The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Kayak

We’ve gathered the most up to date and relevant information for Australians when it comes to buying a kayak. We asked the experts and got top tips for buyers.

Introduction

kayak

Exploring the outdoors by kayak is equal parts relaxing and exciting, melding the simple triad of you, the boat, and the water into a singular, exhilarating experience. You can maximise that experience by using a kayak that is best suited for your specific situation. To choose the right kayaks and paddles for your adventures, you will want to consider a number of factors, including your level of expertise, features of various kinds of kayaks, types of waterways and transport.

Understanding Kayak Types and Hull Shapes

There are several different components in the typical kayak, and knowing a few key details can make it easier to understand what you read and see as you browse kayak listings.

 

The shape of the hull not only is one of a kayak’s most identifiable components, it is also one of its most important features because it determines the way the kayak cuts through and moves on the water. The hull shape also has a great impact on the kayak’s stability, which makes it an important factor for beginner kayakers to pay attention to as they shop their new watercraft.

 

  • Flat-bottomed kayaks offer the most stability, so it is the most common hull shape found in basic recreational kayaks.
  • Rounded-hull kayaks are still fairly stable, plus it provides kayakers with a little bit more speed. This makes a rounded hull the shape of choice for touring kayaks.
  • V-shaped hull kayaks cut quickly through the water because it creates the least drag. Though they are not as stable for kayakers just starting out, V-shaped hulls tend to be much harder to tip. Most kayaks oriented towards more experienced kayakers have V-shaped hulls.

 

 Kayak Hull Shapes

Flat-Bottom Hull Kayaks  flat-bottom hull kayak
Rounded Hull Kayaks
  • Fairly stable compared to flat-bottom hulls
  • Provide more speed than flat-bottom hulls
  • Most common hull for touring kayaks
 rounded hull kayak
V-Shaped Hull Kayaks
  • Cut quickly through the water due to least drag
  • Not as stable for beginning kayakers
  • Hardest to tip
  • Most common in expert or racing kayaks for experienced kayakers
v-shaped hull kayak

 

Basic Kayaks

There are as many different types of kayaks as there are ways to use them. Understanding the main features of each kayak type can help you make the right decision about which type you need. Key factors to consider include where you plan to paddle, the distance you will be travelling in your kayak, and the type of conditions you will be paddling in. It’s also important to keep in mind how you plan to transport the kayak.

 

Recreational Kayaks

 

Those who dream of leisurely kayaking trips on calm, easy waters typically only need a basic recreational kayak. In addition to being very affordable, they are easy to use, making them perfect for beginners.

 

Recreational kayaks tend to be slim on features, though many come with small storage compartments. The standard recreational model is typically no more than 4.5 meters in length.

 

Manufacturers suggest that you do not use recreational kayaks in rougher water conditions, as they do not bear as straight as other kayak types and may be hard to turn over if flipped.

 

Touring Kayaks

 

A touring kayak is largely similar to a recreational kayak, but it sports a few extra features.

 

Touring kayaks typically have a larger storage compartment, and their wider base grants them more stability. They tend to be around the same size as recreational kayaks, topping out at around 5 meters in length.

 

Sit-on-top Kayaks

 

Another great model for beginners, sit-on-top kayaks – aptly named because the kayaker sits on top of the kayak rather than inside it – are preferred by many because they are easy to get on and off of and make for pleasant kayaking in warmer weather conditions.

 

On the whole, they tend to be a little slower on the water than recreational kayak models. They are typically 3 or 4 meters in length, though models of up to 5 meters can be found.

 

Sit-on-top models are easy to right if they flip over, and they can come with space for one, two, or more passengers. Sit-on-top kayaks may be the perfect choice for larger or taller kayakers who cannot easily fit in a traditional model, or those who have mobility issues.

Expert Kayaks

For more experienced kayakers that are better prepared to tackle rougher waters, an expert-level kayak is a necessity. Various design features make expert kayaks better at getting through even the toughest conditions, though they make the kayaks a little bit tougher to handle.

 

Multisport Kayaks and Racing Kayaks

 

With a lightweight build and a narrow design that is a little more difficult to paddle, a multisport or racing kayak is crafted for speed. However, getting it up to speed requires a kayaker that is an expert at his or her craft. This style of kayak has a rudder to boost its ability to turn through the water and make corrections as needed.

 

Those who intend to race or otherwise gain top speed on the water would do well with a multisport kayak. These models typically come in at around 5 meters in length.

 

Whitewater Kayaks

 

Adrenaline junkies who have an expert level of proficiency in rough water conditions will get a great rush in a whitewater kayak. Designed to withstand rough conditions and typically built with high-impact plastic, whitewater kayaks have great manoeuvrability.

 

Whitewater kayaks are not designed with speed in mind, as much of their speed comes from that of the water. They tend to be on the shorter side, at least when compared to multisport kayaks. This is by design, though, as the shorter length increases manoeuvrability and helps in avoiding obstacles.

