Best Kayaks for Beginners – By Experts

Picking your first kayak is challenging. You’ll be all excited until you go through the specs of the available kayaks and see some complicated terminologies that don’t make any sense to you whatsoever! 

We’ve all been there! Fortunately, you found your way to this guide; it’s our turn now to deliver the best kayak for beginners to you. 

In this list, we reviewed the very best vessels that every angler picks from when they’re starting out this unique sport. Also, we made sure to tell you how to decide the specs that are more suitable for you. Accordingly, you’ll be able to make the right decision.

Comparison Table: 

ModelTypeMaterial  DimensionsMaximum Capacity Weight 
Intex Challenger K1Inflatable30-Gauge vinyl108 x 30 x 13 in.220 Ibs.25 lbs.
Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10 Foot Hardshell High-Density Fortiflex Polyethylene120 x 30 x 11 in.250 lbs. 44 lbs.
 Ocean Kayak Malibu XLHardshellSingle-layer polyethylene156 x 34 x 17 in.500 lbs.68 lbs.
Wilderness System Tarpon 120HardshellRotomolded polyethylene 147 x 30 x 13.75 in. 350 lbs.63 lbs.
Sevylor Quikpak K1 Inflatable21-Gauge PVC with tarpaulin bottom103 x 36 x 30 in.400 lbs.18 lbs.

The 5 Best Kayaks for Beginners in 2020

1. Intex Challenger K1 – Best Inflatable Kayak 

Intex Challenger K1

The Intex Challenger K1 is an excellent option for beginners because it’s portable, affordable, and easy to store. It’s also made from high-quality materials. 

The braided 30-gauge vinyl is a rigid plastic that can handle the rough turns, especially with beginners who might have some difficulties when it comes to maneuvering the kayak. Moreover, it’s UV-protected, so you can use it for hours on a sunny day without the color being affected.

Being a sit-in kayak, it doesn’t offer the maximum onboard space possible, but it has a decent capacity. The cargo net that’s located in front of the seat is convenient for keeping all the fishing gear you’ll need. 

Another thing that makes the kayak one of the best options for beginners is the high stability. The l-beam floor significantly enhances the balance of the kayak in the water. You can even stand up inside the kayak without taking a sudden dive into the water. 

The extras that come with the Intex Challenger K1 add more value to the money you pay. Although the oar that’s included in the package isn’t the best you can get, it’ll get the job done. It comes with its own pump, so the inflation process is hassle-free. 

The kayak is one of the most durable options on the market, and it comes with a 90-day warranty. You can extend the warranty if you want and surprisingly, it won’t cost you much more. If anything, this shows how much the company trusts the quality of their products. 

Pros: 

  • Made of high-quality materials 
  • UV-protected 
  • Lightweight and portable 
  • Decent storage space with a cargo net 
  • Comes with a pump and an oar  

Cons: 

  • The oar quality could be better 

Our Verdict 

The Intex Challenger K1 is an outstanding kayak for beginners. It has a good price, you can easily transport it, and it’s quite stable. It’s a one-person kayak, so it doesn’t offer ample storage space. Still, you’ll be able to take all the necessary equipment. 


2. Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10 Foot – Best Value for Money 

Sun Dolphin Bali

This is another great option for beginners owing to the stability, durability, and the robust construction. It’s made from high-density fortiflex polyethylene, which makes it resilient and protects it from the hazards of saltwater. 

The kayak is much lighter than other models that are made from the same material. It’s a one-person kayak, so you shouldn’t expect a high weight capacity. However, 250 lbs. is enough to take all your necessities. Not to mention, there’s a dry storage compartment for all the valuables that should stay away from the water like phones or cameras. 

The Sun Dolphin Bali SS is a stable kayak. Its stability comes at the expense of speed, but it’s safer for beginners to keep the speed low anyway. It’s wide and easy to get in and out of. You can easily move it through lakes and calm waters. 

Comfort is guaranteed thanks to the wide seating area. Also, it comes with protective pads and foot braces to keep you safe. Paddling is quite easy with a high level of control.  

There’s a shock cord deck rigging included in the package. Also, it comes with a P.A.C. (Portable Accessory Carrier) that you can remove from the kayak and tow it behind. Moreover, you can choose between various colors, including blue and orange, so we’re sure you can find a vessel that suits your taste. 

Pros: 

  • Strong construction 
  • Relatively portable 
  • Offers a smooth paddling experience
  • Excellent stability 
  • Pocket-friendly 
  • Comes with multiple accessories 
  • Available in a variety of colors

Cons: 

  • A slow vessel 
  • Prone to some scratching 

Our Verdict 

If you want a sturdy, yet affordable, sit-on-top kayak then the Sun Dolphin Bali SS should be on the top of your list. Its high stability makes it great for beginners who might struggle with balancing themselves while the kayak is moving. 


