Best Sea Kayaks
Hitting the open ocean on a kayak is not only exhilarating but there quite is nothing like it. It feels as though you are gliding over the clouds, with colorful fish and coral beneath you. Now, if you live near the ocean and are looking at getting into seas kayaking this summer than you have come to the right place. We know it can be difficult when researching the web looking for the perfect sea kayak for you to call your own. That is why the guide below has the top ten sea kayaks listed for 2019 and also explains why these sea kayaks made our top ten list over the rest. Overall, if you are looking for a sport to get into this summer season and you live near the ocean, definitely check out these sea kayaks below.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 15 hrs of research
Easy to use
Built to last
- Ocean Kayak Frenzy
- Perception Carolina
- Wilderness System Tsunami 125
- Ocean Kayak Malibu
- Sun Dolphin Aruba SS
- Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145
- Ocean Zest Expedition
- Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable
- Advanced Elements Advanced Frame
- Oru Kayak BayST
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top Ten Sea Kayaks
1. Ocean Kayak Frenzy
Easy to use
Built to last
Does not come with a paddle
This is another great kayak brought to you from Ocean Kayak. This one person kayak is great to explore the open ocean with and will keep you stable and give you plenty of room to feel comfortable while out on the water.Read more
This kayak is built from a tri-form and is built to withstand the harsh weather and saltwater of the ocean. It is built to be solid and not be damaged from the saltwater.
This kayak being so compact is easy to control with your double ended paddle. You will be able to cruise through the ocean quickly and be able to turn in a moments notice.
There is not confined cockpit in this kayak which is great if you need to abandon ship quickly. It also does not confine your legs and lets them breathe. The total kayak is about 6 feet long, so it gives you about 3 feet of leg room.
This kayak is built to be wide and give you great stability on the water. It is also built wider as most likely you will be overcoming waves which can knock you over if you are in a narrower kayak. Luckily, this kayak will get you over the waves without issue and continuing on your way.
As stated above, this kayak has great maneuverability due to its wide and thin design. It is not as long as other kayaks which make it easier to turn throughout the water if needed.
Overall if you are looking for a durable and maneuverable kayak that is affordable and will give you hours of great times, this may be the kayak for you. It also comes in two designs so you should be able to find the perfect design and style for you and your next adventure.
2. Perception Carolina
Excellent strength and durability
Optional rudder makes tracking and turning during high winds relatively easy
Turning and navigation not as easy for a beginner
This sea touring kayak from Perception Kayak offers a great way to go the distance on the high seas with ample storage space, very comfortable cockpit area, and superior strength and durability overall. If you’re looking for a workhorse when it comes to sea kayaking, this one should certainly be on your list.Read more
The hull of this sea kayak is made of a high-grade polyethylene plastic that is formed with a rotational molding process for added strength and durability overall. It features one-piece construction that is UV, abrasion, and impact resistant.
This sea kayak features an optional rudder system that can easily be employed to help a kayaker keep a straight trajectory during windy conditions if necessary. Other than that, the design of the kayak and the skill of the kayaker are used to keep things going in the right direction.
The cockpit measures approximately 40 inches in length and 22 inches in width, making it one of the more sizable cockpits available on this list.
The v-bottom design of this sea kayak does offer less stability than more flat based ones, but it is still more than adequate for most sea-going ventures. While we might not suggest this sea kayak for a novice, once some experienced is achieved, maintaining the stability of the kayak through movement and piloting is easily accomplished.
Most kayakers with some experience find this kayak fairly easy to maneuver and navigate through calm or covered waters. The overall hull design allows for decent freedom of movement, and the kayak allows for good tracking and relatively easy turns with a moderate amount of effort.
If you have some experience on the open waters with a kayak, and you want a boat that provides a relatively stable and comfortable ride, the Carolina Kayak from Perception is certainly a viable option.
3. Wilderness System Tsunami 125
Very comfortable on longer trips
Cockpit may be too large for some individuals
This kayak from Wilderness Systems offers superior comfort and dependability for longer trips in calmer waters. If you’re looking for a new kayak that is great for extended day trips on the open waters, this one is a great choice.Read more
The hull consists of a molded polyethylene material that is relatively lightweight and strong. It is designed to withstand easily longer trips in coastal waters or in lakes and calmer rivers.
