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There are a number of factors in deciding the best kayak for you. Coastal Maine Kayak has some information online to help make you an informed paddler.
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Choosing the Right Kayak
When it comes time to choose a kayak, one has to decide based on what they can afford and on the use of the kayak. First, you should decide where you want to use your kayak – ponds, streams, lakes, rivers, ocean, etc. The right kayak for ponds and lakes might not be the right kayak for ocean (and it might be dangerous to consider using your pond or lake kayak for the ocean based on the design of the kayak you decide upon). First to consider: can you lift the kayak by yourself? Do you always need two people to load the kayak on and off the vehicle or into the storage area? Is there a size restriction in your storage area? Do you need to consider another place to store your kayak? Next to consider would be the type of kayak and where you intend to use it: Recreational kayaks are usually a smaller kayak, more stable, easy to pack and get away for the day, easier to turn on a smaller radius and good for quiet waters, such as, ponds, streams, and lakes. Recreational kayaks are not suited for paddling in the ocean. They are generally between 9.5 – 12 feet in length. Light touring kayaks are used for paddling longer distances than the recreational kayaks. They are good for trips or perhaps one overnight. They have at least 2 hatches with bulkheads, and are generally between 13.5 to 16 feet in length. Touring kayaks are for paddling the farthest, have at least 2 hatches, and are longer than the light touring kayak (between 16-20 feet in length). Touring kayaks have extra safety features, such as deck lines, and are much safer on the sea and in rough water. Kayak nomenclature refers to the many shapes to consider, (too many to even mention here). If you sit in the kayak on the floor at a kayak retail shop and the kayak is flat on the floor, believe it or not, it will be a more stable kayak in the water. When paddling a recreational kayak out on ponds, streams, and lakes it has a higher initial stability feeling and is easy to turn. When paddling a touring kayak, it is harder to turn quickly, but has a faster tracking, (going straight) out on the water. The rule is the safer you feel initially in your kayak, the faster you will outgrow your kayak. Wide recreational kayaks are 28″ wide or more and narrow kayaks are 19″- 27″. The narrow touring kayaks will paddle faster, but will feel very tippy until you become used to the kayak. The next step is deciding on a skeg or rudder kayak. Contrary to most thinking, the rudder is not to steer a kayak. But the rudder will get in the way during rescues and is just another part of the kayak to need repair. Also, stones might easily become caught between the skeg and the skeg housing in the kayak. This may not allow you to lower the skeg during inclement conditions, but a string can be added to the bottom of the skeg that enables it to be pulled down by another paddler. In very bad conditions, the rudder or skeg is an option that makes paddling much easier and it might make a difference of things going from bad to worse. If there is no skeg or rudder on the kayak, you will quickly learn and practice your paddling skills to keep the kayak going straight. Next to consider is what material is best suited for the type of paddling you will be doing. Where will you be paddling and what will be the conditions of the water and the land? Plastic kayaks are more durable, can be pulled up on the rocks and dropped without much damage. However, these kayaks are usually the heaviest of all the kayak material. When paddling a plastic boat it tends to flex and is therefore slower through the water. Repairs can be made by those who know how to weld plastic material. Fiberglass kayaks are much stronger, weighs less and usually cost more. The gel coat can be worn off on shorelines. It is not a good idea to drop or drag a fiberglass kayak. A fiberglass or composite kayak is much stiffer when going through the water and therefore much easier to paddle than its plastic cousin. Also, fiberglass repairs are more easily made than plastic repairs. Kevlar, another form of composite kayak, is usually much lighter, stiffer, and stronger that a plastic or fiberglass kayak. When paddling a Kevlar kayak one quickly notices the difference. The Kevlar kayak goes through the water effortlessly. It comes up to hull speed quickly, and because of its weight is much easier to maintain. Carbon Kevlar is the most up-to-date, newest manufactured kayak material available. It is the lightest and stiffest composite kayak. It glides through the water with the least amount of effort, and is the easiest to maintain out of all composite boat materials. It is the most popular material used by racing boats. A Carbon Kevlar kayak is repaired by using the same method as fiberglass kayaks. The kayak prices range from plastic being the most inexpensive to fiberglass, kevlar, and carbon Kevlar as being the most expensive. Never choose a kayak unless you have researched before-hand and have paddled it in the water or know someone your size that has. Choosing a kayak is similar to fitting an outfit. (You would never buy shoes without trying them on.) Everyone is different and every kayak fits everyone differently. Don’t forget to learn how to maintain your kayak correctly, and to also take your time to choose your kayak wisely.