So you’ve decided to get a start in the adventurous world of kayaking, but with so many kayaks on the market the choices and styles may be too confusing. Well fear not as our intrepid team have reviewed all the best kayak brands to bring you our round-up of the best kayaks for beginners.
Obviously you don’t want to spend too much (and if you already know your max budget why not take a look at our review of the best inflatable kayaks) but you also want to get the best kayak for your budget that is also suited for beginner kayakers.
[box_tip]For beginners looking for their first kayak, look for kayaks that have enhanced stability and are easy to paddle for a newbie. The last thing you want to do is purchase a kayak that is so difficult to navigate or is setup for professional kayakers and your initial kayaking experiences suffers because of the boat – and then you lose interest in the whole sport / past-time.[/box_tip]
Obviously there are many factors to consider when choosing your first kayak or when you are still a beginner. If you are a beginner, you need to consider which type of kayak you are after (read more on the different types of kayaks) as some kayaks are better suited to particular kayaking trips than others. The design and build material, and the form factor of the kayak, are also big determinants of the quality and overall ability of the kayak.
Beginner kayakers also need to consider that fine balance between kayak stability and kayak maneuverability, and we will stress it again –> as a beginner or newcomer to kayaking we would always go for stability over performance. Finally the seating capacity and storage capacity should also be considerations.
So when comparing kayaks for beginners, we recommend using this checklist to determine the right kayak for your usage purposes.
Kayaks for Beginners – Considerations
Kayak Type (sit-on-top kayaks, sit-inside kayaks, fishing kayaks)
Form factor and Design (hard shell, folding or inflatable)
Budget / Price
Stability vs Performance
Seating Capacity (1 seat, 2 seat or more)
Usage (fishing, sea kayaking, whitewater or recreational kayaking)
So let’s compare the best kayaks for beginners – and find out which kayak is the Editor’s Choice for overall best beginner kayak:
The Sun Dolphin Bali is a 10 foot long kayak, made from a lightweight yet high density polyethylene material, and especially great to steer when taking the kayak out on any types of calm lakes and rivers. Being a sit on top kayak, the cockpit is open for ease of entry, which is especially good for beginner paddlers that want ease of access to the kayak if they manage to fall off, or simply want an easy to board kayak. Being a 10 foot kayak, there is plenty of space even for beginners to stretch out enjoy the natural beauty when out paddling. What we really loved about the Sun Dolphin Bali SS kayak is both the convenience of all its features, as well as the ease of control whilst on the water – something a beginner definitely would look for in their first kayak.
From a comfort perspective, the Bali SS has a large seating area, which comes with a padded seat, and taller paddlers can even stretch out the legs to full length whilst their thighs are protected by the protective thigh pad and their feet are held securely with the adjustable leg braces, which can be adjusted to fit your height. Storage is catered for with a large cargo space known as the Portable Accessory Carrier (PAC) that can holds any extra gear that you intend to take with you whilst paddling. Weighing in at only 44lbs, the Bali SS is easy to carry by hand or transport to a camping area for recreation, and something a beginner kayak will appreciate not having to carry a heavier kayak around. It also features a paddle holder for paddle accessibility and storage whilst not in use. Made form high quality and durable materials, the Sun Dolphin Bali SS is an affordable sit on style kayak that is well balanced and has plenty of water-proof storage areas including the PAC, other storage compartments and even a cup holder.
[pullquote_right]Well balanced sit on top kayak[/pullquote_right]
[pullquote_right]Noted for its ease of control[/pullquote_right]
Lightweight and portable
Comfortable sitting space offers thigh padding and holds feet in place
Entry: Cockpit is opened for easy entry into the kayak
Convenience: feet braces can be adjusted to fit one’s height
Storage: Has a portable accessory carrier (PAC) and a storage compartment
Paddle holder for paddle accessibility
Self-balancing while it allows a kayaker to stand on it without tripping
Scupper holes for easy drainage
Easy to steer on rivers
Shock cord deck rigging
Pull up handle
Kayak dimensions: 11 x 30 x 10 inches
Weight capacity: 250 pounds
Construction material: High-density Polyethylene (UV stabilized Fortiflex)
Available in the following colors: Ocean blue, red, pink, tangerine, green and blue
Length: 10 foot
Great first time kayak that is both affordable and easy to transport
For a beginner looking for their first kayak, the Sun Dolphin is a cheap and affordable kayak which is ideal for a leisurely paddle around lakes or rivers. Being quite light, it is easily transportable so younger paddlers can get it to the water easily.
