Kayaking is a great outdoor activity for relaxing. You can put behind the busy office life, give yourself some time and space to refresh your mind and body, enjoy the beauty of nature. There are still many reasons why you should go kayaking. Sound great, right? But before you get started, you need to find a best beginner kayak that fits your needs.
On a summer day last weekend, we slipped our kayaks into Lake Tahoe, ready for a fine relax, enjoying the cool breezes, sunshine and sparkling fresh waves for water. This is my most favorite outdoor sport.
Of course, if you want something more thrilling, exciting, you can challenge yourself with the white horses. But I don’t recommend to do that if you are a beginner.
There are many types of kayak that are classified based on their structures, purposes and the way you use them. We will talk more detail in the next part where I show you how to properly choose a best kayak for beginners.
For a quick overview, you can scan through our 5 picks for the best kayaks for beginner below, coming along with our rankings for each. Or you can scroll down for the buying guide and more detail kayak reviews.
HOW TO CHOOSE A BEST KAYAK FOR BEGINNERS?
You can totally hire a kayak if you don’t intend to use it much. It can be a cheaper choice. But having your own kayak is such a much cooler and exciting thing. You can carry it anywhere you want, free to explore the nature, enjoy the most breathtaking views that no one can see. Sound great, right!
However, buy a kayak is a quite complex process. First, you have to understand your need, identify your purpose of kayaking and where you want to paddle. A recreational kayak is different from a touring kayak, as well as whitewater one.
You also need to consider a traditional sit-in kayak which give your a better protection, or the open, comfortable sit-on-top one.
Read through our kayak buying buying guide below for more information.
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO PADDLE?
You now can start thinking about where you usually paddle. Whether it’s lake, river or coast. This is important to choose the best kayak that is appropriate for the environment and help you have the most fun.
Lakes: are where the most kayakers enjoy their riding. On a good weather day, both a sit-in kayak or a sit-on-top one are great to have fun. If you prefer paddling around and enjoy the view, then a wider, shorter could be a wise choice.
Rivers: we will not talk about fast flowing river and whitewater kayaks as it’s not recommended for beginners. What we want here is a flat, or slow flowing water river where you can float, or glide along with the current. Then you may want a sturdy, short kayak which is responsive, easy to turn. A sit-inside, sit-on-top for a touring kayak are all good choice.
Coast: this could be the most exciting kayaking place where you can enjoy winds, waves and fun riding. If you are in tropical sea and don’t mind for a kayak surfing, then a sit-on-top is a great choice. Or you can choose a sit-in touring boat with spray skirt to protect you from cold wind and waves.
TRADITIONAL SIT-IN VS. SIT-ON-TOP KAYAK
In the above section, we mention a lot about sit-in and sit-on-top kayaks, so what are the differences of these two types. Let’s go to the detail.
- Sit-in kayaks are great for anything from paddling around in flat water lakes or rivers or going a longer trip in the ocean.
- They’re faster and more efficient than a sit-on-top one due to its lower center of gravity.
- A good choice if you’re planning to ride to a destination.
- Sit-in kayaks are especially nice for cooler or cold water because your lower body is protected from the wind and you can have a spray skirt for extra warmth to keep your legs dry.
- Sit-on-top kayaks shine on lake and flat water, they are wider than sit-ins so they are very stable and easy to launch.
- They are great for family or if you want to share with your friend.
- They don’t feel restrictive and their open design means you can jump off to take a swim and easily put yourself back on.
- It also give you the easy access to all you gear which is great for activities like fishing or photography.
- Because sit-on-top kayaks leave you exposed to splashing water and the elements, so they are great for warm weather and warm water.
When it comes to classify kayak types, we need to also consider about hull design. Hull is the shape of the bottom of the kayak. Each hull type determines difference of stability performance on the water. So, choose a hull type that fits your style is critical.
Before come to detail of specific hulls, there are 2 definitions you need to understand: primary stability and second stability.
