Sea kayaking presents different challenges than any other type of kayaking. The unpredictable nature of the ocean means that you need to be more prepared for anything before you even push your kayak off the shore.
But if you are prepared, sea kayaking gives you opportunities to experience marine wildlife up close and personal. It also allows you to explore remote coastlines that can be inaccessible to everyone but a well-prepared sea kayaker.
Taking advantage of the many benefits of sea kayaking requires adequate preparation before you hit the water. A big part of that is learning how to choose the best sea kayak accessories for your paddling style.
In this article, we’ll offer some basic sea kayaking tips and then get into our suggestions for the 10 best sea kayak accessories.
We’ll also define key sea kayaking terms that you should get familiar with so you can speak the lingo when you meet other sea kayakers on the water.
Table of Contents
- 1 Jargon Buster
- 2 Sea Kayaking Tips
- 3 Best Sea Kayak Accessories
- 4 And A Bonus Accessory – A Kayak Light
- 5 Final Thoughts
- 6 Enjoyed Best Sea Kayak Accessories? Share it with your friends so they too can follow the KayakHelp journey.
Kayaking terminology can sound like a foreign language when you’re new to it. So let’s get started by defining some of the key terms or abbreviations that you’ll encounter throughout the rest of this article.
A sea kayak’s cockpit is where you sit while you’re paddling. In sea kayaks, cockpits are closed and smaller than the cockpits on recreational kayaks. They also offer the ability to secure a spray skirt around the edge for added weather protection and heat retention.
Capsizing is what happens when you’re wet and you’re no longer sitting upright in the cockpit of your sea kayak. This is an important term to know because many of the best sea kayak accessories have to do with helping you avoid (or recover from) capsizing.
PFD is the abbreviation for ‘personal flotation device’. This is a critical sea kayak accessory for protecting the absolute most important part of your sea kayaking setup: YOU!
Sea Kayaking Tips
If you’re new to sea kayaking, check out these simple tips for getting started. If you’re looking for more advice on how to stay safe and be prepared for sea kayaking, be sure to check out our Ultimate Sea Kayak Beginners Guide &Tips.
Get To Know The Ocean
Sea kayaking and whitewater kayaking are the two forms of kayaking that require the most knowledge of the water and the elements that impact it.
In sea kayaking, you’ll need to learn about ocean currents, tidal patterns, swell size and angle, wind speed, and a whole host of other environmental factors that can make or break your kayaking experience.
One of the best ways to get to know more about the ocean where you’re going to be doing most of your sea kayaking is to go on a guided tour. This will allow you to learn from an experienced guide and ask important questions about the weather and ocean patterns in your area.
Practice Self-Rescue Techniques
Because of their design, sea kayaks can be more difficult to re-enter in deep water than arguably any other type of kayak. Because of this, you should spend a considerable amount of time practicing self-rescue techniques in shallow water before you wind up needing them in deep water.
The basic process of self-rescuing in a sea kayak starts with righting your kayak and holding onto your paddle. If you don’t hold onto your paddle when you capsize, it’s always a good idea to locate it and grab it before you climb back into your kayak.
But with your paddle in hand, you should be able to pull your upper body onto the kayak just behind the cockpit and then swing a leg over so that you’re straddling the kayak. From there, you’ll need to ease your way forward until your bottom drops into the cockpit.
The last step will simply be to pretzel your legs so that you get them back inside the cockpit of your kayak. It’s also worth noting that this technique can be a lot easier with the aid of a paddle float, which we’ll talk more about later in this article.
Find Paddle Friends!
Sea kayaking is more fun with friends, just like almost any other form of outdoor recreation. And while we recognize that solitude, peace, and quiet are also big draws for sea kayakers, you can find these things and still have a friend paddling 20 or 30 yards away enjoying his or her own peace, quiet, and solitude as well.
The biggest advantage of having paddle friends is the feeling of security when you want to explore a new area or plan a multi-day route along a remote stretch of coastline.
As you gain experience and tackle longer paddling trips, practicing the buddy system is a great way to ensure that you can keep enjoying this form of recreation for many years to come.
And paddle friends also give you someone to practice your rescue techniques with while you’re starting out. This means that you might not always have to self-rescue and makes it easier to learn new techniques like the HI-rescue.
Best Sea Kayak Accessories
1. Paddle Float
A paddle float is an essential sea kayak accessory because it will provide flotation when you need it most. We encourage all new sea kayakers to learn rescue techniques like the T-rescue and X-rescue and a paddle float can be a big-time help for both of those techniques.
