Gear Guide: Kayaks Part I

Knowing the basics will help you choose the right kayak for your paddling lifestyle. 

Knowing the basics will help you choose the right kayak for your paddling lifestyle. 

Kayaks are believed to have been invented by the Inuits – far, far away from Southwest Florida. The original Inuit kayaks had wooden frames, were very narrow, and were wrapped in the skin of a marine or land mammal. Needless to say, kayaks have changed in 4,000 years. They now come in many styles and materials, and can serve many different purposes. There are only a few that should be considered by those who want to kayak in our region. 

Recreational touring kayaks are often the best option for beginners because they tend to cost less and are generally more user-friendly. They are longer from bow to stern than river kayaks, lending stability and efficiency, and tend to be made from plastic. Some recreational touring kayaks are assembled by gluing a top piece to a bottom piece. Others are rotomolded – crafted from melted plastic that is injected into and hardened in a mold. The latter is more durable. 

Recreational touring kayaks are available in sit-in and sit on top models. While personal preference is important, sit on top kayaks are more forgiving for the beginner as they do not fill with water. There are holes throughout the hull of the kayak through which water can drain in the case of a large wave or a capsize. These holes are called scuppers. Scupper plugs can be purchased for winter paddling to prevent cold water from chilling the seating area. 

Sit-in kayaks can fill with water, but will leave you dryer (barring any major mishaps) at the end of the day. These have a cockpit in which one sits. They tend to have more dry storage, and some will have dry storage hatches. These hatches can also serve as flotation points in case the primary cockpit fills with water. 

We will continue our overview of kayaks next week. Happy Paddling!

Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club hosted by Sanibel Sea School that helps the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit or follow us on Facebook to learn more.