The 5 Best Kayaks for Beginners (2020)

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Finding the best Kayak for beginners is a challenge that needs hours of research. This is because not all kayaks are designed the same.

The word kayak originated from a Greenlandic word, qajaq. Kayak falls in the category of boats that are often smaller and slimmer in size. They can only be used by a limited number of people at a time, often only a single person in one go. Kayaks are more often regarded as sports equipment, as their more prominent use is in sports or aquatic races.

Our 5 favorite beginners Kayaks (Detailed review below):

  1. Wilderness Systems Pungo 125 Recreational Kayak
  2. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Beginner Kayak
  3. SunDolphin Bali SS 10-foot Sit-on-top kayak
  4. Perception Pescador 10.0 Kayak
  5. Old Town Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak

The differences between a kayak and a canoe.

  • Seating placements: In a kayak, the paddler sits on a low seat with their legs extended whereas, in a canoe, the paddler is seated on a low seat or kneels on the bottom of the boat.
  • Blades on the paddle: The kayak paddle is bladed on both ends whereas the canoe is most commonly known for having a blade on one end.

Popular Uses of the Kayak

  • Kayak diving: Divers carry their stuff in the kayak and paddle their way to the diving site.
  • Kayak fishing: Fishing activities in the kayak.
  • Playboating: The paddlers carry out multiple moves in one place, on the kayak.
  • Surf Kayaking: Surfing in the ocean with a kayak.
  • Whitewater kayaking; The sport in which the paddler has to paddle on running, rapid waves.

The Design of the Kayak

There is a number of key components that greatly contribute to the design of the kayak. It is important to note down the features.

  • Displacement: If the displacement of the kayak is not established enough to carry the paddler along with his gear, it will sink. If the displacement is excessive then the kayak will catch the winds and waves in an uncomfortable manner and float too high. It would overall have a poor handle.
  • Length: A longer kayak runs faster and has an increased hull speed. However, it is less flexible. Longer Kayaks are often weaker and harder to move around and store.
  • Beam Profile: The entire width of the Kayak is called its beam profile. A wider hull is more stable whereas the narrower hull has lower drag and is generally easier to paddle around.

Types of Kayaks

One of the most exciting parts of this sport is the wide range of activities that you can enjoy. From the calm and peace on a sunny day at the lake to the excitement of whitewater rapids.

Most types of activities require a kayak specifically designed for them. There is a wide range and here are some of them. A kayak can be of two types, sit on or sit in.

 Sit-in Kayaks

When using a sit-in kayak, your legs are bound in the cockpit. There is an attached spray skirt which prevents the water from entering inside the kayak. This allows you to keep your legs dry and overall keep you warm. So, sit-ins are usually used in cold, harsh weather to ensure your safety.

However, in these types of kayaks, the process of exiting and re-entering is a hazard. The process of doing it underwater requires professional lessons with a teacher. In addition to that, the open space in the hull can get flooded so you will have to paddle to the shore and drain out the water before you continue onwards.

Sit on Kayak

You are going to get wet on Sit on Kayaks. The waves and the splashes are bound to get you damp and hence, sit on Kayaks are preferable in warmer weather. However, the process of sitting and exiting the Kayak is much easier in comparison to the Sit-in Kayak.

Recreational Kayak

Type: Sit in or sit on

Recreational Kayaks are designed to be steady and much easier to steer. They generally provide a wider hull and are less than 12 feet long. Alongside this, they have a decent-sized cockpit for easy access and a small area to store necessities.

They are mostly used in areas with less harsh waves and winds such as lakes or freshwater streams.

Crossover Kayak

Crossover Kayaks bridge the gap between different styles of Kayaks, allowing them to be multipurpose. They contain the specifications of a recreational kayak alongside features from other specific designs so the paddler can enjoy multiple activities without changing boats.

These types of kayaks are ideal for trips involving multiple environments, for example, a river with low-grade rapids along with slow-moving sections.

What to Look for When Buying Kayaks?

The durability of the Material

There’s a learning curve involved with the sport of kayaking. That implies that, especially in the initial stages, the kayak is bound to go through wear and tear as you learn to practice and get better. For this, it is essential that you choose a kayak that is durable and can withstand the resistance and damage.

