Kayaking is a fantastic form of exercise while communing with nature. Whether it is a calm lake trip with the family, a workout adventure, or a fishing excursion the specific journey requires a specific kayak. And learning how to choose the right kayak can mean you can really enjoy your adventure.
How to Choose the Right Kayak And What You Should Look For
The best way to tell what kind of kayak you will need is to consider where you are kayaking, the water conditions, your budget and your body type. For more specifics on choosing the right kayak for your needs consider the following:
What are the types of kayaks:
Knowing the different types of kayaks and their specific design features will help you to tell exactly which fits your needs and which will fall short.
Sit in vs sit on top:
A standard kayak is a sit in as it wraps around you to keep water out of your kayak. This is known as a cockpit and the design helps keep you both in the kayak and on the right path as you use your body in tandem with the paddle to steer and turn. The sit on top kayak is simply that. There is no cockpit and only a slight molding to function as a seat. This are great because they are easy for beginners and you can get on and off with less effort and practice than the sit in kayaks. The downside is that you rely on your own balance to keep you in so sit on top kayaks are not recommended for scenarios where the water is anything but calm and slow.
Kayaks are divided up into four categories based on the activities they are used for and the requirements they need to be up to the task.
This kind of kayak is designed for casual use in water such as calm lakes, slow moving rivers, and flat, calm bays. Recreational kayaks average 10 to 12 feet in length and are designed to turn more easily with more stability. The cockpit is larger in recreation kayak design so it is easier to get in and out and is a good option for beginners. Recreational kayaks typically do not have rudders or skegs unless you add them yourself.
Touring and cruising:
These kayaks are very long and narrow and are designed to go faster when traveling in a straight line. They are designed for people who want to take weekend trips and can store your gear inside the kayak. The cockpit is smaller as to make room for storage and can range from 17 feet to 22 feet in length. Touring kayaks are also sometimes referred to as sea kayaks but they can travel on any body of water except for rapids. They often come with rudders to help steer and turn the large boat.
Fishing and diving:
These kayaks are designed to fit angler equipment such as navigation devices, fish finders, tackle boxes, rod holders, and other kayak fishing accessories. They are specifically for fishing and diving but could be used for casual kayaking if you don’t mind the extras tacked on to your kayak.
Whitewater and surf:
Whitewater kayaks are designed to withstand a lot of banging around and are short to allow for quick turns. They are designed to promote optimum maneuverability as you make your way through the rapids. Surf kayaks, which are also known as wave skis, are designed specifically for surf with a sit on top design that is easy to get back onto after a wipeout.
Different types of kayaks: There are six types of kayaks that are all designed for a specific purpose.
These kayaks are nine to 12 feet long and designed for paddling on calm bodies of water. This includes lakes, slow rivers, canals, and any other flat and easy flowing body of water. These are great because they are easy to control and hard to capsize so they are perfect for beginners.
These vary from 5.5 feet long and 9 feet long and are ideal for whitewater journeys. They are very highly responsive and are incredibly buoyant so they can get tossed around and still stay upright and under your control.
These are 12 to 18 feet long and much slimmer than the recreational kayaks. This design is so the kayak can go faster and further than their counterparts. This type of kayak also typically has storage spots in the front and back of the design and can be fitted for rudders to help make steering easier. This style is ideal for water tours on relatively calm water as well as longer journeys in the sea.
This style of kayak has no cockpit to sit inside but a molded seat on the top of the kayak. These are more common in the warmer climates as it offers little protection from falling into the water, but is great for beginners and families. This is because the simple design makes it easy to get on and off and only basic skills are needed to control these boats. SOTs are great as a way to explore calm waters, fish and dive off of. This is the most common type of kayak for beginners and if you’re looking for how to choose the right kayak it’s best to start with a sit on top.
For obvious reasons this type of kayak is far less durable than the other models. They function much like SOTs as beginner kayaks for basic paddling, fishing and diving. They also usually are designed for two people. They look more like canoes than a kayak but are members of the kayak family. And obviously they is an added benefit of it being easy to transport since you can inflate it anywhere. The biggest advantage of an inflatable kayak is usually price. They are inexpensive and if you’re curious about kayaking and don’t want to spend a lot of money, be sure to check out inflatable kayaks. How to choose the right kayak can mean an inflatable kayak when you’re on a budget.
As the name suggests this kayak is designed for racing. They range from 17 to 36 feet, are very slender, light weight, and can hold anywhere from one to four people per boat. The racer style is much lower to the water than other kayaks and usually has rudders to help steer. Racing kayaks are used on flat water so they can perform without other complications like strong currents or choppy waves.
Where are you kayaking:
The type of body of water you will be kayaking on is important to consider. From current speeds, to waves and any obstacles, the wrong type of kayak may not be able to withstand the journey as well as others.
Kayaks of any type can work on lakes as they are calm, open bodies of water and have no obstacles to overcome. While recreational kayaks are the easiest to use on lakes, whatever kayak you have can be used on the lake. Start in areas like lakes when you’re first learning kayaking. This can also help you test different kayaks in some instances and you can better learn how to choose the right kayak. Invite some friends so you can check the different kayaks or visit a rental kayak shop to test them.
