and you don’t feel that well connected to the boat. I suppose rigid kayaks are more like something you wear

Yes, they are if properly fitted. Sort of like shoes.

I haven’t seen the Tempo or MidWay (not available in my area), so going by specs and photos (mostly of the Tempo) and how I would expect it to be different.

Talked about before how SOT paddlers are more exposed to the elements than SINK paddlers (especially if SINK paddler uses a skirt). Even riding higher, the SOT would be a wetter ride than a SINK with appropriate sealing skirt (that said, with a leaky skirt, the SINK could actually be wetter).

SOTs sit higher on the water than sit inside kayaks. SOTs are filled with air, and hold the paddler up higher up (above water level) where SINKs the paddler usually is sitting at or below water level. To lift the paddler up, the boat needs more flotation than a SINK.

The floating above water would make the boat more of a planing boat, not a displacement hull. These two hull styles are used in SUPs, where it comes out that displacement hulls are faster than planing hulls. Likely find similar impact with kayaks.

Something I saw yesterday on a paddle where there was some wind - sit on tops floating above the water are more impacted by winds than sit inside kayaks which displace water. Not as bad as inflatables are, but still was noticeable.

The Disco is about 2 inches/5 cm wider than a similar SINK day touring kayak. This will affect speed some.

The Disco has a tri style hull and scupper holes. I expect these would add dray over the smoother hull of a touring kayak. And the tri-style hull would likely react more like a flat hull, which would reduce the ability to edge and handle steep waves from the side as compared to the rounder hull of a touring kayak. See video at end for some thoughts on flat vs round hull shapes and waves. You would want to add thigh straps to the SOT if you wanted to improve edging (though still limited how much you could do by that tri-hull ability to edge).

Overall, the Disco and MidWay seem like they would be fast for sit on top kayaks, but not as fast as comparable sized touring kayaks (examples being Dagger Alchemy or Stratos). And the touring kayak could handle lumpy conditions better (with appropriate skilled paddler) than the SOT could.

SOTs allow paddler to move around in/on boat more than SINKs. They are generally better bases for kayak fishing (but neither the Disco nor MidWay would probably be good for stand up fishing). In warmer climes, SOTs are more comfortable than SINKs. SOTs are generally easier to self-rescue when you flip - takes less training, though with Paddler sitting higher up than a partially flooded SINK, are a little more challenging to climb up on.

Flat vs round hull video
https://youtu.be/N6yXEEZ5KiU

@Peter-CA said:
SOTs sit higher on the water than sit inside kayaks. SOTs are filled with air, and hold the paddler up higher up (above water level) where SINKs the paddler usually is sitting at or below water level. To lift the paddler up, the boat needs more flotation than a SINK.

The floating above water would make the boat more of a planing boat, not a displacement hull. These two hull styles are used in SUPs, where it comes out that displacement hulls are faster than planing hulls. Likely find similar impact with kayaks.

I don’t believe the paddler’s position makes any difference in floatation - just the mass. But SOTs are wider because of the higher center of gravity of the paddler.

I’m not an expert on hull design or a naval architect but I’ve been around boats and ships all my life, and from my experience I could say that all kayaks are displacement boats: a planing hull is built to ride its own bow wave (which is why almost no kayak can exceed its hull speed). The speed difference between sit on top and sit in kayaks would probably come down to the width - a pointier bow displaces less water and thus has less resistance.

Please correct me if I’m mistaken. I do agree on the other points. It seems there’s no boat to bridge that gap (that I know of). Makes me wonder why there is no sit on top with an enclosed front spraydeck to protect from paddle drip and waves.

A friend just bought a used tandem SOT that has windscreens in front of each seat. Don’t know the name but it has a sleek hull and was made in Europe. And it’s fast!

@string said:
A friend just bought a used tandem SOT that has windscreens in front of each seat. Don’t know the name but it has a sleek hull and was made in Europe. And it’s fast!

