People often ask, – what are the best kayaks for beginners? But what they do not know is that the answer to this question lies with the answers you give for these two questions;
What do you intend to use your kayak for?-
Exercises, competition, or journey?
Once you have these two basic questions, you will have the answer to the first question. For us, we are just here to give guidelines on how to buy a kayak for beginners and also review the best rated kayak for beginners so that you can have an easier time comparing the best models.
It is true that there are thousands of kayak models in the market, and you can easily get overwhelmed in making the right choice when buying a kayak.
Luckily, we made this guide as comprehensive as possible. If you take your time to read it, then you will be in a better place to buy the right beginners kayak.
Let’s get started…
Our Top 3 best kayaks for beginners in 2020 – Comparison Table
|Intex Explorer K2 Kayak||Intex Challenger Kayak Series
|Sundolphin Bali SS 12
|Maximum weight||400 pounds||220lb||250 pounds|
|Great for||Lakes and mild rivers||Solo rides for lakes and mild rivers||Lakes and rivers|
Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
Our first pick is Intex Explorer K2 Kayak that comes with everything you need for a better kayaking experience. Although this kayak is designed for first-time kayakers, it is also suitable for pro-level.
It also offers excellent traction and stability when kayaking in calm waters, thanks to the streamlined design. Lucky for you, it comes at a pocket-friendly price if you are tight on budget. What makes it outstanding?
The Intex Explorer has a roomy interior that can fit up to two travelers. This is a convenient design for parents who want to introduce their kids to kayaking. The spacious cockpit allows for better stretching with an adjustable backrest for a comfortable kayaking experience. With a maximum load capacity of 400 pounds, this kayak is enough for you and all your gears.
This material is constructed with a high-quality vinyl material to withstand the rigors it faces while kayaking. This kayak will not pop or tear whenever you take it out onto slow-paced rivers. It also features two aluminum paddles that are durable to ensure you get just as much use of your paddles as the kayak itself.
Should your kayak tear down, the package comes with a ready repair kit. Intex put a lot of innovation here by providing separate air chambers to keep you afloat if one of the chambers gets a puncture. Moreover, the grab lines provide an easy way to tie the boat to other boats when you need dragging.
- Construction: 30-gauge P.V.C.
- Capacity: 400 lbs.
- Weight: 30 lbs. (13 kg)
- Type: cockpit
- Safety: Brighter yellow exterior
- The removable skeg improves tracking
- Bright color enhances visibility
- Easy to inflate and deflate
- The back passenger may have a little confined leg space.
Tip: Suitable for two paddlers
Intex Challenger Kayak Series
Intex is a brand that has created a name for producing different kinds of kayaks for the last few years. What separates the Intex Challenger as one of their top-class kayaks is the less weight at about 27 lbs., making it suitable for beginner solo travelers or if you want to introduce your kids to kayaking.
Apart from the kayak, you get an 86-inch aluminum oar, a hand pump, carry case, and a kit for carrying out repairs, so it’s a complete package.
How quickly it inflates is one thing, and how easy it is to transport is another. You want something that’s light and compact to fit in your pack or car, as well as something that inflates in minutes. This kayak offers that with a high-output pump that allows for easy inflation in about 10 minutes. The design features Boston valves to make the operation a breeze. It has a weight capacity of 220 pounds.
What we like about its construction is the 30-gauge vinyl material that can resist punctures and abrasions. The cockpit is designed for maximum comfort featuring a large seat with an integrated adjustable backseat that lets you kayak effortlessly. The model also features a unique inflatable floor that’s designed with I-beam for rigidity. There are two air chambers for safety, durability, and reliability of the kayak.
For kayakers who intend to paddle in calm lakes and rivers, the Challenger K1 is perfect for you. It is streamlined to ensure more traction and easy paddling for beginners. The skeg is removable in case you need additional stability or traction when paddling in shallow waters. You can even tie it to other boats or a dock using the grab line on both ends. The kayak offers additional cargo net to keep things secure.
- Construction: 30-gauge rugged vinyl
- Type: Cockpit
- I-beam floor
- Weighs 27.2 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 220 pounds
- Extremely portable
- Durable construction
- Easy to set up and operate
- Eye-catching design
- Only suitable for flat water
Tip: Suitable for solo travelers
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10
Looking for a compact recreational kayak that’s built for lakes and rivers? This sit-in kayak from Sun Dolphin is ideal for all-weather paddling for solo travelers. Although it weighs 40 pounds, it should offer enough storage for enough gear on a fun day. One thing to keep in mind with this kayak is it’s not suited for fishing and does not have fishing accessories, but you can modify your own.
