Best Kayak for Beginners 2019

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. If you are not a beginner and interested in fishing, you can also check our buying guide best fishing kayak under 1000

Best Kayak for Beginners

Name & Type Shape Rating Price
Intex Challenger K1 Kayak Check Now

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Check Now

Ocean Kayak Frenzy Check Now

Lifetime Manta Check Now

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Angler Kayak Check Now

Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak Check Now

Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 12-Foot Sit-in Kayak Check Now

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Check Now

Old Town Vapor 10 Check Now

Sun dolphin Bali SS 10 Check Now

Lifetime Youth 6 Feet Check Now

Intex Challenger K1 Kayak

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Pros Cons
Easily moveable Average quality paddles
Super-tough material

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 footrest.

Key Point: It will take you around 10 minutes to fully inflate the Challenger K1

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 lightweight yet very durable. The streamlined design of the kayak makes it easy to track and maneuver in calmer waters. The lightweight also makes it comfortable to paddle.

Key Point: Intex Challenger K1 is indefinitely easier to transport around in a car


The Intex Challenger K1 is meant for calm rivers and lakes. It will not do well in rapidly 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

Check Intex Challenger K1 on Amazon


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 the 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

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Pros Cons
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 sports activity. They’re most at home in flat water – 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 lightweight 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. The kayak has also been featured in our blog best fishing kayak under 500.


  • 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 give 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 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 watertight. 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.

Check Sun Dolphin Aruba on Amazon


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

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Pros Cons
Easily moveable Lacks storage space
Great maneuverability Slow in calmer waters
Stable & rigid

The Frenzy is manufactured by a reputable brand, Ocean Kayak. The brand is known for its lightweight and durable kayaks with beautiful color options. The ocean kayak frenzy is known to be a beginner’s kayak, but the kayaking fraternity rates it quite high.

The kayak has superb tracking, stability, and maneuverability. Such characteristics make it a reasonable kayak for ocean waters. The kayak is 9-feet long and 31 inches wide.  It is made of lightweight polyethylene material and that is the reason it is only 44 pounds. At the same time, it is rigid and built on the highest standards.

Ocean Kayak frenzy has been built considering the factors of performance and weight. The kayak doesn’t have dry storage to store your items and gear. This is one downside as the anglers that want to kayak for longer periods of time want to store items in dry storage.


  • Dimensions: 108 x 31 x 18 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds


The kayak is affordable which is why it is a top consideration for beginners. It is also priced reasonably well when you look at the competitors offering the same features and quality.

The shape of the kayak is also one good reason to buy it. We spoke with a few owners of ocean kayak frenzy and they shared that it is a great kayak to learn on. The reason they shared this was that it is stable, and when you are learning to paddle in the water, you need a stable kayak. A veteran paddler shared that flipping this kayak upside down requires some effort. Also, none of the kayakers mentioned any big drawback of owning and paddling this kayak. Maneuverability might be an issue but competing with other models, Ocean kayak is way better.

Key Point: Frenzy has been designed for stability, therefore a good choice for beginners

Ocean waters are rough and require kayaks with better stability. This is why Ocean Kayak is great for using in ocean water. Similarly, you can take it to any rough river and it won’t disappoint you because of versatile characteristics. If you only plan to use the kayak in calmer lakes, it would be better to look for a kayak that has a thinner hull shape. In calmer waters, you won’t need that much stability. This model is for kayakers who want to go for an adventure in different types of waters and terrains.

When we looked at the online reviews for the kayak, we got the same feedback – built on a high standard. The kayak is also capable of surviving collisions. It easily navigates the paddlers through sharp rocks and gravel without any damage. Kayaks can get irreparably damaged in such endeavors.


Kayaks with high stability have a downside as well. That downside is speed as they will require your extra effort to paddle them in calmer waters. This happens because kayaks like Ocean Kayak Frenzy are wider than kayaks that have good speed. This is the biggest drawback.

Despite the dimensions of the kayak, bigger individuals report that the Frenzy is definitely a snug fit.

Check Ocean Kayak Frenzy on Amazon


Lifetime Manta

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Pros Cons
Very easy tracking Speed is not great
Ton of storage Paddle quality is not so good
Maneuverability Bottom of seats are not so comfortable
Comes with scupper holes
Comes with a warranty

The new Lifetime Manta is a 10 feet long recreational kayak which is fit for multipurpose gliding. It can be used solo or tandem and has a capacity of 500lb. Manta has a number of cool features and performs really well in fishing, railing and even surfing. The kayak comes with two paddles, a fishing rod holder, a bottle holder, two padded backrests, a mast receiver receptacle and shock cord straps.

The tunnel hull design makes it extremely stable and safe to use with your family. It’s a perfect fit for a day out on calm waters with your family. The maneuverability of this kayak is also great, thus making it a suitable choice for beginners as well. The kayak is made from High Density Polyethylene Plastic which make it lightweight yet very durable and resistant towards chemical reactions.


  • Price:    $479.93
  • Length: 10 feet
  • Width:   36 inches
  • Weight: 66 pounds
  • Maximum Capacity: 500 pounds

Check Lifetime Manta on Amazon


Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Angler Kayak

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Pros Cons
Excellent balance Not suitable for long trips
Spacious storage compartments Relatively heavy
High maneuverability
Very comfortable

The tarpon 100 Angler kayak is a versatile single person sit-on-top kayak, designed for both calm and rough water surfaces. It has an ideal design for a thrilling speed and efficiency unlike other fishing kayaks in the market. This kayak is known for its outstanding glide and maneuverability.

Its compact-size makes it an excellent choice for fishing on small lakes and ponds. The unique features include Phase 3 AirPro seating system, adjustable footrests, SlideTrax accessory rail, bungee paddle holder, molded mesh gear pockets and Orbix hatch covers.

The exceptionally large bungee tank well allows the storage of a number of gears needed for long hauls. The seat is especially designed to be very comfortable and flexible, suitable for people of every age.

The overall design of this kayak is engineered for a great water journey.


  • Price: $645.15
  • Length: 10 feet
  • Width:  5 inches
  • Weight: 61 pounds
  • Maximum Capacity: 325 pounds
  • Deck Height: 15.25 inches

Check Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Angler Kayak on Amazon


Sevylor Quikpak K1 1-Person Kayak



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Pros Cons
Excellent stability Not suitable for rough waters
Very easy to transport Low quality paddles
User friendly Poor tracking
Very Comfortable

 The latest Sevylor Quikpak K1 provides the ultimately portability and comes with everything you need to get on the water. It is a sit-on-top inflatable kayak especially designed for a comfortable ride on calm waters. Not many people trusts inflatable kayaks because of lack of functionalities and storage spaces. However unlike other inflatable kayaks in the market, Sevylor Quikpak excels in comfort and have huge storage capacity as well.

It features the Airtight System to prevent any air leaks and comes with Double Lock Valves and a hand pump to make inflation and deflation extremely efficient. The bottom part of the kayak is made of Tarpaulin to make the overall structure strong and puncture-resistant.

Other key features include multi-position footrests, a backpack to carry the kayak when deflated, bungee cord, padded backrests and Twenty one Gauge PVC construction. The Sevylor Quikpak K1, however, doesn’t come with a tracking skeg, so it can become a problem if you don’t know the surroundings well.


  • Price: $153.07
  • Length: 8 feet 7 inches
  • Width:  3 feet
  • Weight: 16.5 pounds
  • Maximum Capacity: 400 pounds

Check Sevylor Quikpak K1 on Amazon


 Sun Dolphin Aruba SS 12-Foot Sit-in Kayak

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Pros Cons
Excellent stability Not suitable for rough waters
Tracks and maneuver well in calm waters Seat is not padded
Includes accessories of a fishing kayak
Comfortable sit-in design

The Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 is a compact recreational kayak built for a fun day at lakes and rivers. It is a sit-in kayak, thus keeps you dry and warm inside the cockpit and is ideal for all-season paddling. It behaves best in calmer water conditions and is not recommended in rough waters as it often gets pushed around by bigger waves and water gets inside the kayak

Aruba’s straight line keel really helps with tracking without compromising on kayak’s maneuverability. The Sun Dolphin Aruba has an ample amount of storage space including the Portable Accessory Carrier (P.A.C). The kayak can also be used for fishing because of its two featured flush mount rod holders and the tray compartment located at the top of cockpit. Its seat and footpads are adjustable to fit people of every size. Other key features include Paddle Holders, Bungee Deck rigging, Protective Thigh Pads, covered console and rugged UV-stabilized Fortiflex high density polyethylene construction.


