Kayaking is an intimate way to run a river, float a lake, or fish a cove. Your muscles power the kayak going only as fast as you are strong. This is why I’m partial to kayaks and human powered machines, there is no “conquering” of nature or gravity. A couple of years ago I was invited on my first kayak duck hunt and now I can’t pass someone kayaking without an envious glance. Hopefully, you are looking for the same rush of the whitewater, the thrill of the fish hooked, and the calm of the meandering river float.
There are many different types of kayaks; sea, touring, whitewater, sit on top, fishing, and inflatable. Each of these have subcategories and different capabilities that are as endless as every other sport. The three I have some experience with are the fishing, recreational, and inflatable.
I was introduced to the recreational kayak by the Admiral (he owns a few of them) for kayak duck hunting. In general these are about 10 feet long and seat one person. The leg room is pretty good and maneuverability and stability are good. You sit slightly below water line and paddling is easy. These are very versatile kayaks. We have used them for island camping trips, the duck runs, playing around in lakes, and crabbing. If you are looking for a kayak that you can fish from, hunt from, camp from, and just plain paddle around these are a good buy. Overall, this is an excellent single rider choice.
I opted to buy the sit on top style of kayak. These kayaks raise you up out of the water and have a different design to help stabilize that extra height. They are also more comfortable for fishing. The sit on top allows for two adults or in my case an adult and two kids. You can mount a trolling motor to the back for some lake fishing. It comes with three fishing pole holders but when we tested it only two people could fish comfortably. Perhaps more importantly, it comes with three cup holders and a sail mount if you want to try a little sailing. Since you are a little higher out of the water paddling is a bit more difficult but barely noticeable. The turning is very easy, I found that the person in the back has to pay more attention to what the front paddler is doing because they can turn the craft very easily with a single strong stroke. This kayak is also the easiest to launch and land. Overall, this is an excellent and more comfortable option for families which will use the kayak for different activities.
Inflatable kayaks have some excellent benefits. They are easy to store, they are light, most inflate/deflate quickly, and they glide across the water. In general they are a little less expensive as well. I did notice that they are a bit less stable, but the high sides make up for it if you have kids aboard. Fishing appeared to be more difficult because of the lack of rod holders and being seated down inside the kayak. I’m sure you could easily rig up a rod holder and an elevated seat if fishing is a priority. I think inflatables are an excellent option for urban dwellers with limited storage space or for those that will only float it two to three times a year.
When you get ready to buy a kayak answer a few key questions first:
- How are you going to use the kayak?
- Who is going to use the kayak and how big are they (comfort is important)?
- How strong are you (you will have to transport, launch, and land the kayak)?
- How athletic or coordinated will the users be (you may need a more stable craft for youngsters)?
It is important to try a few different kayaks before buying. There is the perfect kayak for you out there. I often find excellent kayaks on Craigs List or at yard sales, especially at the end of a summer season. I enjoy kayaking more than boating. I like the physical and intimate nature of kayaks. If you have a preferred kayak or kayak activity, let us know.