Kayaking is popular. Statista says 18.12 million people kayaked in 2020, an incredible jump from just 6.1 million people doing the same in 2006. However, different people have different reasons for going kayaking. As a result, choosing the right kayak is much easier said than done, particularly since there is a wide range of options for interested individuals. Fortunately, people can use their reason for kayaking to guide them through the process of choosing from different types of kayaks.
Figure Out Your Kayak's Intended Use
For starters, people need to figure out their kayak's intended use. That means asking themselves a series of questions.
First, people need to know who will be using the kayak. Generally speaking, they will be using it themselves. Still, they could be buying it for someone else. A kayak for an adult won't be the same as a kayak for a child. Similarly, a kayak for one person won't be the same as a kayak for two people. On top of this, kayakers can have different heights, weights, and skill levels. All of which should influence someone's choice when checking out different types of kayaks.
Second, people need to know where they will use the kayak. Sometimes, people kayak on large bodies of water that are calm for the most part. Other times, people kayak on rapids, which are the exact opposite by being both narrow and fast-moving. Unsurprisingly, a kayak that is well-suited for one location won't be well-suited for the other. Theoretically, interested individuals can use a kayak for less than optimal conditions. In practice, that makes for less than optimal results.
Besides these, other questions can also be illuminating. For example, people should know whether they will be heading out when the weather is cold or when the weather is warm. Similarly, people should know whether they will be kayaking regularly or irregularly. They should even consider how they will transport their kayak from place to place because some are much more convenient in this regard than others.
Figure Out What Performance You Want From Your Kayak
Once people know their kayak's intended use, they can use that to figure out what they need from their kayak. Some of these things are straightforward. Unfortunately, others are not. As a result, people who aren't familiar with kayaks should consult someone with the relevant knowledge. Research helps. Even so, there are some things they might not think to look up.
Dick's Pro Tips provides information about influential factors for the performance of a kayak. For instance, both the length and the width matter. A longer, narrower kayak is a faster boat moving in a straighter line. In contrast, a shorter, wider kayak is a slower but more maneuverable boat. As such, the latter is a better option for beginners because it is easier for them to move around while they are still getting used to the water.
These descriptions are relative to a person's height. A long kayak for a shorter individual isn't necessarily so for a taller individual. Fortunately, some kayaks come with adjustable footrests. Interested individuals can use these to achieve a more comfortable fit for themselves. Similarly, a person's weight matters when choosing a kayak. At the very least, they should remember their kayak needs enough weight capacity to support not just them but also their gear. Generally speaking, it is good to have some room for error unless people can guarantee that they will always carry the same weight on their kayaking trips. Most people can't do so, thus the need for a margin.
The shape of a kayak's bottom also matters. A flat bottom is a good choice for beginners because it is extra stable when someone gets into the kayak. Meanwhile, a V-shaped bottom offers the least stability for someone getting into the kayak. In exchange, it offers extra stability plus ease of travel when moving through the water. Other shapes have other effects. Rounded hulls are faster and more maneuverable than flat-bottomed hulls but are somewhat harder to enter. Pontoons make a kayak extra stable but extra slow.
Figure Out What Other Features You Want From Your Kayak
BoatSafe mentions many features that can make a kayak better for interested individuals. For starters, there is the question of whether people want a sit-in kayak or a sit-on-top kayak. When people think of kayaks, chances are good they think of sit-in kayaks. Still, sit-on-top kayaks are popular because they are so convenient under certain circumstances.
Sit-in kayaks have several upsides. One, they offer more protection from the elements. People can improve on that by installing a spray skirt, thus further reducing the chances of water entering their kayak. That is extremely valuable when kayaking under certain circumstances. Two, a sit-in kayak tends to come with more storage space. It isn't a universal rule. Despite that, a sit-in kayak tends to be a better choice for people who want to bring a lot of things with them. Three, these kayaks are easier to move through the water because their kayakers have a lower center of gravity. The benefit of that efficiency becomes clearer on longer trips.
Beginners might want to get sit-on-top kayaks instead. They are easy to enter and easy to exit. Furthermore, sit-on-top kayaks can save people some labor because they are self-bailing. These boats have scupper holes built in them so that water can enter and exit without impediment. The way that sit-on-top kayaks are built also makes fishing and some other activities more convenient. As a result, that can be considered another upside for these boats.