 

There are also subtypes of whitewater kayaks that are designed for diverse whitewater conditions and different styles of paddling. Some of them include design features from multiple subtypes to increase their utility in a variety of situations.

 

Sea Kayaks

 

Designed for use in rough waters, sea kayaks are versatile crafts that easily make the transition from ocean to river. Typically built with a bias for straight tracking, sea kayaks also offer more efficiency at the hull than other models.

 

Some sea kayaks may come with rudders or have design details such as an upturned bow for wave shedding. They typically have extended cargo areas, as they are designed for longer days out on the waves.

 

The style and design typical sea kayaks make them a perfect option for an expert kayaker. For a beginner, the design features of a sea kayak may be a bit of overkill, especially if the kayaker does not plan to take it out on choppy water or ocean waves.

Easy-to-Transport Kayaks

In addition to the main models of kayaks, there are several kayaks for people with limited means to transport large items. Modular kayaks break down into two to three pieces, making them easier to pack up. Inflatable kayaks can be toted around in a carry bag, making them an excellent option for those that wish to take a kayak on a camping excursion. Folding kayaks combine the benefits of both modular and inflatable styles, and they can be broken down to roughly the size of a backpack.

 

On the whole, modular, inflatable, and folding kayaks tend to be smaller and best for recreational use. Most are not designed for rough water conditions, though the hard body of modular and folding kayaks mean they can withstand a little more than the typical inflatable kayak.

Kayak Accessories

There are many kayak accessories that will make your kayak easier, safer, and more comfortable to store, transport, and use. The types of accessories that you will need or want will depend largely on the type of kayak that you plan to purchase.

 

The primary accessory – well, necessity really – is a paddle. Keep in mind that the type of kayak paddle you need depends on type of paddling you will be doing and the kind of kayak you buy. Many kayaks, especially used ones, come with paddles.

Next, there are several accessories to help with moving or storing your kayak. Wall cradles are a great option for storing kayaks out of the way in the garage. Kayak carts with wheels and straps provide both easy storage and convenient transport to your trailer. For transporting your kayak to the water, there are car racks and bike trailers with various designs suited for different situations.

 

Accessories for safety and comfort are essential. Helmets, vital for kayakers of all types and experience levels, are available in sizes to fit any age, including kids. You very possibly will want to consider a spray skirt, which keeps water out of the cockpit, protecting your kayak and making for a more comfortable experience out on the water.

Expert Tips

We asked the experts at canoe.org.au to give us a few pointers:

  1. First decide what kind of kayaking you want to do and then you can find out which type of kayak you will need. Your local kayak shop or club should be able to help. You can find a club near you using this club search tool: http://canoe.org.au/clubs/
  2. Kayaking and Canoeing are very similar. Don’t let the terminology get in your way, both are great fun! They can also be as relaxing or challenging as you choose.  Generally speaking, kayaking involves sitting in the craft with a double bladed paddle. Canoeing involves kneeling in the craft, or sitting on a raised seat and paddling with a single bladed paddle. Be sure not to get confused with rowing and oars!
  3. Second hand kayaks can be much cheaper, but be sure to ask an experienced paddler if it is right for you and if there are any safety issues. Your kayak should be water tight and free from any sharp edges. Be sure to use it on flat water first, and make sure you use a life jacket.

 

We also got the top 5 tips from Expedition Kayaks:

  1. Think carefully about the type of paddling you want to do, be it fitness, recreation, fishing, or full blown sea expeditioning.
  2. You can’t buy cheap, light & strong, but you can definitely get two out of three! If it’s light and cheap, beware it may not be very durable.
  3. You get what you pay for, high quality construction will always carry a premium price, but it’ll last many years.
  4. The hull is the most important design consideration. A well-built, shiny, fully fitted out kayak or ski will still be a hard craft to handle on the water if the hull is a poor design. Read reviews, see what the leading paddlers in the particular genre to which you’re aiming are paddling and beware of the ‘no name’ brands.
  5. Try before you buy, preferably in the same conditions & water that you hope to paddle your boat in.

Buying a Kayak on Gumtree

Gumtree’s huge number of listings of kayaks for sale makes it a great place to buy one. To look over the widest selection, type “kayaks” or “used kayaks” in the search box at the top of the page, or alternatively you can click on this link for used kayaks:  http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-used+kayaks/k0.

 

If you are looking for a particular type of kayak, simply type in what you’re looking for, such as “one-person kayaks” (http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-one+person+kayaks/k0). For those looking for accessories to enhance their kayaking experience, just type whatever you need into the search box to get a full list of everything available.

Conclusion

The preparation for buying a kayak should begin even before you start to explore the many options available on Gumtree. Think about how and where you plan to transport and use your kayak, and consider whether you will need any accessories for your kayak to get the most out of enjoying it. Once you have a good idea, you can start exploring the world of kayaks and kayak accessories.