Don't break the bank on your first kayak.
By Trent Jonas
If you're interested in buying a kayak for the first time, you probably don't want to spend a whole lot of money right off that bat—not until you get a feel for the sport, anyway. If you're just starting out, you'll likely also want a boat that's forgiving and handles well under moderate, flatwater conditions. With those things in mind, check out these six affordable kayaks that make a great access point for beginner paddlers.
The Bandit 100 NXT from Pelican is a one-person, sit-on-top kayak that is perfect for recreational, flat water paddling. It’s open deck and bungee-protected storage well even offer enough room for fishing, if you’re so inclined. At 10 feet long, the Bandit 100 NXT is small enough for easy steering and handling for beginning paddlers. The kayak’s twin-arched, multi-chine hall make the boat super stable, so beginners can get a feel for the vessel—and for paddling—without having to worry about tipping over. Molded footrests and a padded backrest will help to make for a comfortable paddle, as well. With the kayak’s retail price under $300, your wallet won’t suffer much discomfort either.
Beginning paddlers who want to get started with kayak fishing will find all they need in the Sound 10.5 from Perception. The Sound 10.5’s short design—less than 11 feet long—makes it easy to handle in just about any flat-water paddling situation and the tri-keel hull offers additional stability and smooth tracking in the water, while the boat’s under-$500 price tag makes it easy to handle financially. As far as the features that make the Sound 10.5 an ideal beginning kayak for anglers, the boat has a closed foredeck to protect you from the elements and an open, bungee-corded aft storage well for easy access to your gear. A dashboard with mounting points for accessories like a fish finder or a GPS unit is built into the deck at the front of the cockpit. Two molded-in rod holders allow for hands-free fishing while you paddle.
Beginning paddlers who are looking for an inflatable kayak option should check out the Sea Eagle 300x Explorer. Although you may find it to be a little more expensive than comparable rigid-hull kayaks, if you buy one of the Explorer packages, which include a paddle, pump, carrying bag, deluxe seat, and other package-dependent accessories, you’ll find the cost of ownership to be in line with that of similar boats. The 300x Explorer comes in at just under 10 feet, which makes for easy handling. Its beam width and rigid, drop stitch floor create superior stability, so you can even stand up in the kayak while angling. The kayak also ships with a removable rear center skeg to ensure smooth tracking in deeper flatwater (you’ll want to take it in the shallows or in whitewater). For those interested in exploring whitewater, the 300x Explorer is rated to handle rapids up to class IV—however, as a beginner, you’ll want to start with something a lot less gnarly.
For beginning kayak anglers who prefer a sit-on-top design, the Lifetime Hydros Angler 85 may be the boat you’re looking for. The Hydros Angler is beamy, which offers plenty of stability for working on deck or fighting or dehooking or a fish. At less than 9 feet in length, it’s also easy to handle while underway. The Hydros Angler features two flush rod holders and one adjustable rod holder, as well as a bungee-secured storage well at the rear of the kayak. The Hydros Angler 85 comes with a paddle and costs less than $500.
The Heron 9 from Old Town is a great boat for beginning recreational paddlers. The short, beamy, sit-inside design offers excellent flatwater tracking and stability, while the foot-brace system and padded, Comfort-Flex seat will ensure a comfortable ride. Although not designed specifically for anglers, the Heron 9 does have two flush mounted rod holders, as well as a cup holder for those who are just looking to relax on the water. You can find the Old Town Heron 9 for less than $500.
Those who are looking for a true beginner boat in an inflatable package should check out the Tahaa kayak from European manufacturer Sevylor. The Tahaa is designed as a tandem kayak that can handle up to two passengers, as long as the combined total payload is less than 400 pounds. The design is stable, tracks well in flat water, and the kayak retails for less than $200. It’s a great inflatable starter boat for paddlers on a limited budget.