In addition to this, the material of the kayak is also very important in determining its durability. All in all, there are 7 different types of materials to choose from. These include Kevlar, carbon fiber, inflatable plastic, fiberglass, fabric with a frame, wood, and hard plastic. A fiberglass kayak or hard plastic kayaks are generally recommended but an inflatable one is also well suited for beginners.

Hard plastic has longevity but is heftier in size whereas the fiberglass is much lighter but is not as affordable for the average consumer. Carbon fiber and Kevlar are more lightweight but have a higher price tag and are not necessary for beginners.

Lastly, wooden kayaks are rarely used these days due to their increased cost and weight.

Stability

One of the most important key features of a kayak is its stability, you don’t want to be tipping over as soon as you reach the waters.

For this, it is crucial to choose a kayak that is steady and can handle resistance from the challenging waves and winds. The best choice is a kayak that is shorter in size than other professional styles.

The stability of a kayak is divided into 2 parts.

  • Primary Stability: This is the stability of a kayak on calmer locations and activities which do not require much action.
  • Secondary Stability: This is the stability of the kayak in high motion activities, like rough waters and white-water kayaking.

In conclusion, the most stable kayaks have a flatter hull, however, that limits the turning ability of the kayak.

The Length of the Kayak

Choosing the length of the Kayak depends on your interests. If you want higher speed and a precise tracking ability then a longer kayak will be a preferable option. But, if you want your kayak to easily move in your preferred direction, then you would want to go for a shorter kayak.

The transportation and storage of the kayak is also a major factor when choosing a kayak. Their lengths range between 7 to 14 feet, the longer the kayak, the harder it is to store and transport them.

Kayak Depth and Width

The depth and width of the kayak play a crucial role. From steering to the amount of storage you can place in it. For beginners, a wider kayak is preferable as they offer more stability and are easier to enter and exit. However, the wide kayak compromises on speed and the increased drag causes more difficulty while paddling.

As far as the depth is concerned, bigger people should opt for a kayak with greater depth. This will provide them more room to spread their legs.

Best Kayaks for Beginners Reviews

1. Wilderness Systems Pungo 125 Recreational Kayak

This kayak is perfect for fishing or if you just want to paddle around. It is a sit-in recreational kayak that is highly recommended by professionals. This yak is specifically produced for flatwater kayaking and is most suitable for rivers and lakes.

It is made of polyethylene which promises longevity and is affordable for the average consumer. It can last you a long time if you take proper care of it.

In addition to this, it is lightweight, weighing only 49lbs which makes it extremely portable and easy to store.

Specs

  • 1-person kayak
  • capacity 425lbs
  • 12’6” x 29”
  • Fully rigged weight: 53lbs
  • Number of Paddlers: 1 – Single/Solo
  • Hull Construction: Rotomolded polyethylene

Pros

  • Offers stability for fishing
  • Comes with a durable and tough carbon paddle
  • Plenty of storage
  • Versatile and flexible
  • Comes with Additional accessories

Cons

  • Expensive, comes for about $1000

Although, the price may be too high for beginners, this is a premium kayak manufactured by a reputable manufacturing company so it won’t wear or breakdown. It will also live up to its name and provide a good kayaking experience. As for the price, it will be worth it, since the Wilderness Systems Pungo 125 kayak will last you a long time.

 2. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Beginner Kayak

This is a sit on kayak and is one of the most popular kayaks to date. It is more prominently recognized for being family-friendly. It has 2 comfort seats attached, which rotates and can adjust in multiple locations. Alongside this, there is enough space provided for a child or a pet to adjust in the middle.

It is built with the tri-hull form design which able to resist rough, fast and flat water as well, this makes it one of the most maneuverable kayaks on the market. Not only this, it can carry up to 425 lbs, which means you can conveniently fit a couple of adults and the necessary gear.

Its weight is around 57 pounds and is 34 inches wide. This gives the paddlers the steadiness they need. Overall, it is great for beginners.

Specs

  • 2-persons kayak
  • capacity 475lbs
  • 12” x 34”
  • Fully rigged weight: 99lbs
  • Hull weight: 81lbs.
  • Lifetime warranty on the hull

Pros

  • Comes with an adjustable and comfortable Vantage V seat
  • It has a unique drive system for easy propelling.
  • Affordable
  • Family-friendly
  • Compact design

Cons

  • Weight
  • Not ideal for cold water kayaking without additional gear.

