If you're considering participating in the Coast to Coast race or getting started with multi-sport kayaking as a beginner, one of the key decisions you'll face is choosing the right kayak.
With numerous options available, it's crucial to select a kayak that suits your weight, skill level, and training needs.
In this section, I’ll walk you through the process of determining whether buying your own multi-sport kayak right now is necessary, debunk the myth of the "faster boat fallacy," outline the essential features to consider in your first kayak and provide recommendations for 3 beginner models specific to your weight category.
Do You Need to Have Your Own Kayak to do the Coast to Coast Race?
One of the first questions that arise when starting your kayaking journey is whether you should invest in your own kayak now, or rely on rentals.
In this section, I’ll discuss the benefits of owning your own kayak early on, particularly when preparing for the Coast to Coast race.
While rentals are an option, they can create unnecessary barriers to accessing valuable training time on the water.
If you're serious about taking on the Coast to Coast, I’d highly recommend investing in your own multisport kayak as soon as possible.
Having Your Own Kayak Helps You Overcome Barriers to Training
Unlike other endurance sports, kayaking involves some additional logistical challenges. Simply getting to the water requires effort and planning.
Renting a kayak every time you want to train can become inconvenient, expensive, and time-consuming. By owning your own kayak, you eliminate these barriers and make training more accessible.
Having your own boat enables you to hit the water whenever you want, ensuring you can get the necessary training hours in.
Having Your Own Kayak Ensures You Have the Right Boat for Every Session
When you rely on club kayaks or rentals, you may not have the opportunity to use a kayak that suits you perfectly. Owning your own boat allows you to choose a multi-sport kayak tailored to your body type and skill level.
This enhances your overall experience, making training and racing more enjoyable and productive.
Having Your Own Kayak Creates Consistency
By purchasing your own kayak, you ensure a consistent experience every time you hit the water. You become familiar with the boat's characteristics, handling, and manoeuvrability, which helps build your skills and confidence.
This familiarity plays a crucial role when navigating the river section of the Coast to Coast race.
Additionally, having your kayak readily available allows for spontaneous training sessions, adding flexibility to your schedule.
The Faster-Boat Fallacy: The Most Common Mistake in Kayak Choice
Many beginners make the mistake of assuming that a faster kayak will automatically lead to quicker race times.
In this section, I’ll discuss the concept of the faster boat fallacy and why it is essential that you choose a forgiving kayak that matches your current skill level.
By understanding the importance of stability and building confidence, you'll lay the foundation for long-term success in your kayaking journey.
Why “Faster” Kayaks May Not Actually Help You Go Faster in the Coast to Coast Race
It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that a faster kayak will make you a faster paddler. While narrower kayaks have the potential to increase speed, they require greater skill and balance to handle.
On the other hand, wider kayaks offer stability and forgiveness, allowing you to focus on building essential paddling skills. Remember, it's not just the boat that determines speed, but how well you paddle and navigate the river.
Why You Should Choose a Stable and Forgiving Kayak for Your First Coast to Coast Race
Staying in your kayak and maintaining control during your first Coast to Coast race should be your primary goal. Opting for a forgiving kayak that offers stability and forgiveness allows you to navigate the river's varying features with confidence.
Choosing a wider kayak will provide better stability, making it easier to recover from mistakes and stay upright in challenging river features.
This not only builds your confidence but also reduces the risk of injuring yourself and damaging your equipment.
How a Stable and Forgiving Kayak Will Help You Build Skills and Confidence
As a beginner, it's crucial to prioritise efficiency, technique, and building a strong foundation of paddling skills. Starting with a forgiving kayak allows you to focus on mastering proper technique, maintaining balance, and navigating river features effectively.
By developing these fundamental skills, you'll build confidence and create good habits that will benefit you throughout your kayaking career. Only once you've gained proficiency should you consider transitioning to a narrower, more advanced kayak.
Choosing a Stable and Forgiving Kayak Now Will Lead to Long-Term Success with Paddling
Choosing a forgiving kayak for your initial training stages doesn't mean you can't progress to a more advanced boat in the future.
Starting with a forgiving kayak is a strategic decision that sets you up for long-term success. It helps you establish a solid paddling foundation, develop river-reading skills, and build the necessary muscle memory.
