Best Ocean Kayaks for Open Water Crossings

Ready to conquer the sea? We’ve put the best ocean kayaks to the test, rating each on durability, speed, comfort, and much more.

Best Ocean Kayaks

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We may earn a commission from links, but we only recommend products we back.

Why trust us?

When you hit the sea, you want to feel confident in the kayak you’re paddling. Conditions can change in a matter of minutes, and should the weather turn, you want to have the best, most reliable kayak out there.

But with so many kayaks on the market, wading through the options can be challenging and time-consuming. 

Not to worry. In this article, we’ll be breaking down the best ocean kayaks available today. Taking an in-depth look at their strengths and weaknesses in a variety of categories

Our Top Picks

If you’re in a hurry, here are our top picks. Or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.

Best Overall: Delta Kayaks Delta 17

Length: 17′ | Width: 22.5″ | Weight: 50 lbs | Capacity: 410 lbs

Delta Kayaks Delta 17

A long, narrow, and streamlined design gives the Delta Kayaks Delta 17 a sharp profile as it cruises across the waves. At 17-feet long and less than two-feet wide, the Delta is an efficient craft boasting an impressive top speed and solid tracking that’s perfect for long paddle days.

It shines as an expedition kayak, capable of week-long trips if you pack responsibly. You get the standard, watertight bow and stern hatches with a large load capacity of 410 pounds, which should accommodate most paddle trips. Additional storage can be found on deck, with bungee cords in front of, and behind the cockpit. 

The Delta has a built-in rudder to make maneuverability easier, and it can be a great asset when paddling in cross breezes.

There’s no reason to settle for an uncomfortable kayak seat, and the Delta 17 has one of the best on the market. The seat can be easily slid forward and back for the perfect fit and coordination with the foot pedals. In addition, the well-padded seat provides excellent comfort with exceptional back support, even for taller paddlers. 

Despite the kayak’s size and length, the Delta 17 weighs a reasonable 50 pounds and comes with T-handle carriers to make tandem portages easy and simple. 

  • Recessed back deck that makes rolling easier
  • Plenty of storage space for longer trips
  • Excellent Tracking
  • Price and size may be more than casual paddlers are looking for
  • Long keel makes it challenging to maneuver in tight quarters

Best Value: Boreal Baffin P3

Length: 17′7″ | Width: 23.75″ | Weight: 69 lbs | Capacity: 348 lbs

Boreal Baffin P3

Even longer than the Delta 17, the Boreal Baffin P3 is an eye-popping 17-feet, 7-inches long. This gives the Baffin a ton of storage space, including a smaller third hatch for day use that can be accessed from the cockpit. However, I would prefer the bow hatch opening to be a little larger. So plan on cramming all your larger gear in the stern.

The keel is a little wider (23.75-inches), but the extra length gives it a similar speed to the Delta 17. Instead of a rudder, Boreal has opted for a skeg that can be retracted when maneuvering around shallow water. It won’t be as helpful for steering, but it is excellent at keeping you on course on those rough, windy days.

If you’re going to go with a boat of this size, I expect you’ll want the load capacity for longer trips. So while the load capacity of 348 pounds is reasonable, those looking to make longer paddle trips (more than three or four days) may want to go with the Delta 17.

It’s possible to make the Baffin work for more extended expeditions. Still, you’ll need to be careful not to overload it, which can cause stability issues. 

For comfort, the Baffin’s seat is covered in a fast-drying fabric and is fully adjustable to help you find the perfect fit. Adjustable foot pedals and well-placed thigh braces make the Baffin a good fit for most paddlers. However, the slightly wider width may make it more comfortable for larger or taller paddlers.

  • Long keel provides an impressive top speed
  • Built-in skeg
  • Extra storage space that’s accessible from the cockpit
  • Reflective safety lines for low-light paddling
  • A little heavier, checking in at 69 pounds
  • Load capacity is on the low side for an expedition kayak

Best Budget: Riot Edge 14.5

Length: 14′6″ | Width: 22″ | Weight: 58 lbs | Capacity: 324 lbs

Riot Edge 14.5

A smaller, simpler ocean kayak, the Riot Edge 14.5 serves as a cheaper entry-point to the world of kayaking. 

