Best Kayak For Beginners
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A good kayak is a perfect way to get on the water and enjoy nature. But there are so many different types and styles of kayaks to choose from. So, it can be hard to know where to start.
As a beginner, we understand that you want to make sure your purchase is worthwhile. Especially when it comes to big purchases like a kayak. You don’t want to make a mistake and end up spending money on something you use only once or thrice.
That’s why we’ve done the research and compiled a list of the 5 best kayaks for beginners. Whether you’re looking for something that is easy to carry around, or something you can use for fishing or for leisure, we got you covered.
But first, you need to understand what makes a good kayak for beginners. Let’s dive into that.
Best 5 Kayak For Beginners
How To Select The Best Kayak For Beginners
It can be confusing when choosing the ideal kayak for yourself. But in the end, there are some really important things to consider before heading out to buy that first kayak.
You need to understand their features, pros, and cons, to get the best one for you. So here we will guide you to spot a beginner’s kayak that suits your need the best.
The number 1 aspect of a kayak that every beginner should look out for is stability.
Imagine finally being able to kayak for the first time.
You got everything ready, put on the life jacket and took one step onto the kayak. Feels a bit wobbly but that’s expected. Then as you were about to lift your other feet, the kayak flipped and you landed on the water.
That would probably scare you from kayaking for many years to come.
Hence, the importance of stability for beginners. A stable kayak would allow you to walk and stand even on its edge without capsizing.
One of the key factors to a kayak’s stability is its hull shape or design. A pontoon hull and a flat hull are 2 designs that offer great stability. So, we highly suggest you choose either one of those hull designs only.
Kayak Length and Width
Another factor that contributes to stability is the kayak’s length and width. A short and wide kayak gives the best stability compared to a long and narrow kayak.
Yes, short and wide kayaks are slow. But our current priority is stability. Once you have more experience, then only look for a fast kayak to speed on the water.
Fortunately, no speeding tickets will be issued on the water.
We recommend looking for kayaks with at least 30 inches wide. That should offer you sufficient stability to learn how to kayak.
Each kayak has a different weight capacity. This is the capacity of the kayak to safely lift your weight along with all the items you are bringing on board.
If you are not big-sized or plan to bring many items on board, the weight capacity is not that important. All kayaks should be able to lift an adult with ease.
Unless you accidentally bought yourself a kid’s kayak.
When you exceed the kayak’s weight capacity, you probably will not sink immediately. But, that will severely reduce the kayak’s stability. Hence, increasing the risk of capsizing.
Anyway, let’s be safe than sorry. So, always make a habit to check the kayak’s weight capacity before you buy it.
The general rule of thumb is to fill up to 70% of the weight capacity. For example, if the kayak’s weight capacity is 300 pounds, try not to load beyond 210 pounds onto the kayak.
Always have some buffer for safety reasons.
Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105 Specs
Max Capacity: 325 lbs
Weight: 55 lbs
Established in 1986, Wilderness System has over 30 years of experience in building kayaks. And the result of continuously improvising and innovating over the years, is the Tarpon 105.
Specifically made to handle various activities, the sit-on-top kayak is the most versatile watercraft so far in Wilderness System’s lineup.
Lakes, rivers and ocean? Not a problem.
Fishing, cruising and surfing the waves? Also no problems.
The 32 inches flat hull offers excellent stability. Allowing first-time paddlers to hop in and hop off without feeling wobbly. It really gives you the confidence you need as a beginner.
In terms of comfort, the pilot’s seat is built with Wilderness System’s ergonomically designed AirPro seats. You can adjust the seat accordingly. Even the footrest is adjustable too! So, people of various heights can enjoy this kayak comfortably whole day long.
If you do plan to kayak the whole day long, you can load up a lot of supplies thanks to the ample storage space. There is a large tankwell at the rear, big enough to fit a fishing cooler box. Plus, a front dry storage hatch for items you want to keep dry.
