Best Beginners Kayak


Have you been thinking about taking up a new watersport? In that case, why not consider kayaking? 

There are plenty of benefits to kayaking regularly, both for your physical and mental health. Kayaking is a great form of cardiovascular exercise that also helps to strengthen the arms and core muscles. 

Moreover, the calming atmosphere that comes with gliding across the open water in a kayak has been linked to decreased stress levels and generally improved wellbeing. 

However, using the wrong kayak when you’re first starting out in this sport can lead to some unfortunate learning curves. From capsizing to collisions, a kayak that isn’t built for beginner-level stability and handling can definitely make the learning process more difficult than it needs to be. 

That’s why we’ve conducted extensive research and come up with a selection of the 5 best beginner kayaks. With the kayak models on our list, you’ll be a pro kayaker in no time at all!

Best Beginners Kayak

Best Overall

Perception Joyride 10 Sit Inside Kayak 

Our top pick is the Perception Joyride 10-Foot Sit Inside Kayak. 

This kayak model measures 10 feet by 29.5 inches, so it’s long enough to accommodate most kayakers (with the help of the adjustable footrests), but not so long that handling becomes cumbersome. 

Moreover, the width of the kayak, which comes to almost 2.5 feet, ensures more stability compared to narrower models. 

The Perception Joyride features padded seats that can be adjusted to your ideal position, maximizing comfort. Beginner kayakers can often feel a little sore after initial sessions due to hard plastic seats and feeling cramped. This definitely won’t be an issue with this kayak model. 

Additionally, the built-in storage hatch and drink holder mean that you can take everything you need with you on your kayaking adventures, including enough water to stay hydrated since kayaking can be more of a workout than you might think! 

However, no paddles or other accessories are included with the purchase of this kayak, so 

Pros

  • 10 ft x 29.5 inches – Stable and handles easily 
  • Adjustable footrests – Suited to kayakers of all heights 
  • Adjustable, padded seats – Ultimate comfort 
  • Storage hatch – Convenient storage space 
  • Built-in drink holder – Facilitates hydration

Cons

  • No paddles included – Separate purchase required 

Runner-Up

Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Convertible Inflatable Kayak steals our runner-up spot thanks to its enhanced practicality, durability, and versatility. 

Although this is an inflatable kayak, the construction of the model is reinforced with aluminum ribs that not only make the kayak more durable but also ensure that it stays on course for superior tracking ability. Maintaining a straight path can be one of the most difficult things to get the hang of when kayaking as a beginner, so this is a really valuable feature. 

The Advanced Elements kayak has also been constructed using three layers of heavy-duty material, resulting in intense puncture resistance. So, unlike some of the cheaper inflatable kayaks on the market, you won’t have to worry about this one being damaged prematurely. 

Included with the kayak are 2 adjustable decks, which are padded for extra comfort. The second deck can be installed or removed as required using the deck conversion feature, so whether you’re a solo kayaker or are embarking on this journey with a friend, you can tailor your kayak accordingly. 

When deflated and folded, the kayak measures just 12 x 35 x 21 inches, so it’s easily storable and portable, especially because a duffle carry bag is included with the purchase.

Unfortunately, the AdvancedFrame kayak doesn’t come with a pump for inflation, so unless you already have one on hand, you will need to complete this purchase separately before your kayak arrives.

Pros

  • Aluminum rib construction – Enhances durability and tracking 
  • Tri-layer material – Puncture-resistant
  • Padded, adjustable double deck – Comfortable solo or tandem use 
  • Folds down to 12 x 35 x 21 inches – Easy storage
  • Carry bag included – Easily portable 

Cons

  • No pump included – Extra purchase may be needed for inflation

Best Budget 

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

The Intex Challenger K1 Kayak is by far one of the best options on the market for beginner kayakers looking for a great deal. 

This is another inflatable kayak made from strong vinyl material that provides good puncture resistance. While the budget-friendly nature of the Intex Challenger means that you shouldn’t expect premium quality or durability, it’s an impressively tough little kayak that will see you through the start of your kayaking journey. 

The underside of the kayak is reinforced with plastic skegs, which not only contribute to the form-holding structure of the kayak but also provide better tracking and control in the water. 

Thanks to its streamlined, lightweight build, this kayak is easily portable and maneuverable. 

As an additional bonus, the Intex Challenger comes with a pair of aluminum oars and a high-output hand pump, so you don’t need to buy anything else to complete your purchase.

