White Water vs Touring Stability

I’m a complete newbie to kayaking and was wondering if white water or touring/sea kayaks are more stable on flat water?

A planing hull ww kayak
will feel more initially stable than a lot of other sea kayak. But it depends?

This is generally due to the width, higher thigh bracing area, hard chines and flat bottom.

But sea kayaks come in all different shapes,

hard chines, soft chines, semi-hard chines,

moderate v, deep v, rounded hull,

each has it’s own characteristics.

Suffice it to say that your typical “touring” kayak has rounded chines, and a moderate v, this will feel “tippier” than a planing hull type ww kayak.

Keeping the hips relaxed and the
shoulders level is the key to stability. Let the water do what it wants to with you hips, keep you shoulders level and you will be stable in anything short of breaking waves.

I am still working to get this wisdom native in my body but it does work.

Plenty of older, and a few new-school
WW kayaks are available which will feel rottenly unstable on flat water.

Note that a “planing” hull does NOT have “flat bottom stability.” The firm feel of most planing hulls is due to the way the sides slope. It is never the flatness of the middle area of the bottom which contributes to stability, but rather what happens as the hull begins to tip.

Even a very round-appearing WW hull bottom may feel reassuringly firm, if the transition zones at the sides are designed properly. Just to raise a controversial term, a well-designed whitewater boat, whether planing or roundish, has hidden SPONSONS designed into the sides. If these are not present, then a flat bottom will not give you stability at all. If anyone disagrees with me, I will bore and punish you with examples.

It is not so much the stability as …
it is the rocker.

I used to have a Perception Corsica, (many moons ago) and in comparison to my QCC 700 touring kayak, they were equally stable.

However for touring you would not be able to keep the Corsica tracking straight, and vice versa, for white water, I could never spin my 700 on a dime like I could the Corsica.



just to be a pain

– Last Updated: Apr-07-05 8:22 AM EST –

let's hear your examples

but really the only disagreement I would make is that it is the entire kayak that contributes to both initial and secondary stability.

So no it isn't just the flat bottom that makes a kayak feel stable, but it is one factor.
The shape of the sides of the hull play a big factor too and how the hull transitions into the chines plays an even bigger part.
A kayak with hard chines or a more pronounced flare at the transition, plus a flatter bottom will provide more of a "stable" feeling initially.

Bore Me, Please…
I love to know what you mean about built in “sponsons.”


What Kind?
What kind of flat water will you be using your kayak in? If you’re only going to be in flat water don’t even worry about getting a WW boat. WW kayaks are play boats and can bore you to death on flat water. They are slow, slow, slow.

I have two ww boats that will outrun
almost all rec kayaks. You need to study the history of ww kayaks. One of my ww kayaks is not much slower than my Necky Looksha Sport. That is giving away two feet of hull length.

You are right about everything except
the flat bottom. And maybe the chines. Because chines by themselves don’t contribute stability. It is what is above and outboard the chines, across the length of the boat, that makes for stability.

A flat bottom, by itself, does not provide stability. I have (counts to himself) four rather flat bottomed boats. Two of them feel “firm” because as soon as they are tipped, what WAS above the waterline starts to act like a sponson to keep the boat upright. One of these is a 1983 Phoenix “Seewun” and you can see the hull profiles on this boat if you go to cboats.net and click on Rec Boats on the left column. Go down the column to Phoenix. That is my boat on the car. Note that this boat feels very firm, but is not at all flat.

The other flattish, “firm” boat is my Dagger Zealot racing c-1. This boat does have chines, and it is flared outboard of the chines as you describe. You can see this boat also on cboats.net, in the left column under “racing boats.”

My other two flat bottomed boats are not “firm”, and one of them is outright treacherous. One of them is a Millbrook Wide Ride c-1, and can be seen on cboats.net. I think it is listed under Wide Ride rather than Millbrook. This boat has very mild chines, and only a little flare zone outside the chines. It is tolerably stable, but nowhere near as “firm” as the narrower Zealot or the rounder Phoenix Seewun.

The final example is my 1982 Noah Magma, a boat sold both as a c-1 and as a kayak. It has an almost flat hull through the length of the boat, and it has moderately sharp chines. Above the chines it has about 20 degree tumblehome. This is the problem. As the boat is tipped, the lack of flare means no “sponson” effect, and the boat has rather little initial stability. This is a very fast ww kayak, ferries wonderfully on the flattish bottom, and can do dynamic edging on those chines, but for such a flattish boat, it does not come even CLOSE to being stable.

Oh, I forgot our Bluewater Chippewa tandem. Rather flattish, like a Spirit II. Stable initially, but past the round chines, the sides go straight up, so if leaned hard, it does not give much reserve final stability.

Check my reply above. It’s what is
above the normal waterline that makes the difference. Even a roundish boat can feel firm if it has the stuff above the waterline when tipped.

Anyone remember the old Lucky Strike cigarette slogan?

“So round, so firm, so easy on the draw.”

The shape and volume on the sides do affect what I would consider the secondary stability. You call it “sponson…” All just terminology.

I will say that my Mega Venom has very good initial stability when sitting flat and punching through the break zone. However, if I end up on edge, I have better be moving to get some dynamic stability. Otherwise, I am going right over.



Surf kayaks have an even sharper chine
and more tumblehome than my Noah. The Noah would make a decent surf kayak if the tail had less volume.

question on surf boat terminology
Would that be considered a chine or a rail? What is the difference between the two? I always thought that the chine was the break in the hull shape and the rail was the edge which carves the wave.

Yes, “Terminology” Again…
surf boats don’t have “chines” or angular joints where two planes meet. The “rails” are relative thin protrusions that can be rounded, blunted or sharp. The idea is cut/carve into a wave face like no chine will be able to.


No Way
Don’t insult my intelligence. The rocker hull of a ww boats plow through water rather than gliding over.

ww kayaks matching speed with
necky looksha sport?


Granted, I have no expierence with ww boats (except one day ina pool) but I’m having a REAL hard time biting that a ww boat could keep pace with a rec kayak on flatwater…

I doubt it sincerely. However, I guess I could be wrong.


read his above post

– Last Updated: Apr-08-05 10:48 AM EST –

I was skeptical at first but he mentioneds some old school racing/slalom boats. Although I think it would be a stretch to say that it would keep up with a Looksha Sport on flat water, a good slalom boat would easily be as fast if not faster than say a Dagger Blackwater or other rec boats. On a river with rapids the slalom boat would probably be the fastest thing out there due to it's combination of speed and manueverability.

gotcha, thanks :slight_smile:
One of our local sea kayakers has one of the old slalom boats that he brings to the pool, I can certainly see the difference now that you can clarified it for me.

He shoots back forth throughout the length of the pool, often doubling the speeds of the ww boats (not always though).

as I said, I have little knowledge of slalom or ww boats, now, you want to talk sea kayaks - I can hold my own.

Thanks for the clarificatin.


folks were challenged to look at the history of white water boats, specifically “wildwater” or slalom boats. These are fast boats and driven on fast, rough water by expert paddlers. The boats are a different breed from today’s short, modern playboats.