Sea kayak categories

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overfallpaddler
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Sea kayak categories

Post by overfallpaddler » Mon Mar 05, 2018 4:41 pm

Hi there

Can of worms alert

I have been watching and listening to the sea kayaking scene for over ten years and although we do categorise our boats or folk selling boats may suggest the designs are suited to certain applications. I thought that making clear categories would be useful.

Sea kayaks/long boats are diverse and there are loads of variation however most can be linked to concepts and design origins. I come from a surfing and climbing background and in surfing the board categories are:
-Gun
-Fish
-shortboard (Thruster, Quad.......)
-Mini Mal
-Longboard
There are lots of variation in this and there is some crossover, however the categories are there and saying 'surfboard' is pretty vague. Within each category there are sub categories linked to performance and style.

In the sea kayak design world Id say most sea kayaks could fit into the following categories which kind of exist already:
-Beginner/progressive
-Greenland
-Play/Surf/Short
-Traditional (Minimalist Traditional, Expedition Traditional)
-Closed cockpit ski
Sea kayak design is vast however there are clear similarities between many kayaks, from many different companies. Some may say that kayak design is more complex than surfboards and there are more factors, however Id disagree, both worlds are vast. Id say that of course the manufacturing process can be different but in reality its all watercraft, hydrodynamics, application, purpose.
It would be relatively easy to link lengths etc to the categories but that could make things complicated.
Is sea kayak design getting too complicated? The best kayak designs which fit into these categories have been around for years, or work really well and are modern day classics:
-Beginner/progressive................
-Greenland- Anas Acuta
-Play- Romany, Aries, Gemini
-Trad- Explorer, Nordkapp, Cetus
-closed cockpit ski- Inuk, Taran, Pace, Rapier

Designs come and go, but do boats that clearly fit into these categories hang around for longer?

We already talk in these terms sometimes, Just thought it would be worth a discussion

Cheers
Last edited by overfallpaddler on Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Jim
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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by Jim » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:22 pm

I think you may be approaching from the wrong angle.
Hull shapes are are a factor but I think there are probably 3 main purposes for sea kayaks:
  • Day/play boat
  • Touring
  • Racing
Once you have defined the purpose you can select the hull type, which is not necessarily interdependant with the purpose, most hull types work for several or all purposes:
  • Round bottom (generally only selected for racing and advanced tourers because they feel tippy to most people)
  • U bottom (good for all)
  • Hard chine (Greenland is the main sub type here, but many plywood home builds also fit here) (good for day boats and touring, not preferred for racing but the NDK Greenland Race is nevertheless a fast boat!)
  • Wide/flattened U bottom (good day boats and tourers aimed at beginners/less confident paddlers)
  • Composite shapes (can be suitable for all 3 depending on the exact mix - NDK Romany/Explorer are rounded forward into soft chines aft and work well for play and touring, Taran arguably has a composite hull type because there is a defined flat to the base of the U adding stability not usually found in a racer and making it suitable for fast touring too. Most play boats have composite hull shapes picking aspects that are good for surfing or manoevring and mixing them with traits that are good for covering reasonable distance)
So I would say there are 3 categories of sea kayak, and that the hull shapes could be considered subcategories but actually cross over between the main categories so are sort of something else and not actually a category of boat.

overfallpaddler
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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by overfallpaddler » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:46 pm

I think those three categories are rather broad and vague. I think definition is important and I think progression and levelling is good to a certain extent as well (levelling can be bad too)

An example would be; A romany and a Stratos would be in the Day/play, as you say, but it's different for sure.

Paddlers will all have a personal style and a preference to a certain type of paddling.

Hull design is vast and there are aspects which can be linked to each category and we could talk about that for a long time. Underlying all the lines, shapes and materials is still purpose and a target paddler/environment.

overfallpaddler
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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by overfallpaddler » Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:05 pm

I agree that 'Racing' or 'fast' is better than closed cockpit ski. Although ski derived those boats are still kayaks, but built to go quickly/efficiently
Last edited by overfallpaddler on Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by Chris Bolton » Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:05 pm

A can of worms indeed. I don't think categories would help, they'd just make it more complicated. There are too many boats that fit multiple categories.

