What are the Different Types of Kayaks?

New to the joys of kayaking? Ready to dip the paddle for an early early-morning slide into the wild and the wonderful, the water just beyond the city limits sign? At first glance, but for the kaleidoscopic colors, a kayak is a kayak is a kayak. In these small watercraft, however, little differences of type can mean big differences in design, each dedicated to a specific set of planned uses. You, pristine paddler, take the wrong model out on the water, and your experience will be at best frustrating, at worst dangerous.

So here we go. Kayaking 101. The primer pre-test-paddle on a boat from a rental shop. Some basic stuff to take to the store with you, your spouse, your kids, your know-it-all friends ready to once more tell you what’s what.

Kayak styles float back and forth between 1) intended purpose and 2) the sort of lake, river, creek, bay, or sea on which you’ll be using your new waterborne best friend. The terminology cuts across all kayaks, all the stores you’ll shop, online and elsewhere, and all the sales staff encountered therein.

Recreational Kayaks

Stable, hard to spill, easy to paddle, easy on the wallet, seldom extending beyond a dozen feet in length, recreational yaks belong on protected bays, smaller lakes, and larger ponds. Not especially perfect in currents, winds, or waves, these boats remain the most popular, most frequently purchased kind of kayak.

Touring Kayaks

The performance ups itself right here. The price too. So does the length, now sixteen feet and more. Only the beam lessens, narrower now as your skill has increased. You’re feeling a need for speed, a willingness to take on more challenging paddling or pedaling conditions, perhaps a wish to travel longer distances.

These boats will serve you well on an hour’s-long lark, but will also serve for a serious fishing platform. More of which right now.

Fishing Kayaks

The accessorizing matters most here. Fishing kayaks will bring along all the extras important to anglers: rod holders, bait wells, extra storage space to hold the gear that defines the serious angler. Look for stability, stability, stability in your fishing yak.

Whitewater Kayaks

The name says it all. Designed just for the navigation of raging rivers, these kayaks are short little guys, with curved bottoms. And tough. Tough as hell. 

Inflatable Kayaks

Little storage space in your garage? A Tercel parked there rather than a Tundra? Not to worry about that worrisome adjective: inflatable kayaks these days offer durability, versatility, a surprising sort of performance on the water. Lower your expectations, however. You’re trading convenience on dry land for fewer features and benefits on Lake You.