What is a "true" sea kayak

Okay, Jack. Since you mentioned Juneau, you may want to google David Zimmerly. He helped organized that exhibit. His book documents several east Artic boats that were noted for their “seaworthiness” (quote from the book) and used for open ocean travel and hunting. The paddlers were known to wear suits of “whale gut” and had self righting skills with double and single blade paddles. The Juneau exhibit also showed boats that were more inland and “retrieval” oriented. These are not intended for open ocean.

I will also just leave at this. :slight_smile:


Personally, something from 14’ on up. With hatches front & rear. No hatches = RACE boat. It can be a sink or SOT. The point of a sea kayak is to get you & your gear from point A to point B as efficiently as possible and in varying weather conditions. Yes you can use a short boat but at the end of a 30 or more mile trip you WILL be wondering why… Just my definition. Now really if you are just farting around you don’t need hatches, but if you ever plan on camping or doing a REAL expedition they come in handy!!!

Traditional Kayaks
Traditional SOF kayaks historically came in all shapes and sizes and for all purposes. Construction varies greatly. It would be a mistake to look at a few samples and make sweeping generalizations about them all. Greenland kayaks and the Aleutian baidarkas, among others, regularly encountered very rough seas.

Historically kayaks were made to satisfy the local conditions. This includes gentle fiords, open water, ice-filled waters, and extremely violent seas. They are optimized for different purposes, from retrieving game, to fast kayaks for hunting swimming caribou, to single and double kayaks that are designed for hunting seal mammals in all weather conditions, and more.

Were seaworthy SOF kayaks used in rough seas? Yes, of course. Were some types used mainly in calm water? Yes. In Greenland and in some other areas, they continue to be used.

In Eugene Arima’s “A Contextual Study of the Caribou Eskimo Kayak” John Heath wrote: “The degree of [kayaker] skill developed varied both individually and regionally. Highest skill occurred under a combination of a long open water season, rough and treacherous seas, intensive sea mammal hunting, and an efficient yet demanding form of craft. Certain islands at the warmer ends of the kayak area best fulfilled these conditions and produced the ablest kayakers, notably Vester Eyland and Kangeq in West Greenland, Cape Dan in East Greenland, and King Island off West Alaska” (Birket-Smith 1924:271; Heath 1968:12).

Among other locations,the Davis Strait (between Canada and Greenland) can be a very rough and capricious environment. John Heath related to me stories told to him by Greenland seal catchers who were caught in storms large enough to flip the kayak end-over-end, and in some cases making it impossible to return to shore for several days. The video “Amphibious Man” (available on John Heath’s website), has some great footage of John Petersen playing and surfing in a full gale, in the large fiord near Nuuk, Greenland (I can attest to the conditions there as Harvey Golden and I have kayaked in the same area, under similar conditions). The Greenland kayaks are built for it.

A good resource to understand the diversity of traditional kayaks is Harvey Golden’s website at http://www.traditionalkayaks.com/ .

Greg Stamer

What would a Greenlander call an …
an Aleut boat? Or a North Canadian boat? Or a Siberian Koryak? From what I’ve seen, the natives all used a term very close to “Kayak”. Seems to me that Greenlanders don’t have the monopoly on the word kayak. If the Greenlanders had access to rotomolding technology, plastic beads, fiberglass, hypalon, etc, I’m sure they would have deviated from the “rules.”

Watersprite said: “Any boat that might be “generally sized” in order to fit a range of body sizes/types, was not a “qajaq”, but a “qajariaq” (loosely translated to “qajaq-like”). This definition would then include all mass produced modern “sea kayaks”. It is only when we would go so far as to build our own skin-on-frame boats to fit our own bodies - using traditional design concepts/rules - that we might earn the right to call our boat “qajaq”.”

Folding Boats have…
crossed oceans and rounded all the capes. Seems to me like folding kayak paddlers have been paddling a mirage. Wow! I never knew!

These responses have been extremely informative and I thank you all.