3. SunDolphin Bali SS 10-foot Sit-on-top kayak

One of the most popular kayaks for beginners in 2020, this kayak is well suited for the ones wanting to experiment with lakes and rivers. It comes with hull design and Forti flex high-density polyethylene which makes it durable and resistant to the effects of fresh and saltwater.

This Kayak is also equipped with a pad holder, protective thigh pads and adjustable foot braces. While it is specifically designed for singular use, there is enough space provided to adjust a pet or a child as well.

Specs

  • 120’’ in length
  • 30” in width
  • 40lbs in weight
  • 250lb capacity
  • Single person sit-in design
  • UV-stabilized Forti flex High-Density Polyethylene

Pros

  • Comes in multiple attractive colors depending on your preference
  • Very affordable and great value for the money
  • Lots of safety features
  • Smooth ride and easy to paddle
  • Tracks really well and very stable
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Optimized for longer adventures and very comfortable

Cons

  • polyethylene frame is strong but it’s also susceptible to scratching and flexing.
  • Hull design makes the kayak stable but really slow.
  • No bottom cushion for the seat and footrests is somewhat uncomfortable.

In conclusion, this kayak is best suited for the consumers who are searching for a flexible kayak which is well fitted for multiple activities like whiter water rapids and serene lakes, while at the same time, not costing a fortune.

4. Perception Pescador 10.0 Kayak

This kayak is custom made, fit to a beginner’s requirements. It is 10 feet long, which makes it easy to paddle around with. In addition to that, this kayak weighs around 52 lbs and can carry the weight of 325 lbs. Although, it is shorter than an average kayak, it has an ample amount of storage. There are two dry components available, one at the bow and the other behind the seat.

The Perception Pescador also maintains its stability in the water so it is a great option for harsher weathers.  Furthermore, it is equipped with a mug holder, paddle park and a comfortable stadium-style seat which ensures that your trip is pleasant and convenient.

Specs

  • Weight Capacity: 325 Pounds
  • Length: 10 feet
  • Comfortable padded seat
  • Front dry storage compartment and rear storage with bungee cords

Pros

  • Ample storage
  • Removable seat
  • Tracks smoothly

Cons

  • It is expensive

Overall, this kayak is well built for beginners so if you are in search of a comfortable and stable kayak, this is the one for you.

5. Old Town Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak

This kayak is not only beginner-friendly but it will also last you a long time, all the while being affordable as well. This is manufactured with polyethylene, allowing it to be light and strong at the same time. It is also equipped with a comfort flex seat which is not only flexible but also provides a large cockpit space so the larger paddlers are comfortably seated.

Alongside all of this, its additional features include a paddle keeper for a hand free experience, two waterproof hatches, thigh pads for additional comfort and optional rods for convenient fishing.

Specs

  • 1-person kayak
  • capacity 325lbs
  • 120” x 29”
  • Fully rigged weight: 44lbs
  • adjustable Comfort Flex seat
  • Hull Construction: Rotomolded polyethylene

Pros

  • Best beginner kayak for fishing
  • Very durable
  • Suitable for more experienced kayakers as well
  • Very versatile and maneuverable
  • Offers tons of stability for fishing
  • Comes with a unique drive system for easy propelling
  • Tons of onboard storage

Cons

  • Price

In conclusion, the Old Town Canoe Vapor 10 is a great option for beginners as well as professionals. It has the luxury, comfort and versatility which makes it a convenient pick for all paddlers.

Conclusion

The search for the best kayak for beginners is personal and entirely based upon the consumer’s demand and specifications. The list above provides an objective guideline and what each kayak offers but until the consumer lays out their needs, the search can be fruitless, and maybe costly too! So, it will be recommended to search out which material you prefer to what’s the length that you can accommodate to what trips you will be making. And most importantly, what is the budget you can afford. Does this mean whether a hard plastic is better suited to your needs or carbon fiber? And do you have enough storage available to store a large kayak or not? And do you need a kayak which can withstand harsh conditions since you enjoy them more? And how much can you afford to splurge on a kayak? All of these questions should be answered by the consumer first and then filter out their options.

The search for a beginner’s kayak is not hard. Information from the internet along with online customer reviews provides a substantial amount of objective and subjective knowledge to the buyer. For further digging, you can definitely try multiple kayaks and choose which one.

Lastly, once you purchase a kayak, you may need to purchase additional equipment necessary to transport it. These include Kayak carts, roof racks and kayak trailers. So, definitely check those out as well.

And be safe and have fun paddling!

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