Best Kayaks for Beginners 2018 – Top Reviews & Buying Guide
There are several considerations before you buy your first kayak. The most important considerations when looking for a kayak are who will use it and where.
The different models, sizes, design, and weight make choosing difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. The choices may seem intimidating, but you’ll find many beginner friendly kayaks with easy learning curves and low entry level prices, perfect for a new kayaker.
When you hear beginner friendly kayak, it doesn’t mean a low-quality boat. A good first kayak can keep you paddling long after you leave the beginner stage and move toward expert. For beginner kayaks, you need one that is not only easy to paddle, but it fits the paddler.
The best kayaks for beginners and what we recommend is a sit on top or SOT. The SOT is stable, easy to paddle, and easy to enter or leave. But, a few sit inside models make great beginner kayaks as well. We reviewed both styles and brought you our top pick for best kayaks for beginners.
Table of Contents
7 Top Kayaks for Beginners
Perception Kayak Pescador 12 Kayak
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Sit-in Kayak
Ocean Kayak 12-Feet Malibu Two Tandem SOT
Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
Sevylor Fiji 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
Lifetime 6-Foot Youth Wave Kayak
Emotion Spitfire Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak
Many beginners believe their intuition can help them buy the perfect kayak. These intuitional beginners sometimes choose the most poorly designed, inefficient vessel that is often the least safe. These kayaks end up hindering the beginner’s learning and aren’t that fun to use.
A beginner needs a kayak designed for the new kayaker to learn basic kayaking fundamentals including re-entry and rolling. These beginner kayaks should do all fundamental tasks with the same safety level as an advanced level kayak,
When looking for the best kayak for beginners, you want a boat that is stable and forgiving. You also want one tough enough to take the learning bumps and scrapes from a beginner’s first attempts. Look for a wide kayak that’s not streamlined like an expert boat, with sturdy hulls able to handle hard knocks.
Durability and stability are the top features of our reviews for beginner kayaks. We wanted vessels with a forgiving design for the beginner’s mistakes. Ease of use and accessibility at an entry-level cost is another beginner kayak consideration.
Your best beginner kayak depends on your planned use, whether it’s for recreation, fishing, or kayaking with a friend. Considering these goals, we deliver our picks for the best kayak for beginners.
The Best Kayaks for Beginners
1. Perception Kayak Pescador 12 Kayak
With the Perception Pescador, you get a superior quality beginner kayak.
Designed with good stability and great storage space, the Pescador has a budget friendly price and loved by both experts and beginners.
The Perception Pescador gives a beginner a high-quality kayak without a huge investment.
The Pescador kayak has lots of room for storing gear. There’s generous storage in the hatch, front and center areas, and a Scotty and flush mount for fishing rods. These features make the Pescador the perfect vessel for anyone with a desire for fishing from their kayak.
Perception Kayak designed the Pescador for good tracking, maneuverability, and stability. The 12-foot-long, 28-inch-wide Perception kayak keeps you steady using a tracking keel and multichine hull.
- High-end quality designed kayak at a beginner entry-level cost.
- Great versatility gives beginners a good kayak for paddling in various water
- environments with a smooth and steady ride
- Helps the beginner develop and grow safely while learning how to handle various paddling conditions.
- Good legroom, capable of seating a six-foot paddler with comfort.
The perfect design for building beginner confidence by handling new user errors without losing stability.
Let’s you get in and out of the water without tipping fears. The Pescador helps you develop your technique without feeling unsafe or risky.
Good maneuverability and tracking give you easy steering in calm or choppy waters. The hull shape gives a balanced performance. This kayak has stability without slowness and easy maneuverability with excellent tracking.
Generous cargo space with storage hatches in the stern, center, and bow and front bungee closing well.
- At 64-pounds, the Pescador is difficult to carry and manage alone. While the weight adds stability while floating, smaller individuals might need help to get it to and from the water.
2. Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Sit-in Kayak
Recreational kayaks are a specialized class of kayaking vessels.
Recreational kayaks account for the largest amount of all kayaks sold and come designed for flat-water lakes or lazy rivers.
