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Swimming & Water Sports

Best Kayak

When it comes to water recreation, few things compare to paddling a kayak.  Far from being dugout tree trunks, modern kayaks are incredibly versatile with hundreds of models intended for a variety of purposes. Whether a solo paddling mission downriver or out at the lake with the family, kayaks offer a fun and unique experience you won’t find with any other type of water craft. Below we’ve provided a helpful buyer’s guide with essential information to help you during your search for the right kayak that meets your needs and budget.

Hobie Mirage Inflatable Single i12s Kayak

The Hobie Mirage i12S has all of the benefits of a Hobie Mirage in compact and transportable package. Complete with the MirageDrive foot paddle system with aluminum shaft and twist and stow rudder system, the Mirage i12S is extremely maneuverable and tracks exceptionally well in any condition. This 12-foot PVC vinyl hull can carry a maximum load of up to 500 pounds while still only weighing a little over 80 pounds fully rigged. Like its hard bottom counterparts, the Mirage i12S is built for comfort with an adjustable high back padded seat. This inflatable is easily assembled and comes in a rolling travel bag. An optional sail package, rod holders and electric motor kit give you the ability to rig this kayak for any adventure you have in mind.

Zoik RF Solo Inflatable Kayak

Zoik RF Solo Inflatable Kayak

The Zoik RF Solo Inflatable Kayak is a lightweight option for daytrips. The Zoik RF Solo has a raised floor for added efficiency and tracking whether you are in a lake or paddling down a Class II rapid. Both the bow and stern are raised 19 inches to quick resurfacing and wave deflection. This durable inflatable is made from 1000 denier PVC vinyl and has four air chambers. Fully inflated, the Zoik RF Solo is 10 feet, 6 inches in length and a stable 39 inches wide with a maximum capacity of 325 pounds. Weighing in at only 36 pounds, the Zoik RF Solo is easily carried and stowed.

Innova Helios I EX Inflatable Kayak

The Innova Helios I EX is the versatile single passenger version of the Helios II, which is used for search and rescue operations in Vancouver by the Canadian Rangers. You can unpack the backpack the Helios I comes in, inflate the three main air chambers and be on the water in less than ten minutes. Add the optional foot controlled rudder for exceptional tracking on open water. Made from 12000 denier Nitrylon, the Helios I is 10 feet, 2 inches long and 28 inches wide. Nitrylon is Innova’s material of choice over vinyl because it is tough and easy to maintain. Weighing just 29 pounds, the Helios I boasts plenty of space for gear.

Walker Bay Airis Sport 6.5 PSI Inflatable Kayak

Walker Bay Airis Sport 6.5 PSI Inflatable Kayak

The Airis Sport by Walker Bay is the perfect inflatable kayak for a beginner. Versatile enough for day time paddling and short trips, the Airis Sport has a long hull and rear skeg for smooth and fast tracking and added maneuverability. The Airis Sport tracks well on account of its rigidity at the waterline that results from the patented AirWeb Construction. Lightweight, the Airis Sport weighs only 20 pounds. Long and sleek, compared to the Airis Play model, the Airis Sport is 31 inches wide and 10 feet, 10 inches long and can carry up to 250 pounds. A favorite of cruising boaters and RV enthusiasts, this compact and portable inflatable kayak is a must have for anyone setting out on an adventure, on the road or on the water.

Advance Elements Advanced Frame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

The Advancedframe Expedition by Advanced Elements combines the best of an inflatable with a folding kayak. This 13-foot kayak has an aluminum frame that adds to the length, making the Expedition faster than its competition. Set up for the 42 pound Expedition takes just minutes to fill the nine air chambers. With a 450 pound weight rating and an extra large storage area, the expedition has the ability to stow enough gear for a week-long expedition. A raised deck and adjustable lumbar seat provides for a comfortable ride. A low center of gravity makes this inflatable highly stable and very easy to paddle.

Ocean Kayak Peekaboo Recreational Kayak

The Ocean Kayak Peekaboo is a recreational kayak that gives you a glimpse of the action underwater as you paddle through a large viewing window in the hull. At 11 feet, 11 inches long and 34 inches wide, the Ocean Kayak Peekaboo is stable enough to dive from. With a maximum capacity of 450 pounds, you can carry all the gear you need in the netted rear cargo area. A transducer can be mounted in a scupper to add to your fish finding ability. With seating for one adult plus a small child, the Peekaboo is the ideal kayak for family fun on the water.