3. Ocean Kayak Malibu XL – Best Tandem Option

Ocean Kayak Malibu

Ocean Kayaks suit all types of anglers. You can keep using this kayak even when you gain more experience and start looking for more professional requirements. The kayak is made from a single layer of polyethylene and features a skid plate that protects the boat against rocks and rough edges.

The length of the kayak is 13 feet. This indicates that it’s extremely stable. The seats are adjustable, and they feature the Comfort Plus padding that’s popular with most of Ocean’s kayaks. Actually, they can be adjusted in four ways, so you can find a good position on your long trips. 

The foot braces are extremely supportive, and you can paddle effortlessly. What’s more, the molded-in side handles will make it easier for you to get the kayak into and out of the water. The storage capacity is up to 500 lbs., so you won’t have any issues with accommodating your own equipment as well as your partner’s. 

You’ll get plenty of extra accessory with the Ocean Kayak Malibu XL, including 2 paddle holders, 2 Scotty rod holders, a cross lock center hatch, a deck bungee, and stem toggle handles. 

One thing that makes the Ocean Malibu one of the best kayaks for beginners is that it comes with a lifetime warranty. If anything goes wrong with the kayak, the company will fix it, so you’ll be investing your money in the right place. 

Pros: 

  • Excellent build quality 
  • Comfortable seats and supportive foot braces 
  • Plenty of accessories 
  • Ample storage 
  • Lifetime warranty 

Cons: 

  • Relatively heavy 
  • The paddles are sold separately 

Our Verdict

The Ocean Kayak Malibu XL is an excellent tandem kayak for beginners. It comes with many accessories and a lifetime warranty. Moreover, it’s comfortable, stable, and it comes with plenty of storage space.  


4. Wilderness System Tarpon 120 – Best Security 

Wilderness System Tarpon 120

Safety is a major concern when you’re a beginner. This is why we thought you’d appreciate the Wilderness System Tarpon 120. It’s one of the most convenient options when you’re still experimenting and trying to get the hang of things. 

The paddling system features a user-friendly interface. The Keepers foot braces are designed to ensure your safety while paddling. Moreover, the kayak comes with self-bailing scupper holes. They work on getting rid of the extra water and constantly keep the vessel dry. With all that being said, the unit is one of the most secure options to opt for.

This kayak is also extremely comfortable. It features a high-quality seating area with a Phase 3 AirPro seat that’s quite cozy. It offers a customizable fit for any size, and you can adjust it to get a taller seat profile. This will make casting much easier because you’ll be able to view the surface from a higher point. 

A storage of 350 lbs. is quite generous for a one-person kayak. Also, it’s equipped with a DryTec removable box. You can keep your electronics safe even with the strongest water currents and be sure that the water won’t reach any of the valuables that you keep in the hatch. 

There’s a dual SlideTrax Accessory Rail system that offers a top-notch quality. It comes with beveled corners and top-loading access that allows easier installation of accessories. Moreover, you’ll get bungee paddle holders for your convenience. We don’t think the kayak could possibly be more versatile.

Pros: 

  • High stability 
  • Built-in tracking system
  • Features Phase 3 AirPro adjustable seat 
  • User-friendly paddling interphase 
  • A MagnaTec magnetic water bottle strap system 
  • The SlideTrax accessory rail is customizable 
  • DryTec removable box for storing wallets and phones

Cons: 

  • Not suitable for white water 
  • Lacks flush mount rod holders 

Our Verdict 

The Wilderness System Tarpon 120 has a lot to offer. It’s amazing when it comes to safety, and it has many cool features that add plenty of value. It might be a little too expensive, but it’s still under $1000, which is quite reasonable for a high-quality kayak.


5. Sevylor Quikpak K1 – Best Storage Capacity

Sevylor Quikpak K1

This kayak is one of the most compact models on the list. It’s made from 21-gauge PVC. Also, it features a tarpaulin bottom, which can withstand rough rocks and protect the boat from puncture. This secures a place for it among the durable kayaks for beginners. 

The Sevylor Quikpak K1 features a sit-on-top seat that can be adjusted according to your favorite position. The seat is quite comfortable, and the backrest allows you to lean as much as you want to. You can stay in it for many hours without worrying about backaches. The footrests are adjustable as well.

The storage capacity of the kayak is 400 lbs., which is a lot considering it’s a one-person kayak. One fear with such capacity is difficult maneuverability. However, the kayak is designed in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the speed or the directionality despite the ample storage space. 

