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Are Sit on Top Kayaks More Stable?

Are Sit on Top Kayaks More Stable?

5 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Sit on Top Kayaks

Put in the most simple terms, a sit-on-top kayak is a kayak that you sit above the main deck rather than inside the kayak itself. Most sit-on-top kayaks have adjustable chairs and some have seats with lumbar support or the ability to swivel 360 degrees.

Some of the most frequently searched questions regarding sit-on-top (also known as fishing kayaks) are:

  1. Are sit-on-top kayaks more stable?
  2. Are sit-on-top kayaks safer?
  3. Are sit-on-top kayaks good for rivers?
  4. Are sit-on-top kayaks good on the ocean?
  5. Is a sit-on-top kayak better for fishing?

Chances are you found this blog researching the differences between a sit-on-top kayak and a traditional kayak. You may be hesitant because you are not an angler and our website is mostly dedicated to "fishing kayaks." You are still in the right place. In our last blog, 5 Benefits of Fishing Kayaks Beyond Fishing, we laid out why a sit-on-top fishing kayak is also a great choice for recreational paddlers.

While that blog focused on topics similar to this one, we'll now focus specifically on the most searched terms regarding sit-on-top kayaks. Let's look closer at each question.



1. Are sit-on-top kayaks more stable?

Sit-on-top kayaks are designed with fishing in mind. Therefore, they are designed to be stable enough for anglers to stand up and fish in. Because of this, most sit-on-top kayaks have wider hulls than traditional sit-in kayaks. This is for added stability.

There are two levels of stability for kayaks:

Primary Stability

Primary stability refers to the initial stability of a kayak, or how stable it feels when you are sitting in it on calm water. Kayaks with high primary stability tend to feel more stable and steady, making them suitable for beginners or those who prefer a more relaxed paddling experience. These kayaks have a wider beam (width) and a flatter hull design, which provide a larger contact area with the water, resulting in increased stability.

Secondary Stability

Secondary stability refers to the ability of a kayak to maintain stability as it leans or tilts to the side. When you lean a kayak on its edge, such as during turns or when encountering waves, the kayak's secondary stability comes into play. Kayaks with good secondary stability are designed to resist tipping over and provide a sense of security even when the kayak is tilted. These kayaks often have a narrower beam and a more rounded hull shape, allowing them to track better and provide greater maneuverability.

Most sit-on-top kayaks come in two hull shapes: V-shaped or Pontoon-style. When at rest, pontoon-style sit-on-top kayaks are extremely stable with high primary stability. You can stand, walk around (if there is room) and stretch without feeling like you are going to fall in. If you are on calm water, a pontoon-style sit-on-top kayak is more stable than a traditional kayak. They are still stable in current, but don't edge or turn as well.

V-shaped hull sit-on-top kayaks knife through current much like traditional sit-in kayaks. While they may not be as agile, they share the benefits of stability with a pontoon-style hull and the maneuverability of sit-in kayaks.

In general, sit-on-top kayaks are more stable than sit-in kayaks, but what you gain in stability you may lose in some agility. How many people can say they can jump in their sit-in kayaks?



2. Are Sit-on-Top Kayaks Safer?

In general, yes, sit-on-top kayaks are often perceived as safer. We'll go over a few of the reasons why, but it is important to note specific water conditions, like rough or whitewater, may require a sit-in kayak.

Why sit-on-top kayaks are perceived to be safer in many environments:

  • Stability: Sit-on-top kayaks generally offer greater initial stability due to their wider hull and open deck design. This makes them more resistant to tipping and capsizing, which can be reassuring for beginners or paddlers who are less confident in their balance.
  • Easier re-entry: If you do happen to capsize in a sit-on-top kayak, re-entering the kayak is typically easier compared to traditional closed-cockpit kayaks. The open design allows for quick and simple re-entry from the water, which can be especially beneficial for recreational paddlers, families, or those with limited mobility.
  • Self-bailing: Sit-on-top kayaks often feature self-bailing scupper holes (see video below this list) or drainage channels that allow water to drain out through the bottom of the kayak. This feature is particularly advantageous in rough water conditions or if the kayak takes on water, as it helps keep the kayak afloat and reduces the risk of swamping.
  • Versatility: Sit-on-top kayaks are popular for recreational activities such as fishing, snorkeling, or swimming due to their open design. They provide more freedom of movement and allow for easier access to gear or equipment, making them suitable for various water-based activities.