Primary Stability: determine how stable the kayak is when you first get in it. Higher primary stability means less likely you’ll flip over then you first enter the boat and settle down.
Secondary Stability: refer to how kayak can stay stable when tipped of its side. Higher secondary stability means less likely you’ll roll over when you are paddling.
Flat Hull: can stable and maneuverable. Boat with flat hull gives more primary stability, the flatter, the more stable they are. They are often recreational kayaks in designed for flat water, which is a great choice for beginners.
Round Hull: has the rounded bottom which offer higher speed and easier to cut through the speed than flat hull. This hull types help increase maneuverability and secondary stability.
V-shaped: cuts through the water easily help to kayak glide in a straight line. It offers speed with less effort compared to other types. They are ideal for touring, recreation paddling. They are least primarily stable but give more second stability.
Pontoon Hull: is the combination of flat and round hull, which is very stable in terms of both primary and secondary. However, it’s relatively the slowest one.
Longer kayak is faster and more efficient to paddle. They also paddle straighter and can carry bigger loads.
Shorter boats are more maneuverable and playful on the water and easier to transport.
Wider kayak are usually more stable and turn quicker.
But narrow boat are faster and track well.
Most kayaks are made from either polyethylene or ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) plastic. Polyethylene kayaks can handle impact but they are sensitive to UV so it’s best to not store them outside.They tend to be on the heavier side but they are relatively inexpensive.
If you choose an ABS kayak, you don’t have to worry about scrapes or UV damage. They also weight less, but they’re more expensive.
WHAT IS THE BEST BEGINNER KAYAK IN 2019?
Again, I mus say, buying a kayak is a exciting yet complex progress. You are now equipped with some decent knowledge about how to choose a best kayak for beginners, in theory. However, when it comes to reality, it’s quite confusing to pick a right one among thousands out there.
So, let me help you narrow down your selection. If you’re new to kayaking, the first priority should be stability. Believe me, launching a kayak into water, then controlling it with the paddles is not a piece of cake. Not many people have perfect launching in their first days. So, a wider kayak will help you get used to and practice kayaking easily and quickly.
And as this is your first board, so it doesn’t have to be expensive. All you need is an affordable boat, yet still has good quality and durable. A light kayak is a wise choice for beginner as it’s safer.
Inflatable and folding kayaks are great as you can easily carry it with your car in case you’re far from the lake or river. This gives your chance to ride more often.
With all of these factors above, we’ve picked out 5 best beginner kayaks in 2019 below. Now, let’s get in to the details.
Note: Our ratings below are all from beginner’s perspective.
Our #1 Rated
Like we’ve already mentioned, a good beginner kayak should be short and wider for better maneuverable with higher stability. It also shouldn’t be too expensive. You may have a love at first sight with it but nobody knows if one day you change your mind.
This Intex Challenger K1 kayak can be considered one of the best cheap kayak in the market. This sit in kayak has a stunning appearance, come together with a 84-inch aluminum oar, repair patch and high-output manual hand pump.
This recreational kayak is made from heavy duty puncture-resistant vinyl that offer a good durability yet still very comfortable. There’s cargo net on top kayak’s nose that allow you to store your stuffs. This is awesome for a convenient and short day touring trips on day sunny day.
Weight is also an its advantage, only 23.9lbs. Super mobility, you can even pack and carry it on you back (after deflated, of course) to explore further and more beautiful landscapes. However, you may need to consider the loading capacity. It can bear only 220lbs, this is a problem for big guys.
The cockpit of this Challenger K1 comes with a lot of space that makes it more comfort especially in long touring trip. The seat and backrest are also inflatable which can be removable and adjustable give you more options for better riding. However, as the backrest is air-filled, it somehow can’t give enough support for your back.
As a wide and inflatable kayak, it’s really stable on the water, ideal for those who is learning to kayak. The short length also gives this Intex K1 a good maneuverability, easy turning on flat or slow flowing water.
