Kayaking is the ultimate watersport that allows you to enjoy being out on the open water while getting an amazing workout without even realizing it. Whether you’ve been on a kayaking tour and want to branch out on your own or are looking for a fun way to enjoy a nearby lake, your first decision to purchase a kayak gives you the primary tool you need to meet your goal.
Yet, browsing the vast selection of kayaks that are available can be intimidating at first. After all, there seems to be one to fit every possible purpose. You can use these tips to find the perfect kayak to get you started on your next water adventure.
Think About Where You Plan to Kayak
Kayaks are designed for use on specific bodies of water, and you need to pick one that suits the areas where you plan to paddle. Do you plan to kayak in calm bodies of water such as lakes, slow-moving rivers and marshes? If so, then you can start looking at recreational kayaks in either sit-in or sit-on styles. Keep in mind, however, that choppy water that develops white caps could make it hard to control a recreational kayak, which means that you will need to check water and weather reports before your trip.
If you plan to branch out to large lakes, bays and coastal areas or go fishing, then you will need to factor in that waves and currents will influence your ability to control the vessel. Sit-in touring kayaks with features such as rudders and a fixed or drop-in fin may be your best bet for these types of conditions.
You will also need to think about the water temperature and quality in the areas that you plan to kayak. Certain types of kayaks make it more likely that you will get wet, and you can use this information to guide your next decision.
Sit On Vs Sit In Styles
Kayaks come in two main types, which are defined by the location of the seat. Sit-on-top kayaks are exactly what they sound like. These have a sealed hull with a molded seat on top that you sit in as you paddle. Sit-in styles have a cockpit that is recessed in the hull that you sit within to create a more enclosed area from which you paddle. Each of these styles has similarities such as a defined foot rest and many have back support included the design. However, they also provide different benefits from which you can choose to begin narrowing down your selection of kayaks.
Consider the Benefits of a Sit-On Kayak
Beginner kayakers tend to opt for a sit-on kayak since they make it easy to enter and exit the watercraft. Since you are sitting on top, it is also easier for you to self-recover if you tip or roll the kayak. With sit-in models, you are typically strapped in, which may be intimidating if you are just starting out. Sit-on kayaks do get you wetter than the other style, which means that you will want to use them in warmer bodies of water. However, these often work best for families since you can easily guide your child’s movement if you are introducing them to kayaking.
Know When It Is Better to Choose a Sit-In Watercraft
Sit in kayaks provide more shelter than sit-on versions. This can help you to stay dry in cold weather or in choppy water conditions where breaks in the waves may cause water to come flying your way. If you prefer a sit-in kayak but worry about water spray, you do have the option of adding features such as a spray skirt or bilge pump to reduce your exposure to water. A sit-in kayak also tends to be lighter and faster than the other type. This may be ideal if you have plans to eventually try your hand at kayak racing or need something that is easier for you to paddle.
Decide Who You Plan to Kayak With
You also have the choice between buying a single or a tandem kayak. These can be found in both sit-in and sit-on styles, and the main difference between the two is the number of seats. Single kayaks give you the benefit of being able to have complete control over how and where you steer the vessel. If you and your kayaking partner have differing paddle styles or preferences for steering, then it may be best to stick with two singles.
Tandem kayaks also have their purpose. Many people prefer to ride tandem when they are just starting out so that they benefit from the experience of their guide. This type also makes it easier to converse with your kayaking partner, and you may prefer only having to load up one kayak for transport versus dealing with two. You may prefer a tandem kayak if you plan to take younger kids on your water adventures who are not ready to paddle alone or if you want to introduce your partner to the joys of kayaking.
Think About the Length of the Kayak
Most recreational kayaks are about nine to 12 feet long, and those designed for touring tend to be slightly longer at 12 to 15 feet. An easy way to look at length is to remember that kayaks tend to be faster the longer and narrower that they get. While shorter kayaks are slower, they are also more stable, which can be an asset if you merely want to paddle around the lake as a beginner.
Explore the Options for Materials and Kayak Weight
Kayaks are typically made from plastics or composite materials that give them durability and also affect their weight and movement in the water. Polyethylene plastic is one of the least expensive materials that is commonly used on beginner kayaks. While it is resistant to damage, it also tends to be heavier than other types.
Composite materials such as lightweight fiberglass are another option from which you can choose when you buy a kayak. These materials are more susceptible to damage, but they are lighter and tend to offer greater speed in the water.
Understand How to Plan for Weight Capacity
Thinking only about your weight when picking out a kayak is a common rookie mistake. While you definitely want to pick a kayak that can handle your weight and that of any other potential people who may share the vessel, you also want to factor in the weight of your gear. Water, snacks and emergency supplies can all add up weight-wise, so be sure to pick a kayak with a weight capacity that has a little extra wiggle room that keeps you afloat.
There are many factors that go into finding the perfect kayak to fit your needs. Yet, it is also exciting to know that there is a kayak designed to fit virtually any purchase. Now that you’ve got a firm grasp on what to look for, you can test the waters by checking out kayaks that fit your defined specifications.