Necky Rip 12 Kayak

The Necky Rip 12 Polymer kayak is a high performing recreational kayaks that is built for speed. Great for a beginning to intermediate paddler, the Rip 12 has a sharp keel giving it exceptionally fast tracking. This sit-in kayak has a spacious cockpit with a cushioned seat and back rest with custom pads, custom thigh pads and adjustable foot pedals. While most recreational kayaks lack bulkheads, this 12-foot, 3-inch kayak spares no expense and provides a sizable dry storage hatch in the rear. With an additional cargo net storage area forward, the Rip 12 has a total capacity of 375 pounds. Necky’s Rip 12 Polymer is a lightweight recreational kayak that is easy to launch single-handed.

Ocean Kayak Frenzy Recreational Kayak

The Ocean Kayak Frenzy is the perfect beach toy. The Frenzy is maneuverable enough to surf, but tracks well enough for paddling trips. At 9-foot in length, this sit-on-top only weighs 44 pounds and is wide enough to stand on and dive from. The Tri-form hull and a strong keel line work to add stability and easier tracking. Four scuppers and a threaded hull drain plug ensure that this self-bailing hull remains air-tight in the surf. This is the perfect recreational kayak for the beginner who has a taste for the surf but still wants a kayak that will track well in calm waters.

Feel Free Juntos Sit On Top Kayak 2013

Feelfree’s Juntos is true recreational kayak built for fun on the water. With enough room for an adult and a child, this sit-on-top is exceptionally stable. A central hatch provides dry storage in addition to the extra large cargo area in the rear. The comfortable seat and back rest has additional gear pockets. This 60 pound kayak is easy to launch courtesy of a wheel in the keel. Extra accessories like thigh straps and rod holders make the Feefree Juntos a versatile kayak for the recreational paddler who might be interested in branching out into whitewater kayaking or fishing.

Emotion Kayaks Envy 11 Kayak

With a stated goal to “get more families out on the water,” Emotion Kayaks will certainly achieve their mission with the new Envy 11. The Envy 11 is a fast and stable sit-in recreational kayak. This 11’ kayak is comfortable enough for a full day trip thanks to the Comfort Rest System and Next Generation Seat. There is plenty of room for gear with the cargo net on the bow, dry storage in the rear and mesh pocketed storage in the cockpit. The concave “V” hull makes the Envy 11 a highly responsive, efficient and fast recreational kayak. The Envy 11 is a comfortable choice for a beginning paddler.

Jackson Villian Kayak

Jackson Villian Kayak

The latest model of the Villain by Jackson Kayaks is safe, comfortable and extremely maneuverable. Hip pads, the Sure-Lock back band and the Uni-Shock Bulkhead makes this version of the Villain seriously comfortable. The hip pads add control as well as comfort and can be adjusted to provide a snug fit. The back band is easily adjustable and can be fully released with one simple action. The Uni-Shock bulkhead is billed as the safest on the market because it allows for as much as eight inches of give on a single hit, absorbing the shock and saving the paddler from the jarring impact on their legs. The footplates are easily detached to make space for additional gear. Optional gear includes the Jackson Happy Seat that is an inflatable pillow that goes forward of your seat to give you additional control. Add the Happy Thruster to the Happy Seat and you are ready to be airborne.

Dagger Mamba 8.6 River Kayak

The Mamba 8.6 by Dagger is the largest of the Mamba series, but still has all of the maneuverability of its smaller siblings. Highly stable with a width of 27 ½” and an overall length of 8’6”, the Mamba 8.6 can carry a maximum weight of up to 260 pounds depending on the conditions. The Mamba 8.6 features an exceptionally comfortable cockpit with a fitted seat and back rest and plenty of knee room. The rounded stern makes the Mamba extremely easy to roll. Daggers Mamba 8.6 has additional safety features from past models including more rescue points and a redesigned handle. This design also sits higher in the water, making it able to take rougher whitewater.

