Best Ocean Kayaks For 2022

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

Pioneering sit-on-top kayak brand, Ocean Kayak, was founded in the 1970s from a desire for a human-powered watercraft that divers could use to transport scuba gear to a dive site. The first Ocean Kayak was essentially a surfboard with a seat and storage carved out. It was possible to paddle out, gear up, slide into the water and dive from this watercraft.

The boats were named “Ocean Kayak” to distinguish them from slender, sit-inside sea kayaks that were modeled on traditional Inuit hunting boats. The first Ocean brand kayaks were built in California and later Washington State. Today, the rotomolded plastic kayaks are made in Old Town, Maine, and distributed across the continent.

Modern Ocean Kayaks are more advanced than their early predecessors, but the fun and versatile West Coast essence of the brand remains. Ocean Kayak sit-on-tops are intuitive and beginner-friendly kayaks. Just like those first kayak-assisted scuba adventures, Ocean Kayak was an early player in another crossover activity: kayak fishing.

Paddle anglers use Ocean Kayaks to access hard-to-reach areas without the need for a motor. Ocean Kayak fishing kayaks are decked out with accessories that make it easy to stalk, hook and land fish.

All Ocean Kayaks are recreational sit-on-tops. These boats are ideal for casual users and kayak anglers who mostly paddle in warm waters. The open deck, sit-on-top design makes it easy to jump on the kayak or even re-enter from the water without the specific techniques required for a sit-inside kayak.

Stability is another hallmark of the Ocean Kayak brand. With solo and tandem models available, Ocean Kayaks are a great choice for paddlers who want to bring along lots of gear, a partner or a dog.

This guide will help you decide on the best Ocean Kayak for your needs. Here, we’ll give an overview of the types of Ocean Kayaks available, as well as some tips for buying new and used. Read on to learn more.

Our picks: Best Ocean kayaks for 2022

A good starting point in your kayak search is this list of the best overall Ocean Kayaks. We’ve chosen the best Ocean Kayak models across all categories to help you zero in on the perfect kayak for your paddling needs. Use this list to narrow your search, compare different models and gauge your paddling aspirations.

Best Ocean Kayaks

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Kayaks: Trident 15 by Ocean Kayak - Image 4424
Ocean Kayak

Trident 15

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Ocean_Malibu9p5_2019_LemongrassCamo_Top-first_product_boats.jpg
Ocean Kayak

Malibu 9.5

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Kayaks: Malibu Two by Ocean Kayak - Image 4422
Ocean Kayak

Malibu Two

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Ocean Kayak

Malibu Two XL

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Kayaks: Trident 11 by Ocean Kayak - Image 4423
Ocean Kayak

Trident 11

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Kayaks: Malibu 11.5 by Ocean Kayak - Image 4365
Ocean Kayak

Malibu 11.5

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Shop for Ocean kayaks

If you’re ready to jump straight to shopping, use the links below. They are sorted by type, size and store. The links take you to the Paddling Buyer’s Guide, a comprehensive resource featuring every Ocean Kayak on the market.

Use this tool to learn about each kayak model, including specs, prices, reviews and where to buy. Unsure what kayak best suits your needs? Check out the Buying Advice section below to learn more.




Shopping for a used Ocean kayak?

Buying a used Ocean Kayak is an excellent way to save money on your purchase. Opting for a used boat means you’ll have more purchasing power and can pick up a higher-performing kayak. It also may give you a chance to try the kayak out before you buy it—the best way to ensure the kayak is a good fit in terms of comfort and performance, and something you can’t do when purchasing online or from a box store.

There are a few things to consider if you decide to buy a used Ocean Kayak: knowing where to look, what to look for, and how much to pay when you find the perfect boat.

Where to look

If you’re looking for a used Ocean Kayak, Craigslist, Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace are all great places to start. You can also check specialty sites like MEC Gear Swap or Paddlemonster.com, or try searching Ebay Ocean Kayak for used boats and accessories. Setting up an email alert with the search term “Ocean Kayak” will give you the first chance to view any newly posted boats.

Basic Ocean Kayak models like the Malibu are very popular with outfitters. You can always try contacting outfitters to ask whether they will be selling off any rental fleet at the end of the season. Even better, rent the kayak for a day tour so you can try it out before you decide to buy it.