In the end, however, personal safety largely depends on the paddler's knowledge, skills, experience, and adherence to safety practices, such as wearing a personal flotation device (PFD), knowing how to handle different water conditions, and practicing self-rescue techniques.



3. Are Sit-on-Top Kayaks Good for Rivers?

Like the questions above, the answer to this question is yes, but it depends on the style of kayak you choose. Expanding on the answers above, a V-shaped hull (whether it is sit-on-top or sit-in) will perform better on moving water. The V-shape 'knifes' through water better and is more stable while moving.

There are specific sit-on-top kayaks that are built for river fishing. They often have the V-shaped hull and are built to track (keep a straight line) better in current. Eco Fishing Shop Pro Staff member, Garrett Reid, is an experienced sit-on-top river angler and shared his 10 Tips for River Fishing in a Kayak.

Garrett Reid River Fishing


4. Are Sit-on-Top Kayaks Good on the Ocean?

You may be sensing a theme here, but yes, sit-on-top kayaks are a great choice for the ocean. Like rivers, specific kayaks are meant for the ocean. Longer sit-on-top kayaks with wide, V-shaped hulls make a good choice for the changing conditions an ocean can throw at it.

You'll likely need to cut through the surf, as well as handle bigger waves and wakes. If you plan to go a long ways from shore, sit-on-top kayaks reign supreme over traditional kayaks because you have the option to add a motor to your kayak.

On our community forum, Kayak Anglers Resource, member Robert Renfrow often shares his experiences fishing from his Old Town AutoPilot in the ocean. Check out his topic dedicated to hisAutoPilot 136 Through the Surf.



5. Is a Sit-on-Top Kayak Better for Fishing?

This may be the most simple answer of all of them. When you consider everything you have learned about sit-on-top kayaks, it is easy to see why the are made for people wanting to fish. Their size, stability and customizability make them a perfect platform to fish from.

That is not to say you can't fish from sit-in kayaks (see Old Town's Loon 126 Angler), but you have far more options and space with a sit-on-top kayak.

Sit-on-top kayaks can be enjoyed by anglers and recreationists alike because of their features, but if you plan at all to fish, they are a no-brainer.



Is a Sit-on-Top Kayak the Right Choice For Me?

Sit-on-top kayaks are stable, feature-rich and comfortable. They offer many benefits to both anglers and recreational paddlers. Their utility stretches far beyond that of just fishing. While they are designed with anglers in mind, their accessory rails, elevated seats and propulsion drives offer unique opportunities for all adventurers.

Whether you are a novice explorer, experienced camper, or someone who is simply looking to get on the water to read a book, a sit-on-top fishing kayak is a great fit. You'll be on the water longer, explore further and enjoy your experiences with less frustrations.

We've covered A LOT of topics and kayak definitions. Here are some additional blogs breaking down kayak hulls and other topics in greater detail:



Ask Questions & Use Your Available Resources

If you find yourself overwhelmed, or still unsure which kayak or accessories are right for you and your adventure, get answers from people just like you. Join our public community, The Kayak Anglers Resource, where you can ask questions of members who have real experience. Or, check out our YouTube channels for reviews and how-tos: Eco Fishing Shop and Kayak Anglers Resource.

Browse all of our blogs and Buyer's Guides to most of our brands below. To check out our full range of the best fishing kayaks and accessories we have to offer, available to you via free and fast shipping, click HERE. We are happy to help and answer any questions. Click the chat button, give us a call or ask your questions in the public community, we will be there to answer no matter how you communicate!

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