As a seasoned kayaker, I know that each kayak you buy is different. If you’re new, then you better stick to the best kayaks for beginners, otherwise you’ll have a hard time steering your boat. Of course, as a beginner, you most likely don’t know much when it comes to buying kayaks.
Don’t worry, I’m here to help. If you’re just starting out your kayak journey, I’ve prepared a small kayak buying guide and a list of the best kayak for beginners in my opinion. Through this, you can narrow down your choices so you won’t have such a hard time choosing your boat.
8 Top Beginners Kayak For 2020
Our Top Picks
The Sun Dolphin Aruba is known for its comfortable design with a large cockpit and a high back support. It also has adjustable foot braces to keep your feet exactly where you want them without feeling uncomfortable. Additionally, it has a big gear storage area that allows you to store all your necessary gears without crowding the boat.
The best thing about the Sun Dolphin Aruba is that it’s one of the best kayaks for beginners in the market. Its wide build is made for stability, and as mentioned above, the cockpit and storage area are both huge to give you a lot of space for your boat ride. Lastly, it is made of a very durable polyethylene material.
While it is made of UV stabilized polyethylene, it does show some fading after a long time in the sunlight. Fortunately, it won’t really affect the material, so you can still continue using it for a long time.
The Intex Challenger is an inflatable kayak that is ideal for beginners, especially those who are looking for a recreational kayak. Even though it is inflatable, it is made of a tough welded material to ensure its durability. It also has a comfortable cockpit with a huge space and I-beam floors.
What makes this kayak great is that it can carry up to 220 pounds. This means that it can take your weight and the weight of some safety gears for your trip. It also is very wide to allow overall comfort and stability. The seat also with a backrest so you can actually fish while you’re using it.
Do take note that this kayak is great for leisure rides and practice, but it might not be able to take rough rides. As long as you stay in calm waters, you should be fine.
This kayak brand is quite like the previously mentioned Intex Kayak but with two seats. It also has adjustable seats with their own backrest for full comfort. It also has a large cockpit for added comfort and space. It’s painted in yellow to make it visible even at night in case of an emergency.
Since it is built for two people, the weight capacity is higher than the Intex brand mentioned above. This one has a total weight capacity of 400 pounds and can carry two people along with two sets of gear. It also has a skeg that’s removable so that you can have better directional stability.
Just like the Intex Challenger, this kayak is only good for calm waters as it is not flexible for maneuvering. It is very stable but can’t make sharp turns in the event of rapids. As such, it’s a great kayak for friends and partners to enjoy together.
The Sevylor Quikpak is an easy-to-use and setup option. It is also made of a very durable PVC material to make it last longer and not break even if it hits the rocks or the curbs. Aside from that, it has a tarpaulin bottom which gives it extra protection from sharp objects that might puncture its body. For extra protection, it has a couple of air chambers that allow the boat to stay on the water in case of damage.
If you’re looking for a fully functional and durable boat, this is definitely the one for you. Aside from the protective features mentioned above, it also has its own airtight system which helps prevent leakage. To add to the overall ease of use, it has a double lock valve for quick inflation and deflation.
Since it’s made of durable PVC, it is built to be heavy. Therefore, you will have to deal with its transfer all the way to the river. However, that’s just a small price to pay for its quality and durability.
This is the best kayak for children due to its child-friendly features and ease of use. First, it has a very compact cockpit design that promotes balance. It is also lightweight with a weight capacity of 130 pounds for both the rider and safety equipment. Lastly, it includes a paddle and a reverse chine to make it very stable in the water.
If you have a child aged 5 years and above, this kayak is a good choice. Aside from it having all the child-friendly features, it has a design that is made just for kids. For example, it has molded finger rails on both sides of the kayak for an easier feel. It is also made to be very durable (made of polyethylene material) to make it last longer.
Of course, this kayak is designed for kids. As such, you won’t be able to use it if your weight exceeds that of its weight capacity.
The Sea Eagle inflatable is what you need if you’re after a smooth and comfortable ride with your friends. This is an easy-to-inflate high frequency welded kayak that has a weight capacity of 650 pounds – which is more than enough to carry around 3 people. It also has an inflatable spray skirt to prevent water from entering the hull. Lastly, it has a self-bailing drain that removes any water in the kayak so it won’t sink.
