My wife and I recently got an inflatable Kayak as a wedding gift. We had been wanting to get into kayaking for a while but since this was given to us, we want to try it out before we commit. My question is: is the experience in an inflatable kayak similar to a real kayak? Any tips for a beginner would be appreciated.
Edit: The inflatable kayak we got is a Sevylor - Fiji. Seems like it’s in the cheaper range.
Your going to have to tell 'em what model inflatable.
In a nutshell, without knowing the make/model: Most inflatable kayaks sit atop the waterline. Hard shell boats sit in. The difference is planing and displacement hulls, for the most part without getting into boat specific characteristics/features. Inflatable kayak is at center in the pic below. Hard kayak at left, canoe at right.
Most cheap inflatables are more like a raft (or even a pool toy) and don’t really provide the experience of using a “real” kayak. But that is also true of many cheap plastic rigid kayaks that are short and wide and flat bottomed. As mentioned above, inflatables tend to sit high in the water so they are going to perform differently from a hard shell boat or skin on frame kayak. And they generally have to be wider so they are naturally not going to be as easy to propel or as fast. But there are higher end inflatables that are more rigid and longer that provide performance closer to the feel of a traditional kayak.
So it really depends on what model you have.
There are places around the country where you can rent kayaks (though many are probably closed at the moment due to quarantine shut downs). And many independent kayak outfitters will offer demo opportunities of models that they sell to prospective buyers. I would suggest that you not judge kayaking by what you will experience with the gift inflatable. Unless you have extremely generous friends or family, I suspect that a wedding gift kayak is not going to be a higher end example. Any boat that gets you out on the water is a good experience, so I am not dissing cheap inflatables. Just accept that they have limitations and you would have a different experience on a non-inflatable.
Knowing the type of inflatable would help us better describe how they are different from hard shell kayaks (which in general, they are). But you can also get a feel for what style inflatable you have and its pros and cons (as an inflatable) by watching this video: https://youtu.be/5U8u_rkNTSY