That’s very intriguing, I’d love to know the model. Has anyone tried adding a deck onto a SOT? Just curiousity.

Sit on tops on the sea are not ideal for trips but can be good for fishing on calm days. They don’t take rough conditions that well so please stay close to shore in case the weather changes which it always does.

The problem is this, sit on tops have amazingly good primary stability arising from their flat bottoms. They have a lot of surface area and support in the water as long as they are upright which resists tipping. However, as the kayak or boat lists more and more being pushed by stronger waves, the available surface to brace against tipping in the water is no longer flat and decreases. This takes away resistance to tipping so eventually it loses the stability and will go over.

The primary difference between sit on tops is that the flat sit on tops don’t move as much to small or medium inputs, but the point of no return is much sooner and when reached will tip more easily.

Sit insides have less initial stability (which varies by design) but can tolerate various degrees of tip or list a lot farther which is the secondary or final stability. IT’s not perfect like WHITE WINE FOR FISH AND RED WINE FOR MEAT but basically sit on tops work better in flatwater and sit insides work better for oceans for this reason. You can mix though just take care of yourself and don’t stray far from shore just in case the sea gets nasty, the sit on tops won’t handle it.

@Sincress–looking at the specs of the Tempo, it seems awfully light for a rotomolded 14-footer. The WS Tarpon 140 comes in at 68 lbs; my own Perception Tribe 11.5 weighs 52 lbs. Long ago I had an Ocean Kayak Scrambler; 11 ft and about 49 lbs. This leads me to wonder if Tempo is skimping on materials. They don’t come with a padded seat, but that wouldn’t make much difference.

I’m already looking for an upgrade from the Tribe, and the ones I’m looking at are the Tarpon 140, the Hurricane Skimmer 140, and the Eddyline Caribbean 14. The Skimmer and the Caribbean weigh closer to 50 lbs, but they’re thermoformed, as opposed to rotomolded.

Peter mentioned thigh straps; I tried them on my old Scrambler and never could determine that they were doing me any good. Then again, I never tried to lean that boat, either. I have tried leaning the Tribe, and was surprised that it responds to that, but I still don’t think I’d bother with the straps.

I haven’t had any complaint about weathercocking with the Tribe, and last time I was out I think the wind was maybe 10 or 15mph. I have to correct course for the wind, but as long as I’m paddling I can steer it fine. From the reviews I’ve read (ALL of them), wind doesn’t bother any of my potential new choices much.

Any of my new choices would get me away from the tri-form hull, which I do think is slowing me down and costing me extra paddling effort.

I think the higher center of gravity actually helps in rough conditions; you actually have to lean less to keep your CoG over the boat. In other words, the angle at your spine/pelvis can be less extreme.

GH, I have owned all 3 of your upgrade choices. I rank them best to least:
TARPON140. It’s a Tarpon; I loved it. I upgraded to a Tarpon 160. I am a big guy , so the 160 suits me a little better. This one is my 4th Tarpon. My first 160 was sand color. You could not see it on the water. It was the old style with no scuppers under the seat. Didn’t like a wet butt.
My next was an old style 160 In yellow. I traded it for a trailer.
Then the 140, new style. Then the current 160, new style in orange. I’ll use it until I can no longer paddle.
HURRICANE SKIMMER 140: I use it primarily for a guest boat. 3 people have used it and loved it. It is not as fast as the 160 and the seat, to me, isn’t as comfortable.
EDDYLINE CARRIBEAN 14: My least favorite. I bought it used and the seat pad came unglued and I wound up in the lake. Called Eddyline and was told it happened in older models when the glue got too dry. The stock seat was not comfortable so I replaced it with one like they offer as an upcharge.
Comfort is obviously a key factor for me . I typically don’t do short paddles and have spent hours in the WS Phase 3 Tarpon seat. Very comfortable.

@string–I also need comfort; into my seventh decade, and the padding’s mostly gone flat on my old sit-bones. And the reviewers all rave about the Tarpon’s seat. The Scrambler didn’t have a cushioned seat, but I didn’t mind it much back then.

