Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Touring or Sea?

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.


  1. In my short time as a kayaker my belief is that if the kayak is over 12 feet (not a sit on top) then I consider it to be a sea kayak. Touring capability only comes into play with how the owner wants to use their sea kayak. Our Delta Expedition 15.5's have so much storage capacity (one of the reasons why we bought them) and in fact more than some 17 and 18 foot kayaks. Touring? What is touring?? We tour each time out on the water and the only difference is how long the tour might be in terms of hours and days in our sea kayaks.

    Just sayin ;-)

    Gecko Paddler

  2. I think the whole word touring is problematic. I have seen people do multiday trips with sit on tops, and by your definition a pungo 140 is a sea kayak - whereas I think it is clearly a recreational kayak. When it is all said and done I don't think it matters that much, but I thought it was interesting that the question was posed to me at all.

    thanks for the comment - as always - and I am trying to figure out how to make the book available in Canada. Thanks again for the intro! If only you could see it!