A Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Kayak

So you’re ready to hit the open waters and take up kayaking—but you don’t own any of the equipment, and quite honestly, don’t know where to begin. Here are our top tips from the Elevator Alley Kayak outdoor pros so that you feel you can make an informed decision when buying a new kayak.

Remember, you’ll need to determine the type of conditions you’ll be kayaking under so that you can find a kayak that will best meet your needs and ensure your kayaking experience is as smooth, safe and enjoyable as possible. Some things to consider:

  • Will you be kayaking casually for leisure or are you looking to go on more serious excursions?
    Our recreational and sit-on-top kayaks are better for shorter day trips, whereas touring kayaks offer amenities you’ll need if you plan to kayak overnight or for longer periods of time.
  • Are you a beginner or are you more experienced with kayaking and what the sport entails?
    Some of our kayaks are better suited for kayaking novices (don’t worry, you will get the hang of it!), while more advanced kayakers may want a boat that allows for faster speeds or more challenging excursions.

  • Where will you be kayaking?
    Open waters, which are subject to high winds and rough currents, require a different vessel than calmer, more contained waters.

  • Will you be kayaking in pairs?
    We also have some tandem kayaks for you and your companion.


We carry three main types of kayaks at Elevator Alley Kayak, each with a different purpose and utility.

1)   Recreational kayaks

Calm waters, beginners, casual kayaking

Recreational kayaks are perfect for beginners. They are affordable, easy to use and typically have a flat bottom to create stability. These boats tend not to move as quickly because of this. It is not recommended to use these boats in rough conditions like currents or winds found on open waters. Recreational kayaks are often wider and heavier, which allows them to remain stable on the water. Most are made of plastic and 10-12 feet in length.


2)   Touring kayaks

Distances in open water, advanced paddlers

Touring kayaks are best for more advanced kayakers who may embark on longer trips. These boats are usually longer, which makes them faster and more efficient. They also track better, which means they are able to travel in more of a straight line. Some have rudders that allow you turn using your feet, and some have skegs, that help maneuver in windier conditions. Touring kayaks also have bulkheads and more hatches and storage compartments for day trips or overnight excursions on the water. Most are 12 to 17 feet in length and tend to be made of plastic or a lightweight and durable composite material.  


3)   Sit-on-top kayaks

Recreational use, fishing, warm climates, beginners

Sit-on-top kayaks are great for recreational use—for beginners, families with children, fishermen and swimmers. These boats are wide, stable and flat (with depressions for the seat and your feet), which makes it easy to get on and off the boat. These boats tend to be slower than traditional kayaks. Most are 10 to 15 feet in length and are made of plastic. They work well in warmer climates because your body will be more exposed to the elements.

Feeling a little more confident about which kayak is right for you? Browse our online retail store or visit us in person and take a look at our kayak selection. We would love to help you find the perfect kayak for your next adventure!