If you are a beginner kayaker than you have probably already begun the task of looking for the perfect kayak for a beginner. One that meets all your expectations and provides you with just what you want and need to go on many future adventures.
A serious beginner kayaker would probably also have conducted a bit of research and even tried a few things out before deciding on the type of kayak to purchase. With so many available options, features, and price points, it may even make your head spin at times.
What to Look for in a Kayak for a Beginner
A good beginner kayak should be stable, fit the kayaker, and be easy to use. One of the best starter kayaks happens to be in a category called sit-on-top kayaks. This is mainly because they are easy to get in and out of. Some sit-inside kayaks can also be great. We have reviewed loads of beginner boats and have come up with our top 10 best kayaks for beginners.
If the kayak will be purchased for a child, several are specially designed for young paddlers. These boats tend to be lighter and easier to handle than those designed for adults, but they accommodate less weight than standard boats.
If you are new to kayaking and in the market for an inexpensive yak to learn how to maneuver in the water, you may want to consider inflatable kayaks. Inflatable kayaks are less expensive than their hard-shelled counterparts, and they are an excellent option for the economy-minded explorer.
If your heart is set on a hard-shelled model, you will need to decide between a sit-on-top or a sit-inside body. Both can be great for beginners. Your decision is based entirely on your preference and comfort level.
Would you prefer to sit inside a cockpit with the body of the boat surrounding you? Or would you rather sit on top of the structure with unrestricted freedom?
A Few More Beginner Tips
Beginning kayakers probably don’t have much experience in the water. Therefore, they may be unsure of which features they should go for when they purchase boats. Renting different types of boats ahead of time to try out may be a good idea for a beginner who is still deciding on what kind of paddling they want to be doing. You will be able to clock some hours on the water and familiarize yourself with the different kayak options, so you aren’t wasting your money on something you may not actually like.
It is also always a good idea to invest in some lessons, so you can learn the ins and outs and be prepared for different kinds of scenarios. For example, what do you do if the kayak were to tip over? Lessons will also help you learn the different strokes, how to steer and turn, and teach you some paddling techniques that could help you immensely while on the water.
Finally, a good beginner kayak will be one that allows you to learn all the kayaking fundamentals you will need while on the water while providing you with a comfortable level of safety while doing so.
Essential Features of a Kayak for Beginners
Consider the following when you are choosing your first kayak:
Stability: This is one of the most important and essential features to consider before purchasing a kayak. You will want to avoid unfortunate events like capsizing while you are still learning, so if the kayak is designed to award the kayaker with more stability, you can avoid this issue.
Primary stability refers to the stability of the kayak while it is on calm and flat waters, while secondary stability refers to how stable the kayak is when the conditions you are faced with are rough or choppy. If you find a kayak with a flatter hull, then you can expect that it will be ideal for flat water kayaking.
Durability: this is a feature you should consider no matter what it is you are purchasing. However, finding a durable kayak means that you have found one that is up to any abuse you may throw at it while you continue to learn the ropes. A plastic kayak may be able to provide a bit more durability for a beginner, and they are typically more affordable than options. Inflatable kayaks are also built well with very strong and durable materials and are just as cost effective as the plastic variety.
To assist you in making your decision on which kayak to purchase, we have compiled this list of the 10 best kayaks for beginners.
Top Rated Beginner kayaks – Fishing, Recreation, Inflatable, Tandem Kayaks
1. Lifetime Wave Youth Kayak
The Lifetime Wave Youth Kayak is consistently Amazon’s most highly rated model of the beginner kayaks designed for children. The sit-on-top Wave is six feet in length, and the boat weighs a mere 20 pounds.
Recommended for children from ages 5 to 11, this kayak will accommodate up to 140 pounds. Select from three vibrant colors: Blue, Yellow or Pink. The Wave ships with its own paddle, so when the boat arrives, your young navigator can hit the water right away.
It offers the enhanced stability that may be needed for a young beginner with the reverse chine and swim-up step. It also features an ergonomic cockpit that can enhance motor skills and balance. It is also constructed with a durable high-density polyethylene material that has been UV protected and will not fade, crack, or split after the many fun hours it spends out on the water and under the sun.
2. Coleman Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak
The Coleman Quikpak K1 kayak can be stored and carried in the backpack, which is shipped with the boat. If you intend to take your yak with you on your hiking or biking trip, the K1 weighs less than 20 pounds, so it is lightweight and easy to manage.
When inflated, the watercraft measures 8 feet 7 inches long. This highly rated bestseller is an excellent choice for the adult beginner due to an airtight system that prevents leaks, multiple air chambers that keep the kayak inflated even when it is punctured, and easy, five-minute assembly so you can be out on the water and learning all the basics in no time.
3. Intex Challenger K1 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
The Intex Challenger K1 is another popular and affordable inflatable that is a great beginner’s vessel for both kids and adults. The top-rated Challenger K1 is a sit-inside model that ships with everything you need!
Along with the watercraft, you get a high output air pump, an 84 in. double-paddle aluminum oar, and cargo netting to keep your gear in place. The low-profile design provides the beginner with excellent tracking and control.
The I-beam floors add stability that any beginner kayak will need, and the welded materials used in its construction offer the durability a beginner needs to allow for a learning curve the first few times out.
The craft is 9 feet long when inflated, and can accommodate up to 220 pounds. The Challenger K1 kayak is a favorite of customers, consistently showing up as a Number 1 Bestseller on Amazon.
