You are new to kayaking and you want an ideal kayak. But since the market is flooded with a wide variety of different kayak models of varying sizes, weights, features and designs, you just don’t know where and how to begin your search for the right one. You feel overwhelmed and intimidated.

Well, you shouldn’t. There are a lot of kayaks in the market that come at an entry-level price, easy learning curve and top-notch quality, so you don’t have to find your first purchase that complicated. If you make the right choice, you can use your first kayak long after you have mastered paddling. So start right. Give it your best shot.

What makes a perfect first kayak?

It’s one that you should find easy to use and control when you are just starting out. It also should be stable, comfortable, forgiving and rugged enough to withstand the learning curve. Likewise, it should have a reinforced hull that can endure being knocked about, and in order to help you master paddling quickly, it should be less streamlined compared to an expert boat.

Of course, as a newcomer, you have your own paddling goals. So the right kayak for you depends on how you intend to use it. If you plan to paddle easily to your picnic destination and have it easy throughout your trip, you may need a different kayak than when you desire to go for a long jaunt. But overall, durability, stability, ease-of-use and affordability are features that are crucial when choosing a beginner kayak.

Which are our favorite newcomer kayaks?

As your boat experts, we have analyzed a variety of kayaks and come up with what we consider the best beginner kayaks. Our favorite first vessels are:

  1. Perception Pescador Pro-12
  2. Sun Dolphin Aruba-10
  3. Ocean Malibu Two

Reviews of our top three kayaks for beginners

1. Perception Pescador Pro-12

If you are just starting out and want a stable, comfortable, spacious boat at an affordable price, then Pescador Pro-12 is the perfect vessel for you. Loved by both novices and experts, Pescador Pro-12 is as versatile as any boat you can find in the market, great for fishing and is a wonderful kayak for those who want to paddle absolutely everywhere. It enables starters to enjoy premium quality without clearing their wallets.

Pros:

  • Highly versatile: Allows you to experience paddling in a broad range of environments. While its Sun Dolphin model isn’t ideal for whitewater or sea kayaking, a Pescador sit-on-top can be used anywhere.
  • Offers great stability, tracking and maneuverability: Its hull shape provides balanced performance, giving stability without reducing speed and easy maneuverability with great tracking. Among fishing kayaks, Pescador Pro-12 stands out for maneuverability and tracking, while its stability means beginners are able to get out on water without fear of capsizing.
  • Top-notch quality at entry-level price: For the amount you spend, you get a vessel that lasts many years and allows you enough room to grow.
  • Amazing confidence builder: Pescador 12 allows room for error with its stability, allowing you to build your confidence. Being easier to steer in both smooth and choppier waters, it allows you to practice and improve your technique without increased risk or feeling unsafe.
  • Enough storage room: If you want a spacious kayak with room for cargo, Pescador 12 will enable you to store your items in the front, center and rear hatch areas. It also offers ample leg room, so you don’t have to worry that you are 6 feet or taller and may find it difficult to fit your legs inside.
  • Wonderful seat: Pescador Pro-12 has an adjustable, supportive and cushioned seat that is far better than you can find in any standard kayak.
  • Designed for easy fishing: Supplied with a Scotty mount and a flush mount for holding your fishing rods, this kayak is perfect for fishing from your vessel as soon as you begin paddling.
  • Smooth, steady ride: Pescador Pro-12 offers a consistently smooth and steady ride in a variety of environments, enabling you to grow and develop your paddling skills in various conditions without endangering your life.

Cons:

Pescador Pro-12 has a massive weight which may be quite difficult to manage if you are not very strong. If you are a smaller individual, you may need to get help from a friend to carry this kayak. While the weight of the kayak contributes significantly to its stability, it definitely makes portage less convenient.

Why do we recommend Pescador Pro-12?

The boat allows newcomers to enjoy topnotch quality, stability, maneuverability and tracking without spending much. It gives great value for money and will enable you to hone your skills without feeling or getting into danger.

2. Sun Dolphin Aruba-10

If you are a newcomer and looking for a “recreational” kayak that’s ideal for flatwater — slow moving rivers or lakes — the Sun Dolphin Aruba-10 is ideal for you. It is a great starter model for beginners who want an inexpensive boat for leisurely weekend trips on a river or lake. If you are content with sticking to calm lakes and rivers, then this boat is much more affordable than Pescador Pro-12.

Pros:

  • Great specifications: It is a 10-foot vessel with 40 pounds weight, 30 inches width and 250 pounds carrying capacity. With a hull made of high-density polyethylene, an easy entry and exit open-design cockpit, a storage compartment, water bottle holder and a padded backrest, Aruba 10 offers all the basic amenities you can expect in a recreational boat.
  • Beginner-friendly hull: The flat bottom and wider body of Aruba 10 ensures a stable ride, while its short length makes it very easy to turn. Its narrow stern and bow and light weight ensure great tracking, while the durable hull is quite forgiving of newcomer mistakes.
  • Comfortable ride: Due to its open cockpit and ample leg room, Aruba 10 is quite comfortable. Likewise, its adjustable backrest is a wonderful feature for beginners with back problems.
  • Extremely affordable: Priced at just half the cost of Pescador Pro-12, this kayak is certainly accessible to most beginners. And while certain kayaks can offer better performance, Aruba 10 offers a bunch of superb features at a very low price.
  • Easy learning curve: Aruba 10 offers good balance, maneuverability and tracking, allowing you to master paddling faster. Although it isn’t as stable as Pescador Pro-12 in rough conditions, it’s great for paddling on a smooth lake or in a relatively calm river.
  • Easy to transport: Aruba 10 is lightweight, so one person can carry it without help. It is compact enough to be carried on a small car or in a truck bed, a big advantage compared to Pescador, which weighs more than 20 pounds. You’ll fit it easily in your SUV or pickup and will not need to purchase a hauling system or external rack.

