...Buying A Kayak...
Your interested in purchasing your first Kayak or possibly upgrading to a sleeker, faster one but not sure what your really want, below are a few basic tips to think about before venturing out to purchase your kayak, this will also help sales staff narrow your choices down as there are many different makes and shapes on the market.
Before buying a kayak, you need to decide how you’re going to use it. Do you want to paddle whitewater rapids, lakes and rivers, or the open ocean? Do you want to paddle solo or with a partner? Beginners should look for a kayak that combines versatile handling with good stability and reasonable weight.
Plastic or fiberglass? Kayaks are made from either plastic or fiberglass. Plastic boats are more durable, offer protection from rocks and oysters, and are generally less expensive than fiberglass boats. On the other hand, fiberglass boats are lighter and faster and can be repaired if damaged.
Sit-on - allow you to sit on top and are great for fishing and diving or as beginner boats.
Touring or sea kayaks are designed for long-distance travel. They are generally longer and slightly narrower giving them a greater forward speed.
Tandem kayaks are two-seated boats perfect for families or couples.
Where do you live and where will you be training or paddling most of the time?
If you will be training in exposed area away from the shoreline then you need to take this into account. You never know when you may take that unexpected dip! Ocean skis are fast and can be unstable but you can always just climb back on (practice first in clam water). On the other hand sea kayaks are stable, but not as fast. You have a more relaxed paddle and with a few lessons on how to Eskimo roll can be a great skill to have and reassuring when far from shore. If you are going to be training on clam waters or rivers then the multisport kayaks are a good option as they are fast and light.
If you live in a warmer climate surf skis or ocean racing skis is a great option. These allow you the freedom to get out in the ocean catching the swells and runners. With the increased popularity of ocean racing the technology improvements have made skis some of the fastest paddle craft around. With the likes of Fenn, Epic and Red7 always making improvements. From a safety point of view they are great as well if you fall out you just climb back on. A calf leash is a must on the windy days as skis have been known to get blown away.
If you live in one of the colder areas then a ski may not be the best option as you are exposed to the elements. When it is a sit on craft and you are generally always a little wet and the feet are always in water. You have a couple of options here, a sea kayak or a purpose built multisport kayak. The major difference is speed. Sea kayaks tend to be very stable and have all the bells and whistles (deck lines, hatches, handles, bulkheads) but are much slower. Multisport kayaks are built for speed with varying degrees of stability New Zealand has led the way in developing a wide range of craft to suit every level of ability.
Double or Single?
The big question here is if you buy a double will you always have a partner to paddle with as it is no fun paddling a double craft by your self and even less fun loading it on and off the car. Every one I know who owns a double kayak also owns a single craft of some description which they purchased before deciding to add a double to their fleet. But if you always train together and never want to paddle alone then a double is for you.
Plastic or Composite (fiberglass, Kevlar, Carbon)?
As a normal rule, composite materials are much lighter for example a fiberglass sea kayak will weigh 22kgs and a plastic sea kayak about 28-29kgs. Ocean racing skis and multisport kayaks range in weight from 7.5kgs(full Carbon) to 20kgs(fibreglass). Plastic kayaks and ski are nearly indestructible this is a great feature when you are paddling on rivers, near oysters or having to negotiate a surf break to do your training. Composite craft need more love and attention and don't take to being dropped or playing in the surf. But the good news is that they can always be repaired.
Light or Heavy?
We all want the lightest craft possible but light weight comes at a price and the biggest price is in dollar terms with super light weight craft coming in at up to $8950. Another thing to consider with light weight craft is they can be greatly affected by wind while you are out paddling. Only 2-3kgs can make a big difference in performance. On the other hand a heavy craft can be very tiring to paddle and you may feel as if you are pushing a barge through the water.
Tippy or Stable?
As a general rule the more tippy the craft, the faster the craft. If you have the time to put in the training you will more than likely master the balance issues. Normally practice makes a craft more stable. If you are only going to get the opportunity to paddle once a week or less, then a more stable kayak is the way to go. If you have the time and can get out on the water 3-4 times a week then a fast sleek kayak or ski is the way to go as you will soon master any balance issues.
Who will be paddling the craft?
Are you buying the kayak just for yourself or will friends and family be using it as well. If the kayak is just for you then once set up you will leave as is. But if others are going to use the kayak as well then a craft with easy adjustment would be the way to go. An example of this is the Epic v10 ski range which are adjusted with a simple pull and slide of the foot plate done in seconds. With some of the kayaks you will need to move footrests and seats to get comfortable. These take a little more time and are sometimes tricky to get just right.
What size Paddler are you?
Your weight, height and strength will also affect your purchase. Can you carry the kayak easily or do you need a trolley or a second person to get the kayak from storage to car, and car to launching. Many kayaks are only suitable for a certain weight range or up to a certain weight. The kayak will still work but won’t perform to its optimal level if over or under loaded.
WHICH CRAFT DO I BUY NOW?
After reading all this your still wondering which craft? Go in and chat to your local kayak shop and explain in as much detail as possible what your requirements are and they should be able to point you in the right direction.