To get the fundamentals right, start by thinking about what sort of paddling you like to do most of the time. Of course, you can use pretty much any sea kayak from the Sea Kayaking UK range for most activities on the sea but some have been designed to excel in certain areas.
If you are going to vary your fun on the sea and want one kayak that “does it all” then choose a good all-rounder. If you mainly like to play in surf and around rocks, a boat that is easy to turn and with good stability is likely to be best. A faster kayak with plenty of space for equipment will be needed for expeditions.
Think about hatch sizes and the volume of each compartment – what do you need to carry? What will you need to access whilst on the water? Does the kayak have a day hatch that you can easily reach and that is big enough to contain all necessary equipment at sea?
If you are working through British Canoeing Personal Performance Awards you’ll need a sea kayak that enables you to demonstrate your skills with confidence. The ability to roll is likely to be important. Leaders, guides and coaches often have additional requirements as they carry extra kit that needs to be easily accessible. Optional features such as a foredeck hatch might be useful.
Comfort and sizing
Probably the most important aspect is personal comfort. It’s quite normal for a paddler to spend several hours without a break in a sea kayak and you need to be sure it is right for you. It’s really not necessary to be tightly fitted into a sea kayak all day long. You only need to “lock in” when you encounter agitated sea conditions such as surf or tidal races. It’s better to be free to move around a little inside the kayak most of the time. It will help to keep the blood flowing.
Size matters, and so does shape. People have frames that are of different proportions, especially hips, leg lengths and waist to shoulder heights. We will find you a kayak from our range that is comfortable. Together we will look at key factors including seat sizes, footrest positions and thigh brace positions. We can make modifications to get the kayak you want, either by having the kayak manufactured to a more precise fit or by using closed-cell foam padding, or a combination of both.
It’s important for you to read and understand the technical specification. Remember to check lengths (for storage) and weights (loading onto roof racks or carrying).
When I talk about manners, I’m referring to how the kayak reacts in wind and waves. Ideally, a sea kayak should turn gently towards the wind unaided. Turning away from the wind should be easy to achieve by using your body position (lean back) and placing a paddle blade in the water a little behind your hips. Understanding the effect of moving your body weight forward or back in the kayak makes it easier to understand why moving the seat forward or back can have a dramatic effect on how some sea kayaks behave. When you move the seat you are changing the static balance point (Centre of Lateral Resistance) and the effect may be dramatic – some designs are more sensitive than others.
Some manufacturers have designed and built sea kayaks that look modern and contemporary but in action can behave unpredictably. Sea Kayaking UK doesn’t allow seaworthiness to be compromised by fashion. All the kayaks are designed to be well balanced in all conditions – not just for flat water and light winds. A well-mannered kayak will look after you.
Stability is another expression widely discussed – both primary and secondary. Primary stability is a way of describing how “wobbly” (or not) a sea kayak feels when it’s upright and in calm conditions. Secondary stability describes how the sea kayak feels when placed “on edge” by the paddler – for example during a turn, or in moving water. For most people, a progressive change in stability is the easiest to work with. In very rough water and in the hands of an expert paddler, it’s arguable that the “on-off” stability transition of a hard-chine kayak provides greater control.
Make sure your kayak is strong enough for the purpose you want to use it for. Check reviews on the web, in magazines and ask other paddlers. Ensure the materials used and the construction method are conventional. Repairs can become expensive if the kayak is made from unusual materials and you are forced to use specialists if you damage it. If the kayak develops a fault, can it be sent to the factory for repair and at what cost?
It’s possible to reduce the weight significantly by choosing either a full Carbon/Kevlar, 50/50 or Elite construction. This will make lifting and carrying the kayak easier. It especially useful if you find loading onto a roof rack difficult. You will just need to take more care around rocks. If you want to learn more about weight saving options take a look at the Optional Features page.