Searching for used kayaks online allows you to cast a wide net, but ideally you’ll want to try the kayak out before you buy it. Before you travel to see a privately listed kayak, ask the seller if you can meet at a location where you can test paddle the kayak before committing to a purchase.

What to look for

Check how the kayak was stored. The photos posted in the ad will often be of the boat on its rack, where the kayak spends most of its time. Some of the most common damage to sit-on-top kayaks is not actually from paddling them, but rather from how they were stored. Over time, the plastic can soften and deform if stored improperly.

Beware of kayaks stored outside in direct sunlight, sitting upright on the ground, or hung from their handles. All of this can severely distort or damage the kayak.

Ocean Kayak sit-on-tops are ideal used kayaks to purchase because they are extremely durable, and there are very few moving parts that may break. The ones that you need to check are the seat, padding, bungee cords and buckles. Replacement parts can be ordered through the company or improvised from your local hardware store with some creativity.

How much is it worth?

Ocean brand kayaks are relatively inexpensive, but they will hold their value because they are so durable. It’s reasonable to see a used kayak selling for more than 50 percent of the original price, although with delays in supply chains and increased demand, some used kayaks may be selling for nearly as much as they would new.

When searching for a used kayak, keep this in mind: you may have to pay a bit more for a kayak rather than being stuck on shore all summer.

For more tips on selecting a used kayak, read our article How To Buy A Used Kayak.

Ocean Kayak buying guide

Ocean Kayak’s sit-on-tops suit a range of paddling styles. If you’re thinking about buying an Ocean Kayak, first decide if a sit-on-top matches the type of paddling you want to do. Overall, sit-on-top kayaks best suit casual paddlers and warmer environments. They are easy to get on and off and very stable. These qualities also make sit-on-top Ocean Kayaks well suited to kayak fishing.

If you’re looking for a casual kayak for recreational paddling or kayak fishing on calm, sheltered water—and you want to get one without breaking the bank—there’s an Ocean Kayak for you. Ocean Kayaks are available for paddlers of all sizes, with both solo and two-person options.

Ocean Kayak builds all its boats by rotomolding high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This is a common method for manufacturing recreational kayaks and results in a durable, inexpensive kayak. If light weight is an important factor for you, consider looking at a more costly thermoform plastic kayak. Sit-on-top kayaks vary in design but generally are very stable.

As a rule of thumb, the longer the kayak is, the faster it will be. Shorter kayaks, like the Ocean Kayak Malibu 9.5, are easy to maneuver but not as fast. Width also affects a kayak’s performance. If the lengths of two kayaks are equal, generally the narrower kayak will be faster than the wider one. The tradeoff is stability, with wider kayaks creating a larger and more stable platform.

Ocean Kayak’s line of recreational sit-on-top kayaks includes the Malibu, Tetra, Venus, Caper and Banzai models. They appear similar, but some key differences change how the boats feel in the water.

Woman riding a wave on a green kayak
Photo: Courtesy Ocean Kayaks

Malibu

The Malibu is Ocean Kayak’s flagship model. It’s offered in three different solo sizes from 9.5 feet to 11.5 feet long, including a pedal-drive option, as well as tandem and fishing versions. The Malibu is a classic recreational kayak: highly stable and easy to use, with a simple design and comfortable basic outfitting that keeps the cost down.

The Malibu Pedal is propelled like a bicycle, with the user’s legs turning a prop to move the kayak forward and a rudder for steering. The pedal-drive option suits anyone who wants a unique, hands-free experience. The Malibu Pedal is also ideal for kayak fishing, with angler-specific accessories and a frame seat offering a higher vantage point for spotting fish.

Tetra

The more sporty Ocean Kayak Tetra models are narrower than the Malibu kayaks, making them faster (but less stable) and well suited to fitness paddlers. Available in 10- or 12-foot versions for paddlers of all sizes, the Tetra kayaks also boast adjustable foot pegs and a front hatch for storage. These premium features put the price of the Tetra kayak higher than Ocean Kayak’s other paddle kayaks.

