The Differences Between Ocean Kayak VS. Lake Kayak

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: December 5, 2022
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There are significant differences between ocean kayaks and lake kayaks. Ocean kayaks are meant for rough waters, while lake kayaks are suitable for calm waters. Apart from that, there are also differences between ocean kayaks and lake kayaks in terms of length, width, equipment, storage, energy, durability, etc.

Key Takeaways

  • Lake yaks are commonly known as recreational kayaks and are suitable for calm or very slow-moving waters
  • Lake yaks are ideal for beginners and someone who likes kayak fishing or wants to enjoy quality time and natural beauty
  • Ocean kayaks are also known as touring or sea kayaks and this type of kayak is best for advanced-level paddlers
  • Usually, the length of ocean kayaks are twelve feet plus, and they have narrow width and smaller cockpits

Let’s check what each one of them has to offer!

Differences Between Ocean Kayak VS. Lake Kayak

What Is The Main Difference Between Ocean Kayak And Lake Kayak?

As mentioned earlier, the main difference includes its design length, width, equipment and storage, durability, and energy, among other factors. For entry-level lake/ recreational yaks, offer the best experience plus they are pocket-friendly, especially for someone who doesn’t want to invest a lot. If you want to relax and have fun while taking photos, this type of yak will be perfect.

Generally, they are sit-on-top models hence allowing you ease of entry and exit when you are in or out of the water. They are stable, and one can maneuver around with them easily. Lake Kayak is great for kayak fishing, as some even come with fishing rod holders to make your work easier.

Ocean yaks are suitable for skilled paddlers paddling over large lakes or open oceans. These boats can slice through water bodies efficiently while enabling kayakers to move faster using less effort. They are great for long trips and offer comfort thanks to their upgraded seats, pegs, foot, and more storage space. 

Let’s discuss their main differences in detail below: 


The length of these two yaks differs completely; the lake yaks are considered the shortest measuring from 8 to 14 feet. Oceans ones are longer with their length measuring from 12 feet up to 24 feet. Its length design on each yak comes about for a specific reason. For lake boats, its short range comes in handy while maneuvering around various obstacles. Its maneuverability is very important, especially if you are paddling through tight bends in a shallow waterway.

As for the ocean kayaks, they have the time and space to avoid obstacles that they may encounter. Their longer length enhances their performance in wide-open water while improving their speed and improving their tracking, i.e., the ability of a kayaker to paddle in a straight line.


Just as length, the width of your yak does matter too. Ocean/touring kayaks have a narrow width than their counterpart’s lake yaks. The hull shapes normally change due to their boat width, which is why you see traveling yaks having very angular profiles, unlike recreational ones with rounded and bulging diameters around the cockpit.

The narrow width helps ocean yaks while on open waters to cut through the waves and keeps them in a straight line. This kind of boat is suitable for experienced kayakers because it can be very challenging for beginners as they can feel very tippy while paddling. Lake Yak’s wider width slows them down while helping it ride on top of the waves rather than cutting through them.  But they are very stable, and one can stop paddling to relax for a while without worrying about capsizing.


The equipment available in these two yaks differs. First, what each one of them has plus the type of features on them also varies. For example, ocean kayaks typically have more gears attached to them, unlike recreational models. Due to their longer length, touring kayaks often have a front hatch since it’s not easy to access items stored in front of their footpegs.

Additionally, these yaks are fitted with removable skegs and rudders. A skeg is normally lowered from the stern and helps ocean boats improve their tracking that in turn makes them less maneuverable.  However, there is no challenge when paddling in a straight line on a large body of water. Rudders are very similar to skeg though they are controlled by ropes placed on the foot pedals. If you want to turn your boat in a certain direction without paddling, you have to press the rudder on one side, and the ship will turn.

On the other hand, recreational yaks have limited gear except for those fitted with fishing rod holders or any other gear added by kayakers to help them fulfill their needs. Another reason why ocean yaks have more gears is because of the high risk they are exposed to while on far-end open waters, where there are likely to be faced with waves and currents. These obstacles might capsize the boat, and you need to have the necessary tools to rescue yourself.


Ocean kayaks have more ample storage space that is secured than any other model. This is because of its high risk of capsizing in the rough waters that necessitate kayakers to carry more gear for emergencies. The secured hatch ensures there is no chance of losing the tools. It’s fair enough for sea fisher to have that storage space as they carry many things with them when they are going fishing.

Even lake yaks have storage space but not that large though enough for paddlers to store their coolers or tackle bag. Many recreational yaks are used by individuals to traverse along the river or lake while relaxing and enjoying Mother Nature’s surroundings.


No company will be courageous enough to admit that their yaks are not durable. However, it depends on the materials used and the building process. So be keen while making the purchase. Most of the touring kayaks are durable and tougher, considering the elements they face in open water. They are generally heavier, making their overall price high.

The material used is a crucial factor while determining the overall price of a yak. Since lake yaks are affordable, more often, it means the material used is not tougher compared to the one used to make ocean boats.


