Last updated: September 6, 2021

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Kayaking, sometimes referred to as canoeing, is an amazing sport that many people enjoy. Kayaking is a water sport that, depending on the difficulty or situation, can become an extreme sport. If you are someone who doesn't know anything about this sport but has an interest to learn a little bit about it, you've come to the right place. In the following guide, we are going to tell you all about this sport and how to find the perfect kayak to buy.

By taking a leap of faith and purchasing a kayak you will be able to discover secret water caves, traverse narrow passages, and enjoy life on a river or lake. A kayak is suitable for people of all ages, including children over the age of seven, provided they can swim and are always under adult supervision. However remember, no matter how much of an expert you are or how thirsty you are for adventure, never forget the basic safety rules of kayaking.

Key Facts

  • Kayaking is a sport that will open doors to discovering new places and experiencing nature like never before. There are several types of kayaks depending on the style of kayaking you are going to practice.
  • It is highly recommended that you learn how to roll a kayak and prepare for emergency situations.
  • You should take into account the transportation of the kayak when comparing the different models.

Our Selection: The Best Kayaks

If you are interested in getting into kayaking, we can help you get started by showing you some of the best models on the market. We have selected the following kayaks based on their value for money, their features and customer feedback. If you take a good look at the products below, you'll get an idea of what is available on the market and how much you need to spend.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Kayaks

If you've never been in a kayak before, you should start by practicing in calm waters whilst you learn how to maneuver these vessels. After significant practice and learning the safety procedures of a kayak, you can practice in moving water such a river or the ocean. Kayaking in white water or waves requires a lot of technique and skill in order to do it well. When it comes to racing a kayak across flat water, this requires slightly less technique but excellent physical condition and endurance. Keep reading on to find out more about kayaks.

Kayaking can significantly improve your physical condition.
(Source: Mihtiander: 41327321/

What is a kayak exactly?

Kayaking is a water sport that is carried out with a type of canoe that is called a kayak. Originally invented by the Inuit, an ancient Eskimo civilization that still exists today, kayaks were used for transport, hunting, and fishing in the Arctic. It is thanks to the invention of the kayak that the Inuit people are able to survive and hunt in such harsh conditions as Alaska, Canada, and Greenland.

Today, the modern kayak is a very light canoe that can be paddled by one, two or four persons, depending on the size and design of the kayak. Kayaks are defined as either K-1, K-2 or K-4, depending on the numbers of persons that can fit in the kayak. Paddling and navigating a kayak is done using double-bladed paddles that do not need to be supported by the hull. For ocean or cruise kayaking, steering is managed by pedals located at the feet.

What are the differences between kayaking and canoeing?

Although kayaking and canoeing are quite similar, there are some important differences that you should know. In a canoe, the crew members kneel and paddle using a single blade paddle. Canoes are generally crewed by one or two people, but some larger canoes can fit up to four people. Canoes are far more uncomfortable than kayaks and are more suitable for shorter trips.

In a kayak, the crew always faces the front (bow) and uses a double-bladed paddle that is not supported by the hull of the boat. In a kayak, there can be one, two or four seats depending on the discipline that is being practiced. It is possible to purchase inflatables kayaks that are very easy to transport and self-emptying kayaks that are great for beginners.

Crew position Type of paddle
Canoe Kneeling Single blade paddle
Kayak Sitting Double blade paddle

What types of kayaks are there?

There is no one single kayak that is designed for all kayaking disciplines. The activity you are going to practice or the location on where you plan to go kayaking will generally determine the type of kayak you need. Before buying a kayak, think carefully about how you plan to use it as the characteristics of each type differ considerably. Accurately defining how you will use your kayak will go a long way to ensuring a successful purchase.

Kayaks can be broadly categorized into two groups: open and closed. Open kayaks are usually between 8.2 and 13 feet long and do not have a specified "cockpit". With an open kayak, the hull is completely open, which means water can enter easily if there are waves or white water. Open kayaks are ideal for beginners to use on flat water.

Closed kayaks are much more advanced models in which, sometimes, the paddler needs to carry out the self-rescue maneuver known as an "Eskimo roll". Within these two groups of kayaks, there are multiple options that we will discuss below.

Kayak type Kayak model Pros Cons
Open kayak Sit-on-top kayak Ideal for beginners. Tipping is almost impossible, but if it does occur, climbing back on is very easy.

Great for diving, fishing or surfing.

Not suitable for traveling large distances.

Wider and slower than a traditional kayak of the same length.

Open kayak Fishing kayak It is a self-emptying kayak with fishing accessories.

Easy to maneuver.

It allows you to carry all kinds of fishing accessories.

It has similar drawbacks as the sit-on-top kayak.

Closed kayak Surf kayak Short-length with a relatively flat hull.

Ideal for turbulent waters and abrupt turns.

It is very difficult to get out of them.

As they flip easily, you must know how to perform an Eskimo roll.

Closed kayak Kayak polo Similar to whitewater kayaks.

Bow (front) and stern (rear) are rounded.

Very maneuverable

Frequent paddle strokes required.

Slow over flat water.

Closed kayak Whitewater kayak Fast and light boats.

Able to push through strong underwater currents.

Long, narrow and with vertical forms in the front and back.

They can easily flip.