This sea kayak is outfitted with the ability to attach an optional rudder. However, most kayakers find that the overall maneuverability of this kayak is good enough to allow them to easily change directions with a simple shifting of their weight or use of a paddle.
The cockpit measures 36 inches by 20 inches, which makes it a great choice for larger individuals.
The v-bottom shape of this sea kayak allows for fairly good stability in a wide range of situations. While it’s not as stable as some of the flat bottom kayaks available on the market, this sea kayak serves quite well overall in both ocean and lake environments.
This kayak tracks and turns extremely well with a minimal amount of force needed to get the job done. It moves through the water with relative ease and is comparatively fast considering its larger size.
If you’re looking for a sea kayak that can go the distance, and do it in comfort and style, the Tsunami 125 by Wilderness Systems is certainly something to consider. While it may not be suitable in size for smaller individuals, for most people it is a very comfortable option.
4. Ocean Kayak Malibu
Lets you explore with a friend
Colors may not match the picture exactly
This is another great kayak brought to you from Ocean Kayak. The great feature about this kayak is that it is a two-seater so you can explore the open ocean with you and a friend. If you and a loved one are looking to get out this summer and you live near the beach, definitely check this kayak out.Read more
This kayak is made from durable material that will keep you afloat and on your way as you explore the open ocean. This kayaks hull will hold up to the wear and tear of salt water without issue, so you will have the ability to use this kayak for quite some time.
This kayak is a bit narrower and longer than other kayaks on the list so the ability to change direction can be a bit difficult as you are relying on two people to change the direction rather than just yourself. This kayak is also 12 ft long so will take some time to get it turned around.
The nice thing about this kayak aside from having two cockpits is that the cockpits are open and do not confine your feet. The kayak in total is about 12 ft long which leaves each rider with about 3-4 feet of legroom, which is plenty and will keep you comfortable.
This kayak is narrower than others on the list but is still quite stable as most ocean kayaks are. the reason this kayak is so stable is due to the fact that you may need to go over waves and you do not want a kayak that will tip after the first wave.
Again as stated above, you may have some difficulty turning as you are relying on two riders to work together to change direction. But overall when going forward, you will have no issue and this kayak can pick up some speed once you get going.
Overall, if you are looking to explore the open ocean and have a friend or loved one that wants to join you, check out this kayak.
5. Sun Dolphin Aruba SS
A good amount of storage space
Not easy to maneuver in high winds
This seaworthy kayak from Sun Dolphin provides an extremely rugged hard shell choice for the avid kayaker that desires to experience the open waters with minimal impact from environmental dangers that may surround him.Read more
The hull is comprised of UV-stabilized high-density polyethylene, making this kayak one of the most durable, and damage resistant ones on the market today.
This sea kayak does not feature any skeg or rudder, but instead relies on the skill of the kayaker and the overall design of the boat for proper tracking and turning.
The cockpit is one of the largest we’ve seen in a kayak of this size, and it can easily accommodate a larger individual as well as a substantial amount of gear if desired. Also, the padded seat is fully adjustable for a more customized fit.
Based on the overall dimensions, this sea kayak offers a great deal of general stability. The length is approximately 10 feet, and the width is just about 2.5 feet.
Overall this kayak handles quite well in calmer waters but becomes a little harder to manage in waters that are a bit more turbulent. Tracking is fairly straightforward, and making turns is possible with a bit of effort.
If you’re looking for a rugged sea kayak that can withstand a lot of abuse, this example from Sun Dolphin might just be what you need. While the maneuverability leaves a little bit to be desired, overall it’s a very stable kayak.
6. Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145
Excellent overall stability
Ample room and comfort
Might be too large for smaller individuals
Designed to be more comfortable and faster moving than most sea kayaks of comparable size, the Tsunami 145 by Wilderness Systems offers a way for the avid sea kayaker to not only enjoy the sea voyage in relative comfort but also get to the destination as soon as they desire.Read more
Like many of the other Wilderness Systems kayaks, this hull features molded polyethylene material that is extremely lightweight without sacrificing any significant amount of strength.
This sea kayak features a course control rudder, which makes it relatively easy to track through less than calm waters or make course corrections on a windy day.
The cockpit measures approximately 35 inches in length and 19 inches in width, which makes it a good choice for those with longer legs or overall larger bodies.
