How Do I Know What Size Kayak Is Good for Me?

How Do I Know What Size Kayak Is Good for Me?
Kayaking has become a sport with many styles and choices. There are many styles of kayaks now available, and within each type there are a variety of styles and lengths to choose from. Narrowing down your style of paddling will help in making a decision as to the proper length you will need.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Kayak
  • Paddle
  • Paddle leash
  • Personal flotation device
Step 1
Evaluate the style of paddling you will be doing, as this will have a huge impact on the length of the kayak you use. Also,the specifications for the various kayaks. Overall length is the measurement from stem to stern. Waterline length is the length that is in the water. In any case, the longer the waterline length the quicker the kayak is capable of being paddled.
Step 2
Heading out for an extended trip, look at touring or sea kayaks. These are the longest kayaks out there. Lengths on these are generally from 17 feet to 20 feet. A double cockpit touring kayak can easily go over 20 feet in length. Touring kayaks are fully enclosed, with a small cockpit opening. They also have watertight compartments both fore and aft for storage.
Step 3
Paddling for a day, or just a couple of days, the best choice is the class of recreational kayaks. Sizes on these will run from about 9 feet to 16 feet. Generally they are also a little wider than touring kayaks. Recreational kayaks may be fully enclosed like a touring kayak, but they may also be open, and even have "sit on" tops.
Step 4
Choose surf kayaks if your are hitting the waves and surf. They are similar to recreational kayaks, but most often they are "sit on" top kayaks, and are a little wider than recreational kayaks. Surf kayaks are in the range of 8 feet to 12 feet.
Step 5
Rocketing though rapids and white water, select white water kayaks. They are the shorties of the boats, and can be as short as 4 feet, but may be as long as 8 feet. They are designed to be very maneuverable and quick.

Tips & Warnings

Some stores have "paddle day" where you can try various kayaks.
Always wear a personal flotation device.

Article Written By Andy McVeigh

Andy McVeigh lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is an avid outdoors enthusiast who enjoys paddling, biking, hiking, backpacking, camping, scuba diving and photography. McVeigh is a graduate of Northern Arizona University and is currently working on his MBA.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.