As its ocean boats are known for their long-distance kayaking and kayakers, they need to use more energy around the open waters or when trying to get away from the ocean waves and currents. The slow-moving water can move recreational yaks in the environment, meaning there is no need to use more energy; you will only be concerned with maneuverability and steering.

Here Is The Summary Of Ocean Kayaks VS. Lake Kayaks:

FeaturesOcean KayaksLake Kayaks
Length  Longer (12 ft. and above)Shorter (8-12 ft.)
Width  NarrowWider
Equipment  More gearsFewer gears
Storage  Large storage spaceLimited storage space
Durability  Durable and tougherMight not be tougher and thus doesn’t last longer compared to ocean kayaks
Energy  Need more energyEffortless paddling

What Type Of Kayak Is Best For The Ocean?

What Type Of Kayak Is Best For The Ocean

Beginners, should at all times use sit-on-top kayaks when paddling in the oceans or seas. Sit-in is risky as they can get filled with water, causing them to capsize and harder to re-enter after rescuing oneself. However, experts, have mastered skills to use sit-ins even in oceans.

Note that the best kayak for oceans is the one made specifically for this purpose. It’s not advisable to use other types of yak meant for rivers or lakes as you can use this one on different water bodies. The risk is high, and you wouldn’t like to make it even riskier. The best ocean kayak will ensure your safety when paddling at the same time, giving you comfort while you enjoy the off-shore scenery.

To pick the perfect one be keen on its length, width, tracking (rudders and skeg), cockpit size, durability, strength, position in the water, and the intended purpose. Here are some of the best specific yaks you can consider:

1. Perception Pescador 13.0 Tandem sit-on-top-yak

2. Perception Rambler 13.5 sit-on-top kayak

3. Perception Pescador 12.0 Pedal ocean kayak

4. Dagger Stratos 14.5 ocean kayak

5. Pelican Premium Sprint 14ODT ocean kayak

6. Sea Eagle SE370 Inflatable Ocean Kayak

Are Ocean Kayaks Different?

Ocean yaks are by far much more different than any other model. These yaks are longer and narrower, and they have a smaller cockpit. The cockpit has thigh braces that assist the paddlers in rolling themselves upright in case it rolls over. They cost more than any other model with a new one going from $1200 and above.

The design of these boats makes them very fast, enabling ocean anglers to cover wider areas off-shores. For them to remain in a straight line, kayakers use retractable skegs or rudders, which are also useful while turning and tracking the kayak. The challenging thing about these yaks is their storage and transportation due to their length.

However, advanced-level and experienced kayakers prefer ocean kayaks, especially when going on long trips. For solo paddling, consider ocean yaks, but for your family afternoon trip, use recreational types as they will offer better service than ocean ones.

Is Kayaking On A Lake Dangerous?

Is Kayaking On A Lake Dangerous

Kayaking is a peaceful and relaxing outdoor activity. Still, it can be difficult and dangerous at the same time, especially if you don’t have enough experience or when faced with obstacles such as rocks, waves, currents, etc. Although lake kayaking is dangerous to a certain degree, you can still have a memorable and adventurous recreational tour.

The lake’s size is also another factor to consider when it comes to safety concerns. The small and calm lake is not regarded as dangerous though minimal accidents do happen. These water bodies are good for kayak learners to gain a few skills as they prepare for rough waters. Large lakes are harsh, and they usually have waves and currents that are seen as a danger to any kayakers and can capsize your boat just like sea kayaking.

So, keep off large lakes if you are a beginner, and let the skilled and experienced kayakers show you how to keep safe while maneuvering around. Before you start kayaking, learn the safety measures and have all the necessary equipment for safety while on the water to avoid unnecessary accidents. 

Is It Safe To Kayak In The Ocean?

Yes, ocean kayaking is safe with the right kayak and proper skills.  You should also carry the necessary safety gear to help in emergencies. However, for beginners, it can be dangerous to kayak in the sea. Ocean kayaking only needs experienced and skilled paddlers who understand this kind of water body quite well.

This is because, in case of any eventualities, they can be able to rescue themselves or ask for help easily. You need to know before you set out that ocean kayaking is considered to be the most dangerous and risky of all kayaks out there. Simply because of the many obstacles surrounding it like waves, currents, lightning, and wind, and ocean animals like sharks, etc.

How Far Can You Sea Kayak In A Day?

Many people often ask this kind of question, but unfortunately, it’s not easy to answer, in other words, there is no straightforward answer. Majorly because sea kayaking is affected by various variables that factor into how far and fast someone can travel in a day. Some of these factors include the type of yak, kayaker experience, amount of gear, weather conditions, waves, wind, rain, and the kind of water you’re kayaking, among others.

For example, we have rivers with fast currents, oceans with waves, and present and calm lakes with no flow. But generally, an average paddler can travel for three millers in an hour if all factors are held constant. Try sea kayaking and share your finding with us.


Now, you understand more about this type of kayak; both of them offer great and wonderful services when used correctly as per their purpose. To choose a suitable one, consider the place where you are planning to spend most of your time; is it on the lake or in the ocean? Your experience, budget, and personal preference need to be considered too. But more importantly, your safety should be your top concern. You will not be less of a kayaker if you accept that your boat is not ideal for all water bodies.



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