When it comes to relaxing rides with friends, this boat is definitely your best option. It is so durable with a hull made of tough polykrylar that not even a dog can puncture a hole in it. As such, it only means you can even bring your dog along.
With its weight capacity and total smoothness of movement, you will have to inflate the kayak pretty often, especially if three people use it at the same time very often. However, it only takes 8 minutes to fully inflate it.
For those who are looking for the ideal fishing kayak, the Sun Dolphin Journey is an ideal choice. Its wide frame was made perfectly for still waters and stability. Aside from that, it has a portable accessory carrier and two flush mounts with a fishing rod holder.
Since it’s designed for fishing, it’s also very lightweight and easy to carry. It is made of a very durable polyethylene material that is slightly UV-resistant but very tough. This allows it to still keep the kayak intact even if it hits the rocks.
It has a weight capacity of 280 pounds which is pretty good for a kayak. However, you might want to limit the number of fish that you’ll bring in so that it won’t overload your boat. You also have to take note of the gear that you’re going to bring.
If you’re looking for maneuverability and stability at the same time, this one is a great choice. Compared to other kayaks that sacrifice maneuverability for stability and vice versa, the Ocean Kayak Frenzy provides both because of its tri-form feature. It has all the features for comfort such as paddings, cushioning, and overall support. It also has molded side handles, a cup holder, and a rod holder. It is also really spacious and has a length of 9 feet.
This is a very balanced kayak that is great for overall recreational use. It can be used for practice, leisure boating, and even for fishing. It is an all-rounder that provides comfy features intended to really make your ride comfortable.
Of course, it’s not advisable to try this out on rapid waters because you might not be able to handle the movement. Other than that, it might not be able to help you maneuver on raging currents like the sleeker kayaks do.
How to Choose the Right Kayaks for Beginners
Those are some of my personal choices for the best kayaks for beginners. If you’re still pretty overwhelmed because of the choices, you can further narrow them down with this guide. When looking for kayaks, these factors are what you should take note of:
Generally, there are two types of kayaks that you can choose if you’re just starting out (choice for beginners): the sit-in kayaks and sit-on-top kayaks. Sit-in kayaks are your traditional type that offers more control since your body is literally in the boat. Sit-on-top kayaks, on the other hand, are more like regular boats and maybe not that good for sports kayaking. For casual rides, you might want to get the sit-on-top type, but if you want to practice actual kayaking, buy the sit-in type instead.
There are three categories for you to choose from. These are the recreational kayak, day touring kayak, and touring kayak. The recreational kayak is probably the easiest to use since it’s very stable and great for still waters. It’s not good for long trips and wavy waters though. Day touring kayaks, on the other hand, are sleeker and can move better. You can make sharper turns and ride on some wavy waters. Lastly, the touring kayak is ideal for sports and rough waters.
Ideally, the best kayaks for beginners are usually the recreational ones because they’re the most stable and give beginners a better feel to kayaking. Gradually, you can upgrade to a day touring kayak to handle even rougher water.
Usually, kayaks are made of one of these three materials: polyethylene plastic, ABS plastic, or composites like carbon fiber or fiberglass. The polyethylene plastic material is the most affordable but also the most durable. Since it’s durable, it’s also quite heavy. It’s only weakness is harsh sunlight wherein the material might wither over time.
Kayaks made of ABS plastic are probably as durable and also lighter. They also have better UV resistance as compared to polyethylene boats. However, they are often more expensive. They do generally last longer than polyethylene so the price is still worth it.
The ones made of composites like fiberglass and carbon fiber are great for overall performance and speed. They also have great UV resistance and are not too expensive overall. However, they’re not very durable and might break when they hit rocks too often.
When shopping for kayaks for beginners, I suggest ones made of polyethylene or ABS plastic material since these are the most durable. If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably be hitting some rocks and curbs from time to time. That said, you’ll most likely need a kayak that can take a few hits without cracking.
This refers to how much your boat can take. The higher the weight capacity is, the better for you – especially if you’ll be carrying a lot of gears (Fishing Gears if you like fishing) and extra kayak paddle. The ones with a higher weight capacity are also better for long rides.
