Tips for choosing the perfect kayak for you.

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If you are a fan of water sports then a kayak should be something to consider investing in. Being able to take your kayak out on a sunny day for a spot of fishing or a leisurely paddle is the ultimate form of relaxation.

Before buying a kayak, there are certain considerations you need to have and this include where you want to use it, how you prefer to sit, what is the weight, how much money do you for the kayak, will you be using it alone or with other people, what shape would you like, amongst the factors.

We will explore some of the key considerations in detail so that you can get a better understanding of what to consider when you are looking to buy a kayak.

How to differentiate Kayaks

Differentiation according to sitting positions.

You have two options to choose from, sit-in the kayak or sit-on-top of the kayak. Different people have different preferences when it comes to sitting positions.

Sit- in kayaks

Sit- in kayaks have interior seats and are the more traditional kayak designs. Some have spray skirts that prevent water from entering the boat. The sit-in also gives shelter from elements like water and wind. The foot brace that comes in the boats will give you stability if riding in turbulent water and you have enough storage because they are very roomy.

 Advantages of sit-in kayaks.

  • Very comfortable to use in cool air and water
  • If you have a spray skirt, it can help avoid water entering the boat.
  • You have greater control of the kayak giving you more flexibility while maneuvering.
  • It is easier to paddle when you sitting on top.

Disadvantages of sit-in kayaks.

  • If water enters the boat you’ll need a bilge pump to remove it.
  • You need to learn how to do a wet exit in case the boat gets swamped.

Sit-on-top kayaks

If you are looking for a kayak for recreation like fishing or bird watching, then the sit-on-top kayak is the best for you. Sit-on-tops are also the best for beginners because of their versatility. You may however not want to use it in very cold weather because the water easily enters the boat. Dress warmly; wear waterproof clothing or clothes that dry quickly so that you remain as dry as possible.

 Advantages of sit-on-top kayaks

  • They’re especially good for those people who may suffer from claustrophobia.
  • They are very easy to use and are great for areas around the shore.
  • They are good for use in warm weather
  • Most are self-draining and there’s no need to pump out the water.

Disadvantages of sit-on-top kayaks.

  • In all kayaks, you will get wet.
  • The storage space in some may be a bit difficult to access
  • May be heavier than the sit-in kayaks.

 

Differentiation according to usage.

This will determine the area you want to use the kayak. There are many types of usage a kayak can give you and these include:-

Recreational kayaks.

There are normally quite affordable and can either be a sit-in or sit-on-tops. They are good for short use and may not be the best if you want to navigate rough waters like rapids or waves. If you’re looking for a boat to use in flat water then these are the ones for you. However, storage is very limited and you can only carry very few essentials.

Touring kayaks.

These are more efficient than recreational kayaks and often come at a higher price. They are normally very sleek and versatile boats that will give you straight travel even in rough water. They’re easy to transport and offer better storage space than recreational kayaks.

Other touring kayaks are very long boats which are very efficient for long distances. The track very well in water and have a rudder that makes them good for use even in turbulent waters.  Due to the longer distances they travel, you will often find that they have a lot of cargo space, but be ready to spend a little bit more than you would if you were to buy a recreational kayak.

Folding kayak

This has as a main advantage portability and ease of storage. While you may need to compromise on the durability or the ruggedness of the boat, you will find that folding your kayak is very convenient because it becomes easy to handle and store in larger boats.

Inflatable kayaks.

This very good because they are sturdy, versatile and help you save on storage space. If you are looking for a recreational model, make sure that you keep it near the shore because they do not go very fast. Look for inflatable’s that are able to bounce off obstacles, although if you want a kayak for serious touring, then this may not be the design to go for.

Fishing Kayaks.

Fishing kayaks should come with rod holders already installed if not, it should allow you to add rod holders. This will allow you to free your hands so that you can use it to cast the lines or reel in the fish you catch.

Tandem kayaks

These are kayaks meant for use by two people but can be used by one person if they have the right experience or paddling technique.  Tandem Boats are slightly bigger and are most stable in water; they are also a great way to introduce beginners to kayaking and are great if you want to take the family out.   Tandem boats can be converted into solo kayaks by removing the front seat and shifting the position of the back seat to the middle position. While it is possible to use a tandem boat solo, you have to have the right paddling technique, otherwise, you’ll find yourself going round in circles or be unable to keep a straight line, or find that you are not able to make turns especially if the wind is really strong.

White water kayak.

These are used in white waters including rapids and strong currents. Creek boats are the most common and the design allows for easy turning and more buoyancy meaning that it is hard to submerge even in turbulent water.

Playboats, as the name suggests, is more playful when used in white water situations like rapids because they submerge easily and a great for performance kayaking.  They are easy to maneuver because they are normally more compact with narrow flat ends.

Downriver or river running boats are a cross between play boats and creek boots.  They have taken the features of both and kind of balanced them out resulting in a boat that is easy to maneuver and keep in a straight line and can be used in some rapids. However, they are most suited to paddling downriver but depending on your skill level you can also use them to surf the rapids.

