Gear Guide: Kayaks Part II

Sea kayaks are an excellent choice for paddlers who feel the call of the open ocean. 

Sea kayaks are an excellent choice for paddlers who feel the call of the open ocean. 

Last week, we talked about recreational touring kayaks. This week, we will continue our exploration of kayaks pertinent to the waters of Southwest Florida with sea kayaks. Sea kayaks are the higher-performance, larger sibling of recreational touring kayaks, and are designed for open ocean expeditions.

Sea kayaks look like longer, thinner versions of recreational touring kayaks, but there are some subtle elements that make them an entirely different craft. Sea kayaks are far narrower, which improves their ability to cut through the water. Their more pronounced bow is designed to carve through higher surf, but can become a hindrance in very high winds, as it tends to act like a sail.

Sea kayaks also tend to be much longer than recreational touring kayaks, which makes them faster, but harder to turn. As a result, they tend to come with rudders or skegs. Rudders are flat pieces, typically made of plastic, that attach to the stern of the kayak. They are connected to foot pedals by wires. By depressing one foot or the other, one can steer the kayak left or right while maintaining a consistent forward stroke.

Skegs are similar to rudders, but serve a slightly different function. They can be raised or lowered to aid in staying on a straight course. In other words, they are designed to prevent turning. Skegs are particularly helpful in high cross winds.

If you are mainly interested in paddling around calm, protected waters, a recreational touring kayak is probably your best choice. For paddlers feeling the call of the open ocean, consider purchasing a sea kayak. Or, if you want to do it all, maybe you need one of each! Happy paddling.

Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club hosted by Sanibel Sea School that helps the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit or follow us on Facebook to learn more.