Most kayakers think of themselves as a recreational kayaker and, unless you are racing, this is true. The unfortunate part about this statement is, kayak manufactures have misled boaters with the separation of the two categories which are Recreational Kayaks and Touring Kayaks. This has become unsafe.
I am writing this in hopes of spreading the word about why you may need to choose a touring kayak, instead of a recreational kayak. I could write a thick book on all the differences but all I want to talk about here is safety. So I will make this quick. If you have a recreational kayak (that means you do not have a bow AND stern hatch with sealed bulkheads) you should not go more than about 50 Meters from shore.
The reason you need to stay close to shore with a recreational kayak is if you capsize, the kayak you will not have the required floatation to get back in your kayak. This means you are stuck in the water dragging a flooded kayak back to shore. Picture it, you are out of your kayak, swimming in the water and you have one hand on the grab handle of your kayak trying to swim with your free arm to shore, pulling that flooded (700lbs) kayak through the water. How far can you do that in wavy water that capsized you in the first place? Fifty meters, maybe. Maybe a little further if you are really fit. That is not really that far, is it? So if you have a recreational kayak you must keep about a football field or less between you and shore. That is not that far when you think about it. So a touring kayak does not have these limitations, only your skill level.
We come into contact (more than a few times a day) with people that have purchased kayaks from other stores that did not know this basic information. The sales person should have explained this but not all stores and employees are equal so maybe the manufacturers should have made it easier for this new age of big box stores with no customer service and called them something else! Maybe “You must stay really close to shore kayaks” and “Safe Kayaks *with some proper skills” Sounds much better to me!
The Complete Paddler