The popularity of kayaking continues to increase as the sport offers the chance for people to get on the water and enjoy the outdoors. Quietly cruising on the water on a clear morning or chilling in your vessel on a calm afternoon is enticing for a lot of people. And if action and getting your blood pumping is your thing, you can also achieve this through kayaking.
Buying a kayak is tricky enough for someone that has some experience. However, for a beginner, it’s downright confusing. There are different types of kayaks and even a lot more different pieces of gear. However, the first thing you need to get right as a beginner paddler is your kayak.
I’m a kayaking enthusiast myself and if there’s a chance to be of help to ‘kayaking newbies’, I have to help. If you are looking for your first kayak, you’ll find below an extensive buying guide that informs you of the things to look out for in a kayak. What makes a beginner kayak good, what are the things to look out for? You’ll find answers to the questions and more.
What Are The Different Types of Kayaks?
There are different types of kayaks which will be briefly discussed below:
Sit-on-top kayaks: Sit-on-top kayaks are not enclosed and therefore do not have a cockpit like their sit-inside counterparts. Instead, the seat is placed on top of the vessel and you will actually be sitting on top of the kayak since there is no confinement on the kayak. Everything on sit-on-top kayaks from seatbacks to footwells is rigged onto the actual deck of the vessel.
Sit-on-top are ideal for beginners because it is easy to get in and out of them. Also, they are very stable and difficult to capsize.
Sit-inside kayaks: This is the traditional type of kayak and it comes with an enclosed cockpit. You sit inside the kayak and brace your feet on footrests and knees on the sides of the kayak while paddling.
Recreational kayaks: Are sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks that are affordable, stable, and easy to maneuver. Recreational kayaks are suitable for calm waters and short kayaking trips. And they have just enough storage space for a few essentials.
Tandem kayaks: Tandem kayaks are designed to accommodate two people. They are great for kayaking with a friend, partner, or family member. You can also take kids along on tandem kayaks and they provide a social kayaking experience.
Fishing kayaks: Fishing kayaks are kayaks (especially the sit-on-top kayaks, sometimes inflatable) that are tailored for fishing. They usually come with rod holders, are very stable, and allow the kayaker to move freely.
Inflatable kayaks: This type of kayak can be inflated and deflated. When deflated, they are about the size of a small backpack and are easy to store and transport.
Inflatable vs Hard Shell Kayaks
The first decision you have to make when buying a kayak is whether to buy an inflatable or hard shell kayak. Ease of storage and transportation are the key considerations when choosing between inflatable and hard shell kayaks.
You’ll need to have some storage space (garage, barn, shed) in your home to store hard shell kayaks. You may be able to find a place to store smaller hard-shell kayaks in your home. However, you’ll need a car to transport your hard-shell kayak to kayaking spots. If you have access to a car, no problem.
However, if you don’t have a lot of space in your home or don’t have access to a car, it’d make sense for you to buy an inflatable kayak. This is because inflatable kayaks are about the size of a small backpack when deflated and are easy to store and transport.
Other considerations are price (inflatable kayaks are generally cheaper) and maintenance (inflatable kayaks require more maintenance as you have to wash and dry them after use to prevent foul smell and algae growth). However, ease of storage and transportation remains paramount.
Sit-on-Top vs. Sit-Inside Kayaks
I have a full article on sit-on-top vs sit-inside kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks are generally considered better for beginners because they offer ease of entry and exit, are very stable, and provide freedom of movement.
Sit-on-top kayaks are also well-suited for fishing as they allow you to move freely and have more storage space. So if you like fishing or hope to go fishing in the near future, you should consider getting a sit-on-top kayak.
However, sit-on-top kayaks are not ideal for use in colder climates as being exposed to the elements in such conditions is not desirable.
Sit-in kayaks shield you from the elements and can be used in both cold and hot climates. Sit-in kayaks are usually not used for fishing as they have limited storage space and the enclosed design restricts your movement in the yak. However, this type of kayak is ideal for racing activities or if you want more speed (sit-on-top kayaks aren’t fast).
Single vs. Tandem Kayaks
While the idea of going kayaking with someone close to you is appealing, you might want to consider how often the two of you’ll have time to go paddling together before buying one. While tandem kayaks can be paddled solo, they are far more convenient to paddle by two people.
If you have someone you can go kayaking with regularly, you can buy a tandem kayak. If your partner doesn’t have a lot of time for kayaking, buy a single-person kayak for your use. If you have the budget, you can also buy a tandem kayak which will be reserved for when you and your partner are ready to go paddling.
What To Take Into Consideration For a Beginner Kayak?
Size and Weight
The size of the boat has an effect on its weight. The longer or wider a kayak, the heavier it’ll be. Most beginner kayaks are usually in the 10ft range. This means most paddlers won’t have a lot of problems when it comes to storing and transporting these kayaks.
Maneuverability and Stability
The longer a kayak, the faster and less maneuverable and stable it will be. Most beginner kayaks are short at 10ft or less. This makes them very stable and difficult to capsize. They are also very easy to maneuver. However, the extra stability and control come at the expense of speed.
You should consider the combined weight of yourself, your partner, and your gear when choosing a kayak. Then go for a kayak that can comfortably carry this load. Going over the weight limit of your tandem kayak will be counterproductive in the long run as the yak will wear out faster thereby compromising its durability.
Comfort is key to an enjoyable kayaking expedition. If you are comfortable, you’ll spend more time on the water while discomfort may make you cut your kayaking expedition short.
Kayak seats largely determine how comfortable you’ll be on the water. This is why you should make sure to buy kayaks that have well-padded and cushioned seats as well as an adjustable footrest. If the seat of your kayak isn’t very comfortable, you should consider getting an after-market kayak seat especially if you intend to go on long kayaking expeditions.
Kayaking is a fun and interesting sport and deciding to join in the action will be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. I know how overwhelming it can be for a beginner to choose a kayak. However, after reading this article, you should be in a much better position to select a kayak.