“What Type of Kayak is Best for Me?” [Video]
The type of kayak that’s best for you depends on how you want to use it and where you’ll be kayaking—the type of water environment. Our friends at Austin Canoe & Kayak (ACK) produced this video that gives a great overview of the five main types of kayak…
Kayak fishing kayaks can be in their own category, but for the purposes of this video, we’ll cover these five types:
The sit-inside kayak is usually what we think of when we hear the word kayak.
It has a partially-enclosed cockpit, and your legs are inside the boat. They can be anywhere from 9-14 feet or so, and are quite stable and easy to use.
Because it’s mostly enclosed, if water gets in your boat it’ll stay in. So a bilge pump is a needed accessory for any lengthy trips. You can also use a spray skirt to keep rain or waves out.
Many sit-inside recreational kayaks have built-in bulkheads. These keep water from filling the ends of the boat in case of a capsize. They also serve as storage compartments for gear, food and other things you may want to bring with you.
A sit-on-top kayak is just like it sounds—there’s nothing to sit in…your legs are exposed, there’s no cockpit.
Sit-on-tops are the most popular choice for anglers. They’re very stable, have lots of deck room for rigging options and gear, and most are made for standing as well as sitting.
These are self-draining—if water comes in, it’ll drain out through pre-drilled holes. They’re also much easier to climb back onto in case of a capsize.
Both the recreational sit-inside and sit-on-top kayaks are great for kids, families, cabins and those looking for leisurely time on the water.
Whitewater kayaks are designed for zipping down fast currents and over waterfalls, all while dodging boulders and turning quickly in tight spots.
They’re a type of sit-inside with rounded bottoms for easy maneuvering—the shortest of the kayaks. The cockpit is also smaller, and whitewater kayakers keep a spray skirt over it to keep water out.
If you want to get into whitewater kayaking, we highly encourage you to learn from an experienced paddler and/or certified instructor.
Touring or Sea Kayak
A touring or sea kayak is another type of specialized sit-inside kayak. They’re long and lean, built for paddling long distances quickly. They offer the best tracking of all the kayaks (easy to move straight forward).
They offer lots of cargo space in the bulkheads and are thin enough to allow a roll, like a whitewater kayak.
Sea kayaks are perfect for large bodies of water like ocean coastal areas and the Great Lakes. They’re also the favored type for kayaking in ocean surf.
A canoe/kayak hybrid combines the best of both worlds. It’s designed for a solo paddler using a kayak paddle, but has a wide-open cockpit for unlimited storage. That makes it a great choice for either canoe camping or fishing.
You can even buy a skirt system for hybrids if you plan to take your trips down whitewater (which you’ll need in that case, as they’re not self-bailing).
They’re stable enough to stand up in, and have the most comfortable seat of all the kayak options.
There are a few variations of portable kayaks on the market, too, which we’ll just touch on here. They can all be packed inside a carry bag:
- Folding kayaks are a folding frame with exterior shell or skin.
- Inflatable kayaks are, obviously, inflatable.
- Modular kayaks come in sections that nest together.
Once you have an idea of what you’ll want to use your kayak for, your best option is to go to a local retailer that lets you demo their kayaks. Many of them have occasional Demo Days at a nearby waterway.
Have paddling questions we can help with? Call or email our Wisconsin-based customer service team today: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]
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