Can You Use Sea Kayaks In Lakes? [Are They The Same]

Are you wondering if your sea kayak is versatile enough to handle a lake? Or whether you need to buy a dedicated kayak for your lake jaunts? Sea kayaks and touring kayaks do have quite a lot of overlap in their design. So it’s not surprising if you’re left wondering what the difference is and which you should opt for.

Can You Use Sea Kayaks In Lakes?

The short answer is that a sea kayak is almost as good as a touring kayak when on a lake, and it offers most of the same advantages. It may require a more experienced kayaker to manage it well in the water. But the craft is perfect for lake kayaking.

What Makes Sea Kayaks And Touring Kayaks Similar?

These kayaks are designed to handle open stretches of water well and travel relatively long distances without putting undue strain on the paddlers.

That means they are both large, have good storage, and narrow enough to cut through the water at speed. Both usually have a skeg to help compensate for wind or tides. Making it easier to keep the boat on course.

Indeed, OutdoorVeteran says that the term “sea kayak” is somewhat misleading because sea kayaks are really just designed for any open water, rather than specifically the ocean. 

Admittedly, sea kayaks usually have a higher rocker to help them crest over waves, but they aren’t very different in terms of design.

Sea Kayaks Vs. Touring Kayaks

So, to cover the similarities briefly, both sea kayaks and touring kayaks:

  • They are large because they need to be able to travel long distances, and their size gives them speed and power. A sea kayak is almost always over fourteen feet (some are only twelve, but this is rare).
  • Are narrow, again, because this lends them speed in the water. It makes them a lot less stable than some other kayaks, such as fishing kayaks, but they can move quickly. This puts less stress on the kayaker and makes them a more practical form of travel.
  • The kayaks are designed to maximize waterproofing for the kayaker. Both are sit-in kayaks and may have waterproof skirts added.
  • Have lots of storage space. Because these are large boats designed for longer trips. They have a lot of places to put things and can carry plenty of gear before they hit their weight limit or run out of room. That means if you want to carry a picnic lunch, a cooler, a change of clothes, or even a tent and camping gear, you’re likely to be able to fit it into either kind of boat. Without too much of a problem.
  • Have internal bulkheads that are sealed to help keep the boat afloat if you capsize. Because of the size of the boat, this may be important, especially if you are in the middle of a large stretch of open water and you can’t tow your boat to shore with you. You can either swim for shore yourself or sit on/cling to the boat until help comes. Other kinds of kayaks are more likely to sink if capsized, but because you might be a long way from the shore when using either of these, they have been designed to stay at the surface so that they can be recovered later or support an exhausted paddler.

What Makes Sea Kayaks And Touring Kayaks Different?

While you might argue that sea kayaks are just a kind of touring kayak, there are some differences between the two.

Sea kayaks tend to have a higher rocker to help them crest over waves, which is more important in the open ocean than in a lake. They also have a narrower front profile. This costs the boat some stability but allows for better handling in rough waters.

Sea kayaks are particularly easy to control in big open spaces where there are no obstacles to deal with. Although the two types of kayaks overlap significantly in size, sea kayaks may be longer than touring kayaks.

A sea kayak can be up to twenty-four feet long, whereas most touring kayaks only go up to fourteen feet. Of course, there may be exceptions to both, but these are the standards.

Because sea kayaks are designed for such big bodies of water, they maximize the benefit of length. At the same time, a touring kayak makes some sacrifices in exchange for better maneuverability.

You will rarely need to steer a sea kayak around an obstacle suddenly, and the extra length helps keep the boat traveling in a straight line and improves its speed.

In a lake, however, a rock or shoreline will require better steering, and thus touring kayaks tend to be a bit shorter and a bit easier to turn to cope with this.

Sea kayaks may also be narrower than touring kayaks though both are narrow boats. So again, there may be some overlap, but you will usually find models designed for the sea have narrower profiles.

This narrowness also helps a sea kayak to stay straight in the water and move quickly. However, because this encourages the boat to cut through the waves, it can make the experience a little dizzying for a beginner. A touring kayak tends to ride on top instead and generally offers a more stable ride.

So Can You Take A Sea Kayak On A Lake?

You can, yes, but you need to be able to handle it well, especially if the lake has rocky areas or is popular with other boaters. If you are used to steering out at sea, you might be surprised by how slow and unresponsive a sea kayak is when it comes to turning on a relatively small expanse of water.

You will find that a sea kayak is faster than a touring kayak, but a large one is probably not suitable for taking on small lakes or ones with many obstacles. 

While the only major difference lies in their ability to turn, it’s surprising what a difference that makes, especially if you are used to the sea.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that lakes will often be more crowded than the ocean. While the beaches can be crowded, you don’t usually have to go a long way out to reach a quiet spot. In contrast, a lake may have boats of all kinds, as well as swimmers in some circumstances.

This needs to be taken into consideration in advance. You should only take your sea kayak in a lake if you think it will be safe for you and other lake users. For example, if the lake has narrow points, a lot of rocks, or a lot of people, you may find it isn’t safe to take your kayak out.

Final Word

Sea kayaks and touring kayaks have a lot in common. So it is possible to use a sea kayak in place of a touring kayak if you wish to. You should, however, bear in mind that sea kayaks may not handle as well, especially if they are large ones.

They will usually move a little faster, but they aren’t so easy to turn in the water, and you will need to practice to make sure you can get out of sticky spots if you get into them.

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