Best Kayak For Beginners – Our Top Choices For Those New To Kayaking

Best Kayak for Beginners - Family sitting in a kayak

As a beginner, choosing the best kayak for your level and future progression is critical!

We've done the hard paddling, so you don’t have to.

In this article we set out the best kayak for beginners to suit different budgets and styles.

Read next: Check out our review of the best kayak carts, kayak seats and kayak roof racks.

Best Beginner Kayaks (Comparison Table)

Best Overall
Ocean Kayak Frenzy 1-Person Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak (Sunrise, 9 Feet)
Perception Kayak Pescador Sit On Top for Recreation
Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe Boat w/ Paddles
SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Blue, 10-Feet)
Best Budget
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
Brand & Model
Ocean Kayak Frenzy
Perception Pescadors 10.0 Kayak
Sea Eagle SE370
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10
Intex Challenger K1, Beginner Kayak
Type
Sit on
Sit on
Sit in
Sit in
Sit in
Paddlers
1
1
3 kids / 2 adults
1
1
Suitable for
Rivers / recreation / fishing / surfing
Fishing / Surf / rivers
Fishing / rivers
Rivers / lakes / recreation
Rivers / lakes / recreation
Capacity
124.7 (275 lbs)
147 kg (352 lbs)
295 kg (650 lbs)
113.3 kg (250 lbs)
100 kg (220.4 lbs)
Material
Polyethylene
High Density Polyethylene
PolyKrylar (K80 PVC)
High Density Polyethylene
Welded vinyl
Length
2.7m (9ft)
3.23 m (10.6 ft)
3.81 m (12.5 ft)
3.05 m (10 ft)
2.74 m (9 ft)
Width
78.7 cm (31 inch)
81 cm (32 inches)
86 cm (33 inches)
76 cm (2.6 ft)
76.2 cm (30 inch)
Weight
19.5 kg (43 lbs)
26 kg (57 lbs)
15 kg (33 lbs)
18 kg (60 lbs)
13 kg (28.6 lbs)
Best Overall
Ocean Kayak Frenzy 1-Person Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak (Sunrise, 9 Feet)
Brand & Model
Ocean Kayak Frenzy
Type
Sit on
Paddlers
1
Suitable for
Rivers / recreation / fishing / surfing
Capacity
124.7 (275 lbs)
Material
Polyethylene
Length
2.7m (9ft)
Width
78.7 cm (31 inch)
Weight
19.5 kg (43 lbs)
Perception Kayak Pescador Sit On Top for Recreation
Brand & Model
Perception Pescadors 10.0 Kayak
Type
Sit on
Paddlers
1
Suitable for
Fishing / Surf / rivers
Capacity
147 kg (352 lbs)
Material
High Density Polyethylene
Length
3.23 m (10.6 ft)
Width
81 cm (32 inches)
Weight
26 kg (57 lbs)
Sea Eagle 370 Pro 3 Person Inflatable Portable Sport Kayak Canoe Boat w/ Paddles
Brand & Model
Sea Eagle SE370
Type
Sit in
Paddlers
3 kids / 2 adults
Suitable for
Fishing / rivers
Capacity
295 kg (650 lbs)
Material
PolyKrylar (K80 PVC)
Length
3.81 m (12.5 ft)
Width
86 cm (33 inches)
Weight
15 kg (33 lbs)
SUNDOLPHIN Sun Dolphin Aruba Sit-in Kayak (Blue, 10-Feet)
Brand & Model
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10
Type
Sit in
Paddlers
1
Suitable for
Rivers / lakes / recreation
Capacity
113.3 kg (250 lbs)
Material
High Density Polyethylene
Length
3.05 m (10 ft)
Width
76 cm (2.6 ft)
Weight
18 kg (60 lbs)
Best Budget
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak, 1-Person Inflatable Kayak Set with Aluminum Oars and High Output Air Pump
Brand & Model
Intex Challenger K1, Beginner Kayak
Type
Sit in
Paddlers
1
Suitable for
Rivers / lakes / recreation
Capacity
100 kg (220.4 lbs)
Material
Welded vinyl
Length
2.74 m (9 ft)
Width
76.2 cm (30 inch)
Weight
13 kg (28.6 lbs)

Top Beginner Kayaks

Best Kayak For Beginners Overall 

Ocean Kayak Frenzy

This is a fantastic all-around recreational kayak, from kayak surfing to fishing, the Frenzy is at home in both flat and rough water.

Its long keel enables the Frenzy to keep its course in strong winds, and is comfortable enough to be paddled for all day excursions

With a large amount of storage, the Frenzy is perfect for fishing, as well as other sports such as diving.

It's large carrying capacity of 160 kg (350 lbs), makes it a great choice for the heavier paddler, and With an added GPS holder, the Frency is designed with safety in mind.

