Welcome to my Buying Guide to Kayaks. Whether you’re a newcomer to this recreational sport or a kayaking enthusiast, purchasing your first kayak is an important step. Since kayaks are a fairly large purchase, you shouldn’t go into it blind. This article will assist you in buying your first kayak, informing you of what questions you should ask the seller and yourself, and taking some of the mystery out of the kayak buying experience.
The Big Picture
All kayaks are not created equal. If you ignore this fact, you’ll probably be looking for a new kayak a year or two down the road. Conversely, choosing the kayak that’s right for you can enhance your kayaking experience for years and years to come. First of all, kayaks range in size and shape. White-water kayaks are typically short and highly maneuverable, built to navigate swift-moving waters. Racing kayaks are long and narrow, designed to glide on flat water and ocean swells. Sea kayaks can be designed for recreation or racing.
If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably want an indestructible plastic kayak, a kayak that’s relatively slow and stable. But as your skills advance, you may realize that your needs have changed, and slow and stable may soon become all but obsolete. Thus, you should consider a number of factors before choosing which kayak will be your first.
What to Look For
(1) Where do you paddle?
A boat built for the ocean or bay may be too slow and stable for flat water on a river, lake, or canal.
(2) Where do you live?
Storing your kayak is an important consideration. If you live in an apartment, consider buying a folding kayak. If you’re going to be lugging your kayak around, you might want to choose one that’s lightweight. However, if you can store your kayak right near the water, a heavier kayak might be preferable.
(3) How long is your paddling season?
If your paddling season is brief (such as in Maine or Oregon), it’ll probably take some time before you become proficient and require a high-performance kayak. If however, like me, you live in a place such as Hawaii, your skills may advance more rapidly.
(4) What is your level of commitment and athleticism?
You’ll want to be able to have an answer for your kayak salesman when he asks, because the type of kayak that’s right for you will depend largely on whether you want to race, tour, fish, or just splash around while sunning yourself.
Another choice you’ll have to make is whether you want a solo or two-person kayak. While you may find kayaking with a partner more fun, unless that partner enjoys kayaking as much as you do and has the time and energy to kayak as often, your kayak may spend a lot of time in the garage. Also, keep in mind that plastic tandem kayaks are very heavy. If you do choose a tandem, consider shelling out the extra money to buy a lighter lay-up.
Just like cars, you’ll have to decide whether you are in the market for a new or used kayak. As long as the pre-owned kayak is in good shape, you may find that buying a used kayak can save you enough money to purchase the other gear you’ll need to become a serious kayaker. Of course, there’s little in life that equals the feeling that comes with buying something brand new.
To start you on your way to buying your first kayak, I suggest you check out Epic Kayaks, a great company that can be found on the Web at epickayaks.com. Many kayak builders are small outfits that produce a limited number of kayaks each year. Depending on where you live, you’ll probably do well to visit these dealers in person and spend time asking questions about each type of kayak and its capabilities. Only taking into consideration all of the above issues will you discover the best kayak suited to your buying needs.