Choosing a Kayak
by Kealy McNeal
If you are interested in purchasing a kayak, it is important to choose the right vessel for your budget and paddling plans. The difference between recreational and touring kayaks can be perplexing. Some people think of recreational kayaks as cheap touring kayaks, and they are correct – to a certain extent. Touring kayaks are often more expensive since, in addition to being constructed from better materials, they have more features. But price is not the only difference. The two kayak categories are designed with separate purposes in mind.
Recreational kayaks are usually constructed of polyethylene, and are 10 to 12 feet long and 27 to 30 inches wide at the cockpit, giving them extra stability. They’re used mainly by beginners and anyone planning to fish or take photographs from their boat without rocking too much. However, the cheaper materials do come with a downside. Recreational boats are heavier than touring kayaks, which are often constructed from carbon fiber or similarly lightweight composites.
Touring kayaks are considered an upgrade. They are longer, thinner, and packed with features that appeal to serious kayakers who want to paddle faster and farther. One of the biggest differences between touring and recreational kayaks is the hull design. Touring kayaks are designed to track well in strong currents and increase lift in rough water so they don’t get swamped by waves. They can be less stable and harder to maneuver than recreational models.
The choice between a recreational kayak and a touring kayak really comes down to the environment you intend to use it in. We are happy to advise, if you need help making a decision.
Ocean Tribe Outfitters is a branch of Sanibel Sea School that helps the local paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit oceantribeoutfitters.org or follow us on Facebook to learn more.