However, as it’s a flat hull kayak, which has more contact with the water, so don’t expect it to be fast. It also takes you more effort to paddle
Best for: beginner who wants a budget kayak that comes with good quality, which is stable, easy to control. It’s ideal for a leisure relaxing trip on flat or slow water.
- Very, very affordable
- Light, easy to carry and durable
- Great stability and maneuverable on flat and slow water
- Wide cockpit for a more comport riding
- Removable and adjustable seat for extra space
- Come with cargo net for extra storage
- Paddle is included in the package
The air-filled backrest is not sturdy enough for good back support
- Need more effort to paddle
- Not designed to go fast and far
- Low loading capacity
Our #2 Rated
This is another best kayak for money from Intex in entry-level segment. This K2 Challenger is also an inflatable boat so it inherits most of features from the K1. However, it’s a 2-person sit-on-top kayak.
What could be more fun than spending a beautiful sunny day, enjoying sunshine, breeze, waves and breathtaking views with your family or friends. That’s why we put this kayak in the list.
It’s totally fine if you and your fellow are both beginners since this K2 is also suitable for starters. Yet, this recreational lightweight kayak can only load up to 400lbs, so make sure you make a simple math before you and some else into it.
As a two-person kayak, paddling is lot easier. You can glide faster, turn harder on the water. Longer boat also give you good momentum at high speed, make your riding more exciting.
Nevertheless, riding a 2-person kayak is totally different from a solo one. I’ve seen many funny situations when 2 people managed to spin their boat around around and couldn’t move in a straight direction. This is because their paddles didn’t work well together. It requires teamwork.
Like other inflatable kayak, this Intex Challenger K2 is still not a wise choice for long touring as wide bottom increases the contact, rounded nose can’t cut through water well. Yet, it’ perfectly fine for having fun on a family, friends bonding activities on flat water.
Best for: both starters or intermediate who want to share the joy with their friends or family, ideal for lakes or mild water.
- Great for having fun with family and friends
- Lightweight and durable
- Easier to paddle with 2 people
- More comfort with removable/adjustable inflatable seats
- Smooth and stable riding
- Paddles are included in the package
- Need good corporation between 2 paddlers
- Limited in lakes and mild water, not for long touring
- Weak inflatable backrests for good back supporting
- Low loading capacity
Our #3 Rated
Sun Dolphin is famous for its recreational kayak, and this Aruba 10 is its best-selling in beginner segment. It’s a sit-in with wide cockpit for easy going in and out. There are adjustable padded seat and footbraces to customize your fit in the boat. However, there’s no bottom cushion comes with the seat, it’s a downside for a long ride.
This Sun Dolphin kayak comes with a paddle holder to keep your hand free. The storage is quite large, help plan for a longer touring trip better.
Made from rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex high density polyethylene is one advantage of this Sun Dolphin Aruba 10. Means that it’s sturdy, durable and you can care less. As the an UV-stabilized hull, feel free to leave it outside your garage without worrying about fading color.
This is also an V-shaped kayak, so you may feel a bit difficult when at first start. Yet thing gets more fun when you can handle it. This Sun Dolphin kayak track well and glide quite fast while still be quite responsive.
Best for: beginners with a medium budget who want to get into the world of winds, waves and fun.
- Sturdy and durable
- Hull is UV-stabilized
- Wide cockpit for easy in and out
- Adjustable padded seat and footbraces to customize boat fit
- Paddler holder for free hand
- Fast and quite maneuverable
- No bottom cushion seat
- Paddles are not included
- Less primary stability for beginners
Our #4 Rated
In case you want to invest to a more premium beginner kayak. This Dirigo 106 by Old Town Canoes and Kayaks is a great choice.
It’s a sit-inside recreational kayak made from three layer Polyethylene which is lightweight, durable and also increase the strength of the boat. It’s a sit-in but the cockpit is designed open and spacious to make you feel more comfortable. Moreover, the hull is guaranteed for a lifetime, it’s big bonus for this Dirigo.