Pros

  • Strong vinyl – Puncture-resistant 
  • Plastic underside skegs – Superior tracking and control
  • Streamlined construction – Lightweight and portable 
  • Aluminum oars included – No extra purchases needed
  • Includes hand pump – Inflate straight out of the box 

Cons

  • Budget quality – Not the most durable model

Best Premium 

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105

On the other hand, if you want only the very best quality for your kayaking debut, you might want to consider investing in a premium kayak model, like the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105. 

Measuring 32 inches in width, this Wilderness Systems kayak provides excellent stability in the water, so even complete beginners will have no trouble staying upright. 

Fitted with a Phase 3 Air Pro seating system, which is designed to stay cool even in hot weather, and an adjustable, padded footrest, it’s clear that this kayak is designed for comfort. No matter how tall you are or how long you like to be out on the water for, you’ll never feel uncomfortable in the Wilderness Systems Tarpon 105. 

Additionally, the kayak features a built-in storage hatch in the rear as well as a protected dry box for sensitive accessories such as your phone, wallet, or keys. One thing you’ll never want for with this kayak is storage space! 

You can also customize the Tarpon 105 to meet any additional requirements. If you’re a fisherman (or woman!) or a photographer, you can use the included Side Trax rails to attach your gear in a convenient, hands-free way. 

Sadly, you will need to purchase your own paddles and any other accessories you might need to begin your kayak journey since no additional accessories come included with the kayak. 

Pros

  • 32-inch width – Superior stability 
  • Phase 3 Air Pro seating – Cooling and comfortable
  • Adjustable, padded footrest – Ergonomic 
  • Dry box and storage hatch – Extensive storage space 
  • Side Trax rails – Attach accessories 

Cons

  • No accessories provided – Paddles must be purchased separately

Best for Kids 

Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak

As long as a responsible adult is present for supervision purposes, kayaking can also be a fun and fulfilling hobby for children! 

Although this is a small, lightweight kayak, weighing just 18 lbs, that doesn’t mean Lifetime has compromised on functionality. 

This kayak is built with a reverse chine for enhanced stability. The extra stability is further facilitated by the molded handles, which have been designed to provide an ergonomic surface for a secure grip. For children first learning how to kayak, this is an invaluable feature.

The twin fins underneath the kayak ensure that it stays on course and responds well to paddle movement. 

Moreover, the Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak retails at a budget-friendly price, proving that you don’t have to spend an extortionate amount of money to get your child started in kayaking!

The main issue with this kayak lies more in the shipping than the product itself, with some customers reporting long waiting times and last-minute cancellations. Therefore, while this is an excellent beginner-friendly kids’ kayak, we wouldn’t recommend purchasing it as a last-minute gift or for a time-sensitive purpose. 

Pros

  • Reverse chine – Extra stability 
  • Twin fins – Accurate tracking 
  • Molded handles – Ergonomic grip for stability 
  • 18 lbs – Very lightweight 
  • Budget-friendly – Affordable 

Cons

  • Long shipping process – Not the best last-minute purchase 

Buyer’s Guide

Trying to find the perfect kayak to meet your needs as a beginner can feel a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack. There are so many features to consider and high-quality models to choose from! Hopefully, we’ve narrowed the selection down with our top 5 picks, but if you’re still feeling spoilt for choice, keep reading! This buyer’s guide will break down all the key features to look out for when choosing a beginners’ kayak. 

Kayak Type 

Not all kayaks are built the same, as we’re sure you can probably tell from the models we’ve reviewed in this article. Therefore, before you start thinking about the features that make a kayak unique, it’s a good idea to consider what type of design and construction you’d prefer.

Kayaks can either be sit-in or sit-on. A sit-in kayak is where the deck is sunken into the hull, while a sit-on kayak features a seat mounted on top of the kayak. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to both sit-in and sit-on kayaks. While sit-in kayaks can help to keep you warmer in cold weather and give an extra sense of stability, capsizing in a sit-in kayak is more hassle and also potentially more dangerous since there’s a very slim possibility of getting suck. When using a sit-on kayak, you can expect to get quite wet, but you won’t need to upturn and drain your kayak when water gets into it, and getting back on after capsizing will be much easier. 

You will also need to consider whether you’d prefer a solid or inflatable kayak. Non-inflatable kayaks tend to be more durable (more on this later), but inflatable kayaks are usually lighter and more portable, especially when deflated. 

Finally, consider the kind of use you want to get out of your kayak. Do you see kayaking as a relaxing, meditative activity to undertake alone or as a fun, social sport? If you answered yes to the former, a solo kayak will be your best bet. However, if you prefer to take on new challenges with a friend or partner, consider opting for a tandem kayak.