Innova Safari Inflatable Kayak

The Innova Safari is an inflatable kayak that is perfect for white water paddling that has a removable fin that adds tracking and maneuvering in flat water. Ideal for the paddler that needs a fun and maneuverable kayak that can be easily transported anywhere in the world. The Safari is exceptionally versatile. Rated for Class III white water, this 10 foot kayak is extremely safe. The self-bailing low hull shape can handle very rough conditions. The Safari comes standard with thigh straps. Weighing in at only 25 pounds, the Safari packs neatly into a backpack that is small enough to fit in an overhead compartment of an airplane. Made from 1200 denier Nitrylon, the Safari can carry up to 220 pounds.

Big Dog Storm Kayak

Big Dog Storm Kayak

The Big Dog Storm is made for the beginning river paddler who wants to quickly advance to a whole new level of white water kayaking. The Storm tracks better than most river kayaks on account of its longer waterline, making it a fast river runner. Stable while semi-planing, the Storm is still maneuverable and tracks well on flat water. The Basic model comes standard with a backrest, footrest foam pad seat and sticky foam thigh straps. The Deluxe model adds a bulkhead footrest, Logoed Backrest and fabric covered thigh grips. The Big Dog Storm is made to progress with the beginning paddler.

AIRE Tributary Sawtooth Inflatable River Kayak

Aire Tributary Sawtooth River Kayak is an inflatable kayak with a hull designed for white water, but tracks amazing well in flat conditions. With an overall length of 13 feet, 3 inches this is a comfortable kayak for you and plenty of gear. The Sawtooth is compact and weighs only 46 pounds, making it incredibly easy to launch single-handedly. An upturned bow and stern deflect waves and increase maneuverability in rough conditions. Made from a PVC shell with urethane bladders, the three air chambers can be quickly filled to get you on the water fast. This is an ideal river kayak if you want something that is easily maneuverable on both rapids and still water.

Ocean Kayak Zest Two EXP Tandem Kayak

Ocean Kayak Zest Two EXP Tandem Kayak

Ocean Kayak Zest Two EXP is the perfect kayak for the couple ready to embark on a weekend adventure. With a weight capacity of up to 600 pounds and two large cargo areas with bungee tie downs, this sit-on-top has plenty of room for camping and fishing gear. The Zest Two EXP is considered one of the fastest tandem hulls available. This 16-foot 4 1/2-inch kayak has a stable width of 30 1/2 inches and still weighs only 70 pounds. Additional storage options include up to two oval Gaspachi hatches or up to three 6-inch hatches with cat bag. The optional rudder system is a worthy add on to this fast tandem.

Emotion Tandemonium Tandem Kayak

Emotion Kayaks Tandemonium is a highly stable tandem kayak capable of comfortably carrying up to three passengers. A sit-on top with self-bailing scuppers, the Tandemonium is exceptionally safe in most water conditions because will not fill with water if tipped over. Tandemonium is 13 feet, 8 inches in length with a width of 36 inches, making highly stable. The tri-hull design gives this tandem superb maneuverability for its length in addition to fast tracking. With three seat positions, this tandem can be paddled solo. The maximum capacity of 550 pounds and upswept bow allows you to break safely through the surf with passengers and extra gear.

Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus Recreational Double Kayak

The Old Town Dirigo Tandem Plus is the perfect tandem kayak for families. The OT cushioned seats add comfort on long trips and the rear seat slides forward to allow for solo paddling. The Dirigo Tandem Plus is a sit-in hull with wide cockpit openings for taller passengers or additional space for a smaller third passenger. The Stabil-form hull design provides stability with the full hull outline at the waterline. A foot brace system and thigh pads add even more comfort to the extra large cockpits. The Dirigo Tandem Plus is 15-feet, 3 inches long and 29 1/2 inches wide. There are two cargo net storage areas in the bow and rear in addition to the dry storage hatch in the rear. A glove box hatch in the center cockpit provides dry storage for small items like keys and cell phones. An optional rudder system adds to the already smooth tracking of this recreational tandem kayak.

