The Guide to Choosing A Kayak

Kayaks Activities

Prior to purchasing any kayak, one should consider where and how they plan on doing most of their paddling. Luckily, kayaks can be utilized for a variety of activities, but it is important to understand that no single kayak has the ability to excel at every activity. When choosing a kayak you will need to examine a multitude of characteristics and make a considerable amount of compromises. Do not let any salesperson convince you of one Ďbestí overall kayak as there truly isnít one. However, the key guidelines listed below can help you better decide which type of kayak is right for you:


  • - Hull Shape
  • - Length, Width, & Speed
  • - Single or Tandem

You will need to ask yourself a couple of questions before you begin your kayak boat search: (in hopes of narrowing down your hunt) Where will your boat be stored? Is your current living space or garage large enough to accommodate a 16 foot kayak? Do you currently possess a way to transport your kayak? Do you want to stand out when kayaking or blend in with a camouflaged boat? Thinking about these issues sooner rather than later help ensure that you will enjoy your kayak for many years to come.

Hull Shape

Your kayaks hull shape directly affects it performance abilities. Every kayaks hull shape can vary by width, flatness, and smoothness. For example, V-shaped kayaks are known to have primary stability while U-shaped kayaks tend to have secondary stability. Letís expand on this, U-shaped kayaks may feel tipper at first but they will end up staying more stable in moving bodies of water like winding rivers and wavy oceans versus V-shaped kayaks which feel the absolute most stable in flat waters such as lakes.

In addition to V-shape kayaks having primary stability, their V-shape also encourages the boat itself to steer straight which is key for touring. This directional ability is known as tracking and tracking is very important for those traveling long distances on flat water. Recreational paddlers will thoroughly enjoy and appreciate this characteristic. V-shapes add keel as well. Keel is great for efficiency and speed. However, if you spend equal time paddling on both flat and moving bodies of water, then you may want to consider purchasing a shorter kayak with a good amount of keel.

One of the most common sit-on-top kayak hulls is the tri-form which combines primary and secondary stability. A tri-form hosts a long center keel for directional stability, two shoulders for secondary stability, and width for primary stability. The width of this type of kayak does sacrifice speed but is great for cross over sports that need heaps of stability like diving and fishing.

Length, Width & Speed

Your kayaks length and width directly correlates with its speed and maneuverability. A kayaks speed is related to its surface area. Thus, a long and thin kayak will allow a paddler to slice and move through water quickly. However, a wider kayak will be more stable which aids with turning abilities. In short, a 17 ft kayak will have much more speed than an 10 ft kayak but a 10 ft kayak will turn a lot easier than a 17 ft kayak.

Single or Tandem

Do you paddle more often as a single or with a partner in tandem style? This is a basic but extremely important question to consider when purchasing your kayak. While it may be true that one person can control a tandem kayak alone, this kayak will never truly perform at optimal level with only one user. However, It is super fun to paddle with a partner and often times more safer, but perhaps the ultimate benefit to purchasing a tandem kayak is that it is much cheaper than purchasing two boats. A sit-on-top kayak with a jump seat in between the front and rear is perfect for those looking to paddle both single and tandem as they balance weight more easily.

Donít forget that your body plays a large role in how your kayak will perform. Thus, it is important that you try out the model kayak you are looking to purchase before you buy it. As you test paddle feel out how the kayak fits your body and its natural movements. You are not looking for mechanical failure but rather how the kayak carries your height and weight. The kayaks balance is what you should be taking notice of. Time and practice will help to aid how you maneuver on different kayak styles but if you can not find one to fit your body comfortably, you may want to consider a specialized kayak. A kayak expert can guide you through which specialized kayak is right for you.