Best Kayak for Beginners 2018
In this Guide
By Michael Holding
Buying a kayak for the first time? we’ll help you fit a good fit. With the sheer number of kayaks available all across different categories, it can be hard to get your head around what a good kayak is. Fortunately, there are ways of recognizing the best kayak for beginners.
Buying your first kayak should not be an uphill task. Also a kayak need not to have the latest and sophisticated features, when it’s going to be your first kayak purchase. The two main considerations while buying a beginner kayak are stable handling and a low price point. The stable handling will help you get to grips with paddling and grow your confidence. The low price point means that you can easily afford the kayak and get into the sport rather than being intimidated by the price.
We have reviewed the best beginner kayaks available for you. We have split them across three major categories so you can see which suits your pursuits the best.
Best Kayak for Beginners
- Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
- Sun Dolphin Aruba 10
- Ocean Kayak Frenzy
Intex Challenger K1
Review : 4.3
Sun Dolphin Aruba
Review : 4.4
Ocean Kayak Frenzy
Review : 4.8
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak
|Easily moveable||Average quality paddles|
The Intex Challenger K1 is a popular beginner’s kayak that is known for being affordable and a good starting point for both children and adults. The K1 is actually an inflatable sit-in kayak model that comes with all the functionalities required to paddle. In short, the kayak covers the basics.
Let’s start with what’s inside the box. You get a high output air pump, something that makes inflating this kayak a breeze. There are also lightweight 84-inch double-paddle oars made of aluminum. These oars make paddling much easier- thanks to their low weight. There is cargo netting at the front of the kayak so you can store your gear, and keep your water bottle securely.
The low profile of this kayak means that it has excellent stability and control. The aluminum oars make paddling this kayak easier. The Challenger can accommodate up to 220 pounds of weight. The air pump in the kayak box does its job pretty well. It’s a hand pump so it will take a while before the kayak is fully inflated. The kayak is inflated in two parts: the bottom part (base), and the top. The seats are easy to clip inside the kayak and you also get a foot rest.
The Challenger K1 is strictly not a beginner’s kayak, however its capabilities should certainly not be tested in white water rapids ,as it will simply not be able to cope rough terrain. Due to its lightweight nature, and being an inflatable kayak, it is easy to store and can be carried around without the help of another person.
- Dimensions: 108 inches in-length and 30 inches in width
- Weight: 27.2 pounds
- Capacity: 220 pounds
The Intex Challenger K1 kayak is extremely popular with people who’re looking for an affordable inflatable kayak. Paddlers praised the kayak for its portability and forgoing the need for separate travel racks, which obviously require additional monetary investment.
The stand out feature of this kayak has to be its price. It simply has no competitors at the price point it is offered. The kayak is built with rugged super-tough vinyl material which makes it light weight yet very durable. The streamlined design of the kayak makes it easy to track and maneuver in calmer waters. The light weight also makes it comfortable to paddle.
The Intex Challenger K1 is meant for calm rivers and lakes. It will not do well in rapid moving water and faster rivers because it is just not meant to be used in that manner. Paddlers have also reported that the included paddles are not top quality and can get damaged quite easily. We would recommend you to get a good quality paddle to go along with the Challenger K1.
Check out the unboxing and review of Intex Challenger K1
The Intex Challenger K1 is a great choice for beginners available at an affordable price. It is extremely light and portable, and its stable dynamics make it easy to control in water. If you want a kayak that can be stored away easily and will perform admirably in calm waters, the Challenger K1 should be your choice.
Sun Dolphin Aruba 10
|Light weight||Average tracking|
|Easy to control||Not for challenging waters|
|Affordable for beginners|
Recreational kayaks are a hotly contested category within kayaks, outselling every other kayak type. Recreational kayaks, as the name implies, are designed for easy going fun rather than serious sport activity. They’re most at home in flatwater – like lakes or slow flowing rivers.
The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is the top selling model in the recreational kayaks category. It is an inexpensive kayak that makes it a great first choice for those interested in getting into the hobby of kayaking. Not only is it economical but it is highly rated and praised by its owners.
The Aruba 10 is a medium-sized kayak, with a length of 10 feet and a width of 30 inches. At just 40 lbs., it is extremely light and can be carried around by just one person. This light weight is made possible through the use of durable polyethylene in the hull. The kayak has a carrying capacity of 250 pounds which means it can easily accommodate an average adult.
The kayak has a beginner-friendly open design cockpit that allows for easy entrance and exit. The backrest is padded for added comfort and there is a storage compartment to store gear.
- Dimensions: 1120 x 30 x 13 inches
- Weight: 40 pounds
The Aruba 10 is an extremely popular choice among beginner kayakers. It’s not a particularly high performance kayak, but it makes a strong case for itself – thanks to its high quality and low price. The Aruba 10’s stable water manners mean that it has a linear learning curve, and novices can really hone their skills on this kayak. It possesses reliable and predictable tracking, and has reasonable balance. It is not the most stable kayak available but it does the job well as a beginner’s kayak that has been designed for calmer waters.
Contributing to the Aruba 10’s beginner-friendly nature is its polyethylene construction – it is just 40 pounds. That’s light enough for a single person to carry around. It is also compact enough that it can be transported easily in the bed of a truck or on the top of a small car. Its low weight and portability gives it an edge over competing models. This also means that owners don’t have to invest in a separate hauling system, which will save money and make transportation much easier.