A rudder has been added to the design, making maneuvering and tracking easier for newcomers. It also gives you the confidence to head out into water that you may be hesitant to explore without. 

The well-padded seat makes long days on the water comfortable. However, you’ll need to adjust the straps on the seatback before you launch. Once on the water, they’re too cumbersome to adjust without the risk of capsizing.

As a shorter boat, the Riot Edge is better served as a day or weekend kayak. The load capacity is too low for longer trips, and the shorter keel means your watertight storage space is also limited. However, you still get the standard two watertight hatches and bungee rigging on deck.

Despite being two-and-a-half feet shorter than the Delta 17, they’re still virtually the same width, meaning the Riot Edge won’t be as fast as its longer cousins. As a result, those looking to tackle more extended, ambitious trips will want to look elsewhere. But newcomers and budget-conscious paddlers will love the Riot’s versatility and impressive maneuverability.

  • Rudder makes it user-friendly and easy to steer 
  • Adjustable foam seat
  • Versatile and more maneuverable than many touring sit-in kayaks
  • 324-pound load capacity may not be enough for longer trips
  • Not as fast as longer kayaks on this list

Best for Beginners: Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145

Length: 14′6″ | Width: 25″ | Weight: 56 lbs | Capacity: 350 lbs

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145

Another user-friendly model, the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 comes with everything a beginner needs to get on the water. 

This design makes the cut as our best for beginners thanks to the additional stability that comes with being three inches wider than the Riot Edge 14.5. This makes the Tsunami 145 a reliable and comfortable paddle for those that may be a little nervous about setting out.

It does have a few drawbacks, though. The biggest is that it’s slower and more cumbersome to maneuver than the sleeker kayaks discussed above. A rudder is included, so steering is as easy as it gets for newcomers. But the wider hull will make sharper turns and navigating tight areas more challenging.

The extra width provides a larger cockpit and a little more wiggle room. And you still get the two watertight hatches and a load capacity comparable to many kayaks in this class. It’s another boat that could use a larger hatch in the bow. But I love the two on deck mesh storage bags that allow day gear to be kept close at hand.

Thigh braces, solid foot pedals, and another well-padded, adjustable seat provide excellent support and make for a relaxing day out on the water. If you’re just getting started and value stability over speed, look no further than the Tsunami 145 for your next (or first) weekend getaway.

  • Excellent stability
  • On-deck storage bags
  • Reflective lines for low-light paddling
  • A little slower
  • Storage capacity limits it to weekend trips

Best Tandem: Delta Kayaks Delta Traverse 17.5T

Length: 17′6″ | Width: 27″ | Weight: 65 lbs | Capacity: 560 lbs

Delta Kayaks Delta Traverse 17.5T

Delta’s second appearance on our list comes in the form of their big, rugged double kayak. The Traverse 17.5T shares a few similarities with the Delta 17. Mainly the same sliding, adjustable seat that makes finding the proper sitting position a breeze.

The long waterline and included rudder provide an excellent balance between maneuverability and speed. And since there are two paddlers, the wider hull doesn’t hinder the Traverse when it comes to paddling efficiency. 

The load capacity looks enormous, but bear in mind that it includes the weight of two paddlers instead of one. Nevertheless, that should still be plenty of capacity for most expeditions. In addition, I love the third hatch between the two seats, which makes storing extra gear in the cockpit simpler and easier to access, both on and off the water.

Despite its size, the Traverse weighs only 65 pounds thanks to Delta’s durable ABS plastic construction. Retractable handles on the bow and stern makes carrying this kayak simple despite its length and width.

The rudder system is intuitive and responsive, allowing the Traverse to maintain course in all water conditions. However, bear in mind that its length and width make traveling narrower waterways more challenging. 

