How To Choose the Right Kayak For You

How to Choose the Right Kayak for You…

Here are some factors that you will need to consider when choosing a kayak:

Paddlers skill level 
It’s usually best for a beginner kayaker to start with the most stable types of boat. After a paddler gains more experience and confidence they might choose to switch to a faster boat with less stability.
What type of water will you be paddling on?
Different types of boats are best suited for different types of water. Consider where you are most likely to paddle such as ocean/surf, flat open waters, creeks and marshes, swift moving rivers and so on.
Portability, weight and storage of kayak.
What type of vehicle do you drive and what length of boat is it capable of transporting? How much weight can you lift onto the roof of your vehicle? Do you have a secure location to store a kayak?
Paddlers body type and physical capabilities.
Kayaks come in a verity of lengths. Taller people need more leg room and therefore require a longer boat then shorter people.  People with knee and hip problems might prefer a boat with a wider cockpit or an open cockpit because they are easier to get in and out of. Keep in mind that kayaks aren’t one size fits all; so you should consider who will be using it.

Cost of kayak

A new kayak can range anywhere from $250 – $4,000 depending on the type of boat and the material that it is made from. You can also consider purchasing a used kayak to lessen the cost. Many modern kayaks are quite durable and will last for many many years, so purchasing a used one is completely acceptable.

The following are some pros and con’s of of the most common types of kayak on the market today:

1.Touring or Sea Kayaks: have a smaller enclosed cockpit and a longer, thinner hull (compared to many of the other types of kayak). These boats are great for use on flat water and in ocean surf as well. This is usually the preferred type of boat for experienced kayakers on open water.


  • Move quickly through the water; these types of kayaks are well known for speed. 
  • Can be some of the lightest types of kayak (depending on the material that the boat is made of).
  • Ease of paddling. You will get farther while taking less strokes with this type of boat.
  • Good storage capacity. *The last 2 reasons are why they are the preferred type of kayak for long journeys. 
  • Good for rolling.
  • Can be used on many types of water.
  • Can be used in cold and adverse weather conditions.


  • Most unstable (most likely to tip over and capsize), and one of the most difficult to get in and out of. 
  • Nearly impossible to re-enter these boats while floating in deep water unless trained on proper technique. 
  • The longer the boat the harder it is to store and transport.
  • Typically the most expensive type of kayak to purchase.
  • Not good for use in thinner or shallow bodies of water where a lot of turning is required. 
2. White Water Kayaks: are designed for exactly that, paddling rapids! These boats are typically much shorter then other types of kayak and have a very different hull shape. They are best suited for paddling fast moving rivers.


  • Very maneuverable
  • Excellent for rolling.
  • Very durable.
  • Smaller in size and lighter then other kayaks which is good for storage and transportation.
  • Moderately priced.


  • Not intended for use on other types of water.
  • Tight fitting cockpit can be difficult to get in and out of. 
  • Not intended for deep water re-entry. 
3. Recreational Sea kayaks:  have a semi-enclosed cockpit, and are very stable. These boats can be used on small, calm bodies of water as well as on open coastal waters with chop. You can find them in a wide verity of lengths to fit most paddlers.


  • Great for beginner or less flexible paddlers.
  • Stable
  • Wide cockpit which makes it much easier to get in and out of then traditional sea kayaks.
  • Moderate speed and maneuverability.
  • Can be used in surf, rain and in cold weather conditions.
  • Can be used on many types of water.
  • Moderately priced.
  • Very durable.


  • Slower and less maneuverable then most traditional sea kayaks.
  • This is the heaviest type of kayak, which can make transportation and storage more difficult.

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Sit-on-top kayaks: are wide-bottomed boats with scupper holes. When paddling this type of kayak your whole body is sitting on top of the boat, unlike a sea kayak where the bottom half of the paddlers body is tucked into the boat. They can be used on flat water as well as water with chop.


  • Great for beginner paddlers.
  • The most stable (least likely to tip over and capsize), type of kayak and the easiest to get in and out of.
  • These boats are great for swimming because its relatively easy to re-enter the boat from deep water and the scupper holes will allow excess water to drain from the boat.
  • Relatively inexpensive to purchase.


  • Slowest and least maneuverable.
  • Not good for cold weather or adverse conditions; paddlers whole body is exposed to spray, water and weather.

Sit-on-top Kayak

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5. Inflatable kayaks are kayaks that can be inflated and deflated for easier transport and storage. They come in a verity of lengths and cockpit types. 


  • Light weight
  • Can be stored and transported very easily.
  • Inexpensively priced.
  • Can be used on many different bodies of water.


  • Least durable.
  • Require time and effort to inflate and deflate.
  • Require more repairs and maintenance then other kayaks.

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Before you purchase your own kayak, come take a guided kayak tour with Terrapin Adventures! We have a fleet of very stable recreational kayaks that we use for our tours.
Missy Lauterbach, Naturalist / Adventure Guide at Terrapin Adventures
This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “ How To Choose the Right Kayak For You ”

  1. This summer my husband and I are hoping to try out kayaking on a couple different trips. We want to make sure we are choosing the right kayak to help make these adventures enjoyable. I hadn’t thought about how someone with knee or hips problems might want a boat with a wider cockpit to get in and out of easier.

  2. Max Jones says:

    We went on a vacation last year, and we loved kayaking while we were traveling. I think that it would be a lot of fun to get into kayaking again this year, and get our own gear! I’m glad I found your article, because you talked about choosing a boat for the right kind of water, so I’ll have to think about where we would likely be kayaking most! Thanks for the suggestion!