About Kayaks

What is the "best" kayak?

The question that everybody asks is, “How do I choose the best kayak?” A lot of the times, the best kayak is not the first one you see. It’s really processing what are your goals and objectives for having the boat. For instance, if I just want to go to my local, protected lake, I don’t need a seventeen or eighteen foot boat. Because the boat is going to be typically faster through the water, more efficient through the water, I’m going to run out of water (space to paddle) very quick. That’s why I want a little bit shorter boat, typically a little bit wider, so that way I can work the shoreline and maybe do a little fishing or hanging out, which will be easier to do that (in a shorter, wider boat). If your goals and objectives are to learn more skills, then it becomes finding a boat that fits that, but now you have to figure out what kind of water do you want to paddle. So if I’m going to do some whitewater, I’m going to want something shorter, something that is highly maneuverable to work my way through the river. Here at Current Designs, we specialize in recreational touring and performance touring.

In a performance style sea kayak, we’re talking boats between fifteen and eighteen feet, having a nice long waterline is going to allow much more performance (and efficiency). So if my goals and objectives are to do the Apostle Islands, the San Juan Islands, or anything in a coastal environment, I’m going to want a longer boat because it will allow me to get from point A to point B much faster and more efficient. Now we are going to talk about rocker in a boat. There’s two different kinds of touring kayaks, a skeg boat and a rudder boat. A rudder boat will typically have a longer waterline. What this allows is greater tracking in the boat, and you are going to control it with your feet. Think of an SUV; you want to pack it down and just cover some miles. The other style of boat is a skeg boat. The skeg doesn’t move like a rudder does, but it’s there to help control the tracking. Because a skeg boat typically has more rocker, which is the amount of lift the bow and stern have off the water, it is going to be more maneuverable and playful, but you can drop the skeg if you need more tracking. Typically, skeg boats have a smaller volume than a rudder boat, but they are great when you get into rough water or a surf zone where you want something more playful. Think about a sports car, you want something that is going to feel livelier underneath you.

What’s the best kayak for beginners?

The best kayak for beginners isn’t the first kayak you can buy off the shelf, just because it’s your first one. The best kayak for beginners comes down to what your goals and objectives are (with the boat), what do you want to do, where do you want to go. It’s not always the widest boat that is going to be the best boat for beginners. As a beginner, some think about width of the boat as stability. This isn’t always the case.

>For me, when I’m talking about the best boat for beginners, I like to think about the user experience; where do you want to go, what do you want to do. Typically, the shorter boats are also wider boats because you need the “footprint” or displacement in the water (for stability). What can happen when you get into those really short boats is the tracking ability can go way down. So if you’d like to go out for three to five miles, the question is, how hard do you want to work? We all want to go out and have some fun, but we don’t all want to work really hard (to go any significant distance). So if I can get away from the wide and short boats, I can start looking at more of an efficient style boat, something that is going to be a little bit narrower and longer, from in the thirteen to fifteen feet long range, by about twenty four inches wide. Suddenly, I am going to work a whole lot less to cover the same distance.


What is better - Kayak or Canoe?

So I’m often asked, (What is better) Canoe vs. Kayak? The big question is, what is your intended use and where do you want to go. First, the big differences between the two boats. A kayak typically has a deck, bulk heads (for floatation and storage), a smaller cockpit opening, and is usually paddled solo. A canoe is going to be a big, open boat, paddled solo or tandem, and is usually designed to carry much more gear. Deciding whether you’d want to go with a canoe or kayak really depends on where you want to go with it.

Traditional canoes are designed for more of an inland style waterway, for instance, the Boundary Waters. You’re going to be able to carry camping gear while working your way around smaller islands and maneuvering rivers and inland lakes. With a sea kayak, you can get out into larger bodies of water and more exposed water, being that you sit lower in the water, lowering your center of gravity (keeping you stable and drier). Another big difference is the paddle you use. In a kayak, you are going to use a double bladed paddle, which means the paddle has a blade on both sides. In a canoe, it’s a single bladed paddle, one blade on one end of the shaft.


What’s the best Kayak for stability?

So, what’s the best kayak for stability? The width of the boat doesn’t always tell you that it’s stable. It really comes down to the hull design. One of the things I like to look for in a boat in regards to stability is what does the boat look like from the waterline down. Harder chine boats or flatter bottom boats will typically have more stability. Something that’s hull is very “V’d” in and has angled sides will typically be a bit more twitchy (sensitive to side to side motion) on the water.

Stability also comes from length of the boat. A really short boat that is really wide, doesn’t always mean it will be the most stable boat. The more footprint you have in the water (length plus width), the more stable you will be. It is like riding a bike. The first time you ride a bike, it is difficult, but the more you do it, the bike feels more stable (once you get more comfortable). It is the same concept in a boat. If you are sitting still in the water, the boat might feel a little twitchy or unstable. Stability is created by forward propulsion or forward movement. So as long as we keep your boat moving forward, the stability will kick in (due to the boat getting to plane).


Are there Kayaks for two people?

