How to find the right type of kayak for you

December 21, 2014

Kayaking is a brilliant innovation, and these days it’s gone from being an efficient mode of transportation to a highly thrilling sport. In fact, more and more Canadians are enjoying kayaking as a great summer activity, and with good reason. It combines athleticism, leisure, relaxation and adventure.

Whether you’re taking your first steps into the world of kayaking or are a long-time enthusiast, you’re sure to find a type of kayak that suits you. Here are some kayaking ABCs to guide you on your way.

Expert or beginner?

The first step before buying anything is to consider your level of experience and how you intend to use your craft. Here are the main types of kayaks on the market:

  • Sea kayaks. These very narrow boats are designed for experienced users in rough waters. Their impressive length (up to 5.5 metres) makes them fairly difficult to manoeuvre. For that reason, always choose a sea kayak that’s equipped with a rudder or a skeg to facilitate steering. It’s also a good idea to opt for a model with waterproof compartments to protect your belongings in rough water.
  • Touring/freshwater kayaks. Measuring between 3.8 and 4.5 metres in length, this type of kayak is ideal for long trips on lakes or quiet rivers. It’s shorter and wider than its seafaring cousin, and safer and easier to handle. This type of kayak is popular with fans of camping-kayaking trips.
  • Recreational kayaks. With a maximum length of four metres and fairly wide build, this is the kayak of choice for beginners starting out in this sport.
  • Open kayaks (often called sit-on-top kayaks). Popular for fishing, this type of kayak stands out because of its open design. Sunday kayakers love to play around on them close to the shore. What’s more, with this kind of fun, safe model, you can easily jump into the water and get back on.

Which material to choose?

Not only has our use of traditional kayaks changed, but the materials used to build them have changed as well. Today’s models are lightyears away from the old wooden ones, as manufacturers continually innovate in order to give fans increasingly efficient and lightweight kayaks.

  • Most kayaks that you find in outdoor stores are made with polyethylene, a durable and affordable material that requires little maintenance. However, it’s a little heavier than other modern materials, such as fibreglass. The latter is more expensive and relatively fragile, but its light weight and high performance is always tempting to kayaking fans.
  • Kayaking professionals swear by Kevlar, but it’s a bit expensive for the general public.
  • There are also inflatable kayaks, which are popular with campers and cottagers. They're fun toys, but in terms of kayaking, they’re short-lived and offer minimum performance.

All in all, there are lots of aspects to consider when buying a kayak, so be sure to find out all you need to know before venturing out on the water.

How to find the right type of kayak for you
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