Lightweight and comfortable
Well balanced and holds its weight limit
No bottom seat pad
Drain holes are fitted right in the sitting area and your bottom will get wet when water is being drained from kayak
Ocean Kayak Frenzy Sit-On-Top Recreational Kayak
Best recreational kayak for beginners
Ocean Kayaks makes some great kayaks, and the Ocean Kayak Frenzy sit on top kayak is no exception. Ocean Kayaks know that recreational kayakers want a kayak that is designed without compromising its comfort, convenience, and durability. In fact, you Ocean Kayaks is now a household brand known for producing a variety of comfortable, and particularly brightly colored kayaks, and the Frenzy kayak within their line-up is our choice for the best recreational kayak for beginners. In fact, measuring just 9 feet in length, the Ocean Kayak Frenzy feels like a Rolls-Royce on the water for beginners. It is extremely stable and so super easy to steer, and also quite comfortable as well considering the price. It comes with a 4-way adjustable padded seat that provides ample support when paddling for long periods, while the molded foot wells support the feet to prevent cramps. The Ocean Kayak Frenzy’s cockpit has an open design that allows an easy entry while its tri-form hull design gives the Frenzy more stability on the water.
Weighing in at only 43lbs, beginners will appreciate its light weight which makes for an easily transportable kayak and even younger kids or teens can carry the kayak to the water without too much effort. Carrying the kayak is super easy with all the handles, as the kayak comes with two side handles and additional carry handles located at the bow and stern area of the kayak. With so many handles, you can conveniently load the kayak it into the car or transport it down to the water! Storage is ample, with the Frenzy featuring two storage compartments – the main storage compartment at the stern and the other storage compartment at the bow. Both compartments come with bungees to hold your gear securely. Other user-friendly features of the kayak include self-draining scupper holes, a drain plug and the removable bungees. The Ocean Kayak Frenzy is truly a multi-purpose kayak that is your optimal choice if looking for a recreational kayak for beginners.
[pullquote_right]Beginners will appreciate its light weight[/pullquote_right]
[pullquote_right]Fantastic recreational kayak[/pullquote_right]
4-way adjustable padded seat for comfort
Molded-in foot well
Side handles for convenience
Bow and stern storage compartments
Bow and stern carry handles
Molded-in cup holder
Rear skid plate and hull drain plug
Dimension: 18’’ x 31’’ x 9’’
Maximum weight capacity: 325lbs
Available in the following colors: Envy, Sunrise, Yellow
A multi-purpose kayak that is both affordable and extremely safe for beginners
Ocean Kayaks has produced an exceptional multi-purpose recreational kayak with the Frenzy model and it is a deserved winner of the best recreational kayak for beginners. It really is an ideal sit on top kayak that is suitable for both children and adults and is considered extremely stable and very safe for beginners. With so many features, the Ocean Kayak Frenzy is a convenient shorter length option, and coupled with its affordable rice, is hard to pass by.
Stable (tri-form hull), easy to steer and tracks straight.
Made from high quality and durable materials
4-way adjustable padded seat
Lightweight and easy to transport with 2 side handles and handles on both bow and stern
Being 9 foot – it’s a short kayak that may be too short for taller paddlers
Seat may be too narrow for larger paddlers
Lifetime Tamarack Sit-On-Top Kayak
Best beginner kayak for fishing
If you are looking at getting started in kayaking, then you should definitely consider the Tamarack kayak from Lifetime. The Lifetime Tamarack polyethylene constructed kayak is small enough (12 foot in length) to be easily transported while its flat bottom ensures stability even in high currents or ocean tides. Being a sit on top kayak, it is convenient and provides ease of access for a single paddler, whilst it’s molded-in seat and additional padded back rest, along with the multiple molded-in feet holds, will allow paddlers of different heights to sit comfortably. From a storage perspective, the Tamarack has two storage compartments to hold extra stuff taken along on the trip while its two side handles and two extra bow and stern T-handles allow it to be carried easily into vehicles or to the riverside. Paddles can conveniently sit in the cradle made for them at each side of the Tamarack without obstructing the ride.
Furthermore, since the Tamarack was built for fishermen in mind, it features two fishing rod holders located at each side of the back rest, whilst a rotating fishing rod holder is placed within arm’s reach just in front of the paddler. Out on the water, the Lifetime Tamarack is known for its consistently true tracking, and really feels very stable on the water if you are simply going out for a recreational paddle, or even if you are doing some fishing. If you are looking for a comfortable and stable 12 foot kayak, that you can use for fishing as well, then the Lifetime Tamarack should definitely be on your list – as we consider it to be one of the best 12” fishing kayaks for beginners that is suitable for both beginners and advanced paddlers who wish to enjoy comfort, convenience, and stability out on the water.
