Some Basic Principles
Understanding some basic principles of Kayaks and Kayaking will give you a good idea to what type of kayak you should buy and give you a good insight into getting started with a paddling adventure.
Glide and Tracking
This is a very important feature in a kayak if you are going on longer trips along the rivers, creeks and estuaries. Good tracking (straight line pointing) and glide (travelling with momentum) means you use much less energy paddling. Usually, the longer the kayak, the better it will travel in a straight line. There are however exceptions to this rule and hull design can play a big part in how well a kayak tracks and glides, please see our individual kayak descriptions to see how we rate the glide for each model.
A big consideration if you are intending to use the kayak in the surf. Usually, the shorter the kayak, the more easily it will turn. Smaller adults and juniors may find longer kayaks difficult to turn – this can become very tiring. The shape and design of the hull will also play a big part in a kayak’s ability to turn quickly and easily.
How stable a kayak is, will be based on a range of design and load factors and is very important for some activities such as fishing, or for people who are not fully confident on the water. Usually the wider the kayak, the more stable it will be. Whilst this is generally true, certain hull designs have excellent stabilising features whilst remaining relatively narrow. Stability can also be seriously affected by user weight and height, so getting the correct size of akayak for you is important, particularly if you are new to kayaking. Please check the recommended loads against your own weight.
There are lots of contradictions in kayak design and quite often you will be trading off one feature against another for a compromise, based on your specific needs, so let’s take a look at some of the potential user requirements.
Questions you should think about when choosing the right kayak for you. Where will you be paddling? What will be your main activities? What is your size? What are your levels of strength, ability and confidence?
Solo or Multi-Person Kayak
Do you want to paddle purely on your own? Or sometimes will you be solo with occasional tandem (2 person) use? Maybe you will always go out with another person complete with the dog? For many people, this is a simple question to answer, but for some families with growing children it can be a bit of a brain-teaser.
Tandem and 2+1 kayaks are very versatile because they can be happily paddled with 1, 2 or 2 adults and a small child or even the dog! Our tandems have three seating positions front, middle and back. So if you are paddling solo, you can sit in the middle seat giving good sideways balance. Tandem kayaks actually paddle very well with one person, providing plenty of glide due to their length and buoyancy. Getting a tandem on and off the car roof rack and down to the water is, however, far more difficult than handling a single kayak.
Personal Weight, Size, Ability
The maximum user weight shown on all our listings and on our comparison chart is a guide to help you choose the kayak which is most suitable for you. It will show you the maximum load the kayak can take, including the weight of yourself and any kit you carry. The closer you get to the recommended maximum, the lower the kayak will sit in the water. This will affect stability, manoeuvrability and glide. The height of a person – particularly the length from the waist upwards, also plays a part in the stability, as this height affects the centre of gravity of the kayak.
The final factor is the ability and balance of the user. Someone who is experienced will have agood balance in a kayak and will be confident on the water, so will be less affected by any reduction in stability due to the kayak sitting lower in the water.
To review, if you are getting close to the maximum weight, are tall and you are new to kayaking, you will need a larger, more buoyant kayak.