How to Buy a Kayak

You want to explore the waters and purchase a kayak, but the process can be complex. No one boat will fit for every situation or person, so we’re breaking down the features to consider before choosing a kayak that’s best for you.

The prospect of owning your own kayak can be really exciting. But, with so many choices out there, it can also be overwhelming. Let’s break down some of the options so that your new kayak is the ideal boat for you and the type of experience you’re looking for.

You’ll want to ask yourself how you’ll be using the kayak, where and how often. Will you be out on a lake in calm waters or in rougher ocean waves? Are you looking for a more relaxed experience with nature or an adventurous day touring?

SIT-IN. VS. SIT-ON-TOP

Kayaks are categorized by two styles: sit-in or sit-on-top. Deciding which of these will work best for you is the first step to narrow your choices.

Sit-in kayaks are seen as more “traditional” and are designed with an interior seat. They give you some shelter from the wind and water and additional coverage can be added by attaching a spray skirt. These models tend to offer more storage space and are usually constructed with foot braces. Contrary to what some may think at first glance, sit-in-kayaks are actually pretty roomy, so don’t worry about feeling confined in a small space.

Sit-on-top kayaks are user-friendly and typically viewed as a good option for a recreational day on the water or for fishing. They are versatile and are usually a good option for novice kayakers. These are typically better suited for warm environments because you will get splashed and get wet.

Once you’ve determined whether a sit-in or sit-on-top is right for you, you can look into the various types of kayaks to choose from including touring kayaks, fishing kayaks, modular kayaks and more.

HULL TYPE

You’ll also want to consider a kayak’s hull, which could make a difference in performance and stability on the water. There are two types of stability to understand:

Primary stability (also known as initial stability) refers to how stable it is when you’re first getting into the boat, which means you’re less likely to flip when you step into your kayak and sit down. Secondary stability refers to how stable it is once you start paddling, which means you’re less likely to roll over as you start moving through the water.

Now, let’s key in on the types of hulls to look into.

Flat Hull

This hull is characterized as stable and maneuverable. They offer great primary stability and are ideal for recreational kayakers in flat water conditions.

ROUNDED HULL
The rounded edges of this hull are designed for increased speed and meant to travel easier through the water compared to a flat hull. This hull makes the kayak more maneuverable and offers more secondary stability, which is the ability of the kayak to stay stable when tilted.

V-SHAPED
This hull is made to better cut through the water and helps the kayak to go in a straight line. They are good for recreational paddling and ideal for touring, or long distance trips. They may feel a bit unstable at first since they provide the least amount of initial stability, but offers better secondary stability.

PONTOON
Known to be very stable because they combine the primary stability of flat hull and secondary stability of a rounded hull, which gives you the ultimate in stability. However,  they do tend to be slower.  

CHINE
Chine is the description of the way the bottom of the boat meets the sides in either a rounded “soft” chine or with more angles and a “harder” chine. Most boats fall somewhere in between and have a multi-chine hull. The softer the chine, the more secondary stability the boat will have.

WEIGHT

It’s important to keep in mind that the capacity of each kayak varies and is based on the individual paddler’s body weight, as well as additional items that might be carried on board, such as coolers, fishing tackle and gear.

LENGTH

Generally, the longer and narrower the kayak the faster and straighter it will go. The wider and shorter the kayaks are, the more stable and easier to turn, but may sacrifice speed. Recreational kayaks are about 8-13 long and are made for small lakes, rivers, creeks and other mostly calm water. They are intended to be able to navigate narrow inlets or passageways efficiently. Touring kayaks are longer, about 14-18, and are built to handle large waves, bigger rivers or lakes.

You are making a big purchase, so you want to feel confident and comfortable with your choice that could help you get out there and seek new adventures on the water. Once you find the right style, be sure to learn some kayaking basics including how to launch a kayak, how to paddle and how to steer.