Kayarchy - the sea kayaker's online handbook and reference


Retail Outlets (3)

Sea kayaks & paddles

AS Watesports kayak shop


Most of these suppliers are in the USA or Canada. For the UK list see www.kayarchy.co.uk

Some sea kayak retailers



Sea kayaks to fit adults

In general see The Sea Kayak. Most kayaks are designed to carry a kayaker plus either a small load for day trips or a large load for overnight expeditions. Expedition kayaks are longer, heavier and have higher volume than dayboats. See Intended Use. All kayaks have limitations. In a cool climate, sit-on-top kayaks have a lot more limitations than most. Short, fat boats are cute and cheap, but at sea they're slow, wet and often uncomfortable. See Why A Long, Narrow Kayak?

Increasingly, composite sea kayaks that were made in North America are now manufactured overseas, mainly in China.

Manufacturers & importers - unisex plastic sea kayaks - USA

Most kayaks are intended for men or women, but that means they have to have enough volume to support the weight of an adult male kayaker. For slimmer, lighter kayaks see Sea Kayaks To Fit Women.

Manufacturers & importers - unisex plastic sea kayaks - Canada

Most of the above products are available in Canada, and here are some home-grown manufacturers:

Manufacturers - sea kayaks to fit women

Above, we've listed manufacturers and imports of unisex sea kayaks. These are designed to carry the weight of the average male kayaker, say 140-190 lbs, plus a small load. A woman weighing 110-130 lbs can certainly paddle such a kayak but its size, width and weight can be a real disadvantage on day trips. See Man, Woman Or Child?

We believe the solution is 5% less length and 10% less width at the waterline. This means that the kayak is no slower and can be considerably lighter, which makes it a lot easier to handle ashore.

Greenland kayaks for man and woman

The photo above shows two Greenland kayaks from the rear, to exactly the same scale. The one on the left is an Anas Acuta, a fiberglass dayboat made by Valley Canoe Products. The one on the right is a skin-on-frame kayak built in England by Richard Best. They are almost exactly the same length, overall width and depth. Valley tell us that the Anas Acuta has a volume of 297 liters. Experience tells us that it is perfect for a kayaker of 130-180 lbs, or up to 200 lbs if there's no load. The SOF kayak has an estimated volume of 240 liters. The difference in volume is mainly because the SOF kayak is 10% narrower at the waterline. It would feel unstable to most male kayakers, but a woman is generally less top-heavy than a man.

With a man in the Anas Acuta and a woman in the SOF boat, both kayakers are comfortably stable but the man has to work pretty hard to keep up.

Ready-made kayaks for women
Most of the big manufacturers make one or two kayaks for smaller paddlers. Some manufacturers make sea kayaks specifically for women:

Home-build kayaks for women
For quick building using the skin-on-frame method there are many free designs on Tom Yost's inspirational site at www.yostwerks.com or www.yostwerks.org. All are light in weight, and you can choose a length and width to suit yourself.

Sea kayaks to fit children

Your own kayak is probably about 16 or 17 feet long, 23 inches wide and 55 lbs. Imagine if it suddenly ballooned to 32 inches wide and 80 lbs. And your paddle got so long and heavy you could barely lift it. You are just not going to enjoy yourself, that's what a child or younger teenager experiences in the typical man's sea kayak. A teenage boy may get on well with a sea kayak designed for a woman.

If you want a kayak for a smaller, lighter paddler you will probably have to build one, or travel some distance to buy one. Commercial designs, not necessarily all still in production, include:

  • Prijon's Viper (12 feet 4 inches by 22.5 in)
  • The Raven from Current Designs (12 feet by 20 inches)
  • The Tsunami SP from Wilderness Systems (12 feet by 21 inches).

For guideline lengths for children of different weights and ages, and sources of plans for kayaks you can build at home, see Child-Sized Kayaks. Alternatively, Dan at Clear Stream Fine Woodworking, New Hampshire will build one for you in wood, wood-core fiberglass or skin-on-frame. www.clearstreamwood.com

Manufacturers - wood sea kayaks in North America

Most of these craftsmen make strip plank kayaks and canoes in cedar sheathed with fiberglass.

Manufacturers - skin-on-frame sea kayaks

  • Made Kayaks, British Columbia. Ron Crown uses CNC technology to make traditional designs which he supplies either in kit form or ready-made. www.madekayaks.com

Surf kayaks

You can surf quite a few styles of kayak, but there are specialist designs which perform much better. See Kayaks For Surfing.

Fast touring kayaks

Designed to go long distances in a straight line, performance touring kayaks, ocean race kayaks and ocean racing skis are very attractive but not everybody's ideal sea kayak. They are not suitable for rock-hopping because they lack maneuverability, and they are often lighter and less tough than a standard sea kayak.

The following manufacturers make performance touring and race boats (and probably some standard kayaks as well):

Sea kayaks - folding

In general see Folding Kayaks. One great thing about them is that a manufacturer can always post them overseas. Wherever they're based, all of the following have an English-language website. Klepper, Nautiraid and Long Haul all supply folding kayaks to the military. Klepper is said to have been making kayaks longer than anybody in the world.

Sea kayaks - inflatable

Avoid the beach toys, unless a beach toy is what you want. These manufacturers make rugged inflatable kayaks:

Sea kayaks - kits & plans

See Build Your Own Wood Kayak, Build Your Own Skin-On-Frame Kayak, and Build Your Own Kayak In Fiber-Reinforced Plastic.

Plywood sea kayak kits

See above for cedar strip kits.

Sea kayak plans for plywood or cedar strip

Build your own folding kayak

There are many free designs on Tom Yost's inspirational site at www.yostwerks.com or www.yostwerks.org


The style of paddle you use is not important as long as it is strong. In general see European-style paddles and Greenland Paddles. If you choose a Greenland paddle, you can quite easily make your own. Some of the following manufacturers sell direct, others only through retailers.


Paddle manufacturers - wood

European and/or Greenland style paddles for sea kayakers.

Paddle manufacturers - composite



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