Differentiation according to the type of hull

The hull will affect the stability of the kayak. It determines how stable the kayak is when you get into it the first time (initial/primary stability); a stable kayak should not flip over when you step into it.  When you start paddling, you should also be very stable so that you do not roll over; this refers to the secondary stability.

There are different hulls to consider:

Flat hull

This makes the kayak maneuverable and very stable and is great for use in flat water. They are ideal for people who are looking for a good kayak for recreational purposes.

Rounded hulls give more speed and will allow you to travel easier through the water when you compare it to a flat hull. You will also find it easier to maneuver and it gives great secondary stability.

V-shape hull

The v-shape allows the kayak to cut through the water and travel in a relatively straight line. This makes them good for recreational activities and you can use them to tour or for long distance trips. Be careful, however, they are not very good for primary stability but they offer better secondary stability.

Pontoon

These combine the positive points of the flat hull and the rounded hull. This makes them very stable although they can be a bit slow.

Chine

This describes the way the boat bottom and sides meet; you can have a soft or hard chine. Most will fall somewhere in between.

Displacement hulls

These are the more traditional hulls and feature continuous curves allowing them to plow efficiently through the water due to their streamlined shape. They have a keel which improves their tracking.

Planing Hulls

These have flat bottoms with sides coming up at different angles. If you paddle very slowly or when you’re resting, they will plow through the water and if you’re paddling really fast, they tend to skim over the surface of the water allowing the boats to spin with little effort. They, however, require some skill to maneuver and control because thus a bit difficult to move a straight line.

 

Differentiation according to the type of weight and construction material

Kayaks vary in capacity and the type you buy will depend on your body weight and any additional items you may need to have onboard such as water coolers, snacks amongst others.

Lightweight kayaks are easy to carry and transport even if you’re alone. They also pick up speed really fast in the water and they allow you to carry more because the boat is light and you don’t have to worry about too much additional weight. You may, however, find that they’re more expensive but are otherwise a great investment.

The weight of the kayak is largely determined by the material from which it is made. Kayaks can be made from the following material.

Polyethylene plastic.

This gives the advantage of a material that is abrasion-resistant and fairly inexpensive. You, however, need to be careful about how you store it because the rays of the sun can spoil it after a period of time, and the material is also very heavy meaning that that particular convenience of having a lightweight boat may not be actually available to you.

ABS Plastic.

This is more expensive than polyethylene but is very durable and also gives you the advantage of having a slightly lighter kayak than the one made of polyethylene plastic. The boat is also not so susceptible to getting damaged due to the UV rays of the sun thus offering you more durability and long-term usage.

Composite.

Composite kayaks are made from several materials including fiberglass laminates, carbon fiber, aramid or a combination of the three. You can also get some made of Kevlar and graphite composites.

These materials will give you a kayak that is very high quality with good performance and durability. They are usually very lightweight with a hull that tracks very well in water and is easy to maneuver. The fact that they are very fast and respond well when in water make them very popular and they are pretty light because of the material. There are however relatively expensive and the material can be fragile meaning that they can break easily

Wood.

These boats have wood as their main construction material and have fiberglass or resin coating that gives durability and an aesthetically pleasing look.   Wooden boats are very durable and flexible. The wood allows the boat to float well and is light and easy to use. You also have a limitless number of designs on a material that is just as strong as any composite material. If you like Do It Yourself projects then you will have a lot of fun constructing a wooden kayak because all you need is glue, material and construction tips. Do not be fooled, however, even if you will take on the project as a DIY, it will take quite a bit of time but if you are to buy a finished one, it can be expensive because of the time taken to handcraft it.

Length of the kayak.

If you want a fast kayak that can go in a straight line, then consider investing in a long and narrow kayak. If you want a kayak that is easy to turn but not too fast, look for one that is wide and short.

The length of the kayak will largely depend on the use.  Kayaks for recreation are about 6 to 12 feet long and are mostly found in smaller water bodies. This is because the water bodies have very narrow inlets and passageways which you may need to easily navigate.

Kayaks used for touring are generally longer with sturdy bodies that can handle the waves and long trips. They are normally 12-15 feet in length.

Performance kayaks are about 15-18 feet, while white water kayaks vary in length and can fall anywhere between 7-11 feet in length.

 

Differentiation according to where you will use the kayak

While this is not a strict categorization, it is important information to have because it will determine the kind of boat you eventually buy. Some of the environments you may use your kayak in include;-

Lakes – if you are lucky and live in an area with a lake, this will give you access to a water body that can provide great kayaking pleasure for you. During good weather, it can be an absolute pleasure to get a kayak that allows you to sit on top so that you can enjoy the calmness of the lake. The sit-on-top kayak allows you to do some fishing, something that can become your favorite past time every weekend. However, if you go out on a day that the lake is not very calm, you may want to consider getting a spray skirt or kayak with some kind of cover or the seat-in kind of kayak that will give you some protection against the elements.

