A Brief Guide to Kayaks and Where to Find Them

A Brief Guide to Kayaking and Where to Find Them
Written by Juliet Walmsley

Want a way to explore the scenic outdoors? Then kayaking is definitely for you! Its popularity has been steadily increasing over the past few years and it has become the perfect way for their owners to enjoy lakes, rivers and oceans whilst exercising effectively. As their popularity of kayaking has increased, so have the number of kayaks available on the market. These kayaks range in design and features available, all built for a specific requirement or purpose.

Some are design to be streamlined and cut smoothly through a calm lake. Others are built to withstand the bashing of waves in the ocean. All of these options mean choosing the perfect model for you can be a tricky thing. However, hopefully this review will help make things easier, and it is well worth the effort in the long run! However, before you buy a new kayak there are some important things to consider, mainly knowing about the different types of kayaks available. Every kayak is designed with a specific purpose in mind, and using the wrong one could ruin your experience in the water.

How to choose the best kayak for you?

One of the most advisable ways to find out how design can influence performance is to try a few different models from rental shops, and find which one is best suited to your needs. Remember, length and weight can also influence how the kayak moves in the water. The most important question to ask is where will you be paddling? This can determine the type of kayak you need. For example, if you want to paddle on flat water like a lake, then a recreational kayak would suit your needs the best.

Kayak styles

It is important to buy a kayak which suits all the requirements you have, the bodies of water you will be kayaking in, or is designed for a specific purpose such as fishing.

Recreational kayaks

These are the most popular kayak styles because they are stable, affordable and easy to operate. They’re usually 10-12ft in length and are best suited for calm water such as lakes and ponds, as they aren’t as easy to manoeuvre through wind, waves and fast currents.

Touring kayaks

These models give a better performance than recreational models, however, they are usually more expensive as a result. They’re usually longer at 12-17ft and more narrow as well. This makes them more ideal for long distance travels and they are more adept at handling rougher conditions.

Sit-on-top Kayaks

This style does not have the top portion that sit-in models have, meaning they are better suited for warmer climates as they lack protection from the cold. They’re great for recreational purposes and are also quite popular for swimming, diving and fishing.

Fishing Kayaks

This style includes all models with additional accessories used in fishing, such as rod holders, extra storage space, or bait containers. There is a wide variety of designs however the most common is increased stability.

Whitewater Kayaks

These models are designed specifically for navigating Whitewater rapids. They’re distinguishing features are that they are shorter with a curved bottom, making them easier to operate and move in the rapids.

Inflatable Kayaks

These versions are a great option for people who have little storage or will be travelling with the kayak. The modern models are durable, versatile and high performing, not to mention portable and inexpensive. However, they will never be as good in the water as a hard-shell kayak in the water, but will be far more convenient on land.

Sea kayaks

These kayaks are very similar to touring kayaks, but are more adept at handling the ocean. They usually have more storage space for gear and supplies, are longer in length for better tracking and are narrower than most kayaks making them less stable.


Dimensions are incredibly important to the performance of your kayak. This involves the width, depth and length. When you buy a kayak, it is important to check the dimensions are appropriate for the activity you will be participating in with your kayak. If you want a kayak you can manoeuvre easier, then you should invest in a shorter kayak. Shorter kayaks are usually used for recreational models whereas longer ones are better at long distance and tracking (moving in a straight line).

Width influences the kayak’s stability and speed. Wider designs can make your kayak more stable for activities like fishing, however they won’t move as fast. Similarly, the depth of a kayak can also affect the speed. The deeper the kayak, the more room it will have for storage. If you’re tall, you may prefer a deeper kayak as it will be more comfortable. Another point to consider is that shallow kayaks offer less protection from the environment but will be faster and safer for beginners.


Similar to the dimensions of kayaks, their shape can also influence performance. The hull’s shape can determine the speed, tracking, how easy the kayak is to manoeuvre and how stable it is.
Recreational kayaks are often designed with a flat-bottomed hull to make them more stable. Rounder hulled kayaks are usually less stable, however the most unstable are v-shaped hulls, which are the fastest in the water and often used in touring kayaks. Kayaks with less hull rocker (when a model curves upwards rather than being flat) are better suited at travelling long distance as they are easier to move in a straight line.

