When searching for the best sea kayak, you must first determine whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or experienced kayaker. Beginner’s think they can use their intuition to buy a kayak that’s right for them. Like moths to a flame they end up attracted to the least seaworthy, most inefficient, poorly designed boats with bad ergonomics (vessels that hardly deserve to be called kayaks). In addition to having serious safety problems, the boats beginners usually choose hinder their learning and aren’t much fun to paddle.
Here’s a tip: if a new sit-inside touring kayak sells for less than $1000.00, it’s not worth owning — not even for a beginner. Even if it’s only $100, it is not a bargain. There are reasons why some kayaks are so cheap, and you don’t want to find out the hard way what’s wrong with these boats. The only exceptions to this that I know of are Sit-On-Top style kayaks (open deck), but if you are looking for a closed cockpit kayak, forget the cheap junk.
If you don’t yet own a kayak, but are thinking about buying or building one, the best advice anyone can give you is to take a lesson first. See our SK101 Beginning Sea Kayak Safety Skills course. If you can’t take one of our lessons, be sure the lesson you take includes actual practice tipping over and getting out of a kayak while upside down (with an instructor supervising).
Best Recreational Kayaks
If you like to have a lot of fun in a kayak, you are probably looking for the best recreational kayaks on the market. Sit-on-top kayaks offer some nice advantages, especially for people new to kayaking. One of the biggest advantages is their exceptional stability. Many sit-on-top kayaks are so stable that, should you find yourself in the water (whether by accident or not), it may be possible to climb back onto the kayak without capsizing. The most common considerations when choosing a recreational kayak include sit-on-top vs. sit-in, amount and type of cargo you expect to carry, and ease of transportation.
The primary advantages of sit-in kayaks include a much drier ride for you, the ability to use a spray skirt if you want, more dry storage space for your stuff, and usually an increase in paddling performance or efficiency. In cold water, a drier ride can be a significant advantage if not even a safety issue. When paddling a sit-on-top kayak in cold water, a wetsuit is an absolute necessity (although it’s still a really good idea even when paddling a sit-in kayak in cold water, because you should always dress for immersion).