Everything You Need To Know About The Sit on Top Kayak Type

The Sit On Top Kayak Explained

As kayaking gets more and more popular, you have many inventions and variations of different types of kayaks coming out in order to satisfy everybody’s needs.

So, here we are talking about a type of kayak you may or may not heard of, the sit-on-top kayak.

Many people tend to do in-depth research prior to buying something like this, so it is crucial to have all the information presented to you before making any large, long-term investments.

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The kayak types

You probably know many of the subcategories of the types of kayaks, but the primary 2 categories are the Sit on Top (SOT) kayaks and the Sit-inside kayaks. Both of these come as singles or doubles, and they come as hard shells or as inflatables.

Before we go into the sit on top kayaks category, let’s review the similarities and differences between the sit-inside and the sit on top kayaks first.

As explained in this article right here, the kayak anatomy pretty much stays the same between the two types.

Their top part is called the deck, while the bottom is the hull. The front part is also called the bow, and the back is the stern. On the top area of the kayak, you have deck lines or bungees regardless of the type of the kayak.

At the stern side of the kayak, there are grab loops, and some kayaks have rudders. Rudders swivel side-to-side in the horizontal plane and are controlled by foot pedals. Skegs simply drop straight in the water and help the boat go straight.


On both the sit on top kayaks and the sit-inside kayaks, you have the foot support and some form of seat. For instance, on the sit on top kayaks, you have something like this for a seat.

Additionally, you can find foot pedals that slide on the track, and with them, you can adjust your optimal dimensions when paddling.

Also, when you see a kayak with footwells, know that while they are convenient, if you are taking longer trips in the water, you will want to use foot pedals instead. This is because, from my personal experience, they are a lot more comfortable, and you get a lot more support from them.

If you want added comfort, look for any types of kayaks that provide a built-in backrest on their seat because that will make all those hours spent kayaking a lot more comfortable.

With a pedal kayak you can just sit back, relax and pedal your way forward

On the side of differences between the sit on top kayaks and the sit-in kayaks is that the later is enclosed and the former are open. This means that with the sit on top kayaks, you don’t have as much protection from the water while sitting in the cockpit area.

Around the cockpit area, you have a cockpit rim onto which experienced paddlers attach a spray skirt to keep water out. After all, you don’t want to be capsized after spending hours in the water mid-November.

Then, inside the cockpit area, you also have a seat and foot-pedals that you can adjust according to your leg length.


The Sit On Top Kayaks

The Sit On Top Kayaks are mainly recreational boats intended to be used in warmer seasons of the year in warm coastal waters. These kayaks are an excellent option for people who feel that they could get stuck and feel claustrophobic inside a cockpit.

After all, getting in and out of a cockpit tends to need some practice, so not all recreational kayakers are up for it.

These kayaks also have scupper holes that enable them to have a self-draining feature, so you don’t have to carry a kayak pump to pump the water out of there.

The Sit On Top Kayak Subcategories

One of the significant indicators of which type of kayak you are going to buy is the intention as to what you’ll be using your kayak for. Also, note that different manufacturers may have other names for the Sit On Top kayak subcategories. For instance, what is well-known as the recreational type of the Sit On Top kayaks may be called “day-touring” kayak even though they are entirely the same.

So, it is essential to rely on specifications instead of only going by names.

With that said, here are the most popular Sit On Top kayak subcategories.

  • Recreational Kayaks: these are the most versatile and user-friendly kayaks that I would recommend for beginners. They are affordable, stably, and easy to handle, and you won’t have any hard time getting in or out of them in any situation. Their system is made to turn quickly and simply. However, they aren’t made to tour whitewater or wavy but flat waters instead.
  • Folding Kayaks: These kayaks are great for people who lack storage space. Plus, when you are planning to go for a more extended trip, and you need to transport your kayak on a vehicle, then these kayaks are significantly more comfortable to carry along. However, be aware that these boats aren’t as rugged as hard-shelled kayaks.
  • Inflatable kayaks: These sit on top kayaks enable you convenient storage mode, just like the folding kayaks. You simply deflate them in the offseason and store them away from sunlight and high temperatures. They come as recreational, great for close-to-shore water tours and rugged inflatable kayaks great for flowing rivers.
  • Sit on top fishing kayak: While any kayak can be transformed into a fishing kayak by adding “fishing-friendly” accessories, this subcategory exists for a reason. Namely, the sit on a top fishing kayak will either come with rod holders that have been pre-installed, or the manufacturer will provide the option to add them after. Plus, the sit on top fishing kayak will have convenient storage spots designed for comfortable fishing and a bit more stability than the other sit on top kayaks.
  • Tandem kayaks: Sit-on kayak for two is perfect for touring nearby waters. Picnics with your children, going in pairs with your friends, these kayaks are very stable, so if you always go paddling in pairs, then this will be your best bet!

As you can see, there are dozens of options and different possibilities when choosing a kayak. Indeed, the entire process can seem overwhelming. Still, in addition, I have created some guidelines that can help you identify exactly which kayak you need based on your type of kayaking.

Firstly, ask yourself these questions:
— Where will you be paddling? A remote lake or at the beach?
— The temperature of the water. Sit on top kayaks are perfect for warm water touring
— Do you prefer speed over stability or vice versa?