Wide hull design
The Aruba 10 comes with a wide cockpit and narrow ends that makes it excellent on calm waters. It measures about 30 inches wide, so it should offer quite a stable base for newcomers who haven’t spent a lot of time on the water. The hull is durable as well, featuring a high-density polyether plastic that’s UV-resistant. You can even use it in salty water, but do remember to rinse afterward.
The stadium-style cockpit is pretty deep, meaning it can give beginners a less of an enclosed feeling. A roomy cockpit means that you get a little more freedom while paddling, which is excellent for those that are not used to being contained within the hull.
Intermediate kayakers can add a sprayskirt to give it added protection from water spills to keep you warm when paddling in cold seasons. Inside the cockpit are adjustable foot braces that slide with ease to fit different legs. The padded thigh pads on the rim of the seat provide comfort, especially on those long paddling sessions.
This kayak is designed purely for recreational paddling with extra-large storage. It has two main storage options: the main storage at the back and sealed hatch to put extra gear you want dry. On top of that, you get bungee cords where you can tie down additional items like a small backpack. You also get a water bottle holder. Aruba offers a weight capacity of 395 pounds, making it an ideal pick for expeditions.
- Construction: Polyurethane plastic
- Type: Cockpit
- Weight: 40 pounds
- Weight Capacity: 395 pounds (113 kg)
- 10-feet long x 30-inch wide x 14 inches deep
- Offers a spacious cockpit
- It’s easy to maneuver
- Has a durable build
- Water tends to come in too easily
Tip: Suitable for expeditions
Sundolphin Bali SS 12
Unlike the others we’ve reviewed above, this one is a sit-on-top kayak that’s primarily made for rivers and calm lakes. It is 10 feet long and 30 inches wide, making it ideal for speed without affecting its maneuverability.
Most sit-on-top yaks tend to be heavy, but most users are happy to say that you find it easy to take this kayak into the water and back to your house effortlessly. The price is also a steal considering the performance and accessories you get with the package. Read this Sun Dolphin Bali 12 review to find out more about its benefits.
Sundolphin is known for comfort, with an ample seating area that comes with adjustable seat braces to slide into position for anyone. The 30-inch seat is molded into the hulk and features a padded back for extra comfort. The seat also comes with adjustable straps that can fit any paddler. The thigh braces have pads, which are a nifty feature as well, as they offer to protect your legs from touching the side of the vessel, thereby ensuring more comfort when paddling for hours.
Roomy storage and accessory carrier
For being such a compact model, you get more than enough storage for your upcoming adventure. Just in front of the seat, you get a handy sealed storage hatch that works well with small items that you don’t want to become wet. Additionally, there’s a cup holder where you can store your drinks should you feel the need to stay hydrated.
The bow has another storage as well, with bungee cords that could hold your lunch box and some other gear. The cockpit also comes with side pockets to offer extra storage for snacks. There are also bungee cords near the cup holder for your small travel thermos or bottled drinks.
Another storage feature is the portable accessory carrier that sits in the cargo area. It offers a built-in waterproof hatch and has a carrying handle for portability. The P.A.C. is removable so you can decide to carry it or leave the cargo area open for other larger items.
Easy to maneuver
The Bali SS is designed with a 10-foot hull length that ensures easy control on the water. The yak weighs about 44 pounds, which is lighter for paddling. However, due to the lightweight, you could have a rough time trying to stay on course during a windy day. Sun Dolphin used a V-shaped hull at the stern and bow to help boost its performance.
- Construction: High-density Polyethylene
- Style: open cockpit
- Weight: 44 pounds
- Capacity: 400 pounds
- Portable Accessory Carrier
- 12-feet L x 28.5-inch W x 11 inches H
- It’s ideal for beginners
- It’s lightweight and compact
- Offers adequate storage
- The seat lacks a bottom cushion
Tip: Ideal for any beginner including kids
Intex Excursion Pro
For one or two passengers, this kayak is a lightweight and an excellent option for fishers who want to get off the shore. Coming from Intex, a brand that has been launching Kayaks for years, this model should be on your list of the best kayaks for beginners. Let’s have a look at its features:
Suitable for two
For those looking for space for two, this inflatable option offers a 151″ of length and is 37 inches wide, which is enough. Besides, the yak has two seats, one at the back of the other with enough space for both paddlers to rest their legs. The kayak is 18” high, which minimizes the chances of getting your boat wet.