This sea kayak has an overall length to width ratio of sixteen feet to approximately two feet, making it one of the wider ones on this list. The overall dimensions of the kayak make it overall fairly stable, even under less than idea touring condition.
Despite its larger size, the Tsunami 145 was found to be extremely easy to maneuver through flat waters and coastline areas. It was found to be very responsive to the manipulation of the rudder, as well as the weight shifts of the kayaker.
The Tsunami 160 by Wilderness Systems provide a great choice for larger or taller individuals that demand superior comfort and control during longer sea kayaking adventures. If you want stability as well as superior maneuverability, this kayak is a great choice.
7. Ocean Zest Expedition
Excellent strength and durability
Lots of storage space
Fastest kayak on the market
Heavy to load on a vehicle
The Ocean Zest is rated as one of the fastest Kayaks on the market and is perfect for that day getaway or for that weekend adventure. This Kayak does not confine you to a cockpit, so much more room for storage.Read more
The hull is fashioned out of a high-density polyethylene material that allows for superior strength overall while maintaining a relatively low weight of 75 lbs.
While there is no rudder or skeg included with this particular sea kayak, it does have the ability to attach a rudder. Simply attach the rudder to the in place screw fasteners to allow for a more precise directional control
This sea kayak features an on the top design, meaning that the cockpits sit on top of the hull, and not within it. However, each cockpit area has a dedicated seat area that measures approximately 19 inches in width, which is more than enough to accommodate the average adult.
This is one of the most stable sea kayaks available. The length is approximately sixteen feet, and the width is nearly three feet in length, which provides a good deal of compensation when the waves become more turbulent.
Because of its larger size, this sea kayak isn’t quite as maneuverable as others on this list. If your path on the water includes calmer passages or the open ocean, this kayak will serve you well. However, if you expect a few rapids or places where finite control is needed, you may wish to look elsewhere.
For a two-person kayak that has great stability as well as the capacity to haul a good deal of equipment, you can’t go far wrong with the Ocean Kayak Zest Two Expedition Touring Kayak. While it may not be as maneuverable as some on this list, it’s still a great option for most.
8. Sea Eagle 330 Inflatable
Easy to inflate and put together
Not always easy to maneuver
This example of a sea kayak from Sea Eagle is a great choice if you’re looking for something that has the convenience of an inflatable kayak with the overall stability of a rigid hard shell one. Able to easily accommodate two adults and their gear up to 500 lbs, this is one kayak that can easily handle just about anything you can throw at it.Read more
The hull material is comprised of an inflatable 33-millimeter polykrylar hull with sturdy I-beam construction and welded seams for extra durability.
This kayak includes a skeg to help the two kayakers to navigate the waters easily and maintain tracking when necessary.
The Sea Eagle features an open cockpit plan consisting of two inflatable seats, each one positioned at either end of the kayak to help maintain proper balance and stability.
This is by far one of the more stable sea kayaks available on the market today with the relatively wide base compared to its length.
While this sea kayak excels in both stability and durability for an inflatable version, it does fall somewhat short when it comes to maneuverability. While tracking is a fairly simple process, making turns rapidly in this kayak is difficult indeed. It also has the potential to be unbalanced, depending on how well it is inflated.
This kayak by Sea Eagle easily makes its home on the lakes, open sea waters, and calmer rivers. While it lacks some maneuverability, it is one of the most stable inflatable kayaks on the market today.
9. Advanced Elements Advanced Frame
Can be difficult to manage in high winds
This sea kayak combines the strength and durability of a ridged body kayak with the ease and convenience of an inflatable boat. If you’re looking for a solid hybrid that is more than capable of handling the larger waves of the open ocean, this is a great choice.Read more
The hull is made of a collapsible aluminum frame surrounded by a three-ply rubberized inflatable shell that is designed for maximum buoyancy and durability.
The stern area of this kayak acts as a built-in skeg, allowing for a respectable amount of control and tracking ability.
This style of sea kayak features a stable, inflatable seat area that is sized to accommodate most adults without too much trouble.
The length to width ratio of this sea kayak is fairly high making it one of the more stable ones available once the initial set up is complete. The final dimensions of this kayak measure ten feet in length by nearly three feet in length.
Because of its lighter structure and smaller size, this sea kayak is able to respond quickly to changes in wind direction and overall paddling. While it can be difficult to control in stronger winds, overall, the maneuverability is quite good.
