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Can You Use A River Kayak In The Ocean?

The one thing that confuses many first-timer kayakers is whether a river kayak is suitable in the ocean.

Remember, every type of kayak in the market is specifically made to suit specific needs.

Therefore, if you want to get the best experience, the first thing to consider is which water body you wish to explore.

This article will give you extensive information on whether one can use a river kayak in the ocean.

Can You Use a River Kayak in the Ocean?

Yes, you can, but to a certain extent.

The river kayak is perfect if you plan on a short trip in the ocean when there is calm weather.

However, if you are far from shore, you will need a sea kayak.

It is suitable for the sea because it has a height of 14’ and has two sealed hatches just in case you turn over. 

If you are determined on using a river kayak in a large water body, remember to pack the rear end with flotation for flotation.

Also, pack a helmet in case the kayak capsizes.

Another important thing to remember is that you should always check how the weather is going to behave. 

kayak in ocean

What is River Kayaking?

River kayaking is when you kayak on a river, of course.

When kayaking on a river, the flow of water helps you get ahead, which means you won’t do much paddling.

Easy, right? No.

River kayaking can be just as challenging as sea kayaking, especially when you are faced with rapid waters flowing angrily. 

You will experience an adrenaline rush that will awaken your adventurous side.

The good thing about river kayaking is that the whole way is not filled with rapids.

Instead, you will get some long stretches where the river is quiet and calm, giving you time to breathe and relax. 

What is Ocean Kayaking?

With sea kayaking, you will need a lot of energy and drive since it involves a lot of paddling on the ocean or other large open water bodies.

Ocean kayaking and sea kayaking are essentially the same things.

You will also find that many people also say touring kayaking when referring to ocean kayaking.

Even though these two names mean kayaking in the ocean, ocean kayaking also means paddling in any large open bodies, coastal bays, and large lakes.

What Are The Differences Between Ocean And River Kayaking?

River kayaking and ocean kayaking are not the same things.

There are many contrasts between these two.


River kayaks and sea kayaks are designed differently to suit each water body.

Ocean or sea kayaks are very narrow. They are made to track very well and also go straight.

They are very tippy, which helps kayakers to handle rough waters and prevents them from capsizing. 

Due to their features, it can be hard to get these kayaks to turn compared to river kayaks.

However, the wind and waves in the ocean help the sea kayak to move faster.

You will also notice that they have a rudder or skep, which allows the kayaker to head in one direction in case of bad weather. 

On the other hand, river kayaks are flatter and shorter compared to sea kayaks.

Their design helps kayakers to easily and quickly maneuver the river.

How you distribute your weight easily affects your direction.

With a river kayak, you have to lean in a certain direction, and the kayak will follow suit.

However, an ocean kayak proves much harder to control through weight distribution.

This is why you have to learn how to paddle and control every kayak effectively. 


It is advisable not to venture into the open sea if you are a beginner, far away from the shore.

With sea kayaking, it is easy to paddle away from land, which can be dangerous if you are not accompanied by skilled paddlers for safety.

In river kayaking, you can always take a break on land since rivers can be narrow, especially whitewater.

Also, if there is a chance you capsize and you can’t self-rescue, the river bank is not too far away. 

Adrenaline and Endurance

When river kayaking, you will not need to paddle as much as kayaking on the sea.

The river flow will help you get ahead faster.

While in the ocean, you will need to put your back into it and prepare to paddle so that you can go further.

This makes it more of an endurance sport since you will stay longer on the ocean and get further using your energy. 

River kayaking is an adrenaline sport because it gives you a rush while braving the rapids, which seem like a roller coaster ride.

However, after this action, you will get to rest while on the calm river stretches. 

While river kayaking, the stream current propels you to go further, so your main focus is on maneuvering and steering.

However, on the sea, the water is mostly stationary unless there are waves.

Therefore, even if there are strong sea currents, you will still need the energy to move your kayak in the right direction. 


Both river kayaking and sea kayaking offer vast experiences when it comes to nature.

However, river kayaking falls short of taking in the natural beauty while battling with rapids.

With sea kayaking, you can relax and take it all in, from the sky to the wildlife in the water.

If you are into photography, you can take advantage of this adventure to capture different photos of whales, seals, dolphins, and birds.  

In river kayaking, you have to be alert all the time in case of any obstacles along the way.

But it can still give you moments of relaxation while kayaking along long calm stretches as you view the birds and other land animals. 

The Dangers of Sea Kayaking

Even experts have admitted to having challenges on the ocean.

Here are some of the dangers you need to know;

  • Waves– Sea kayaks may be designed to handle waves but can still capsize. Large waves can make the kayak capsize, and only extremely skilled kayakers can handle such weather conditions. 
  • Hypothermia– Long journeys in cold temperatures can lead to hypothermia (fall in body temperature). You can also experience extremely low body temperatures after falling in the water. In the worst scenario, hypothermia can even lead to death. 
  • Sharks– Unlike the sharks you see in baby sharks, these are very real. Sharks can chase and bump kayaks until you fall. Even staying near the shoreline is not a safety measure because a species known as bull sharks can come inshore. 
  • Strong currents– You will need a lot of strength and endurance for paddling to stay on course if there are strong currents. Therefore, every kayaker needs to know how to handle strong winds that will move them in the right direction. 
  • Sun– Paddling under the sun can be excruciating. In addition, if a kayaker is overexposed to the sun, it can suffer from heatstroke and other effects. 
  • Rip currents– Rip currents can also be very dangerous. If exposed to one, kayakers are required to paddle parallel to it instead of against it. Swimming against the current can lead to exhaustion, and you will move slightly further.
  • Storms– A storm can come out of the blue when you are in the ocean. The sea conditions can change from perfect to terrible in an instant. With a storm, it becomes hard to paddle and even causes your kayak to capsize. It can also increase the chances of lightning striking. 

Why It Is Dangerous To Use A River Kayak On The Ocean

First, using a river kayak on the ocean will require you to put more energy and time into paddling.


River kayaks are not made for speed or distance.

If the weather changes rapidly, kayakers are required to move fast towards the shore.

A river kayak can derail your journey to the beach, which could lead to serious consequences.

Furthermore, river kayaks can easily capsize because their compartments are not as watertight to keep them afloat. 

Which Kayak Should You Use For The Ocean?

The best kayak for the ocean is the sea kayak or the ocean kayak.

Using other kayaks increases the risk of something terrible happening.

If you are a beginner, do not go for sit-in kayaks as they can get filled with water making it easier to capsize and harder to get in after rescue.

It is better to go with sit-on-top kayaks. 

Final Thoughts

If you are ready to take on the ocean with a kayak, it is essential to use the right equipment.

In addition, it would be best if you remembered to practice and learn skills that will help you maneuver risky situations.

Other than that, all you need is the will and energy to proceed.