The Aruba 10 makes our list of top beginner kayaks for its inexpensive entry-level price and popularity. The Aruba gets high ratings among new users for a first kayak.
Sun Dolphin’s Aruba 10 has a length of 10-feet and a 30-inch width and weighs in at only 40-pounds. A durable polyethylene hull with a 250-pound carry capacity makes the Aruba 10 an ideal kayak for maneuverability and tracking.
The open cockpit design lets you enter and exit with ease while the padded backrest gives a comfortable ride. Plenty of storage space and a bottle holder rounds out the features of the entry-level kayak.
- The Aruba 10 doesn’t have the performance like other starter kayaks, but it has great quality at a low price.
- Great balance and reliable tracking. An ideal beginner kayak for use on calm rivers and smooth lakes. The Aruba is a top contender for best casual recreation kayak model.
- An easy learning curve for the beginning kayaker.
More Pro's with the Aruba 10
A light 40-pound weight makes the Aruba 10 easy to carry to and from the water, easy for one person to carry. Transport the compact size on a car top or in a pickup bed or SUV. You don’t need an external hauling system or rack, saving time, and money.
It has a wide 30-inch body with a flat bottom for stable rides. A hull shaped for beginner-friendly use with a responsive design.
The narrow stern and bow with a light weight and short length give the Aruba 10 good tracking and easy control. This kayak has a perfect design for calm lake paddling or in windy conditions.
The rugged and strong Fortiflex high-density polyethylene hull takes the hard bumps from a beginner’s learning mistakes.
The open cockpit has lots of room for long legs and an adjustable backrest for a comfortable ride. Get hours of water use without the usual aches and pains found with lesser made models.
- Best used for paddling on calm lakes and rivers. Not good in rough water.
- If you plan to grow into more challenging waters, you must upgrade your kayak.
- Has a hard plastic seat bottom. While the backrest makes for a comfortable ride, you may need an extra seat cushion for added comfort.
3. Ocean Kayak 12-Foot Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak
If you’re looking for a tandem kayak (made for two people) for beginners, look at the Malibu by Ocean Kayak.
The Malibu comes in as a more highly rated sit-on-top or SOT kayak on the recreational market. The Ocean Malibu gives new kayakers stable and versatile water use.
Weighing 57-pounds, the Malibu has a 12-foot length and 34-inch width, and a total carry weight capacity of 425-pounds. The deck and hull design let you stack multiple hulls for easy storage on the deck.
The Malibu has molded-in seat wells at the stern and middle with two Comfort Plus cushions seating adult sized passengers. A small seat on the bow lets you carry a child or family pet. The middle seat accommodates solo paddling.
Gear straps, skid plate, stern and bow carry handles, and overlapping foot wells round out the Malibu’s features.
- Best-selling, top-rated two-person kayak by recreational kayak users.
- Inexpensive, durable, and stable.
- Versatile and stable for great performance on rivers, lakes, and in ocean bays without tipping. Owners report great results when using in the surf.
- Listed as a tandem kayak, one person can paddle the Malibu from the middle seat.
- Ample leg room for stretching out your legs for comfortable seating.
- Hull made from rugged polyethylene for beginner abuse from scraping rocks, sand, and other hazards hidden beneath the water surface.
- The Ocean Kayak Malibu Two weighs a heavy 60-pounds, making moving the kayak to and from the water difficult for one person.
- The heavy weight of the Malibu makes it more of a family recreational kayak and not suited for racing or whitewater.
- With sit-on-top kayaks, you’ll get wet, making them best for warm weather use.
- Lack of storage makes the Malibu undesirable for long trips or fishing.
4. Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
Even though built for ocean surf, the Frenzy is great for casual paddling, fishing or swimming.
A great recreational vessel, the Frenzy is a good beginner kayak that’s fun and easy to paddle for the whole family.
The Frenzy rides well on flat waters, and slow rivers while its wide hull handles the surf with ease.
The tri-foam hull gives the Frenzy great maneuverability and good tracking and stability, making it an excellent family kayak.
