The pastime of kayaking has seen a dramatic increase in popularity over the past decade. Now it has become commonplace to see people of all ages out enjoying the great waterways this country has to offer. Rivers, estuaries, beaches and dams have all become more accessible as people are taking full advantage of the lightweight, manoeuvrable and ultra-stealthy characteristics that a kayak offers. Athletes, adventurers and fisherman alike are making room in their homes as they recognise the versatility and ease of use that a kayak can provide.
In this buyers guide, the BCFing experts will be walking you through the different types of kayaks, things to consider when choosing a kayak, the difference between sit-on and sit-in kayaks plus some handy tips and tricks for ensuring your next adventure is a cracker.
What to consider when choosing a kayak
There is such a diverse range of kayaks on the market and although they may all serve the same purpose of getting you on the water, each is vastly different, you must understand no one kayak can do everything. The questions below will help you in choosing the correct kayak to fit your own individual needs.
What will the kayak be used for?
This should be the first question you ask yourself when considering purchasing a kayak. Whether you are a mad keen fisherman, have a passion for exploring our waterways, or maybe you would like to work on your fitness and physical conditioning, kayaks make for an ultra-versatile watercraft at an affordable price.
Where will the kayak mainly be used?
Where the kayak will be used is another important question that you must ask yourself. Rivers, estuaries, dams, or the open ocean are all fair game, but each location is completely different and may need a kayak designed with that location in mind. Different shapes, sizes and materials all play a massive role in a kayak's performance and where it should be used.
How often will the kayak be used and for how long?
Will you be going for extended periods or simply day trips? It's important to think about the amount of storage space you have on-board. If overnight fishing adventures are your thing, make sure there is enough room for your tent, food, clothes and water to last the duration of your trip.
Who will be using the kayak?
Selecting a kayak that suits your height and body mass is extremely important for ensuring the best day on the water. You want your legs to feel comfortable and the kayak to sit with the correct buoyancy level in the water. There is also a selection of kids kayaks purposely designed for the little ones.
How much would you like to spend on a kayak?
With such a varied price range it is possible for almost anyone to get out on the water in a kayak that suits their budget. Starting from $199.99 with the Glide junior splasher, perfect for teaching your kids the ropes and the Intex challenger inflatable kayak, an awesome entry-level sit-in kayak. For around $600 you can find a range of great recreational and fishing kayaks that will have you paddling in comfort or catching that fish of a lifetime. On the other end of the scale, Hobie offers the ultimate in luxury kayaks so you will be the envy of all your friends as you cruise the river with hands-free acceleration.
What are the different types of kayaks?
With so many different styles of kayak out there we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at each type with a few of the benefits and added extras they come with.
As people begin to realise the simple and cost-effective benefits of hitting the water in a fishing kayak, we are seeing anglers of all skill levels taking up the hobby with great rewards. Not only do they make getting on the water a breeze with their lightweight frame, they also allow the angler to cover more water with their shallow draft. Fishing kayaks are built for stability with a wider hull design and come standard with rod holders, storage compartments and comfortable seating which will aid in making your day on the water more enjoyable. With the added purchase of a fishfinder, the fish won't have anywhere to hide, making your catch that much easier.
To summarise, fishing kayaks:
- Have greater stability with a wider hull design
- Are easy to manoeuvre, lightweight and portable
- The shallow draft allows access to unfished waters
- Most fishing kayaks come standard with rod holders
- The large storage areas allow you to store all your tackle and excess equipment
- Are an affordable way to get on the water with no registration needed
A favourite among families, adventurers and athletes alike, the recreational kayak, as its name suggests, is a great all-purpose kayak that is perfect for checking out your local waterways, bird watching and getting some exercise as you soak up some vitamin D. With a much slimmer hull design that creates greater speed and tracks through the water with relative ease, they are best suited for expeditions and longer paddles.
Recreational kayaks are:
- Great beginners kayak for families and children
- Narrower hull provides speed and easy directional changes
- Ideal for use in still water rivers, estuaries and freshwater impoundments
- Comes in both sit-in and sit-on designs
- Many come with changeable seating and footrest positions
Providing the ultimate in lightweight and portable, the inflatable kayak makes sure you're ready to hit the water no matter where you venture. The rugged vinyl construction is strong, stable and rigid, ensuring it lasts many years and provides many fond memories. Not only are they compact, fitting easily in any vehicle, inflatable kayaks are also extremely versatile, great for lakes and rivers and will provide hours of fun for the whole family with easy paddling and manoeuvrability that makes them ideal for older children.
The main benefits of an inflatable kayak include:
- Quick and easy inflation and deflation with included pump
- Can be transported inside your vehicle
- Takes up minimal storage space when packed away
- Comes in both single and tandem models
The name Hobie is synonymous with high-end kayaks. After 2 decades in the business, they have used their knowledge and expertise to create the Mirage Passport 10.5, powered by the innovative miragedrive pedal system with hands-free acceleration that makes a day's paddle feel like a breeze. The mirage passport 10.5 comes with a comfortable mesh aluminium seat and handy 2-piece paddle so you are ready to hit the water right away. With a sleek thermoformed hull design that is heavy-duty, lightweight and flexible. Whether you're a mad-keen fisherman, love long-distance adventuring or maybe you are looking for a way to keep your lower body in shape, this kayak can do it all and at a great budget.