BTW, I do have a boat, a 10 footer rec boat that I go out in every day for at least 1 and 1/2 hours. I have even rolled the damned thing! (ok only twice and it got full of water…but at least I am trying!

If anyone is looking out in Silver Lakes/Ft. Lauderdale and see the guy in the yellow and orange kayak, pfd, whistle, etc…that’s me…every day.

Have checkpook/debit card ready…just wanted to make the right decision…am demoing several boats next weekend at Florida bay Outfitters and then will go to St. Petersburg and try out the Capella…

sing is right…I need to demo more. however, I have time on the weekends to go to these places. During the week I have time to read and write :slight_smile:

Obviously too much by the looks of it.



Paddler Mag’s “Top Ten”

– Last Updated: Jul-05-05 1:27 PM EST –

expeditions. Of course, somewhat subjective... Nevertheless, the top two expeditions cited were in the 1920's and achieved by men in folding kayaks made of frame and fabric.



What would a Greenlander call…
My understanding is that to a Greenlander, other traditional kayaks would probably not be called a qajaq. To a Greenlander a qajaq is a very specific type of kayak – of a type designed and made in Greenland in present and past times. Other types of traditional kayaks would probably called a qajariaq (meaning like a Greenland kayak). Some Greenlanders use the word “kayak” to refer to “European” kayaks (used for kayak tours in Greenland), calling them “qajariaq” only if they are very similar to a Greenland qajaq (such as a Betsie Bay, etc).

Greg Stamer

This is very interesting…
and I’ve wanted to post the question as its own heading on the Qajaq Usa forum. I just hadn’t done so as of yet. Of all the kayak cultures their own word for the kayak was that or something very close to it, though the designs were very different.

Amen !
I agree.



The One That Brings You Home
My own definition… If it’s a marine version of Lassie - it’ll keep you safe out there as long as you aren’t a damned fool and get you home again - it’s a sea kayak.


– Last Updated: Jul-06-05 12:19 PM EST –

Ever looked at where King Island is situated. Not meant for open water, that's just totally incorrect. But Greg is right everyone is generalizing a bit too much.

There you go…
The Capella is definitely a sea kayak.

can’t seem to get your book unless backordering it for 6-8wks. Any Suggestions?

ScottB must just fart around…

Tsunami Ranger CoFounder Eric Soars…
So who is going to tell Eric Soars, cofounder of the Tsunami Rangers, that his 13’ Mariner Coaster with no bulkheads is not a sea kayak?

I Think He Would Consider The Coaster
as a coastal “playboat.” Not exactly for long distance travel but gives some option for rough water players who want to get around the next bend or two to play a rock garden or an otherwide inaccessible reef break. The RockHopper is shooting for this same classification and niche market.


Heck, I consider my 16 ft sea kayak

– Last Updated: Jul-07-05 6:24 AM EST –

as a coastal "playboat". No hatches. But I have no problems loading it up for camping. Seems to be equally sea worthy as a boat with hatches but without he problems associated with hatches. Why do you need hatches? Seems to be added weight for nothing. Or should I say that personally I dont miss them. float bags and a sea sock works very well. I can carry all my camping gear plus three folding chairs will easily slide in through the cockpit if I wanted to bring some chairs for the guys with bulkheads but for the majority of the paddling I do the hull is nearly empty.
I can see why everybody wants hatches and bulkheads. Everybody else has them!
I can honestly say that for the paddling I do on the sea, I wouldn't want any other boat. I am way to comfortable in my "playboat".

It’s Not The Hatches
as far as I am concerned (coming from someone who paddles a SOF with no hatches) but the length of the boat relative to the paddler that determines long distance efficiency. I love taking out my 14’ Mystic to play in tidal stuff but she’s a pig for long distance paddling, more so especially against any head wind. That’s my experiece of it. I would take the Mystic for some short paddling to a playspot and not my SOF but if I am headed out to the outer islands in Boston Harbor, I take the SOF any day.


I think a playboat is better off without hatches. Sure they can be made to be bombproff, but I would rather not have them myself