This accessory is great because it barely takes up any room in your kayak when it’s deflated. One of the more popular places that experienced kayakers like to store their paddle float is right in the cockpit and behind the seat.
This way you’ll know exactly where it is if you capsize and need access to it quickly. You’ll then need to blow it up and attach it to the blade of your paddle to help you climb back into your kayak.
There are many different brands out there making good paddle floats these days, so if you need to know more about how to choose the right one for your needs, check out our article on the best kayak paddle floats.
2. Deck Bags
Kayak deck bags give you a safe, dry place to store critical clothing and gear while you’re on the water. While most sea kayaks come with watertight compartments for dry storage, that still might not give you enough space as you start to plan (and pack for) longer trips.
These bags have certain advantages over regular dry bags because they are more intentionally shaped to sit on top of your kayak without being bulky or causing too much drag in the wind.
Some will even give you safe access to their contents while they’re still strapped to your kayak. And when you do happen to capsize accidentally, you won’t have to worry about your precious cargo floating away.
For these reasons, we recommend getting a deck bag for sea kayaking instead of a regular dry bag. If you’re looking for recommendations to help you choose a new deck bag, check out our article on the best kayak deck bag.
3. Foot Braces
Fortunately, most sea kayaks come with foot braces already installed. But if yours doesn’t, you’re going to want to get them in there as soon as possible!
This accessory is mostly about comfort, but it will also help to improve your efficiency on longer paddles. Foot braces give you a comfortable means of locking your feet into place in the cockpit and help you sit up straighter.
By sitting up straighter and helping to keep your knees bent, foot braces allow you to engage your core muscles while paddling. This will make your paddle strokes stronger and also reduce fatigue on your arms and shoulders.
If your kayak doesn’t have foot braces already built-in, choosing new ones can be difficult because you’ll have to make sure they’re compatible with your kayak design. So if you need new foot braces, be sure to check out our article on the best kayak footpegs.
4. Bilge Pump and Sponge
As they say in the prepper world, “It’s not a matter of if, but rather a question of when.” That certainly applies to sea kayaking when we’re talking about certain accessories that really only get used in an emergency (or when you’ve been goofing off!).
A bilge pump and sponge are no exception to this rule. Their purpose is to help you clear the water out of the cockpit of your kayak, which should really only get in there if you’re practicing rescue techniques or you accidentally capsize.
These are great accessories to strap onto the deck of your kayak alongside your deck bag. Some deck bags even come with straps or loops that make it super easy to secure a bilge pump to them.
The bilge pump will do most of the work of getting 99% of the water out of your kayak. But having a sponge is also useful for mopping up any remaining water that the bilge pump can’t handle and it’s also good for getting the last bit of water that has sand or dirt in it so that you don’t clog up your bilge pump.
An emergency whistle is supercritical to sea kayaking because of the limited visibility that often comes with paddling on the ocean. Whether it’s a result of fog, rain, or just large rolling waves that obscure your view (and the view of other boaters!), you’ll need some way to make louder noise in case of emergency.
A quality emergency whistle should just attach right to your PFD and remain easily accessible throughout your paddles. They’re usually made of plastic because metal whistles will be susceptible to rust and corrosion if subject to saltwater for a long period of time.
The simplest and most affordable emergency whistles simply allow you to make a loud whistling noise to alert other kayakers or motorized vessels to your presence. But some will include extra features like a built-in LED light to help with your visibility.
If you’re one of those folks who think they can whistle louder than any manufactured plastic whistle, consider how your abilities might change when you’re floating in cold ocean water and barely able to catch your breath. So get an emergency whistle!
A quality first aid kit is a must-have accessory for sea kayaking, but it’s really an essential item for any form of outdoor recreation. What changes with kayaking, however, is that the kit must come in some type of waterproof bag so that its contents aren’t saturated and ineffective when you need them.
There can be a lot (or a little) that goes into a quality first aid kit. Your personal setup will most likely depend on your experience, skills, and any level of first aid training that you’ve received in the past.
If you’re just getting into sea kayaking, we highly recommend taking at least a basic first aid course. But the best-case scenario is that you find a NOLS Wilderness First Responder certification course in your area.
We recommend anyone who gets serious about any form of outdoor recreation to have at least a basic level of emergency training before they undertake long, remote trips. After all, having a first aid kit on your kayak really doesn’t do you any good if you don’t know how to use anything inside of it.
While we rely on our cell phones for so much these days, they can, unfortunately, let us down in an emergency scenario. Not a lot of cell phone carriers spend a bunch of time providing great service out on the ocean.