This kayak can’t tolerate strong water currents. It can handle some rough water but nothing extreme. It offers a much better performance in calmer water streams. 

The included high-pressure pump will enable you to inflate the kayak in less than 5 minutes. It comes with double lock valves that make the inflating and deflating processes as easy as possible. It’s lightweight, and once you deflate it, you’ll be able to fit it right into your backpack.

There are multiple air chambers to ensure safety if one of them got punctured. Although the warranty is extended for 90 days only, there’s a big chance you won’t need it, to begin with. 

Pros: 

  • Comfortable seat with adjustable backrest
  • Multiple air chambers to ensure safety 
  • Robust construction 
  • Compact design 
  • Comes with the necessary accessories 
  • Affordable

Cons: 

  • Can’t withstand strong water currents 

Our Verdict 

If you’re looking for a lightweight and affordable kayak that you can use for a nearby lake or river, then the Sevylor Quikpak K1 is a great option. It has a strong build, and easy set up, which make it one of the best kayaks for beginners.


How to Choose a Kayak

Material 

Beginners will inevitably go through a learning curve until they master kayaking. This is why it’s important to buy a durable kayak that can withstand a little abuse.

While choosing your kayak, you’ll come across 7 different materials. These include Kevlar, hard plastic, inflatable plastic, fiberglass, carbon fiber, fabric with a frame, and wood. 

Your best shot will be with hard plastic or fiberglass kayaks. However, a high-quality inflatable kayak will get the job done as well, and some models like the Intex Challenger K1, are quite durable. 

You should keep in mind that the hard plastic and wooden kayaks lie on the heavy-end whereas, the inflatable options are way more portable. 

The fiberglass kayaks are lightweight, but they tend to be more expensive than their plastic counterparts. On the other hand, Kevlar and carbon fiber kayaks offer a lightweight, but they’re really expensive, which is not necessary when you’re still a beginner. 

Stability 

The last thing you need when you’re starting out is to keep tipping over and fall into the water. Accordingly, choosing a stable kayak is essential for every beginner. 

The stability can be divided into two types. The first one is the primary stability, which refers to how stable the kayak is when it comes to low-motion activities. In other words, it’s how the kayak performs in calm water, while you’re entering or exiting the kayak, and when you’re just sitting still in it. 

The other type is the secondary stability. It denotes how the vessel performs when going through rough or white-water or when you’re going at high speed. 

Please keep in mind that the design of the kayak has a big influence on its stability. If you decide to go with a flatter hull, the stability will be significantly enhanced. However, you’ll be sacrificing the maneuverability because a flatter hull is harder to turn around. 

Dimensions 

Determining the right length is a major step that will have a big impact on your experience. It’s more of a customized choice within certain boundaries. It all comes down to your height and what you need the kayak for. 

Generally speaking, longer vessels are great for speeding and tracking. Meanwhile, it’s better to stick to shorter vessels if you prioritize maneuverability. 

Also, wider kayaks are more suitable for beginners. Not only are they more stable, but they are easier to climb into and get out of. Of course, you’ll have to settle for a lower speed with the wide models, and they might be a little more difficult when it comes to paddling. 

Lastly, you should consider the appropriate depth. If you’re tall and you need some room for your legs, you must make sure that the kayak offers a good depth. A higher hull with a deep cockpit will give you all the space you need. Yet, you should keep in mind that it’ll make you more susceptible to elements like the wind and cold. 

Weight Capacity 

The kayak will not only accommodate you but your fishing gear as well. You should never go over the weight advised by the manufacturer. Having a decent storage space will allow you to bring all the tools you want and have a comfortable trip. 

On the other hand, if you crowd the kayak, it’ll become unstable, and you’ll be putting your life on the edge, especially if you’re using it in fast water. 

Final Thoughts

Kayaking is one of the most enjoyable outdoor activities. It allows you to exercise some muscles and get a good rush of adrenaline through your systems. 

The first step in getting ready to hit the water is to choose the right vessel that stands up to your expectations. Going through a list of available kayaks won’t do you any good if you don’t know what you’re looking for. 

To make things easier, we narrowed it down to a couple of the best kayaks that suit beginners. An inflatable kayak like the Intex Challenger K1 will be easier to transport and also more affordable than the hardshell options. 

If you prefer a solid vessel, then the Sun Dolphin Bali SS 10 Foot will be great. However, it can only fit one person.

Accordingly,if you’ll have company like an instructor or someone who has more experience, the Ocean Kayak Malibu XL will be a better way to go.

Categories Kayaks