A Beginners Guide to Buying a Kayak

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A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Kayak

Kayaking is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy nature. Kayaking is a low impact sport that does not put much stress on the body, although it does require upper body strength because the enclosed boat is propelled solely by a double-ended paddle. There are many factors to consider when choosing a kayak, especially for newcomers to the sport. Beginners must consider the type of kayak that they need because some are better suited to a particular environment than others. In addition, the materials used can influence the abilities and quality of the kayak. Buyers should also consider the balance between stability and manoeuvrability, and understand that a kayak rarely offers great performance in both areas.

Finally, beginners should consider the storage and seating capacity of the kayak, and any additional accessories needed. Kayaks can be found in sporting goods shops, but for convenience buyers can use the online auction site eBay, which has a large selection of canoeing and kayaking supplies.

Types of Kayak

One of the most important aspects of buying a kayak is choosing a design that suits its intended purpose. Kayaks are usually not all purpose vessels: a kayak designed for casual use would never withstand white water rapids nor extended trips on the water. Shoppers should research the different types of kayak to determine which is best suited for what they want to do.

Recreational Kayaks

Recreational kayaks are intended for day trips in sheltered, calm waters. They are typically about 3 to 3.7 metres in length, and may have a small hatch for carrying equipment and a large cockpit that is easy to get in and out of. The design of recreational kayaks is fairly stable, but this type of boat is not good for rough water, windy days, or extended trips. Recreational kayaks also do not have as good an ability to track, that is, to move in a straight line.

Touring Kayaks

Touring kayaks, also known as sea kayaks, are designed for extended trips, even ones that last for multiple days. They usually measure 3.7 to 4.9 metres in length. Touring kayaks can travel long distances over water, and can withstand rough winds and currents. In addition, they usually have fairly large compartments for storing gear, although the cockpit is small. Touring kayaks track better than recreational models.

White Water Kayaks

Unlike recreational and touring kayaks, whitewater kayaks perform best in rough water. Smaller than other types of kayaks at 1.2 to 3 metres long, they usually have rounded bottoms and a greater rocker, which means that the ends of the boat turn upwards sharply and rise above the water. This helps the boat to manage waves better. Although they are highly manoeuvrable in rough water, white water kayaks are difficult to paddle in a straight line.

Surf Kayaks

Surf kayaks are related to whitewater kayaks. However, where whitewater kayaks have rockers at both ends of the boat, a surf kayak has a rocker only at the front, or bow, which makes it resemble a surfboard. Surf kayaks are also likely to have fins, just like a surfboard.

Sit on Top Kayaks

Sit on top kayaks differ from traditional kayaks by allowing the occupant to sit on top of the boat rather than in it. This makes them ideal for beginners, children, and others who need to enter and exit the boat easily. Sit on top kayaks leave the body exposed to the elements, so they are best suited to warm climates. They also are slower than other types of kayak. Sit on top kayaks vary in length from 3 to 4.5 metres.

Structure of Kayaks

There are three basic structures, or form factors, for kayaks: hard shell, folding, and inflatable. Beginners should choose one that is appropriate for their requirements.

Hard Shell Kayaks

Sturdy, hard shell kayaks are rigid and cannot be reduced in size. Buyers needs to be certain that they can store and transport the kayak easily before purchasing.

Folding Kayaks

Folding kayaks are durable enough to transport easily, more flexible in their shape, and easier to store. They can usually be dismantled when not in use. However, folding kayaks do take a long time to set up. They also do not offer as great a performance as hard shell kayaks in terms of speed.

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks are also easy to store, and can offer surprisingly good performance. When ready to use, the kayak is inflated by a pump. The compartmentalised design means that inflatable kayaks are quite buoyant.

Materials for Kayaks

Kayaks vary widely in the materials used to make them. The type of kayak and its structure both play a role in determining the materials used. The table below describes the common materials and what type of kayaks they are found in.





