Can You Use an Ocean Kayak on a Lake? [Tips and Advice]

Ocean kayaking can be an enjoyable way to spend your summer. There are many benefits to the sport, including being out in nature and getting exercise.

However, can you use an ocean kayak on a lake? 

If you’re not sure if it’s possible or not, read on for information about how it can work.

Among the scenic view of a morning lake and mountains surrounding them is a long sea kayak

What’s the difference between an ocean kayak and a lake kayak?

As a rule, ocean or sea kayaks are longer and can accommodate more weight. They also have a deck that is higher than a lake kayak. You can seal the cockpit to enable one to paddle without being thrown out of the boat by waves or even big fish.

Ocean kayaks are designed for skilled kayakers who want to travel over large lakes or the open ocean. They can slice through water bodies efficiently while enabling kayakers to move faster using less effort.

They are ideal for longer trips and offer more comfort due to upgraded seats, pegs, footrests, etc.

Lake kayaks can handle rougher waters than those paddled on the ocean-side.

Generally, these boats have a flat bottom to cut through waves and are faster than you can imagine.

Can you use a sea kayak on a lake?

You can use a sea kayak on a lake. Most importantly, find a boat you are comfortable paddling, and build your confidence and skills.

I can think of two places where a sea kayak wouldn’t be well suited. Whitewater and narrow creeks require greater maneuverability than a longboat can provide.

Likewise, many kayaks can be fun in the surf, but they don’t have the same comfort for broad open stretches.

The short, broad recreational boat is most effective in smooth water for casual paddling.

Can you use an ocean kayak on a lake?

An ocean kayak is the same thing as a sea kayak, so yes, you can use an ocean kayak on a lake.

Aren’t all kayaks that go into the ocean called ocean kayaks?

If a kayak is suitable for open waters, you can call it an ocean or sea kayak. Some models used in smaller seas, such as the English Channel, are usually called sea kayaks or touring kayaks.

The design of a kayak can determine what type it is, not its name. A sit-on-top model designed for fishing would be more suited to use on lakes than an ocean type because of the stability it can offer.

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If you are kayaking in a large body of water with waves, whitecaps, and strong currents, such as the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf Stream, then an ocean type is best suited for your needs.

You can use them on lakes, but it will depend on personal preferences and habits. For example, some people might enjoy the sport more on lakes than on open waters.

What kind of kayak is best for a lake?

It would be wise to get a recreational kayak. These can be used in small lakes, rivers, creeks, and other calm waters.

They can navigate narrow inlets or tight places where a pontoon boat can’t go.

On a lake, it was a good idea to use a red ocean kayak

Can you use a whitewater kayak on a lake?

Whitewater kayaks are great for the lake because you can use them for both whitewater and flatwater. It can handle the rapids and waves in a river and be used for flatwater paddling on lakes.

A kayak suitable for use on rivers can also work just fine on a lake. It might not be capable of traveling as fast or traveling over obstacles as an ocean kayak would, but it’ll get you from one side of the lake to the other.

Whitewater kayaks can be difficult to control, but their more forgiving design means they can handle waves and choppy water without flipping over easily.

Ocean kayaks are designed for calm waters with their narrow shape and pointed bow. You’ll have a hard time paddling in rough conditions or against currents that make it tough to move forward.

Whitewater kayaks are not good for still water in terms of speed. They are better when the water is rough and there are waves.

Is it safe to kayak on a lake?

I always recommend kayaking on a lake for beginners as it is a safer environment than the ocean. The water is calmer, and you can always see land.

What are the pros? 

The biggest pro of kayaking on a lake is that it’s much less risky than paddling out to sea. That is due to access to the shoreline if there’s trouble, not having waves kicking up unexpectedly, and the water is calmer.

What are the cons? 

The biggest con for kayaking on a lake can be that it can’t compare to paddling out at sea because you don’t have waves, and there’s not as much potential for wildlife interactions.

It can also get boring if you plan your trip poorly, stay near the shoreline, and can’t see anything in the distance.

What should I consider before kayaking on a lake? 

The first thing to do is check for environmental conditions such as water temperature, wind speed/direction, air temperature (considering how warm or cold the water is), wave height if close enough to the coast, and any potential hazards like oil spills.

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The differences between ocean kayaking and lake kayaking

The main difference lies in the fact that you can use ocean kayaks in the rough waters of the ocean. In contrast, you can use lake kayaks on calm water bodies like lakes.