To give you a recommendation based on your answers to the questions above, I have comprised a list of all the pros and cons that sit on top and sit inside kayaks have. This way, you know their strengths and weaknesses, so you can make an informed decision.

kayak-beautiful-ocean sit-on-top-kayak

Sit-on-Top Pros & Cons

If you are looking for a beginner’s level kayak, then know that the sit on top kayak is the most user-friendly. They are quite stable and straightforward to get in and out of without feeling stuck inside the cockpit area.

Additionally, these kayaks are self-bailing, which means that they have scupper holes that drain the water out of the kayak for you, so you don’t have to use a pump.

Another pro of these kayaks would be the fact that you can slip on and off anytime you’d like so you can be active in the water and not constrained. This is why I always recommend these kayaks for newbies and nervous paddlers that will mostly kayak in the warm months. Plus for paddling with children who like to swim.

The downside of the sit on top kayaks would be the fact that you are guaranteed to get wet. Now, you may think this is obvious with any kayak or paddle board since you are already in the water, so “why would that bother me” you may ask, but just think of fishermen and kayak-lovers who like to traverse the waters year-round.

They would surely mind getting wet at every little splash, especially when the water and air temperatures are relatively low, and you know you have to stay there for a good majority of the day.


Sit-Inside Pros & Cons

The sit-inside kayaks, on the other hand, protect you from the water (although in long trips you are guaranteed to get wet either way) and overall are able to shelter your lower body from the wind, which will make your trip much more pleasant.

So, if you are spending many hours and many days throughout the entire year kayaking, you may want to consider a Sit-inside kayak.

Speaking of being sheltered, the cockpit area may seem a bit constraining to you, especially if you still haven’t learned how to get out of it, or you simply may feel like you don’t have the same freedom to move in and out of the water.

Also, if you flip for some reason, you may find recovery to be a complicated process because your kayak will fill in with water in the cockpit area quickly.

Otherwise, just like the sit-on-top kayaks, the sit-inside is very stable and easy to use once you master the process, and as for the cockpit freedom, you can simply buy a kayak that has a large opening, and there won’t be any reason to feel confined in them.

Additionally, some sit inside kayaks even have waterproof compartments that you can access through the hatches in the deck, which makes everything more convenient and comfortable.


What to consider when buying a sit-on-top kayak?

The Boat Length

The general rule of thumb for the length is that the longer and narrower the kayak is, the faster it will travel. And if it’s wider and slightly shorter, then it will be more stable but also slower.
However, most of these kayaks are considered recreational, so they are a bit wider and stable, to begin with.

Plus, keep in mind that while longer boats will have more storage space for overnight trips, shorter hulls do turn more quickly.

The Material and Weight

Kayaks are made with polyethylene plastic or ABS plastic or Composites like lightweight fiberglass and ultra-light carbon-fiber.

Those made of polyethylene plastic or ABS plastic are made to last for long without much maintenance and are usually cheaper. However, their downside is that they are heavy and hard to transport, but once it the water, they can take a beating and come out without any significant damages.

On the other hand, materials like ultra-light carbon-fiber, fiberglass, or other lightweight composites are easy to transport, quire light in weight, but also much more expensive, and they don’t take abuse as well as the others.

So, choose the perfect mix of weight versus price as to what suits you.

There are so many kayaks, which one suits you best?

The Weight Capacity

While the weight of the boat itself is one thing, its weight capacity is another. You see, this specification signifies how much the boat can take on when on the water without going down. This includes you, the boat weight, and the gear you are taking with you.

If you like multiday tours where you are packing a lot of baggage, it’s essential to pay attention to a boat’s capacity.

The Width and Depth

The wider the hull is, the more stable your kayak will be. However, if you are looking for speed, then this will slow you down. Also, broader and deeper hulls offer more storage space, while the shallow hulls are less affected by strong winds.

You can really kayak anywhere you want as long as you have water!

The Seats

Since kayaking is something you try once and fall in love for a lifetime, I bet you will be spending multiple hours per day in yours. So, make sure to pick a seat that’s comfortable, no matter the price.

The Rudders and Skegs

A skeg is a dropdown fin, which helps you from going off-course with your kayak when there’s a strong wind above the water.

A rudder has the same purpose, but it is not fixed. A rudder’s angle can be adjusted continuously via the foot pedals, so it gives you a bit more flexibility depending on the weather.

Both of these tools are extremely helpful, so make sure that you have at least one of them with you on board.


The Hatches and Cockpit

All kayaks come with hatches, but the great thing about touring boats is that they come with 2 of these. This makes longer trips much easier and fishing tours, too, since you get to fit more gear inside.

The cockpit area is pretty much on all the same, but they may differ in width. So, pick one that’s wide enough to be comfortable when touring with your kayak.

This was all on the topic of sit on top kayaks. I hope I was able to help with your choice between kayaks and that you are now able to choose the perfect sit on top kayak for your needs.

Of course, as always, if you have any doubts or questions regarding the sit on top kayaks or any other type, feel free to reach out through the comment section.

In the meantime, I’d love to connect with you on my Facebook, and Instagram accounts for more cool tips and recommendations on paddle boards and kayaks.

I might earn a small commission when you make a purchase through my link, so that I can keep my site running and pay the hosting bill. Read my affiliate policy to learn more.
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Review written by: Tom

Hi! My name is Tom. During the year I try to be on a paddle board as much as possible. By reading this blog you'll stay updated on everything I test on the water :)

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