Picking The Right Kayak

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By Ryan Miller | SCHEELS Kayak Expert

Kayaking has been around for thousands of years, but for some people, it is a completely new experience. Kayaks are easy to paddle and easy to transport, making them a popular option for everyone to get out on the water. Kayaks allow you to explore every inch of a body of water. Whether it’s getting through the shallows or maneuvering a narrow, winding stream, a kayak can take you there. A kayak can be used for fishing, a healthy workout, relaxation or some recreational family fun. This article will explain the differences between kayaks and hopefully aid you in your next kayak purchase.

Types of Kayaks

Sit-on-Top: This type of kayak is great for fishing, beginners and recreational paddlers wanting a versatile kayak. Sit-on-top kayaks offer great initial stability and are easy to get in and out of. Typically, these kayaks are also wider than sit-in kayaks, making them slightly slower. The open area on top makes them great for mounting accessories. They are great for calm waters and warm weather. Whether you are fishing out of it or using it as a swimming platform, these kayaks are very versatile and don’t cause tan lines!

Recreational: This type of kayak is great for having fun and relaxing in. They generally have less features, making them more affordable for all. Most have a flat or rounded hull design.  This provides great initial stability for the beginner but doesn’t offer great tracking for the more serious paddler. Recreational kayaks are great for calm waters and short trips.

Performance Recreational: This type of kayak is a hybrid of the recreational and touring kayaks. They are given more comfortable features and accessories than a recreational kayak. Most will have a rounded or V-Shaped hull design, which gives them better secondary stability, tracking and speed compared to a recreational. These kayaks are great for all purpose use.

Touring: This type of kayak is great for open water and long distance paddling, with top of the line features and accessories. Featuring a V-Shaped hull design, touring kayaks have great secondary stability and are more difficult to flip. The narrow hull design allows for faster paddling speed and amazing tracking. These kayaks are great for paddlers who plan on traveling long distances and want to get there as efficiently as possible.

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Kayak Dimensions

Weight Capacity: Every kayak has a recommended maximum capacity. This is the maximum weight that can be in the kayak and still allow it to have optimum performance. Take into account your weight plus whatever gear you will be packing in your kayak. Please note, if you exceed the maximum capacity slightly, the kayak will still float; it will however lose speed, stability and maneuverability.

Length: The length of your kayak determines how easily it can turn and maneuver as well as track in a straight line. A shorter kayak, usually less than 10 feet, is better suited for smaller paddlers and river paddlers, due to its responsive maneuverability. A longer kayak, usually more than 12 feet, is better suited for paddlers going longer distances and lake travel, due to its ability to travel efficiently in a straight line.

Width: The width or beam of your kayak determines initial stability; the wider kayaks are better for calm waters. Kayaks with a narrower beam are usually designed with a different hull shape to provide better secondary stability in rougher waters.

Hull Shape: A kayaks hull shape and chine provide it with different levels of stability and tracking.

Flat Bottom: This hull design is often used on recreational kayaks. The flat hull offers great initial stability for novice paddlers on calm water days.

Rounded: This hull design is often used on more performance recreational kayaks. The rounded hull still offers great initial stability, but also allows the kayak to paddle at faster speeds.

V-Shaped: This hull design is often used on touring kayaks. While this shape offers less initial stability, it does offer the best secondary stability of the three. The V-shape hull is designed for fast paddling in a straight line.

Kayak Features

Seating: The seat is an important feature to look at on every kayak. Whether you are spending 30 minutes or 7 hours in your kayak, you will be sitting in that seat. Kayak seats come in a wide variety of options. When looking at the seat, check how sturdy, comfortable, adjustable and the material it is made out of. All of these aspects will play a big role in the enjoyment you experience from your kayak.

Storage Area: Some kayaks come equipped with storage areas. These areas are highly water resistant and great places to store gear. Although these areas are not airtight, they still provide buoyancy to the kayak when flipped.

Rudder: This usually does not come standard on kayaks but can be added at a later time. A rudder helps longer kayaks be able to steer and maneuver in a faster, more efficient manner.

Scupper Holes: Scupper holes are found primarily on sit-on-top kayaks. These holes allow water that accumulates on the kayak to drain and also allows the kayak to ride lower in the water, giving it better initial stability.

Final Tip

Regardless of the kayak you choose, nothing beats getting out on the water and experiencing the joy of kayaking. Be sure to pack sunscreen and any other accessories you may need to better enjoy your day on the water. Having the right gear can be the difference between a good day and a great day on the water.