Beginner...need help please

-- Last Updated: Jul-08-14 6:48 PM EST --

Ive been wanting to get into kayaking for years now but I never got around to it and just the other day my girlfriend mentioned something about wanting to get kayaks. So I was wanting to surprise her and buy kayaks for both of us but I have no idea where to start looking or what im looking for. I wanted the kind where our legs would be covered not the sit on top kind. im 6 ft tall and shes around 5' 8 if that matters for size. im not sure if she will stick with it so the cheaper the better but still good quality. thanks alot

You want a Sit INside Kayak

Do you plan to paddle in the local duck pond or Lake Erie?knee deep Lazy creeks or occasional class III or IV rapids? Offshore in the surf or paddle to Bahamas? Overnight camping or three hour tours? All makes a difference. Do you have a ballpark of what you could spend bear in mind you need paddles and PFDs.

If you can
If you live close enough to a real paddle (kayak and canoe) store, you need to go there and browse a bit until you have a better idea about what you might be interested in. If that is not possible, then you could spend some time looking around the Internet and right here is a good place to start.

You might want to try renting kayaks if such a facility is available in your area. What kind of water

are you interested in and is it available close enough to where you live?

If you are able to sort of zero in a little on what strikes your interest, don’t set your sights too low. You will never be sorry if you go for real boats as opposed to the pool-toy variety. If you are able to narrow your interest down a bit, also spend some time looking at and finding out about paddles and pfds. There will be other items, but the boat, paddle and pfd have to fit together. You don’t have to go overboard on the pfd, or paddle, but don’t go cheap.

You might luck out and find what you’re looking for in the used market and save some money, but be very aware of being bitten by the kayak bug that will most assuredly cause you to go a little nuts and before you know it, you’ll have a fleet of boats and accessories you never dreamed of.

article on types of kayaks
California Kayaker Magazine had an article on types of kayaks in its #10, Spring 2013 issue. Talks about the difference between touring kayaks, sit on tops kayaks, white water kayaks, etc. Can be read for free online at Starts on page 6.

Keep in mind, cheaper = smaller interior
… and a small interior when you trend longer legs/bigger feet (aka “above average at Lake Woebegone…”) is difficult to fit into and exit comfortably. Not to mention will your feet fit. Would be perhaps better to have a romantic weekend day trip where you could rent /demo different kayak models to see what you prefer.

The other thing with Sit - Ins, if you are not wearing a spray skirt over the cockpit, is that to be safe you need to be able to “wet exit” if necessary and learn to roll (flip yourself back upright from getting tipped to the side) as a safety move. With sit on tops, if you flip, you just come out, you just flip 'em back over, they drain quickly and then you get back on instead of having to work to get the water out. Yes, the sit on tops are a bit slower, but they are better if you want the extra stability and are in a hot climate where getting splashed with water is desired. Some people automatically balance better than others and don’t mind a little wave action at first, others are not comfortable the second the breeze comes up, the tide comes up, or a power boat zooms by when they’re in a small kayak on a big lake or bay.

Qualifier about rolling and self-rescue
I think it should be clarified that when paddling a sit-inside kayak, you don’t need a spray skirt and self-rescue skills just to be “safe”. If that were true, nearly all canoes would be categorically unsafe. Bear in mind that the vast majority of people who paddle kayaks are using their boats in places that no one considers unsafe for people in canoes. In such cases, the kayak can be treated as a canoe, which for most people means that you pull it to shore if you flip.

To the original poster: Worry about self-rescue skills later on, if applicable, but not right now unless you already know you will be paddling places where such skills are needed.

also take issue
I also take some issue with BearRiver’s response.

Cheaper does not necessarily mean smaller cockpit. Usually cheaper means cheaper materials and less outfitting. But rec boats with huge cockpits are pretty much always cheaper than a touring kayak, which has a small cockpit.

And as said above, you don’t need a skirt on a SINK and a skirt doesn’t add much to a SINKs safety in the flat water conditions which many people use them (skirts would be required for white water).

As a newbie kayker
myself, you need to know where you are going to be first. Type of boat and accessories are second.

Are you going to go out on the lake and take laps? Then a long thin boat that can cover distance might be what you want.

Do you plan on putting in a lake or slow river for 3 hours max, splashing her and sipping beverages? Recreational boat

Do you like camping for a weekend or plan to put a weeks worth of gear in and go for a float? Then you look at a touring or expedition/sea.

If you want to run rapids and play in rough water then a WW boat is what you want.

I like my sea kayak for camping on the river and even taking it to the lake to paddle around, but it isnt a boat that likes rapids much at my skill level.

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted, then even longer to find ones that met my critera (mostly weight, storage capacity) on the used market.

A suggestion
Rather than surprise your girlfriend with new kayaks, why not surprise her with a introductory kayak tour/lesson? At least that way you’ll have some sense of a) whether you actually enjoy kayaking or not and b) what type of kayaking you might (or might not) be interested in.

Without some context, telling you what kind of kayak to buy is a bit like trying to tell someone who’s never listened to music what instrument they should play.

+1 on bignate’s suggestions…
She be able to judge what she likes more by what fits her after she develops beginner skills…$.01