Durability

As you improve your kayaking skills and develop as a kayaker, it’s likely that you’ll eventually upgrade to a more advanced kayak. However, you still want to make sure that your beginner kayak lasts you a long time so that it can see you through the first few years. 

We mentioned earlier that solid kayak constructions tend to yield the best durability, but that doesn’t mean that inflatable kayaks can’t be durable, too! 

While a plastic or fiberglass kayak can usually be considered durable as long as the material is of high enough quality, the key to durability in an inflatable kayak is reinforcement. 

A durable, inflatable kayak should feature some form of ribbing, ideally made of a lightweight metal like aluminum, to help the kayak to retain its shape and withstand impact. 

Multiple layers of material will also provide superior puncture resistance, which, of course, is essential in an inflatable kayak. 

Underside Construction 

The construction of the underside of your kayak will prove fundamental to the kayak’s ease of handling and tracking capability, so be sure to consider this, too!

Underside skegs (streamlined protrusions underneath the kayak) or fins will help your kayak to stay on course in the water and enhance your control over its movements. 

Stability is also of the utmost importance, so we’d recommend choosing a kayak with features that enhance stability, such as a reverse chine. 

Size and Weight 

Size and weight will factor significantly into your kayak’s ease of use, portability, and comfort. 

Ideally, a beginner kayak should be around 10 feet in length. This is a good length to choose if you want to ensure that you have enough room without sacrificing easy handling. 

Width is also an important factor. Generally speaking, the wider your kayak is, the more stable it will feel in the water, so wider is better when you’re starting out. 

With inflatable kayaks, you usually have the option of folding up your kayak between uses. It’s a good idea to check the size of an inflatable kayak when folded to ensure that you’ll be able to store and carry it easily. 

Kayaks can range quite significantly when it comes to weight, with some children’s kayaks weighing as little as 18 lbs and adult kayaks frequently surpassing 50 lbs. If you will need to transport your kayak a considerable distance to get to the water, this is definitely a factor to bear in mind. 

Seating 

Ideally, the seat(s) in or on your kayak should be padded and adjustable. 

Sitting on a hard surface for any length of time can get uncomfortable, which isn’t something you want to have to deal with when you’re learning a new skill. 

Moreover, footrests should be adjustable and, if possible, padded to ensure comfort for kayakers of all heights. 

In addition to tandem and solo kayaks, you can also find kayaks that function as both. In these cases, the second (rear) deck is usually removable thanks to a convertible design so that you can either use it alone or with a partner. 

Additional Features 

Many kayaks, unfortunately, don’t come with paddles included, which means that if you don’t want to make extra purchases, you’ll need to prioritize the minority of kayaks that do come with paddles. 

Paddles that come included with the purchase of a kayak will normally be budget-friendly products. However, as with kayak ribbing, we’d recommend not settling for anything less than aluminum construction. Otherwise, you could end up with a broken paddle sooner than expected. 

If you’re buying an inflatable kayak, it’s worth checking whether the pump is included with the product since this is not guaranteed.

Some kayaks include carry bags to help with transport. Others even come with railings for attaching fishing or photography equipment. No matter what your priorities are when you’re out kayaking, there’s a model out there that will cater to your requirements. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How much should I pay for a beginner kayak?

Kayaks for beginners come in different price ranges based on features, functionality, and overall build quality. Therefore, the amount that it would be reasonable for you to pay for a beginner kayak ultimately depends on the quality and functionality you’re looking for. 

If you’re in the market for a budget buy, you can expect to pay up to $200, but you won’t get the same structural and functional quality as higher-end kayaks. The average price for a kayak is just under $400, which is what most mid-range kayaks retail at. Higher-end kayaks can get close to $1000 in some cases, which is a lot of money, but you’ll be paying for excellent quality.

Is kayaking difficult for beginners? 

Kayaking can certainly be trickier than it looks when you first start out, but with practice, you’ll get there! The main thing is learning how to paddle effectively and maintain your center of balance. 

One of the most effective ways to ensure that kayaking isn’t too laborious for you when you first get onto the water is to invest in a good-quality kayak for beginners, like the ones we’ve showcased today. 

Neal Briggs

Neal is an outdoor enthusiast who writes for a living to pay for his adventurous lifestyle. Neal joined our team in early 2021 and has quickly become a valuable addition bringing helpful and informative content to our readers.

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