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Choosing the right kayak can seem quite overwhelming for the unseasoned paddler. Kayaks come in all widths and length, with each class designed for individually different uses. In today's marketplace, a beginner should research to choose a versatile kayak that can be used effectively in various types of waters. With new materials and design engineering, kayaks are much lighter, more durable, and more personalised.
You should buy a kayak that has been designed for your size, your paddling technique, the water conditions of intended use, and your price range. Another critical consideration is safety and comfort. You should have the ability to get in and out of your kayak easily. Check the kayak weight allowance to make sure that it is rated high enough to carry yourself and all necessary gear safely. You should be able to sit in the kayak cockpit comfortably over long periods of time.
Different Classes of Kayaks
There are three general classes of kayaks. These are recreational, touring, and whitewater. Buy a kayak off the recreational category to paddle in the calmer waters of slow-moving rivers, smaller lakes, and along protected shorelines. The cockpits of these kayaks are generally bigger, and the initial kayak stability is better for sitting still on the water. Many of these boats are built to provide comfort for larger paddlers, a fisherman with gear, birdwatchers, photographers, or for paddlers carrying small children or pets.
The next class of kayak has been designed explicitly for paddle touring on large bodies of water. These kayaks are longer and have been designed to move straighter and faster through the rougher water with less paddling effort. Buy kayak in the touring class to travel long distances with good secondary (while paddling) stability even during windier and choppier wave conditions. These kayaks also have both front and back hatches to carry lots of gear.
The final class is the whitewater kayak which has three sub-categories; river runners, creek boats, and play boats. Choosing the right kayak for whitewater will depend on your specific whitewater goals. The creek boats are the typical beginner choice for ease of use but as your skills advance these kayaks become more difficult to surf and do tricks. Playboats are designed to do tricks, but beginners tend to spend more time upside down. So play boats are recommended for intermediate to advanced skill level paddlers, River runners are suitable for beginners because they can surf and play with more stability, More advanced paddlers find river runners able to run wilder waters and allow for more play than the creek runner style.
Always consider your safety first. It is vital that you take lessons to learn the correct techniques and safety skills necessary to help keep you safe. Self-rescue skills such as how to right a kayak that's been flipped can save your life. Practice these skills regularly in calm water and take additional lessons as your skill level improves.
Selecting the right kayak can be as simple as your past equipment rental experiences.
Since you were most likely using rental equipment during your basic kayak instruction, you should consider your satisfaction level when using that equipment.
If the kayak felt comfortable, stable, and had good manoeuvrability, why not buy a new or good used kayak of the same calibre. As a new paddler, your primary goal will be to have the ability to practice to improve your skills conveniently. If you have had basic instructions and can perform self-rescue skills in a specific kayak, why not own it?
A good used kayak can be resold for a fair price when you are prepared to upgrade to a more specialised class. Always stay safe and have fun.