What You Need To Know Before You Head To The Kayak Shop
The most important thing to be aware of before you go to the kayak shop to buy your first kayak, is that you need the right information. Many first time buyers end up attracted to the least seaworthy, most inefficient, poorly designed boats with bad ergonomics. In addition to having serious safety issues, the boats beginners usually choose hinder their learning and aren’t much fun to paddle.
Our first major tip is that cheap kayaks should be avoided at all costs! There are reasons why some kayaks are so cheap, and you don’t want to find out the hard way what’s wrong with these boats. Some of the sit-on-top kayaks will be a little cheaper, but for most sit-inside kayaks, you want to spend on a decent boat. Don’t head to the kayak shop before you have read further.
Before You Go To The Kayak Shop, Get Some Lessons
If you don’t yet own a kayak, but are thinking about buying or building one, the best advice anyone can give you is to take a lesson first. Make very sure that the lesson you take includes actual practice in tipping over and getting out of a kayak while upside down (with an instructor supervising). When you’ve done enough wet-exit practice to overcome your fear of capsizing, move onto the correct paddle strokes and how best to steer your kayak in all conditions.
These lessons should include the many ways to steer without using your rudder, as well as bracing and rolling. The more you’ve learned about paddling technique, rescues and safety, the smarter you’ll be about choosing a kayak that is right for you. If you buy a kayak before taking lessons you’ll regret it after your first lesson if not sooner. Lessons aren’t an expense, they’re a money saving investment. Get prepared before buying your kayak. Our kayak shop offers demo’s on all our models, for prospective clients.
You need the right gear for transporting your kayak
Before you purchase your kayak, you need to be able to transport it. You won’t be able to pick up your new kayak and take it home from the kayak shop without the correct roof rack system. Regardless of what kayak you end up with or even if you just rent kayaks for a while, you will need a sturdy roof rack with cradles, unless you have a very large truck or van.
If you happen to be in the market for a new car, be sure to consider how suitable your next car will be for carrying kayaks. Is the roof of an SUV too high for you to load a kayak onto? Is the roof of a two-seat sports car too short to keep a kayak from teeter-tottering? Do the leading rack manufacturers even make a roof rack solution suitable for carrying kayaks that fits the car you are thinking about buying?
Perhaps the kayak shop you are going to also has rack solutions in store. Check before you start the process of buying your own kayak. This will save many headaches further down the line.
You Need The Correct Footwear For Kayaking
This may sound like a strange one, but before you go to the kayak shop and purchase your new kayak, even before you go for lessons, you will need some appropriate kayaking footwear. The first rule, is no sandals! Sandals can be dangerous if a foot peg slips between your foot and the sandal or a strap or buckle gets caught on a seat. Sandals are uncomfortable in a kayak and your heels get sore from rubbing against the bottom of the boat.
Wetsuit booties are the standard footwear for kayaking, and they are a versatile first choice as they are good for rafting, snorkelling, sail-boarding, SUP paddle boarding and many other activities. Some high-end water shoes on the market work well for warm weather paddling, but the mesh water socks fill up with sand while getting in a kayak and they fall off in the water when you capsize, so generally wetsuit booties are the least expensive solution.
Invest in booties with a medium thickness sole (not too bulky, but thick enough so you can walk on rocks without hurting your feet). Most of the water shoes and booties on the market are so narrow that they are not comfortable for average width feet, especially if you will be wearing neoprene socks or dry-socks inside the shoe for warmth. The kayak shop will probably have a variety to choose from and we highly advise that you try them on first, for both fit and comfort. A good point to remember when buying wetsuit booties is that you generally need to go a size smaller than your normal shoe size. Neoprene stretches when wet and over time with hard use, so always make sure they will not be too big. Ask the sales person to assist you with choosing the right pair.
Avoid Recreational Kayaks
Most people tend to want to start with professional gear, even though we all know this is a bad idea. Don’t let your ego get ahead of common sense when buying your first kayak. Also, don’t let the kayak shop salesman sell you on more than you need. On the flip side of this, you don’t want to go to cheap, as we mentioned above.
Most recreational kayaks and some low-end fibreglass touring kayaks lack basic safety features such as sufficient buoyancy, perimeter safety lines for holding onto the kayak in the event of a capsize, and handles that won’t take your finger off when the kayak rolls over.
A touring/sea kayak with proper buoyancy will float horizontally with the cockpit above the water — even when completely swamped and with the weight of the paddler in the kayak. This means the kayak can be bailed out, assuming you carry a bilge pump. In contrast, most recreational kayaks tend to go vertical or float in a bow down attitude when swamped (especially those under 12 foot long and any without front and rear bulkheads).