  • Excellent combination of stability and speed
  • Ample storage space, including a third hatch
  • Could use more rigging for on-deck storage

Ocean Kayak Buying Guide

two people paddling vibrant sea kayaks during sunset

We take our kayak recommendations seriously here at Kayak Addicts. We rely on our years of paddling experience to direct you toward the best kayak for you. 

Below is a rundown of the various attributes you should consider before purchasing your next boat.

Kayak Type

All of the kayaks on this list are of the sit-in variety. While there is a diverse world of sit-on-top kayaks on the market, they lack the performance and speed to justify putting any in this article.

Don’t be confused. Some sit-on-top kayaks are marketed as “Ocean Kayaks” but should only be used for recreational day paddles in warm water (you will get wet paddling a sit-on-top). If this feels more appealing to you, many boats satisfy this need.

But for our purposes here, we highlight high-performance kayaks meant to handle dynamic and more challenging ocean conditions. 


Most ocean kayaks are made of a tough and rigid plastic called polyethylene. This material is favored for its excellent durability. It can handle drops, collisions, and accidental impacts with underwater obstacles. 

Some companies have opted to go with their own, in-house designed plastic material. Delta is one such company with its ABS plastic. In my opinion, there isn’t a massive difference in performance between these different plastic substrates. However, Delta’s ABS is a little lighter than traditional polyethylene.

While not as durable, some ocean kayaks are made of even lighter materials such as fiberglass. The glass is interlaced and secured with a resin hardener and covered with a protective layer of gel coat. 

These boats tend to be some of the best performing sea kayaks with a great combination of stability, speed, and maneuverability. They are, however, much more expensive than plastic sea kayaks and cost up to twice as much in some cases. Nevertheless, if you’re really serious about your kayaking and have the funds, they may be worth exploring.

But for the majority of kayakers, the solid performance and added durability of a plastic kayak should suit perfectly. 


Even the shortest kayaks on this list, like the Riot Edge 14.5, will dwarf most recreational kayaks out there. Without getting too deep into the science of it, the longer the keel of your kayak, the faster it will go. Of course, other variables such as width, weight, and waterline can also play roles, so think of this as just a general rule. 

For speed, it’s hard to top the Delta 17, which combines a long keel with a narrow width for an impressive cruising speed. The other 17-foot kayaks on this list are also plenty fast in the hands of a competent paddler. 

The Traverse 17.5 will likely outpace them all since there’s the added benefit of a second paddler, which makes up for being a little wider than the singles on the list. 


A disadvantage of a longer waterline is that it is cumbersome to perform tight turns. To help with this issue, most sit-in ocean kayaks come with a rudder. These are controlled with foot pedals and allow paddlers of all experience levels to make sharp turns with a minimal learning curve.

The one exception on this list is the Boreal Baffin P3. Instead, the Baffin has a skeg on the underside of the keel. While this helps with tracking, it doesn’t help as much with maneuverability. Paddlers of the Baffin P3 will need to be more familiar with basic kayaking techniques to steer. 

This will be more of a hindrance than a safety concern when attempting open water paddles in potentially rough waters.


It is with great joy that I can say that the days of stiff, uncomfortable kayak seats are a thing of the past. Today there’s no reason to settle for anything besides a well-padded seat.

If possible, sit in your kayak and fiddle with the seat and foot pedals before purchasing. Reading the dimensions is one thing, but there’s no substitute for sitting in the boat first. This is especially true for big and tall paddlers. Some sit-in kayaks can feel awfully cramped or impossible to pretzel yourself into.

Stability & Tracking

Kayaks have two types of stability, primary and secondary

Primary stability refers to how a kayak feels when paddling with minimal waves and wind. If you can feel the boat rocking a little while you paddle and have to shift occasionally to keep your balance, you could consider the boat to have poorer primary stability.

In many cases, narrower sit-in kayaks like the ones on this list have less primary stability. As a result, there will always be a bit of rocking while you paddle. 

It can be disconcerting for newcomers who may feel like they’re constantly in danger of tipping over. But sit-in kayaks are actually more stable and reliable than sit-on-top kayaks and less likely to capsize in rough water.