The last factor to take note of would be the overall size of your kayak. The general rule here is that the longer the kayak, the faster and more efficient it will be. Meanwhile, the wider it is, the more stable. Therefore, the best kayaks for beginners are probably the wider recreational ones since they might not have the skill to take the slender and faster ones yet.
Other Essential Gears to Bring when Kayaking
Once you buy your kayak, you may now go on your first ride. Before you embark on your first trip, you have to make sure you bring the essentials. You’ll need to bring some of the basic safety gears that every kayaker needs. They are as follows:
Personal Flotation Device
The first thing you have to bring is a personal flotation device. This device helps you stay afloat even if your boat crashes. It will keep your head above the water so that you won’t drown. This is probably the most important thing that you’ll have to bring whenever you go kayaking.
The next thing to have are flotation bags. These are small bags that prevent water from entering the kayak if your boat is sinking. They can also help keep the boat afloat for a time until you have already paddled your way to the shore.
A helmet is extremely important when you go kayaking. If ever you get thrown out of your boat, at least the helmet can protect your head from hitting a rock or some hard water.
A spray skirt is really important if you’re kayaking in stormy weather and rough water. This prevents any water from going into the kayak and making it sink.
First Aid Kit
Lastly, you have to bring your first aid kit with you. Your first aid kit must have all the essentials needed if ever you get into an accident. At least the first aid kit will keep you going until you get help or get to the nearest hospital.
Different Types of Kayaks To Choose From
We’ve already discussed the two main types of kayaks by design (sit-in and sit-on-top). We can further break down kayak types by usage. There are four types of kayaks based on usage. These are the following:
Whitewater kayaks are the ones usually used in rivers and rapids. They are built for speed and maneuverability, which why they are built to be sleek and short. They’re about nine feet long and have circular hulls. Due to their shape, they’re very easy to maneuver especially in rapids and water with a strong current.
The sea kayak focuses more on stability and a bit of speed. Stability is the main characteristic here because kayakers who use this type will be out on the sea. These kayaks are built longer and wider to provide more stability in the water. Also, they have flat hulls to ensure that the boat won’t topple over.
Surf kayaks, as the name implies, act kind of like surfboards, except that they’re kayaks. They’re built for cutting through water and catching waves. This is why they usually have very hard edges and flat hulls so that you can ride on one like you would a surfboard.
They are further categorized into high-performance type and international class type. HP types are those that focus on speed, while IC types are more on stability and smooth riding. Take note that these kayaks are for more advanced riders and are not ideal for beginners.
Fishing Kayak & Sit Inside Kayak
A fishing kayak which is generally used for fishing. It’s that wide recreational kayak that you can take out into the rivers so you can catch a couple of fish. This type is built for stability since you’ll need slow movement when angling.
Is an 8ft kayak too small?
Kayaks that are under 8ft, usually works well with beginners. These are perfect size for kids and youths. The best length kayak for a beginner is - 8ft to 13ft.
What is the best type of kayak for a beginner?
The best type of kayak for kids and learners are the kayaks those are easy to maintain, stable, lightweight and comes with good maneuverability. In such cases, we would suggest Intext.
Which kayaks are most stable for beginners?
If you look for optimum stablity, you can go for Pontoon Hulls. These are great for calm water.
Do I need any special gear for my Beginners kayak?
Well, you always should wear a PFD while kayaking and if not, atleast store one on your kayak. For beginners, a PFD is a must.
What Type of Kayak Paddle Should a beginner to buy?
Pick a paddle that you are comfortable with. Don't go for a very long one and very shorter one. We have a full paddle size guide here.
When looking for the best kayaks for beginners, you need to know exactly what you’re looking for, which is why I created the list above covering some best picks and suggestions on which to go for and which to not.
This way, you won’t be overwhelmed with all the choices that are out there in the market.
If you know what features you’re looking for, you won’t have a hard time choosing your kayak. Of course, our top 8 choices are some of the best you’ll find; so I suggest you stick with those brands so you won’t have to look further.
You can also read, REI's article about how to get started kayaking for the first time.
Let me know your thoughts. Kindly leave a comment below. Thanks!