Why buy sit on kayaks? The versatility of sit ons explained

May 13, 2014 BY Tez Plavenieks

‘Why buy sit on kayaks? They’re not for real paddlers.’ A common misconception that even long time hard core kayakers assume to be correct. Sit ons will never quite reach the heady performance heights of their sit in brethren but you’d be surprised just how much fun they can be and what level you can achieve.

Why buy sit on kayaks image by Fi Plavenieks

Here, Tez Plavenieks, editor at sitons.com, explains why we all should have a sit on in our quiver and just how versatile they can be. If he can’t convince you about the versatility of sit ons then no one can.

The elephant in the room

Let’s address the elephant in the room first. The people thinking ‘why buy sit on kayaks?’ are most likely fair weather paddlers or families – upper echelons of kayak performance is not on their radar. There isn’t anything wrong here – in fact however you get on or in the brine is a good thing. In time the hope is some of these dabblers will become passionate paddlers.

Design traits

Most sit on designs are incredibly versatile – brands spend vast amounts researching and developing their products. Yet read any marketing bumph and you’d be hard pressed to understand what any of these boats can actually do. Over the past few years we’ve tried many types and there are very tangible differences between shapes, regardless of them all supposedly offering the same thing.

Why buy sit on kayaks image by Fi Plavenieks

Starting out

If you’ve decided sit on kayaking is your bag chances are you’ll be looking for an all round shape, such as a Perception Scooter, Fatyak Kaafu or Islander Calypso. It’s worth trying a few different boats before you part with your readies.

Fatyak’s Kaafu is a great boat for general paddling, touring and casting a line. Aft section width gives good stability but does hamper manoeuvrability. Perception’s Scooter is a different beast altogether with agility making it great for wave sliding while Islander’s Calypso is good if you’re on the heavier side.

I want more!

So you’ve purchased your kayak and you’re on the water as often as possible. Bitten by the paddling bug you’re now looking to push your envelope and move to the next level. But you need a different boat, don’t you?

Waves (coastal)

Sit on kayaks generally have some built in wave performance. Rockers and hulls are designed for easy wave catching while some boats allow a bit of spray chucking. You can go as big as you dare with swell size but if you get dumped off your sled you’ll end up swimming back to the beach. It’s therefore worth attaching thigh straps to keep you locked in – it’s even possible to roll your boat once attached.

Riders wanting a more specialist shape should check out Perception’s Five-0 hybrid surf sit on. RPF Kayaks produce high performance fiberglass hull surf shapes that you also sit on rather than in.

Why buy sit ons Photo by Fi Plavenieks

White water (inland)

Massive volume white water is simply a no go with sit on kayaks – moderate flowing rivers are fine though. In fact, using your sit on kayak is a great way to learn the basics. It’s worth taking time to understand how rapids, weirs and standing waves work – fools rush in after all.

Fluid Kayaks make one of the best white water sit on kayaks on the market. If river paddling is your thing their Do It Now offers sit on paddlers the perfect weapon.

Kayak fishing (coastal and inland)

Kayak fishing is huge in the States. On board storage and numerous ways to trick out your boat ensure anglers can pimp their ‘yak until the cows come home. Rod holders, tackle boxes, bait compartments, GPS fittings and every other which way you can think of setting yourself up for casting a line – all options with your sit on.

Wilderness Systems’ Tarpon is a popular boat for kayak fishing. Alternatively Native Watercraft’s Marina Propel is the daddy.

Touring (coastal and inland)

Having the stability to load up your boat with all manner of paraphernalia is the secret to successful touring. During day long sojourns you can carry necessary snacks and supplies while stowing tents and sleeping kit is possible during extended trips.

Longer boats such as Perception’s Triumph will always cover ground better than shorter designs, but sit ons make great exploratory vehicles in general.

Why buy sit on kayaks Photo by Fi Plavenieks

Fitness paddling (coastal inland)

Paddling any type of sled is great for fitness. You’ll build up your core, the holy grail of muscle groups, and generally enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Sit ons offer simple plug ‘n’ play experiences without needing technical skills. Simply rock up at your put in and bang in the miles.

These are just some of the reasons to buy sit on kayaks, neatly proving they can be more than just a beach toy. There’s a limit to how extreme you can go but sit on kayaks will always have their place. In fact many high level paddlers have one in their arsenal – whether they choose to admit it or not.

For more sit on related chat, banter, info and good vibes check out sitons.com. It turns out the answer to ‘why buy sit on kayaks?’ is clearer than you might have thought.


Fatyak, Fluid Kayaks, RPF Kayaks, Sit Ons, Whitewater (Rapids), Wilderness Systems

4 responses to “Why buy sit on kayaks? The versatility of sit ons explained”

  1. I started out with a Wilderness Systems Ripper, knowing little about kayaks and nothing about the difference between SOT and Sit In. I outgrew that boat – I got too heavy – and last year sold it and bought a WS Ride 115. It’s a handful to get on and off the car by myself, but I absolutely love it in the water. Stable, draws almost no water at all, tons of room for anything I might need to bring along (I take pictures), and easy to pilot.
    I was surprised, when I used the WS Kayak Selector on their website, to learn that it’s recommended for white water. I’m not a white water paddler, but am planning some longer jaunts on some faster moving bodies this year.
    For me it’s fundamental – fitting my girth into a kayak comfortably has always been a challenge; ditto getting it out. Launching and disembarking on a SOT is a piece of cake. I encourage everyone to try both before they buy – although truth be told – they’re all fun!

  2. If you can’t roll a kayak and you are learning a new section of rapids, then I would encourage you to try it on a Duckie (inflatable Kayak). I was learning the lines on the lower Yach in PA this past summer. My roll is far from dependable. I found that running the rapids on an inflatable was more forgiving, gave me a slightly higher visual perspective and was easier to recover when I did flip over. I hope this helps.

  3. to me as a amputee this is awesome as i bought to sit in and couldn’t get my arse in it due to me below knee amputation foot was upright haha but since bought 2 sitons and they are so much more stable especially for the bigger person or some a little afraid.iv held the sides of mine and rocked the hell out of it and it wont roll over ,awesome .id say these are better than sit in unless you want that extreme drop rocky fast hard core water.. you could even surf on these.

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