There are three main types of kayak classifications. White Water, Recreational, and Sea kayaks. Within these classifications, there are sub classifications and variations of each boat design. However, I will be explaining what the three main types are, what type of water one should paddle these, and what unique attributes they have over the other.
Whitewater kayak – These are quick, responsive, nimble, and usually short and wide. They have great stability, and are designed to take a beating from a rock, or from rapids. One normally sees these yaks on moving water, with a current present – and depending on the paddler’s skill level – class V rapids are no problems for these kayaks. There are also different types of whitewater yak classifications, such as playboating, river running, squirt boating, and creeking. Depending on how serious of a paddler a kayaker is, they can require very specialized boats for each type of whitewater paddling.
Majority of these yaks have a drain plug near the stern (rear of the yak), in which to empty additional water. There are numerous grab handles in which one can use to carry the yak, or use to rescue others. Float bags are an important feature in which should not be overlooked. These are inflated, and placed behind the seat, and/or in front of the foot pegs. Their intention is to displace water which may fill up the yak if there is a capsize, and keep the kayak better afloat.
Recreational Kayak – These are the ‘Big Box Store’ special. They have become the economy line kayak and can be seen in nearly every store. Problem is, they are so reasonably priced, but lack many safety features. Now, they do have a place on the water, but should ONLY be used on the following types of water (that kind of fine print one never reads). Recreational kayaks should be paddled on the calmest of waters, shoreline within swimming distance of the paddler, small ponds or lakes, and a gentile creek/river. Many of these kayaks have a lot of free space behind and in front of the paddler (within the kayak).
Problem is, with all this free space…. that is a lot of volume for water to collect, should there be a capsize and the kayak fills up with water (swamping). Now the positive aspects of the design of these kayaks, they are very stable for the first-time paddler – majority of these are about 25 or 27 inches wide, or wider. Comfort is one of the highest attributes of these kayaks. Most of them can be thrown in the back of a pick-up truck and brought to the nearest pond.
Sea Kayaks- They are long, sleek and made for dynamic waters. For a person sitting in a sea kayak for the first time, these may feel “tippy” – the reason for this is, it provides the paddler a better ‘feel’ of what the kayak is doing in the water, and provides a closer bond between paddler and yak. Normally, a sea yak’s length is between 14 and 19 feet, and is about 18 to 22.5 inches wide. They do take considerate amount of time to turn them in a 360, but over time and practice one can make them dance on the water. Sea kayaks normally are found on large open bodies of water where there are waves and plenty of shoreline.
However, depending on the paddler skills, they can be seen on deeper creeks, rivers, and small inland lakes – usually they don’t run whitewater, way too many rocks. There are numerous added safety devices on these, from the deck lines (which are used for rescues, to a good hand hold placement), hatch covers, and at least two bulkheads which trap air and keep the kayak afloat – even if there were a capsize) as long as the hatch covers are in place). Other variations of this type of kayak are: Touring, Greenland, and Surf-ski.
With all these types of yaks out there, before you buy one – go rent, or try out a friend’s kayak. There are some in which you may grow out of in a few years.. and others will provide you years of entertainment. In a future blog, I will be posting how to pick out a kayak which will fit the bill for you.
For the Paddler within…..