Kayaking is an easy, enjoyable, fun, and adrenaline-fueled water activity that does not only allow you to interact with nature, enjoy breathtaking scenery, and travel to sights, but it also benefits both your body and mind. Kayaking is a low impact workout and an excellent way to improve your balance.
Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast who loves kayaking for fun or a professional kayak athlete, it is always best to have your own kayak. However, purchasing a kayak can be a bit tricky. Here’s a quick guide that can help you when buying your first kayak.
by Juvy Sumalinog, Dream Sails
Things to consider when buying a kayak
There is so much you need to remember and consider to ensure that the kayak you will purchase perfectly fits your needs, style, and size. Below are some of the important things you need to consider when buying your first kayak.
#1 Your Needs
When buying a kayak, you don’t just pick the one that caught your attention. But rather, you need to identify your needs first. Assess yourself and know your skill level.
As beginner find a kayak that suits your skill level. This way, you are able to learn the ropes with less difficulty and at the same time, you can avoid spending on gear that you still can’t use. You can upgrade your kayak as soon as you advance your skills, though.
Perhaps you want to a double kayak which can be fun as long as you both want the same thing. Such kayaks too are great when one of you are not so abled or you just want less ‘kit’.
How are you going to use the kayak? Different kayak designs serve different purposes. Before buying, we recommend that you decide first how you are going to use your new gear.
- If you are planning to use your kayak for a long, relaxing journey, pick the tourer kayak. This type is designed with long and slender built. It has also an extra space where you can keep your snacks and other tour essentials.
- If you plan to use the kayak to run rapids, the best option for you is to get the river runner which is designed for white water kayaking. This type of kayak is shorter than the tourer and is longer than the freestyle kayak.
- If you intend to use your kayak only a few times a year like for instance during summer, two of the best options are the inflatable and sit-on-top kayak. These types are easier to store and are often sold at a reasonable price. The inflatable kayak is also quite stable and can be used by beginners.
- If you are looking for a kayak that you can use in any recreational kayaking activity, check out the all-rounder kayaks.
# 3 Stability
If you are a beginner, chances are, you are still trying to manage your balance and stability. And one factor that can help improve your balance is the stability of your kayak. Unfortunately, many first-time buyers fail to recognise this.
If you don’t want to end up buying the wrong kayak, choose the one that offers stability. The kayak should be able to relax in the calm water. Choose the one that is less likely to tip over, and can easily be maneuvered. Those beamy kayaks that are under 100 pounds are often the most stable ones. They are designed for paddlers and are suitable for beginners.
The length of the kayak greatly impacts its manoeuvrability and speed. Kayaks with longer lengths are relatively faster than the shorter kayaks. Longer also means less deep in the water, which means less drag because the amount that is in the water is streamlined behind the rest. They also track better.
Kayaks are available in different sizes. Know your body type and pick a kayak size that fits your body width well. When choosing the size, also consider how much extra space you need for your gear.
Different Types of Kayaks
Kayaks are generally categorised into eight main types. These are:
- Recreational Kayak. This type of kayak is intended for casual paddlers. It is designed with a larger cockpit, limited cargo capacity, and wider beam. The recreational kayak is generally easy to use and it also offers stability. One example of a recreational kayak is the tourer kayak.
- Sea kayak. As its name suggests, a sea kayak is designed for ocean or sea kayaking use. However, it can also be used on open waters of bays and lakes. This type is seaworthy, stable, and has a cargo capacity of up to three paddlers. It features below-deck storage and a longer waterline. Under the sea, kayak are the sub-types open-deck sit on top kayaks, skin on frame kayak, and recreational kayaks.
- Surfing kayak. A surfing kayak is a speciality surf boat with the same design as the surfboards. It features hard edges and flat bottoms. A surfing kayak is often created from fibreglass or rotomolded plastic. Its popular sub-type is waveski.
- Whitewater kayak. These kayaks are used for adrenaline-fuelled whitewater kayaking. Unlike the other types of kayaks, a whitewater kayak is particularly engineered to effectively navigate rough water or whitewater like the river and other fast-moving water. This type features a plastic hull and a length of around 4 to 10 feet. Whitewater kayak is further categorised into 3 sub-types: creek boats, playboats, and slicey boats.
- Racing kayak. A racing kayak is a type of boat that is primarily intended for a flatwater marathon, sprint, and descent racing. This long and flat kayak is designed for speed. It is further categorised into five sub-types: whitewater, flatwater sprint, surf skis, slalom, and marathon.
- Fishing kayak. The fishing kayak is engineered for salt-water and freshwater kayak sport fishing. It features high lateral stability, outriggers, and up to 42 inches wide beams. Some fishing kayaks are designed with twin hulls which make stand-up fishing and paddling possible.
- Military kayak. This type is specially designed for military use.
- Speciality and hybrids. The speciality and hybrid kayaks are modern kayaks that are specially designed for different purposes. Some examples of this type are the inflatable, pedal, folding, and those with twin hull and outrigger.
Kayaking is full of surprises. You can never be certain what will happen next while you are on the water. Though we don’t wish for anything bad to happen, it pays to be always ready for uncertainties. With that, we highly recommend that you get your life-saving essentials first before getting into the water. These essentials include but are not limited to life vest or personal floatation device (PFD), 360 degree light (especially if you stay out until evening), whistle, or any noise-making device, first-aid kit, helmut (depending on what you are doing).