If you’re launching into kayaking, get ready to be excited! Paddling opens up a whole new world of recreational fun. It helps you explore local lakes, rivers and oceans, not to mention exotic destinations around the globe.
As a beginner, it’s important to do your research in order to buy the right one for you. If you already know what you’re doing, take the time to choose a kayak that meets your skills and preferred paddling activities. Doing so helps to ensure your time on the water meets your expectations.
You’ve come to the right place to start your research. KayakBest features buyer’s guides to help you choose the best kayak possible. We also give you insider tips on the best extras, equipment and famous destinations to go for a paddle.
But first, let’s start at the very beginning.
The Different Type of Kayaks & Accessories
Best Kayak Paddles
|Best Kayak Fish Finders||
Kayak Roof Racks
Three First Steps for Beginners
1. Before buying a kayak, consider taking lessons or hiring a kayak near you, to get a feel for it. You’ll learn how to safely navigate the water and some important paddling skills. Check your local area for paddling clubs or kayak tour companies. Don’t look at lessons as an expense, but rather as an investment towards a happy and safe paddling future.
2. Ask yourself some important questions, in terms of how ready you are to own a kayak. Determine how much space you have to store it, both at home and in terms of transport. Will you need roof racks on the car? A storage shed? Do you need to be able to lift the kayak on your own? These things are all simple to address, but they do need to be taken into account before buying a kayak.
3. To start your search, look at models that are great for beginners, like the Intex Challenger. They are stable and tip-resistant, with wide cockpits to allow for easy access in and out. Additionally, lightweight hull designs make them super easy to maneuverer. Another option is the Ocean Kayak Malibu Tandem Sit-On-Top kayak. This allows an experienced paddler to kayak with you and show you the ropes.
Buying a Kayak: Tips for Beginners
Kayaking doesn’t have to be a struggle when you’re a beginner. Unfortunately, it can be if you choose the wrong kayak. When you’re uncomfortable, it’s pretty hard to learn how to paddle correctly, let alone navigate your yak.
Therefore, it pays to invest in a kayak with the following features:
Stability: This means the ability of a kayak to resist tipping. Most kayaks are quite stable when you paddle on flat water in calm weather conditions. However, the width, hull design and your own skills will determine how stable a kayak is. A simple tip to remember is that kayaks with wider beams and flatter hull shapes are typically more stable. In terms of your own skills, if you have great balance you’re less likely to feel unstable in many kayaks.
Maneuverability: When you’re learning, it’s best to choose a kayak that’s easy to paddle in a straight line. Some models, like short whitewater kayaks, are designed to turn really easily, however, this makes them harder to keep straight. To work on your paddling skills, recreational kayaks made for beginners are both easy to turn and paddle straight. As you perfect your style, you can choose whether you prefer good tracking (going straight) or turning, depending on how and where you like to kayak.
Durability: It’s possible to take a few spills and bumps when you’re practicing, so choose a durable kayak with a good warranty. Kayaks are made from materials such as fiberglass, plastic, carbon fiber and wood. Plastic, or polyethylene, is the heaviest, however, it’s the least likely to take on damage.
Comfort: In the beginning, kayaking can certainly take a toll on your body. You’ll experience sore muscles that aren’t accustomed to so much use, as well as a few aches and pains just from sitting in a kayak. Therefore, opt for a model that provides cushioning on the seat, back support and adjustable feet, thigh and knee braces.
Versatility: There are so many ways to use a kayak. Perhaps you’d like to fish in the river, tour the ocean, tackle mild rapids or simply take the kids out on the lake. Initially, purchase a recreational kayak that’s versatile enough to try them all.
Length, Weight Capacity and Storage: As a basic rule, the longer the kayak is, the faster it will be on the water. In terms of weight capacity, if you intend on taking your furry friend, partner or children with you on a tandem kayak, be sure to check that it’s sufficient. This is also necessary if you want to haul gear for fishing or camping, along with ample space to store things.
A Word About Kayak Cockpits
The shape, style and equipment within a kayak’s cockpit can make or break your experience, when it comes to comfort.
The cockpit area has contact with your feet (on the foot brace), knees (on the high braces), and hips (on the sides of the seat). All points of contact should provide comfort and support. When you paddle, you need to use your feet and knees to provide stability while turning and this is dependent on what you’re doing.
For example, a whitewater kayak will have a snug fit and keep you inside the kayak. A touring kayak has more of a loose fit and provides enough space to stretch and move around during long kayaking trips.
The cockpit rim opening size is very important for when you enter and exit. Current whitewater kayaks have tight but large enough keyhole cockpits. This holds the paddler snug but also allows for fast exit. Touring kayaks allow for the same and are very similar when it comes to the cockpit. Traditional Sea Kayaks have small cockpits, which reduce the possibility of a wave swamping the kayak.
Many beginner paddlers opt for sit-on-top kayaks, rather than a sit-in. Although you might be quicker to fall off, it’s certainly easier to get back on.
Our Final Say on Buying a Kayak
The key to buying a kayak is to try different styles first, in order to see what works best for you and your family. While expensive models on the market come with all the bells and whistles, it’s not always necessary to spend a lot of money to get a quality model, especially when you’re just getting started. You’ll find a range of great kayaks under $500, such as Perception Sound.
We highly recommend that you learn the skills needed to handle your kayak safely before you go out on the water. The best way to do that is by getting a few lessons or advice from professionals.