Kayaks are easy to learn to paddle, affordable and a great way to interact with nature. You can quickly learn how to kayak after a basic introduction on how to paddle. Most kayaks are quite portable, giving you the chance to paddle almost anywhere you can get to water.
A wide variety of kayaks are available. Whether your goal is to paddle solo in big ocean swells or take a child in a tandem boat on a scenic river you can find a boat that fits your needs. Here are some of the major categories:
Recreational kayaks are intended for paddling in protected waters such as a protected bay, small lake, or gentle river. These kayaks are stable and easy to paddle and are great boats for a day paddling trip. Some boats will have a dry storage area and could be used for an overnight trip.
As their name indicates, fishing kayaks are primarily geared toward anglers. Fishing kayaks are available as both sit-on-top and traditional sit-inside designs. They will typically have one or two recessed rod holders behind the cockpit and many have the option for a rod-holder or two towards the front of the cockpit. Some models have options for live-wells and anchors.
Sit-on-top kayaks feature an open cockpit design that allows for easy entry and exit (great for those who are not thrilled with the idea of being inside a traditional cockpit). They tend to be very stable designs and are great for warm climates, diving and fishing. Most models include open storage on the top of the boat and some include dry storage compartments.
Touring kayaks (sometimes called sea or ocean kayaks) are great for kayaking long distances or paddling in big water where performance is key. These boats tend to be quite narrow so initially they feel less stable but they far outperform other boats in rough conditions. Their narrow beam (width) and longer length (14' or longer) makes for a much faster boat.
If you are looking to paddle fast moving water, a whitewater kayak is an ideal craft. Whitewater kayaks are available for a variety of whitewater purposes such as river running, playing and creeking. They tend to be quite short (under 9ft) and fit snugly so you and your boat can quickly respond to changes in the river.
If storing and/or transporting your boat is a concern, then an inflatable can be a great solution. These boats are available anywhere from inexpensive models for kids to high-performance designs. Models with highly-durable materials can make great boats for running rapids and playing in surf. Options include open cockpits, sit-on-top, and traditional enclosed cockpits. Most boats come with a storage bag and manual pump.
If a folding kayak seems like a fragile craft, think again. The combination of the frame, usually made from aluminum (think miniature tent poles) and durable, waterproof fabric make for a craft strong enough to cross the Atlantic. Like an inflatable, folding kayaks are a great option for storage or transportation challenges.
If building your own boat sounds appealing, purchasing a wooden kayak kit or plan could be a great project with a great boat at the end. Kits will typically come with all the major materials you will need along with detailed instructions. Plans can range from very basic plans to highly detailed drawings with complete instructions. If you have the time, building a boat can be a great project with great results.