The stability of the Aruba 10 owes itself to the shape of the kayak’s hull. The body is quite wide and the bottom of the kayak is flat which lends the Aruba a very stable nature. The short length also makes it much easier to control. The narrow bow and stern mean that the Aruba 10 tracks surprisingly well and its light weight makes it easier to paddle. The kayak is praised for its performance given its affordable nature.
The storage compartment in Aruba 10 is not water tight. The Aruba 10 is not a kayak that you will grow into. Users will quickly get to grips with it and its limits. Those who’re looking to take on kayaking as a sport will feel the need to upgrade eventually. It is a great kayak to build your confidence but you will want something with better tracking and stability once you start voyaging into more challenging water bodies.
The Aruba 10 is a perfect blend of price and performance. Its high quality coupled with low price makes it an ideal recreational kayak for beginners. This kayak might not exactly cater to those who want to do more with their kayaks, but it’s a great way to spend the weekend in water.
Ocean Kayak Frenzy
|Easily Moveable||Lacks storage space|
|Good maneuverability||Slow in calmer waters|
|Stable & rigid|
The Frenzy is made by one of the oldest names in the kayak industry – Ocean Kayak. They’re famous for their durable and colorful kayaks that are very lightweight. The Frenzy is pitched as a beginner’s kayak by the company, but experienced kayakers say it’s a great fit for them as well.
The Frenzy has been designed for tracking, maneuverability and stability in mind. At 9 feet long and 31 inches wide, it is best suited for the unpredictable waters of the ocean. The 44-pound body of the Frenzy is made possible through the use of lightweight polyethylene material. Its lightness shouldn’t be equated to a lack of ruggedness however, as it is built to a sturdy standard.
The Frenzy is basically a bare-bones kayak built keeping performance and weight in mind. There are no storage hatches or cubbyholes to dry-store your gear. That makes it unsuitable for campers and anglers who might want to store their gear in a secure and dry place.
- Dimensions: 108 x 31 x 18 inches
- Weight: 44 pounds
One area where the Ocean Frenzy truly shines is affordability. This well-built kayak is priced much lower than competing models offering the same levels of quality and features.
Not only does its price make it a great choice for budding kayakers, but the shape of the kayak itself makes it a very easy kayak to learn on. It’s been designed for stability first, and beginners can take advantage of this and really learn. Its stable nature makes it highly forgiving, which is an essential trait to have in a kayak whose buyers will be first-timers. In fact, owners say that tipping this kayak is a task in itself. However, despite this stability, it is not a cumbersome kayak by any means. It is much easier to maneuver than competing wide body ocean models.
The Frenzy has been designed for stability which is required in ocean waters. However, that does not equate to poor handling in calmer waters. If you want to experiment in both oceans and lakes/rivers, the Frenzy offers a serious proposition with its versatile characteristics. Bear in mind though that if you’re buying a kayak to paddle in lakes and rivers only, it would be a good idea to invest in a kayak with a thinner hull shape. The Frenzy’s stability will simply be of no use in calm waters. It is a kayak for buyers who want to experiment with different types of waters.
The online buyer reviews also reveal that the Frenzy is constructed to a very high standard. Buyers noted that the Frenzy survived collisions that would otherwise damage a kayak irreparably. The Frenzy has been known to survive encounters with sharp rocks and gravel without any damage to its body.
We’ve previously stressed on how stable of a kayak the Frenzy is. So it’s unfortunate that that is also the reason for its biggest drawback – its speed in calmer water. Due to its wide dimensions it requires extra effort to paddle and is thus not suitable for drawn out sessions in water.
Despite the dimensions of the kayak, bigger individuals report that the Frenzy is definitely a snug fit.
The Frenzy is a safe investment as far as kayaks go. It isn’t particularly fast but that is exactly the reason why it is such a great beginner’s kayak. The economical price of this kayak only further broadens its appeal for first-timers.
What to look for in your first kayak
There are a lot of features and characteristics that define a kayak. Some of those will matter to you more if you are a beginner. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time deciding on the features that will matter to beginners the most. Going down memory lane, we investigated the models that we used when we were just getting started with kayaks. That’s where we started figuring out which features helped us the most.
The most important aspect of a beginner kayak is its stability and predictability. A more stable kayak will be much more forgiving to a novice who is very likely to make mistakes in water. The kayak must also be reasonably rugged because the novice does not know what sort of terrain the kayak should avoid. Some of the mistakes that a beginner is likely to make is that he will bump against sharp rocks and will run the kayak aground. A rugged kayak will shrug off such events without damaging itself.
So we pinned down stability and ruggedness as our two main characteristics for beginner kayaks. These kayaks are easy to handle and will be forgiving of the inevitable mistakes that a beginner is likely to make. After these characteristics, we considered if the kayak had an entry-level price point. A low price will make it easier for the beginner to get into the sport.
There is no single answer for the best kayak for beginners. Each new paddlers will have different things planned for their kayaks. Some will want something that is fast, some will want something that is comfortable over longer distances, and some will just want something that is easy to use for a nice relaxed day in the water. If you are looking for best kayak under 500, the reviewed kayaks in this article are good options.
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