Considerations When Buying A Fishing or Recreational Kayak
Choosing the perfect kayak for you shouldn’t be complicated but rather fun, exciting. To choose the proper kayak, you must first make an honest evaluation of your intended needs and uses. To do so, ask yourself some of these basic questions:
- What types of kayaking activities are you participating in most of the time?
- Will you be paddling alone or with family or friends?
- Will you be taking day, weekend, or extended trips?
- Will you be paddling calm lakes and ponds, or big water conditions?
- Will your kayak be used as an all-purpose craft, or do you want to excel in your main paddling choice?
- Will you be carrying a large amount of gear, children, or pets?
- Typically this is not something that you can usually mentally picture or estimate.
- There is an axiom “ounces = pounds, pounds=PAIN!!!” One rule of thumb we recommend, after your PPE equipment, no exceptions ( PFD, Sunglasses, skin protection etc.)
- can you comfortable “CARRY IT” everything ; if not, give it serious consideration
- How important is carry-weight, will you need a lightweight kayak which can be easily loaded and transported?
There are some major categories of kayaks: Sea Kayaks, Touring Kayaks, White Water Kayaks, Recreational Kayaks and Fishing Kayaks.
Basic Considerations; for this conversation we will address primarily fishing and recreational and (SOT) Sit on Top kayaks
Given two kayaks of equal width, the longer kayak will be the fastest. The longer the waterline, results in a smoother the transition. A shorter waterline will result in a less streamlined passage through the water.
- Longer kayaks have a number of advantages: They are faster, glide farther, track better, are more stable, carry heavier loads, and are easier to paddle.
If longer kayaks are more efficient and use less effort why would anyone want a short boat?
- Shorter kayaks are lighter, less cumbersome, are easier to transport, and are often less expensive. A shorter hull will also turn and maneuver quicker in narrow streams or tight places.
The primary function of width or beam is stability. A wider kayak, the will be slower and require more work to paddle, as the hull pushes more water. Wider kayaks tend to be more stable, but sacrifice handling abilities. Narrow kayaks are more efficient because they bring the paddlers strokes closer to the center-line of the kayak.
Deeper kayaks deflect spray and waves better to provide a dryer ride, but are more susceptible to cross winds. If the deck is too high it begins to impede the stroke of the paddle, another reason to try before you buy. A depth of 13″ to 15″ is common; for quality fishing, recreational, sea, and touring kayaks.
The overall shape of the kayak from front to back. Symmetrical kayaks have identically shaped halves front to back with the widest point at the center. Symmetrical boats maneuver quicker and provide a more predictable behavior for rough water conditions, or paddling narrow rivers or streams.
Asymmetrical kayaks have a longer more slender bow. Asymmetrical kayaks tend to be more efficient and track better but do not turn as quickly. Fishing kayaks provide more volume ahead of the center to increase tracking, and handling, even in adverse conditions.
The degree of curve along the hull from bow to stern as viewed from the side is called rocker. Kayaks with a lot of rocker; think white water kayaks, can pivot more easily as their ends sit higher in the water and offer less resistance. Kayaks with less rocker track (go straight) more efficiently as the boat naturally resists the turning forces of paddling strokes.
- Hull Shape
- Flat bottom kayaks have the greatest wet surface and provide the most initial stability when paddling in calm water. However, when leaned or in rough water, a flat bottom kayak can quickly become less stable. Flat bottom hulls are best suit beginners and leisurely day paddlers who want a user-friendly feel and paddle in calm waters.
- Vee bottom kayaks have the least wet surface and may feel less stable initially in calm water. They provide however, the most secondary stability to resist tipping when leaned, in rough water, or adverse conditions. Vee bottom hulls are fast, efficient, track well and provide a lively feel with a comfortable level of stability for experienced paddlers or those aspiring to be.
Rounded Vee bottom kayaks are a compromise of the two hull shapes mentioned above providing a good blend of both initial and secondary stability. Rounded Vee hulls provide well all-around performance and suit a wide range of paddlers and skill levels that desire all-round performance.
The area between the bottom of the kayak and its sides is called the chine.
Three main types of chines exist:
- Rounded sides are referred to as Soft Chines, single angled sides are called Hard Chines and multi-angled sides are referred to as Multi Chines.
- Hard & Multi Chines sides provide predetermined areas to which paddlers can edge their kayaks.
As Soft Chine sides are more rounded they offer no predefined areas to edge a kayak so aggressive edging may take longer to learn BUT when learned offers more infinite degrees of edging.
Confused, don’t be… talk to other kayakers.
- Volume/ Storage
The amount of space the interior of the boat provides is referred to as its volume or capacity. We feel more importantly. is different types of accessibility, some types are bow hatch or storage, stern open wells and then paddle position accesses, we invite YOU to test paddle several kayaks to determine capacity… which boat best meets YOUR needs!
Do I need a rudder?
These are questions often asked! We will briefly try to explain each:
- A rudder can be a valuable addition to your kayak. When the blade is in the down position, footrests positioned in sliding tracks enable the paddler to turn the rudder from side to side. This devise assists the paddler in steering and tracking. The rudder can be raised giving the paddler the option to paddle without it.
Advantages & Disadvantages
- Rudders make a kayak track or go straight with less effort. A rudder may also make a kayak turn easier for novice paddlers. Negatively, rudders may only work marginally in adverse weather conditions. Sliding rudder systems also forsake a degree of bracing… so look to purchase superior “smart” rudders or gas pedal style rudders.
- Some paddlers prefer to improve their paddling skills and control or turn their kayak by edging (tipping their boat onto its side) to steer rather than depend on a steerable rudder system. Others prefer the ease of a rudder-assisted turn. Whatever you decide is right! As it all boils down to personal choice!
Overall comfort is essential in kayaks as you may be sitting for hours. Remember you do not have the freedom to move about as much as in a canoe! Seat shapes, back bands, thigh braces, foot pedals and seat height all vary from model to model. Recreational seats tend to have higher backrests, while sea kayak back bands are much lower to enable greater paddler movement.
Note: To do it right, find the best model for you on-the-water by trying a number of kayaks
Is There a Perfect Kayak?
Of course not! By now you have already guessed that a kayak designed to excel in one area must compromise its performance in another. As for finding the right kayak for you, try out a kayak first hand – on the water!
When in Doubt Paddle Out!