This sea kayak from Advanced Elements provides a great way for the avid kayaker to enjoy the coastal waters or a calmer lake without too much weight or hassle of transport. This kayak is easily portable and able to assemble in just a few moments.
10. Oru Kayak BayST
Foldable yet very Durable
Easy to store
Set up can be difficult the first couple times
This kayak from Oru Kayak is not only stable, versatile and easy to manage but also folds for easy storage and transportation. If you love to Kayak but are limited on storage space, this may be the Kayak for you!Read more
The hull of this sea kayak is constructed of a custom polypropylene material and unfolds like origami but still offers a good deal of strength and ease of movement through the water. Don't let the origami style hull make you think this Kayak is not durable, as in the water it can withstand scraping and light impacts caused by rocks and coral.
This sea kayak from Oru does not have a skeg or rudder but is solely directed from paddling and also the shift in weight from the paddler.
The closed cockpit of this kayak measures 16 inches by 30 inches, so it will be a snug fit. In addition, due to the cockpit being closed, it allows for a spray skirt to be added so you can take on rougher conditions.
This sea kayak's design allows for a graceful paddle and its dimensions of 12 x 33 x 29 inches allow it to be perfect for beginners but at the same time fast and sporty for expert kayakers.
This sea kayak's sleek design allows for it to be maneuvered quite easily by the operator. This kayak weighs 28lbs, and due to this is quite quick on the water.
If you’re looking for a great sea kayak that provides great balance, range of motion, and can be stored and transported with ease, this kayak from Oru Kayaks may be the one for you!
Criteria Used for Evaluation
The hull of your kayak is your first line of defense against the open ocean, the various animals that you might encounter, changes in temperature and weather conditions over time, as well as the current all have an effect on the Kayaks performance. So the construction details of the hull can be very important in determining the overall seaworthiness of the kayak in question.
For the most part, modern kayaks have hulls that are either a hard shell or inflatable in design, with a few that are a hybrid between the two, such as the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Kayak. The hard shell kayaks usually consist of either molded resin plastic materials or lightweight polyethylene or fiberglass material. The inflatable kayaks are usually created using ripstop PVC material that has multiple layers to help prevent puncturing or tearing.
The material that is used to make the hull of the kayak is usually an indication of the overall toughness and durability of the kayak as a whole. For the most part, these kayaks were well designed and used materials that could easily withstand the average amount of abuse dished out by novice and expert kayakers alike.
The cockpit of the kayak is where the kayaker maintains control and interacts with the kayak itself. If the cockpit is too small for the person, it can be extremely uncomfortable, and the kayaker risks serious injury if the kayak should tip over. If it is too large, the kayaker can’t use his arms, legs and overall weight effectively to steer and control the kayak in general. For the most part, these kayaks offer cockpits of various sizes and shapes, and they often can easily fit most average sized adults, or in the cases of the Sun Dolphin or the Ocean Kayak examples listed above, larger individuals as wells.
The stability or the ability of the kayak to prevent itself from tipping can be a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to operating a kayak. While you certainly don’t want to have the kayak tip over during use, you do want a bit of instability in the boat to allow subtle weight shifts to help produce turns and banks when necessary. However, once the kayak is headed in the right direction, if it’s too unstable the kayak may not be able to track efficiently. It’s a true balancing act.
Thankfully, in the cases of the kayaks presented here, that balance is achieved. Some, like the Necky Eliza, provide superior stability through the use of a longer, yet narrower hull, while others, like the Sea Eagle Pro 330 provides the majority of the stability through the wider and lighter construction.
Ease of Use
How a kayak moves through the water often helps to determine how much overall fun and enjoyment the kayaker has. After all, if the kayak is difficult to steer, all of the energy and concentration of the kayaker will be spent trying to make sure that they stay upright and are headed in the correct direction. However, if a simple shift of the weight or a pull of the kayak paddle is all it takes to maneuver around an obstacle, or avoid a swell, more time and energy can be spent on enjoying the surroundings.
For the most part, the kayaks presented here have decent to excellent levels of maneuverability. Some, such as the Advanced Elements Advanced Frame Kayaks are extremely responsive and can easily be adjusted to meet the changing needs in the water. Others, like the Ocean Kayak Zest, are a little less responsive, relying more on stability and subtle movements to travel through the waters effectively.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Sea kayakers are known for traveling over great distances, often tens or hundreds of miles per day for multiple days at a time. As you realize, supplies are often needed during those long trips to make sure that everyone stays healthy and alert. So, having enough storage space for what you want to bring is definitely something to consider when buying a kayak. For the most part, each person traveling on a kayak trip needs to be able to carry enough supplies to allow them to kayak during the day and camp out comfortably at night.