A Comfort Plus padded seat gives the paddler great cushioning support. The four-way seat adjustment offers paddling comfort for all body types. Multiple foot wells give the paddler the perfect seat position, dependent on the paddler's height. The four-foot well sets let you pick the right foot well for your comfort and needs.
Easily transport and store the Frenzy with the small 43-pounds, 9-foot-long 31-inch-wide size. The stern and bow carry handles make lifting and carrying the kayak to and from the car and water easy.
- The Frenzy has great quality and costs less than many similar models, making it a good buy for beginners.
- Frenzy’s hull shape makes it an ideal vessel for choppy ocean surf yet it's stable enough for calm waters.
- With a wide body, the Frenzy handles a beginner’s mistakes better and makes a great vessel for adults and kids alike.
- Good stability making tipping difficult, perfect for beginner kayakers and anglers.
- The wide and stable design helps the Frenzy turn easier than most wide-body ocean models.
- Excellent multi-purpose kayak for using on different water bodies.
- Durable tri-foam hull takes the bumps and scrapes from beginner use and remains almost undamaged. Users report using their Frenzy for over ten years.
- At only 31-inches wide the Ocean Frenzy might be too small for larger kayakers.
- Built for choppy ocean surf, the Ocean Frenzy takes more paddling effort in still waters. If you’re planning on exclusive, calm lake and river use, you need a thinner hull shape vessel
- Not a slow vessel, but the Frenzy has speeds too slow for racing.
- Taller kayakers might not find the Frenzy a comfortable fit.
- Larger paddlers report the narrow seating makes a sometimes, too snug fit.
5. Sevylor Fiji 2-Person Inflatable Kayak
The lowest priced kayak on our list of the best kayaks for beginners, the Fiji 2-Person Inflatable gives you top water performance for the price.
If you don’t want to sink hundreds of dollars into a learning kayak, the Fiji inflatable kayak has enough features to get you the skills you need.
You can count on the Fiji’s dependability with its rugged construction of 22-gauge PVC, NMMA® certified for up to 400-pounds. Perfect for use at the lake or on calm rivers, the Fiji gets you through several seasons of water use.
Designed with three separate air chambers, the Fiji stays afloat even when one chamber gets punctured. The three air chamber feature lets you get ashore without deflating, and the Airtight® System guarantees no leaks.
A non-competitive kayak, the Fiji 2-person is perfect for flat water rivers and lakes. While this kayak is sturdy and stable, it’s minus a skeg making controlling the kayak difficult. Because the kayak has a length over 10-feet, we recommend purchasing a skeg when you order your kayak. This minor accessory makes a huge improvement in speed, tracking, and overall performance.
The hull has a flat bottom and makes the Fiji an agile, beginner-friendly kayak at an great price.
Double Lock™ and Mini Double Lock™ valves with two locking points make inflation and deflation quick and easy.
The Fiji comfortably seats two people with a removable middle seat while spray covers help keep paddlers dry.
Included paddle, carry bag, and a 90-day limited warranty round out the Fiji’s features.
- One of the lowest priced kayaks making it a good budget friendly learning vessel for beginner kayakers. The Fiji makes a great entry-level kayak.
- Easy inflation and deflation with its Double Lock™ and Mini Double Lock™ valves with two locking points.
- Comfortable seating with one fixed and one removable middle seat perfect for a tandem ride.
- Paddlers stay dry with included spray cover.
- Well made with strong 22-gauge PVC construction and the Airtight® System guarantees the kayak against leaks.
- NMMA® certified for up to 400 pounds and includes safe and secure valves.
- Extremely slow and difficult to maneuver.
- With no included skeg makes full control of the vessel difficult.
- Only includes one paddle. We recommend buying a second when ordering your kayak.
- A poorly made included paddle. You might want a better quality, adjustable paddle.
- Unlike the back seat, the middle seatback is flimsy.
6. Lifetime 6-Foot Youth Wave Kayak
Beginner kayaks aren’t just for adults. Children can enjoy spending time outdoors with a kayak made for kids.
With adult supervision, kids 5-years and up can get hours of water adventures with the Lifetime Youth Wave.
