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There are many questions to ask your self when choosing a kayak.
How will I use it?
Fishing, surfing, diving, carrying extra gear, pets or kids, just paddling for recreation or fitness etc.
Where will I use it?
Ocean, surf, slow river, lakes, familiar waters or unfamiliar waters etc.
How far will I typically paddle?
1 to 2 miles or 30 minutes to 1 hour (9' length will do fine)
2 to 5 miles or 1 hour to 3 - 4 hours (11' length is a good choice but shorter and longer will work as well)
3 to 10 miles or 2 hours - All day (13' length is best. 11' will cover this range well but not as efficient)
Who will I paddle with?
What length kayak do they paddle and how far/ how long do they go. Will I take someone with me or who else will be paddling the kayak?
Any storage size limitations? How will I transport - car top or in back of a pick up?
Believe it or not, the longer the kayak the easier it is to get on top of the car due to leverage.
Even color choice is important...
Do you want to be seen, or would you rather be camouflaged?
Length and width affect speed and maneuverability. When it comes to speed, it's all about surface area. A long, thin line allows paddlers to slice through the water quickly and more efficiently. This is a real advantage if you will be paddling distance, but a drawback if you like smaller tighter bodies of water or playing in the surf. The 13 foot kayak will go much faster than the 9 foot kayaks but the 9 foot kayaks are much more maneuverable. A good combination of both attributes are found in the 11 foot range of kayaks being between those lengths. Keep in mind a narrow kayak is faster than a wide one, but wide kayaks tend to be more stable ( depending on hull shape ). This matters more to the 250 lb person than it will to the 130 lb. paddler. All Ocean Kayaks are designed for stability as the priority and the the speed and efficiency maximized with each design purpose.
Depending somewhat on width, flat or smooth-bottomed kayaks (U-shaped) have more secondary stability, while keeled kayaks (V-shaped) have more primary stability. U-shapes may feel tippier at first, but stay stable in moving water (rivers, surf, etc.) while V-shapes feel most stable in flat water. The tri-form hull of most sit-on-tops combines both primary and secondary stability with a long center keel to keep you going straight, and two "shoulders" that act like sponsons for secondary stability. This tri-form hull generally sacrifices a little speed, but adds a lot of stability (which is great for cross-over sports like fishing or diving). There are lots of different hull shapes, but basically V-shapes encourage a boat to go straight (good for touring), and smooth bottoms encourage a boat to spin (good for surfing, kayak polo, or river running). Whether or not a kayak goes straight is referred to as "tracking." You'll want a kayak with good tracking to cover distance on flat water, but you'll want less in whitewater. Chances are, for recreational paddling, you'll want a kayak with a keel (some kind of V-shape on the bottom), so you can travel more efficiently. If you expect to spend equal time on flat and moving water, consider buying a short kayak with a keel (it's all a continuum, remember). "Rocker" is another term used to describe hull shape. Think of the keel as something you'd notice on a kayak cut in half. Rocker is most noticeable on a kayak cut cross-ways. A kayak with a lot of rocker would look like a "U" in a cross-ways view. A kayak with little rocker would look like a line. Keeping in mind the idea of surface area and water displacement, you'll want a lot of rocker (one round point touching the water) for maneuverability, and you'll want very little rocker (a long, thin line of points touching the water) for touring. For recreational paddling, pick something in between.
Do you plan to paddle solo or tandem? This is one of the most basic questions you'll have to answer. While one person can paddle a tandem alone, it requires sitting in the rear of the kayak while ballasting the front. The kayak will move, but not at its optimal level. On the other hand, it's a lot of fun to go out with a partner, often safer, and usually cheaper than buying two boats. There are a few tandem sit-on-tops that have a jump seat between the front and rear seat wells. This seat arrangement makes it possible to balance weight for better performance when paddling alone, and may be a good option to try if you want to paddle both tandem and solo. Your body determines how the kayak will perform. You probably wouldn't buy new pants without trying them on first. The same rule applies to kayaks. When you test paddle, you aren't so much looking for mechanical failure as you are trying to get sense of how the kayak fits. It goes beyond just height and weight-people carry weight and proportions in different ways, and these differences translate into how you balance in a kayak. You can always learn how to work with different kinds of kayaks-experts tend to balance better than beginners-but know that it will take time and practice, especially if you decide on a specialized kayak.
install & adjust a seatback
We strive to find a balance of a lightweight yet durable kayak. Ocean Kayaks are rotationally molded. We pour the finest linear, medium-density polyethylene powder into the kayak mold. That mold goes into a LARGE oven and rotationally spins around until the powder has melted and formed into the kayak. The kayak (very hot and somewhat malleable) is then cooled and removed from the mold. It is allowed to cool for a few minutes and then we outfit the boat to perfection. Appearance counts, too. Our mold-in graphics are baked right into the boat. This prevents graphic peeling and keeps the boat looking great years after purchase. Our materials have ultra-violet inhibitors blended in which help prevent the plastic from breaking down in the sun. However, remember, plastic does breakdown when exposed to the sun over long periods of time. We recommend storing your Ocean Kayak under a tarp or in a covered storage area. This will keep the color from fading and the plastic from breaking down in the sun. After we manufacture and outfit the boat, we wrap it up and ship it to our authorized Ocean Kayak dealers.
When considering kayak construction, the key is to find material that is neither too flexible or too stiff. Flexible material is less efficient, but harder to crack. Stiff material creates a more efficient hull, but is more brittle and easier to crack. Linear, medium-density polyethylene (PE) is virtually indestructible under normal use. Being somewhat flexible, PE gives on impact, which keeps it from cracking, but maintains its stiffness using Ocean Kayak's compound curves. Polyethylene is also very abrasion-resistant, but in the event you scratch or gouge your Ocean Kayak, linear PE is repairable. Ocean Kayak offers free weld rod and repair instructions should you ever need them. By making kayaks using polyethylene, Ocean Kayak is able to provide a great product at an affordable price!
A Few Words on Quality
All of our kayaks are quality inspected. We have several inspection processes to help ensure we are building quality boats. In addition, we dunk test every boat in a water tank. This allows our inspectors to see if there is any chance of severe leakage. Finally, at times we have randomly pulled product from our warehouse and re-inspected the kayaks making sure that what we are sending to our dealers and consumers is a premium product.