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What Is a Touring Kayak?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A touring kayak is a type of boat meant for quick paddling over longer distances. Like most kayaks, the touring kayak is long and narrow, and the paddler sits inside the boat by slipping into an open cockpit that can then be covered with a garment known as a spray skirt. These kayaks are less stable than others, so they are meant for experienced paddlers, though they are much faster than other types of kayaks and therefore easier to propel forward. These boats very often feature rigging to secure items such as waterproof bags or even fishing poles.

The specific shape of a touring kayak can vary, though many feature upturned bows to improve speed. This can make paddling in a straight line more difficult, so beginners may have difficulty with steering the touring kayak effectively. The deck of the kayak may be flat or slightly curved to allow for more internal leg space, and the rigging will be run on the deck near the cockpit to make accessing items easier. The hull of the boat is usually keelless, meaning the paddler will have to be more adept at steering the vessel to keep it straight.

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Woman posing

Some touring kayak models feature a skeg rudder that helps steer the boat during rougher conditions. The rudder is deployed into the water using a series of ropes that run to the cockpit of the kayak, and it is adjusted using foot pedals mounted inside the boat. This is useful during windy conditions and rough waters, and is used in conjunction with the paddles to steer the boat. Using the rudder allows the user to focus more on power output rather than steering with the paddle.

Many touring kayak models are designed for one paddler, though two-paddler models are quite common as well. Two-paddler models tend to be much longer than single paddler models, and they can be more difficult to steer because of the size and weight when loaded down. Getting into and out of the two-paddler kayaks can require some coordination as well to prevent the paddlers from being dunked into the water.

A spray skirt is often used when paddling in a touring kayak. This garment slips around the paddler's waist before he or she gets into the kayak. Once the paddler is sitting inside the kayak, the spray skirt is zipped around the lip of the cockpit to prevent water from entering the cockpit or otherwise coming in contact with the paddler's body from the waist down.

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