Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Top 5 Considerations For Selecting A Kayak

We are very excited to have this guest post from Austin Kayak, who really know their stuff. Please visit their web site if you find this post useful!

For Beginners: Tips For Selecting a Kayak

by Joseph Dowdy

Picking out a kayak that is best suited for you may seem like a daunting task. After all, there are tons of different makes, models, sizes, styles and materials to choose from. But despite the sometimes staggering selection you can make it easier on yourself by considering a few factors in your purchase decision. Start by making the simple decisions:

Sit Inside or Sit On Top? The most basic way to classify different kayaks starts in the cockpit area. Sit Insides have an enclosed cockpit versus a Sit On Top (SOT) which offers seating on the kayak’s ‘deck’. SOT’s also have scupper tubes which allow water to drain (and enter) the deck area, making them virtually impossible to sink. Both types are popular for recreational use but you’ll find that Sit Insides, which can be more protective against harsher elements, are more popular for whitewater and touring use while SOT’s, which are more customizable and easier to enter/exit, are more commonly used for fishing, diving and general recreation.

Solo or Tandem? When you’re buying with more than yourself in mind, a tandem kayak is something you’ll want to consider. Single kayaks are great for their flexibility, but when a family member or even just a close friend becomes a factor, the space and money saved by a two-seater could be your best option. More and more commonly, tandems are made with the option to remove a seat and slide the other into the middle of the ‘yak to make it usable as a single.

What’s the best Hull Shape? The shape of a kayak’s hull will very much determine how it performs in terms of stability, speed and maneuverability. Without getting too complicated in the explanation, there are really three basic types: rounded (fast and maneuverable), v-shape (fast and better for straight line paddling) & flat (slower but more stable). More recently, pontoon shaped hulls have begun to sprout up which sacrifice turning ability for even greater stability compared to flat bottomed hulls.

How long and how wide? Choosing the right size for you can be done following this simple rule of thumb. Longer kayaks translate into faster, more efficient, better straight line paddling but more difficult maneuverability. Wider kayaks sacrifice speed, efficiency and maneuverability for stability. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but this seems to most often the case.

What material should you buy? Most commonly, kayaks are made of a very durable plastic and if you’re looking for your first kayak and don’t want to spend a lot of extra cash, plastic is probably the kind you want. But for performance minded paddlers with a larger budget, kayaks made from Thermoformed ABS or other composite materials like fiberglass or kevlar are lighter and can provide more ‘glide’ on the water leading to better efficiency and speed.

Once you answer these basic questions, you’ll be well on your way to selecting the best kayak for your needs. Still confused? Check out this neat application built by Austin Canoe and Kayak that will help you narrow down your choices by answering a series of questions.

About the Author
Joseph is an avid kayaker based out of the central Texas area. He has paddled many of central Texas’ waterways and has attended and/or participated in many kayak fishing tournaments, races and paddling festivals. He’s currently employed at Austin Canoe and Kayak (ACK) and loves that he gets to spend time working with his favorite toys.

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