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Types of Kayaks

There are four broad categories of kayaks: General Recreation, Whitewater, Touring and Racing.

General Recreation

A recreational kayak is for those who want to get out and paddle around on calm water without paddling for long distances. These boats are easy to maneuver and rather stable, perfect for the beginner. Recreational kayaks are also good for activities such as fishing, scuba diving and paddling with small children.

Whitewater

Whitewater kayaks are used primarily on rivers and streams with fast flowing water and rapids. Whitewater kayaks are shorter than touring kayaks because this helps them to turn quickly and easily and maneuver around rocks and other obstacles.

Longer whitewater boats are typically designed for general river running, kayaks designed for steep creeks are usually shorter with a lot of volume, and whitewater playboats for playing around in rapids are shorter with less volume.

Touring

Touring kayaks are longer and narrower than recreational and whitewater kayaks. They are designed to slice through open water very efficiently, thus enabling the paddler to travel faster and with less effort.

These kayaks are perfect for paddling over large lakes or in the ocean. Since these kayaks are typically long and thus harder to turn, touring kayaks are often offered with rudders on them to aid in maneuvering the kayak.

Which is the best choice for you?

To determine which kayak is best, you first need to decide what kind of water you will be paddling on. You also need to ask yourself other questions about your paddling objectives. Here are the most basic questions:
  • Where do you plan to paddle? On small lakes, swift moving rivers, large open bodies of water, or whitewater rivers?
  • What are your primary reasons for buying a kayak? Relaxation, exploring, excitement, exercise, or all of the above?
  • How do you plan to use your kayak? Just for paddling or to facilitate other pursuits such as fishing and camping?
  • Do you need a one or two person kayak?

 

 


Which is the best choice for you?

To determine which kayak is best, you first need to decide what kind of water you will be paddling on. You also need to ask yourself other questions about your paddling objectives. Here are the most basic questions: 

 

  • Where do you plan to paddle? On small lakes, swift moving rivers, large open bodies of water, or whitewater rivers? 
  • What are your primary reasons for buying a kayak? Relaxation, exploring, excitement, exercise, or all of the above? 
  • How do you plan to use your kayak? Just for paddling or to facilitate other pursuits such as fishing and camping? 
  • Do you need a one or two person kayak? 

 


Basics of a Kayak

Factors such as length, width, shape of the hull and the rocker all affect how a kayak will perform the water. 

 


Length

The length of a kayak will give you an idea of how fast it can go.  Longer kayaks generally can travel faster than shorter kayaks and are easier to paddle in a straight line. Shorter kayaks tend to be more maneuverable, they turn more easily which is great if you are avoiding rocks or paddling into tight places. Touring kayaks are usually longer than the other types because they are often used for trips that will require paddling over a distance in wide open water and for carrying gear. 

 


Width

The width of a kayak is an important factor in stability and speed. The wider a boat is the more stable it will be when getting into it, paddling, and getting out of.  Wider boats have two main drawbacks: speed (or lack thereof), and the increased effort required paddling it.  The wider the boat, the more surface area is in contact with the water thus making it slower.

 

Wide kayaks, because of their stability, tend to follow the surface of the water. In calm water when you tilt, the kayak doesn't tilt much. This advantage in calmer conditions can be a disadvantage in long trips over rough water, as the kayak reacts to the ever changing slope of the wave tossed open ocean. A more "tippy" kayak ignores most of the motions of the passing waves.

 


The difference between plastic, fiberglass, wood, Kevlar or carbon fiber.

Plastic is heavier, more resistant to damage, harder to repair.  Fiberglass is lighter, easier to repair, results in finer lines, but is more expensive.  Fiberglass is generally more rigid than plastic, which can result in a faster boat.

 

Wood is light, easy to repair, needs maintenance.  There are also a few companies that manufacture wood/epoxy-construction kayaks, but they tend to be more expensive.

 

More exotic materials (like Kevlar, carbon fiber) tend to be lighter and costlier. 

 


Fitting a Kayak

You can pad any boat, but it should fit fairly well to begin with.  The contact points with the boat are the feet, knees (on the underside of the deck), hips (on the sides of the seat), and bum (on the seat). The size of your feet is a consideration too. In general, a sea kayak needs to be comfortable because you are going to be in it all day, perhaps without a break. Some people prefer a looser fit in a sea kayak than in a whitewater boat, allowing space to stretch and move about.

"stress is caused by not kayaking enough"