As your skills improve, you can gradually transition to a narrower kayak when you feel ready to handle the added challenge.
What to Look for in Your First Multisport Kayak for the Coast to Coast Race
When selecting your first kayak, there are four main features you should consider.
Your First Kayak Should be Really Stable and Forgiving
As I mentioned earlier, stability should be a top priority when choosing a kayak.
As a beginner, you want a kayak that is forgiving and requires minimal effort to balance. Balancing the kayak can distract you from focusing on essential aspects such as navigation and line selection.
A stable kayak allows you to navigate the river's features with greater ease and confidence, reducing the risk of tipping over and increasing your overall enjoyment.
Your First Kayak Should be Easy to Manoeuvre
Manoeuvrability is crucial in river kayaking, especially when you need to make quick decisions while moving downstream.
Shorter kayaks are generally more manoeuvrable than longer boats, as they respond faster to your paddle strokes and rudder inputs.
Being able to make precise turns and adjustments will enhance your ability to find the best line and optimise your performance on the river.
Make Sure You Choose the Right Size Boat for Your Weight
Different kayak models are designed to accommodate specific weight ranges. Selecting a kayak of the appropriate size is essential for optimal performance.
If you are too heavy for the kayak, it will feel unstable when you need to lean it to one side for side currents and boils.
Conversely, if you are too light for the kayak, it may sit too high in the water, reducing primary stability and making it challenging to control in strong winds.
Finding the right size kayak for you will provide the stability and responsiveness you need for a comfortable and safe paddling experience.
It’s Worth Investing in a Quality Kayak that Will Hold its Value
Because your first kayak may not be the one you end up racing with, choosing a kayak that has good resell value is a smart decision.
Opt for a well-known and respected brand with a solid reputation in the kayaking community. Avoid unusual or niche designs that may limit the pool of potential buyers.
By selecting a quality kayak that retains its value, you have the option to sell it in the future, either to upgrade to a more advanced model or to pass it on to another kayaker who is just starting their journey.
The 3 Best Multisport Kayaks for Coast to Coast First Timers
To help you choose your first multisport kayak as a beginner training for the Coast to Coast, I have selected three of my favourite options based on your weight category:
Best Beginner Multisport Kayak for Paddlers 70–90 kg
Width: 60 cm
Length: 4.9 m
Weight: 17 kg
Style: Sea Kayak
This kayak is a very safe choice for beginner multisport paddlers between 70–90 kg doing their first Coast to Coast race. With its forgiving hull shape and excellent manoeuvrability, it provides exceptional stability and allows for quick adjustments while navigating rapids.
Many Coast to Coast paddlers choose a Barracuda Beachcomber for their first boat. It is extremely popular for good reason and is a solid option you really can’t go wrong with.
Best Beginner Multisport Kayak for Paddlers Under 70 kg
Nautique Reliance (Sisson Eliminator)
Width: 55 cm
Length: 4.9 m
Weight: 13.5 kg
Style: Race Specific
For lighter paddlers under 70 kg, this boat offers excellent stability while still providing responsiveness.
If you primarily train in the ocean, you may consider the Reliance Touring, a sea kayak variation of this model. Also note that the Nautique Reliance was previously known as the "Eliminator" by Sisson Kayaks, so you might find second-hand options under the older name.
Best Beginner Multisport Kayak for Paddlers Over 90 kg
Width: 62 cm
Length: 5.2 m
Style: Sea Kayak
As a larger paddler, the options for a forgiving beginner multisport kayak are limited. However, the Ruahine Whio is a suitable choice for those above 90 kg.
This kayak offers increased width and length to accommodate a higher centre of gravity and provide ample buoyancy.
The Whio's sea kayak design makes it well-suited for both ocean training and Coast to Coast racing. If your weight is around 100 kg or above, I’d highly recommend investing in a new Whio.
Listen to the Podcast Episode
To hear my in-depth discussion around this topic, including my thoughts on other kayak models, and how to go about finding your perfect boat, then listen to the audio episode. You can click play above, or you can follow The Canterbury Kayaking Podcast and listen on your smartphone.