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Choosing your first kayak!

By Andy Grimes

The age old question of "what boat should I get as my first boat"? Has always been something people have asked me and other fellow coaches for as long as I can remember. It's a question that brings up a lot of debate amongst paddlers and I hope to help clear up this, what can sometimes feel like a hazy mess of a question using a few simple top tips.

Tip 1 - Question yourself

Choosing your first kayak!

Ask yourself a couple of simple questions:

  • Why do you want a boat of your own? Does it need to be brand new, or can it be second hand, what will it need to be made off?

  • What will the boat be used for? E.g. white water, flat water touring, sea, surf, freestyle or general purpose.

Tip 2 - Go mad!

Choosing your first kayak!

Try as many boats as possible! Go to a shop demo day or paddle festival with free demo boats so you can get access to all the new boats on the market! Borrow friend’s kayaks if they don't mind. This will give you the best possible understanding as to what is out there and available for you.

Also any students that come on Plas y Brenin course have the opportunity to try as many different kayaks as they like with the hope that they can find something to suit them and their needs.

Tip 3 - Will it take the abuse?

Choosing your first kayak!

Durability! It's important that you know that your future kayak will be durable and strong enough to last the time that you need it to. Any kayak won’t last forever but it should last for several years of good use before reaching the end of its life. Plastic is very durable put heavy whereas fibre glass is ultra-lightweight and fast but one big bump and you could put a massive crack in it. Especially when looking at second hand boats, be sure to look closely at how much plastic or fibre glass is left on the underside as well as any damage or repairs that have taken place over its life time that could affect its life span.

Tip 4 - Put your money where your mouth is

Cost! Set yourself a realistic budget and stick to it! Good typical second hand white water kayaks ranges from £200 to £600 and new boats can go into thousands for the most deluxe carbon fibre designs so pick something that is appropriate to you and your budget.

Tip 5 - Testing

Give any boat you try 3 tests

  • Are you comfortable and does the outfitting and weight range for the kayak support your body shape and mass? Check with the manufactures guide lines for boat weight ranges, the boat should be sat on the water not in it! If in doubt go slightly bigger. Remember you could be sitting and paddling in it all day!

  • Test the boats hull design does it respond well to your input when paddling or does it react in an erratic or unnerving manor?

  • Honestly assess the boats ability to fulfil your requirements. A short boat will be hard to paddle over longer distances and keep straight, whereas a longer kayak with a bit of a keel will be suitable for long distance journeys on touring or sea venues.

Tip 6 - Narrowing it down

Come up with a short list of potential boats that could work for you and your needs! Then search the internet or chat to other paddlers and check out the reviews of each of these boats to see what other paddlers have found from their experiences with them.

Tip 7 - Try again

You will hopefully now have whittled down the original large list of boat options down to just two or three different kayak designs. So if possible go back and try each of these designs again so you can to test in greater depth each design and discover which design best suits you and your needs.
Shop around
To help make the final step into kayak ownership, take the time to shop around and find the best deal! Waiting for the end of season sales is a great way to snap up a bargain or a great package deal. Searching auction sites like eBay and kayaking forums that have other paddlers selling boats, is a common way to find cheaper second hand kayaks or let people know what you're looking for.

Tip 8 - Have fun

Once you have finally made your purchase all that's really left to do is to go away and go enjoy your paddling in your nice new flashy piece of plastic or fibre glass


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