Kayaking on the Hudson

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Choosing a Kayak: Kayak Types

There a four basic kayak types: Whitewater, Recreational, Sea Kayak, and Sit-on-Top. The basics of kayak design are: the longer and narrower the kayak is, the less stable it is but the faster it goes.  When choosing a kayak, you have to be honest with yourself where you are going to paddle.  Then you can choose the right kayak for the conditions.  Or if you’re like me, you can choose several kayaks, one for each type of paddling.

My Old Whitewater Kayak
Whitewater kayaks are very short (10’ and under) and are made for moving water.  The idea behind a WW kayak is to have it turn on a dime.  There is no need to have the kayak move forward because it is used in moving water so the water takes care of that.  As a result, WW kayaks are not very good for flat water.  Inexperienced paddlers will simply spin around in circles.

My 2nd Recreational Kayak (3rd Dog)
Recreational kayaks are short and wide (8’to14’ long) and are made for flat water.  Flat water includes ponds, small lakes, marsh areas, and small, slow moving rivers and streams.  Recreational kayaks are very stable, but are also very slow.  They can be used in some whitewater (class I, maybe class II) and they can be used for some bigger water, but they are not designed for it.  Paddlers may burn out with a recreational kayak especially if they are trying to keep up with sea kayaks.  Most tandem (2 person) kayaks also fit into this category.

Sea Lion Kayak- Oldy but Goody
Sea kayaks are long (14’+), narrow and fast.  They are designed for “big” water like seas, oceans, and big lakes.  They can handle wind and waves and are designed for paddling long distances.  The main distinction between a recreational kayak and a sea kayak is the number of bulkheads in the kayak.  A sea kayak has two or more while a recreational kayak has one or none.  This is critical for safety reasons, but that’s a topic for another day.

Sit-on-top Kayak

Sit-on-top kayaks are just what they sound like.  You sit on them instead of in them.  These are very popular in warm regions because you can hop off and swim around, then climb back on much easier than a regular kayak.

Day Touring Kayak
  Day Touring or Light Touring – I know I said there were 4 types so what’s this?  This is a new class of hybrid kayaks usually 12’ to 14’ that combine the features of a sea kayak with the stability of a recreational kayak.  These kayaks could be classified as either, but I consider them sea kayaks because they have 2 bulkheads.  These are good multi-purpose kayaks for those who don’t want a true sea kayak.

See you on the water,
Don Urmston
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