Both hardshell and inflatable kayaks can be categorized into two different styles:
Sit-on-top kayak (SOT) and
Sit-in kayak (SIT)
The two designs differ drastically from one another, and each suits a different purpose.
The differences between sit-on-top vs. sit-in kayaks
The most apparent distinction between sit-inside and sit-on-top inflatable kayaks (& hardshell models) is that SIKs have an enclosed cockpit that positions the paddler inside the boat at or below the water level. In contrast, SOT kayakers sit on top of the kayak above the water’s surface.
A spray skirt can easily be attached to the cockpit coaming for full protection from rain, snow, or frigid water during winter paddling. A well-sealed high-quality spray skirt can also be a safety feature because it will keep water out of the cockpit in case you flip (providing you can roll back and correct your white water kayak).
Sitting inside a cockpit lets you place your legs against the side of the kayak & the underside of the deck. Your body effectively becomes one with the kayak’s body to enhance your control of the kayak, making it more maneuverable.
You will find there’s room inside the kayak to store your equipment and keep them dry. Water can’t get in through self-draining scupper holes found on SOK kayaks. Some sit-in kayaks even have integrated watertight storage compartments.
Due to the narrower beam of SIK kayaks, you can use a shorter paddle. This makes the boat easier to propel forward because the moment arm will be tighter. (The moment arm is the distance from your centerline to the part of the paddle entering the water. The shorter it is, the easier it is to paddle.)
Sit-Inside Kayak Cons
The single biggest con against sit-inside kayaks concerns floatation and ease of rescue, as the cockpit can take in a lot of water in case you capsize.
Touring kayaks have 1 or 2 integrated bulkheads to circumvent this. But “what is a bulkhead”, you ask?
A kayak bulkhead is a built-in compartment, which traps air inside of the kayak. The bulkhead limits how much water can get into the boat and acts as a floatation chamber to keep it afloat if you swamp. Additionally, bulkheads have a hatch so that you can use them to dry-store supplies as well.
Most recreational SIT kayaks will not have a bulkhead, but the better ones have a single one behind the seat.
And because everything is on the deck, access to your gear is more comfortable. You won’t have to struggle and reach deep into your cockpit to get your things. This is especially important for fishermen, who need space to store their gear and freedom of movement to use their equipment. All fishing kayaks are of the sit-on-top variety.
Sit-on-top kayaks are cheaper than their sit-inside counterparts.
Stand-up paddleboarding is becoming more popular each year. Hawaiians have been using it for years as a means to keep fit when the waves are not adequate for surfing. By using a paddleboard surfers were able to enjoy the water and obtain some exercise simultaneously. In the last several years millions of people have begun to enjoy paddle boarding while standing (SUP). People now engage in stand-up paddling to enjoy the water, spend time with friends, and improve their fitness level.
SUP board can provide you with a very good overall workout. You will make use of balance and strength in order to remain upright and propel yourself in the water. The level of intensity you will experience will be variable and be dependent on your venue. If you are paddling in the ocean and there are a lot of waves and an ocean current, your workout will be intense. If you are simply drifting in relatively placid waters, it will not be so hard-core.