Kayaking is one of the most exhilarating and fun sports to participate in, but you do need to make sure you get it right. If you are just starting out you will need to know that basics and if you are more experienced you need to make sure you keep doing it right. The first step on your kayaking journey is choosing the best kayak for your needs.
Things to Consider Before you Buy
There are many different styles of kayak on the market, with a multitude of brands offering different sizes, weights and nifty features. These are some of the things that you need to consider before investing in a kayak
Will you be kayaking in rough waters? Calm water is much easier to kayak in than a strong windy sea, so you will need to choose accordingly.
How do you intend to kayak?
Do you want to kayak on your own or will you want a partner?
How will you get around? Plastic kayaks are very easy to use but are not easy to transport like a folding kayak.
The Different Styles of Kayak
There are various styles of kayak to fit all levels of athletes. You will need to understand how each kayak differs from the next, so that you do not waste money on a kayak that is of no use to you.
Sit On Top Kayaks are very stable and easy to paddle for everyone including new paddlers through to experienced paddlers. In addition, these types of kayak can be used on the sea, estuaries, rivers, lakes and canals. This type of kayak is different from other types of kayak as it does not have a cockpit and the hull has a self-bailing drain holes.
The hull of sit on top kayaks has a double wall to trap air inside of the hull making them impossible to sink. It is not difficult to get on and off these kayaks, making them perfect for beginners. At around 15ft, sit on top kayaks are very stable although they should only really be used in calm water.
Pros: Reasonably priced, very stable, easy to maneuver, tough and durable. Some come with storage.
Cons: Plastic models are very heavy, they are quite slow, user is left open to tough weather conditions.
Recreational kayaks are often referred to as touring kayaks and they are designed for those who like to paddle for fun rather than competitively. Like sit on top kayaks, they are ideal for lakes and calm waters, but will be suitable for the occasional long run.
The clear difference with the recreational/touring kayaks are that they are much shorter than most other kayaks, making them easier to handle, both on and off the water. These kayaks are very user friendly and comfortable for novices and those who want to stick to lower levels of kayaking.
Pros: Reasonably priced, stable, good to maneuver, and durable. An enclosed cockpit allows the user to enjoy some protection from rough weather.
Cons: Low degrees of secondary stability and they are quite heavy to move around, much like sit on top kayaks.
Fisherman kayaks are a variation of sit-on kayaks and kayaks used for recreation. Compared to normal sit on top kayaks, the angling kayak is very stable and there is much more ability to maneuver in the kayak. As you would expect, there is room for rod holders and coolers and some designs even have tackle boxes integrated into the kayak,
Pros: Good value for money, dry stable, good ability to maneuver, very durable.
Cons: Slow, heavy and low secondary stability
Day-touring kayaks are usually 14-18ft in length and a little narrower than a light-touring kayak, so as to offer the best forward speed & tracking. This does mean that there is less ability manoeuvre in this kayak, but it offers great capacity for expeditions and camping trips.
They are much faster than standard kayaks, for the specific purpose of traveling far distances. Day-touring kayaks consist of bulkheads, holds, and watertight hatches to offer good floatation and can paddle in rougher waters.
Pros: Good hull design, making it easier to propel. Good level of secondary stability, they are built to hold medium loads, and are relatively safe in rough seas. Increased safety due to holds, hatches and bulkheads. Good storage.
Cons: Quite compact, lower degree of initial stability, high price tag.
Expedition kayaks are similar to day-touring kayaks are longer than standard kayaks and they are very slim. These kayaks, however, are larger and can carry more equipment. At around 20ft, expedition kayaks are longer than day-tours and are designed for longer paddle exhibitions or for carrying heavy loads.
The hull of an expedition kayak is great for paddling on rough seas and whilst it does not have a good first level stability, its second level stability is much superior. The majority of expedition kayaks have a retractable skeg to assist in tracking and you can be assured that it will float in the event that the kayak capsizes.
Pros: Propels easier due to innovative hull design, good secondary stability, can barry large amounts of equipment and supplies, can handle rough water, easy access.
Cons: Less stable when unloaded, high price tag
Three-piece and Modular Kayaks
These are a new level of recreational kayak. The multi-piece kayaks take on the design of traditional recreation or touring kayaks, with the added ability to be built into a number of positions. Modular kayaks can be put together and are made of high-quality plastic that is relatively durable. These kayaks are a great way to have your own kayaks if you have little storage, as they simply snap together or have nuts and bolts to assemble in each style.
Pros: Easy to store, more space, easy shipping. Easy to assemble, can buy additional parts to turn into a double or three man kayak.
Cons: Very expensive, heavy. More storage required than you need for inflatable kayaks.
These traditional kayaks celebrate the oldest style of kayak and they are made of a wooden frame with a covering of a “skin” made up of seal or walrus hide. Materials such as cotton canvas and nylon are used before sealing it up, making them very strong.
For traditionalists or those interested in the history of kayaking, a massive trend is developing with fans rushing out to buy this type of kayak,with many bespoke kayaks being made by specialist craftsmen around the world.
Pros: Durable, light, great design. Lighter feel when paddling.
Cons: No a strong hatches and bulkhead so not as safe and require airbags. Not as durable as kayaks with a hard shell.
These kayaks have a heavy waterproof fabric skin over a collapsible frame or skeleton. They can disassemble into small parts and are able to fit into small backpacks. They are surprisingly easy to assemble and are quite light to transport.
Despite what you may think, they are reasonably secure d and are very safe to use, even for beginners. We would advise that you practice putting a kayak together, either before buying or at the very least before you use.
Pros: Easy to store and move. Better than inflatables, good price
Cons: Durability is not the best, can take some time to put together, especially the first time.
Inflatable Kayaks and Canoes are a great alternative to rigid plastic ones, if you cannot afford a plastic one or have nowhere to store your kayak. Inflatable kayaks can be transported easily to your destination and they are best used in calm waters and for short days out rather than long excursions.
Despite what you may think, these kayaks enjoy good stability as they are mostly short and wide. The second level of stability is not as good, which you would not expect for the price or design. They are light and good for novice kayakers.
Pros: Light but very strong, no storage problems, many compartments, wide and easy to paddle in calm waters.
Cons: They do take time to blow-up and you will need to carry a pump with you. Not as efficient and can be slightly slower than regular kayaks. Not as durable as hard kayaks, as you would expect.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, essentially, you will choose one of the kayaks above by assessing the following factors
Type of Construction
Volume and Comfort
Northwest vs British style Kayaks
Singles vs doubles
Once you have assessed these issues and looked into what type of kayak is best for you, for you budget then we are sure that you will have many years of exhilarating fun on your kayak. Just make sure that whatever you do, you try before you buy and you cannot go wrong.