Looking for an inflatable ocean kayak? First you need to decide how you are going to use it.
Are you going to play in the surf?
Or, are you going to go on longer trips over open water.
Play in the Surf!
Short and sporty. That’s the kind of boat you need to play in the surf. They should be about the length of a surfboard. In fact, some of them look like surfboards with seats.
These boats are easy to control. They do well in waves.
Inflatable ocean kayaks designed for the surf don’t track well and they don’t have much cargo room. Both of these make them a poor choice for longer trips on open water.
The surf boat market is still ruled by hard-shell sit-on-top kayaks. Take a look at them before you decide.
Touring & Sea Kayaking
For longer trips on open water, you need a longer inflatable ocean kayak. These boats are usually labeled sea kayaks or touring kayaks.
They are long and sleek. They track well and have a good amount of cargo space.
There are several good inflatable touring kayaks or sea kayaks. Some of the manufacturers are Aire, Advanced Elements, Innova, and more.
If you are a long way from the shore, you don’t want a dinky boat. A critical boat failure could mean big trouble.
Have a Plan
If you go touring in open water, have a plan and a backup plan. Know your limitations and the limitations of your gear. Go with another boat.
One Big Advantage for Beginners
Inflatable ocean kayaks do have one big advantage for beginners. If you do turn over (which doesn’t happen that often), you still have a stable platform to grab onto.
The trade off is that the inflatables have more drag than a hard boat. You are going to have to work harder to paddle the same amount of water.
Open Deck or Closed?
Open decked ocean kayaks are okay for beginners and casual users. If you are going to get serious about the sport, upgrade to a closed deck.
Closed deck kayaks keep you (and your gear) dry. And they keep water out of the boat. That’s a huge advantage on longer trips and in colder water.
The drawback is that they require a little more skill and you have to deal with the feeling of being closed inside the boat. Both of these can be overcome with a little training and practice.
Some Final Thoughts
Decide if you are going to play in the surf or if you want to tour open water in your inflatable ocean kayak. Both are fun, but they are very different activities.
If you are going to tour open water, get a good quality boat.