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Choosing a Kayak – Part 2 – Kayak Styles and Designs

One of the most frequent questions that I get asked is “I’m looking to buy a kayak, but i don’t know which one should i get?” This is one of those questions that doesn’t always have a simple answer.

So, here are some tips to get you started, and to help narrow your search.

  • 1) Plastic, Fiberglass, or Kevlar

  • 2) Decide what type of paddling you are most likely to do

  • 3) Price range and buying tips  

Part 2: Decide what type of paddling you are likely to do

There are many different types and styles of kayaks. All the different styles of kayak come in Single person, Double, and sometimes even Triples, usually this decision is one of the easiest ones to make.

The hard part is to decide what style you want. Each design is good at a different type of paddling and costs a different amount. There are four main styles of kayak: Recreational, Whitewater, Expedition, and Greenland.

Here is a brief description of each:

Recreational kayaks are the ones you commonly see at resorts and on yachts. They are small, simple, light, easy to paddle, and relatively low-cost. They generally don’t have rudders or skegs. If you think that you are only going to do short day trips in calm conditions, or have young kids or grand kids, then a recreational kayak is a good choice. The downside is that a recreational kayak will limit your options. If you like kayaking and decide you want to improve your skills and do longer trips in more varied conditions you will need to upgrade to another style.

Whitewater and River kayaks can be very fun. For ocean surfing or river paddling they work wonderful. They are small, light weight, and cost less then a touring or Greenland style boat. Generally don’t come with rudders or skegs. The downside is that they are not as well suited for paddling greater distances, they will be harder to steer, and slower then most other styles. Also, for a beginner going into Whitewater situations can be very dangerous when you are untrained or unprepared.

Expedition or Touring Kayaks are very versatile. They very is design, from easy and safe, to tippy and maneuverable. The average touring kayak will be easy for a beginner to get into and have fun, it will also allow you lots of room to expand you skills and grow as a paddler. Almost always come with a rudder or skeg, to help the kayak track through wind, waves, and current. Once you reach a proficient skill level you can even take one into Whitewater conditions and have some fun surfing. The ability to safely store food and camping gear is also a huge benefit. From a picnic for the day, to: food, water, and gear for a 10-day expedition, it’s super easy. The downside is that they can sometimes be heavy for one person to lift on their own, they are generally more expensive then Recreational and Whitewater kayaks, and can eventually limit you skill development if you decide that you want to get into high-level skills and rolls.

Greenland (sometimes called British style) kayaks are very fun and versatile. It is possible to go on expeditions, although there will be less storage space then a touring kayak. They are great for someone who is already a intermediate level paddler and wants to become an expert. In fact, this style of kayak can quickly become addicting when you become familiar with the increased amount of playfulness and maneuverability. These generally come with a skeg, if anything at all, but almost never a rudder. The downsides are that they may be more difficult for a beginner to get started and feel comfortable. Also, the price is usually similar to a expedition kayak, even though there is no rudder and less carrying capacity.

The best advice I can give, is to get out there and try as many different kayaks as you can.

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