Kayaks: The Difference Between Sit-On and Sit-In

SO you want to join the wonderful world of kayaking. Nothing is more fun than slicing through the water with that sharp, smooth hull, wrestling a fish on the line from those tiny creeks other boast can’t reach or roughing it in some big surf with angry waves splashing your face. Now, you just need to make a choice- sit in or sit on? Both types of kayaks have a plethora of pros and cons- depending on what you are looking to do. Here’s a handy guide to get an idea of what would be your perfect match.

sosiSit In Kayak (SINK)
This traditional, one hulled kayak rocks a long and narrow body that makes for efficient and fast paddling, with a hollow cockpit for a snug, dry seat. This is key for protection from the elements and also provides warmth and storage. Many SINK users cover the opening with a spray skirt for added protection.

You just want to make sure…. you don’t flip, or else your day will not be a happy one. It is painstakingly difficult to enter and exit a SINK. Not to mention that hollowed out inside is going to take on water pretty quick. Bilge pumps specifically designed for these kayaks are useful, but if you are looking to surf some waves, this kayak is not for you.

All About the SINK

  • Fast and easy paddling – great for long distances, day trips and touring
  • Protected from the elements, especially with a spray skirt
  • Dry storage areas for equipment, but Minimal access to items if you use a spray skirt
  • Challenging to get in and out
  • If flipped, vessel will take on water and sink
  • Movement is restricted since cockpit is small
  • In hot weather a sit-in can get quite toasty, especially with a spray skirt


Sit On Top Kayak (SOT)
This kayak design hasn’t been around for too long, resembling a shorter, wider body with easy access since it’s not hollowed out. This makes it the perfect vessel for rough ocean voyages, is stable enough to stand and easy to handle if flipped.

The sturdy SOT design may be good for wave riding, but if you are looking to paddle long distances- forget about it. Slower and challenging to maneuver, you’ll be tired and out of breathe and with no protection from the elements, prepare to get wet.

All About the SOT

  • Great stability making it a cinch to get in and out
  • Stand, kick, dance- freedom of movement!
  • Large storage areas that are easy to access
  • Great for fishing and surfing
  • Exposed to the elements including splashing and constant drip from the paddle- get ready for a soggy bottom!
  • Slower and more difficult to paddle than a sit-in