by Sarai Stroup

Which is right for you?
There are two types of recreational kayaks, the sit on top and the sit inside models.
Deciding on the right type of kayak is actually pretty easy once you understand the
advantages and disadvantages of both.

Sit-On-Top Kayaks
The most obvious aberration from the standard sit-inside kayak is the open cockpit.
An open cockpit is a shallow hollowed out seating area on the mid deck of the kayak. Essentially you are sitting on the deck and your legs and body are fully exposed.

This type of boat has several advantages, foremost is the ease of entering and exiting your kayak even in open water. That bring us to another advantage; should you capsize your sit-on kayak in open water it is much easier to right the boat as the haul is not engulfed with water. There may be some water in the hollowed out cockpit but the amount is minimal and top brands of this type of kayak have drains called scupper holes . Scupper holes are tubes that run from the cockpit and the tank well to the bottom of the hull of the boat. The hulls of the boat are sealed making the sit-on-top kayak virtually unsinkable. Because the cockpit is open and flat even in deep water it is easy to swing your legs and body back on to the kayak and you are on your way.

Another issue to take into consider, will you be kayaking with a dog? If so there is plenty of room for a medium size dog and it is much easier for a dog to jump up onto an open cockpit and remain balanced. Many sit-on-top kayaks are equipped with bungee deck rigging, tank wells, or hatches allowing for light storage of day gear.


  • Ease of entry and exiting when launching
  • Easy to right your boat in open water
  • Great when paddling with a dog or small child
  • Virtually unsinkable


  • Exposure to the elements and cold weather

Sit-Inside Kayaks
The paddler on this type of kayak sits in the cockpit with their legs under the deck of the boat. Most sit-in kayaks have foot bracing and your knees are slightly bowed to the outer sides of the boat which give the kayaker great balance and control.

Another bonus on the sit-in cockpit is the option of adding a spray skirt. Spray skirts attach to the rim of the cockpit and around the torso of the paddler, this keeps the water out of the boat and the skipper dry. Spray skirts come full or half, full skirts wraps all the way around the paddler while a half skirt only cover the front half of the cockpit opening.

It does take some time to master re-entering a sit-inside kayak when in open water but once you get the hang of it, it is much easier than it seems. Many recreational sit-in boats have a wide open cockpit allowing for easy entry when launching from shore.

A good sit-inside kayak will come equipped with styrofoam floaters in the bow and stern to keep the boat afloat in a capsize situation.


  • Better for year round use
  • Paddler stays drier
  • More storage area utilizing the top of the deck and inside the cockpit under the deck.


  • Takes more skill to right the boat and re-enter in open water
  • More difficult when paddling with a dog or small child
  • Cockpit will attain more water in a capsize and may require bailing

Granite Chief carries a good selection of awarding winning Emotion Kayaks both sit-ontop and sit-inside models. Emotion Kayaks remain one of the best values on the market. Check out our kayaks online or stop by our store in Truckee and sit in or on our Emotion Kayak. We also have rental kayaks so you can experience the differences and pick the model that is right for you.


  1. Holloway, Hubert

    Have you ever built a combination open – unsinkable – that is enclosed.
    I realize it may have a couple extra inchs width, and a couple inches extra depth, with a (estimate 4 inch)float section below the seat. Perhaps a few extra inches each end and rounded
    I can’t do full rolls, don’t want to do five rapids, but think a four is still in my capability. I have grand – daughters and sons – that I may wish to introduce (Oh – I am 71 years old)

    What would somethng like this cost…

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