Leisure Paddling: Recreational kayaking is for the paddler who seeks a boat friendly enough for a first timer to feel right at home. Whether paddling down a stream or across a small lake. Recreational kayaks are stable, easy to control, and fun for anyone. Lessons are not required to get into this kind of paddling, but a basic kayaking class will make your paddling experience safer and more enjoyable.
Touring or sea kayaks are longer, thinner, and paddle in a straight line. Built for big waves on wide open expanses of water, these boats are sleek and very fast. In these, one can easily cover ten to twelve miles in a day. Sea kayaks have varying amounts of storage, allowing from weekend to month-long expeditions. If you are a canoeist you'll feel limited for space. If you're a backpacker you'll not know what to do with the extra space. Sea kayaks are more expensive than most other kayaks, but with them you can go to many exciting, exotic places.
Sport Kayaks are for the hunting and fishing enthusiast. They tend to be wider than other kayaks, often are fairly heavy, and relatively flat bottomed. They are working platforms but with that low profile quality of a kayak. Decks are often less extensive in these kayaks so they are more open hulls. Many are painted or cast in colors that make it easier to hide from watchful eyes.
River running: If you are interested in an incredibly fun, technique- intensive sport that will pull you in, whitewater is for you! Once you catch the bug, it is nearly impossible to quit. Wave surfing and big drops are an adrenaline junkie's dream. Whitewater can be enjoyed on an easier, less intimidating level on rivers and streams with simple boulder bed rapids and small waves. There is no better way to see the wilderness than from the river.
Whitewater kayaking is for the more aggressive, adventurous paddler. The kayaks are designed to turn and maneuver. Paddling in a straight line is nearly impossible. There are two kinds of Whitewater paddling, freestyle and river-running. Freestyle kayaking is similar to surfing and other board-sports. River-Running, which is part of freestyle, is getting from the put in to the takeout with grace and ease. Going with the flow of the river can be an awesome thing.
Racing Kayaks are light, stiff and challenging to turn. These are for advanced paddlers who want to train and race and put in time on the water honing their competitive edge. If you think of yourself as an aerobic beast you may want to work your way into one of these specialty boats. Most of these boats are solos but tandems and more exist at the Olympic level. These boats come in a wide range of models and designs and they change often as designs are tweaked and materials change. As with racing canoes, Carl has experience and even trained with Olympic aspirations.
Tandem Kayaks are made in a range of shapes with a wide range of performance possibilities. Of course these boats are heavier than the equivalent solo but they can easier for the inexperienced paddlers in rough conditions. They tend to be quite stable and of course with two paddlers there are two "motors". But tandem kayaking requires coordinated timing and teamwork. This introduces a skill challenge that frustrates some. But if one member of a party is less skilled as a paddler or if the idea of being close together is important, then tandem boats can be a great option. Often, tandem boats feel more stable simply because width is carried farther along the sides in order to fit both people.