This is a question that comes up quite often whether it’s from someone just getting into the hobby or from someone looking to upgrade their current kayak. While it might be tempting to grab that kayak that just went on sale at the outdoor store, it’s more important to make sure that you’re buying the right kayak for your needs. Do you know if you’d be better in a touring kayak or a recreational kayak? Would a sit-on-top kayak (SOT) be better suited than a sit-in kayak? What kind of gear and accessories are needed?
Sit-in or Sit-on-top Kayak?
Sit-on-top kayaks are good choice for beginners because the sealed hull design provides added stability and offers an open seating environment. Some paddlers chose the SOT design to avoid the enclosed feeling that they may get when seated in the cockpit of a sit-in kayak. As they become more confident in their skill level, they may choose to later upgrade to a sit-in kayak.
SOT kayaks are excellent choices for open water activities such as saltwater fishing or scuba diving. These kayaks are specifically designed to drain water out through scupper holes thereby alleviating the need to bail or pump out water from surf and spray. The flat bottom makes it stable and easy for exiting and reentry. The downside to sit-on-top kayaks is they are generally slower than sit-in models and may not track as straight without the aid of a rudder.
Types of Kayaks
Within the kayak family are many different styles of kayak. These include recreational kayaks which are stable and good for most activities within the realm of lakes, rivers and creeks; the touring kayak is designed to be long, sleek and fast while providing comfort for extended paddling; sea kayaks track straight and true while remaining maneuverable and responsive, making these kayaks the big dog of the kayak world and perfect for multi-day trips; fishing kayaks are stable and outfitted to handle almost any angler’s needs. Beyond these are specialty kayaks such as racing, sprint or ski kayaks, whitewater kayaks and surf kayaks.
So how does one decide what kayak to buy for the beginning paddler? The number one feature that most beginners want in a kayak is stability, so a sit-on-top kayak or a recreational kayak would be a good first choice. As skill levels increase paddlers may want to consider moving up to a touring or sea kayak. Reference the list below for specific pros and cons of the most common types.
- Recreational kayak: stable with good tracking, roomy cockpits, some have cargo compartments, affordable. Best uses: Lakes, rivers and creeks. Cons: good speed but slower than touring kayaks; not good for rough water or seas.
- Touring kayak: fast, good tracking capability, fairly stable, most have cargo compartments, moderately priced. Best uses: Lakes, rivers and ocean. Cons: Beginners may find them a bit unstable at first.
- Sea kayak: very fast, maneuverable, reliable tracking with rudder system, cargo compartments. Best uses: Oceans and bays. Cons: very long, not good on small rivers or creeks. Cons: Narrow cockpit; beginners may find them unstable at first, can be expensive.
- Fishing/SOT kayak: very stable, fair tracking, cooler holder, adjustable deck rigging, affordable. Best Uses: Ocean, lakes, rivers and creeks. Cons: Slow, fair tracking, can be heavy, deluxe models can be expensive.
One of the best ways to get a feel for a kayak and determine if it’s right for you is to visit your local kayak store during a demo day and try several out. Most stores are even willing to let potential buyers try out a kayak that they may be interested in even if it’s not a regular demo day. Shop around and try out different models before making a decision. Having the right kayak is important and adds to the fun.
This article is copyrighted by Beverly Hill