It may be hard to fathom that a sport that dates as far back as the 1500s is also currently one of the fastest growing sports in North America, but kayaking is unique. Boats remain relatively simple, lightweight and affordable. Uses are many, from rigorous exercise, to a peaceful sunrise paddle, to even fishing for your favorite catch.
Ready to hop aboard? Here’s what to consider when choosing a new kayak.
Sit-In Versus Sit-On-Top
Sit-in kayaks tend to be faster and feature better tracking, making them great for both recreational and touring use. They’re also typically more maneuverable and efficient to paddle. Downsides? They can be more difficult to get in and out of and water can collect in the hull or even swamp the boat. Sit-on models are more recreationally minded, easier to get on and off, cooler in hot weather and can’t fill with water but typically heavier in weight.
Match Model Traits To Usage And Water Conditions
The bodies of water you plan to kayak in should play a role in any purchase decision. Recreational models of the sit-in or sit-on variety are great for calmer, near-shore conditions. Rougher coastal conditions tend to match best with longer, narrower sit-in styles with a steerable rudder and fixed tracking fin or skeg. Stability is key in areas with a strong current. For combined river and lake use, consider a dropdown skeg that will enable solid tracking when down yet allow nimble turning when retracted.
Weigh The Advantages — And Disadvantages — Of Plastic vs. Composite
The most affordable material, polyethylene plastic is highly resistant to damage and abrasion but the heaviest in weight. Polyethylene is also susceptible to degradation from the sun’s UV rays. Thermoformed ABS plastic is similar in durability, shaves off a small amount of weight and stands up better in the sun but is slightly more expensive. Composites, including fiberglass and carbon fiber, offer light weight and responsive performance but carry the highest price tags and can suffer greater damage should you suffer a strong impact.