When choosing your kayak, there are many factors to take into
consideration. At Outdoor Sports Center, our boat department has
the years of experience necessary to guide you into the perfect
kayak for your next adventure. While there is no substitute for
knowledge and experience, this guide will help you figure out where
Type of Kayaking
First, ask yourself some questions:
After you determine where you are going to kayak and what kind of
kayaking you are going to be doing, you can then choose a kayak
that will suit all of your needs perfectly. Kayaks are
classified by use. If you are mostly paddling in the ocean, take a
look at the big sea touring kayaks.If you will mostly be in ponds
and slow moving rivers, recreational kayaks are what you should
look for. People who like to paddle both big and small water will
appreciate the versatility of a light touring kayak. Finally,
whitewater kayaks are for river rapids and ocean surf.
Types of Kayaks
Most kayaks fall into 3 categories for their intended use. Each
category has the right combination of size options, outfitting,
storage, and performance features for the intended uses outlined
below. One of these types will fit your kayaking style and where
you want to kayak better than the others.
|Ideal Types of Water
||Ponds, small lakes, bays, slow moving rivers.
||Lakes, bays, moving rivers, currents, limited ocean use.
||Lakes, bays, moving rivers, rougher currents, ocean.
||Day trips (less than 10 miles)
||Day or weekend trips (less than 20 miles)
||Day or weekend trips, expeditions
||Low to intermediate
||Intermediate to Advanced
||Intermediate to Advanced
||Moderate to High
How Different Kayaks Perform
Once you've gotten a general idea of your paddling style, you are
able to narrow it down more precisely by understanding the
performance characteristics that are typical for each category.
Below is a chart of how each performs relative to the other
categories in each characteristic.
What Does it Mean
- Stability - general capability of boat's
resistance to tipping over under normal conditions.
- Manageability - refers to ease of carrying,
car topping, and storing the kayak when outside of the
- Speed and Glide - boat's efficiency moving
through the water and potential for higher velocity.
- Tracking - boat's ability to stay in a
- Maneuverability - boat's ability to turn
Once you've decided on a kayak model or two that fit your needs,
looking at the features and outfitting can help in making your
- Cockpit: Cockpit outfitting is key to
finding the best fit for comfort, safety, and control. Look for
inclusion of a thigh brace or backrest, and adjustability if you
will be doing longer trips or kayaking rough conditions. Pay
attention to cockpit size to ensure it fits your body type.
- Hatches and Bulkheads: Located at either
end of the boat, the hatch is the opening to store gear and the
bulkhead is the vertical wall that seals the compartment. Also a
great safety feature providing buoyancy to the boat.
- Deck Rigging: Deck lines, bungies, and
toggles add safety in convenience for certain types of paddling. A
spare paddle, compass, navigational charts, and other items can be
readily available on deck.
- Rudder: A mechanical device at the stern
of the boat that is foot controlled and can aid in both steering
- Drop-Skeg: A mechanical device at the
stern of the boat that can be deployed or retracted by hand. A skeg
aids in tracking, but not steering.
- Sprayskirts: For many sit-inside kayaks,
a sprayskirt can help keep your kayak dry inside, especially for
sea kayaking use.
Kayak Materials and Construction
These affect the durability, weight and price of a boat.
Polyethylene (PE): This is the most popular kayak material
used today. It supports a variety of molding processes. Most common
is rotomolding (short for rotational molding), a process in which
plastic pellets are heated in a mold to melt. As it cools, it is
rotated to get an even thickness. Polyethylene is inexpensive and
wonderfully impact and abrasion resistant. It does have a lifespan,
and years of sun eventually cause it to become brittle. Two popular
types of polyethylene:
- Linear: Also known as single-layer
polyethylene, it offers good performance at an affordable
- Superlinear: Also known as high-density
polyethylene, it is considerably lighter, tougher, stiffer and more
UV resistant than linear PE, and it costs more as a result.
PolyLink3/Triple Tough: This material is also referred to
3-layer polyethylene or cross-linked polyethylene. All of these
constructions consist of a foam core sandwiched between linear
polyethylene layers. The foam core adds insulation, flotation and
stiffness. A newer variation of these is called variable-layer
polyethylene. This strategically places varying layers of foam-core
thickness throughout the hull for improved paddling
Thermoformed ABS: The fabrication of acrylic over ABS
plastic creates a glossy kayak similar to composites in appearance
and performance. Though a bit heavier than composites, thermoformed
ABS costs much less. It is lighter than polyethylene and is more
resistant to gouges. If it does get a ding, it's
Composites: This high-end category includes fiberglass,
synthetic and carbon blends that are extremely durable and
lightweight. Composite boats are more expensive than polyethylene
or thermoformed ABS boats.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): This flexible, cloth-like
thermoplastic material is used to make inflatable kayaks and rafts.
It comes in a variety of thicknesses. It is generally tough and
resistant to punctures and abrasion.
Nitrylon: Nitrylon is a trademarked material used in
a few inflatables. It features a tough combination of nylon and a
Nitrile/natural rubber coating.
It can seem daunting at first thinking about all the different
aspects there are to choosing a kayak that is right for you, but
remember we're here to help. Outdoor Sports Center has the largest
selection of boats and the most experience in the area. We even
have our very own demo pond, so stop by and we can paddle some
boats with you while you consider the options.