Kayaking is one of the fastest growing activities in the US, with almost eight million people. Its increasing popularity is not surprising considering how simple it is to learn, surprisingly affordable and it is a great activity to enjoy with the whole family. Kayaking has rapidly become the next big thing in exercise, helping people develop cardio endurance, total body strength, flexibility and balance all at the same time.
It is so fun and addictive that most people probably don't even realize that they're working out at the same time. The good thing about kayaking is that it fits so well many other favorite activities such as hiking, camping and photography, it offers something for everyone. So what do you need to know in order to buy a kayak? Here are the steps that anyone looking to buy a kayak needs to know.
There are basically two types of kayak frames, sit-on-top and sit-in. The first design, the sit-on-top frame, the paddler sits in a recessed seat on the deck of the boat, instead of in the cockpit in the hull of the vessel. A typical feature of the sit-on-top frame is that it usually has a wide, stable design, self bailing and are easy to get into and out of. This frame type is great for slow rolling rivers, lakes and coastal waters.
The second frame design is the sit-in style, where the paddler sits in the hull, or cockpit, of the boat and will have more control. It most often has increased storage for your gear and is more versatile. The sit-in frame style is more suited for fresh water like lakes and rivers.
There are three main categories for kayaks, sport, touring and recreational. The sporting kayak is great for sport specific activities such as fishing and waterfowl hunting. Sporting kayaks are lightweight, stable and usually come packed with useful features. They provide comfortable seating with quite a bit of leg room and plenty of storage space for your gear.
The touring kayak offers the most speed and efficiency for any level of kayaker, from the novice to enthusiast. Touring kayaks have a narrower, longer profile and are easy to paddle in a straight line. They have good stability and versatility and are good for long paddling adventures on open water.
Recreational kayaks are great for the beginner and low intensity paddlers. Recreational kayaks are lightweight, very stable and provide a great value for the price. These kayaks are best for shorter trips on small lakes, ponds, creeks and small lazy rivers. They're great for a relaxing outing with friends and family where you can kick back and enjoy the scenery.
Recreational kayaks come in two versions, compact and midsize. The compact recreational kayaks are short, broad and very lightweight, giving great mobility and stability. Compact kayaks are excellent for beginners as well as children and women who might prefer a lighter load.
Midsize recreational kayaks on the other hand are longer and broader which offer increased capacity and paddling efficiency compared to a compact kayak. Storage hatches and gear compartments are features that typically are included with the midsize recreational kayak.
Each kayak is designed for specific activities, offering different dimensions and shapes relevant to the type of paddling it was made for. The design will emphasize some aspects while sacrificing others. For example, heavier kayaks will offer more storage but will typically be less maneuverable, while a lighter kayak will offer just the opposite. These features, weight, capacity, length, width and cockpit size are listed below.
The weight is how much the vessel weighs without any gear or bodies inside. Most kayaks weigh somewhere between 30 and 70 pounds. Weight may be an important deciding factor if you will have to carry it any distance to the launch site.
The capacity of your bot is the amount of weight it can reasonably hold without affecting the perform ace or safety, which factors in the weight of any passanger(s) and the weight of any gear.
Length effects the speed of the boat in the water, longer kayaks will be faster. A longer kayak will also track, or go in a straight line, better. Usually the longer kayak will also offer more cargo space and speed, unfortunately are more difficult to handle in tight spaces. What the longer kayak makes up for in speed it gives up in maneuverability, where as a shorter kayak will be more maneuverable, lighter and easier to carry.
The width, or beam, of the kayak is the widest measurement, taken in the middle. A kayak that is wider will usually be slower, however it will offer more stability than one that is narrower. The wider kayak will give more stability for heavier or taller paddlers who would have a higher center of gravity. If you're a beginner, a wider boat would be more suitable, a sportsman would also find this to be true. If you're planning on long excursions, a narrower kayak would be the better option, offering more speed and easier paddling.
The size of the cockpit is really a matter of personal preference and is a reflection of the type of vessel. The cockpit on sporting kayaks will range in the size depending on the sport it is geared towards. Touring cockpits are usually smaller and will include built in thigh braces on the rim for better control. Recreation cockpits are usually the least restrictive, roomiest and most versatile.
Mark Sullivan is an outdoor water junkie who fell in love with the water and boating while as a child spending time at his grandparent's house in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.
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