Inexpensive and easy to repair

Resists impacts and abrasions

Available in several forms

Limited lifespan

Becomes brittle after years of sun exposure

Thermoformed ABS

Inexpensive and easy to repair

Resists gouges

Lighter than polyethylene

Weighs more than composites


Extremely lightweight and durable

More expensive than most materials


One of the strongest materials available

Extremely expensive

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Available in several thicknesses

Resists punctures and abrasions

Cloth-like texture is good for inflatable kayaks only


Nostalgic feel

Easy to repair

Requires regular maintenance

May be heavy

When choosing a kayak, beginners should be aware of the balance between in quality and price. A slightly more expensive model made from better materials is more likely to last. Do some research to learn about the benefits of the different materials, and consider the cost of repairs and maintenance.

Shapes of Kayaks

The kayak's shape has a significant impact on several factors, including speed, stability, and manoeuvrability. When considering the shape, beginners need to take into account the length, width, also referred to as the beam, and the stability of the boat.

Length of Kayaks

Long kayaks are better for speed, carrying heavy loads, and travelling across greater distances. They offer greater efficiency in terms of the amount of energy needed to propel them and are less affected by weight. However, shorter kayaks turn much more quickly and easily, and are more resistant to wind. They weigh less and are easier to transport, making shorter kayaks convenient for many beginners. Whitewater kayaks tend to be shorter because they need greater flexibility when navigating rough water, whereas touring kayaks are longer because they need to hold more gear and be able to carry the occupant for greater distances.

Width of Kayaks

A wide kayak is easy to get into and out of, which can be appealing to many beginners. It also provides more room for storing gear and is more stable. However, with these benefits come drawbacks. Wider kayaks are heavier, ultimately slower, and require more power to propel. A narrow kayak is lighter, tracks better, is more efficient to paddle, but is less stable.

Stability of Kayaks

A kayak has two kinds of stability: initial and final, also called secondary stability. The initial stability refers to how well a boat remains in a perfectly upright position when the occupant is getting into the kayak, whereas the final stability refers to the boat's ability to resist tipping and capsizing. There must be a balance between the two: a high initial stability means there is less final stability, and vice versa. Many new kayakers may prefer a higher initial stability, but may prioritise secondary stability when they become more experienced.

Accessories for Kayaks

There are a variety of accessories that can be purchased for a kayak. At the very least, beginners need the correct paddle, which depends on the type of kayak bought, and safety gear. They should also consider a spray deck, which wraps around the cockpit of the kayak to prevent water from getting into the boat. Although it is an essential for rough water, it may also be a good investment even if the beginner intends to paddle on a lake because it keeps the occupant warmer and protects against drips. Finally, beginners should also consider purchasing a roof rack and cradle to transport the kayak safely. A cradle is not necessary for inflatable kayaks. The right transport equipment ultimately depends on the vehicle and the kayak, so do some research before committing to a purchase.

How to Buy a Kayak on eBay

Visit eBay to find a large selection of kayaks. To start your search, just enter a keyword, such as "touring kayak" in the box on the home page. You can filter your results and refine the search in other ways, for example, by providing a price range. Use these refinements to specify whether you are interested in a new or used kayak. If purchasing a used kayak, verify the item's condition before buying.

Tips for Shopping on eBay

Always read a seller's listing carefully so that you know exactly what is included with your purchase. You may be able to locate bundles, which include a few accessories in addition to the kayak itself. Check the seller's feedback history to see the comments and ratings left by previous buyers. If you have any questions about a potential purchase, you can use eBay's "Ask a question" feature to contact the seller directly. Also, check the seller's policies. Finally, you may consider using the eBay filters to refine your search to display kayaks sold by local sellers, as you may be able to arrange to collect your item in person to save on delivery costs.


Kayaking takes many forms, offering excitement and adventure, and plenty of opportunities to relax in scenic spots. Beginners who choose to invest in their own kayak should consider several factors before they make a purchase. Firstly, they should identify what type of kayak they need, for example, a touring kayak or a whitewater model. They should also consider the structural design of the boat and the materials used to make it. Folding and inflatable kayaks are readily available for beginners who want a boat that is easy to store and transport, though there are drawbacks to choosing one of these over a traditional hard shell kayak.

In addition, beginners should understand the need for balance with regards to the kayak's design, in terms of length, width, and stability. Finally, consider the accessories that need to be purchased in addition to the kayak. These include essential safety equipment and a paddle, as well as optional items like a spray deck and a car mount for the boat. When it comes to purchasing a kayak, eBay is a convenient destination for beginners, with everything that they need in one place.

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