How to Choose the Right Kayak
There are so many different types of kayaks to choose from today that choosing the right one can be very confusing. As an experienced kayaker, I feel that it is my duty to inform you, the public, about the wide variety of kayaks available today so you can make an informed decision and get the most out of your boat and money. The types of kayaks we will discuss in this article will include recreational, touring, and sit on top. First you need to ask yourself a couple questions such as, what do you want to use it for? How much previous kayaking experience do you have? Do you want a single or a tandem? Where will you store it and how will you transport it? The answers to these questions should help you make a more educated decision on which kayak is right for you.
The first thing you need to decide is what type of water you will be paddling on most of the time. Will it be a river, lake, bay, or ocean? There are a few styles of kayaks that are good in a wide variety of conditions, but most are somewhat specific to one type of paddling. You would not generally use the same type of kayak in a river that you would use on a windy lake or bay. You need to choose a kayak with the proper turning, tracking, stability, and wave handling characteristics for your area and experience. River kayaks tend to be shorter because they need to be more maneuverable, where as for open water and longer distance paddling, longer is better because it gives you better speed and tracking. If you are going to be kayaking on the ocean at all, you should probably use a Sit On Top for safety.
After deciding where you are going to use it you can then start deciding which style works best for what you want to do on the water. Recreational kayaks are the most popular because they are generally very stable and easy to use for anyone. These kayaks usually have a large open cockpit so that the paddler doesn’t feel confined in the boat and getting in and out is much easier. They tend to be smaller, between 8 to 12 feet, so they are easier to store and transport. The smaller size also makes them lighter weight which tends to be very important to most people. The downside to this style of boat is that they do not generally handle well in windy or rough water conditions.
If you want to take longer trips and carry more gear, such as for a weekend camping trip, you should consider a touring kayak. This style of kayak is generally longer, between 13 and 17 feet, and narrower making it very fast through the water. These boats are also designed to handle bigger waves and chop that you may experience in open water. A touring kayak usually has 2 sealed storage compartments fore and aft, that allow you to keep your gear dry over your expedition. These storage areas also act as flotation if you should capsize. Touring kayaks are usually more expensive, but you are getting your moneys worth. They also tend to be longer and heavier which make them harder to transport. Sit on top kayaks are one of the newest and fastest growing styles of kayak. These boats are completely sealed so that if they are flipped over they will not take on any water. This allows the boat to be rolled back over and the paddlers can climb back aboard and continue paddling. This is especially convenient on the ocean where waves can be bigger and safety is a bigger concern. This is also nice for younger kids, because they can swim and play on their own without as much need for supervision. Sit on tops come in all many different shapes and sizes so they can be used for different things. These kayaks usually tend to be a little more stable than other styles, which have made them a great choice for fishermen searching for that big fish. One major thing to consider with this style of kayak is that you will most likely get wet while paddling it. Because of this, sit on tops are more of a seasonal boat that would only be used in the warmer months of the year.
By now you should have a general idea of what style of kayak you might be looking for, but you still have a few more choices to make. All of the kayaks that we have discussed come equipped with different features that allow you to improve things such as maneuverability, storage, and comfort. Some kayaks have the option to add a rudder. A rudder allows you to steer the boat with your feet while using your paddle strictly for propulsion. This will allow you to navigate rougher waters more easily and get to shore faster when bad weather moves in. A rudder is not necessary in calmer conditions so they are made to be easily engaged or disengaged depending on the conditions. A rudder will make the kayak more expensive, however they can usually be added at a later time if you find that you need it. Storage hatches are another accessory that come with some kayaks, and are very important for keeping your gear accessible and dry. These hatches are usually, but not always accompanied by an interior foam wall called a bulkhead that will keep water from entering this compartment from the cockpit. These sealed compartments not only give your boat dry storage, but also act as flotation if the kayak capsizes. Another option is a smaller hatch that is easily accessible to the paddler for storing important things that may be needed while on the water. The last topic to discuss, and maybe the most important, is your comfort. Not all kayak seats are created equal. The best seats have plenty of padding, but are also able to adjust to your changing needs on the water. The more comfortable the seat is the more often you will be willing to use it.
So there you have it. You are now armed with the basic knowledge that will allow you to go out and start looking for the kayak that is right for you. You should not, however, limit yourself to just looking. You shouldn’t buy a car without test-driving it first, and you shouldn’t buy a kayak without taking it for a paddle. We offer demo days once in the spring and again in the fall that allow you to come paddle all of our boats and ask any questions you might have. We will also have weekly demo times this summer so you can drop by while you are out here on vacation. Once you find the right kayak it will bring you years of good times and great memories.