Cons:

  • Its design makes it only ideal for smooth lakes and slow rivers, which may force a dedicated kayaker to eventually upgrade to be able to paddle in more challenging waters. If you know you are going to paddle in a range of environments, you definitely will get more from Pescador than Aruba 10.
  • The bottom seat is made of hard plastic and has no cushion. If you are going to spend several hours on the water, you will need to buy an extra cushion for the Aruba 10.

Why do we recommend Aruba 10?

The boat is a superb casual recreational model offering excellent quality, user-friendliness and affordability. It is great for paddling on lakes, slow rivers and in mildly windy conditions. We are particularly impressed with its responsive, compact design epitomized by plenty of leg room, open cockpit and adjustable backrest. For something quite inexpensive, Aruba 10 is an impressive budget kayak.

3. Ocean Malibu Two

If you are looking for a newcomer-friendly tandem kayak, then Ocean Malibu Two is ideal for you. Designed to offer excellent stability, versatility and comfort on the water, Ocean Malibu Two is a popular tandem, sit-on-top kayak which is easy to use and great for learning how to paddle. Its extreme stability means it virtually does not flip, while also having enough room for two people to comfortably sit and enjoy their day out on water. And since it is fantastic as a single-paddler vessel, it offers much more value to kayakers.

Pros:

  • Great specifications: It is 12 feet long by 34 inches wide, 57 pounds weight and maximum capacity of 375-425 pounds.
  • Stable and responsive: The nimble turns and impressive stability of Malibu Two come in handy when you are new to paddling as it responds easily and is quite forgiving of a paddler’s mistakes.
  • Useful everywhere: Malibu Two can be used in rivers, lakes and bays without any risk of capsizing. It is also very safe on the sea and a full-fledged ocean vessel, so you can use it to surf if you can access the coast. With Malibu Two, you have plenty of room to grow.
  • Roomy, flexible seating: Supplied with 2 dedicated seats at the middle and stern of the vessel, a smaller seat at its prow that’s perfect for a dog or a child, and lots of space for you to stretch when paddling, Malibu Two will make kayaking very comfortable and fun for you. The “comfort plus” seat cushions for its adult-sized center and stern seats and straps for gear attachment add to the value of this kayak as many such boats don’t even come with seats.
  • With its overlapping, ridged foot-wells, the kayak offers plenty of options for setting your feet, making things quite comfortable for users of different heights and giving you the option of shifting around during a long jaunt.
  • Single-person piloting: Unlike other tandem kayaks that are quite unwieldy with just a single set of paddles, Malibu Two is easy to handle with one paddle and you can pilot it alone from its center if your kayaking partner takes a sick day.

Cons:

  • Heavy, 60-pound kayak that’s difficult to carry onto a car’s top if you are one person.
  • Wide and great for “family fun” and leisurely weekends, but can’t win you any races.
  • Paddlers get wet when using this sit-on-top kayak, so it’s appropriate for warmer weather. Go for a sit-in kayak if you intend to paddle in colder climates.
  • When all the 3 seats/berths are used, the kayak doesn’t have much storage area left and isn’t ideal for longer trips. But if there are only two of you in Malibu Two, you can use the prow for your gear.

Why do we recommend Malibu Two?

Ocean Malibu Two is a tandem kayak that you can own and use for years. And even after several years of scraping on rocks, sand and other hazards, the hull of the kayak remains intact. Likewise, Malibu Two is an incredibly popular kayak, which probably comes from its quality. It is a best-selling tandem kayak and is very highly rated among recreational paddlers — being one of those vessels that owners rave about and swear by for years. It seats more passengers, costs only slightly more than Pescador and has some of the best features you can find in a tandem kayak. So definitely, it comes easy on a newcomer’s wallet.

Which Newcomer Kayak is Ideal for You?

Your ideal kayak depends on what you plan to do with it. For example, for a great fishing outing or an all-purpose boat that can go virtually anywhere, the Pescador Pro-12 would serve you best. It is an inexpensive rebrand of a high-end boat, which will allow you to experience topnotch quality at a lower cost. With its great tracking, ample cargo space, maneuverability and stability, Pescador Pro-12 offers you all the features of a top-end vessel for a bargain price.

But if you intend to engage in solo recreational paddling, the Sun Dolphin Aruba-10 is the perfect starter kayak for you. It is stable, comfortable and maneuverable, and one of the best bargain boats around. Though it can’t be used in rough waters, it works well for family fun outings and leisure weekends. So if you plan to paddle in placid rivers and calm lakes, Aruba 10 is a worthwhile investment.

If you are a newcomer who cherishes tandem kayaks, then it’s worth checking out Ocean Malibu Two. It’s a sturdy, versatile and stable sit-on-top kayak that’s amazing for recreational paddlers. You also will enjoy using it in rivers, ocean bays and lakes. If you are looking for a kayak that will deliver a world of adventure for you, your family or friend, Malibu Two is a perfect starter boat with an entry-level price.

Kayak Buying Guide

Before you buy any kayak model, you need to ask yourself a few questions to assess your needs and know the kind of boat that suits you best. Some questions you should ask yourself when shopping for your first boat are:

  1. Where are you going to paddle? On lakes? At sea? Along rivers? Or all the above?
  2. How will you transport your boat? Will you haul it every time you set out, or do you have your dedicated space by the water?
  3. Will you fish when on the water?
  4. Do you intend to go alone or with a partner? What about a child or a dog?
  5. How much storage will you need each time you set out? Will you keep things light or take picnic lunches?

Still not sure which kayak is best for you? Visit the “Captain Mike’s Kayak Rentals” site to check out our best sellers’ page and have a look at other popular kayaks.

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