They even made a dedicated box for storing your phone, wallet and keys! And to keep you hydrated whole day, there is a magnetic water bottle strap. So that you can keep your water bottle within arm’s reach.
For those who like fishing, you will be glad to know that the Tarpon 105 is rich with fishing features as well. Besides superior stability and comfort, there is a pair of accessory rails – one on each side of the kayak. It fits rod holders and fish finders well.
All in all, no beginner will find this kayak lacking. Thus, making it a good choice for new paddlers.
- Rich with features, especially for fishing
- Very versatile, can be used on various water & activities
- Have ample storage including dry hatch
- No paddles included
Perception Pescador Pro 12 Specs
Max Capacity: 375 lbs
Weight: 64 lbs
The Pescador Pro 12 from Perception Kayaks is designed as a versatile fishing kayak. We strongly believe that fishing kayaks are great for beginners for a simple reason. It offers great stability.
A good fishing kayak is stable enough for an angler to stand, cast and reel in their catch. So, if anglers can walk, stand and reel steadily from their kayak, that should be good enough for beginners too.
Another aspect we like about fishing kayaks is, that they sure are comfortable. Anglers generally don’t go out, fish for 10 to 20 minutes before calling it a day. Nope. They go for HOURS!
Therefore, comfort is the second priority right after stability. Pescasdor Pro 12 is equipped with 2 levels of adjustable seat. The seat can be lowered or raised and the backrest can be tilted too. Even the footrest is adjustable too, catering for people of various sizes.
Storage is plentiful for sure. The rear open storage can fit a cooler box. While, the bow area has a storage space with a stretchable mesh cover. The only thing lacking is a dry storage area.
Last but not least, being a fishing kayak, you bet it is rigged for fishing. With a pair of accessory rails, one on each side of the kayak. You can attach after-market accessories like rod or GoPro holders without drilling your kayak.
There are also 2 molded in rod holders behind the pilot’s seat. Plus, a fish finder console with transducer mounting.
- Equipped with 2 levels of adjustable seat
- Highly rigged for fishing
- Can be used on various water
- No dry storage for non-waterproof items
- No paddles included
Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak Specs
Max Capacity: 130 lbs
Weight: 19 lbs
Lifetime’s Youth Wave is a kids’ kayak, built for kids aged 5 and good to use until their teenage years. If your kids grew out of your tandem kayak and want a kayak of their own, this is a great choice.
Kids kayaks are always designed as beginner-friendly. Thus, if you are looking for a beginner kayak for your kids, a kid’s kayak is the way to go.
This Youth Wave has a pontoon hull with a unique reverse chine design. That offers superior stability. But if you are still concerned about falling overboard, you will be pleased to know that this kayak features a super handy swim-up deck.
The swim-up deck is designed at the stern of the kayak. A common feature for kids’ kayaks because they are expected to tip overboard occasionally. That makes it easier to climb back into their kayak from the water.
Design with room to grow, this kayak features multiple footrest positions at the bow. So, your kids can continue using this kayak until their teenage years.
[If you like to explore more options for kid’s kayaks, check out our Top 5 Best Kids Kayak guide] .
- Comes with a paddle
- Has a unique hull design for superior stability
- Features a swim-up deck at the rear
- No pilot seat or backrest, can be quite uncomfortable
- No storage area at all
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak Specs
Max Capacity: 220 lbs
Weight: 28 lbs
The Intex’s Challenger is a sporty inflatable kayak. Being an inflatable kayak, it is superbly convenient to bring around. You do not need a kayak rack or a truck to transport inflatable kayaks. Definitely a good start for beginners.
Thanks to its Boston valves, inflating and deflating this kayak takes less than 15 minutes. In case you are wondering how to inflate it, rest assured that this kayak comes in a complete set. That includes a pump, paddles, detachable skeg and a carry bag too.
Everything you need to start paddling with just 1 order. No need to make multiple separate orders.
The seats and backrest are inflatable. Hence, they are very comfortable to sit on. If you somehow feel like doing some standup paddling instead, know that the seat and backrest can be removed.