The kayak weighs 17.5 kg, which is easy to carry even on your own. Keep in mind that though the Excursion Pro has a large weight capacity of 180 kg, it is suitable for an adult, a kid, and fishing gear. If you have no plans to fish, you can try two adults, but ensure you don’t cross the limit as this can interfere with the stability of your boat.
Convenient rod Holders
This model is made explicitly for fishers featuring rob holders to keep your holders and finders safe. What makes the holders in the Excursion pro unique is the convenient access, so you can grab them when you want. Moreover, they are located in such a way that they won’t interfere with paddling.
Adjustable seats and footrests
If you want to navigate the waters alone, you can deflate one seat to create more space for you and stuff. The inflatable seats are comfortable, and you can adjust them to have a more unobstructed view and position. The seat booster is a great addition if you have a kid as it lifts the seat a little higher. The footrests are also relaxing because you can adjust to your height and comfort.
- Construction: 3-layers with P.V.C. Vinyl
- Weight: 17.6 Kg
- Weight Capacity: 180 kg
- i-Beam floor
- 3 air chambers
- 151” L x 37” W x 18” H
- Offers an easy setup
- Offers excellent adjustability
- Great-price point
- On the expensive side, but you get quality
Tip: Ideal for fishing
Best Kayaks for Beginners- A Comprehensive Buying Guide
To be honest, there is nothing like a universal guide on how to buy a kayak for beginners. However, we have tried to share all the basics you need to pick the right one. Most of the models we reviewed are best-rated in their categories.
To help you find the right watercraft for your needs, here are things to keep in mind;
Where will you be kayaking?
Before you buy a kayak, you should first answer this question. Will you be kayaking in white water, shallow waters, or water bodies with rapid waves? Answering these questions will guide you to choosing a suitable kayak that has features that go with the conditions of the water bodies you intend to use your kayak on.
Beginner kayaks are normally designed for flat and calm waters. Yes, they are not the most stable of the kayaks, but they are very stable for calm, ordinary waters.
What is the purpose of your kayak
Knowing what you intend to use your kayak for will help you in determining the type of kayak you need to get. Are you looking for a family-friendly kayak? Will you be going fishing with your kayak? Do you prefer to pedal? Are you looking to go into rough waters?
These are some of the things you need to take into consideration before purchasing your kayak. Once you know what you will be using your kayak for, you will know the type of kayak that you will need.
Number of people you intend to carry
Some kayaks are small and can only accommodate one person, while others are bigger. If you are going to kayak alone, then one with a single-seat design will suit you. In case you want to kayak with your kids and spouse, then you should go for a multi-seat model that can carry two persons or even more.
Another crucial thing to consider when buying a kayak for beginners is its stability. The last thing you want is to get tipped over by small waves when on the water. Finding a watercraft that is stable and one that can handle small water waves will give you enjoyable moments. For stability, we would advise beginners to go for shorter kayaks.
To explain kayak stability, we can say that it comes in two forms- primary stability, which means how stable your kayak is when you are riding on calm waters, entering or exiting it, doing low-motion activities, or sitting still.
The second type of stability is secondary stability. This refers to how stable your kayak is when you are riding in rough waters, going at high speeds, or performing high-speeds activities such as whitewater kayaking.
In a nutshell, we can say that the flatter the hull, the more stable a kayak will be. Keep in mind that a stable kayak sacrifices several things, such as swift turning ability. Therefore, you will need to decide what is more important to you. If you want to have stable rides, then you should go for a yak with flat hull design.
Length of a kayak
Determining the right length of a kayak is very important, especially for beginners. When we talk about length, you will want to figure out what you want most. Is it speed, tracking ability, or turning ability?
For speed and tracking ability, you will want a longer kayak. For swiftness in turning, a shorter yak will be better.
You will also need to factor in how to carry your kayak to and from its storage base. Obviously, longer kayaks are more challenging to transport and store. With most kayaks ranging from 7 feet to 14+ feet in length, it is important to pick the right one for your needs.