Coastal waters –  this provides more challenging types of water bodies because of the waves, tides, and currents that can make your kayaking experience a bit more difficult. If you can, get a motorized kayak so that if any difficult conditions come into play, it can easily navigate the waters. Getting a rudder or skeg is a good idea. However on the days that the coastal waters are calm, you can get a sit on top kayak that’ll allow you to enjoy the heat of the sun on your back as you do your paddling.

Rivers – for an easy flow down the river, you should get a boat that is stable and one that can turn quickly. If you’re looking for a river with white water then you may want to consider one that can move really fast, you should, therefore, consider a narrow kayak because they tend to displace water really fast and can move very well. One with a round hull while very stable will not be able to give you the speed you require.

 

Differentiation according to volume.

Volume is measured in gallons and looks at the inner capacity of a kayak.

High volume kayaks.

Kayaks with balloon bows have high volume and resurface very quickly. They are especially good for beginners and for use in more difficult rapids and waterfalls. They shed water very quickly allowing for the boat to stay on top of the water at all times.

Low Volume kayaks.

This tends to have thin scooped bows and sterns meaning they have very little space inside the ends. This makes them very efficient when it comes to cutting through water and is generally good for more relaxed usage because, in rough water, currents easily wash over the deck thus slower speeds and less control of the boat.

 

Choosing the right paddle.

Having the right paddle will make a difference between enjoying your kayaking experience or not. It is therefore very important that you get the right size paddle so that you are able to control your kayak without any problems.

You need to look at the length, the shape, and ferrule.

Paddle length.

This depends on your height and the width of the kayak. Measure the kayak at its widest point so that you get the right width measure.

The height of the user.

Also, take your height into consideration; if you’re less than 5 feet 5 inches in height, you need to choose a paddle length between 210 cm to 240 cm. If you are between 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 11 inches then you may go up to 250 cm in paddle length, and if you’re above 6 feet, you can go up to 260 centimeters in paddle length.

However, these are just guidelines and you need to try out different paddle length to find one that suits you, this is because for some situations like white water kayaking you may need a slightly shorter paddle to give you more flexibility.

Time spent kayaking.

If you will be kayaking for a long period of time, look for performance or touring paddles. These are normally lighter thus less fatigue for you as the user. Paddles with responsive carbon shafts are generally lighter while those made of fiberglass or molded carbon deliver better performance.

Where you’ll use the paddle.

If you’ll be paddling in relatively calm waters like lakes or slow-moving rivers, you may find that you spend a lot of time there and will, therefore, need a paddle which is lightweight like the carbon or fiberglass ones. Look for a touring paddle for this purpose.

If you find that you’re not going to spend too much time in the water, recreational paddles will work for you. They are a bit heavier than touring paddles but they come at a slightly lower price than that touring kayak and are very durable.

When kayaking in shallow water, you need to place a high premium on durability because you will be hitting rocks and gravel, so look for something that is abrasion resistant and one that cannot break easily. Wide blades are also better for shallow water.

White water paddles should be durable and efficient and very strong. You are therefore better off going for carbon or fiberglass shafts because they can stand up to the type of usage required in white water kayaking. You need a paddle that can withstand use in rough conditions. However, due to the fact that you use them in very tough conditions means that they can break and you always need to have a spare one on you.

Blade shape.

This is largely determined by how you paddle.  For instance, high-angle paddlers prefer short wide blades which gives a more powerful stroke. Low angle paddlers prefer longer thinner blades because they’re more energy-efficient and allow you to use them in a more relaxed manner.

Kayaking terminology.

We may have used some terms that might not be very familiar to beginners; we will explore some of them below.

  • Blade– If you look at a paddle, you will find the broad part at the end of it. This is known as the blade.
  • Shaft – this is basically the handle of a paddle. It can either be bent or straight.
  • Hull – this is the bottom part of the boat that sits in the water.
  • Deck – this is a top out of the kayak.
  • Bow – This is the front part of the kayak.
  • Stern – this is the back part of the kayak.
  • Cockpit – this is where the paddler sits while in the kayak. It normally has an opening that allows the paddler to enter.
  • Footpegs or foot braces – When you’re paddling, you will need to get as much stability as possible. The foot pegs allow for this because you’re able to brace your legs against them thus more stability for you.
  • Hatch – this is dry storage that is provided in the kayak. They keep your stuff dry because they have watertight rubber covers.
  • Wet exit – if you capsize, you can roll out of the kayak by leaning forward while underwater; this is known as a wet exit. This is the direct opposite of the Eskimo roll which simply means when you capsize you simply roll back up again. It only works of course, if you’re wearing a spray skirt.
  • Rapids – This is a section of the river where the flow speeds up. Turbulence is normally due to the obstacles like rocks.
  • Eddy – this is the calm place next to a rapid.
  • White water – this basically describes water that is frothy and white colored which is as a result of water mixing with air.  White water is usually indicative of very strong currents and big rapids.

 

Final thoughts.

There so many factors to consider when you going to buy a kayak, and we have provided some of the things you need to look for if you are to make a good choice in the type of kayak to buy. However, at the end of the day, it comes down to your preference and the kind of budget available for this. Shop around and compare prices before you decide on the final kayak.

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