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A Kayak Buying Guide

With the weather warming up, now is a great time to purchase a kayak! But if you’re new to kayaking or have only been out on the water recreationally, knowing which type of kayak to purchase can be a challenge. With the variety of styles and prices out there, navigating the details on your own is difficult. So we sat down with one of our Kayak Specialists, Noah Osborne, to discuss what customers should consider when purchasing a kayak.

BUDGET
Almost everyone who is shopping for a kayak has a budget in mind. When looking at kayaks, realize that although many kayaks look alike, they are not all created equal. From materials to design and features, you can spend from hundreds to many thousands on your “boat”. Here are the keys for finding your best fit.

COMFORT SHOULD BE A PRIORITY
One of the most important things to consider is the comfort of the seat. “One of the biggest differences between an inexpensive kayak ($500-$700) and a $1,000 and up kayak is the seat,” Osborne said. “A less expensive kayak often has a molded plastic seat with a thin cushion over the top. It isn’t going to take long in a kayak like this before a person is going to have a sore backside. The higher-end kayaks have more cushion, more adjustment, and often a frame that offers more support, resulting in the kayaker spending hours on the water without being in pain. If a person is planning to spend hours at a time on the water, it is best to buy a kayak that comes with a comfortable seat. A more expensive seat is also breathable so it dries much faster.”

A SEALED HATCH
Another key feature is a sealed hatch — this is a compartment separated by a bulkhead between the cockpit and the bow or stern of your kayak. “A sealed hatch often has a foam bulkhead so everything in that compartment can be sealed and protected from the elements. Clothing, fishing gear, and other things can easily be stored in a sealed hatch. Not all kayaks have this. If a person plans to spend a lot of time on the water, this is a must-have feature. A foam bulkhead is also safer because it traps air and adds buoyancy to the kayak.”

DID SOMEONE MENTION FISHING?
Fishing from a kayak is becoming increasingly popular! The stability provided by the pontoon hull design of fishing kayaks makes standing up safer. They also offer a variety of additional features. “Fishing kayaks typically have a premium seat. Many of them also come with tracks on them that allow the angler to attach rod holders, fish finders, cameras, and a variety of other accessories,” Osborne added.

One of the most popular features for anglers is the pedal-drive system that allows for hands-free navigating. “With the pedal-driven kayaks, you have a pedal system similar to a paddle boat so the angler’s hands can be used to cast a fishing rod and do others things. So many more people are purchasing pedal-drive kayaks because they are so much fun to use,” Osborne noted.

HULL DESIGN
Another important feature to consider is hull design or the “shape” of the boat. Some hulls offer maneuverability, catering to winding rivers, while others offer efficiency making the kayak “track” from point A to point B in a straighter line. Knowing how you plan on using your kayak can help our kayak specialists assist you in finding the right hull design for your plans.

WHAT ABOUT THE PADDLE?
When selecting a kayak, do not forget about the paddle! “A paddle is often an item that is overlooked by people shopping for a kayak,” Osborne stated. “Many people just grab any paddle off the rack and don’t give it much thought. A heavy aluminum paddle can cause fatigue over time. People should purchase the lightest paddle they can afford. Another thing to consider is the shape of the blade. A cheaper paddle is often square and will flutter in the water which makes paddling more difficult. A good paddle has a curved blade that makes paddling fun and easy.”

Choosing a new kayak can be a little overwhelming to newer kayakers. So spend a little time ranking which features are most important to you, and then stop by Earth’s Edge to speak with one of our kayak specialists. “It is always best if people come into Earth’s Edge and look at a few of the options we have available and let us help them select the perfect kayak for their budget and needs. Collectively the staff here has decades of experience using and selling kayaks,” Osborne explained.

Our Grand Haven store is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Sunday from noon until 5 p.m.

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