  • Type: Sit on
  • Paddlers: 1
  • Carrying Capacity: 124.7 kg (275 lbs)
  • Material: Polyethylene
  • Length: 2.7 m (9 ft)
  • Width: 78.7 (31 inches)
  • Weight: 19.5 kg (43 lbs)​​

What we like

  • Manoeuvrability and versatility its at the forefront of its design
  • Very stable
  • Plenty of storage
  • Carbon paddle makes for increased durability
  • The Seat is both adjustable and comfortable

What we don't like

  • The seating area can be a bit snug for the larger paddler
  • Not suited to the larger paddler or those who wish to carry heavy gear such as diving equipment

Best Value For Money

Perception Pescadors 10.0

The 3 meter (10 foot) is highly manoeuvrable, tracks well making it great for beginner paddlers.

The Pescador is capable of supporting the heavier paddler. With ample storage compartments keeping your gear stowed and dry is no problem. 

It also has a moulded paddle holder for when your guns get tired. 

The main drawback of this type of craft is it’s not suitable for the larger or taller person.

  • Type: Sit on
  • Paddlers: 1
  • Carrying Capacity: 147 kg (352 lbs)
  • Material: High-Density Polyethylene
  • Length: 3.23 m (10.6 ft)
  • Width: 81 cm (32 inches)
  • Weight: 26 kg (57 lbs)

What we like

  • Durable paddle
  • Durable, manoeuvrable and versatile
  • Lots of storage space, making it perfect for fishing
  • Very comfortable and stability
  • Great for fishing

What we don't like

  • Not great for long-distance paddling

Best Tandem Kayak

Sea Eagle SE370

Inflatable kayaks may not be as stable or durable as their robust hard-shelled fellows, but they make great first-time paddler vessels.

The Sea Eagle is one of the best inflatable tandem kayaks on the market aimed at the entry-level kayaker who doesn’t want to break the bank.

This kayak is capable of holding a whopping 295 kg (650 lbs) making it suitable for the more heavy paddler as well as tandem paddlers.

With a bow and skirt spray cover, you will keep dry even in rough weather.

  • Type: Sit in
  • Paddlers: 3 kids / 2 adults
  • Carrying Capacity: 295 kg (650 lbs)
  • Material: PolyKrylar (K80 PVC)
  • Length: 3.81 m (12.5 ft)
  • Width: 86 cm (33 inches)
  • Weight: 15 kg (33 lbs)

What we like

  • Packs down to fit in any car boot
  • Light but durable
  • One way valve system makes inflation easy
  • Very stable

What we don't like

  • No ropes to fasten your gear to
  • Tracking and keeping a course is difficult
  • Not good in high winds

With a Polyethylene construction, this is a great model for beginners!

The Sun Dolphin won’t hold you back if you are looking to progress to a more experienced paddler, however.

With an adjustable backrest and foot straps to fit any body type.  It is equipped with plenty of storage with well-sealed components to keep your possessions dry.

The narrow stern and bow mean this kayak is easy to keep on track, and with its wide, flat bottom it is very stable.

This model has a spray protector included keeping you dry even in choppy water.

It is not all rainbows and unicorns, however.

The Sun Dolphin does not have any padding on the seat, meaning that it is uncomfortable when kayaking for long periods.

This craft is not designed with the larger paddler in mind. If you are taller than 1.76 m ( 5.8 ft), you may find it challenging to access some of the compartments.

With a limited capacity of 113.3 kg (250 lbs), it is more suited to a smaller individual.

  • Type: Sit in
  • Paddling: 1
  • Carrying Capacity: 113.3 kg (250 lbs)
  • Material: High-Density Polyethylene
  • Length: 2.74 m (9 ft)
  • Width: 76 cm (2.6 ft)
  • Weight: 15 kg(33 lbs)

What we like

  • Simple to transport and launch into the water.
  • Lightweight while remaining stable and having a durable construction
  • Very reasonably priced and easy on the pocket.
  • With adjustable straps, it is fully customisable.

What we don't like

  • Lack of drain plugs mean it’s hard to bail
  • No fishing holders
  • Not suited for choppy water
  • Doesn't have seat cushion

Best Budget Kayak

Intex Challenger K1

This is a fantastic inflatable kayak that is perfect for the novice paddler.

With its durable vinal finish and puncture-resistant construction, you can paddle with confidence.

It has plenty of storage and space to move around, making this craft suitable for long excursions.

This particular kayak is perfect for flat water, going down rivers and ocean bays.

This craft is not the easiest to handle in high winds and is not suitable for anything too crazy lie white water rafting.

  • Type: Sit in
  • Paddlers: 1
  • Carrying Capacity: 100 kg (220.4 lbs)
  • Material: Welded Vinyl
  • Length: 2.74 m (9 ft)
  • Width: 76.2 cm (30 inches)
  • Weight: 13 kg (28.6 lbs)

What we like

  • Very lightweight
  • Easy to store and transport
  • Comfortable, nonslip seat due to Velcro and d ring fastening

What we don't like

  • This craft although spacious is not suitable for the heavier paddler
  • Does not perform well in strong winds
  • No pressure gage on the pump

Buyer's Guide for Beginner kayaks

When you are thinking of buying your first kayak, you may find the range of choices overwhelming.