This Hobie kayak features:
- Miragedrive pedal system that uses the stronger muscles in your legs to propel you rather than relying on your arms
- Comfortable seat and paddle
- Stowable rudder that greatly improves steering
- Bow and stern cargo area with bungee tie downs
- 8” twist-n-seal hatch
Getting the littlies into kayaking is not only great for their health but also an awesome way for them to discover new things and take part in adventures. Junior kayaks are designed to be stable, helping to avoid the risk of them tipping over, while also being extremely lightweight, making the loading process a piece of cake.
Single or tandem kayaks?
The appeal of having a tandem kayak is that it can carry multiple people and provides added storage space, allowing you to bring friends or family for a great day out while also making the process of paddling quicker and easier. Be mindful that the added length and weight can be difficult to negotiate by yourself in the event you can't find someone to join you. It is for this reason that we recommend single kayaks as a better alternative. A single kayak provides greater freedom, while also being lighter and easier to manoeuvre both on and off the water.
Sit-on or sit-in kayak?
When first choosing a kayak, these are the two designs available. Each drastically different from the other with their own characteristics and advantages.
- Features an enclosed cockpit space that keeps your lower body dry
- Provides greater stability
- With a much sleeker hull design caused by the significantly lower centre of gravity these kayaks require less effort when paddling and will generally be faster
- The best option for long-distance paddling
- Better control and manoeuvrability given by the ability to brace your legs against the inside of the hull. Will also allow you to apply more power into your paddling stroke
- Ideal for cold water climates as it will keep you dry and retain warmth
- Is less affected be winds due to its lower profile design
- Provides some protection from the elements such as sun and surf spray due to the enclosed cockpit
- Is specifically designed for solo kayaking
- Handles rough conditions and has better turning capabilities, well suited to shooting rapids and offshore kayaking
- Without the inclusion of self-draining scupper holes it keeps the kayak extremely dry however in the event of a capsize you may need to make your way to land in order to get back in
- As they have a significantly higher centre of gravity sit-on kayaks are normally much wider and more stable
- Great for still water locations such as rivers, lakes and estuaries
- The fully enclosed hull design and self-draining scupper holes mean they are practically unsinkable
- The best option for both beginners and children
- As they have an open cockpit it provides greater freedom of movement
- In the event of a capsize they are much easier to get back into and you feel less confined
- Most come with storage space in the stern or bow that can be used for keeping fishing gear tidy or bring a cooler box for a sneaky coldie at the end of the day
- Perfect for getting out on the water with the family
- Available in both solo and tandem configurations
What to look for in a kayak paddle
Your choice of paddle can make or break your kayaking experience. The paddle plays an instrumental role in the overall performance of your kayak once on the water. When choosing a paddle, the most important things to consider include.
Paddles come in a variety of materials including aluminium, plastic, fibreglass and carbon fibre, each with their own characteristics and benefits. The aluminium and plastic provide an entry-level option that is great for people on a budget, however, the extra weight can make paddling long distances more difficult. Carbon fibre paddles are by far the best choice, providing unrivalled weight reduction and a rigid design that makes every stroke more efficient.
Choosing a paddle with the correct blade type is also important, as different blades perform better in different situations. If you are a beginner or prefer kayaking at a slower pace you would benefit from a paddle that is symmetrical in shape with non-feathered blades (blades facing the same direction). If you prefer to paddle longer distances or put the pedal to the metal with greater speeds, a paddle with wider and feathered blades that are a-symmetrical in shape would be the best option.
Single or 2-piece
Single piece paddles provide greater strength and durability with the lack of a joint in the middle also allowing a more consistent flex angle through the paddle. For greater storage options and better portability, a 2-piece paddle is a great choice, with the ability to select multiple angles and choose between feathered and un-feathered that can provide your wrists with greater comfort.
What Kayak Accessories are available at BCF?
Lifejacket (PFD): The PFD is a great addition to any kayak, it helps to keep you safe while out on the water and makes the wearer more visible to boats in the area. In some states, it is a legal requirement so check your local and state regulations before hitting the water.
Seat: Comfortable seating is a must for any kayaker, it ensures you have the support needed through your back and spine to enjoy hours of paddling and helps to reduce fatigue.
Kayak trolley: Make transporting your kayak a breeze with a convenient and lightweight kayak trolley. Simply throw your kayak on top and secure it in place with the tie-down straps provided. Fully adjustable to suit any size kayak and have you on the water in no time.
Paddle leash: Never lose your kayak paddle again with this 2-metre paddle leash. Great for the kids and can also be used for securing fishing rods and other loose items.
Dry bag: A dry bag makes for a handy addition to the kayak that will keep your precious items safe and sound. They can be used as a great option if you don't have any storage hatches onboard and come in a range of sizes from 1 litre great for phones, wallets and keys through to 35 litres for those sneaky fishing adventures.
Water etiquette is something to remember for ensuring everyone stays safe and happy. If you encounter boats or other paddlers while out on the water, it is important to pass them on the right side. If a powerboat throws wake in your direction, we recommend turning your kayak to meet it head on to avoid capsizing.