The polyethylene design is blow-molded and has a swim-up deck for easier kayak entry when in the water.
Get safer and easier kayaking with the sloping back for the rider to pull them out of the water. A perfect feature for young paddlers.
A lightweight kayak, the Youth Wave weighs 18-pounds, making it easy to move around and store. Self-bailing with scupper holes for draining water from the cockpit means no worry about the vessel filling with water.
Perhaps the best feature about the Youth Wave is its durability. The outter shell’s superior strength comes from the UV-protected, high-density polyethylene. This strong and durable material withstands wear and tear from the sun and water usage for years of water recreation.
An outstanding fin design helps kids turn and track, making it simple to paddle while having fun.
- The durable high-density polyethylene material has a UV protection making the kayak resistant to cracking, splitting, and fading from the sun’s rays.
- Lightweight for easy portability, taking little effort for transporting and storing. Add the light 18-pound weight, the Wave’s compact size, and flat base for simple horizontal storage.
- The large 130-pound capacity lets the Youth Wave stay useful throughout the years even as the kids grow.
- The Youth Wave features a reverse chine for extra stability. The twin fin design gives assisted tracking and surf riding.
- Ergonomic cockpit helps enhance motor skills and balance.
- The design for kids makes the Youth Wave maneuverability and paddling super easy.
- Different footrest positions accommodate different size kayakers.
- Black double-sided paddle included.
- The seat comes without back support, and you must buy it separately for an added cost.
- The Youth Wave can take on water, a common problem with many kayaks. Requires teaching children proper usage for avoiding water in the kayak.
- Only usable by children five years of age and older.
- While the lightweight of the Youth Wave is a plus, it also makes it easier to tip over under certain conditions.
7. Emotion Spitfire Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak
The Emotion Spitfire Tandem kayak and its SOT design make it a good choice for new kayakers. Even experienced paddlers can enjoy the Spitfire for everyday recreational water trips.
The 12-foot tandem Spitfire Kayak has a total 500-pound weight capacity and supplies enough room for two riders and extra gear.
Large size freedom foot wells fit a paddler of any size. A center storage hatch, cargo net lacing, and rear tank well give you extra storage. The Release CRS + ultra-light seats mean a comfortable recreational day on the water.
Extra features include self-bailing scupper holes, two paddle keepers, easy-roll skeg wheel, carry handles, rear tank well and two quick-release seat backs. Cargo net lacing system and two paddle keepers help you keep your gear safely secured.
With the Emotion Spitfire, you get unbelievable tracking and speed for getting where you want to go, quick. This versatile kayak offers stability and performance found on smaller kayaks with added features.
The UV protected high-density polyethylene blow-molded construction offers durability. A 5-year limited warranty helps protect against defects.
A heavy kayak, the Spitfire needs a kayak cart for help to move your boat to the water. Four built-in carry handles help with the heavy lifting to and from the water.
- Seats are built-in padded CRS + Ultra-Lite. Seat backs have padding and Quick Release.
- Secure foot bracing and added comfort comes from molded-in freedom foot wells.
- Tank well in the rear with cargo net lacing. Center, beneath deck Solace storage hatch for added gear storage.
- Easy roll skeg wheel enhances tracking. Four built-in carrying handles to help with transportation.
- Durable polyethylene hull construction with UV-protection from cracking, splitting, and fading from the sun’s UV rays.
- 5-year limited warranty.
- On the heavy side, weighing in at 90-pounds making it difficult for one person to load and unload.
- Users report the Skeg wheel isn’t as solid as it should be.
- Elastic rope snaps are loose and need to be more secure.
- The Spitfire doesn’t track as well in windy conditions.
Our Final Review for Best Kayaks for Beginners
Without the proper knowledge or information, many first-time kayakers buy the wrong watercraft vessel. Even if you’ve never stepped foot in a kayak, it doesn’t mean you must make an uninformed choice.
We can’t stress enough that learning every detail arms you with the power of knowledge. Once you gain this power, you can find the right beginner kayak for your needs and desires with confidence.