Depth and width of kayaks
Another crucial factor to consider is the depth and width of your first kayak. This determines how much gear you can store in it, how easier it will be to steer your kayak, and how stable it will be to get in and out of it.
However, we better tell you now that if you go for a wide kayak, you will be sacrificing some speeds, and also you will have to paddle more.
As for depth, consider your height. Bigger guys or those who want to have more leg space and room should go for kayaks with good depths. Keep in mind that the more the depth, the more the cold wind on your feet.
As a beginner, you are going through a learning curve as you try to figure out how to kayak. Therefore, you will want a kayak that can withstand punishment and abuse you are going to put it through.
This makes it important to invest in a kayak that is made from durable material. Check reviews to know what previous buyers say about these kayaks and also check the material a kayak is made of.
Overall, most kayaks are made from different materials, including carbon fiber, Kevlar, fiberglass, hard plastic, inflatable plastic, wood, and fabric with a frame. For beginners, fiberglass or hard plastic kayaks can be a good bet as well as the right inflatable kayak.
The hard plastic is quite heavier, but it is very durable. Fiberglass, on the other hand, is lightweight, but tend to be pricier. Kevlar and carbon fiber are the lightest, but priciest and usually not designed for beginners.
Wooden kayaks are more traditional and are rare these days because of their weight and high manufacturing costs.
You don’t want to step into your kayak and get your precious things wet. That’s why you should go for a kayak that has hatches to enable you to store precious items. Hatch covers are waterproof, but some can let in some moisture
Our Top 3 Recommendations
Best two-passenger: Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
For those parents who want to introduce their child to kayaking, this design is both pocket-friendly and spacious. It comes with two seats designed with an adjustable backrest. The model features a removable skeg if you need more directional stability. Keep in mind that this model is ideal for smaller bodies of water like calm rivers.
Best Lightweight: Intex Challenger Kayak
For those looking for a single-person yak they can easily pack, then this a great option for you at 27 pounds. Besides, the boat features durable material with amazing graphics for safety. The cockpit offers a large space with adjustable backseat and footrest for comfort. The model also offers a large area for storage with a cargo net and grab lines on ends. You will also be impressed by the high-output pump that lets you inflate the yak in no time.
Best Sit-on-top: Sundolphin Bali SS 10-foot
Beginners looking for a sit-on-top kayak will not go wrong with the Bali SS from Sundolphin. The model offers excellent traction and maneuverability measuring 10 feet long and 30 inches wide. The open cockpit lets you enter with ease and a comfortable wide seat that comes with adjustable straps and thigh pads for comfort. The Sundolphin model is also a great choice for a weekend-full adventure where you need to pack more stuff inside the yak.
Features of a Kayak Explained
Regardless of whether you are looking for the best cheap kayaks for beginners or just the right kayaks, you need to know the features of a kayak;
This is simply the bottom of a kayak. It is the part of a kayak that sits underwater when you are sitting on top of it. The design of the hull plays a major role in how well a kayak can track or rather stay straight and how easy or hard it will be to maneuver it.
The bow of a kayak is the front part, while the stern is the back.
Not all kayaks have tracking fin or skegs, but longer models are fitted with these features since they tend to be difficult to track straight on the water. Tracking fins are attached to the bottom of a kayak (hull) to help it stay afloat and straight, at least for you to get in a rhythm and be able to direct a kayak to your desired point.
Storage hatches give you extra storing areas where you can put your gear for multi-day or day-long paddling trips. While they can seem like the ideal place to store your dry goods, it is important to point out that they are not 100% waterproof.
We always recommend that you purchase dry bags to store your sensitive gear in before placing them in a kayak storage hatch.
These are the sides of a kayak. When you are sitting in a kayak, you will see ‘rails’ located to your right and left. Some kayaks come with gunwales that have molded handles while others feature rubber handle straps. Others have gunwale attachment systems to make it easier for you to secure additional items that did not fit in the kayak’s storage hatches or even fishing gear.
You may be tempted to think that your kayak is broken, no. The small, round holes you see in the footwells of sit-on-top kayaks are there for a reason. They bail water from footwells instead of letting it pool in that area.
Sit inside kayaks needs a hand-pump bailing system; however, a sit-on kayak has scupper holes to allow water that comes from your sides of a kayak (gunwales) to drain.