  • Price: $346.44
  • Length: 12 feet
  • Width:  6 inches
  • Weight: 47 pounds
  • Maximum Capacity: 395 pounds

Check Sun Dolphin Aruba SS on Amazon


Ocean Kayak Malibu Two

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Pros Cons
Really comfortable Not very fast
Easy paddling mechanism Not so great storage space
Lightweight and portable

The Malibu Two is a sit-on-top tandem kayak designed for effortless gliding through water. Malibu two is a real game changer in the world of tandem kayaks when it comes to comfort and ease. It has a very sleek hull which helps in paddling. Malibu Two comes with a number of cool features including thigh pads, comfortable and luxurious seating system, adjustable foot braces, side handles and cushions, removable bags and extensive storage capacity.

The kayak has been constructed through a process known as the rotational molding with rot molded polyethylene which makes this kayak resistant to oxidation and other chemical reactions. It also has a large bow that makes a great seat for a small child. However, the kayak can be converted from tandem to solo with minimal effort.


  • Price: $549.99
  • Length: 12 feet
  • Width:  34 inches
  • Weight: 58 pounds
  • Maximum Capacity: 375-425 pounds

Check Ocean Kayak Malibu Two on Amazon


Old Town Vapor 10

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Pros Cons
Excellent Maneuverability Not very fast
Light weight and well-engineered design Doesn’t come with a paddle
Can take on variety of water conditions No shock cord on the bow or stern
Two fishing rod holder

The Old Town Vapor 10 is a sit-inside fishing kayak which is designed to be extremely stable and comfortable. It is a great vessel for entry level anglers because of its excellent stability. The kayak has a rounded hull which makes it almost impossible to flip in the water. This great stability allows you to battle bigger fish in waters without worrying about the kayak to flip over.

Old Town is known for using quality material for their water crafts and is providing very durable kayaks to its customers. The kayak comes with a mini anchor and a trolly to keep you in range. Other key features include paddle holder, flush mounted rod holders, a live tankwell, adjustable foot braces with Glide Track Technology, thigh pads, plenty of storage capacity and a comfortable padded seat. There is also a skid plate at the bottom which helps ensure rigidity and durability of the kayak.


  • Price: $599.99
  • Length: 10 feet
  • Width:  5 inches
  • Weight: 48 pounds
  • Maximum Capacity: 325 pounds
  • Depth: 16.75 inches

Check Old Town Vapor 10 on Amazon


Sun dolphin Bali SS 10

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Pros Cons
Excellent maneuverability  and tracking Difficult steering
Really comfortable No rod holders for fishing
Inexpensive No cushion on the bottom of the seat
Easy to transport

The sun dolphin Bali SS 10 is a sit-on-top kayak built for gliding in calm water conditions. It is one of the best kayaks for beginners as it is incredibly easy to control and paddle with. It is made of Fortiflex high-density polyethylene which makes it extremely durable and resistant to chemical reactions. The Bali SS 10 has a creatively designed hull to make this kayak highly stable.

The great thing about this kayak is, it provides great maneuverability and tracking capability. The thigh pads adds to the comfort level of this sit-on-top kayak. Other cool features include adjustable foot braces, paddle holder, adjustable seating area, open cockpit for quick entry and exit, large hull, cup holder, bungee storage, Portable Accessory System and a waterproof container for storing your valuables.


  • Price: $352
  • Length: 10 feet
  • Width:  30 inches
  • Weight: 44 pounds
  • Maximum Capacity: 250 pounds

Check Sun Dolphin Bali SS on Amazon


Lifetime Youth 6 Feet

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Pros Cons
Lightweight and portable Seems a little small for taller kids
Comes with a warranty
High weightlifting capability

Lifetime Youth is a sit-on-top kayak specially designed for kids who are 5 years or above. It is a great starter kayak for little ones because of its added stability feature. The kayak is made up of high-density polyethylene that makes it very durable. It also features a rear swim-up step so that paddlers can climb aboard water.

Lifetime Youth is really easy to maneuver and paddle because of its “twin-fin” design. Since it’s designed for kids of above 5 years, it comes with several footrests position and can be used for years as your child grows. The kaya includes an ergonomic cockpit to improve the balance and motor skills of the kayak. There are also self-draining scupper holes in it to get rid of the water.

It comes with finger molded handles so it’s easy for parents to pick and carry and is portable enough to carry in the back of a SUV or a truck.


  • Price: $106.06
  • Length: 6 feet
  • Width:  2 feet
  • Weight: 18 pounds
  • Maximum Capacity: 130 pounds

Check Sun Dolphin Bali SS on Amazon


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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Michael Holding

Michael is an outdoor adventurer and a kayaking enthusiast who loves to share his experiences with others. He is the Chief Editor at XgearHub.

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