8 Best Kayaks for Beginners in 2019

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So, you’ve decided that you want to pick up kayaking and now you’re ready to take the big step and buy your own boat. This is no small task— there are many, many factors that go into this decision. We know that this process can be stressful, but that’s why we’re here to help. We’ve gone ahead and broken down everything you’ll need to know about buying a kayak and also included our top eight recommendations. Before you dive into this guide, you need to be sure you know how to kayak first.

Best Kayaks for Beginners Reviews 

Old Town Topwater 106 Kayak

Old Town Topwater 106 Kayak

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Dimensions

  • Length: 10 ft 6 in
  • Width: 34.5 in
  • Weight: 73 lb
  • Weight capacity: 440 lb

Pros

  • Wallet-friendly
  • Lightweight
  • Very stable

The Old Town Topwater 106 is one of our top choices for the best fishing kayaks for beginners. This boat is straightforward and to-the-point— what you see is what you get. It has the perfect marriage of stability and performance, offering a comfortable platform to stand on and an overall successful trip out on the water. It features three rod holders, high/low position seating options, a universal transducer mounting system, oversized stern tank well, and onboard tackle and rod storage.

Feelfree Lure 10 Kayak

Feelfree Lure 10 Kayak

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Dimensions

  • Length: 10 ft
  • Width: 36 in
  • Weight: 69 lb
  • Weight capacity: 375 lb

Pros

  • Ultra-stable
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not very versatile
  • Not a lot of storage space or accessory mounts

The Feelfree Lure 10 is another great option for beginners that are looking for a simple kayak for casual expeditions. This short and wide boat offers an ultra-stable platform that provides kayakers with a secure and comfortable experience. It features a removable multi-level, multi-position extra wide seat, a wheel in the keel for easy transport, integrated bow, stern and side carry handles, two fishing rod holders, and a track system.

The downside of this boat, however, is that it’s not very versatile. The Feelfree Lure 10 is designed for short trips on rivers and lakes, not for adventurous trips on the ocean waters or all-day touring outings.

Jonny Boats Bass 100 Angler Kayak

Jonny Boats Bass 100 Angler Kayak

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Dimensions 

  • Length: 10 ft
  • Width: 35.5 in
  • Weight: 77 lb
  • Weight capacity: 400 lb

Pros

  • Wallet-friendly
  • Very stable
  • Comfortable

Cons

  • Few accessory mounts
  • Limited storage space

The Jonny Boat Bass 100 is a blast from the past. This is a great beginner fishing kayak because it offers perks from both the simple days and the modern present. Its design is based on the classic “Jon” boat, which “blends the classic concept with modern boat and kayak technology.”

The Jonny Boat Bass 100 has a short and wide platform, offering anglers a stable platform to stand on. It features an adjustable seating system, two flush-mounted rod holders, front Uni-Track rails for mounting accessories, oversized rear tank well storage area with bungee tie down system, and integrated sturdy side and bow and stern handles.

Wilderness Systems Radar 115 Kayak

Wilderness Systems Radar 115 Kayak

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Dimensions

  • Length: 11 ft 8 in
  • Width: 34.5 in
  • Weight: 82 lb
  • Weight capacity: 450 lb

Pros

  • Stable
  • Many accessory mounts

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • Not a lot of storage space
  • Not very user-friendly for first-time anglers

The Wilderness Systems Radar 115 is a great fishing kayak, combining the ideal mix of stability, performance, maneuverability, and responsiveness. It can be used with a traditional paddle or the Helix MD Motor Drive if you need some extra power. It features a fully removable pod, three adjustable seat positions, SlideTrax rails, front paddle park, multiple hatches, and tank well storage.

We like the Wilderness Systems Radar 115; however, beginners may find it a bit complicated to use because of the motor. Also, there isn’t a lot of storage space on board and it’s a bit expensive.

Hobie Mirage Compass Kayak 2019

Hobie Mirage Compass Kayak 2019

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Dimensions 

  • Length: 12 ft
  • Width: 34 in
  • Weight: 87 lb
  • Weight capacity: 400 lb

Pros

  • Ample storage space
  • Highly maneuverable

Cons

  • Not very versatile
  • Expensive

The Hobie Mirage Compass is the newest addition to the Hobie fleet. This fishing kayak is simple yet reliable. Anglers can easily glide through the water all while feeling stable and secure. It features a breathable mesh seat, an oversized cockpit and flat deck for standing, a pedal system, two molded-in rod holders, H-Track accessory mounts, and a transducer cavity ready to install a fishfinder. Unfortunately, the downside of the Hobie Mirage Compass is that it’s expensive. So, if you’re on a budget, you’ll likely want to pass this one up.

