How to Buy a Kayak│What to Consider before Buying a Kayak

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: February 19, 2021
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It all began with one fine summer day when we brought our kayaks into the bright clear waters that would become the aim of our pursuit for the following week. The sparkling-green river was quiet and smooth during that time of the year. And, the boats entered their wakes so neatly that the water seemed to crack with the invasion.

The kayaks made their way down the river with incredibly little effort. And, the periodic movement of double-bladed paddles gliding down the river made it all the more charming. We were able to crisply negotiate the mild power of whitewater we met downstream. A few of us went through our rolls, just to be sure we still could.

When we finally reached the destination, we were prepared to go back right away and start all over again.

On that trip, experts reminded us that kayaking is truly an exciting and personal effort. The maxim that you don’t sit in a kayak, you wear it, became real. In contrast to a popular fallacy, kayaks are reasonably easy to paddle, and you don’t require plenty of experience to run gentle waves or whitewater in them.

Except for a few major designs, kayaks are not wildly cranky. The kayaks maintained a low center of gravity. As a result, most of them remain quite stable. After you gain a little experience, you will be able to take control of it.

What Type of Kayaking Will You Do?

There are plenty of kayak models available on the market. The destinations for the sport are what determine the kayak models. So, the first step in purchasing a kayak is to recognize your needs. 

Here are a couple of questions to ask for starters:

  • Do you want a kayak for racing? 
  • Or, one could be able to tackle rapids? 
  • Or, one to begin touring for a week in the wilderness? 
  • How often will you use the kayak? 
  • How much are you willing to spend? 

After you have carefully measured these and many other questions, the next step is to revise the differences among the numerous options.

Different Types of Kayaks To Know Before Buying The Perfect One For You

Recreational Kayaks 

Recreational kayaks are versatile boats designed for mild river trips. These kayaks are perfect for other casual use on bays and ponds. They are usually wider and shorter than touring kayaks. This distinctive feature comes with an advantage as kayakers find them easier to turn. And, the disadvantage is recreational kayaks make it more difficult to travel in a straight line.

Our Recommended Recreational Kayak: Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak

Touring Kayaks 

Touring kayaks are often designed for extensive wilderness trips and all the gear they involve. These long kayaks are favored for stability. Additionally, they have good carrying capacity. Touring kayaks track well, as a result, they do not turn as easily as shorter boats. 

They are sometimes referred to as sea kayaks, though they’re certainly not limited to the ocean. Some models are suitable for day touring. These kayaks offer less storage space. But, they make it up for less storage space with lighter weight and improved maneuverability.

Our Recommended Touring Kayak: Eddyline Fathom Kayak

Whitewater Kayaks 

Whitewater kayaks offer outstanding maneuverability to tackle rapids. They tend to be shorter and can have rounded bottoms or flat planning hulls. And, whitewater kayaks deal with waves better. The more rocker (upturn in the ends) is what allows them to deal with waves.

Whitewater kayak has its fair share of disadvantages. They are not enjoyable for touring, because kayakers become strained when paddling to keep it in a straight line.

Whitewater kayaks evolved a lot over the last five or six years, so we’ve discussed them in detail on this site. Make sure you check them out.

Our Recommended Whitewater Kayak: Dagger Mamba 8.6 Kayak

Downriver Kayaks 

These are special boats designed for adrenaline junkies. Downriver kayaks travel quickly through the water. As a result, they are most often preferred for racing. These boats have a very long and narrow design. 

The design makes these boats tippy. That is why experts of this site do not recommend these boats for novice paddlers. Their straight keel allows kayakers to track efficiently. But, it is difficult to turn with a downriver kayak.

What About the Kayak’s Dimensions?


Longer kayaks come with plenty of advantages: kayakers enjoy easy paddling in longer kayaks. Longer kayaks are usually more stable. And, they are capable of transporting heavier loads with less loss of performance. They also track better. Besides easy maneuverability, these kayaks move faster and glide farther with each stroke than shorter boats. As a result, kayakers with long vessels enjoy greater efficiency with less effort.

Shorter kayaks, in contrast, are no doubt lighter. They are also comparatively less expensive (depending on material choice, of course). Kayakers find them less cumbersome, and easier to transport. But their most important asset is making quick turns. A short hull is also suitable for paddling on narrow streams. Smaller individuals and children favor these kayaks.


The width of a kayak has a specific control on the boat’s managing characteristics. The main function of width is stability. However, handling is forgone for that additional width, and a slim kayak does not work fine in strong currents.

Extra width does add to a boat’s transport capacity (though not in so far as length), but kayaks that are really wide need a lot of attempt to paddle, because the hull has to drive aside a lot more water.

How Do Hulls Differ?

The common principles of kayak design are really very straightforward. Hulls with flat bottoms, hard chines (sharp, nearly right-angle edges where bottom and sides meet), and greater flare (curvature of the sides outward) have greater stability. Conversely, round hulls with soft chines (a slow curve where bottom and sides join) and less flare lead to less stability but are more lively and easier to turn over if they should tip over.

A lengthy, slim kayak with a bow-shaped resembling a narrow V will be fast because the bow cuts through the water rather than stacking in front of the boat. If instead you make a kayak that is wide in the beam and bring that fullness forward and backward, you have a freighter, not a racer. That kayak might be suitable for moving big loads and riding waves, but it will not be fast or very quick.


Kayaks are also symmetrical. Symmetry means that the front half and the back half of the kayak feature the same shape, or asymmetrical, which means that they don’t.

Symmetry is a factor to consider when you are determining the efficiency of the boat as it moves through the water. Symmetry also affects its ability to turn. Symmetrical boats are suitable for maneuvering quickly, as in tackling small streams or whitewater. 

Asymmetrical boat designs usually extend and reorganize the bow for a more competent and faster channel through the water. Directional control is improved, however turning ability is decreased.

There are two kinds of asymmetrical shapes: fish form and Swede form. Fish form boats gain more volume fore (ahead) of the midpoint, conversely, Swede form has more volume aft (behind) of the midpoint.


The expansion of the kayak’s hull from one point to the other (when viewed from the side of the kayak) is called rocker. Kayaks with a lot of rocker turn by far, because their ends assemble higher in the water and present less resistance to waves. However, they do not track well.

On the other hand, kayaks with little rocker track much better comparatively. It is because they oppose the rotating forces of waves, current, wind, and inept paddling strokes. Consequently, they do not turn as effortlessly when the paddler uses a proper turning stroke or lean.

The rockered bow, obvious on whitewater kayak stalwart Jared Seiler’s boat on the Patagonia Triple Crown expedition.

Bottom Shapes

The bottom of a kayak (when viewed from its ends) varies from flat to V-shaped. Flat-bottomed kayaks appear very stable at first. Rounded hulls are at first less stable than flat bottoms. But, in the end, they offer greater secondary stability when the boat is tilted. 

The more distinct the V-shape on the bottom, the superior the boat’s directional control. But, this decreases its initial stability. Flat planning hulls are general on whitewater boats, while touring-kayak designers favor more rounded bottoms.


The change between the base of the kayak and its sides has recognized the chine. An unexpected, nearly right-angle change is called a hard chine, and a smoother, more curved one is a soft chine.

Flare is defined as the slant of a kayak’s sides outer from the hull. Kayaks with flared sides offer better stability but are more difficult to turn over.

Bottom Line

Buying a kayak requires research effort – whether you want to buy a brand new kayak or a used one. This buyer’s guide will introduce you to every critical aspect regarding kayaks – from water type to chines of a kayak. After going through this guide, you will feel confident in buying the perfect kayak for yourself.  

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