It is made from heavy-duty vinyl. So, generally it would not be punctured by sharp objects from the shore. Unless you deliberately run a knife through the kayak.
However, there are users who reported that air holes start to appear after a while. Luckily, you can buy repair kits which you can use to quickly patch up those air holes.
- Comes in a complete set including a pump and paddle
- Superbly convenient to carry around
- Inflate and deflate quickly within 15 minutes
- Not as durable as expected
Sun Dolphin Journey 10 SS Specs
Max Capacity: 250 lbs
Weight: 44 lbs
This Journey 10 SS from Sun Dolphin is another fishing kayak in our review. It is a rather simple kayak for simple needs. But because of that, it’s really affordable. So that will attract a lot of beginners’ attention.
A very interesting feature of the Journey 10 SS is its portable accessory carrier. It is actually a plastic container that fits perfectly onto the storage well at the rear. Being portable, you can take off the container whenever needed.
The portable accessory carrier can be used as a dry storage or a live well that you can fill with water to keep your catch in it.
In terms of comfort, the Journey 10 SS offers the bare minimum with an adjustable backrest and footrest. There’s no pilot seat. So, you may feel uncomfortable after sitting in it for hours.
One of the most common complaints about this kayak is the poorly designed scupper holes. The pair of scupper holes are meant to drain water out from the kayak. However, in actual use, it ends up flooding the kayak and you end up sitting in a puddle of water.
All in all, the Journey 10 SS is a decent kayak for its price point. Some level of annoyance should be expected. Only go for this if you want a budget hardshell kayak.
- Comes with a paddle
- Has a portable accessory carrier at the stern
- Poorly designed scupper holes
- Paddle blades are too soft, hard to paddle
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: What is the best kayak to start with for beginners?
A: We always suggest getting the most stable kayak you can afford. As a beginner, a stable kayak is the best starting point. We’ve explained kayak stability in great detail in our How To Select The Best Kayak For Beginners section.
Q: Is a sit-on or sit-in kayak better for beginners?
A: Sit-in used to be favored because it’s more stable. But today, thanks to the amazing design, sit-on kayaks are surprisingly stable as well. So, both are equally good for beginners. Generally, sit-in kayaks are preferred when kayaking in cold water whereby you don’t want to get wet.
Q: Do kayaks flip easily?
A: It depends on the design of the kayak. That’s why for beginners, we recommend looking for only a pontoon hull or a flat hull design. Those 2 designs offer the best stability. Hence, it doesn’t flip easily.
Q: Is it safe to kayak alone?
A: As long as you are on the water, there is always some risk involved. Generally it’s safe to kayak alone, especially when you are wearing a good life jacket. But always prepare a float plan before paddling out.
As you have noticed, we reviewed a variety of kayaks. Frankly, they are all great for beginners. So, what makes the best one for you, really depends on your preferences.
If you are entirely new to kayaking and do not wish to spend too much, the Intex Challenger K1 is a great choice. You get everything you need with 1 purchase, except for a life jacket.
However, if you are determined to pick up kayaking for real. Then we highly recommend the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105. Being a very versatile kayak, you can use it well for various activities.
With the Tarpon 105, you can try out different paddling activities. Then, take your time to discover which area of paddling you enjoy best.
Kayaking is truly a great way to enjoy the outdoors. It can be relaxing as you cruise around a lake. It can also be very exciting as you ride on whitewater rapids.
But as long as you are on the water, there is always some risk involved. That’s why it is so important to follow a safety checklist before you paddle out. Sadly, none of the kayaks comes with personal floatation devices (PFD) such as a life jacket.
[For more details on PFDs, do check out our Best Kayak Life Jacket guide]
We highly recommend you to always get a life jacket. And ensure you wear it at all times when kayaking.
We hope you enjoyed this article and if you have questions about Best Kayak For Beginners or want to leave your own personal comments, feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!