The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best Beginner Kayak

Hi there, hope you're enjoying the site. We just wanted to let you you know that we may collect a share of the profits if you go on to buy a product after clicking one of the links, images or buttons on this page.

What’s the best kayak for a beginner?

When first entering the sport of kayaking, new paddlers are invariably presented with a myriad of different manufactures, types, and models of kayaks made from different materials and with a widely varying range of prices. Thus, it can sometimes be difficult to sort out and catalog all of the differences between them as well as the pros and cons of each type and/or model. However, with a little knowledge, choosing the best beginner kayak for you need not be such a difficult task. Therefore, in the following article, you will find information that will help you determine what type of kayak suites you best as well as a list of three models that are all well suited for beginning paddlers.

Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
Our favorite for 2016
Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 Kayak - 2015
A fast and extremely agile beginners kayak
Eddyline Equinox Red Pearl
Provides stability, comfort and performance!

Buyers guide – how to choose a kayak for a beginner

When first entering the sport of kayaking, most paddlers prefer kayaks with a high degree of initial stability and a moderate degree of maneuverability. Also, they want a cockpit that is comfortable and not too confining. Therefore, most beginners choose one of the many different models of sit-on-top or recreational kayaks.

kayaking for beginnersHowever, for those ambitious paddlers who tend to learn fast, a transitional model kayak is often a better choice because they generally have longer lengths and more narrow beams which translates to a more efficient hull design that provides greater speed for less effort from the paddler. But, aside from being able to identify these three different types of kayaks, it is helpful for the beginner to have a basic understanding of kayak hull design so that they can make an informed choice as to which model is best suited to their particular needs. Thus, stability is often the first factor to be considered and thus, initial stability is defined as the resistance of a kayak to small changes in the difference between the vertical forces applied on its two sides whereas, secondary stability is defined as a kayak’s ability to right itself at large angles of lateral tilt.

However, in layman’s terms, what this means is that a kayak with a high degree of initial stability will have a high degree of resistance to capsizing on flat water but, will roll drastically in rough water and, a kayak with a high degree of secondary stability will feel more inclined to capsize on flat water but, will be less inclined to roll in rough water. Therefore, since most beginning paddlers prefer to paddle on calm water, a kayak with a high degree of initial stability is often the best choice.

how to buy a kayak for beginnersThe second factor that should be considered is that of maneuverability versus speed. In this case, kayaks with shorter lengths are more maneuverable than longer kayaks but, longer kayaks are generally faster than shorter kayaks due to their longer water line length. Then, there is the matter of cockpit design. For instance, sit-on-top kayaks have wide open cockpits which leave the paddler completely exposed to the sun and wind but, make entering and exiting the kayak relatively easy whereas, sit-inside models such as recreational and transitional kayaks have cockpits that enclose the paddler in a protective shell and thus offer some protection from the elements but, are more difficult to enter and exit. Plus, most sit-inside kayaks can be outfitted with a “spray skirt” which is a fabric cover that fits over the cockpit’s rim and around the paddler’s waist to seal out sun, wind, and water.

Consequently, to choose a kayak with a high degree on initial stability, choose one with a relatively wide beam and, to choose one that is highly maneuverable, choose one that is relatively short. Also, to choose a kayak with a non-confining cockpit, choose a sit-on-top model and, to choose one that provides a high degree of control, choose a sit-inside model.

Last, there is the matter of the material the kayak is constructed from. For instance, some kayaks are made from either linear or cross linked polyethylene (plastic) while others are made from various composite materials such as fiberglass, e-glass, and/or carbon fiber. Thus, it should be noted that while polyethylene kayaks are the toughest, they are also the heaviest whereas, composite kayaks can be molded into shapes that plastic cannot and remain structurally sound and, they are generally much lighter but, they are not as tough as polyethylene kayaks. On the other hand, composite kayaks do cost significantly more than polyethylene kayaks. Thus, you will have to decide which factors are most important to you.

Top 3 Beginner Kayaks for 2020

Below you will find a list of three different models of kayaks that are well suited to for beginning paddlers because they all have a high degree of initial stability and are relatively maneuverable. In addition, you will find that they range from sit-on-top kayaks, to recreational kayaks, to transitional kayaks which bridge the gap between a recreational kayak and a sea kayak.

