How to choose the right kayak
If you want to travel differently, take on new challenges or simply go on an adventure for a weekend, kayaking will quickly become your favorite means of transportation. Evolving in the open sea or in the middle of a river aboard a rigid kayak or an inflatable kayak offers an unparalleled feeling of freedom. You can, in fact, access unique and remote places, often inaccessible by car or on foot! Inflatable kayak, kayak rigid, sea kayaking, kayak fishing, or kayaking sit-on-top … Do not know which kayak to choose for your next adventure? Don’t panic, these nebulous terms will soon be over for you! Discover without further delay how to choose your kayak!
Kayaking: all you need to know
Before going immediately into the different types of kayaks and the selection criteria, let’s start with a little reminder on the construction of your future boat, in order to become an outstanding kayaker. You will find below the different components of your kayak, which are generally found on all models.
Handle: The handles are located at the front and back of the kayak and make it easier to handle your kayak when you put it in the water or when it is dry.
Dies: the dies are located all around your kayak and allow you, with straps or bungee cords, to secure all the equipment that would not have entered the trunk (s).
Chest: Chests are located at the front and back of the kayak and allow you to store your personal belongings and food. They are closed with a cover and sometimes completed by a neoprene skirt. If you are going for a kayak trip over several days, be sure to balance the loads between the front and the back of the boat.
Hiloire : big, small, or in the shape of a lock, the coaming corresponds to where you will be. The bigger and wider it is, the more practical and reassuring it is. When it is smaller, it avoids carrying too much water and protects you more effectively from the cold.
Width or beam: the beam corresponds to the widest part of your kayak. If the kayak is wider at the front, it will be more comfortable and will have better handling in rough seas. If the beam is located on the back, your kayak will be faster and more stable.
Backrest: The backrest provides significant comfort for your back and kidneys. Be careful not to choose a backrest that is too high, otherwise, it will interfere with your movements with the vest and the neoprene skirt.
Net: very practical to have your water bottle, your snack or your camera close at hand, the net allows you to store all your small useful equipment during your kayaking excursion.
How to choose your kayak: the choice of the number of places
Kayaking is a sport that can be practiced alone or several. Depending on the kayaking trip you are planning and your usual practice, you should first select the capacity of your boat. There are 1 seater kayaks for those who prefer to sail alone. You’ll also find kayaks 2 places, the kayaks 3 places, and kayaks 4 places that perfectly suit those who prefer navigating multiple, often also more reassuring. If you have small children, for example, it is better to opt for a kayak with several places for safety reasons.
How to choose your kayak: rigid, inflatable, or folding?
Another selection criterion, the type of kayak you are going to choose. In the market, you will find rigid kayaks of inflatable kayaks and kayaks folding. Each of these kayaks naturally has its qualities and disadvantages, but it is above all your use that will determine the type of kayak to favor.
For millennia, people have used rigid kayaks for getting around, fishing or traveling. Even today, these boats are the most efficient on the water, they can store a large amount of equipment and face difficult conditions, especially at sea. A rigid kayak is robust but, in fact, is more difficult to transport and store because it is bulky.
The inflatable kayak is an interesting alternative to the rigid kayak and it is suitable for a great many uses. Manufacturers compete in ingenuity to offer inflatable kayaks that are durable, resistant, and above all practical. Indeed, the main qualities of an inflatable kayak are its small size and ease of use. It inflates quickly and fits in a bag usually worn on the back, it is light but strong because it is inflated under high pressure. Some models of inflatable kayaks even have technologies that improve their rigidity. The inflatable kayak is the ultimate family boat, it will allow you to safely entertain yourself in calm waters. However, it is not the most suitable for the open sea and offers a reduced loading volume.
A folding kayak, finally, can be a good compromise between robustness and practicality. As its name suggests, it is a removable kayak consisting of a structure covered with a canvas. Longer to assemble than an inflatable kayak, it nevertheless provides a completely satisfactory level of rigidity and exceptional performance. It fits easily in a suitcase when folded.
How to choose your kayak: the choice of shape
There are many forms of kayaking and, again, the choice depends on how you will be using your boat. You will find round, level, or larger V-shaped hulls of different lengths. What you lose in speed, you will gain instability. The reverse is just as true! If you are new to kayaking, it is better to prefer a versatile model, wide and flat, which will be adapted to different situations and which will allow you to progress quickly.
