Have you ever wondered, “are inflatable kayaks safe in the ocean?” It’s no surprise if so because few of us would take a blow-up dinghy or other inflatables out on the ocean. But where do these kayaks fall in terms of safety?
Are Inflatable Kayaks Safe In The Ocean?
The great news is that a high-quality inflatable kayak is safe for use in the ocean. Provided it meets guidelines about the size and is properly equipped. Inflatables are durable enough to be used at sea. But bear in mind that kayaking in the ocean is more dangerous than kayaking in lakes and rivers. You should always take safety precautions and have at least one experienced kayaker nearby.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Durable Enough For Use At Sea?
Inflatable kayaks may sometimes seem like a bad idea partly because we are used to flimsy inflatables such as paddling pools and little kiddie blow-up dinghies. The idea that something comprised chiefly of air could be safe out on the ocean might seem strange.
However, as long as it is of good quality, an inflatable kayak can be exceptionally durable.
According to ArcticDry, inflatable kayaks are usually made of several layers of material, and some even include aluminum to make them more stable in the water. In addition, vinyl, drop-stitching, and multiple air chambers all make them safer out at sea. However, you shouldn’t take your dog or small children out on rough ocean waters.
Therefore, you don’t need to worry about your inflatable kayak’s durability in the ocean. Especially as there shouldn’t be too much out there for you to hit, unlike kayaking through white water rapids.
An inflatable will usually survive a bump or two with sharp rocks if you encounter them, but you should always carry a puncture repair kit just in case.
Are Inflatable Kayaks Stable Enough For Use At Sea?
This will probably be your next question: is an inflatable kayak sufficiently stable when out at sea?
Inflatables are very stable as long as they are fully inflated. A half-inflated kayak will lack structure and will probably not be safe in the water. Always check your kayak is correctly inflated before taking it out on any body of water.
An inflatable kayak is not less stable than a hard-shell kayak, but this depends a bit on the model and design. Bear in mind that out at sea, a kayak needs to be able to deal with waves and lapping water, which is very different from handling a calm (or even somewhat choppy) lake surface.
To kayak at sea, you need a long kayak, whether it’s hard-shell or soft-shell. You should not be taking to the ocean in a short, narrow little boat.
Length and width will give you more control in the water and make your boat more resistant to waves. However, many soft-shell kayaks are built for portability and may not have sufficient length to go out to sea.
Most ocean-ready kayaks are over fourteen feet long, and this is considered the standard safe length if you want to paddle out to sea in them. You shouldn’t take a shorter kayak out, as you may lose control and get blown or washed away from the shore.
While an inflatable kayak can be stable enough to use at sea, you should think about its length and width and whether it is actually going to be able to handle waves.
If your boat is both long and wide, it has a better chance of being suitable for use in the ocean. Short, narrow boats should not be used in the sea.
What Other Features Might I Need?
A couple of other factors that affect whether an inflatable kayak is safe to use in the ocean are listed below.
The first of these is whether it is self-bailing.
This feature isn’t one that you need as much as kayaking on lakes and rivers (although it can be nice to have). However, out at sea, it becomes important. Because the water is much more likely to be choppy, and you won’t be able to easily land and drain out the cockpit if a big wave washes over the side.
Even on a calm day in the ocean, you’re likely to encounter waves that wash at least some water into your kayak’s cockpit. Big waves certainly will, and if you’re not experienced at turning the kayak with the waves, you’re bound to get pretty wet.
This becomes a problem if you don’t have a way to drain the water out of the kayak, which is why self-bailing kayaks are pretty much a must-have if you want to enjoy the open ocean.
If you don’t want to spend all your time bailing the water out yourself, you’ll need to choose a kayak that has this feature rather than paddling.
A second important feature is the skeg. This is a plastic fin that fits the kayak’s underside, and it is a rigid piece of plastic, not inflatable.
The skeg helps to guide your kayak in the water, making it easier to travel in a straight line regardless of winds and currents. This fin is usually detachable (some kayaks even have two), and you really need one in order to kayak on the ocean.
If you don’t fit a skeg, even an ocean-ready inflatable may struggle with the waves and tides out at sea, and you could quickly lose control. If your kayak hasn’t got a skeg, avoid taking it out to sea even if it meets the other requirements.
What Else Should I Bear In Mind?
A big factor when you’re kayaking in the open ocean is the wind. While this can affect any kind of kayak, bear in mind that soft-shell kayaks are much more likely to be impacted by it because they are lighter and can be more easily blown off course.
Away from the shore, it is common for strong winds to pick up, and these can blow your kayak about far faster than you can paddle it. You will also need to deal with tides and underwater rips that can make it hard to control the boat.
An inflatable does tend to be somewhat slower to maneuver than a hard-shell kayak, which can leave you at a disadvantage in these moments. Therefore, you need to consider the conditions before you get into the water in your inflatable.
While a large, sea-worthy inflatable kayak should be capable of handling these conditions as long as an experienced kayaker is in charge, do not forget to allow for them.
If you feel a wind picking up or you are unsure about your ability to control your kayak, get yourself back to shore or call for help as quickly as possible.
Overall, it is best to choose an inflatable kayak that has been designed explicitly for ocean safety if you want to go out to sea in it.
Kayaking in the open ocean is very different from kayaking on a lake or river, and you need to make sure you are prepared.
Familiarize yourself with essential safety gear and regulations. And make sure your inflatable kayak is suitable for paddling in the ocean before you launch yourself off the beach.
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