The Intex Challenger K2 model is similar, but designed for two paddlers instead of one.
4. Lifetime Rush 90 Sit-In Kayak
The Lifetime Rush 90 Kayak will keep your junior kayaker or yourself paddling for years to come. This stylish hard-shelled, sit-inside craft is adjustable and comfortable for all sizes of paddlers up to 250 pounds.
At 45 pounds, the boat is light enough for the beginner to carry from a transporting vehicle to the water without a great deal of effort, but does have bow and stern t-handles for an easy team transport on and off the water.
This Lifetime kayak is responsive and versatile and designed for slow-moving or calm waters. With built in foam blocks, this kayak floats like a champ even if you bring accessories on the water using the deck straps.
5. Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
Though this yak is considered to be a sit-on-top, the proprietary tri-form design provides a small cockpit for the paddler; the boat is more like a cross between a sit-inside and a sit-on-top.
The tri-form hull design ensures excellent tracking and stability. This craft is 9 feet in length and weighs 43 pounds. Removable bungees keep cargo in place in both the hull and stern storage compartments.
Maximum weight capacity for the Frenzy is 325 pounds.
6. Emotion Glide Sport Kayaks
The seat back adjusts for comfort and folds completely down for storage. The molded foot rests help to keep kayakers comfortable while navigating.
The boat measures 9 feet 7 inches in length, weighs just 46 pounds. It reportedly tracks well for a craft of its size. The Glide Sport kayak is available in bright Lime Green and vibrant Blue colors.
The slight V-shape that is particular kayak offers also boasts well for stability and tracking. Its enhanced performance is also good for speed and maneuverability no matter what the water conditions are like.
7. Emotion Spitfire Sit on Top Kayak
The Spitfire is a hard shell, sit-on-top kayak with a removable padded seat back. The ST Performance hull design ensures stability and maneuverability, even when steered by the smallest kayakers.
The 8 foot long Spitfire is designed for one paddler, and can accommodate up to 245 pounds. This craft is available in Red and Green. It is constructed of a high-density polyethylene material that awards this kayak with superior strength and durability which makes it an excellent choice for any beginner still learning the ropes.
8. Coleman Colorado 2-Person Fishing Kayak
Though designed for two people, one can easily handle this yak on a solo trip. The boat is constructed in several sections which inflate independently of one another. If one section is punctured, the boat will not sink.
Anglers will have peace of mind knowing that they can get back to shore should the unexpected happen. However, with the 1000D tarpaulin bottom, the Colorado is practically impossible to puncture during excursions.
Reviewers note that this yak can maneuver through rivers and creeks, over rocks and rough vegetation, without any damage. A Sevylor trolling motor can be mounted on the boat as well, and additional features include rod holders and paddle mounts.
9. KL Industries Sun Dolphin Journey SS
This boat is a sit-inside model, but the cockpit is open and roomy so it feels more like a sit-on-top. Foot braces adjust for the paddler’s comfort, and flush mount rod holders keep the rods in the action and the paddler’s hands-free which is ideal for anglers.
A swivel rod holder is also mounted on the body of the craft. A portable accessory carrier is included with the kit, which can be used as a backpack or tow-behind storage on the water. The Journey SS can accommodate up to 250 pounds.
10. Sun Dolphin Aruba
The Sun Dolphin Aruba kayak is another beginner’s kayak that is always listed as one of the top five entries of the Amazon Bestsellers list. Available in Blue or Red, the Aruba is a stellar starter yak for a novice adult.
However, the 10 foot length may be a bit too long for a small child to control, so it is not a desirable choice if the beginner kayaker is a child. The overall weight capacity is 400 pounds, and kayak comes equipped with plenty of storage options to haul your gear.
The Sun Dolphin Aruba kayak is made from a durable and strong fortiflex high-density polyethylene material that has been UV stabilized and it also features a spray deflector collar.
Other Useful Gear
Unfortunately, a kayak is not the only thing you need to get into the sport of kayaking. The great news is, it is the type of gear that will last you for years! You will not regret making the investment now because it will bring many memories of being out on the water.
Simply having a kayak with no paddle won’t get you very far. There is a vast array of kayak paddles made from different materials that will affect the cost significantly. Typically, the heavier the paddle (like one made from aluminum) will be less expensive, but because it is heavier, you will get fatigued much faster.
There are also paddles made from carbon that make the paddle lightweight and surprisingly durable. Although they are more expensive, they will last you longer than the cheaper paddles–especially if you have to push off hard surfaces like rocks.
Not having a life jacket will get you into trouble. It is the law to be wearing a life jacket or have one with you, for good reason. Accidents are never planned and you will be happy you are wearing a life jacket if you end up in the water.
Infants, kids, and even your dogs need life vests too if they will be out on the water. Fortunately, they make PFDs specifically for infants and children of various ages and weights. If you plan on bringing “man’s best friend” on your kayaking endeavors, make sure you check out dog life vests too.
The more you go kayaking, the more you will learn what you need to bring with you and what other accessories you would enjoy having along. From a more comfortable seat to filtration water bottle to dry bags and more, the gear list never ends.
There is no need to get every product straight away, but you will find the more you go paddling, the more you will accumulate useful items that will make your kayaking adventures even more enjoyable.
Depending on where you are kayaking, water shoes might not be a necessity, but they are always a product we highly recommend. Sometimes you don’t know what is under the surface of the water so having proper water shoes offers more safety.