Delta 20T Tandem Kayak

Delta 20T Tandem Kayak

Delta Kayaks 20T is the perfect tandem kayak for the couple with long-range touring in mind. The sleek hull is highly maneuverable and fast tracking making for an effortless paddle. There are three dry storage compartments are located forward, mid-hull and aft. Additional cargo net storage is located onto of each of the dry storage hatch lids. The overall length of the Delta 20T is 19 feet, 6 inches with a slender width of 26 1/2 inches. The Total Control Seats give paddlers the ability to adjust the seat forward and backward.

Hobie Odyssey Tandem Kayak

The Hobie Odyssey is the ideal recreational kayak that can be crewed by one to three people. Only 14 feet in length, the Odyssey still has a weight capacity of 550 pounds. The sit-on-top hull has great tracking across any body of water and tons of storage. The Odyssey has a large bungee cargo area in the rear, two 8-inch twist and seal hatches that include a gear bucket and on board storage for the pair of paddles. Two molded in-hull rod holders and adjustable padded seats make the Hobie Odyssey a comfortable choice for a weekend fishing trip. An optional Bimini top provides shade as you leisurely paddle or cast.

Freedom Hawk 12 Stand Up Fishing Kayak

Freedom Hawk 12 Stand Up Fishing Kayak

The Freedom Hawk Freedom 12 Stand-up is the perfect design for fishing in any conditions. This kayak is stable and fast and has two inline outriggers that can be moved into three different positions to allow for easy paddling, fishing or motoring. When the outriggers are in the third position, in-line behind the main nine foot kayak, the Freedom Hawk 12 becomes the ideal kayak for stand-up fishing. The outriggers can be removed for easy storage and transportation. Perfectly rigged for fishing, the Freedom 12 has a casting brace to provide stability when standing. The deck has storage for a 12-foot sectional push pole and there’s even an option to mount a motor to increase your fishing range. Two flush mount rod holders and plenty of waterproof storage round out the standard accessories for the Freedom 12. The outriggers are removable for fast and easy storage and transportation, reducing the weight from 72 pounds to 49. The overall length with the outriggers is 12 feet 3 inches. This revolutionary design ensures a safe, comfortable and efficient kayak fishing experience.

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 Kayak

With a maximum capacity of 600 pounds, there are almost no limits to the fish and gear that the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 14 can carry. Like the other Mirage models, the Pro Angler 14 features Hobie’s patented MirageDrive system with Turbo fins, providing a hands-free way to maintain your heading with foot pedals. With a retractable rudder system, the Pro Angler 14 cuts through any body of water it is launched into. From ocean fishing to casting in a lake, this Hobie is outfitted for any adventure. This 14 foot kayak boasts plenty of dry storage with a pivoting tackle management system for the three Plano tackle boxes that come with the kayak. There is enough horizontal room for six rods in addition to the molded vertical rod storage. An optional live well completes this angler’s dream.

Feel Free Moken 10 Angler Kayak

The Feel Free Moken 10 Angler can fish anything from class II whitewater to the stillwaters of a lake. With a width of 35 feet, this kayak is extremely stable and easily maneuverable. The Moken 10 Angler has four rod holders, a console compartment that can be used to stow lures and a center mounted block that can house additional rods, a GPS or fish finder. This 10-foot, 4-inch kayak has plenty of storage space with an 8-inch round rubber hatch and a crate behind the seat that is large enough to hold a live well, milk crate with your gear or a dive tank. The Moken 10 Angler is complete with paddle clips for easy storage while casting. Designed with ease of use in mind, the Moken 10 Angler is easily transported to your next launch courtesy of a wheel located in the keel of the kayak.

Emotion Grand Slam Angler Fishing Kayak

Emotion’s Grand Slam Angler is a highly stable sit-on-top kayak that is designed to fish in any conditions. Made from rugged Roto-molded linear polyethylene and a ST Performance Hull, this 14-foot, 5-inch kayak tracks through water with ease. The Grand Slam Angler has Emotion’s Triple Threat fishing configuration that includes two flush mount and one deck mount rod holder. A Solace Hatch provides dry storage and the rear cargo area has plenty of room for fishing gear. The CRS Seat adds convenient comfort that folds down for easy storage. This fishing kayak has a removable console with dry storage, cup holder and rod mount. With two tank wells and a cargo net system, this kayak has the capacity to stow all the gear you need for extended day trips and weekend excursions. The Grand Slam Angler is the perfect kayak for the beginning to intermediate paddler interested in recreational kayaking and fishing.

Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II Fishing Kayak

Ocean Kayak Prowler Big Game II Fishing Kayak

The founder of Ocean Kayak first made his first sit-on-top kayak by taking a surf board and carving out a place to sit and a place for his diving gear. The Prowler Big Game Fishing Kayak is a lot more sophisticated than that. This kayak is 34 inches wide at the sit-on-top seat, making it exceptionally stable. The Prowler Big Game kayak has all the room you could need with a covered bow hatch for dry storage, a large tank well with bungee tie downs and a cockpit tray with a cup holder. The stern stringers provide a stable and convenient way to carry the most important cargo: fish. This kayak has two flush mounted rod holders and has the capability for installation of a transducer for a fish finder in the scupper. The Prowler Big Game comes fully loaded and ready to launch on any fishing expedition.

Necky Vector 14 Sit-On-Top Kayak

The Vector 14 Polymer by Necky Kayaks is a sleek, yet extremely stable sit-on-top. The Vector glides across water like no other sit-on-top around. The Vector’s hull is made from polyethylene, making this sit-on-top durable and light, considering its length of 14 feet. The Vector is only 25 inches in overall length which makes for smooth and fast paddling. The Necky Touring seat is designed to keep your feet from falling asleep and provide the necessary back support for long trips. The Vector boasts two dry storage hatches, one forward and one aft, with the patented Quick Seal Cross Lock Buckle System, which allows easy access to the completely dry storage spaces. Boasting many of the features typical to a Necky Touring kayak, the Vector 14 far surpasses your average sit-on-top.

Ocean Kayak Nalu 12.5 Paddleboard/Kayak

The founder of Ocean Kayak made his first sit-on-top kayak by taking a surf board and carving out a place to sit and a place for his diving gear. The Ocean Kayak Nalu 12.5 is just a little more complex than that. At 12 ½ feet long, 30 inches wide and with a no-slip foot area, this sit-on-top kayak is stable enough to stand up and paddle. It is maneuverable in the surf, yet can hold its own on longer trips. The Nalu 12.5 has a forward dry storage, bungee tie downs in the rear and Comfort Tech adjustable seat back, making it comfortable for longer paddles and capable of carrying gear for a day trip. Weighing in at 49 pounds, the Nalu 12.5 is a sit-on-top that can be easily carried to the next adventure.

Hobie Quest 11 Kayak

The Hobie Quest 11 is a true multipurpose sit-on-top kayak and an ideal choice for a beginning paddler who might want to try their hand at kayak fishing. With dry storage in the bow, two flush mounted rod holders and a rear cargo net, this 11 foot kayak has all the room you would need for a fishing trip, an afternoon eco-tour or an overnight expedition. The Hobie Quest 11 has a 300 pound capacity and can carry one passenger. The 29 inch width adds stability, and makes casting a breeze while the adjustable padded seat gives you back support and keeps you comfortable no matter how long you stay out on the water. Fully rigged, the Hobie Quest weighs a little over 57 1/2 pounds which makes for easy loading and launching.

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 Sit On Top Kayak

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 120 is the manufacturer’s most popular model. Known for its versatility and maneuverability, this 12-foot 3-inch sit-on-top glides across whatever body of water it is launched into. The adjustable Phase 3 AirPro seating system is an addition on the 2014 model that ensures complete comfort. The Tarpon 120 has plenty of storage with a massive bungee space in the rear, an 8-inch Orbix hatch for dry storage mid-ship and a large oval hatch in the bow. Maximum capacity is 350 pounds and one passenger. The total weight of the Tarpon 120 is 63 pounds. Wilderness Systems rigged this year’s Tarpon 120 for comfort, complete with paddle holders, storage pockets and cup holders.

Malibu X-13 Sit-On-Top Kayak

If you've ever dreamed of embarking on a kayaking expedition, the Malibu X-13 is a sit-on-top kayak that is built for the journey you have in mind. With a 450 pound maximum capacity, a forward gator hatch, center hatch and aft bungee storage, this 13 foot 10 inch long kayak is designed to carry all the gear you need for a camping or fishing expedition. The Malibu X-13 gator hatch is designed not only to provide dry storage, but to allow a child to securely sit on the bow while underway. For the avid angler, there’s the option of a five gallon live bait well and a mount for a trolling motor. The X-13 offers the superb maneuverability and comfort.