In addition, your trusty kayak must be adapted to your morphology and your build. If you’re one of those grown-ups who don’t know where to put their legs, it’s best not to set your sights on a narrow kayak!
Also consider the size of the coaming, the hole where you will be seated for the duration of your maritime escapade. The large coamings are practical, while the smaller ones provide effective protection from the cold and prevent too much water from being loaded inside the kayak. It is essential that you feel good in your kayak, especially if you are planning long kayaking trips.
Choosing the right kayak: drift or rudder?
The centerboard or rudder mainly concerns sea kayaks, for which, in the event of wind or rough seas, it is important to control the direction better. One thing is certain: you will not be able to do without during your kayaking trips! Located under the kayak, the fin is used to counterbalance the effects of the wind and the movements of the hull. The rudder, a kind of rudder, is placed behind the boat. It also balances the kayak, but above all it allows you to steer without having to use the paddle. the rudder is controlled by pedals located at the level of the feet and limits the feeling of fatigue as well as the appearance of pain. You can choose to use both accessories, but the rudder is preferred.
Which kayak for which use?
Since the beginning of this article, we tell you that the choice of your kayak should essentially be made according to the activity you want to practice. Your patience is rewarded! Now let’s take a closer look at the types of practices you will have to choose from if you want to start kayaking.
Smaller and shorter than the sea kayak, the whitewater kayak is designed to allow you to navigate in the fieriest rivers and torrents. They can sometimes be very stocky if it comes down to very rough waters. A kayak dedicated to adventurers and explorers in search of adrenaline!
Let’s stay up to speed with the racing kayak. Its very narrow shape and V-shaped profile make it ideal for slicing through the water and therefore gaining speed. They are naturally more unstable than a sea kayak and steer thanks to a rudder operated with the feet. The racing kayak is perfectly suited to competition and is rather reserved for experienced kayakers.
With a fishing kayak, your priority will not be speed, but stability. Fairly short but wide, this type of kayak is often adorned with “camouflage” colors, ideal for advancing discreetly in natural environments. You will be able to stand on some, while others have a propulsion system at the feet, which allows you to fish while moving forward.
Short or long, the sea kayak must be able to withstand the wind and heavy seas. Stability is therefore essential, as is the comfort and responsiveness of the kayak, allowing you not to exhaust yourself unnecessarily. The sea kayak is generally longer than its cousins to stay the course during his kayak trip. Avoid at all costs flat hulls which are sure to tip you over in heavy seas! Prefer round or V-shaped hulls, for better stability in heavy waves. Equipped with a daggerboard to maintain its trajectory, the sea kayak must absolutely meet the specifications of the D240 division.
Let’s finish this short overview of the different kayaks with the most famous of them, namely the sit-on-top kayak. The sit-on-top, literally “sitting on it”, is unsinkable because it is designed around a double shell. Unbridged, it is particularly suitable for beginners and people wishing to make short hikes along the beach. You will be comfortable on this type of open kayak, however, you will not be able to use it for long expeditions.
How to choose your kayak: your budget
The price of a kayak depends mainly on the materials it is made from and the type of kayak chosen (rigid, inflatable, folding). For an entry-level sea kayak, count 700 euros minimum, but this price can go up to 4000 euros! It all depends on the construction material of your sea kayak, whether it is wood, fiber, or polyethylene for example. Note that inflatable kayaks are less expensive (price between 300 euros and 1,500 euros). Your level in kayaking and the use you will make of it will allow you to refine your choice according to your budget. Before buying your kayak, we advise you to test the model several times before renting to confirm your choice!
You are now unbeatable on the kayak! All you have to do is put on your kayak vest and proudly wave your kayak paddle before sliding on the water! Now you can play Robinson Crusoe and explore the world’s most beautiful beaches, but always keep in mind that safety should be your top priority. As a family, spend unforgettable moments on your sea kayak and learn again to appreciate the beauty of nature.
Kayaks come in all shapes and sizes, so it is important to understand the options available. Having the right kayak will not only give you the most fun, but it will also have a considerable impact on your security in the water. That said, narrowing down the options is pretty easy and should start with identifying how and where you will use your kayak.
There are two main questions to think about when buying a kayak. What do you see oneself doing in the kayak? And how much are you ready to spend?
What type of kayak corresponds to my level of practice?
