Sit-In or Sit-on-Top Kayaks: Which Is Best for You?

Kayaking is the perfect way to exercise while admiring the beauty of nature from a unique perspective. If you paddle frequently, it may be time to purchase a kayak of your own.

One of the first decisions you have to make is if you want a sit-in vs. sit-on-top kayak. Each style has pros and cons you’ll want to weigh to determine the best fit.

What Is a Sit-On Kayak?

A sit-on kayak is a type of kayak that allows the paddler to sit fully on top of the hull without a cockpit. It has features like footholds, backrests, and storage straps attached to the deck. Sit-on kayaks are larger and wider than sit-in versions. 

Advantages of Sit-on-Top Kayaks

  • They offer greater initial stability due to the wide base of the boat.
  • Kayakers have a large range of motion for activities like fishing and photography.
  • They’re easy to mount and dismount, even in the water.
  • They’re essentially impossible to sink because of sealed hulls and self-bailing scupper holes.
  • There’s no trapped feeling for the kayaker.

Disadvantages of Sit-On Style Kayaks

  • The paddler is fully exposed to water and sun.
  • Wide bases make these boats bigger and heavier, so they take more effort to paddle.
  • They have a high center of gravity and less secondary stability, so they could rock and tip over.
  • They’re not ideal for rough water or unfavorable weather conditions.

What Is a Sit-In Kayak?

Unlike sit-on kayaks, sit-in style kayaks have a partially closed cockpit the paddler sits in, placing them down below the water level. These kayaks are narrow and more lightweight compared to sit-on styles.

Advantages of Sit-In Style Kayaks

  • The paddler is protected from the elements. Using a skirt to cover the cockpit opening can provide even more protection.
  • Kayakers sit down in the boat for a lower center of gravity and greater secondary stability.
  • They’re faster and lighter for easier paddling and better maneuverability.
  • You’ll find more dry storage space inside the kayak.
  • Kayakers can brace themselves inside the cockpit for more powerful paddling.

Disadvantages of Sit-In Kayaks

  • The enclosed cockpit limits your range of motion.
  • They can be more difficult to launch and enter on your own.
  • They have a narrower base and less initial stability.
  • Water that gets in needs to be pumped out. 

Choosing the Right Kayak for You

Determining which style of kayak is best for you ultimately comes down to your personal preferences and how you plan to use your boat.

Sit-in kayaks are generally the preferred type for more experienced kayakers who plan to take longer trips in choppier waters. They are also the better choice if you plan on paddling in an area with shorter summers and colder weather, as they offer more protection from the elements.

If you’re trying to weigh sit-on vs. sit-in kayaks for fishing, you’ll likely favor a sit-on style because of the greater range of motion.

Consider all of these factors before you start shopping — and maybe try out each style to see what you are more comfortable with.

Selecting a Dock for Your Kayak

No matter what style of kayak you choose, it’ll be easier to enter from a dock. Browse our online collection of EZ Dock products — including floating docks and kayak or canoe launches — to find the right launching solution for you.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us for more information. 

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