Kayaking on the coasts can be more difficult because you must face wind, waves, tides and currents. Unless you are okay with going for a swim during your kayaking outing, it is smart to use a sit in kayak with a rudder or skeg to help you steer and stay in control.
This type of excursion requires a kayak that provides stability, durability and is able to turn quickly. You need to be able to avoid obstacles and handle rougher waters without cracking or capsizing.
The speed and strength of rapids requires a kayak specifically designed for it. Going kayaking on rapids with anything other than a whitewater kayak is not only foolish but incredibly dangerous. Rapids can be extremely dangerous on a kayak so make sure you know the dangers of kayaking before attempting any rapids or white water.
The open ocean is subject to strong waves, sharks and other wildlife so it is important to have a kayak that will be able to withstand all of these factors. You should not take an inflatable kayak into the ocean as it is not durable enough to keep you safe during your voyage.
Other things to consider: When choosing the proper kayak for you it is also important to consider any extra features you want on your kayak. Some of the added features can make the kayak better for you. Don’t forget to check out the extras when learning how to choose a kayak.
There are single seat kayaks as well as tandem kayaks that fit two people. The tandem kayak is faster than the standard kayak but is more expensive. The tandem kayak is a great way to kayak with kids but is extremely difficult to paddle and steer with only a single person so if you might want to consider what you really need for space.
It’s important to note that even when you kayak on a clear day with water that is not rough you’ll still need a Personal Flotation Device or life jacket. Learning how to choose the right kayak also means choosing the right safety equipment. If you need help choosing the best life jackets be sure to read the What Are the Best Life Jackets for Kayaking… And How to Choose we have here at MyFishingKayak.com
Storing and transporting:
While you need to consider what kind of kayak you require on the water, you also need to consider how you will get the kayak to the water and how you will store it when you aren’t using it. Considering at their smallest, kayaks are the size of an adult man, it is a smart to plan ahead and know exactly what it will require to maintain your kayak out of the water. Many people opt for inflatable or folding kayaks as they are much easier to transport and take up a lot less space in your home or garage.
Although they may be more convenient outside the water it is crucial to weigh the pros and cons of non-ridged kayaks and see if they are up to the task for your kayaking needs. Consider how much space you need to store the kayak, if your car can handle your kayak, and if you are able to handle moving it on your own or if you will need help.
Lighter material allow for easier loading and unloading as well as more gear to be carried as it takes up less of the total weight capacity. They are seen as a higher grade of kayaks but with all the praise come a steeper price. For lightweight materials like composites, fiberglass, and carbon fillers there is a huge upgrade in performance and speed. UV ray are not a concern with this material like it is with others but rocks can cause major damage to the kayak’s body. Polyethylene plastics are the most inexpensive option for kayaking material and are also resistant to scraps and scratches. This is also the heaviest material for kayaks with the UV rays degrading the material over time. To keep your kayak in the best condition for as long as possible keep polyethylene plastic out of the sun when not in use and cover it on the way home with a tarp. A medium priced material is ABS plastic. It offers similar durability to the polyethylene with a lighter weight and more UV resistance.
The ability to transport your kayak should be considered before buying. If you need something lighter look into inflatables as a cheaper option or fiberglass for the more expensive choice.
It is easy to spend a lot of money on kayak supplies so you should plan your budget accordingly. While there are some good options on the cheaper end it is important to choose quality and not just pick the cheapest.
The length of the boat doesn’t just affect the number of seats it can fit, but the ease in which the kayak can turn and cruise. The longer boats also offer more storage. The longer boats are better for longer journeys over a day, while smaller kayaks offer better turning ability and are more suited for rapids and fast currents.
The deeper the hull, the more leg room you have so a very tall person will need a kayak with greater depth. This also allows for more storage. Shallower hulls have an added bonus of not being as affected by strong winds as deeper hulls are.
The wider the hull, the greater the initial stability. While the narrower hulls can reach greater speeds.
The weight capacity is the combined weight of the boat, the gear and you. It is important to both know and consider your kayak’s weight capacity along with the weight of all the gear you will be transporting. The overloading of your boat makes it harder to paddle efficiently as well as make the kayak lower so water can get in more easily.
Skegs and rudders:
These boat and kayak accessories are added onto your boat to help you gain better control steering. Skegs are a fixed fin that drops down and prevents the wind from blowing you off course. Rudders are controlled through foot pedals and you can adjust the angle of the fin as you go. They make it easier to control the direction when steering and are recommended for the inexperienced or those on long journeys where the winds and currents may be strong. Also check out kayak anchor trolley to help keeping the boat under control while fishing.
Adding is a better seat will cost you extra, but considering how much time you will be spending in it and avid kayaker may want to consider the upgrade. The seat can become more adjustable, padded and ergonomically suited to your specific needs.
A larger cockpit allows you to get in and out of the kayak more easily but can also allow more room for water to get in. The smaller cockpits may be more difficult to get in and out of it allows for a snugger fit, better full body steering and protection under rough conditions.
Interior storage spaces are accessed through hatches. Touring boats and sea boats typically have two hatches for longer journeys. Recreational kayaks typically have one for a day outing but not much more.
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