The Tarpon no longer comes in a 160, or that would be the choice, done, regardless that I’d have to figure out something clever (or maybe simple, like a piece of plywood) for carrying the boat in the bed of my Ranger with the extended cab.

Nobody seems to make a SOT longer than 14 feet, shy of surf-skis, which I’m not interested in.

Of the three on my list, I think the Skimmer is the prettiest, but I can’t help worrying a little bit about that very flat bottom and secondary stability. And I wish all the poly boat makers would get over the psychedelic color schemes and go back to solid colors–other than mud and sand.

Did any of those three stand out in their performance or handling at all?

@greyheron I think the DAG/RTM lineup is now available in the US and they have the 15 foot Rytmo which is still quite light (27kg). Not sure about the materials as Ive never owned any of them but I think it’s a 3 layer rotomolded hull - never of heard any durability issues or flex.

Sit on tops tend to be more work to move around, but you get more comforts.
It really depends on what you want to do. For fishing, it’s hard to beat a sit on top. Room for fishing gear, room to move around, you can stand up, lean over, you have a better casting position, you have a better vantage point,
Weather gets rough and I’m going to want my butt lower than the waterline again, narrow hull, and some V to the hull.
Also being over 50 and over my ideal weight, I wouldn’t want to paddle a 34" wide 100 pound boat for hours straight.
Speaking of weight, sit on tops tend to be heavy even compared to rotomolded sit inside yaks. How you plan to transport them plays into the decision because of the weight.
That being said, I am planning on getting a fishing kayak. Sit on top, comfy seat that I can also use on the beach, places for rod holders and maybe a peddle drive and rudder for best fishing versatility.
I’ve been hooked into a sturgeon in my rudderless sit inside. Pretty much with two hands on the rod, no rudder or peddle drive, you are along for the ride and hope that it works out.
For the record, the sturgeon won that encounter but I was being drug sideways in my boat, had six pound line on an ultra light rod. It was a good fight that lasted for a while!

Greyheron, the only one I’ve had in conditions that would test secondary stability is the Tarpon. I’ve had it in confused waves once . Coming out of the troughs between waves and climbing the next , the bow looked like it was on a 45° angle. The boat would slam down in the next trough and almost rattle my teeth. I never felt like I was going to capsize.
I had a wave wash over the entire boat from the side up to chest level. I thought the boat would roll. Not a bit. I has thigh straps.
If you are near upstate SC, come on by and try the 2 I have.

@string said:
Greyheron, the only one I’ve had in conditions that would test secondary stability is the Tarpon. I’ve had it in confused waves once . Coming out of the troughs between waves and climbing the next , the bow looked like it was on a 45° angle. The boat would slam down in the next trough and almost rattle my teeth. I never felt like I was going to capsize.
I had a wave wash over the entire boat from the side up to chest level. I thought the boat would roll. Not a bit. I has thigh straps.
If you are near upstate SC, come on by and try the 2 I have.

Sounds like the conditions I got into on Lake Erie a couple times; once, long ago with the Scrambler, and just recently with the Tribe. ‘Funny water’, I’ve heard it called, though that may be more of a river term. This most recent, I was in Fairport Harbor, not quite out as far as the end of the breakwater. I was heading roughly due north, into the incoming waves, but then all of a sudden I got hit square in the side from a big one out of who knows where. Not scary, just surprising. I think my biggest surprise that time was when a wave lifted the boat while I was making a paddle stroke and the paddle missed the water altogether. But yeah, it’s like a little roller-coaster ride. No waves washed over the boat, but I got vigorously splashed a lot.

Are the Tarpon’s scuppers the venturi style? The ones on the Ocean Kayak were, and if you back-paddled, you’d flood the cockpit. This had a certain utility I’ll leave to the readers’ imaginations. Not so with the Tribe.

I appreciate the invitation, but I’m way up here by the Great Swamp and can’t afford to travel much.