Generally, the cockpit coping on a swamped recreational kayak will be under water, making it impossible to pump or bail out. Any kayak, no matter how stable, can capsize, even on a small lake. Buoyancy can be provided by front and rear bulkheads or float bags. Unfortunately, most recreational kayaks lack front bulkheads, and it is impractical to use float bags in them because their short stubby shape makes the air bags slip out of the cockpit when swamped.
For recreational kayaks shorter than 12 foot, even if they were fitted with front and rear bulkheads, there’s just too little volume in the bow of a kayak this size to make it float horizontal when swamped with the person in the kayak. If you must go out in one of these boats, stay within a few feet off the shore at all times. Note: most everyone over-estimates their swimming distance, and one’s swimming distance will be further shortened if the water is cold.
Don’t Go Building Your Own Kayak
People who build a kayak before taking lessons make many of the same mistakes as people who buy a kayak first. In some ways these problems are even worse for people who build their own kayak because they invest so much time and labor into building their kayak that their emotional attachment to it leads them to suffer with their mistakes longer than someone who just lost money on their mistake.
Furthermore, when a beginner builds a kayak in their garage, they are out of the loop for meeting knowledgeable paddlers who can mentor them, and they miss out on the free advice that others get from hanging out at their local specialty kayak shop – advice that could help keep them out of trouble as well as inspire them to get out more. If you decide to build your own kayak, remember that the more you know about paddling, kayak safety and rescues, the smarter you’ll be about choosing which kayak model to build and what add ons you can improve on while making it. So take good lessons first. Rather buy your first kayak. Once you have mastered the art of paddling, you can look towards building your own kayak.
Avoid The Mass Produced Beginners Kayak
There never used to be any kayaks that fitted the description of a beginners kayak. What usually passed as a beginner’s kayak were boats so poorly designed that only a beginner would be foolish enough to waste any money on one. Many large chain stores sell these kayaks, so rather head to a professional and specialised kayak shop.
Lately, this has begun to change. Ideally, in addition to being affordable, a beginner’s kayak would be designed well enough that a beginner could actually use it to learn kayaking fundamentals (including rolling and re-entry rescues) and do so with the same level of safety as a full-fledged sea kayak. Such kayaks are starting to define a new genre, sometimes called touring kayaks, because they bridge the gap between the all too common really bad recreational kayaks and full-fledged 16-foot — 18-foot sea kayaks.
The term touring, however, lacks a formal definition which makes it is ripe for marketing abuse so watch out kayaks that lack adequate safety features or don’t make a good kayak to learn in. For your safety and long term enjoyment of the sport we still recommend taking a lesson first, but for those who can’t wait to buy a their first kayak, head down to the busiest kayak shop in your area and chat with the coaches and qualified sales people before you spend your money.
What We Recommend From Our Online Kayak Shop
There are so many options available to you that it can be confusing as to which kayak will be the best for you. In our range we have a few models perfectly suited to the beginner, as well as a few that will be good even when you have started truly mastering your paddling. Lets look at what we have available for you in our kayak shop.
If you are looking for a great all-round kayak the whole family can use, check out the 9-foot Whale Runner. The Vanhunks Whale Runner single sit-on-top kayak is designed to give enough room for one adult. Whether that person enjoys fishing or touring this kayak offers a wide variety of accessories. The Whale Runner Kayak is UV resistant, impact resistant and extremely durable. It also comes with a lifetime warranty on the Kayak Hull, with a 12-month factory manufacturing warranty on all other parts and components. Easy to paddle and transport, this is a solid choice for your very first kayak. This is the kayak most kayak shop salesman would suggest.
Looking for something more long term, that you can also use for kayak fishing? Then we recommend the 12-foot Tarpon ‘Silver King’. This kayak is incredibly stable and easy to manoeuvre, due to the foot pedals and the rudder system which is mounted off the stern. Rudder cables are attached to the side and can be used to raise or lower the rudder.
The foot pedals are adjustable to your height and are designed to move the rudder left or right. The Tarpon ‘Silver King’ is the perfect kayak for someone looking to use their kayak for a long time and for more than just casual paddling. You can fish, tour and head out onto the open ocean with this great all-round kayak.
After reading our advice you will be wanting to test these incredible boats, before you head to our kayak shop and purchase them. This is easily done by booking a demo at our nearest kayak shop on our website. Many distributors and kayak shops also offer lessons, so you can get your paddling and kayak knowledge up before purchasing.
Now you have a good idea of what to avoid and what to look for when you head to the kayak shop to buy your first kayak. We hope this helped and remember that our online and kayak shop staff are always available to assist you. We hope you enjoy your time on the water.