Native Watercraft Titan 13.5 Propel Kayak

Native Watercraft Titan 13.5 Propel Kayak

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Dimensions 

  • Length: 13 ft 6 in
  • Width: 41.5 in
  • Weight: 178 lb
  • Weight capacity: 500 lb

Pros

  • Ultra-stable
  • Ample storage space

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Heavy
  • Difficult to maneuver

The Native Titan Propel is a monster of a fishing boat. As we said before, the shorter and wider the kayak, the more stable it is. However, this boat’s extremely wide platform makes up for its length, offering an ultra-stable platform and ample storage space. It includes two Power Pole mounts for dual anchoring, a seat that can be slid all the way to the back, a large front hatch with cover, and horizontal rod storage.

We’re not going to hide it, this boat is very, very expensive. If you’re looking for something that’s easy on the wallet, this is not the one for you. But if you do have the cash, this is a great choice.

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 Kayak 

Hobie Mirage Pro Angler 12 Kayak 2019

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Dimensions 

  • Length: 12 ft
  • Width: 36 in
  • Weight: 128.5 lb
  • Weight capacity: 500 lb

Pros

  • Tons of accessory mounts
  • Ample storage space
  • Stable

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Heavy
  • Difficult to maneuver

The Hobie Mirage Pro Angler is a versatile fishing kayak that has everything an angler could ever need. It features the Hobie Mirage Drive 180 with Turbo Fins, a retractable rudder system, vantage seating with back support, 2 vertical rod holders, 4 horizontal rod holders, a two-Piece Paddle and T-Handle, a rectangular hatch with pivoting tackle management system, large front hatch, under-seat tackle storage, and easy fishfinder installation. We can’t think of anything else you’ll need.

This boat is even more expensive than the Native Titan Propel, but in this scenario, you pay for what you get, and with the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler, you get a lot. But as we said with the other expensive boats we’ve reviewed, if you have a tight budget, the Hobie Mirage Pro Angler is not the way to go.

Dagger Green Boat

Dagger Green Boat

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Dimensions

  • Length: 11 ft 9 in
  • Width: 24.25 in
  • Weight: 55 lb
  • Weight capacity: 260 lb

Pros

  • User-friendly and simple
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not stable
  • Not versatile

The Dagger Green Boat may be the simplest, to-the-point boat out there. This boat is designed for performance and covering long distances. It features an adjustable tank style rotomolded creek seat, security grab handles, adjustable hip pads, a ratchet adjustable back band, an adjustable bulkhead foot brace, and a precision thigh brace.

While this is a good kayak for skilled beginners, there are three main drawbacks of the Dagger Green Boat. First, it’s long and narrow body doesn’t offer the same level of stability as the other kayaks we reviewed, making it less ideal for first-timers. Second, this kayak is not versatile, as it’s not designed for stability, but rather for covering ground. And third, the price tag is a bit steep for what you get (or lack thereof). So, for these three reasons, we’re putting the Dagger Green Boat last on our list.

What Makes a Great First Kayak?

These are two features you don’t want to compromise on if you’re just getting started are stability and durability. The truth is that you’re going to take some tumbles and make mistakes as you learn. That’s just a part of the sport. So, you want to choose a kayak that’s forgiving of this.

What Features Should a Beginner Consider?    

Sit-On-Top vs. Sit-In Kayak 

Sit-On-Top

Sit-on-top kayaks, or SOTs, have, as the name suggests, the person sitting on the surface of the boat. They’re used primarily for recreational boating on lakes and easy-flowing rivers. They’re great for beginners, particularly because in the event that the boat capsizes, the kayaker doesn’t need to perform a wet exit. Also, SOTs are easier to get into after capsizing because the paddler doesn’t need to re-enter into a deep cockpit. They simply just need to get back on top of the boat.

Sit-In

On the other hand, sit-in kayaks have the paddler sitting inside the boat, in an enclosed cockpit. This provides for greater control. They’re commonly used for ocean kayaking or touring on more aggressive waters, such as fast-moving rivers and oceans, but can be used on other types of waters as well.

Sit-in kayaks are great in particular for protecting you from the elements, such as cold water and wind. However, they’re more prone to capsizing and more difficult to perform a self-rescue in the event that it does, making them less ideal for beginners.

