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Sea Kayaks
Buyers Guide

Choosing a Sea Kayak

Whether you already own a sea kayak or you're just getting started, buying the correct sea kayak for you is about spending the time to get the right kayak for you. There are a wide selection of boats out there to suit a wide range of needs, pinning down the best option for you can be a bit of a challenge and the combination of information online and other people's opinions can be a little overwhelming. Here at AS Watersports we all kayak and canoe and have used many of the boats ourselves, we want you to end up with a kayak that does what you want it do, fits well and gives you confidence. We have a large range of demo boats available from some of the largest kayak manufactures in the Sea Kayaking world including Valley, P+H, Tide Race and Wilderness Systems.

sea kayaks

"You don't buy a car without taking it for a test drive, so why do it with a kayak?"

We offer the chance to demo a kayak for free in the Canal Basin or take it away for £30 for 1-3 days, to give it a proper go.

What to consider when buying a sea kayak?


This is very important, if you have a sea kayak that is the correct size for you, fits well and is comfortable, you will be able to control it a lot easier and be able to enjoy using it. Every brand outfits there kayaks differently, what suit one person won't necessarily be comfortable for another. Although small alterations can be made, a bit of padding here and there, picking a boat that does what you want it to do and is comfortable is a number one priority, as hopefully your going to be out in it for a while.

Speed & Maneuverability

Speed is important obviously for getting to where you want to be going, but if it means that it feels like your paddling a barge, because you aren't able to turn it, is this what you are looking for? You need to think about what you primarily want to use the boat for, if it's mainly longer trips and not surfing, something with a long waterline and minimal rocker is a good choice. For day trips, a bit of rock hopping and the occasional longer trip in mind (what most paddlers do) then something with an average waterline and gentle rocker could be worth a look. But if you're really interested in playing in the surf, rock hopping and no more than going on a day trip then a sea kayak with a shorter waterline and more rocker are generally the best option. Something else to bare in mind is what you fellow paddler/s are using, you don't want to go out in a short, maneuverable boat when everyone else is in long expedition boats, as you'll be struggling to keep up with them and vice versa.


Picking the correct kayak to suit your ability is also paramount in enjoying yourself and wanting to get out paddling.
If you are new to sea kayaking you want to choose a kayak that offers you some room for growth ability wise, going for a kayak that is super stable, will mean that its slow and doesn't handle rough seas well, this could prevent you from improving your skills and might cause you to get bored, you will get used to the kayak over time. Whereas choosing something to advanced might go too far the other way and frighten you meaning that you don't want to use it.
More experienced paddlers, should have more of an idea of which boat will suit them best after trying them, if the boat feels super stable then it might be worth going for a boat with a more rounded or 'v' shaped hull. You should feel happy enough using the kayak on calm waters, if you feel unstable on calm water then the boat is to tippy for you and you need to look at something more stable.


Being the size they are sea kayaks aren't generally the easiest things to handle, but opting for a kayak that you can lift on and off the car easy can make all the difference to you getting out and using it. If it's very heavy and you can only load it with help, will this stop you from using it a lot? Most of the brands we deal with offer carbon and ultra-light carbon versions; it makes them as light and as easy to move around as possible.


You want to be proud of you kayak and to enjoy paddling it, so having something that you like the look of, as well as being practical is something that we thing is important. Composite boats can't be beaten on there glossy finish and elegant lines. Most companies offer custom options on composite kayaks, including the choice of selecting the colours of your kayak
Storage: Most kayaks come with 3-4 hatches which will allow space to store essentials for an overnight trip, if you are looking to go on longer trips and expeditions then it will be worth considering a bigger kayak. It's also worth testing a kayak loaded and unloaded to see how differently it handles and how it sits in the water.

Skeg or Rudder?

The advantages of having a skeg or rudder certainly become apparent when you're trying to paddle forward while sideways on to the wind.

Most boats tend to try and turn up wind, this is called weather cocking, having a skeg or rudder allows you to correct this and keeps you paddling straight.

Close up of Expression skeg
Sea kayaks  

sea kayaks

Plastic or composite?

Pros of Glass or Carbon

  • Stiffer = Performs better
  • Generally more size options available
  • They hold their shape much better over time, don't warp, develop dents or deep scratches.
  • Easier to maintain and repair if damaged
  • More attractive!
  • Custom options and colours usually available

Con's of Glass or Carbon

  • More expensive to buy initially
  • Don't bounce as well as plastic

Pros of Plastic

  • Cost less to buy in the first place
  • Bounce off rocks better

Con's of Plastic

  • Generally heavier than composite kayaks
  • Lack the stiffness and responsiveness that you will get with a composite kayak
  • Don't hold there shape as well over time and can warp if not stored correctly

Sea Kayak Jargon Explained

  • Rocker – rise of the bow and stern (banana shape), more rocker makes the kayak slower but more maneuverable and vice versa.

  • Tracking – how well it paddles in a straight line.

  • Initial Stability – how stable or unstable the kayak first feels when you get into it.

  • Secondary Stability – how stable the kayak feels when it is put onto edge.

  • Waterline – the length of the kayak that is in the water, this is usually less if the kayak has more rocker. This dictates how fast the kayak is and how easily it turns.

We also offer a custom in-house outfitting service to personalise your kayak. We can advise you on what will suit your needs, and provide a fitting service. 

sea kayaks



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