Kayak Styles

After gathering information across the market, here is some information on the top selling Kayaks available at the moment. When deciding the best kayaks, price, durability and how the model performed in water were the deciding features under consideration.

Inflatable Kayaks

For people unfamiliar with inflatable kayaks, you might imagine a children’s toy used in paddling pools, not something which can withstand waves or provide an enjoyable outdoor experience and a fantastic workout! However, the majority of the inflatable kayaks available today are reliable, sophisticated, durable and designed to overcome the may obstacle nature throws at you. Rather than the easily punctured rubber material used for swimming toys, they are designed with a rugged shell material which is more sturdy and durable.

They are prefect for people with little storage space and people who are hiking or going to faraway places to kayak, meaning they are also a lot more portable than the hard-shell counterparts and are usually significantly cheaper as well, meaning if you aren’t sure if you want to invest a lot of money into a kayak, they are the perfect middle ground as they are more accessible. They are also great if you will only use them on holiday or every few weeks.

Advanced Elements AE1012-R AdvancedFrame

This kayak is a hybrid model, as it combines the sturdy frame of a folding model with the lightweight portability of the inflatable models, meaning you get the best of both worlds. The AdvancedFrame has a collapsible aluminium frame inside an inflatable body which makes the kayak more sturdy and durable. Alongside this frame it features meta ribs in the bow and stern making it better at tracking and move faster similar to hard-shell models. It is also portable without sacrificing on the performance. It moves like a hard-bodied kayak, and yet it is still comfortable and fast. Not to mention the price is very affordable!

Fishing Kayaks

The defining feature of a fishing kayak is that they come with equipment and accessories tailored to fishing out in the water. For example, they may come with holders for fishing rods and extra storage space for gear, nets, rods and your catch. There are many types of fishing kayaks and they can all very in size. However, the main difference between a fishing kayak and the others is that they usually have a wider body for stability in the water, as they have to stay still in one place for longer. It also means you can reel fish in without having to worry about capsizing, some are even stable enough to stand up in whilst you are fishing. When deciding the best model for fishing, you should consider features that are useful for anglers, and how stable they are.

Malibu Kayaks Stealth 14

This is considered one of the best fishing kayaks on the market at present. Its defining features are that it is stable and has lots of cargo space. It is also considered to be very versatile and can adapt to a variety of different bodies of water, including rivers, lakes and the ocean. This kayak also has a live bait tank in the centre of the boat, which has a plug that allows water to filter in and pour out, keeping the bait alive on board. If you prefer to stand while you fish or cast, there is a casting platform. Overall, this kayak comes with many interesting features useful for anglers and is stable, versatile and easy to maneuver.

Sit-on-top Kayak

A sit-on-top kayak is one without the top part to cover the user’s lower body, instead of your legs being inside the kayak, you’ll be completely on top of the boat. There are many variations of these models that are designed with many different purposes and ideas behind them such as fishing and surfing. However, one of this design’s main advantages is that it is much safer. Because you are sitting on top of the kayak they are more stable and are less like to capsize. In general, sit on tops are suited best for warm, sunny weather because they offer less protection from rain and wind. They are also perfect for beginners as you don’t need to know complex manoeuvres to operate them safely. These kayaks are also significantly cheaper than other models, making them the best for people who just want to have some fun out on the water and get used to kayaking.

Perception R15 Pescador 12.0 Kayak

The Perception Pescador 12 is a sit-on-top model designed mainly for fishing. However, anyone can operate this easy to use kayak for most purposes. The main benefit of this model is that it is a great quality kayak, but at an affordable price. It is actually a rebrand of a model which was twice the price and topped many ‘best kayaks’ list. This means you can enjoy a high-quality kayak at an affordable price. It offers a smooth, stable and responsive ride and is also very versatile with storage for any kind of activity.

Cheap kayaks for beginners

Many beginners find it difficult to get the right kayak to learn on. However, luckily there are some fantastic models designed specifically for beginners, meaning they are easy to operate and affordable. Price is usually very important for beginners as you might not be sure you want to invest time and money into a piece of expensive equipment you might not use again. Stability is also vital in a beginner kayak as they are easy for unsure users to operate and less likely to turn over. As beginners are more likely to put their kayaks through some tough situations and environments, durability is very important as well.