Stability

Because beginners have less experience on the water and do not possess the same skills are more advanced kayakers, stability is crucial. In fact, it may be the most important feature for beginner kayakers to consider.

The stability of a kayak is determined by a number of things, particularly the length and width of the boat. A general rule of thumb is that the wider and shorter the boat, the more stable it is, and vice versa— the longer and more narrow the boat, the less stable it is.

Type of Kayak 

Kayaking can be used for fishing, surfing, touring, camping, recreation, and much more, and the environment that you’ll be using it has a big impact on the particular one you should purchase. So, it’s very important to consider where you’ll be boating when you make this decision.

Lakes

For small, quiet lakes with nice, calm weather, both sit-on-top kayaks and sit-in kayaks will work just as well, considering that the weather and water conditions are fair.

Oceans/Seas

When deciding the type of kayak to get for ocean kayaking, you need to take into consideration the water and air conditions, such as waves, wind, tides, and currents. Because all of these elements are unpredictable, it’s safer to choose a sit-in kayak to provide more protection from these elements.

Rivers 

Just as ocean waters are unpredictable, so are rivers and other fast-moving waters. For floating along on slow-moving rivers, sit-on-top kayaks work well. However, for fast-moving waters, such as whitewater, you’ll need that extra layer of protection that sit-ins offer.

Hull Design

The hull is the bottom shape of a boat. There are a few different shapes, and each one has an impact on the kayak’s stability and performance. In general, the flatter the hull, the more stable the kayak is.

Flat 

Flat hulls offer the kayaker great maneuverability and stability, making them especially ideal for beginners.

Rounded 

Rounded hulls allow for greater speed and easier travel through the water. These are a good choice for beginners that are looking for a bit more performance without compromising on stability.

Pontoon

Like flat hulls, pontoon hulls are very stable, making them a great choice for beginners. They generally tend to be slower, however.

V-Shaped

V-shaped hulls cut through the water, allowing the kayak to travel in a straight line more easily. Kayaks with this shape are great for touring and covering long distances. However, stability is not their main goal, so beginners may feel a bit uncomfortable.

Storage

The amount of storage you want your kayak to have comes down to personal preference. If you’re planning on spending long days out on the water, it’s a good idea to choose a boat that has enough room to store the things you’ll need, such as food, water, and supplies. The same applies for fishing— you’ll want a kayak that can hold your bait, tackle, rods, fishfinders, etc.

Inflatable vs. Hardshell 

Inflatable Kayaks

Inflatable kayaks, as the name suggests, require the boat to be inflated before and deflated after use. Because of this, they’re great for transportation. Some inflatable kayaks can be rolled up so small to fit into a duffle bag or large backpack. But don’t be fooled by the fact that they’re filled with air, these kayaks are incredibly strong and durable, sometimes even more so than hardshell kayaks.

Inflatable kayaks are made from drop-stitch technology, in which small fibers are woven into the inside of the board. When the kayak is inflated, those fibers are stretched and almost interlock, providing the kayak’s rigidity and making you feel as though you’re standing on a hard surface. And when the kayak is deflated, the two layers of the fibers rest almost completely flat, allowing you to roll it tightly.

Drop-stitch technology works in the same way as a bridge. The bridge’s support beams connect the bridge itself to the ground, holding it up. This is the same concept for drop-stitch technology, in which the fibers connect the top and bottom of the board, holding it up.

Hardshell Kayaks

Hardshell kayaks are the traditional type of kayak. They’re usually made from glass composites, such as mixtures of carbon fiber, Kevlar, and fiberglass, or rotomolded plastic. They also have a hard shell on the outside, usually made from durable plastics like polyethylene, that’s able to withstand wear and tear, leading to a longer life.

The best thing about these kayaks is that they’re ready to go. There’s no need to inflate or deflate them before and after your expedition. However, this is also a big drawback. Hardshell kayaks are heavier than inflatables and cannot be rolled up into a backpack, making them much harder to transport.

Budget

One of the biggest and most important considerations to make when purchasing a kayak is your budget. Kayaks are not cheap—they can range as low as $40 to a few thousand. So, before you make your purchase, consider how much are you willing to spend.

Keep in mind that the amount of money you’re going to spend varies depending on the kayak you’re buying. Also, just because a kayak costs more, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s higher quality or the best choice for you. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference.

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