Types of Kayaks
The BIG Question…
What to Buy?!
Sea Kayak . . . Flat Water Kayak . . . Surf Ski . . . Ocean Racing Ski . . .
With years experience competing on flat water, ocean racing (outrigger, ski, kayak) and olympic competition you can be guaranteed you’ll receive the right advice on equipment and training programes. Our passion is to offer you the right advice at the right price, so we see you coming back again and again as your passion for this sport grows!
Most sea kayak paddlers are social paddlers rather than racers and buy the craft for its stability and storage. Storage of course allows you to go off for the day with lunch and a change of clothes on board, or even go camping or exploring. In fact extreme sea kayakers regularly visit places like Antarctica. Locally, the “Everest” of sea kayaking trips is a crossing of Bass Straight. However, many sea kayakers are happy just to potter around coastal areas on day trips.
Although most sea kayaks are not made for speed, there are many manufacturers working to develop a Sea Kayak that goes as fast as a K1. The results are a new breed of unstable racing sea kayaks, which some people consider to be a K1 with up turned ends – these ‘sea kayaks’ are not really meant for the open sea. An example of the new hybrid sea kayaks is the Flash, is an ocean going rocketship for a good paddler. Then there’s the Sonic, even faster, but really too unstable to be used at sea…should this be classed as a sea kayak? Debate rages.
At the more traditional end of sea kayaking, Mirage is one of the more popular designs it’s well built, stable all around kayak which is more than capable of offshore trips.
Flat Water Kayaks (K & TK’S)
The K1 racing boat is the Formula 1 on kayaking and is unstable even on dead flat water, although very very fast. This is what the Olympians use and you need to be very proficient before you paddle on of these. K1s can weigh as little as 10kg.
The usual route to getting to K1 standard is to get a TK1, or Transitional Kayak. These are relatively stable, very light and quite fast. There are usually many entries at race/marathon club meets in the TK1 and TK2 classes.
The ski began as a safety device as approved by the Australian Surf Life Savers and even the newer uncertified long distance and recreational skis all hold air and will save a life. The advantage of the ski is that there is no cockpit to flood with water should you capsize, so you can simply hop back on.
There are many types of skis now, but there used to be only one – the Surf Life Saving Ski, or ‘spec ski’; an unstable design used in the surf for Iron Men competitions. Surf life saving clubs still only allow spec skis in their comps. It can easily be identifed with the nose tip looking similar to a hammer head shark. This prevents the nose from submerging under the water when catching waves. Using these on flat water is also suitable however the spread out nose in high winds can make it difficult to paddle.
A social ski is now stable enough for a bigginer with a small amount of storage to do a day trip with a little food and drink. The New Ozflyt has even has deck straps to attach gear.
In the past you had to buy a ski where the foot wells / rests were built specifically to the paddlers leg size, making it difficult to share the kayak with shorter or tall friends and difficult to find a buyer the same height as you when you decide to sell it.
Today’s newer skis such as our new Dorado, Barracuda & Stealth come adjustable footwells that you can shorten or lengthen within minutes to suit the paddlers leg length.
Most manufactuers now bring out 2-3 different Skis for all types or standards of paddlers. Some basic entry level sit on tops like the Sprinter is basically a plastic ski which will out perform many Sea Kayaks and is great for stroke correction.
Ocean Racing Ski
The Iron Man Ski has evolved into models better suited to race competition. Some of the newer designs have easier handling & better looks and include social skis, intermediate skis, fast stable long distance skis, up to a full on unstable super fast ski. The key identifier with these types of skis is the removal of the hammer head like nose it still sits high above the water line and literally cuts through waves with its pointy tip.
These new breed is relatively stable (by ski standards) and fast and are always the first boat over the line in any Ocean Racing event. At Kayak Racing we specialise in Ocean Racing Skis with the Dorado being very close in length and width to a Spec SLSC Ski, yet faster and a little easier to catch smaller runs.
Think about what you are going to do with your kayak and how versitile you’d like it to be. If you were buying a boat for fitness or racing on flat water, get a TK/K kayak or Ski. Training, Racing or fast touring on harbour or ocean get a ocean racing ski, if you’re teaching your kids to paddle get a recreational ski. Finally if you’re going day touring, ocean touring or over night paddles, get a Sea Kayak.
And then of course there are all the white water kayaks / canoes – look for someone paddling a kayak wearing a helmet and you’ll get better information from them…. back to the ocean and flat water for us!
We look forward to introducing you to this fabulous sport!
Kayak Racing Team
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Types of paddles
Finding the right kayak paddle shouldn’t be that hard. After all, its just a pole with a flat blade at each end. But finding the paddle that’s perfect for you does take some effort and thought.
There are three considerations that may help determine which type of paddle could be right for you:
- The type of paddling you be doing, whether it will be racing, touring or whitewater.
- Your height and body strength. If you’re under, say, five-and-a-half feet tall, you may require a shorter than average paddle. If you’re well over six feet tall, you may require a longer than average paddle.
- The width and height of your kayak. A wide or tall kayak will often need a longer paddle to effectively reach the water. Once these three areas are considered, then you can look at the three major differences in paddle characteristics: (1). Blade length and shape. (2). Shaft length and shape. (3). The materials used to construct the paddle.
Blade length and shape
Paddle blades can be long, short, narrow, wide, feathered, unfeathered, symmetrical, asymmetrical, spooned or dihedral. Each shape has its benefits. A wide blade with a larger surface face can provide greater acceleration, but will also create more resistance in the water. It takes more effort to use a large-bladed paddle than a smaller one. This can be an important factor for the infrequent paddler, as touring is more about endurance than it is about speed. A long, narrow blade will take more strokes to move through the same amount of water, but the paddler will be less tired while doing it.
A spooned paddle has a curled or cupped face that increases the power of a stroke, while a dihedral paddle has a type of tapered nose in the middle of the face that helps direct water around the paddle.
Typically, long paddles are better suited to flat water paddling conditions, where as short paddles which are very wide at the bottom are better suited to ocean paddling where choppy conditions are more likely.
It’s a tough one, and it’s something we recommend you try before you buy to see what feels better for you, don’t forget the split shaft however these are handy allowing you take your paddle everywhere when dismantled… read below for more information.
Shaft Length and Shape
As we touched on earlier, a longer paddle is needed by taller paddlers and paddlers of tall or wide boats. Often, a sit-on-top kayak will need a longer paddle. A long paddle may provide more power, but will also create more resistance. Whitewater kayakers will prefer shorter paddles for their increased maneuverability, quickness and strength. While most paddle shafts are straight, there are several bent-shaft models that may increase the paddler’s comfort as well as provide for a stronger, more effective stroke.
Split shafts alow you to adjust the angle in which you can set the blades at, they also allow you to adjust the length of the shalf matching the type of boat (wide or narrow) that you end up paddling.
Materials Used In Construction
The materials used to construct the paddle will determine its weight, durability and flexibility. Paddles may be made of fiberglass, plastic, aluminum, graphite, Kevlar, carbon, or good old-fashioned wood. Each type has its own feel as to weight and flex. Each paddler will have to consider the combination of weight, durability, flexibility and cost.
In the end, however, your personal preference as to which paddle feels the best may be the deciding factor in your decision.