However, it is pertinent to note that you can also take out both types on rivers and whitewater tributaries regardless of whether they are for recreational purposes or not.

The difference between the two can be seen in their construction and buoyancy.

Ocean kayaks are made of durable, heavy materials that can withstand a lot of strain in heavy waves with good stability to keep them afloat when being capsized (overturned).

They boast longer paddles for better efficiency over long distances and also have more storage capacity. They can also use the paddles for stability while sitting on a seat.

Lake kayaks can be made of lighter materials such as ultralight and fiberglass that can float in small waves but are less durable than ocean kayaks, leading to leaks or even sinking when capsized (overturned).

Their shorter paddles allow for better maneuverability in smaller spaces and make paddling more difficult, and they do not have a seat.

During a kayaking session, a gorgeous sunset was reflected on a calm lake

Sea vs. lake kayaking

Lake kayaking is a better option for beginners, while sea kayaking can be challenging for those just getting started.

In the sea, the waves can force you to paddle continuously even if you want to stop and take breaks, which can feel tiring.

Kayakers who are novices or experienced can use lake kayaks, which offer more stability with fewer challenges that come from unpredictable ocean conditions.

You can use ocean kayaks on a lake by using the right equipment.

You can use sealed canoes to explore upriver lakes with calm waters. Sea kayakers can use an inflatable canoe for more challenging conditions on big bodies of water like oceans or large rivers.

When it comes to paddles, both types of boats can be used with a standard paddle.

A sea kayak can also use an oar or skeg if available, as can lake kayaks equipped for river travel and deep water conditions.

Ocean kayakers can wear wetsuits in cold climates but should not need them when the temperature is warm enough to use a wet suit top and shorts.

All in all, it is up to us to decide what type of kayak is right for your location, skill level, and what you plan to do with it.

Are there any disadvantages or benefits to using an ocean kayak on lakes?

Ocean kayaks are longer and allow higher speeds, but it doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner kayaker.

Lake kayaks can offer more stability than ocean kayaks because they are shorter with wider dimensions. Experts can work well with them, but beginners shouldn’t.

Ocean kayaks can be tough to balance because of their length, so I don’t recommend beginners use them. Experts who have experience in this type of situation can make the most of them.

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For the most part, it can be a tough situation for beginners. If you’re an expert or experienced paddler and have experience with this type of kayaking, it can work well.

In fact, using a sea kayak on a lake won’t give you an advantage over other kayakers.

Is there any reason why one would not want to use an ocean kayak on a lake?

Ocean kayaks, perhaps, may be difficult to control on a lake that can produce waves.

It can be difficult to enter and exit an ocean kayak if it is on the small side.

If you are new to paddling, an ocean kayak can feel unstable. You may want to start with a lake kayak before moving onto this type of vessel.

Are they different from each other?

The most significant difference is the length of the kayak. Sea kayaks are longer and narrower than lake kayaks. That allows for more speed when paddling in open water, but can be slightly too fast in shallower waters with currents.

Sea kayaks usually measure between 12 and 24 feet long, while most lake canoes range from 8 to 14 feet.

Do both have similar features?

Every kayak is similar to another to some extent, from the function to the design.

Which has more stability?

The wider the kayak is, the more stability it provides. If you can’t make it to the beach and want more stability, opt for a sit-on-top recreational kayak that is wide.

If you’re looking for maneuverability, you should consider a fishing kayak with less width than the sit-on-top recreational kayaks.

A guy enjoying his day off on a calm lake in a green recreational kayak

Summary of ocean kayaks vs. lake kayaks

The water in a lake can range from calm to very choppy.

That can affect how you paddle and what type of kayak is appropriate for your use.

Sea kayaks: Ocean kayaks are not designed for small lakes with waves, but can be used on flat waters like the ocean or larger lakes if they’re calm. If the water is calm, you can use a sit-in kayak on large lakes, but you would have to supply more of your power and maneuverability.

Lake kayaks: Sit-on-top recreational and fishing kayaks are slower than ocean or touring kayaks, but can be used on larger lakes with waves because they can catch waves, can handle choppy water, and can be used in shallower waters.

A sit-in kayak is a great option for paddling on large lakes with calm or still water because you can get out of the boat at any time without being ejected.

A pontoon hull kayak is ideal if you plan to fish or hunt from your kayak because it can handle choppy water and can be operated in shallow water.

Last updated on June 19, 2022 by Duncan Barrett

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