Whether you’re looking for a new way to explore the nature around you or you’re itching to get back on your favorite water routes, investing in a kayak is a great choice. There are many different types, but this shouldn’t intimidate you. Getting into a kayak is easier than it seems once you know what to look for.
One feature or specification that you many have questions about is the length of a kayak. How does it impact your paddling experience? Is a longer kayak better? How do I figure out the right size kayak for me? We hear these questions a lot and wanted to provide some clarity.
How to Factor in Kayak Length
The most important thing you should consider when looking at kayaks is fit: does the kayak you’re considering fit you, where you’re planning to take it, and the body of water you’re using it in? Kayak length definitely impacts some of these factors, but it isn’t as big a player on its own in most cases.
Different types of kayaks are meant for different environments. After all, whitewater rafting requires a boat with vastly different proportions than one you’d take out on the lake. For river rapids you’d want a slightly shorter, more compact boat capable of making sharp turns easily, whereas on a lake or even in the ocean in some cases, you want something stable enough to not flip over on a whim.
Thankfully, categories of kayaks (i.e. recreational, touring, sea, fishing, etc.) usually take into account their environment and have balanced the ratio of maneuverability, speed, and stability accordingly. What you’ll want to check for, though, is how the cockpit is sized for your individual proportions. You want to have enough leg room to be able to safely free yourself in the case of an emergency, but not too much that you can’t brace the hull of the kayak properly.
We encourage you to physically sit in (or on) the kayak before buying it, in order to gauge how it feels for yourself. This will give you the best indication of how it’s going to perform in the conditions that it’s built for. A kayak’s length independent of its category or type isn’t going to impact its performance on the water. As long as you can get in and out of it safely and you’re not trying to take a recreational kayak out river rafting, you should have a good time! Grab some good company, pack some snacks, and get out in nature!