Your Connection To the Outdoors

Paddling 101: How To Pick a Boat

Paddling 101: How To Pick A Boat

By: Leah Brodsky, Social Media Editor

Paddling is a fun and exciting activity. You want to be out on the water more. But how do you pick the right boat for you? This how-to article focuses on the selection of a boat and the different factors that go into the decision-making, including: location, materials, and size. In the last section of this article, there is a list of a few different boat options with their specifics.


The most important factor of picking a boat is where you will be boating.


You need a boat that can navigate the twists and turns of the river. Usually, rivers are not wide. As a result, you need a boat that can turn quickly and easily. A recreational sit-in or sit-on-top boat, or day touring sit-in would be the ideal choices for floating smoothly and gaining stability on a river. Helping direct the corners of a river, these boats turn quickly.

Figure 1: An example of a touring kayak for rivers (Google Images).


Except for the Great Lakes which a sea kayak would be most effective, a lake is generally calm and does not have many waves. It is a peaceful place to flow slowly on a boat. You need a boat where you can enjoy the refreshing water and listen to the classical music of bird chirps. But, high winds or motorboats can change the calmness. A sit on top kayak or recreational kayak are the best choices for a boat used where the destination is near and the weather is generally nice.

Figure 2: An example of recreational sit in kayak for lakes (Google Images).

Ocean and Large Lakes

Oceans are rough. Large waves can overpower you and strong winds can cause turmoil. Having a sit-in touring boat with a rudder, fixed tracking fin, or a dropdown fin is best because the specific parts help you navigate the changing tides, fast currents, and monstrous winds.

Figure 3: An example of a sea kayak (Google Images).


Another important factor in the boat selection process is the materials. Materials have different purposes and different outcomes.

Polyethylene Plastic

  • Inexpensive
  • Heavy
  • Doesn’t wear away

Tip: Store it in a covered location so the sun doesn’t degrade the plastic.

Figure 4: An example of a kayak made from Polyethylene Plastic (Google Images).

ABS Plastic

  • More expensive
  • Durable
  • Lower weight
  • Sun ray resistance

Figure 5: An example of a recreational kayak made from ABS plastic (Google Images).


  • Best performance
  • Best price
  • Sun rays aren’t a concern

Tip: Be careful around rocks in boats made of this material. They can scratch easily.

Figure 6: An example of a kayak made from fiberglass (Google Images).


An additional important factor is the size of the hull. A hull is the bottom part of the boat's structure.

Figure 7: A diagram of boat parts.


The narrower and longer the boat is, the faster it will move. An effective long and narrow boat is a touring kayak. In other words, the wider and shorter the boat is, the slower it will go. An effective short and wide boat would be a recreational kayak.


Narrow hulls move more quickly; however, wider hulls offer more stability.


Deeper hulls give more leg room for taller people; whereas, shallower hulls are less affected by the wind. Tip: Your safety is of the utmost importance. Think about how your size compares to the size of the boat. For example, touring kayaks may provide more space for larger individuals. In other words, recreational kayaks are better for smaller adults and children. Most boats come with expected weights to help the buyer fit themselves. You also want to check your height and weight in comparison to the boat.

Figure 8: A chart about the sizes of a boat (Google Images).

Types of Boats

Now that you’ve read about the important factors in boat selection for paddling, here are the different types of boats. There are many more specific types of boats, but, in general, the following boats are most effective for beginners: Warning: Always wear a life vest for safety.

Recreational Sit-in


* Protection from wind and water * Better for bad weather * Wider * Shorter * Cockpits * Comfortable * More storage * Easy to maneuver


* Slower * More Expensive * Dangerous in big waves

Recreational Sit-on-top


- For beginners - Less expensive - Easy to self-rescue - Drain holes - Good for fishing - Stable - Durable


- Slow speed - Heavy - Limited storage space - Less versatile - More exposed to bad weather

Figure 9: A visual comparison of recreational vs. touring kayaks (Google Images).

Day-Touring Kayaks (both sit-on or in)

Touring kayaks are longer and narrower, making the boat go faster. It is better to invest in a Day-Touring Sit-in Kayak and have better quality even though it is more expensive. It will last longer than a recreational kayak.


- For beginners - Portability in rough waters - More storage space - Easy to access cockpit - Easy to store


- Not versatile - Not for distances - Not as stable as recreational

Touring Kayaks (AKA Sea Kayaks)


- Easier to control - Tracks straighter - For distances - More storage - Better steering - Good for bad weather


- Sit in only - Difficult to turn

Other specification kayaks are:

- Whitewater Kayaks

- Tandem Kayaks

- Fishing Kayaks

- Inflatable Kayaks

- Folding Kayaks

Works Cited

Flowers, Jessica Sheppard. “Sit-on-Top vs Sit-in Kayaks: Which One to Choose?”, 17 Dec. 2019,

Laura. “Choosing the Right Boat for Your Paddling Style.” Liquid Logistics, 14 June 2019,

McCloy, John. “Types of Kayaks: What Are the Differences?” Kayak Help, 30 Jan. 2020, The sea kayak is,than a standard touring kayak.&text=It's higher rocker makes it,than a standard touring kayak.

Price, AJ. “How to Choose a Kayak.” How to Choose Kayaks | REI Co-Op,

Whiting, Ken. “How to Choose the Right Kayak.”, 2020,