The Best Kayaks For Beginners of 2019

Are you a beginner? Do you want to hit the water alone or with a partner or two? We review the best kayaks for all occasions, experience and budget

Beginner kayaks guide

Beginners can find kayaking a bit of challenge when you first hit the water. These boats have very narrow frames which may be a bit too unstable for the novice paddler, and you’ll more often find yourself going for a swim than not. It is important to buy the best kayaks for beginners to help your initiation into the world of paddle sports go much smoother.

The vast number of options out there can be overwhelming for even seasoned kayakers let alone a beginner. You’ll come across different types of kayaks, features that you don’t understand, and various configurations to choose from. You’ll want to make sure you buy the right boat for your skill level.

As a beginner, there are many questions you’d want answers to. Questions like: What type of kayak do I need? What Kayak is best for a learner paddler? What should I consider when buying the best kayak for a beginner? Where can I learn to use a kayak? I’ll answer all these questions and more in this guide and review.

I’ll begin this guide by talking about the things to consider when buying a first kayak for yourself or someone else. I’ll then follow it up with a review of some of the top beginner kayaks on the market today.

However, here is a list of my top picks for those who don’t want to read the entire guide. These are the kayaks I review in this article.

 

Brief List: Top 10 Beginner Kayaks

  • Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem
  • Old Town Dirigo Recreational
  • Vibe Kayaks Skipjack 120T Tandem
  • Sundolphin excursion 10
  • Wilderness Systems Tarpon (Models 100, 120, 135T)
  • Feel Free Lure 10
  • eMotion Glide
  • Perception Pescador Pro 10
  • Vibe Sea Ghost 110
  • Ocean Kayak Caper

 

The Best Kayaks For Beginners

1. Ocean Kayak Malibu two 12

oceank kayak malibut two

The Malibu two from Ocean kayaks is a 12-foot 2-person kayak that is bound to provide you and a partner with tons of adventure on the water. At just 57 pounds, this is a lightweight sit-on-top recreational vessel that is very easy to transport and launch, even by just one person. It comes with carry-handles that make it easy to carry.

A pair of seats give each of you comfortable support on the water. There’s plenty of space to carry extra gear and bring along a child or a pet. There are straps to secure whatever gear you take with you.

The wide 34-inch bull makes this vessel very stable, which makes it an excellent option for beginners to paddle in. The polyethylene body makes it a strong vessel that can withstand the inevitable knocks it will get from beginners.

 

2. Old Town Dirigo 106 Recreational

Old Town Dirigo 106

The seat is an important element of a good yak, and the one that comes with the Dirigo 106 highlights the quality of this yak. The seat is very comfortable with good back support. You can paddle all day and not ache all over.

You get plenty of room on this vessel to bring all sorts of additional gear like coolers, fishing gear, camping gear, etc. with you. The storage compartments have bungee cords to tie down and secure your precious gear. A dry-storage well keeps your phones, keys, and other valuables dry when on the water.

This is a 1-person, sit-in boat that is 10.6 inches long and only weighs 42 pounds. It has excellent stability which makes it an ideal vessel for beginners.

Padding protects and keeps your thighs comfortable when you’re in the boat. Other features include a safety perimeter line, a paddle keeper to avoid losing your paddle accidentally, cup holder to keep your drink within reach, and an adjustable foot brace.

You are guaranteed loads of fun on the water with this kayak.

 

3. Vibe Kayak Skipjack 120T

vibe kayaks skipjack 120t

This yak has seating for two paddlers with room for three people. It has a small seat in the middle for a child or a pet to tag along on your trip. The middle seat can also be used for single paddling.  It is an ideal kayak for a fishing trip, exploring, and a leisurely time on the water with loved ones.

At 72 pounds, some of you may find it a little too heavy to handle on your own. It is 33 inches wide and 12.2 feet long, making it a very stable vessel to learn in. The extra stability, nimbleness, and strong polyethylene hull make this a good kayak for beginners.

There are four carry handles built into the hull which makes it easy to carry the yak. It comes with plenty of extra mounting points so you can mount optional accessories.

There are two dry storage spaces to keep your essential accessories safe and dry when on the water. There are two cup holders that place your drinks within easy reach.

This is an excellent yak if you’re new to kayak fishing and for those just looking for a bit of fun on the water.

 

4. Sundolphin excursion 10

Sundolphin Excursion-10

The excursion 10 is a small sit-in fishing yak with a big cockpit that doesn’t feel restrictive. There’s plenty of leg room for tall people. At just 41 pounds and 10 feet long, you can easily transport and launch this vessel by yourself.

The short and a wide 30-inch hull makes this a very stable craft. This vessel is very nimble on the water. It can make tight turns very easily which is a good thing for fishing. This boat is, however not the fastest on the water. The wide and stable hull means they compromised a little bit on speed.