Necky Vector 13 Kayak - Sit-On-Top Storm, One SizeNecky Vector 13  – The Necky Vector 13 sit-on-top kayak is specifically designed to handle similar to a sit-inside kayak but retains the open cockpit that many beginning paddlers prefer. Thus, it serves the paddler well as a day touring kayak but, also has the storage capacity for overnight trips. With an overall length of 13 feet and a width of 29″, it is a reasonably fast kayak with a high degree of initial stability and, with a weight of 59 lbs., it is within the capacity of most paddlers to lift it onto and off a vehicle’s roof rack. In addition, it features polyethylene construction for superior toughness along with a Quick Seal Bow Hatch for dry storage and a tank well in the stern with a nylon cover with multiple adjustment points for carrying larger items. Plus, there is an additional dry storage hatch in the stern. Also, it features a very comfortable touring seat and backband combined with adjustable Support Track foot braces and an optional rudder system to help keep you on course in high winds or swift currents.


Length:                                    13 ft.
Width:                                     29 in.
Weight:                                   59 lbs.
Type:                                       Sit-on-top
Capacity:                                 350 lbs.
Propulsion:                             Paddle

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 Kayak - 2015Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 – The Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 sit-inside kayak is a fast and extremely agile craft with a spacious cockpit that excels in tight, twisting, environments. But, it is also an excellent choice for the day touring enthusiast. Featuring Necky’s Phase 3 AirPro Tour kayak seat combined with an adjustable SlideLock Foot Brace System and adjustable, padded, thigh braces, it provides the paddler with an extremely comfortable cockpit that enables complete control over the craft. Also, because it is a sit-inside design, it features sealed bulkheads both fore and aft of the cockpit combined with domed bow and stern hatches to create plenty of dry storage space for overnight trips. Plus, the deck has been outfitted with a bungee cord deck rigging to enable you to keep small items close at hand along with reflective perimeter lines for safety. Last, it features a molded in paddle holder to provide a place to park your paddle when not in use and soft touch handles on the bow and stern to make transport easier.


Length:                                    12′ 6″
Width:                                     26″
Weight:                                   51 lbs.
Type:                                       Sit-inside/Recreational
Capacity:                                 300 lbs.
Propulsion:                              Paddle

Eddyline Equinox Red PearlEddyline Equinox  – The Eddyline Equinox sit-inside kayak is a perfect balance between the stability and comfort of a recreational kayak and the performance of a sea kayak. Featuring hard chines and a shallow V hull, it tracks well and performs leaned turns with ease. Also, with a length of 14 feet, it has a hull speed that nearly equals that of a sea kayak and, with a beam of 25 inches, it provides just enough initial stability for the more ambitious beginner to feel comfortable. In addition, the medium sized keyhole cockpit is equipped with a three-way, padded, backrest, a comfortable, padded, seat, and molded-in thigh braces combined with ergonomically designed Sea Dog foot braces that are comfortable even with bare feet. Plus, there are sealed bulkheads both forward and aft of the cockpit as well as a round hatch cover in the bow and an oval hatch cover in the stern to provide dry storage space for overnight trips. Last, it features front deck bungees and the rear deck bungees are specifically designed for paddle assisted reentry.


Length:                                    14 ft.
Width:                                     25 in.
Weight:                                   45 lbs.
Type:                                       Sit-inside/Transitional
Capacity:                                 360 lbs.
Propulsion:                             Paddle

So, if you enjoy spending warm, sunny, days near the water while taking time to enjoy the scenery and observe the wildlife, then kayaking in a undoubtedly a sport that you would find both interesting and fun. In fact, due to their extreme stealth capabilities, paddlers are often able to approach wildlife much more closely in a kayak than they could in a motor boat. In addition, kayaking is an excellent way to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air while participating in some mild exercise. Last, kayaking is a sport that can be done safely either alone or with other paddlers and thus, it is an excellent way to explore your local waterways. Thus, if you have not yet done so, then you should definitely consider giving kayaking a try and, of course, you can use the information listed above to help you decide which kayak is best for you.