Contoured cushioned, adjustable seat, thigh pads and adjustable footbraces in this kayak allow you to personalize the boat fit to improve paddling experience and control. There is bulk head near behind your seat give you more room for storage.
Unlike inflatable kayaks, this is an traditional V-shaped boat which can ride much faster. Its V-shaped together with long length which make paddling easier with less effort, direct the kayak to glide in a straight line. This Dirigo 106 is ideal for both recreation kayaking as well as touring.
However, as this is a narrow V-shape hull, it offer less primary stability. Means that beginner will be more difficult to get in this kayak, easier to flip over. But when you get used to it, you can have a lot of fun.
You can go fast, but it’s quite hard to turn with this kayak as the bottom cuts deeper into the water. So, it’s only recommended for flat or slow-moving water.
Best for: recreational and touring kayakers who love to have more fun and excitement on the water and willing to invest for quality.
- Durable and strong
- Hull is guaranteed for life-time
- Wide cockpit for more comfort
- Can personalize the fit with seat, thigh pads and footbraces
- Easy to paddle and fast
- High loading capacity
- High price compared to standard
- Beginners are easy to flip when fist getting in the kayak
- Hard to turn
- Paddles are not included
Our #5 Rated
If you love fishing, but you’re getting bored with shore fishing and wanna explore new thing. Try kayak fishing.
This Sevylor Coleman Colorado is one of the best fishing kayak for beginners. Made from 18-gauge PVC, with a thick 1000D tarpaulin bottom and a tough 840D nylon cover, this kayak is very durable, can get you to your fishing place and back to shore without a worry. Sevylor is proud of what they produce, that’s why they offer a 1-year guarantee for this Coleman Colorado.
Multiple air champers allow you quickly inflating the kayak. They also guarantee the boat stay inflated if one breaks. The Airtight System ensures the air not to leak out. Nonetheless, the downside is it’s coming with pump.
There are adjustable Berkley Quick Set Rod Holders installed on 2 sides of the kayak, give you a comfortable free-hand experience when fishing, taking photographs. No long worry about losing your paddles when doing your stuffs. However, as these holders stand in the way of your paddling stroke, it could be annoying.
The 2 adjustable seats keep you comfortable through the whole trip. Sevylor also equips mesh storage pocket and D-rings to keep your gears near to your hand, allow you to enjoy a further and longer fishing trip.
High loading capacity up to 470lbs is also a bonus of this inflatable fishing kayak. It fits for 2 people and their carryings to make the riding more enjoyable. This is a wide kayak which means more stable on the water, give your more balance and safe.
Yet, this is a bulky kayak, hard to paddle and less maneuverable. It could be tough to handle in a windy situation. Don’t expect to win any race with this, it’s a bad idea. However, you can fix all of these by adding a Sevylor trolling motor.
Overall, with an affordable price compared to others in a same segment, this boat is ideal for your offshore fishing trips.
Best for: beginning kaykers who love fishing, want to go offshore for a more exciting fishing trips. Lakes and rivers are recommended.
- Made from durable materials
- Stable and safe for beginners
- Paddle holders attached
- High loading capacity
- Mesh storage pockets to keep gears and stuffs
- Adjustable seats for more comfort riding
- Can be added with a trolling motor
- Bulky kayak not for windy days
- Hard to handle with 1 person
- Hard to paddle and less maneuverable
- Paddle holders stand in the paddling stroke
- Seats are not replaceable
- Paddles are not included
Kayaking is a great outdoor sport for relaxing, adventure exploring, It’s cool to have a kayak of your own to get out of busy life, enjoy beautiful days with family and friends. Make sure you spend some time to figure out what could be the best type of kayak that fit you.
We’ve picked out 5 recommendations for your easy choice, you can consider all of them. Yet our top 1 for best kayak for beginner is the Intex Challenger K1. This is an very inexpensive inflatable kayak which is stable, easy to control. It’s ideal for starters to get used to kayaking.
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