A one-size-fits-all type of kayak doesn’t exist. Instead, you’ll find that different factors go into selecting the right kayak for your needs. These factors usually have to do with whether you’re going for recreational use or looking to take your vessel on an adventure.
Does your size also influence the size of kayak you should go for? Many beginners seem to be asking this question, so let’s clear the air once and for all. Stuckfishing.com might also be able to offer some enlightenment on kayak selection.
Questions That Guide You on Kayak Selection
Some questions on kayak selection are a lot more helpful to beginners than others. Here are the main ones to ask yourself:
- What body of water will you be kayaking in? Rougher bodies of water call for longer and narrower vessels. On the other hand, calmer ones require shorter and wider canoes.
- What type of kayaking are you leaning towards? Adventure-seeking kayakers demand longer kayaks that offer more stability in brutal rivers and unpredictable oceans.
- Do you plan on loading up your kayak? The weight you plan on carrying on your kayak will affect the type you choose. For example, you could go for a tandem kayak if you wish to paddle with another person on the same vessel.
- How do you plan on launching, transporting, and storing your kayak? These factors influence the size of the kayak you choose. Overlooking this part could mean not having the space to store your vessel properly.
You might be wondering why rider size and weight aren’t as much an influence on kayak selection as the factors above. That’s because kayak sizes usually cover a broad range of rider weights and heights. Therefore, unless you’re anywhere in the extreme of these figures, you won’t have any trouble fitting into the normal kayak size ranges.
The Standard Kayak Sizes and Dimensions
Contrary to what some beginners might think, rider size influences paddle choice more than kayak selection. In this section, we’ll go over the standard dimensions for the different types of kayaks and other factors to consider when selecting a kayak style.
Length is one-third of the trio of elements that influence your kayak experience the most. An average kayak measures 10 feet but can be shorter or longer depending on your purpose. Short vessels range from six to nine feet, while the longer ones could reach up to 16 feet.
Length impacts speed, and the longer your vessel is, the faster it tends to be. However, user skill also factors heavily into this equation. Generally, if you’re navigating rapids, you’ll require a shorter, more stable boat than when you’re casually paddling through still waters.
Recreational Kayak Length
Although recreational canoes also come in made-for-show or made-for-performance designs, these types of kayaks generally start a half-foot short of 10 feet. They can be as long as but rarely above 12 feet in length. Recreational boats belonging to the shorter range are usually slower but are more comfortable to maneuver.
Sea Kayak Length
Kayaks for touring or navigating the open ocean tend to be longer and more streamlined. They come in a structure perfect for handling the unpredictability of Mother Nature. That said, you shouldn’t attempt an open-ocean tour in these vessels without the right skill and experience.
Tandem Kayak Length
Tandem kayaks range from 10 to 14 feet, but kayakers tend to go for the average length of 12 feet. It sits right in the middle and will generally meet most tandem-kayaking needs.
Performance Kayak Length
These speed-focused vessels often run from 15 to 18 feet. While they’re as long as sea kayaks, they are not often built with the stability of their open-ocean counterparts.
Widths also come in a broad range where kayaks are concerned. Some are narrow, while others are wide. Some kayaks also occupy the mid-range in terms of width, and they bring more versatility than the ones belonging to either extremes.
Ocean Kayak Width
These boats run from 20 to nearly 35 inches wide. They are never too wide, as they need to be equal parts fast and stable. Width shares the same concept with length in that the narrower the value is, the faster the boat tends to be. Conversely, wider boats will lack speed but will also be stabler than their slimmer and more streamlined counterparts.
Kayak volume is synonymous with its overall size. It deals with the amount of space the vessel takes up and the load it is able to hold safely. It also determines the quality of the ride.
High-volume kayaks are easier to master, while low-volume ones are meant for advanced-level riders. More than width and length, it is the volume that dictates what size kayak you should get for your weight.
So, What Size Kayak Should You Pick?
Go over the above-mentioned factors when choosing a kayak size. Once you’ve determined your purpose, focus on the size that best accommodates your weight. Specifically, check the volume of the kayak and see if it can accommodate your weight and your gear’s weight safely and conveniently.