- Let’s distinguish:
- the kayak for beginners
- the kayak for the advanced level
Kayak for beginners
For starters, the beginner kayak is what we call recreational kayaking. A recreational kayak is a boat that has a lot of space inside. It is very easy to get in and out, and it fits all heights of children and adults. Particularly stable, it can be a bit heavier than some other materials if it is a rigid kayak. It is made of polyethylene plastic. To maintain its structural integrity, this material must be very thick (to remain solid) but this adds weight. So a rigid beginner kayak will tend to be slightly heavier but much more stable due to its width and length.
Kayak for experienced kayakers
As you evolve with the different styles of boats and depending on your own paddling skills, you will no doubt be tempted by long kayak trips. And a touring style kayak may still be polyethylene, but you will notice that it will be much narrower. The kayak will also be much longer and will be more suitable for an advanced level of paddling, that is, in difficult conditions.
What does Sit On Top kayak mean?
Sit on top kayak
Sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks are the easiest to use. They are very stable and easy to get in and out of. They are also unsinkable and self-draining. Self-emptying means that the water circulates through small holes that go through the kayak.
All these characteristics make sit-on-top kayaks ideal for the more cautious kayakers, for warm waters, and for people who paddle with children or who like to get on and off the kayak to swim, for example.
The downside to SOT kayaks is you can be sure you will get wet while paddling, while deck kayaks allow you to stay dry.
What is a closed kayak?
Deck or sit-in kayaks are perfect for paddlers who will be in colder waters and want to stay dry while paddling. It is also the perfect equipment for those who want a faster kayak. The only downside to sit-in kayaks is that if you turn around, recovery is not an easy process.
Once you have decided to go for an enclosed kayak or a sit on top, you will have to decide on the length of your kayak. Keep in mind that the longer a kayak is, the better the glide will be but the more difficult it will be to maneuver.
Is an inflatable kayak a good choice?
First of all, it is probably obvious, but if you are considering buying an inflatable kayak instead of a rigid kayak, it is probably for two reasons:
- they are much simple to transport and shop
can be cheaper
- So, in general, they are the most accessible way to enter the water and therefore some kayakers might not take them seriously.
While most of them, even the best inflatable kayak, may not be considered a status symbol unlike a rigid, they are a wonderful boat to get into the water. High-end ones can also be quite sophisticated and expensive enough without being flashy. Perhaps too little for some …
Let’s say you start dating someone and offer to take them sailing. If you have an expensive and luxurious boat, you will not know if they really like you or the boat, but if someone agrees to go for a ride in an inflatable kayak with you, it will certainly be a sign that the person is interested in you. Rowing together can also reveal a lot about the dynamics of relationships, be they friends, family, or otherwise …
The inflatable kayak has another advantage that could also be appreciated by novice paddlers. It is generally very stable compared to a rigid kayak. Some may even be difficult to tip over, in chaos you want to intentionally do it in calm water. The stability of the kayak is correlated with the width, and inflatable kayaks are generally quite wide.
Inflatable kayaks also have their weaknesses. They can be a bit slower than a rigid kayak, so they won’t be able to reach the same speeds and generally won’t be as good when it comes to going straight. Likewise, although rarer, the inflatable kayak can be punctured and present safety problems. However, this defect is mainly due to improper use (over-inflation, storage in the sun …).
The inflatable kayak market has been very dynamic for several years, especially in Europe. For your choice, you will have to put aside the nonsense of marketing. Many get lost in all the available and often contradictory information.
We offer you an efficient system to classify inflatable kayaks. You must differentiate:
- vinyl inflatable kayaks (entry-level)
- the inflatable kayaks covered with a protective tarpaulin (mid-range)
- the inflatable kayaks in thick single-layer materials (high-end)
The entry-level inflatable kayaks
The first category are kayaks made from a single layer of thin vinyl. Think of a cheap inflatable mattress, it is the same material. This material is cheap and easy to make, so these kayaks will be by far the cheapest. Many of them cost less than 200 euros with a poor quality kayak inflator and kayak paddle. The high-end ones in this category could cost 300 euros. The best example of this type of kayak is the Intex inflatable kayaks, which Nootica has decided not to market. It is a question of ethics.
However, for fun on the water for a few hours on some outings, single-layer entryway vinyl inflatable kayaks are quite satisfying. They will allow you to discover kayaking and create beautiful memories.