Examples:
is the Nigel Foster Legend a Greenland boat or an Expedition Traditional?
I know people who use the Romany for Expeditions
My first paddle in a sea kayak, as a beginner, was in an Anas Acuta

You could debate all these, but what difference does the answer make? None at all.

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by overfallpaddler » Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:11 pm

It makes some difference. If paddlers have preference and a desired paddling style and direction, it'll help with kit and coaching.

The NF Legend is such a good boat! Trad for sure, however minimalist and exped would be a tricky sub cat'.

This is merely discussion and I'm interested to see people's views

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by pathbrae » Mon Mar 05, 2018 9:52 pm

Maybe we should spend more time categorising our selves and our fellow paddlers, rather than the fairly limited number of boats out there.
Or do you think it's a bit like dogs and their owners? We eventually get to look like our boat-type?
So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by overfallpaddler » Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:02 am

It kind of goes hand in hand.

I guess it's down to individual and group hopes and dreams, expectations, goals and standard of paddling.

The right boat for the job. Some of us like doing everything and we hope for a boat to do all. Those boats exist but they are not amazing at one thing.

its quite common to hear: Im into sea kayaking. But what does that mean?

Within cycling for example. It would be uncommon for someone to say; "I'm into cycling" but it would be common to hear; "I'm into MTB" or "I've got time trials this weekend on the road bike"

Assessing and being open about our paddling style and preferred genre would be a good thing and it may help us to pick the right boat, paddling partners and even have more fun. It will also allow coaches to coach and differentiate sessions for individual needs.

As sea kayaking becomes more of a lifestyle sport and as folk move away from clubs and chasing star awards and gaining more freedom, I think all this will be pretty standard as it is in pockets around the UK.

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by TheEcho » Tue Mar 06, 2018 7:58 pm

pathbrae wrote:
Mon Mar 05, 2018 9:52 pm
Or do you think it's a bit like dogs and their owners? We eventually get to look like our boat-type?
Thanks for the reassurance. I was about to go to the doctor with a mysterious swelling, but now I realise I am merely growing a bifurcated bow.

But more seriously, for me kayaker is analogous to cyclist, and as you get road cyclists and MTBs you get whitewater kayakers, sea kayakers and those who do both. And keen sea kayakers with storage space have more than one boat, to fit the trip they want to do, even though they will have preferences for their trips.

I have not been kayaking long, and see a difference between my fellow learners - some people see it as an extension of flat water touring, and some people have a more whitewater-like approach to skills trips and playspots, then there are expeditioners who might otherwise be in a canoe. Do many people specialise more once they have been sea kayaking a long time, or do some end up all rounders who have just entered from different directions?

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by Sean_soup » Tue Mar 06, 2018 8:59 pm

TheEcho wrote:
Tue Mar 06, 2018 7:58 pm
But more seriously, for me kayaker is analogous to cyclist, and as you get road cyclists and MTBs you get whitewater kayakers, sea kayakers and those who do both.
Bang on. Kayaking generally is a much better analogy to cycling than sea kayaking alone I'd say. Play-boating = bmx. White water = downhill mountain biking (which can be playful or more geared up for speed). Sea kayaking fits a range from mountain biking that is more about clocking up the miles, maybe on a hard tail that also allows you to throw a few shapes downhill, to serious touring with all the panniers and wotnot. There are hybrids that will let you bring a bit of camping kit off road - they'll cope with fire trails and the odd bit of singletrack but you wouldn't try serious downhill on one. Several types of bike are available as a tandem if you're daft enough to want one.