Venus

Available in 10- or 11-foot versions, the Ocean Kayak Venus resembles the Tetra, with a fit tailored to suit smaller female paddlers better. At just 40 pounds, the Venus 10 is also the lightest full-size Ocean Kayak, making it easy to manage on and off the water. Like the Tetra kayaks, Venus kayaks are not as stable as the wider Malibu and Caper, but they are quick and agile.

Caper

Like the Malibu kayaks, the 11-foot Caper is a good choice when more stability and higher weight capacity are desirable. A front bow hatch on the Caper distinguishes it from the Malibu.

Banzai

The Ocean Kayak Banzai is a youth sit-on-top kayak for under $500, great for kids of all ages (up to 194 lbs) who want to paddle their kayak. The Banzai also features a built-in tow system that lets you tow the kayak when your child is too tired to paddle.

Tandem kayaks

Ocean Kayak also makes tandem sit-on-top kayaks. These two-person kayaks make it even more fun to get on the water. With a higher weight capacity, you can also load these boats up with more gear. Ocean Kayak tandems are ideal for a child and adult to paddle together, or two adult paddlers. There are four tandems from Ocean Kayak.

The Malibu Two and Malibu Two XL are versatile kayaks that can easily be paddled solo or tandem because of their short length. As only one person is needed to control the kayak, tandems are also suitable for bringing along a new or nervous paddler. Pair them with someone experienced, and they can enjoy the water while knowing they have someone with them to assist.

The Malibu Two XL Angler is a fishing version with fish-specific features like rod holders, gear mounts and tackle storage.

At 16 feet, the Zest Two EXP is the longest and fastest Ocean Kayak tandem. Solo paddlers will have a more challenging time controlling this kayak, but if you’ll always paddle with a partner, this is a good choice for a bit more speed.

Fishing kayaks

The accessories and outfitting of fishing kayaks separate them from other Ocean Kayaks. Fishing kayaks are made to be extremely stable and they have extra storage space for fishing gear and tackle. Because of these additions, fishing kayaks are heavier than regular kayaks, and owners usually carry them with a friend or wheeled cart.

Ocean Kayak has two different models of dedicated fishing kayaks: the Trident and the Prowler. The agile Trident comes in 11-, 13- and 15-foot lengths. These different lengths suit diverse fishing styles: the shorter, maneuverable, 11-foot Trident works best on inland lakes and waterways. The 15-foot Trident kayak is fast and tracks (moves in a straight line) well, letting it excel in swell and cover distance on open waters.

The Prowler series focuses on stability, with the steadiest boats Ocean Kayak offers. Additionally, the Malibu Pedal and Malibu Two XL Angler (see above) are well suited to casual kayak fishing.

Use this as a start, and remember that online research will only get you so far. The best advice we can offer is to always test paddle before buying any boat. The more time you can spend on the water, the better the purchasing decision you will make.

Here are answers to some of the most common online questions about Ocean Kayaks.

  • Ocean Kayak types

    All Ocean Kayaks are sit-on-top kayaks, with two primary types: recreational and fishing kayaks. Recreational kayaks are designed to be stable and easy to use. Fishing kayaks have similar hull designs as recreational sit-on-top kayaks, with open decks and excellent stability.

    They differ in their outfitting and accessories; fishing kayaks are geared up with storage for tackle, rod holders, gear mounts, tank wells, adjustable foot pegs and more. Ocean Kayak’s fishing models are also longer and faster than their recreational line.

  • How much does an Ocean Kayak weigh?

    Ocean Kayaks are average weight when compared to similar sit-on-top kayaks. They are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a strong plastic. Kayaks of the same size made with thermoformed plastic or composites weigh less than HDPE kayaks. Recreational kayaks are also lighter than fishing kayaks, as the outfitting adds weight.

    Expect an Ocean Kayak to weigh anywhere from 40-90 pounds, depending on its size and outfitting.

  • How much does an Ocean Kayak cost?

    Ocean Kayaks start at $649 for the Malibu 9.5 (or $479 for the youth Banzai kayak) and cost up to $2,099 for the Malibu Pedal kayak. These are slightly higher than entry-level prices in the sit-on-top market, but you get what you pay for with better designs and performance backed by decades of experience.