Rockpool TARAN Kayak

Rockpool TARAN Kayak

The Taran Sea Kayak by Rockpool has a history of touring from the 2011 circumnavigation of Ireland to the 2012 circumnavigation of the entire UK, this sea kayak is designed for the long haul. You don’t need to be interested in kayak expeditions to appreciate the design that makes that level of touring possible. The Rockpool Taran is perfect for day touring and surfing. Designed to be a user friendly sea kayak with performance standards in mind, the Taran is fast and dry even in the roughest conditions. The deep V hull at the bow that flattens out to a U shape towards the stern, increasing speed and the Taran’s ability to plow through rough seas. The finished cockpit is exceptionally comfortable with a factory fitted seat and Smart Track rudder steering pedals.

Necky Elias Polymer Kayak with Rudder

The Elias Polymer by Necky Kayaks is one of the most efficient kayaks in its class and a design that can be appreciated by a kayaker of any level of expertise. Designed for minimal effort in typical speeds and conditions, the Elias is extremely fast for its size. Comfortable and dry for the long tours, the Necky touring seat is made of durable foam that will never retain water. The Comfort Fit thigh braces are designed to provide a snug but comfortable fit for even the tallest passengers. For a 15’6” kayak, the Elias only weights 54 pounds, making it easy to handle and load on a vehicle. The Quickseal hatches with the Cross Lock Buckle system provides easy access to dry storage in the bow and stern of the kayak. A nearly indestructible aluminum rudder can weather just about anything you put it through in addition to making your journey much safer and enjoyable. The Elias also comes in fiberglass and carbon layup hulls for the more experienced sea kayaker.

P&H Delphin 155 Sea Kayak

The Delphin, by P&H Sea Kayaks, is a slender hull that can cut through waves like none other. The bow is designed to prevent burying the nose deep in rough waves and promotes resurfacing by shedding water rapidly, making this sea kayak the ideal design for a beginning sea kayaker. Experts would appreciate the cockpit that is slightly aft, making the Delphin one of the most maneuverable sea kayaks on the water. The Delphin reacts like a river kayak, and with its flat mid-section hull, is easily maneuvered through fast moving water. The weighted, squared off stern both add to the Delphin’s tracking and speed. The low back deck allows for an easy rollover in heavy surf or high seas. Three hatches, two large and one small, provide plenty of dry storage for overnight trips.

Perception Expression 14.5 Kayak

Whether you are planning an afternoon paddle or a week long excursion, the Expression 14.5 by Perception Kayaks is the ideal sea kayak for someone looking to move beyond recreational kayaking in an affordable way. The up swept bow is designed to surface quickly in rough seas by shedding water rapidly. Easily maneuverable with an optional rudder to increase tracking, the Expression 14.5 has all the room you need for camping and fishing gear in the bow and stern bulkheads accessible through the hatches. The standard hull of the Expression 14.5 has a Zone Deluxe Seating system that boasts adjustable back rest and leg supports in addition to the wrap around wings. The Perception Expression 14.5 is stable and maneuverable even when loaded down to its 300 pound capacity.

Hobie Mirage Adventure Kayak

The Hobie Mirage Adventure is for the sea kayaking enthusiast who wants to go from paddling to sailing in a matter of minutes. Long and sleek, the new model year of this touring kayak has a new twist and stow rudder that increases maneuverability and speed. The Mirage Adventure is fast and has plenty of storage space for a wide range of kayaking expeditions. A large covered bow hatch, two 8” twist and seal hatches, rear cargo net storage and two mesh pockets can carry all the gear you want and open up your range of possible voyages. The adjustable high back padded seat has the rare feature of inflatable lumbar support. The standard Adventure comes complete with the MirageDrive foot peddling system, two fishing rod holders and even a sail mount. Optional items include a sailing kit, Bimini top to provide shade, a Dodger and a plug-in cart. This kayak is perfectly suited for anyone, from beginner to expert. This is a kayak you can grow into.