This is because of their excellent secondary stability. You can lean these ocean kayaks way over to the side and still recover without fear of tipping over. 

Sit-in kayaks are also helped by the location of the paddler’s seat. They tend to be mounted to the bottom of the boat, placing your center of gravity closer to the water than sit-on-top models. This lower center of gravity does wonders for maintaining your balance and keeping you upright even in inclement weather.

If you’re new to paddling, start in calm and (ideally) warm water to test the limits of your kayak’s stability. You’ll be amazed at how much rocking you can do without capsizing. 

Wider boats will feel more stable. This is why we went with the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 for beginners. Of course, you’ll sacrifice some speed, but it feels like a battleship on the water and is difficult to tip over. 

These ocean kayaks’ long keel and rudders give them top-notch tracking. In addition to providing better maneuverability, rudders also allow you to quickly compensate and adjust for wind, tide, and waves with minimal effort or altering your paddle stroke. 

The skeg on the Boreal Baffin P3 helps improve tracking in poor conditions. For example, if the wind picks up, staying on course is much easier with the skeg deployed. However, in calm water, it does little except create some extra drag and you’re better off retracting it. 


The plastic hulls of these ocean kayaks should give you an extended lifespan with minimal maintenance and upkeep. They are meant to handle most collisions and accidental drops with little effect on their performance.

They’re excellent for landing on rocky beaches without noticeable damage. 

If you manage to puncture the hull (no easy feat), it is possible to patch the leak as long as it’s not too large. This will diminish the performance of your kayak, however. So I advise still treating your kayak as gently as you can. 

Portability & Storage

Longer sea kayaks like these can be more challenging to transport to and from the water. If transporting by car, plan to use a high-quality roof rack and straps. Even the shorter, 14’5” kayaks like the Riot Edge and Wilderness Systems Tsunami are too large to fit in the bed of most pick-up trucks. 

Once you’ve reached the beach, I recommend using tandem carries to get your kayak to the water. Even the lightest kayak on this list, the Delta 17 weighs 50 pounds. Being 17’ long, it makes for an unwieldy and dangerous walk, particularly on rocky beaches.

If a tandem carry isn’t possible, I’d suggest using a kayak cart. Many of these fold up nicely and can even be stored on the deck while you’re paddling.

All the listed kayaks give you the standard storage layout of two watertight hatches. But there is some variability in load capacity and accessible deck storage.

I like the on-deck storage bags on the Wilderness Tsunami 145. While it is possible to keep water-sensitive items in kayak dry bags and secured under deck bungees, this new innovative system makes for a cleaner deck and more space for other items. In addition, it helps make up for a smaller bow hatch opening.

For overall load capacity, it’s hard to beat the two Delta kayaks on the list. The Delta 17 has a ton of storage space and a big load capacity of 410 pounds. Practiced kayak packers should be able to cram 10+ days worth of food and gear, making it excellent for that long expedition you’ve always dreamed of.

Tandem sea kayaks require a large load capacity to accommodate two paddlers. Still, even taking this into account, the Traverse 17.5 can fit plenty of gear into its 560-pound capacity. Heavier paddle partners can take up more of that capacity, however. So don’t forget to incorporate your own weight in addition to your gear. 

If you don’t intend on taking your kayak on trips longer than 3-4 days, the load capacity of any of these boats should be suitable. They all have capacities north of 325-pounds, making them suitable for weekend getaways.

The Verdict

Depending on the expected water conditions, the time of year, and the length of your trip, what you need from an ocean kayak is unique to you. 

We feel great about recommending the Delta 17 as our best overall kayak for your ocean-going adventures. 

Depending on your budget and the time you plan on being out paddling, this may be more than you’re looking for. If so, we also feel confident recommending all the boats on our list, believing they’ll provide you with a safe and memorable journey on the open sea.

No matter what kayak you decide on, we wish you luck on your next paddle, and we can’t wait to see you out there.