If paddling straight offshore to meet a sunrise sounds like fun only if you can do it at racing speed, meet the Ferrari of sea kayaks. The Eddyline Falcon 18 ($2,549) is a lean 18 feet by 21 inches, with a needlelike bow that parts water faster than Moses. It accelerates and holds speed effortlessly; I was able to maintain five knots—nearly a jogging pace—for miles at a time. There's 20 percent less volume here than in the Sitka, creating far less drag, yet there's enough luggage space for a comfortable week's tour.
The Falcon is not for the novice pilot because unlike wider kayaks, it can tip easily. Still, the snug cockpit and perfectly placed thigh braces allow pinpoint control. The experienced paddler can make the Falcon track straight through conditions that would send day sailors running for safe harbor, though the sharp bow and finlike extension of the stern that keep it tracking true also make for balky turning.
You'd be missing the point to propel a boat like the Falcon with a low-performance paddle, so try Eddyline's own Graphite Mid Swift, which is a gossamer 28 ounces (albeit a weighty $365; don't use it for digging clams). The medium-wide blade affords plenty of power and a generous area for bracing, while offering little wind resistance.
For athletic kayaking, you don't want a constricting dry suit or even a wet suit if the water isn't frigid. Instead, try thermal stretch garments like those from Rapidstyle ($72 shorts to $139 bodysuits): cozy pile lines a stretchy waterproof-breathable shell. You can protect your hands and feet with Northwest River Supplies Crew Gloves ($15) and Perception's Low Riders booties ($34). Their thin neoprene provides a modicum of warmth without sacrificing dexterity. The Kajak Sport spray skirt ($65) from Finland has a light and pliant nylon construction, and a thick PVC coating renders it leakproof. Likewise, the narrow shoulder straps on the Stohlquist Mobius PFD ($85) stay well out of the way during desperate braces. Watertight Otter Boxes ($17-$25) will protect your camera, picnic supplies, or whatever else you might carry on a race up the coast.