This kayak can handle a lot of cargo, including overnight camping gear, despite the small size. There are two flush mount rod holders and a swivel mount rod holder, a bottle holder, and a storage space with bungee straps.

The seat is adjustable but a little bit on the hard side. A cheap seat cushion should solve this though.

 

5. Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100

wilderness tarpon 100

The Tarpon 100 comes in 7 colors so you should get one close to your favorite color. This kayak was designed to be stable on most water bodies, like the open ocean. It tracks well and is easily maneuverable on the water.

The boat weighs 55 pounds so most of you should be able to load and unload it by yourself. It’s 10 feet long and 30.5 inches wide, making it a very stable vessel. Beginners will love this vessel because it is easy to paddle.

It is two waterproof compartments for storing valuables like keys and phones. It comes with tracks on either side to mount additional accessories. There’s a large storage area behind the seat fitted with bungee cord straps to hold your cargo onboard.

It comes with an adjustable seat with comfortable padding and support for your lower back. The footrest is also adjustable to suit people of all sizes. You’ll sit in this seat all day and not feel sore after. The 4 carry handles make it very easy to carry the kayak.

This yak just works well, and I recommend it for those of you who want to learn kayaking.

6. Feel Free Lure 10

feel free kayaks_fishing_lure 10

This is a high-quality boat that is ideal for both beginner and experienced kayakers alike. Everything about it is top notch, and it comes with tons of accessories for fishing.

The seat on this boat is perhaps the most comfortable of the yaks on our list. It is fully adjustable, and you’ll sit in it for hours and ache all over your body. The adjustable footrest works really well.

There’s plenty of storage, including dry storage and a lot of mounting points to attach extra gear. The rod holders work well

The lure 10 weighs 70 pounds with a 34-inch wide and a 10-foot long bull. The boat is extremely stable, tracks well, and is very nimble on the water. This is an ideal boat if you’re a newbie to paddling.

This is an excellent recreational vessel even though it was designed with fishing in mind. Everything about this kayak is great, and you won’t regret getting it.

 

7. eMotion Glide

emotion glide

This is a sit-in recreational yak bound to give you many happy hours on the water. Everything about it makes it an ideal first kayak for you. It is very stable, tracks great, fast, nimble and very comfortable to sit in.

It is a lightweight, 37-pound vessel with a strong hull. A single person can easily load and unload this yak. The cockpit is spacious with plenty of leg room and a comfortable sit.

It doesn’t come with a paddle so you’ll have to buy one. The yak is easy to paddle and works well on the lake, open ocean, and slow-flowing rivers.

It makes an excellent beginner’s kayak should be one of your options if you’re looking for a 1-person yak to learn paddling and fishing in.

 

8. Perception Pescador Pro 10

pescador 10 kayak

The Pescador Pro is an ideal starting yak for fishing. This sit-on-top offers plenty of room and storage space. It weighs 57 pounds, so it is a bit on the heavier side for most people. However, two people should easily load and unload it with the built-in carry handles.

It is 32-inches wide and 10.6 feet wide. The boat is very stable and tracks well on the water.

There’s a large storage well behind the seat with bungee straps to hold your gear in place. Tracks either side of the vessel allows you to add additional gear.

The removable, adjustable, and reclining seat is very comfortable and should give you hours of pain-free adventure on the water. Your back and your butt will thank you for the seat on this yak. It is even very comfortable for those on the bigger side.

The only negative I have with this yak is the position of the rod holders. It can get in the way of the paddles sometimes. But this should not be a problem if you only use the yak for recreation. However, you can attach new rod holders to the accessory track if you want to take it fishing.

The vessel is very versatile and suitable for both recreational paddlers and anglers. It takes very little time for those just starting out to get used to it. It can handle different water conditions. This kayak is one of the best out there for the novice kayaker.

9. Vibe Sea Ghost 110

vibe sea ghost 101

What can be said about the Sea Ghost 110? This is as close to perfection as a kayak can get. From the moment you take this yak out of the shipping packaging, you’ll fall in love with it.

It is an extremely stable boat that performs well in all waters, including the rocky waters of the open sea. It tracks well; it’s fast, very stable on the water and comfortable to sit in. I give the seat this a 10 out of 10.

It comes with tons of features including cup holders, a port for mounting and protecting a fishfinder, rod holders, tracks for mounting additional gear, paddle parks, a rudder system you can control with your toe, and carrying handles.

It has a lot of space for cargo. You get two dry storage hatches to keep your valuables dry, a large storage space in the back to hold a cooler or other gear, tackle tray holders and more.

The boat is 62 pounds so some people may have a problem handling it on their own. However, some of you can also carry it on their own. The hull is 33 inches wide and 11 feet long.

