What Size Kayak Do You Need?

What Size Kayak Do You Need

There are several types of relaxation activities you may pick from but kayaking is a unique one. It gives you the right blend of relaxing and exercising at the same time. The added benefit is you can get away from the chaos of city life and reconnect with Mother Nature. There is no fixed season for kayaking and you can pick from so many rivers, lakes and artificial water bodies. The adventurous lot opt for ocean kayaking. However, you also need to pick the right type of kayak. The main thing here is knowing what shape and size will be ideal for you.

Need To Use The Right Sized Kayak

You will come across so many types of kayaks in the market these days. The variation in size and colour is there and the shape varies a lot as well. The reality is the variation is not there merely for aesthetic reasons. Different types of kayaks are tailor- made and aimed at varying types of users. The variation in size and weight are there for specific reasons. Unless the kayak you buy has the right size for usage needs you will land in trouble.

Before you buy one, it is important to analyze a few factors carefully.

Factors To Analyse

There are a few factors that you should analyze while shopping for kayaks:

  • The type of water body – First of all, you have to think of the type of water body or the area where you will indulge in kayaking. A kayak that is suited for use in calm water, may not be well-suited for paddling in turbulent ocean water and vice versa.
  • The type of kayaking – You also need to think of the type of kayaking you will indulge in. Some people love just kayaking in rivers or lakes. However, there are others who prefer kayaking and angling at the same time. Some shutterbugs also resort to kayaking to shoot marine wildlife and nature. If you belong to the 2nd group, buying a kayak with provisions for storing the angling gears makes sense.
  • Size – The size of the kayak is something you cannot overlook. In most cases, you will use the kayak in some months of the year. Rest of the time, it will be stored in your house. Ensure your house has enough space to accommodate the kayak. If you plan to transport the kayak to distant lakes and rivers, ensure the unit you buy can be set on top of your car.
  • Material of the kayak – Not every kayak you will see is made of the same material, for sure. A majority of kayaks are made with Polyethylene and they do not cost a lot. These kayaks also last for pretty long, much like the Tupperware containers in the kitchen! However, the material does not cope well with UV exposure in the long run. If the pocket is deeper, you may buy a composite material kayak made with fiberglass and carbon fiber. Nowadays, you can also buy thermoform kayak models.
  • Weight capacity – Every kayak has a weight capacity and this is something you have to analyze carefully. If you need to carry angling gears, food or accessories, opt for a kayak with the enhanced weight capacity.

The Difference In Size And Shape

There are so many types of kayaks to pick from that it can be bewildering for the first time buyer. The variants have varying sizes and shapes as well. Listed below are the major variants.

  • Recreational kayaks – Recreational kayaks are ideal for people who prefer appalling in mostly calm water. Examples are artificial lakes and rivers without strong currents. They are wider and slower. These kayaks are typically 12 feet or less in length.
  • Touring and sea kayaksTouring and sea kayaks tend to be longer than most other kayak variants. They can be as long as 18 feet in some instances. While these kayaks are easier to develop speed, turning them can be tough. These kayaks also tend to be narrower than the general ones. The enhanced length leads to ample storage space as well.
  • Pedal kayaks – If using your hands for paddling for long is not your cup of tea, look for the pedal drive kayak. These are fitted with pedals linked with propellers. However, keep in mind these kayaks are not good for moving around in shallow water.
  • Tandem kayaks – If you love the idea of paddling with your spouse and close friends opt for a Tandem kayak.  
  • Fishing kayaksFishing kayaks are designed for durability and stability but they are not meant for paddling with speed. These kayaks are wider and have enough storage space for keeping the angling gears properly. These units typically have inbuilt mounting brackets, and bottle and rod holders. With these kayaks, you can paddle slowly in a calm river or lake, looking for fish.
  • Whitewater kayaks -If you are not comfortable with the idea of carrying and using a large and long kayak, this variant is just right. These are within 10 feet in length. For better maneuverability, these kayaks have many rockers. However, storage space will be scarce. They are meant for paddling on white-water and so do not buy them in paddling on large calm stretch of water is what you seek.
  • Sit-on-top kayaks – The Sit-on-top kayaks are easy to set in place after coping with a capsize event and they are also self-draining. They are ideal for use on warm days.
  • Sit-in kayaks – The sit-inside kayak safeguard you from water and weather elements well. This is useful when you want to kayak in winter months. You get enhanced interior dry storage.

You can also pick from inflatable kayaks and Hard-shell kayaks. The former is easier to store while the latter type scores better in speed and durability.

How To Buy The Right Sized Kayak For Your Usage?

To ensure you bring home the right sized and shaped kayak for personal usage, make use of the below-listed tips:

  • Width and length – kayaks come in varying widths and lengths. Longer kayaks sail faster in water while smaller kayaks offer enhanced manoeuvrability in tight waters. Wider hulls are roomy and stable while Narrow hulls can roll and topple at high wind. The average kayak is approx. 10 feet long. The sea kayaks and Performance kayaks are can be up to 17 feet long. Kayaks built for speed are narrower and most fishing kayaks are wider.
  • Hull Shape – The hull shape also matters. A kayak with flat-bottom may seem stable but it may capsize in certain situations. Kayaks with shallow arch hulls offer enhanced secondary stability and performance, making them better for rough-water paddling.
  • Your body type – Your own body attributes is important when it comes to buying a kayak. People with long legs find sit-on-top kayaks easier to use. If you are obese, buy a kayak with enough interior sitting space. The kayak you buy must be easy to sit in and get out or else there can be safety issues.
  • Kayak volume – You have to check the overall space taken up by a kayak. The High-volume kayaks are ideal for beginners. However, they are slower.

The water body you will be using the most also needs to be analysed. The recreational kayaks are ideal for river paddling. The touring kayaks are better for paddling in bug-sized lakes with bigger waves. Kayaking in the sea needs the usage of touring kayaks.


Should you buy a kayak online or from regular shops? Most veteran kayak enthusiasts will vote for the latter. No matter how perfect a kayak looks online and the dimensions are given on the website, checking it in person is the safest bet. There are retail stores that let you try kayak models to figure out the best one for your needs.

Posted by
Arthur G. Moore

Arthur G. Moore is a veteran paddler. He has over 10 years of whitewater kayaking experience in his kitty. When he was young, he used to love kayaking in rapid III and rapid IV but as time went on, he decided to concentrate mainly on covering long distances on a standard touring kayak. He is currently working as a senior editor for Kayak Manual.

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