To buy a kayak is to make an investment in a long-lasting piece of equipment. A kayak costs more than a pair of running shoes, but less than a decent bicycle. They are strong and robust and will see you enjoying many, many years of paddling for sport, fitness and recreation.
Kayaks are not created equal. Between the many brands, there are differences between models, features, quality, strength, fittings, and applications.
First, decide what you most want to do with paddling. Is your interest in fishing, bird watching, recreational, social, paddling with children, fitness or touring on rivers, sea, or flatwater? Contact your local kayak dealer or even the kayaks brands directly to ask for their opinion on the best model for your requirements.
Then, we then encourage you to compare the kayaks across various brands that suit your application.
Key items to look out for include:
- Handles – kayaks will be carried from car / boathouse to water. Do the handles offer comfort and not cut into your hand?
- Are fittings attached to the kayak by means of bolts screwed into moulded-in inserts or have holes been drilled into the deck to attach fittings? Moulded-in inserts are stronger and waterproof, and they do not compromise the integrity of the kayak shell.
- Is the moulded seat sculpted and shaped for comfort and support or is it a flat area that cannot be used without a consumable add-on seat? Don’t be shy to sit on kayaks in the store. See how the seat feels on your bottom. Kayaks are not (and should not!) designed for you to lie back as if you’re on a Lazy-boy chair.
- Is the footwell positioned lower than the seat for a more comfortable sitting position?
- Does the kayak have hatches and/or tankwell to stow gear?
- Are fittings provided to secure gear to the deck? Do these fittings give you options? Like, can you use bungee, cord, rope, tie downs with the fittings or only what has been supplied with the kayak?
- When you stand on the deck to sit down, does the plastic dent in? The deck should be sufficiently rigid to not dent in.
- Does the kayak offer useful features like a paddle rest and bottle holder?
- Can the footrests be adjusted or are they moulded in? If moulded, do your feet sit firmly on the rest provided?
- Are your feet together or are your feet and legs apart? Feet together is more comfortable and more ergonomic, allowing your legs and hips to move as you paddle. Feet together also gives leverage to your paddle stroke.
- Does the kayak have paddle cutaways, which allow for a natural paddle stroke without the paddle blade hitting the wide deck with each stroke?
- How easily can you get in and out of the kayak? Is there a flat surface on which to place your feet? Try getting in and out of the kayak in the store and, if you have the opportunity, try this on water.
- If you are an angler, does the kayak have an angler version with angling accessories like rod holders, deck rails and an anchor trolley?
When you buy a kayak, you are spending your hard-earned money. Be an educated consumer. Compare specs, performance, quality and features of kayaks before you buy.