This is my top recommended kayak for beginners, and you’ll have no regrets getting it.

 

Now that you’ve seen the list let’s follow up with a guide to help you as you strive to buy your first kayak and hit the water for the first time.

What Kayak Should Beginners Buy?

As a novice, you should consider the following when shopping for a kayak.

 

How Stable is It?

This should be the first factor to consider for someone who has no experience paddling such a slender vessel. A stable boat will help lower your trips into the water when your kayak inevitably flips. Fortunately, all the ones in this review are highly stable vessels and should help keep you out of the water. However, you’ll need to learn how to recover from a flip, so it’s inevitable that you’ll end up in the water one way or another.

In general, the wider the vessel, the more stable it is. Shorter vessels also tend to be more stable than longer vessels. However, other factors like the hull’s shape can also affect stability.

You should look out for two types of stability when you go out to buy a kayak. These are primary and secondary stability. Primary refers to the stability of the vessel on calm waters like a non-cresting lake or slow flowing rivers. Secondary stability refers to how stable the boat is in rough waters. This considers how easy it is to keep going when the boat starts rocking from side to side. A kayak with excellent secondary stability should be able to handle the choppy waters of the open sea, large lakes, and fast flowing rivers, making them an ideal kayak for a first-time paddler.

Vessels with a flatter hull will have better stability on calm flat waters, which is best if you’re a learner.

How Durable is the boat?

As a learner, it’s inevitable that you’ll take some time to get used to controlling the vessel. During this period, it is expected that the boat would shrug off a few knocks.

You, therefore, need to pick durable and well-built yak. The most durable tend to be those made from polyethylene (plastic), and they are often cheaper than those made from composite materials like fiberglass. Inflatable kayaks also tend to be strong and durable and would easily take most of the knocks. They are an excellent option for beginners.

Fishing Kayaks

Most of the vessels mentioned in this article are built with fishing in mind, but you can also use them for recreational purposes. There are a few other things to consider if you intend to use your yak for fishing.

One important consideration is the type of water you intend to fish in. A vessel that performs well in choppy waters like the sea may not perform well in calm waters and vice versa. This is because of the shape of their hulls. Some vessels are designed to perform well in all types of water, and we’ve included a few of those on our list.

You should also make sure that your vessel and gear (including the paddles or pedals) are not prone to corrosion if you intend to use them on salt waters.

The best fishing kayaks tend to be sit-on-tops with longer hulls to accommodate more storage and make it easier to paddle to your favorite fishing spots.

These types of yaks also have tracks that allow you to add all sorts of fishing gear and mounting plates for electronics like fish finders and transducers.

The Types of Kayaks

There are different classifications of kayaks, so it’s important to understand what they are before making your first purchase.

What you end up buying should depend on where and how you intend to use it.

Solo or Tandem

This is self-explanatory for most of you, but I’ll quickly explain it to those few who may not know what a tandem is. A tandem kayak has two seats and allows two people to paddle together. A solo kayak has just one seat and can be paddled by just one person.

It may be a great idea for a beginner to get a tandem vessel so they may learn with an experienced paddler in the other seat. You’ll have exactly the same accessories (except a rudder which may be used to steer the boat) as the other passenger.

Once you’ve mastered paddling, you can easily use your tandem as a solo boat. You’ll have plenty of extra room for storage and the ability to invite another person on fishing adventures or a recreational paddle whenever you want. It also gives you the chance to take a pet (such as your dog) or one of your children with you for some fun on the water.

However, tandems tend to be heavy so you might need a second person to transport and launch them. You may opt for an inflatable tandem (like the Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible (insert link)) which are much lighter.

Another advantage of a tandem is that you and your partner can paddle at the same time, which will increase your speed and reduce the amount of work you’d do if you were paddling solo.

Inflatables

A beginner might consider getting an inflatable boat because they’re very durable, cheaper than their non-inflatable counterparts, lighter and easier to transport. Their versatility also makes them an excellent option for beginners because they perform well in all types of waters.

As someone just getting into paddling, you probably don’t have a set-up that allows you to easily transport your yak from your home to the launch point. The lightweight and the fact that you can deflate the inflatable and fold it makes them very easy to transport in the pack of your car.

They also tend to be nimbler on the water than non-inflatables, which makes them ideal for the beginner. You’ll find that you can maneuver them better than the other options. They also tend to be easier to clean and store.

Non-Inflatables (Hard Body Vessels)

Several types of materials are used in the making of hard body kayaks. These include plastic and composite materials like carbon fiber and fiberglass. Those made from plastic are the best for beginners due to their durable and strong hulls. They are also the cheapest of the hard body yaks.