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10

This is one of the most popular beginner kayaks because it is very inexpensive and durable. The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is a 10 foot sit in model of great quality for its price. It is durable, easy to operate and manoeuvre with a wide-body shape for increased stability. Despite this, it has narrow sides and front making it better at superior tracking. As it is short and lightweight, it is easy to carry on land. Overall, it is perfect for beginners.

Whitewater kayaks

Choosing the right whitewater kayak can depends on the water type, if it’s a rocky environment and how high the flow of water is. Some whitewater kayaks have the option for thigh braces and adjustable back bands for additional control. Useful features are d-bone welded-in seat track, which makes the kayak more stable and the hull more rigid.

Sea Kayaks

When investing in a sea kayak, it is important to remember that even though they are similar to recreational kayaks, not all touring kayaks are designed for ocean use. The longer the kayak is, the more stable it will be in the ocean, even if they are slower.

Kayak paddles

Kayak paddles are as varied as kayaks themselves. The type and size of paddles you will need depends on what type of kayak you’re using. Whitewater paddles are usually between 188-203cm, whilst inflatable kayak paddles are between 220-240cm, and recreational and touring paddles are around 210-240cm long. The paddle shaft can also influence performance. Straight shafts are the most common as they’re lighter and cheaper than bent shafts. However, whilst bent shafts are more expensive, they put less pressure on your body and are more comfortable.

In terms of the blade shape, asymmetrical shapes make the entry in the water smoother, whilst symmetrical blades can be paddled with either of your hands because they’re the same either side.
The materials used for paddles decide the weight cost and performance. Some include reinforced nylon, fiberglass, carbon, plastic and aluminium.

Kayak Materials

A kayaks material can affect the boat’s durability, weight and price.


Polyethylene is the most popular kayak material used today. It is inexpensive and durable. However, the sun can cause the kayak to become brittle over time meaning it may not last for a long period of time. It also tends to warp at hot temperature, but returns to its original shape once cooled. Damages can be difficult to repair as well meaning it shouldn’t be used in the ocean or near rocks.


This is the most expensive material and includes fiberglass, Kevlar and carbon blends. These higher priced kayaks are lightweight and perform extremely well. Though strong, composite boats are vulnerable to damage when launching and landing, however, unlike plastic models, they can be repaired more easily.

Soft Shells

This is used for inflatable kayaks and are usually a soft, cloth-like material. These durable materials come in a variety of thicknesses and can withstand abrasion and punctures. However, if you need to repair your kayak, patch kits are readily available.

Kayak Accessories

After you’ve bought your kayak, there are many other things you might want to invest in to improve your experience.

Spray skirt

This fits around you whilst you’re in the kayak and attaches to the cockpit combing to keep water out and your supplies/gear dry. It is incredibly useful for open water or rough conditions such as whitewater kayaking. A spray skirt usually has a large loop on the front for a quick release as well to make it safer. Even though you may not need one when paddling calm waters, though it adds warmth on windy days and keep you dry from splashes.

PFDs and safety gear

Always be prepared by wearing a properly sized, USCG-approved personal flotation device or life jacket. This is probably the most important investment hen in kayaking as you need to stay safe to fully enjoy your experience.

Bilge pump and sponge

These are used to remove water from the inside of your kayak and are useful for cleaning or if you are going on long journeys.

Car Rack

Unless you have an inflatable, folding or modular kayak, you need a rack on your car or van to transport your boat. There are many rack-vehicle-boat combinations available and they are very useful and can help you move your kayak from one place to another without damaging it.

Cockpit cover

This keeps your cockpit clean and dry while in storage or transport, and can also stop the material from warping at hot temperature whilst in storage. I hope this guide was useful and you now have all the information you need to find the perfect kayak for you. Happy kayaking!

About the author

Juliet Walmsley

Juliet is a Michigan University graduate of 2003 and a former lead fashion design manager for Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. Between writing on her blog, Juliet and Co, she loves shopping, chocolate sprinkles and walking on sunny beaches.

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