Recently after paddling I found myself running some errands. As it turned out my kayak was still on the roof of the trusty Yaris. It gets some funny looks as I drive around town. A big kayak on a little car. On this particular day as I was loading groceries into my car a woman came up to me and asked me if my kayak was a touring kayak or a sea kayak.
People get very much into distinctions in the names of kayaks, and I find people get equally confused by brand names - it's an ocean kayak, so you can use it in the ocean, right? I told the woman that there was really no difference between a touring kayak and a sea kayak, but it got me thinking. Was I right? is there a difference? So I looked around.
At Delta Kayaks website, under the products tab is a drop down menu that lists "sea kayaks" followed by sit on tops, and recreational kayaks. They have every sit in style of kayak listed as a sea kayak with the exception of a ten foot kayak. So according to Delta, 12 feet and up is a sea kayak, and the word touring is never used.
P&H breaks boats down by "expedition" "play" and "versatile" and there is a great deal of overlap in sizes.
Wilderness systems avoids the words sea kayak, but uses 'recreational', 'touring' and 'touring performance' with the differentiators being length. They also add 'expedition' which is boats 16 feet in length or greater - regardless of sit in, sit on, or materials.
I decided to try one more manufacturer, Valley kayaks doesn't use any of the above, preferring to break down by materials, with off shoots for 'greenland' and 'sports and fitness'.
I intentionally chose manufacturers from Canada, the US, and England to see if the difference was national.
The only place I could really find the touring kayak/sea kayak separation was on REI's website. They break it down by length. Sixteen feet and up is a sea kayak. I don't know if I agree with this. But at the end of the day I don't think it matters. I am just happy to go for a paddle.