Other features can be just as impactful. In particular, people concerned about transportation for their kayaks should check out folding kayaks. Given the name, interested individuals should be unsurprised to learn these boats are compact and lightweight while remaining fully capable of being used as kayaks. Put together, folding kayaks are the perfect solution for people who want to make it as easy as possible to move their kayaks from place to place. Inflatable kayaks offer similar benefits but through a different mechanism.
On a separate note, it is possible to mount sails on both sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks. There isn't much point to their use on shorter kayaking trips. However, if people want to go anywhere further away, a mounted sail can increase their speed while reducing their need to paddle. Combined, that means better results for less work.
Understand the Different Types of Kayaks
Moving on, interested individuals should learn what characteristics come with what type of kayak. Kayak Help and other sources are helpful in this regard. As a result, people should make good use of these opportunities.
Recreational kayaks are usable by kayakers of just about every age and every skill level. Interested individuals can recognize them by their open cockpits, which make it easier to either enter or exit them. If there is an issue, it would be their lack of speed. Of course, these kayaks aren't for people who want to go as fast as possible. Instead, their increased stability means they are for people prioritizing a smooth experience.
Touring kayaks play a different role in the world of kayaks. They are long, narrow boats. Indeed, touring kayaks are narrow enough that kayakers can roll themselves back into position when these boats flip over. In any case, these kayaks are sometimes called sea kayaks. That is because they are well-suited for longer kayaking trips on seas and rivers when increased speed is helpful.
Moving on, people use whitewater kayaks on whitewater rapids. Be warned that these boats are much more specialized. Interested individuals shouldn't assume that a kayak built for one kind of location will automatically be suitable for another kind of location. For example, playboats are short kayaks built for sturdiness. Thanks to that, people can use them for rodeo-style speedboating in fast-moving waters filled with rocks. Unsurprisingly, other types of kayaks won't necessarily fare as well under such conditions. Meanwhile, creek boats have enough stability to handle a wider range of locations. Still, people shouldn't bring them out for a day trip because they just don't have enough storage space. For that matter, creek boats aren't very comfortable either.
There are also kayaks meant for other kinds of recreational activities. Fishing kayaks often come with flatter hulls and pontoons for increased stability. Some of them even have water wheels so people can move them via peddling while they use their hands for fishing. Go Kayak Now also describes surfing kayaks specifically designed for surfing on top of ocean waves. Thanks to this, they have distinctive characteristics such as rails, flatter bottoms, and more rocker for the bow but not for the stern. The issue is that surfing kayaks are so specialized they become unsuitable for other kinds of kayaking.
Figure Out Your Budget For Your Kayak
Of course, interested individuals need to choose a kayak within their budget. Essentially, they should figure out what they are willing to spend on this particular hobby. After which, they should look through their options to find the kayak best suited for their kayaking plans without exceeding their budget in the process.
As for what their budget should be, they are in a better position to answer that question than anyone else. Fundamentally, there is no such thing as what a good or service is rightfully worth because the value is in the eye of the beholder. One person might be willing to pay enormous sums of money for it. In contrast, another person might not accept it even if they received it as a gift. Under these circumstances, a kayak is worthwhile so long as interested individuals believe it to be worthwhile. If anything, the bigger constraint is what they can realistically afford to spend on their kayak and general kayaking.
Don't Rush the Selection Process
Ultimately, people shouldn't rush to buy a kayak right away. If they are interested in this activity, they should look up kayaking opportunities in their area. After which, they can try them out before proceeding any further. Many places offer kayak rentals, meaning they don't need to buy a kayak if they just want to try things out. Furthermore, Much Better Adventures and other resources provide information for people who want to start but aren't 100 percent sure how they should do so.
By familiarizing themselves with kayaking, interested individuals gain two major advantages. First, they get a better idea of what kind of kayaking they are interested in. Some people might enjoy kayaking for kayaking's sake. Plenty of other people see it as a way of accessing something they want to do more, whether that means remote natural sites or places where they can dive, fish, and surf.
Try it Out
Second, people can get a better idea of what kayaks are best for them by trying those kayaks out. Yes, there is much information about what kayaks are best for what people. The issue is that generalizations don't necessarily apply to everyone out there. Due to this, spending some time playing with different types of kayaks can give interested individuals a better idea of what would be worth buying for them.
Interested individuals can also use the in-between time as a chance to read reviews and consult other sources of information. Research isn't a substitute for real experience. Still, it is a helpful supplement by providing context, knowledge, and other important details. By putting together everything they learn, interested individuals can get a much better idea of what they want and what they are willing to pay for what they want. In this as in other things, becoming informed boosts their chances of making the best buying decision for themselves.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson