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Kayak Buying Guide

Links to Kayak Information
Kayak UsageKayak Length and Width
Types of KayaksKayak Hull Shape and Composition
Parts of a Kayak 

Introduction

Choosing the right kayak will provide you with the most optimum and fun experience while exploring out on the water. Here are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing the right kayak.

Kayak Usage:

The three main ways kayaks are used include fishing, recreation and deluxe recreation.

Types of Kayaks:

There are four different types of kayaks available at DICK's Sporting Goods: sit-in, sit-on-top, inflatable and modular kayaks. Each of these models has distinct advantages when compared to one another, and each can be used in different situations to get the most out of your outdoor adventures.

Sit In

  • Provides protection from the elements as a result of the paddler sitting inside a cockpit (i.e., cold water or rain).
  • Hull designs offer a good balance of maneuverability, tracking and speed.
  • Ideal for longer trips due to increased storage capacity.

Sit On Top

  • Design provides stability and free movement—excellent for fishing.
  • Best used in warm weather situations.
  • Simple to get on and off.

Inflatable

  • Sturdy and versatile kayak.
  • Inflated with multiple types of pumps—hand, foot or electric.
  • More buoyant than traditional kayaks.
  • Able to be compacted and folded into a smaller size, making it easy to transport this type of kayak.
  • Light, easy-to-use and can turn on a smaller radius than sit-in or sit-on-top kayaks—however; it takes a more strenuous effort to paddle and can be slower than typical kayaks.

Modular / Snap On

Another type of kayak, the modular kayak (also referred to as a snap on or snap together kayak), can be useful for exceptional space saving while traveling and for multiple users. These types of kayaks are most often available as a sit-on-top kayak, and they can be taken apart with ease, able to be used a single or a tandem model.

These kayaks offer simple, snap-together mechanisms to take apart and put together the kayak with ease. The two-piece, solo kayak can be snapped apart, and a middle section can be added in between the parts to transform the model into a three-piece, tandem kayak.

Parts of a Kayak

A kayak has many components, each working with one another to provide the user with the most comfortable and optimal experience. Here is a helpful diagram to give visual aid to each part of a kayak:

Sit-In Kayak

Grab Loops / Carry Handles

  • Ease-of-transportation when traveling—makes it easier to set on vehicle racks

Cargo Hatch(es)

  • Watertight compartments on the foredeck and/or rear deck

Seating System

  • Type of seat used in the kayak’s design. Includes cockpit, seat and cockpit coaming

Bungee

  • Used for securing loose items on your kayak

Foot Pegs

  • Place the balls of your feet in the braces for better control and maneuverability

Thigh Braces

  • Foam pads between your legs and the boat to offer more comfort when sitting on the kayak

Cockpit Coaming

  • Small rubber extension on the top end of the cockpit that prevents excess water from splashing into the kayak

Sit-On-Top Kayak

Grab Loops / Carry Handles

  • Ease-of-transportation when traveling—makes it easier to set on vehicle racks

Tank Well

  • Area behind where you sit, capable of holding tackle and gear not currently being used

Bungee

  • Used for securing loose items on your kayak.

Seating System

  • Type of seat used in the kayak’s design.

Cargo Hatch(es)

  • Watertight compartments on the foredeck and/or rear deck

Foot Rests / Foot Pegs

  • Place the balls of your feet in the braces for better control and maneuverability.

Self-Bailing Scupper Holes

  • Drain water from the deck.

Kayak Length and Width

A kayak's hull size and shape determine its performance characteristics. A shorter kayak (8-11’) turns easily while a longer kayak (12' and over) is less easy to turn, but glides more smoothly.

The length of the boat’s waterline (where the boat sits in the water) is the most important aspect—it’s one of the factors that determine the speed of the kayak. The bigger the waterline, the more water displacement that occurs and the faster the kayak will travel. The wider the waterline, the more stable a kayak will be.

Kayak Hull Shape and Composition

The shape of a kayak's hull has a bearing on stability. There are two main shapes of hulls: U-shaped and V-shaped.

U-Shaped

  • Less forward water resistance
  • High initial stability

V-Shaped

  • Better secondary stability than U-shaped
  • Offers better tracking
  • Tend to slice through waves more efficiently

Dihedral Hulls

A Kayak can also feature a dihedral hull. This type of hull is very similar to a V-shaped hull, but it becomes narrower near the stern of the kayak. A dihedral hull will provide the user with greater stability and maneuverability than other types of hulls.

The way the hull is constructed is directly related to a kayak’s weight, durability and performance. There are three basic types of construction that range from entry-level performance and durability to high-performance and durability. There are other types of construction, but these three are the most common.

Roto-Molded

  • Powdered polyethylene is poured into a mold, heated to extremely high temperatures and is rotated until the mold is covered with a layer of new plastic.
  • Least expensive type of kayak mold—typically used for recreational kayaks that are cheaper alternatives to higher-end models.

Blow-Molded

  • Plastic pellets are put under extreme pressure and melted together. The melted plastic is poured into molds where it sits until fully cooled.
  • Most expensive type of kayak—high-end durability but typically weighs more than other types of kayaks.

Thermoform

  • Sheets of plastic are formed together into a kayak, rather than plastic being completely melted down and poured into molds like blow-molded and roto-molded kayaks.
  • Generally lighter in weight than a roto-molded kayak, but they are a more expensive option due to higher durability.