Tips : Buying a Kayak for the First Time
Transportation is a central concern when purchasing your first kayak. It's an often forgotten fact. But we'll get back to that. You're here because you're considering buying a kayak, and that is awesome! Kayaking is proven to be good for your health and mental health. Look it up, aka Google that stuff! It's also a great way to spend time alone, with family or with friends. So, congrats on taking the first step and doing research. Now let's get started.
We're going to give you the down and dirty, quickly summarized version. If you have further questions please call at 800-442-4837.
There are as many different styles of kayaks as there are paddlers.
But most fall into these categories:
Recreational - all around performers, for your weekend to everyday paddler who just wants to recreate outside and exercise a little.
Touring - Longer, and sleeker. This kayak is used for big bodies of water like the ocean but not exclusive to it.
Whitewater - These kayaks are designed to run the rivers and creeks with rapids, etc. They are designed to be maneuverable and to preform various tricks, etc.
Fishing - Fishing Kayaks are usually wider, and outfitted with different bells and whistles to maximize time on the water in the pursuit of fish.
Where do you intend to paddle?
Because we then need to talk about how a kayak is constructed. The longer the kayak, the better it tracks. Which is to say, it will move more efficiently in the water if you have to paddle any distance. This is because it will travel in more of a straight line than a shorter kayak. A longer kayak will have more speed.
That is why Touring Kayaks are long and sleek.
Touring Kayaks are typically sit-inside, which is what most folks used to consider as the standard kayak design. That has changed. Nowadays the most popular style is the sit-on-top which you can see an example below. The sit-on-top below is shorter at 10 feet. A shorter kayak may not track as well but it does allow for more maneuverability. So if you planned to paddle creeks, small ponds, faster rivers, then a shorter more maneuverable kayak may be your style.
Now if you planned to paddle bigger lakes, wider rivers, or coastal inshore, then you could consider something a little longer. Perhaps in the 12 foot to 14 foot range. The 12 foot kayak is probably the most versatile option, giving you maneuverability and enough length to track well. It is a great option for those who want to go from small rivers to inshore paddling destinations.
Next consideration: What is the build of the paddler?
Too often folks walk into a big box store and buy a cheaper kayak without receiving any help from a seasoned paddle-sports retailer. We get a lot of upset phone calls after customers realize that the kayak they bought from that big box store will not float them, or will not float them effectively. Because if you are too tall or weigh too much for those smaller kayaks, they will not perform well at all. That brings us to carrying capacity. Always scout the carrying capacity. If your weight falls close to the capacity then that limits your ability to pack beverages, or bring your dog, or eat a mega-burger. And if you're 6'4" be wary of a kayak in the 7' to 10' range. Your feet will be dangling off the sides. Unless of course, that's what you want.
What are kayaks made of?
Kayaks come in an assortment of different compounds. Most kayaks are either Roto-Molded Polyethylene plastic or Thermo-formed which is lighter than rotomolded and starts as a sheet of plastic that is heated to form to the mold. Rotomolded kayaks are made by pouring plastic pellets into the mold and heating it up in a rotational oven. Whitewater kayaks are rotomolded. It's a style that lends itself well to getting banged up and dragged around. Thermo-formed kayaks are lighter, and tend to paddle with a bit more glide, but you need to have some awareness with them and obstacles, etc.
Then there are composite layups. They are stiff and very light , usually made of fiberglass, kevlar, and carbon mixes. These will cost you, but if racing is your game and you want speed, it's the way to go.
Flat Hulls are offer good initial stability. You can find flat hulls on whitewater playboats and some fishing kayaks. They make for a nice maneuverable paddle-craft.
Pontoon Shaped Hulls give max stability. They are flat hull kayaks with the added stability of rounded pontoon shapes on the outside. Many fishing kayaks deploy the pontoon shape to give standing ability to those who choose. They are not the best at speed.
V Shape Hulls are designed for speed and tend to be shaped like the letter, with a sharp line through the water. Stability is will feel very loose to those not accustomed to this design.
Rounded Hulls are used in many river runner whitewater kayaks, etc. They are designed to be maneuverable and quick on the water.
The last point will make is about transporting your kayak. If you come in to shop kayaks, and purchase one, the last step is loading on your vehicle. Now here at the shop, we'll load it and tie it down for you. That's part of the service. But you'll need to be able to do that on your own, or with someone, going forward. So before purchasing a kayak, consider how you will transport it. Roof rack? Truck bed? Trailer? There are a lot of options from two foam blocks and rope to a fully rigged out kayak trailer. And the good news is we have all that stuff here.
Kayaks today come in varying widths, from the aforementioned Touring Kayaks to big, stable Fishing Kayaks. We stock thousands. So we're a good place to come to be fit to the right kayak for you. And you can always call us toll free at 800-442-4837. There is a combined 200+years of paddling experience here, in a myriad of disciplines. We will be able to help guide you to the correct purchase. So come on in and walk around a little!
Need Proof of our experience? here's ARC owner, Bob Taylor, on the Chattooga River in the 70's with Perception Kayaks founder, Bill Masters, testing out their first whitewater kayaks.