Closed kayak Calm water kayak and competition (track, marathon and river sports) Minimum weight, long and very narrow.

Maximum hydrodynamic performance for maximum speed.

Measurements vary depending on the competition

Very unstable

They require a high level of experience to maintain balance.

Closed kayak Sea kayak Can travel at great speed.

Some models have a built-in rudder.

16 ft long and  2 ft wide and very stable.

Difficult to transport on land as they are big and heavy.

Closed kayak Slalom kayak (Olympic discipline)

Very maneuverable

11.5 ft long and 2 ft wide.

The paddler sits in the enclosed "cockpit" and is covered by a "skirt" to keep water out.

Very unstable

Performing an Eskimo roll is common when using one of these kayaks.

What materials are kayaks made of?

The most common material used to make kayaks is polyethylene plastic, as it is strong yet relatively light. The lightest and most maneuverable kayaks on the market are those made of fiberglass. However, be aware that fiberglass cracks or breaks easily when coming into contact with a hard object. Composite kayaks (made of kevlar or carbon fiber) are another option and these are more rigid and resistant.

What are the parts of a kayak?

If you don't know a lot about kayaks but have decided to buy one, it is important that you at least learn about the different parts of a kayak. To help you with this, we are going to explain the parts of a kayak below, depending on the model:

  • Rudder: Optional depending on the model. It is located at the back of the kayak and sits in the water. Used to steer the kayak by using the rudder control.
  • Seat: Composed of backrest and seat.
  • Lifeline: Rope that runs around the edge of a kayak and allows crew members to hold on if they fall into the water. More common in open kayaks.
  • Bow: Front part of a kayak. The shape of the bow influences speed.
  • Stern: Rear part of a kayak.
  • Cockpit: The place where the crew sits in the kayak.
  • Rudder control: Controlled by the feet and used to change the position of the rudder.
  • Keel: Underside of the kayak that helps the vessel stay balanced.
  • Skirt: Waterproof material that is attached to the kayak and the paddler to keep water out. Only used in closed kayaks.
  • Handles: Used to carry and transport the kayak.
  • Bulkhead: Watertight compartments for carrying valuables, electronics or your microfiber towel. Essential in closed and fishing kayaks.

Most kayaks are made of polyethylene plastic, as it is the most resistant material.
(Source: Mihtiander: 39762328/

Buyer’s Guide

When buying your first kayak, it is important to compare all the models available and consider the features that each type offers. Buying a kayak can be difficult, which is why we want to share with you some key points to take into account before making a decision. By taking a close look at the following aspects, we are sure that you will find the kayak model that is perfect for you.

Paddler Experience

If you're a beginner or relatively new to kayaking, it is important that you choose a kayak that is suitable for your level of experience. A kayak with advanced features or a model that is designed for professional competitions is unlikely to suit your level if you are just starting out. It is very common for beginners to feel scared or have difficulty getting in and out of a kayak if they buy a closed kayak. Also, as a beginner, you will spend a lot of time sitting down in your kayak while learning, so it is absolutely critical that the seat is comfortable.

Open kayaks are great for beginners.
(Source: Ftlaudgirl: 26578469/

Paddler Physique

Kayaks do not come in "sizes", however, the specific model should be selected with the physical characteristics of the paddler in mind. The weight and height of a kayaker is something that is very important for choosing a suitable kayak. Choosing a model that is too small will mean that the kayak will sink deeper into the water and will be harder to paddle. On the contrary, a large kayak will be very difficult for a small person or a child to handle. Picking the right kayak for the person is all about assessing their physical characteristics and finding a suitable model.


When deciding on which material you want your kayak to be made of, there are many factors to consider. A kayak made of carbon fiber will be more likely to break from an impact but it is much faster when gliding through the water. Carbon fiber kayaks are made with a series of sheets or layers that are attached to a frame. Carbon fiber kayaks are very light crafts and are easy to paddle, however, they are much more expensive.

Plastic kayaks are made with molds, so their physical design is usually quite basic. Plastic kayaks are also much heavier to transport and more difficult to paddle. Only the positive side, plastic kayaks are virtually indestructible which makes them perfect for beginners, families or as leisure crafts.

Type of Kayak

Choosing the type of kayak to purchase should depend on the activity you are going to practice and your experience level. Closed kayaks require a higher level of skill and balance as they are far more unstable than open kayaks. With a closed kayak, the crew sits in a cockpit that is sealed with a cover or "skirt" that prevents water from entering. With a closed kayak you can navigate rough rivers and seas, however significant technique is required.

Open kayaks, on the other hand, are completely open, self-emptying kayaks that are much cheaper, easier to use, and great fun. Paddling on a calm lake, river or harbor is a great way to relax and get away from busy cities and noise. An open kayak is a perfect option if you are looking for an easy-to-use kayak.


Kayaking is more than just a sport for those who practice it often, it is a way of life. If you are someone who is considering trying kayaking for the first time, we highly recommend that you take the leap and do it.

If you are a total beginner, you should opt for a comfortable kayak that is simple to maneuver or an inflatable one. Once you notice an improvement in your physical condition and ability to control your kayak, you can consider a closed kayak or a kayak made of carbon fiber. If you love fishing, you could always try combining the two sports by purchasing a fishing kayak.

(Source of Featured Image: Mihtiander: 50601778/