Those made from composite materials tend to be massively expensive. They’re mostly used by serious professional kayakers who use them to race because they are extremely light.

Composite material kayaks are no ideal for a beginner because they are more brittle than plastic and their repair costs are very high. You’ll be best advised to steer clear of them.

Sit-On-Top

Sit-on-top vessels have the seat placed on top of the hull rather than inside the hull. This gives you an unrestricted movement of your lower body, which is restricted when in a sit-in kayak. Most beginners prefer sit-on-tops because they are easier to operate.

Sit-on-tops are also easier to get in and get out of so they’re ideal for someone trying to learn their way around a kayak. You can easily get off for a swim and get back on when you take it out in the summer.

One downside of sit-on-tops is that you’ll almost certainly get wet when paddling because they don’t have splash protection. This makes sit-on-tops more suitable for those living in warmer climates. You can still use them in colder climates if you wear protective clothing like a wetsuit.

Sit-on-tops are self-bailing so you won’t have to get the water out manually. The small holes in the hull, known as scupper, let the water out. It is possible to get splashed with water through these holes, but you can stop this by blocking the holes with a scupper plug.

Sit-on-top yaks may come with a pedal drive system that allows you to pedal the kayak with your feet, which frees your hands to do other things like fishing. You may also alternate driving the kayak with a paddle or the pedals, or you can use both at once.

Sin-In Kayaks

The sit-in yak has an enclosed cockpit, which is where the seat is located. The lower part of your body is completely enclosed by the cockpit so you can only use your upper body when paddling a sit-in. You tend to stay drier in a sit-in, and you can add a spray skirt to keep you dry and warm in cold waters. The spray skirt also keeps water from the cockpit, so you don’t have to stop paddling to bail the water out manually.

Sit-in vessels are harder to get into and are, therefore, not the best for newbies to learn paddling it. You’ll need to learn how to extract yourself from the cockpit if the yak flips over and you find yourself under water.

This type of vessel is mostly used for recreational purposes and are not the best for fishing and hunting. They are also the vessel of choice for white water kayaking and other extreme sports.

Tandem (2-Person) Yaks

Those who follow cycling know of tandem bikes, which have two seats and pedaled by two people. It’s the same concept for tandem kayaks. They have two seats and can be paddled pedaled by two people. This allows you to hit the lake and share the adventure with a partner.

Beginners shouldn’t shy away from getting a tandem boat because they have the same characteristics as their 1-person counterparts. There are recreational tandems that are inflatable with wide, stable hulls.

Tandem boats usually have extra storage so you can bring all your favorite gear with you on the water. You may even have room to bring along third passenger (a small child or a pet).

Tandems are usually heavier than 1-person boats so you may need a second person to help transport and launch them if you don’t have a cart.

Tandems also give you the chance to paddle with a partner, alternating between each paddler or paddling simultaneously. This helps to spread the effort and give you aching muscles a rest if you need to.

A tandem will also let you have an experienced kayaker in the other seat to guide and instruct you as you learn.

Recreational Kayaks

These are basic yaks designed for a leisurely day on very calm waters. They really don’t do much else. However, their superior stability makes them ideal for beginners. They tend to have a wider hull which makes them more stable.

They’re not as agile and fast as professional yaks, but you may not really care about speed and agility as a learner. They are, however, ideal for learning your paddling techniques and strokes.

Recreational vessels are usually much cheaper but heavier, which may pose a problem if you need to transport and launch them on your own.

Recreational vessels are the ideal yaks for kids to learn in. This is because they do make them in kids versions, which are short and lightweight. Kids can easily carry and maneuver them on their own.

Fishing Kayaks

Fishing kayaks are purposely built to make it easier for you to fish from. They’re usually sit-on-tops, which allow you to sit higher on the water and have unrestricted use of your lower body.

They’re designed in a way that allows you to add all sorts of fishing gear like fish finders and rod holders. They usually come with comfortable and adjustable seats so you can spend hours on the water fishing without aching all over.

They have plenty of storage to carry extra gear like coolers, tackle boxes, and camping gear for overnight trips. Read our comprehensive guide on fishing kayaks {insert link} if you want to buy one.

Where to Learn Kayaking For Beginners

You may want to start by going to a kayaking school near you to learn the basic skills you need. However, we can’t all to a school to learn kayaking. In such situations, you should start with a calm water body like a small lake or a slow flowing river.

These give you a safer and easier environment to develop your techniques and skills. Rough waters like the open sea, large lakes, and fast flowing rivers pose a challenge with their choppy waters and currents.

A swimming pool may be the ideal water body for beginners (particularly kids) to learn the basic skills if you have access to one.

You should always wear a lifejacket as an inexperienced kayaker, and even experienced people must always carry one with them.

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