Choosing Your First Kayak: An In-Depth Guide for Beginners (top 7 recreational kayaks for beginner)

Choosing Your First Kayak: An In-Depth Guide for Beginners (top 7 recreational kayaks for beginner)

Posted by Pascal Smyth on 2024 Mar 19th

Hey there! Today we’re going to be looking at a selection of recreational kayaks that might be suitable for those either just getting into kayaking, or looking for something really relaxed and comfortable on the water. To be a bit more specific, we’re looking at sit-inside kayaks, around 10 to 12 feet long. This category has a surprising amount of variety, so there’s lots to consider when it comes to weight, comfort, performance, stability, materials and price!

When we're out choosing our first kayak, we've got a few key things to keep in mind:

Weight and material: Weight is mostly determined by the material used in the construction, as well as the outfitting. Recreational kayaks are commonly made with rotomolded polyethylene, which is very durable but can be heavy.

There are also some boats made with thermoformed ABS, which is a stiffer and lighter material. It can be a bit more susceptible to damage, so does need a bit more care than a polyethylene boat. We’ll also look at a boat made with corrugated polyethylene, which is very lightweight, as well as a fiberglass composite kayak, which is lightweight and has a great hull design.

Comfort: This is primarily governed by the outfitting of the kayak. The seat in particular will play a huge role in comfort. Some seats have lots of different options for adjustment, whereas others are quite a bit more basic. Another important feature is the system used to adjust the footrests. There are a variety of different mechanisms, each being a balance of cost, ease of use, and ruggedness.

Performance: This is always a tricky thing to define for recreational kayaks. Ultimately we want stability, decent tracking, and a reasonable speed. For all the beginners out there, you want a kayak that's going to be stable and forgiving as you get the hang of things. Due to the nature of recreational kayaks, you’re going to be paddling in sheltered waters close to shore, so the requirements are relatively mellow.

Stability: Perhaps the most important metric in a recreational kayak, stability is largely dictated by the width and shape of the kayak’s hull.

Price Point: Budget is always a consideration, especially for something as investment-heavy as kayaking. The material plays a big role in determining the price, but there are great options out there that won't make your wallet weep.

I've taken a look at a bunch of kayaks that tick all these boxes. Here's a quick rundown:

Eddyline Sky 10 Kayak

Weight: At 32 pounds the Eddyline Sky 10 is a great little boat that’s highly portable.

Material: Thermoformed ABS construction yields a lightweight and stiff construction. It’s a little bit more sensitive to impacts, so you’ll want to treat it a bit more carefully than a rotomolded polyethylene kayak.

Comfort: The seat is not very adjustable, but it’s quite comfortable and generously padded. The foot rests are exceptionally solid and easy to adjust.

Performance: With a V-shaped hull this kayak offers a bit of playfulness, so the “fun-factor” of this kayak is quite high.

Stability: At 26 inches wide it’s the narrowest kayak on our list. While it’s not the most stable of the kayaks it’s still quite appropriate for novice paddlers.

Price Point: At $1600 Canadian, it’s a great value.

Old Town Loon 106 Kayak

Weight: Coming in at 53 pounds this kayak is certainly a heavy option. This is due to the material and construction.

Material: This kayak features a 3 layer rotomolded polyethylene. This adds great stiffness to the hull, as well as some added buoyancy. Unfortunately that does drive the weight up a bit.

Comfort: The outfitting in this kayak is first-class. Really exceptional comfort in the seat and overall cockpit layout.

Performance: Because of the amazing outfitting and great stability, this is an excellent choice for relaxed paddling.

Stability: At 31 inches wide and with a very broad hull this is a phenomenally stable kayak.

Price Point: Regularly priced at $1749, it’s on sale at the moment for $1395. Significant savings offering tremendous value.

Wilderness Systems Pungo Kayak

Weight: At 47 pounds this kayak is firmly in the middle of the pack for recreational kayaks. Not tremendously heavy, but not exactly lightweight either.

Material: Rotomolded polyethylene construction offers a very robust hull, while the single layer construction and hull shape can cause the hull of this kayak to be a bit flexible.

Comfort: The Phase 3 seating system by Wilderness Systems is one of the most adjustable and intuitive seat designs on the market. It couples with a very adjustable footrest system to offer excellent comfort.

Performance: With a V-shaped hull and solid tracking the Pungo offers a great experience on the water.

Stability: At 30 inches wide, the stability of the Pungo is great, while not being so solid as to feel boring.

Price Point: At $1449 this kayak offers good value.

Oru Inlet Kayak

Weight: Weighing only 20 pounds the Inlet is truly incredibly lightweight!

Material: Constructed using a corrugated polyethylene the Oru kayaks offer amazingly lightweight boats while still being fairly rigid. For a kayak that can fit in the trunk of a car it’s really impressive.

Comfort: The stock seating is a little spartan. A thicker gel seat is available and it’s absolutely recommended for extended paddling.

Performance: The hull design is relatively broad and flat. This, coupled with the lightweight construction means that the Inlet can be blown around a bit.

Stability: With a 30 inch wide flat bottom the stability of the Inlet is very impressive. Coupled with the boxy hull shape, it is rock solid on the water.

Price Point: Regularly priced at $1099, and on sale for $879 it’s outstanding value.

Old Town Heron XT Kayak

Weight: At 40 pounds this is a relatively lightweight option for rotomolded polyethylene.

Material: Rotomolded polyethylene construction offers great durability and carefree maintenance.

Comfort: The seat is simple with only a single adjustment for the angle of the seat back. If it works for you it’s great, but there’s not a lot of capability to adjust it to suit.

Performance: The outfitting is solid, but a bit minimalist. The hull shape offers fair speed and tracking. With integrated rod holders and a great storage hatch the Heron has a lot to offer.

Stability: At 28.5” wide with a nice broad hull shape, this kayak offers good stability.

Price Point: At $949 regular price and on sale for $899, this kayak offers a lot of bang for your buck.

Perception Joyride Kayak

Weight: 50 pounds is a bit heavy for a 10 foot kayak.

Material: Rotomolded Polyethylene makes for a really robust kayak.

Comfort: The seat has some good adjustment but is not quite as comfortable as some of the other offerings. Still it’s a great option for the price. The integrated dashboard makes entry a bit challenging for those with long legs.

Performance: The hull shape offers good tracking, and overall good handling.

Stability: With a 29-½” wide hull the stability is really solid.

Price Point: At $999 this kayak offers a really robust and solid kayak for the price.

Stellar Compass Kayak

Weight: At 33-½” pounds the Stellar Compass is a fantastically lightweight kayak.

Material: Vacuum infused fiberglass construction with a Soric foam core gives amazing rigidity to the hull, though it is also somewhat susceptible to damage in hard impacts. Best used with a bit of care.

Comfort: The seat offers some decent adjustments but isn’t enormously padded. For a recreation kayak with a bit of a focus on speed, this isn’t a bad fit.

Performance: The hull design, particularly the sharp entry lines and the deck cutaways offer a level of paddling performance that you won’t see often in recreational kayaks.

Stability: At just over 27 inches wide this is one of the narrowest kayaks on this list, but still offers solid stability due to the smooth hull shape. For adventurous recreational paddlers this is a great option.

Price Point: At $3100 this kayak is certainly a fair bit more expensive than the others on this list. However, it’s lightweight and performance on the water offers good value.

To Sum Up

Ultimately the best thing to do is to sit in kayaks that you’re considering. That will give the best sense of how well a kayak fits you. There’s nothing quite like actually trying kayaks on the water, so if you’re feeling undecided book a slot during one of our demo days and try a kayak out