So you want to buy a kayak, but don't know which one to choose. Here are a few things to consider when looking for a kayak.
1. Where are you going to paddle? Ocean, Lakes, Rivers, or Harbors. There are some kayaks that do one or more of these things, but no kayak that does it all. Pick a kayak that will work with what YOU will do the most. For example, if you are going to paddle in the ocean most of the time, but would like to paddle whitewater occasionally, buy a ocean going kayak and rent a whitewater kayak for your occasional use.
2. How are you going to transport the kayak? If you own a pick up truck or large SUV with a roof rack this may be fairly simple with a few inexpensive items. If you have a four door car without a car rack on top you may need to purchase a car rack system. I recommend using a system from Malone Auto Racks. Remember, you are looking at another investment around $300-$399. If you have questions about what will work for the kayak you are looking at purchasing get help! Malone has a fit guide on their web site to help you find the perfect fit for your vehicle.
3. How long should my kayak be? The basic rule of thumb is: The longer the kayak the faster it will be, the shorter the kayak the more maneuverable it will be.
4. How wide should my kayak be? Remember, the wider the kayak the more stable it will be, but it will be slower due to resistance against the water. If you are looking for stability I recommend a kayak 28-34 inches wide. If you want the ultimate fishing machine and want to easily stand and cast check out the Hobie Pro Angler Kayaks!
5. How about fishing and diving? If you are going to dive take a look at the Hobie Outback. Awesome diving kayak or fishing kayak for larger fishermen. Also, the Hobie Outback can be outfitted with a live well! For fishing on lakes or in protected coastal waters look for a kayak in the 11-14 foot range with a 28-34inch beam (width). For open ocean fishing look for a kayak in the 12-14 foot range with a 30-34 inch beam. Remember that you will be carrying a large amount of gear for these activities. Look for a maximum load capacity 150-250 pounds above your own weight. This will help ensure a dryer ride and more stability with your gear on board. For the serious Kayak Angler check out the Hobie Pro Angler!!!
6. What about the weight of the kayak? Remember, you have to lift it! Stay at 130 pounds or below if you wish to car top your boat. If you have to lift it by yourself after a long day of paddling you will understand. If you are going to trailer your kayak weight is no longer a worry. Both Malone and Hobie have excellent options for kayak trailers. Avoid Kayaks kayaks made of "Ultralite" material. I have seen many Hurricane brand kayaks split at the seams and require extensive repairs. In my experience there seems to be hull and seam failure with these types of materials. Remember to ask the kayak dealer about the weight of the kayak. Companies like Cobra Kayaks advertise the weight of their kayak as a "bear" boat, while companies like Hobie advertise the weight as an "assembled kayak" with seat and storage hatches. Don't be fooled by a low advertised weight.
7. Single or Double? Always, always, always two singles over a double. I know, it costs more but your husband or wife will thank you. We don't call doubles divorce boats for nothing.
8. Sit on top or sit inside? If you are going to paddle long distances or in rougher waters, or would like to do over night trips look at sit inside kayaks. Current Designs is a top manufacturer for sit inside kayaks. For other activities like fishing, diving, family paddling, or general recreation look at sit on tops. For most paddlers a sit on top kayak will fit the bill.
9. Warranty. This is important. If you ever have trouble with you kayak you want to be covered. Look for at least a two year warranty on roto-molded kayaks or 1 year or more on inflatables. If the warranties are less than this beware! Also, try to buy kayaks made in the USA. Many brands are manufactured over seas and warranty repair or replacement may be difficult or costly with shipping costs YOU must pay.
10. What color should I get? This is a personal choice. Remember, If you are in a high boat traffic area Yellow, Orange, and other bright colors will be more visible on the surface of the water.
11. Ask someone who owns a kayak. This can be a wealth of information for you. Also, ask your local kayak dealer. Remember, there is no such thing as a kayak that is great for everything. We would be happy to help you with your kayak choice. Also, look for a Demo Day Event from your local kayak dealer.
12. Accessories. Look at the accessories included in kayak packages. There are some dealers on ebay selling kayaks with the cheapest accessories available to pull you in with a slightly lower price. Ask questions! If the paddles are aluminum ask how much it will cost to upgrade to a fiberglass paddle. If the seats are not high back seats ask about upgrades and how much that will cost. Are dry hatches and fishing rod holder included? How about the rudder system, is it included also? Ask about the warranty of all included items.
13. The Kayak Dealer! If the kayak dealer is not open year round (depending on location) or does not have regular business hours look for another dealer. You want a dealer who is in the business full time, not just as a hobby. If you need help after your purchase you may have an uphill battle getting exchanges or repairs if the store is a "part time" retailer. Be sure the dealer is an "Authorized Dealer" for the brand you are looking for, to be sure check the manufacturers web page for dealer information.
Remember, always wear your life jacket!
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