Which do I choose? Sit on top, sit inside, a kayak for 1, 2 or 3 people?

To help you decide we have put together a list of topics you should consider before making your choice.

Material

Before we dive into the different types of Kayaks, lets first talk about materials

Choosing what your kayak is made of is a good place to start when choosing the Best Kayak for beginners.  Your kayaks construction will effect; price, weight, stability and control.

As a beginner, it is best to consider materials that are lightweight, and durable.  You don’t want to find yourself sinking in the middle of a lake just because you have grazed a few rocks.

The 7 main types of materials for kayaks are:

  • Carbon fibre
  • Fibreglass
  • Wood
  • Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS)
  • Hard plastic
  • Polyethylene
  • Fabric / Kevlar with supporting frame

Carbon fibre and Kevlar are very light, but expensive and are aimed at the more experienced kayaker.  Hard plastic is durable, but as Uncle Ben once said.  “with great durability, comes great weight.”

Wood is not a great choice.  It is not a material commonly used and will dramatically limit your options.

For the beginner, ABS and Polyethylene may be preferable choices, however, be aware that ABS is more expensive and Polyethylene is more susceptible to UV and can puncture when running into sharp rocks.

Capacity
(Weight the kayak can support)

Not all models of kayak can support the larger paddler. 
Be sure to consider your weight and the amount of gear you plan to take with you.

If you are planning to use your kayak for fishing, it needs to have the capacity to handle, your tackle, rods, provisions not to mention all the fish you plan to catch.

Sit inside, or sit on top

Kayaks come in two main styles.

As the name suggests, sit in, is where you are immersed in the body of the yak and the new variety, sit on, is where you are seated outside of the yak.

No this is not as crazy as it may seem and can have significant benefits for fishing as well as traversing between the shore and your craft.

Sit on top kayaks

What we like

  • Suited for warmer weather 
  • Better stability, especially when entering or exiting the      water
  • Far more spacious than a sit-in yak
  • More legroom and ability to stretch out.
  • Reduces the amount of bailing a paddler may need to do.

What we like

  • More suited to warmer weather 
  • Better stability, especially when entering or exiting the water
  • Far more spacious than a sit-in yak
  • Greater legroom and ability to stretch out.
  • Reduces the amount of bailing a paddler may need to do.

Sit in kayaks

What we like

  • Good in colder weather, and keeping dry
  • Ability to add a spray skirt to keep the wind and waves at bay.
  • More comfortable paddling due to a lower centre of gravity
  • Paddlers usually find the sit-in design more familiar and comfortable

What we don't like

  • Poorer ventilation means you may get hot in warmer weather.
  • Not as stable as sit on top kayaks.

Length, width, and weight

The general rule of thumb is, the longer a kayak is, the faster it is capable of going.

The wider the kayak is the more stability It will have, but this also adds drag.

If you are looking to do white water kayaking, you want the length to be no longer than 9 feet or so.

As for the weight of a kayak, lighter is not always better.
The lighter a kayak is, the more susceptible it is to being blown off course.

However, the heavier a kayak is, the harder it is to transport. Fortunately, modern yaks are not terribly heavy in any case. Unless you are planning to go pro, the weight of a yak is not at the top of your priority list.

Types of Kayaks

Fishing

These kayaks are generally more spacious than other varieties. Offering excellent stability and comfortable seating for those who plan to be on the water for long periods.

Most models provide, rod and tackle compartments too.

However, this is not the best choice if you are looking to put your kayak through its paces and dash down rapids.

Whitewater kayaks

These yaks are shorter than other types of kayaks, ranging from 1.2 m (4 ft) to 2.7 m (9 ft) in length and designed to go down fast-moving rapids.

As a beginner I would avoid these types of yaks. For the moment at least. 

Recreational kayaks

These are the more common kayaks chosen by beginners.

They are perfect for calmer water, flat lakes and lagoons.

Use in white water rapids at your peril!

Touring kayaks

These specimens are perfect for long journeys, such as open water kayaking.

They have large storage capacity and are intended for all-day paddling. If you are starting out, these kayaks are not for you.

Folding and inflatable kayaks

These types of yaks are great if transport and space is a problem.

They deflate into manageable sizes, and some can even fit in a backpack. There is a tradeoff, however. Inflatable kayaks can spring leaks more easily.

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About the Author Brad Pickering-Dunn

Hey, I'm Brad - the founder and editor of Watercraft Watch. My love for boating is what prompted me to start WatercraftWatch.com – helping people find the right equipment and supplies so they can enjoy their time on the water. I hope you find the articles on the site useful, and share in my love for boating.

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