Then you've got your polo, your various sprint and marathon races & time trials with the specialised lightweight fragile gear, the funky velodrome competition disciplines on the artificial track, and the fleets of clunky heavy shoppers with a basket on the front often offered to tourists to potter around the shops on a short term hire.

And of course you're quite right to point out that cyclists and kayakers are subject to the same "n+1" rule, n+1 being the number of bikes/boats you need when n is the number you have now. :)

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by TheEcho » Tue Mar 06, 2018 9:57 pm

I actually come from a climbing background, and these equivalences worked for me when starting out and trying to guess what someone was into:

Playboating - bouldering
Sport climbing - whitewater
Trad climbing- sea kayakers
Long distance walkers - expedition canoeists
Tourists with hiking poles - sit on tops
Fell Runners - racing paddlers

Within sport/whitewater
Wall bred climbers - concrete ditch paddlers

I suppose within sea paddling we have the equivalent difference between those who climb multiple short routes at Stanage where being able to walk off round the back is a good thing, and those who don’t consider it a good day unless there is a long walk in and a remote multi pitch crag for which self sufficiency is essential.

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by SJD » Wed Mar 07, 2018 12:28 am

Some interesting points but in the end this idea of categorizing has a questionable purpose/end result. Where is it going? Will some national federation adopt it? Will all manufacturers adopt it? Funny thing is, I have been kayaking for 33 years and it all seems fine without the suggested categorization.

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by OMarti » Wed Mar 07, 2018 8:50 am

When a 'beginner' asks questions to choose a sea kayak, I feel comfortable to use some categories to describe the range of available kayaks, and help him to determine what will be his/her navigation program. I commonly use playboat (i.e. Dolphin, Cetus, ...), mixed (i.e. X-Cite), touring (Explorer, ...), fast touring (i.e. Taran, ...), old school (Norkap, ...) and traditional. That's just to start the discussion, which eventually goes deeper.

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by Chris Bolton » Wed Mar 07, 2018 10:27 pm

I can entirely see why it's useful to describe the type of paddling a boat is good for; you might say (about a random boat) "It's good for short expeditions, not bad for playing, surfs well, rolls well, easy to store and carry, but isn't really robust enough for rockhopping". But there are so many different aspects, and so many variations on how a boat performs, that trying to put a boat into a category is not only difficult, but actually makes it harder to describe the capabilities of the boat. It could also stifle innovation - if thinking is channelled into categories, a boat that could be in three categories or none may be harder to design or market. If it helps you to understand what a boat can do, carry on, but I would not like to see categories standardised.

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by Jim » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:25 pm

overfallpaddler wrote:
Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:05 pm
I agree that 'Racing' or 'fast' is better than closed cockpit ski. Although ski derived those boats are still kayaks, but built to go quickly/efficiently
Few race sea kayaks were derived from surf skis, most are derived from kayaks.

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by overfallpaddler » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:31 pm

Some good replys folks.

Where will the categories go?
I guess used in our vocabulary and understood by paddlers.

Is it hard to put a boat in a category?
I don't think it's as hard as we think. All of those design features and shapes are not that difficult to break down because at the end of the day the boat is still designed for a purpose.

I guess the thing that we might be struggling with is the New Skool era of boats, the Do-all boats. Many of which are coming out with flat mid section hulls, slightly more rocker, beamy and maybe some rails. These boats can still be 17ft, they can cruise at just under 4kts, have good initial stability and can be corrected in conditions due to the features I mentioned. They are good for beginners all the way through to advanced water paddlers.
These are also the boats which don't seem to hang around for long.
With the original catalories I suggested, I might say they were; Trad' New Skool

Linking to other sports is good and we have WW kayaking, Slalom etc

My point was; is that as sea kayakers I think we have a preference to what we like and the sea is so diverse that many forms of paddling can be done, hence all the boats.

It's good to know our style. A lot of people are coached the same as the chap next to them and a lot of coaches, coach folk the same, even in later stages. Being aware of paddlers wants and being aware of our own aspirations is a good thing.

