What is a sea kayak & sea kayaking?

Historically, a sea kayak is a small, human powered hunting watercraft comprised of a single hull, a closed deck and one opening referred as a coaming. For hundreds of years, the kayak has evolved from seal skin stretched over a wooden frame, to what it is today. Today it is a marvel of material engineering, refined hydrostatic performance and all the modern accessories such as sealed storage compartment and rudder systems.

The traditional kayak changed its purpose from hunting safely in the cold arctic water, to what is now a method of transportation. The heart and soul of the sea kayak still remains to be a self-propelled, seaworthy, roll-able means of travel, while keeping an efficient speed.

One of the questions we are often asked by new kayakers is : What is the minimum length of a sea kayak? Unfortunately, the answer is not set in stone. According to Transport Canada, a kayak needs to be 13 feet or longer to be safe in sea conditions and popular belief says 17 feet is required to be a true sea kayak. At Boréal Design, we consider our smallest model, the Sedna, to be a sea kayak measuring in at 15 feet.  Our smaller crafts are considered hybrid sea and recreational kayaks. The length of a kayak is not the deciding factor to determining sea worthiness.

The ability of a kayak to be at sea for an extended period of time while withstanding the wind, swells and crashing waves is what it means to be sea worthy.

  • The kayak needs to have stability both primary (while sitting straight) and secondary (while leaning on one edge) to help the pilot keep in control and prevent from capsizing.
  • The kayak needs a minimum of two sealed compartments to prevent the craft from sinking in case of capsize. This limits the amount of water that can enter the cockpit and the paddler will be able to self-rescue or be rescued by a fellow paddler.
  • The kayak is obligated to have strong deck lines that runs the majority of kayak’s length on both sides. This seems trivial at first, but the safety lines are mandatory in almost all rescues and self-rescues.  Having no deck lines is a liability for you and your group.
  • The kayak mush have the ability to reach calmer water by launching through surf conditions, crossing the break line, all while getting pushed back by the oncoming waves. With acceleration, stability, a proper bow shape all while having a relatively small coaming when wearing a fitted spray skirt, it pierces the waves and gives you speed that will get you to the other side.