  • Most stable Ocean Kayak

    Ocean Kayak’s sit-on-top recreational and fishing kayaks are some of the most stable on the market. The Malibu models are the most stable recreational Ocean Kayaks. For anglers, the 34-inch-wide Prowler Big Game II gives all the support you will need, with ample stability for stand-up fishing.

    In flat waters, a paddler must be significantly off-balance to capsize; the sit-on-top design ensures re-entry is easy if you do manage to end up in the water.

  • Ocean Kayak dealers

    Online, you can buy Ocean Kayaks through their website or at recreation outlets like Backcountry.com. In-person, they are carried at REI and a network of independent paddle shops. View the complete list of Ocean Kayak dealers in our Paddling Buyer’s Guide, or use their dealer locator.

  • Ocean Kayak warranty

    All new Ocean Kayak hulls and decks have a limited lifetime warranty. Kayaks sold as rentals or blemished models have a five-year limited warranty. The pedal (PDL) drive systems also have a five-year limited warranty. Save the original proof of purchase when you buy your Ocean Kayak to qualify.

Comparing Ocean kayaks

  • Ocean Kayak vs Perception

    Perception makes both recreational sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks. They are another popular USA-made brand, building their kayaks in Greenville, South Carolina. Like Ocean Kayak, Perception’s boats are priced at the low-mid range, with some models available for less than $600 USD. Perception also has an extensive kayak pedigree, as the brand pioneered modern whitewater kayaking. Even at a lower price, you’ll be getting a quality kayak.

    Perception does not have an equivalent to Ocean Kayak’s Trident 15, so if you’re looking for a sit-on-top fishing kayak that’s ready to take on big water, look to Ocean Kayak. If you prefer a sit-inside recreational kayak, consider Perception’s lineup (Ocean Kayak only makes sit-on-tops).

    Both companies make beginner-friendly recreational sit-on-tops like the Ocean Kayak Malibu or Perception Tribe. They are similar in terms of price and performance, so compare lengths, accessories or availability to decide between the two.

  • Ocean Kayak vs Pelican

    Recreational kayak behemoth Pelican makes over 50 different sit-on-top models. Unlike Ocean Kayak, however, most of these are 10 feet or shorter. They are cheap and available widely at Costco, Walmart and other big-box retailers. Pelican’s line includes kayaks that use paddle, pedal and motor propulsion.

    The RAM-X material used in Pelican kayaks is slightly lighter than Ocean Kayak’s rotomolded polyethylene, so if you’re looking to shave a few pounds, look to Pelican. For longer sit-on-top kayaks—including those designed for dedicated kayak fishing—Ocean Kayak offers more models. These longer kayaks are faster and better suited to more open coastlines.

  • Ocean Kayak vs Hobie

    Hobie boats are a mainstay at beach resorts, where they’re better known for their catamarans. Hobie pedal-drive kayaks are some of the most advanced in the industry. Their proprietary Mirage pedal system mimics a stepping motion rather than the standard cycling style seen in most other pedal-drive kayaks.

    If you’re looking for a unique, hands-free kayaking experience (and willing to spend a fair bit more money), these pedal-driven kayaks are definitely worth the price. Hobie also makes dedicated pedal-drive fishing, sailing and inflatable kayaks. If you prefer a classic paddle-propelled kayak, or have a limited budget, stick with Ocean Kayak.

  • Ocean Kayak vs Viking

    Viking kayaks made their way to North America after establishing themselves in New Zealand as the premier offshore fishing kayak. These high-end, high-performance sit-on-tops are for serious anglers and fitness paddlers. They currently make four models available in the United States. The popular Viking Profish series are all-around fishing kayaks that are stable enough for stand-up fishing.

    Choose a Viking kayak if you’re looking for a surf ski or longer expedition-style sit-on-top kayak for offshore fishing adventures. Ocean Kayak is the better choice if you just want a basic sit-on-top for recreational paddling, or a versatile fishing kayak at a lower price.

Overhead shot of two kayaks on the beach
Photo: Courtesy Ocean Kayaks

Ocean kayak reviews

Reviews are a valuable tool for learning how a kayak feels on the water; see if the environment where the reviewer uses the kayak matches where you plan to paddle. Use their expert opinion on the boat’s comfort, performance and features to decide whether this is a model worth trying in-person.

 

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