Choosing the right kayak for you is primarily determined by what rivers or lakes you want to paddle. There is no real do-everything kayak any more than there is an do-everything car or bicycle. Do you want to run whitewater? Then you need a river runner, creek boat, or possibly eventually a playboat. Want to do casual day trips? A recreational or touring kayak will do fine and save you some money. Headed for the ocean, or want to do multi-day trips on flat rivers or lakes? You’ll want a sea/touring kayak.
Examples of the various kayaks are shown here:
|A very popular class has longer (up to 14′) and narrower (around 25″) hulls for a little more speed and more storage. These make great day boats for flat water lakes or rivers. You can do a weekend camping trips, but need to pack carefully and share gear with a partner.|
|Sea Kayaks come in a variety of materials: Composite construction (fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon fiber) or roto-molded plastic.Roto-Molded plastic kayaks cost about half of the price of a composite kayaks and are the cheapest. They suffer from being heavy, but they are more durable than their composite sibling.Composite kayaks are lightweight, fast, and very pricey.|
|Sea kayaks have lots of space for gear, like 2 big backpacks worth. Since it’s not on your back, weight isn’t much of an issue. You can easily carry everything you need for a week, plus luxuries like wine and fresh veggies. Typical sea kayaks are in the 16′-17′ range, although some are shorter or longer. Generally, longer boats are faster and shorter ones are more maneuverable, but paddler skill makes a big difference.Some sea kayaks are equipped with foot controlled rudders or drop-down skegs that help maintain your direction during windy conditions. That’s right, rudders are for going straight, not turning.Your weight and size also make a difference. You don’t sit in a kayak, you wear it. Modern kayaks come in multiple sizes, so pick the one that fits you well. If you’re between weight ratings, beginning paddlers should probably go with the next larger size.|
Ultimately, the best first kayak is the one that gets you on the water doing what you want to do the quickest. Your first kayak probably won’t be your last, and if you buy a pre-enjoyed kayak, you can almost always sell it for close to what you paid for it. Don’t ever hesitate to ask more experienced paddlers for boat-buying advice. We love to talk boats!
See you on the water!
William Gatling & Steve Cramer