This is why you should consider adding a waterproof handheld radio to your sea kayaking arsenal. While we know kayakers who’ve barely used their radio in a decade of paddling, it only takes one emergency for an accessory like this to save your life.
Unlike having to dial into a 911 operator with a cell phone, the U.S. Coast Guard more closely monitors emergency radio frequencies for distress signals. And while you might need to still use your cell phone to obtain your GPS coordinates, a handheld radio will give you a solid backup to call for help in case of an emergency.
The Cobra MRHH350 is one of the best handheld radios out there because it floats, it’s waterproof, and it’s backlit for low-light use. It also allows you to monitor multiple channels at once so you have better odds of getting a response in an emergency.
8. Spray Skirt
Every good sea kayaker has a quality spray skirt at the ready at all times. Even if you’re paddling on a warm, clear day, a spray skirt will keep ocean spray from getting inside the cockpit of your kayak and cooling you down.
If you’ve never paddled with one of these spray skirts, you’ll be surprised by how much warmer they keep your lower body once in place. This makes them a great option for colder weather paddling too, even if there’s no precipitation in the forecast.
But before you buy a new spray skirt, put it on, and head out onto the water, you better have some practice with removing a spray skirt and exiting your kayak if you capsize. This technique is called a wet exit, and you can read more about how to practice it here.
Spray skirts come in different sizes and thicknesses, so you’ll have to do some research to find one that suits your needs. But if you need a little more direction on this kayaking accessory, check out our article on the best kayak spray skirts for 2020.
9. Throw Rope and Tow Rope
Here’s another two for one because these kayak accessories sound very similar but serve very different purposes. Because of this, we wanted to include them together in this section to clear up any confusion.
A kayak throw rope is an emergency rescue item that’s designed to be thrown to a swimmer who has drifted away from his or her kayak.
They’re also used a lot in whitewater kayaking, but certainly have their place in a well-prepared sea kayaker’s vessel.
A kayak tow rope, on the other hand, is used to help tow the upright kayak of a paddler in distress. Whether that paddler has an emergency medical issue or is simply tired, a tow rope allows you to connect to the front toggle handle on their kayak and assist them back to shore (or another safe landing location).
Both of these items are made to be worn around the kayaker’s waist, but many experienced find them a little cumbersome if worn in that manner. So you can certainly store your throw rope or tow rope elsewhere on your kayak, but be sure that wherever you put it you still have quick access to it when you need it.
Last, but certainly not least, a quality kayaking PFD is arguable the #1 best kayak accessory that you can add to your setup. A vast majority of kayak-related incidents (and deaths!) could have been prevented if the kayaker was wearing a PFD.
These PFDs are designed to provide enough flotation for your body so that you can concentrate your efforts on holding onto your paddle and kayak. They also make it easier for you to climb back into your kayak before you get too fatigued to do it easily.
PFDs come in many different designs and types. The U.S. Coast Guard actually has a rating system that they use to classify all PFDs according to their design and buoyancy and they generally recommend that sea kayakers wear aType III or Type V PFD.
For us, PFDs are not only lifesavers, but they allow us to relax and cool off on hot kayaking days without having to worry about keeping ourselves afloat. So if you’re in search of a quality PFD, check out our article on the best kayaking PFDs!
And A Bonus Accessory – A Kayak Light
One sea kayaking accessory that we didn’t mention in our top ten list is a kayak light. If you intend to do any paddling at first light, last light, or under only moonlit skies, then a kayak light is essential to make you and your kayak visible on the water.
In many states, a kayak light is mandatory if you’re paddling between sunset and sunrise. If this is the case, failure to carry a kayak light or signal beacon on your kayak can result in a substantial fine.
So this is a critical accessory for improving your visibility on the water and adhering to safe kayaking regulations. Because after all, the biggest threat to sea kayakers is often other motorized vessels that simply can’t see you because you’re so close to the water!
Kayak lights come in many sizes starting with something small that attaches to your kayak paddle with a lanyard and moving up to large lights that extend 2-3 feet above your kayak on a stand.
If you need some further guidance in choosing the right kayak light for your setup, check out our article on the best kayak lights for night paddling and fishing!
As you gain experience with sea kayaking and start planning more adventurous trips, you’ll begin to realize that all of these accessories have their important place in a prepared sea kayaker’s vessel.
While some of us can go years without needing to radio for help or blow on our emergency whistle, it only takes one time of not having that accessory for things to go from bad to worse.
So we hope you’ve found some food for thought by reading this article and you’re excited to add some of these accessories to your sea kayaking setup. We wish you the best of luck in all your sea kayaking adventures and bid you bon voyage!