Have paddle, will travel. That’s the great thing about a kayak, which allows you to explore everything from rugged coastlines to inland rivers and estuaries, all from the comfort of your cockpit.
And a sit on top (SOT) means that you can experience all of this safely, even if you’re new to the experience, with a good SOT never feeling like it’s about to dump you overboard.
Sit on tops allow you to be out on the water for hours, or even days, at a time so you need a craft that tracks through the water well and goes exactly where you want it to go so that you conserve as much energy as possible.
Similarly, the kayak needs to be made from plastic tough enough to stand up to the rigours of river running as well as unseen jagged rocks in shallow coastal waters. Plenty of dry storage for all your kit and easy portability means that the only limit to your aqua adventuring will be your paddle power.
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Pyranha Fusion: £659, aswatersports.co.uk
This crossover kayak is just as comfortable taming rivers as it is slicing through beach breakers. The flat, wide hull ensures great stability and once you’re on board, it never feels like you’re going to be caught out and end up in the water.
This makes it a great choice for beginners as it will build confidence fast but you won’t get bored as you become more skilled because the design doesn’t compromise speed or performance.
Excellent manoeuvrability means that, if you fancy a change of scene, the Fusion is just as capable at handling rivers and the sizeable waterproof hatch in the stern means that your kit will stay as dry as you.
Another bonus for beginners is the drop down skeg (or keel) that helps the boat run true when you’re padding through flatwater and the thigh grips and ergonomic back rest make it comfortable to paddle if you’re off on a micro adventure.
Tootega Prophecy 135: £699, roho.co.uk
This kayak is equipped to handle all kinds of sea conditions and will glide over still water at speed while not being bullied around by choppy waves and flotsam.
A lot of work and time has been put into the design and construction because the boat feels indestructible and tracks dead straight and with impressive speed in all kinds of weather. There’s a huge rear tank well which is supplemented by 6-inch and 8-inch hatches so that you can take everything that you could possibly need for multi day adventuring.
The cockpit has generous legroom for taller adults and is outfitted with cushioned heel pads, an ergonomic sitting position and a premium seat, which is fitted as standard so that you don’t feel like the miles are taking their toll after a long day on the water. The perfect boat for more experienced kayakers or anyone who wants to explore the coastline from the water.
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100: £699, cornwall-canoes.co.uk
A responsive, short-length, easy paddler packed full of features to make the most of your time on the water. There are two dry hatches for kit – one of which is conveniently located between your legs so any essential gear is always within reach. Rails on either side make it easy to custom mount electronics from GPS to GoPros, adjustable foot pegs accommodate different heights and a comfortable and fully adjustable seat and backrest supports back and bum. The kayak’s profile means it steers well and cuts through waves with ease and it’s lightweight enough to lift on and off roof racks and port to and from the shoreline.
Tootega Pulse 120: £551.39, upandunder.co.uk
Perfect if you have a paddle partner, this tandem kayak from the British manufacturer is super stable in choppy waters and allows you both to get on and off with ease.
Two waterproof hatches provide plenty of stowaway space and the cockpit is roomy and comfortable even with two adults aboard and comes complete with good anchor points for accessorising with electronics.
One of the big drawbacks about many tandems is that they tend to be on the heavy side, however the Pulse 120 isn’t much heavier than many single seaters which means that you won’t need to rely on any one to help you get it up on a roof rack.
Wavesport Scooter: £450, kayaksandpaddles.co.uk
This lightweight kayak is a real all rounder and its shorter length translates into excellent manoeuvrability so that you can have a blast with it in the surf. However, if you fancy heading out beyond the waves there are two tracking channels on the underside of the hull that make light work of longer paddling sessions.
Plenty of footrest options are moulded into the boat so that it can accommodate a child or a taller adult. There is a single hatch upfront that will need a dry bag, and a well at the stern that is sizeable enough to fit a cooler, rucksack or trolley.
Islander Calypso Sport: £475, islanderkayaks.com
The boat includes a wave displacing design so that water is pushed to the sides rather than coming in over the bow, which was very effective in rougher conditions or when trying to punch through bigger waves. And because the design means that the boat is lighter than other boats that rely on weight to get through rougher weather it’s fast and holds its line in the water well.
The spacious cockpit is comfortable and well designed with a small, convenient screw hatch that will keep a mobile phone and other essentials dry and safe. A big tank well for a larger dry bag means that this is a really effective kayak in all conditions.
Tootega Pulse 95: £399, wet-and-wild.co.uk
Although this is a great all-rounder it really comes into its own when there’s some surf to play in and you don’t need much to let rip with this lightweight craft that’s built for sharp turns.
Of course one of the downsides of kayak surfing is that you can end up with a lot of water in the boat, which can affect the kayak’s handling, but the Pulse has four scupper holes in the cockpit which efficiently drains any water that does get in. Even though it relies on a shorter length for manoeuvrability you can stand up in the cockpit, which is a true test of a boat’s stability.
Feelfree Nomad Sport: £399, kayaksandpaddles.co.uk
This kayak is superb for coastal exploration as it is just long enough to ensure that it tracks well throughout the water, without any side-to-side movement. However it’s not so long that it makes getting into tight, rocky coves a problem.
There’s a big wet storage hatch at the back and another dry storage compartment with a mesh bag in the cockpit that’s easily accessible while paddling. There’s also a keel in the wheel so that you can pull the boat along to your launch site with ease.
Feelfree Move: £319, kayaksandpaddles.co.uk
A good first boat for children and smaller adults because of its length, weight and overall stability. The keel design means that the kayak sits very well in the water and if you’re light enough you can easily walk up and down the deck with complete confidence.
If you do fall in, the boat makes it easy to clamber back on and it’s easy to launch and get moving from the shore while tracking really well when out on open water, even when paddling side-on to the wind and waves. Once again, the keel wheel makes transportation easy – especially for children.
The Verdict:Sit-on-top kayaks
ThePyranha Fusion SOT’s stability will excite both beginners and the more experienced kayaker and it’s performance on any kind of water means that you can launch in all conditions and know you’re guaranteed a great experience.
The more adventurous will be interested in the Tootega Prophecy 135’s ability to be self sufficient in terms of storage and performance on the water, while you’ll never get bored with the versatile Feelfree Nomad Sport which and offers real value for money.