Sea kayaking is getting really popular. Sea kayaking is not just sea kayaking. It's WW, its Surf, It's Downwind, It's Race, It's Open Water, it's Endurance, It's cruising, It's fishing. Above all, it's fun!!

It's no lie that boats are often bought for eathetics and because someone said it's good. Buying a boat based on where we're at with our paddling or what we want to do is obviously the best option. Seems pretty obvious

In surfing, no one likes to be seen on a busy beach carrying a mini mal towards the break, often though, the progression rate will be much faster because that board will look after you. It will let you learn which direction you want to go in; longer or shorter, or both!

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by Jim » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:42 pm

overfallpaddler wrote:
Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:02 am

its quite common to hear: Im into sea kayaking. But what does that mean?
It means the person likes to go kayaking on the sea rather than any of the many other categories (or disciplines) of kayaking:
white water touring
flat water touring
wild water racing
slalom racing
sprint racing
marathon racing
polo
freestyle
surfing surfing
surf ski racing
waveski surfing

Each discipline uses boats with particular kinds of characteristics and things in common within the discipline, but not common to other disciplines.

Whatever you think about the different shapes of sea kayaks available they all have common features which you don't find in any of the other disciplines, therefore they are already a category, and any further breakdown is already subcategorisation.

overfallpaddler wrote:
Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:02 am
Within cycling for example. It would be uncommon for someone to say; "I'm into cycling" but it would be common to hear; "I'm into MTB" or "I've got time trials this weekend on the road bike"
See above, what you are asking about is equivalent to taking MTB and splitting it into rigid, hardtail, full sus, singlespeed, 29er etc. not separating it from road biking or track racing.

Personally I am against excessive separation of our sport, it is divisive and leads to factions and unhealthy rivalry. For example, I'd rather people who want to paddle SOT kayaks on the sea feel part of the sea kayaking community than feeling they have to be pigeon holed as something somehow divorced from sea kayaking. Similarly the old snobbery surrounding composite and plastic sea kayaks is starting to break down, why the hell would we want to risk building it up again by creating more artificial divisions?

As for helping people getting into sea kayaking understand what boat is best for them - most of them don't have any specific goals or intentions when they start out so this is just goingto confuse and put them off. As it is even people who do have a fairly good idea what they want to do when they start out, may well find over a relatively short time that their interestes and ambitions change.

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by overfallpaddler » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:56 pm

You are right as well for sure. This is a discussion/forum. Lots of good and interesting points are being made.
All of those disciplines you mentioned, except a couple are done regularly on the sea.
A lot of sea trips involve lots of different stuff; rock gardens, surf, open water. However an increasing amount of people are going out just to do one of those things.
It's good to be part of such a diverse and on the whole non-competitive sport.
A lot of us do it because we love the freedom and I guess suggesting system or applying it is mostly avoided

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by overfallpaddler » Thu Mar 08, 2018 11:14 pm

After a bit of consideration I think these categories are slightly better.

-Beginner/progressive

-Greenland/Traditional
Anas, Greenlander

-Surf/Play
Romany, Aries, Gemini SP, Xtra

-Modern all-round
Xcite, Alaw

-classic
Explorer, Nordkapp, NF legend, Cetus, Quest

-Fast/Race
Rapier, Taran, Inuk

Anyway, like many of you guys have said, to most people it probably doesn't matter. It's just how I spend my time; thinking about kayaks and cool places 😊

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Re: Sea kayak categories

Post by Arthur » Sun Mar 11, 2018 4:35 pm

I'm not sure categorisation of gear can (or should) go much beyond generalities.

Quite often, when you start anything new you don't really know in which direction it'll take you; being too prescriptive might mislead the uninformed into overlooking something that might be perfectly suitable for their actual needs.

What I do know, is that it doesn't matter how much information is out there, for every sport or activity I've ever done, I do so much 'research' I end up being convinced I need at least three of everything.
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