These are the points where the kayak’s bottom meets the sides. They define your kayak’s hull shape. Kayaks typically have either soft chines or hard chines.
Hard chines offer better edge control for maneuverability and also helps to prevent your kayak from flipping, especially when hard-hit on the edges. On the other hand, soft chines will be more predictable, especially when the bottom comes into contact with a shallow area.
Different Types of Best Kayaks for Beginners
You may have read things like tandem kayaks, sit-in kayaks, sit on kayaks, and much more from our reviews. These are types of beginner kayaks, and it is important that you learn about the various types of kayaks you can consider buying as a beginner.
Let us skim through different beginner kayaks;
Do you fancy those couple rides? The tandem kayaks are designed to accommodate two paddlers. These could be sit-on-top kayaks or have to distinct places for the users. It could offer those romantic rides for both of you into the sea.
If you are looking for a kayak you can take to shallow waters or flat rivers; then this is the ideal type. You can also go for pedal kayaks as well since they are affordable and easy to use. They are great for small water bodies and lakes, and are appreciated by teenagers because of the level of fun that they do offer. They are not great for whitewater rafting, especially for beginners.
If your whole idea of kayaking is to explore open waters all-day-long, then a touring kayak will be a great choice. These kayaks usually come with ample space for storing your gear, and you can find them in single- and double-sit models.
Just as the name suggests, these kayaks are foldable and thus easy to carry. They offer convenience to people who are always on the move. You can take it with you for camping trips in areas where there are water bodies or even put it at the back of your car. They mostly have a flat bottom design that can be inflated to full size for proper usage. Inflatable models are lighter than non-inflatable models.
Sit-in and Sit-on kayaks
Yes, most people know these two types of kayaks. The sit-in kayaks are quite classic, with sit-on-top kayaks being the contemporary ones. They are also known as closed and open kayaks. So, which one best suits beginners?
We take a look at both these kayaks in a more in-depth manner;
These can be termed as recreational kayaks used for rides on calm lakes and easy-flowing rivers. People in coastal areas that tend to be warm can use this type of kayaks. Some come with storage space to allow you to store your gear for longer trips. For people who feel enclosed when inside a sit-in kayak, this is a great option for them.
Here are some of the benefits of having a sit-on-top kayaks
- They are easy to get on and off than sit-in kayaks
- Great for families with kids
- Ideal for areas with a warmer climate. This is because you often get wet when riding on these kayaks
- Have scupper holes for easier water drainage. You do not need to manually pump out water
- Heavier than most sit-in kayaks and thus more stable
These, too, are recreational kayaks that are ideal for day touring. They tend to be faster. Sit-in kayaks can have several seats to accommodate other members.
Here are the benefits of sit-in kayaks
- You have fewer chances of getting wet when riding these kayaks
- They are comfortable for cruising
- They give you greater control since your body stays in a kayak
- Comfortable for cruising
F.A.Q. About Choosing the Best Kayaks for Beginners
What is the best size kayak for a beginner?
This depends on your needs; however, generally, you should get a kayak that is short in length. If you are tall, most recreational kayaks of 10ft long or more will allow you to have comfortable lengths. The size of the kayak you choose depends on the number of people you want to carry in your kayak as well as the area you intend to ride in.
What is a good size kayak for a beginner?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question as it depends on the number of passengers and luggage you intend to carry. Kayaks range from 7ft long to over 14ft long. For ease of control, a smaller one is great.
We have discussed several things you need to look for in a kayak, including the material used to make it, stability, depth and width of the kayak, number of people you intend to carry, type of kayak, as well as price.
What is the best kayak for the money?
All the kayaks we have reviewed are worth the money and will give you good value for your money. So we can recommend all of them for different needs.
What size kayak should I get for my height?
Tall people who are over 6 inches should go for a 22-foot recreational kayak or a 14ft sea kayak.
The right size kayak for your weight should be one with a maximum capacity rating that exceeds your body weight by over 125 pounds.
The best kayaks for beginners are often easier to maneuver, have excellent tracking ability, and often durable. Of course, the kayak you go for should heavily depend on the type of water condition you are interested in exploring or in your area. We have included different types of best rated kayaks for beginners in this guide to help you choose the right one.
We are confident that you will find a great kayak in our top 5 list- one that is built tough for reliability and a kayak that will not let you down, even in challenging water conditions. All the best in your cruising and paddling endeavors!
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