Tips for the beginner kayaker

The first time you buy a kayak, it’s very easy to feel confused. This is especially true if you listen to too many tips. At Smart Start Kayaking, we often say “different strokes for different people”, meaning that some kayak might suit a person perfectly but for various reasons it is not the best choice for another person. Below we leave some advice that we hope may be helpful in choosing a suitable kayak for a beginner.



Where and how will you use your kayak? Keep in mind that there is a big difference between a sea kayak for long kayaking across the open sea and a kayak to be used by the whole family for shorter trips around the sheltered lake at the summer cottage.



Your weight and the expected packing weight. All three can have a big impact on how to maneuver and handle the kayak. A kayak that is too small for you will feel unstable. A kayak that is too big for you will instead feel like a barge. In both cases, the kayak becomes more difficult to handle under tougher conditions.



Typically, a longer kayak usually means that it is easier to achieve a higher speed and you get more load capacity. A longer kayak, on the other hand, is more difficult to swing in confined spaces, maneuvering in tougher conditions, keeping a steady course with when the ocean waves come from 45 degrees as well as surfing when the waves come from behind.



A lighter kayak certainly has its advantages and this applies mainly when the kayak is to be used for competitive use. Once you have achieved an even pace during the paddling, it does not matter if it weighs 21 kg or 26 kg – usually the weight and construction of the paddle are of greater importance.



If you plan for a longer trip and especially if this happens during the winter, you are in need of greater packing space. If you overload the kayak’s optimal load capacity, stability will start to deteriorate. Examine the size of the packing hatches. Large gaps are required for bulky packing.



If you are a skilled kayaker, you can keep the balance in a fast and more challenging competition kayak while focusing on strong and effective paddle takers. If you are a beginner and choose a more advanced model, all your energy will be used to keep the balance and there is a risk that you will not find the pleasure of paddling. For many paddlers, it is usually better to choose a kayak based on the skill they currently have but there are even those who for a variety of reasons want a more advanced kayak at an early stage. Think calmly about your skill and your potential goals with the paddling as well as how and where you will use the kayak.



Manufacturing techniques and materials are what distinguishes many models and kayaking brands. Read about our top kayak picks for beginners to see what the best option is for you.



A kayak with good seating comfort can be the difference between a pleasurable and painful sitting position. Seat and backrests that are padded are appreciated by many paddlers. If you have problems with your back, it may be useful with a backrest that can be adjusted from sitting position. Thigh and knee tips should feel comfortable and contribute to a good contact with the kayak. The footrests should be strong and durable to really serve as a support when paddling.



If it’s your first kayak purchase, you should also check the kayak’s second hand value because you may want to change kayaks after two to three years of use. Cheaper kayaks of fiberglass usually drop sharply in price while a good plastic kayak generally drops only 20-30% in price.



This is the best advice. Who would buy a car without testing it? Try different models and when you think you’ve found the right kayak, you should rent it for at least one day and preferably a whole weekend. A good seller usually draws the rent if you buy the kayak of him / her later.



Many times, the buyer chooses a lightweight kayak and a heavy paddle when the paddling would probably have been more enjoyable with a lighter paddle and slightly heavier kayak.

So, there you have it.  Hopefully these tips have helped steer you in the right direction.  The key is to find the best kayak for YOU, and everyone is different, so make sure you do plenty of research before buying.

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