[pullquote_right]Built for beginner fishermen in mind[/pullquote_right]
[pullquote_right]Known for its consistently true tracking[/pullquote_right]
Hull tracking channels
Front and rear 6’’ storage compartments
Two paddle holders with shock cord
Molded-in seat with adjustable padded back rest
Multiple positioned molded-in foot rests
1x top mount rotating fishing rod holder
2x flush mount fishing rod holders
Two side handles
Front and rear T-handles
Flat base for stability
Self-draining scupper holes in the cockpit
Dimensions: 12 x 31 x 14 inches
Material: High-density Polyethylene
Maximum weight capacity: 275lbs
Available in the following colors: Tan
Suitable for both beginners and advanced paddlers
The Lifetime Tamarack 12” fishing kayak is suitable for both beginners and advanced kayakers who wish to enjoy the comfort, convenience, and stability it offers on the water. For those budding fishermen looking for their first fishing kayak, the Lifetime Tamarack should definitely be one to consider. Affordable, stable and with plenty of features for added convenience, we highly recommend the Lifetime Tamarack kayak as the best beginner kayak for fishing!
Lightweight and easily transportable
Fast and stable out on the water, and tracks straight
Has enough storage capacity to hold plenty of fishing gear
The seat angle might be uncomfortable for longer kayaking trips
Old Town Canoes & Kayaks Vapor 10 Recreational Kayak
Best beginner kayak for adults
If you’re looking for a shift from the traditional style kayak that has some extra room for adults within what is still a compactly built polyethylene kayak, then the Vapor 10 from Old Town Canoes and Kayaks should definitely be on your list of options to consider. The Vapor 10, aptly named because it’s a 10 foot kayak, has been designed with a smooth riding experience in mind, and specifically designed for paddling on both surf and on calm waters. The Vapor 10 has a spacious and comfortable sitting area that molds snugly into your body shape while you enjoy extended time on the kayak. The Vapor 10, with its protective thigh pads, also includes foot braces to cater for taller adults allowing multiple positions to hold the feet in position. Even though the Vapor 10 provides a spacious seating area, it does not compromise on storage, as storage is covered by the large storage tankwell at the stern of the kayak where gear and other items can be kept. Transporting the kayak is easy, as the Vapor 10 has two built in side handles and a front and rear handle to easily transport the fairly light kayak (47lbs only).
Obviously as a beginner kayaker, you want the best kayak for your money, without sacrificing on additional features. One of the things we loved with the Vapor 10 was its moulded cup holder and cockpit tray, and a paddle cradle where you can easily store and retrieve your paddle. One thing that we wanted to stress though, even though the Vapor 10 is only a 10 foot kayak, you really should not be deceived by its compact size, because the cockpit is super spacious and you really get the sense of freedom and not being restricted within this kayak. One of the main reasons we chose the Vapor 10 as the best beginner kayaks for adults is due to its renowned stability. Its V-shaped hull provides a steady balance and increased stability on the water, and try as we might we were not able to tip the kayak over. As a beginner kayaker – stability is obviously the first thing that you look for in a kayak, but the Vapor 10 also performs admirably when it comes to comfort, tracking, and maneuverability all in the single package.
[pullquote_right]Do not be deceived by its compact size – this is one spacious kayak[/pullquote_right]
[pullquote_right]So stable – you just cant seem to tip this kayak over[/pullquote_right]
Large storage area in stern of kayak
Built in side handles and inclusive of a front and rear handles
Molded in cockpit tray and cup holder
Spacious cockpit – you really do not feel cramped in
Adjustable plastic seat, thigh pads, and foot braces
Dimensions: 16.75 x 28.5 x 122 inches
Material: Single layer polyethylene
Maximum weight capacity:325lbs
Available in the following colors: Cloud, Sunrise
Superbly stable kayak that is excellent for both kids and adults
The Vibe 10 comes highly recommended as an all-round kayak that is suitable for both kids as well as adults. It is a great starter kayak for sportsmen, anglers and recreational paddlers who want to enjoy the speed, stability, comfort and maneuverability that this kayak offers. A great beginner kayak for adults and anyone really looking for a super stable kayak.
Super stable and easy to steer as well
Large open and spacious cockpit for convenient entry and exit
Lightweight and has numerous handles to easily lift it in and out of water
The paddle cradle is located at an awkward angle and only works for when riding alone, but could jab another rider if riding at a close range
I have been kayaking since I was 10 years old and am now the Editor-in-Chief of ModernKayaking magazine. My role allows me to spend time out on the water whilst requiring me to review the latest kayaks and kayaking gear, and when I'm not working you will usually find me doing some fishing from my kayak out on some lake somewhere!