Buyer's Guide

Kayak Buyer’s Guide

The first thing you should determine when looking for a kayak is where you’ll want to paddle and how. Kayak designs vary greatly depending on whether they’re built for the ocean, calm inland lakes and rivers, or whitewater rapids. You should also consider whether you want to fish, camp, or travel with multiple people. A good kayak should also have comfortable seating, plenty of dry storage for gear and a special feature like retractable rudders or a defined keel for increased tracking and stability when traveling long distances.

Cockpit Design
The design of the kayaks cockpit will depend on where you want to paddle and your level of experience. However, regardless of the cockpit design, your comfort level is the key to stability while underway as well as entering and exiting the kayak.  A comfortable cockpit should allow your legs to have enough space to stretch while your feet can easily reach the foot braces. 

Open cockpits or “sit-ins”, are common in recreational kayaks and well suited for nearly any condition including ocean surf. Closed cockpits on the other hand are more common in sea kayaks and models which have been built for whitewater rapids. 

Stability and Tracking
The stability of a kayak is best defined as how much the boat rocks side to side when at rest and when paddled. Beginning paddlers will want to look for a kayak with greater resting stability whereas advanced paddlers will want greater underway stability for paddling in cross winds and waves. 

Tracking is how well the boat travels in a straight line with minimal effort.  A kayak which tracks extremely well usually doesn’t maneuver easily and is better suited for flat water paddling. 

Construction
Kayaks are constructed from a variety of materials including plastic, wood, fiberglass, Kevlar, carbon, or inflatable plastic/fabric with the kayaks weight and cost largely depending on what it’s manufactured with.

Wood kayaks are fairly uncommon and require more maintenance, but have a classic look.  Although plastic kayaks tend to be heavier, they’re more durable as well as the least expensive. Next we have fiberglass which is less likely to scratch than plastic but more likely to be damaged colliding with objects. Finally we have Kevlar and carbon which are the lightest materials used in kayak manufacturing but naturally the most expensive as well.

Types of Kayaks

Recreational Kayaks
These are the most common types of kayak you’ll find, typically featuring sit-on-top as well as sit-in cockpit designs which are usually quite large and unsuitable for open water or whitewater paddling.

These kayaks are wider and usually sacrifice speed in favor of stability but for beginning paddlers this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Depending on the cockpit design, recreational kayaks are versatile enough to accommodate leisure time activities such as fishing and surfing.

Sea Kayaks
Sea Kayaks are made for paddling on open water. These long and narrow kayaks lower in the water to maximize speed while the cockpit is smaller in size to keep the paddler dry. Some sea kayaks have a rudder system or sternward keel extensions (known as “skegs”) to increase tracking.

River Kayaks
Also known as whitewater kayaks, river kayaks are designed with no keel and very little surface area, making them fast, and agile. Solo river kayaks are short, narrow, and typically less than ten feet in length with a small cockpit to keep you inside, even if the kayak were to roll over. All river kayaks are rated differently for specific classes of whitewater rapids.

Fishing Kayaks
Designed specifically for fishing, these wide kayaks allow for easy line casting with some models even stable enough to stand on. Fishing kayaks typically feature rod holders, bait wells, tackle boxes, adjustable back rests, and ample cargo space. These kayaks will also usually have flat bottoms with very little keel for paddling in shallow water; some designs even feature mounts for outboard trolling motors.

Sit On Top Kayaks
One of the most popular kayak designs, sit-on-top kayaks are great for recreational paddling and are versatile enough to surf, fish, and even dive off of. These kayak types are self-bailing and very safe take out since they won’t take on water even if flipped over. Because of their width, these types tend to move slower on the water than sea or river kayaks.

Tandem Kayaks
Tandem kayaks are built to safely carry two to three passengers. There are a number tandem kayaks designs which range from sleek sea kayak hulls for longer trips, to wider sit-on-tops for recreational use. Tandem kayaks can also be used to carry gear for overnight camping or fishing trips. 

Inflatable Kayaks
Inflatable kayaks are easy to inflate and deflate with a manual or electric air pump, making them ideal for individuals lacking storage space for a traditional hard body kayak. Most inflatable kayaks are made from rubber or fabric with a lightweight frame and available in a variety of designs which include open cockpits, closed cockpits, and sit-on-top.

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