So now we are going to talk about kayaks for two people, also referred to as a Tandem Kayak. The nice things about a tandem kayak is that you can sit lower to the water and you can do longer trips in exposed water with a partner. There are a couple different versions of tandem kayaks on the market. First, you have your recreational style tandem, typically a little bit wider and shorter boat, most of the time having a substantially larger combing (cockpit).

Typically, there’s not the longest water line on recreational boats because they are meant to just go out to the local lake or harbor. Nice thing about these is you can put many different combos of size and skill level in the boat together. Now when we get into tandem boats for longer trips, we are going to start getting into a much bigger boat. So you are going to be running between seventeen and twenty-two feet for these tandem kayaks. The nice thing about that length of a boat is that if you are going to do a longer trip in a coastal environment, now you have room to pack your gear. The cockpit sizes are going to be a little bit smaller so you are better protected by waves. They are also going to have larger hatch covers and bulkhead areas to dry store gear. Most tandems will come with a rudder. The nice part about having a rudder on a tandem is two people can paddle together and the stern paddler will have the controls by their feet and can easily maneuver the boat around.


What is the best Kayak seat?

So for me, the best kayak seat comes down to one that is going to support my lower body and back, but also gives me range of motion. The way I like to explain this is if you are sitting in your car for a three to four hour drive, when you get out of the car, the first thing you do is stretch. So if you have a kayak seat that does the same thing (recline), evidently, our back is going to get sore, like when driving. A kayak seat that lets you engage your full core, you will be better off in the long run.

So comfort is important, but you also have to remember range of motion and how you are going to be paddling. For many, this is about supporting the legs. For instance, Current Designs Revolution Seat System. Now what I like about the seat it that it doesn’t just lift the legs, but it also articulates at the hip so you can rock the whole body back and forth. That allows me to get the best body rotation and motion without collapsing my frame, but also supports the lower body as well.


Can I bring my kid in a Kayak?

We love taking our kids with us places, so what is the best boat for a parent and child? I would recommend a recreational tandem, especially if it is a younger child that wouldn’t go out by them self. A recreational tandem is something that has more of an open cockpit, something where the child will be closer to the parent and they can coach them along. If they don’t want to paddle anymore, they can sit and have fun while the parent is doing all the work.

Look for something that is wider, and something that has a decent water line to it so you can get better tracking out of the boat. Again, a nice big cockpit with comfortable seats so the kid can have fun with it. For kids, you want to improve the experience and everyone wants to have fun and be comfortable on the water. The Solara 145t from Current Designs fits that bill. With a bow seat that slides forward and back, which allows for the boat to be trimmed out properly, makes it so the pair can get a better experience, cover some miles and have some fun.


What Kayak can I bring my dog in?

We all love our four legged friends, so what is the best kayak for me and my dog? It depends on the size of dog that you have. Typically, a recreational style boat will be the best tool for the job. In a recreational boat, having a larger cockpit area allows the dog to sit between your legs (and stay safe). Personally, I like the Solara 145t from Current Designs

It's a recreational tandem that allows me to sit in the back seat and have a big opening in the front where I can put the dog. Not all dogs are the same, so much of it depends on the demeanor of the dog. A really hyper dog means you might want something with more width and stability. With a more docile dog that is going to sit still, this is when you can start looking for a sleeker style boat. So it all depends on your dog.


What is the best Kayak for the ocean?

So what’s the best kayak for the ocean? Well I think that really depends on what your goals are in the ocean. It’s a big body of water, so are you talking touring flatwater, or are you talking rough water surf zones? What I’m looking for in a boat for the ocean really comes down to safety. Here at Current Designs, this is what we have specialized in for the last 30 plus years. A typical ocean kayak will have a smaller cockpit that you’ll have to get into and you are going to wear a spray skirt that will help protect that. They are also going to have hatch covers with bulkheads on the boats.

At Current Designs, we run full fiberglass bulkheads that are reinforced into the side of the boat. Again, we look at a lot of the safety aspects of kayaking. You may be out in tidal areas where there are tide wave races, or you may be out on a three week trip up the Inside Passage. You can definitely hit all different types of waters (in our boats). Many times these trips are self-supported, so safety is a big factor. Skeg or Rudder? Depending on the style of ocean water you are looking to go in. In more dynamic water, look for something with more rocker to it with a skeg. In calm water, distance touring, look at more of a rudder style boat like the Solstice line of boats from Current Designs.


What’s the best Kayak for rivers?

What’s the best Kayak for rivers? That’s not an easy task, as not all rivers are the same. You really have to think about what river you are looking to paddle. If you look up the definition of a river, it’s mostly a wider, moving water, winding style trip. For us here in Minnesota on the Mississippi River, we are a big, inland body of water (like a lake), so touring boats work great around here.

The same touring boats you use out here might not work on a narrower river. What you want to look for on these smaller rivers is something that is more maneuverable and typically a little shorter so you can work your way around the rocks or river bends. An example of a river kayak for a narrower, shallow river would be the Solara 100 or 120 from Current Designs. That ten or twelve foot length won’t give you as much tracking, but is more maneuverable and will help you get around corners. Another nice thing about those boats is being twenty eight inches wide gives you stability that you can feel comfortable with (on moving water).