Frolicking whales, surfing dolphins, diving sea birds, maybe even a sea turtle if you’re lucky!
Sea kayaking in open ocean is a wonderful experience, and not just for the wildlife. There are secluded beaches to discover, islands to circumnavigate, caves to explore and headlands to conquer.
But there is also cold choppy water, wind, large distances to cover and variable weather conditions. To be comfortable and safe out there, you need a suitable kayak.
Here are the most important features to look for when choosing a sea kayak for open ocean:
With the waves and chop and sea wind knocking you around, it can be difficult to paddle straight in open ocean, so you need all the help you can get.
When choosing a sea kayak, look for a kayak that is long, has a fin and has a hull that is designed to cut through chop.
Distance is deceptive when you get out past the breakers… the inlet that you can see ‘just over there’ is actually many kilometres away! You might also be kayaking against a tide and a wind, so you need a long, fast kayak.
A lot of sea kayaks are long and narrow, because that’s what makes them go fast. The downside of this is that they are very unstable and it takes quite a bit of concentration and core strength to stay upright. Usually, when you are out to sea, there is not a lot of land breaks available, so if you are constantly trying to balance and stabilize, it can be exhausting! A stable kayak will not be so exhausting, and will allow you to rest and relax from time to time when you are paddling, giving your core a break and allowing you to enjoy the peace of the ocean.
When you are sea kayaking in open ocean, you don’t usually get the opportunity to stop and stretch your legs, or un-kink your back, so it is really important that you are comfortable. If your kayak is hard under your bum, has no foot brace and inadequate back support, you may find yourself desperate to finish paddling and you certainly won’t be attempting any long-distance feats.
Weather conditions at sea can change suddenly and you don’t want to be left out in the cold. If you are wet and a sea breeze springs up (as they do), you may be surprised at how quickly it gets unpleasant. A kayak that keeps you dry also allows you to go kayaking in cold water and/or cold weather, which, depending on where you live, might open up a whole other season of kayaking for you!
It’s a good idea to have an extremely visible kayak if you’re paddling in open ocean, and it’s important that you can attach safety items, such as rescue beacons and your smart phone, securely to the kayak.
After a couple of goes in the sea, you may decide you love it! And you want to do a multi-day trip, or get into some kayak sailing. Look for a versatile kayak with a large weight capacity and some D-rings on the decks to tie down gear and attach a sail.