When looking to invest in a sea kayak for some fun this summer season, make sure you check the measurements of the kayak to ensure you will not only fit but will fit comfortably. The last thing you want is to invest quite a bit of money into a kayak and feel uncomfortable after a bit of time spent in the ocean. Make sure to see how much leg room you will need to comfortably sit for a complete day on the ocean.
Other Factors to Consider
Another criterion to take into consideration is how much room for storage of your kayak is available for your use. Sea Kayaks often come in three different hull styles, namely hard shell, inflatable, and foldable. While hard shells offer much more protection, stability, and performance overall, they are also a fixed size and can be difficult to store, especially in an apartment or small house setting. And while inflatable or foldable kayaks don’t offer as much overall performance on the water, they are far superior when it comes to their storage options.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How hard is it to pilot your kayak?
The pilot of a kayak is the kayaker who is in control of the boat. For the most part, that should be you. However, there will be times when it is not. Perhaps your one of your children wants to take your kayak out for a three-day weekend with their friends. Or your neighbor wants to borrow it for a trip down the coastline. Whatever the case, the kayaker in question needs to be able to properly fit into the cockpit area in order to safely pilot the kayak. By understanding that is likely to use the kayak, as well as their overall kayaking ability, you can choose a style of kayak that would be the most suitable to the situation that exists.
q: What size sea kayak should I buy?
The size of kayak you buy, indeed the size of any kayak you buy, depends mostly on you, your skill level, and your body proportions. Assuming that you have some skill, or at least you know standard safety protocol when it comes to kayaking, and you’ve been practicing your skills adequately enough, the only thing left to consider is the relationship between your body proportions and the kayak itself.
The kayak needs to essentially be an extension of your own body. When you shift your hips and body weight to the right, your kayak needs to be small enough to be able to respond to your movement, yet large enough to shift effectively in the water. When you use your kayak paddle to glide forward, the kayak itself needs to be long enough and light enough to move with your body.
That being said, it’s important to note that the kayak should be comfortably snug around your body, not uncomfortably tight. After all, if you flip over, you’ll need to be able to quickly exit, and being in a cockpit or kayak that is too restrictive can be dangerous.
One general rule of thumb is to start with your weight and compare it to the weight span of the kayak itself. If you fall within the range, chances are you’ll be comfortable in it. Also, take a look at your height and compare it to the length of the kayak. If the length is around three times your height, it will probably be long enough to keep you upright, but short enough to allow your paddle to move you easily through the waters.
q: How should I paddle in a sea kayak? Is it different than paddling in a river kayak?
Simply put, yes, you should paddle a kayak differently than a river kayak, but there are some similarities. First, both paddling styles have your hands about shoulder width apart on the paddle itself. Second, both use the same basic bicycle-like rotation of the shoulders to propel the kayak forward.
The difference lies in the angle at which the paddle enters the water. Kayaks that are meant to be used in a river or small lake environments are often smaller and more responsive, which often require a higher angle of entry to maintain overall control. Sea kayaking often requires a gentler, or shallow angle to help maintain stability and speed of movement.
q: What does the term “tracking” mean when it comes to sea kayaks?
The ability of a kayak to stay the course once it is underway is its ability to track. Often the ability to track well is a sign that the kayak is well balanced and able to withstand influences from outside sources like wind or waves under the direction of the kayaker herself.
As you can imagine, the ability to track well is key to a sea kayak, especially if you are navigating unfamiliar waters or waters where references to land are few and far between. While you can certainly gain insight into your position using a compass, if a kayak has poor tracking ability, it can and will eventually lead you off course if regular corrections aren’t made.
q: How long a paddle should I use with a sea kayak?
Generally speaking, your paddle needs to be long enough so that when you stroke into the water the paddle will be able to reach beyond the gunwales of the kayak while you can maintain a proper kayaking posture. That means that the wider the kayak is, the longer your paddle should be. In addition, you should also take into account your torso height, which is also directly related to the length of your paddle. The longer your torso, the longer your paddle needs to be.