Best Kayak For Beginners: Top 12 Easy-To-Paddle Picks For Novice Kayakers

As a kayaking instructor often tasked with reassuring first-time kayakers, I’ve seen panicked newcomers flip seemingly tip-proof boats. After witnessing one too many beginner mishaps, I committed to uncovering the most confidence-inspiring designs actually tailored for novice paddlers. Now after an exhaustive year of stability testing and trial runs, here’s my round up of the top-ranked beginner kayaks available in 2024.
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Sam OBrien

Founder, Kayaking & Paddle Boarding Expert

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

I’ve been where you’re at now – eager to start paddling but confused by the numerous options available to you. I can tell you right now that choosing the best kayak for beginners is never an easy feat.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed trying to figure out which of the many models, styles, sizes, and shapes of kayaks are suitable for beginners. But the good news is:

You have me in your corner – and I’m here to help you make that choice.

So, let’s get straight to it! 

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In A Rush? The Winner After 46 Hours Of Research:

Pelican Sentinel 100X

Pelican Sentinel 100X

Our Rating: ★★★★★

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Why is it better?

  • Designed for beginners and intermediate-level paddlers
  • Features foam blocks inside the hull for additional flotation and improved safety
  • Exceptionally durable, triple-layer polyethylene construction that’s highly resistant to impacts
  • Twin-arched multi-chine, flat-bottom hull improves stability and ensures a steady and secure ride
  • It has an anti-slip mat on the front portion of the deck
  • Features Pelican’s ExoShell removable storage compartment and a storage platform with bungee rigging
  • Equipped with the adjustable ErgoLounge Seating System
  • It weighs a mere 41.8 pounds, so it’s ultra-portable and easy to store
  • The sit-on-top design makes it easy to get in and out of 

How To Choose A Kayak For Beginners: In-Depth Buying Guide

Selection of beginner kayaks
Image by Donald Lee Pardue (CC BY 2.0)

So, as I explained earlier, choosing beginner kayaks can be a confusing ordeal. But, it starts with a seemingly straightforward question:

What’s the best kayak for beginners?

But that’s merely the tip of the iceberg.

There’s a lot more that hides behind that one simple question – and it usually leads to additional considerations that you can’t afford to overlook, including:

What kind of kayaking do you enjoy? How often will you be paddling? How much are you willing to spend? Would you prefer to start with a sit-inside or a sit-on-top kayak?

You get the picture.

And it’s not until you’ve answered these questions that you can return to the original one – and choose the right kayak for your needs.

So, to help you, I’ve prepared some info you might find helpful as you take the next step toward becoming a paddler by purchasing your first kayak. 

What Is The Best Type Of Kayak For A Beginner?

Selection of beginner kayaks
Image by Donald Lee Pardue (CC BY 2.0)

Let’s start by discussing different types of kayaks – and see which one would work best for you. 

Sit-On-Top Vs. Sit-Inside Kayaks

First and foremost, consider whether you want a sit-on-top (SOT) or a sit-inside (SIK) kayak. The simplest way to sum up the difference between the two kayak would be:

Sit-in kayaks have a more “traditional” design, featuring an enclosed cockpit covered with a spray skirt, where you sit with your lower body inside of the vessel, which allows you to stay dry and, in colder climates, warm. If the idea of being confined inside the kayak’s cockpit doesn’t sound scary, a sit-inside kayak is something to consider.

Sit-on-top kayaks position the paddler on top of an open deck, which is why beginners usually prefer them. SOTs are much easier to get used to, won’t feel as restricting, and are known for offering better initial stability. Plus, they have a self-bailing design, meaning recovery after capsizing is more straightforward, too.

Check out this detailed comparison for more information about the differences between SOT and SIK’ yaks,

Inflatable Vs. Hard-Shell Kayaks

Another crucial decision beginner kayakers have to make before they go any further is choosing between a hard-shell and an inflatable kayak.

The most apparent distinction is the construction of the kayak’s hull. But there’s more to it than the manufacturing process or the materials used; the differences also include the kayak’s weight, portability, and, more often than not, its price tag.

One of the main features of an inflatable’ yak is portability. You can deflate the kayak, pack it up in a bag, and throw it in the trunk of your car, rather than having to figure out how to transport a kayak on the roof rack, as you would with a hard-shell kayak.  Plus if you lack storage space at home then an inflatable yak is ideal – as they can be easily stored in a closet or even under the bed.

Make no mistake about it:

Today’s inflatables are tougher and more puncture-resistant than ever before – while still being insanely lightweight. 

Check out this article for more information about how inflatables compare to hard-shell kayaks

Stability Should Be A No. 1 Priority

Stability is, hands down, the single most important feature you’d want in a kayak if you’re new to the sport. Think about it:

You have to wrap your mind around the fact that you’re sitting on the water while attempting to master the unique paddling motions, which are unlike any other water sport – acquiring any new skill comes with a learning curve, why make it harder for yourself with a tippy kayak?

You’ll need every bit of help your kayak can offer in terms of maintaining stability and remaining upright if you’re new to paddling.

A stable kayak will be less likely to dump you straight in the water the second your weight shifts; it’s that simple. And believe me, there’s going to be a lot of shifting and tipping left to right when you’re new to it.

So, yes, making sure that the kayak is designed to be as stable as possible is a must if you’re a beginner. Generally speaking, a wider beam – anything above the 28-inch mark is a safe bet – and a flat or pontoon-shaped hull are good indicators of the kayak’s primary stability.

But that’s the thing:

You also have to consider secondary stability – as in, how steady the ‘yak feels when the waters get rough. 

What Size Kayak Is Best For Beginners?

Kayaks come in a broad range of shapes and sizes – just like people. And their dimensions – primarily length, width, and load capacity – will have a direct impact on the various aspects of the kayaks’ performance.

That’s why, before you buy a ‘yak, you must make sure you’re getting the correct size and check the following:

  • Width – As mentioned earlier, width plays a role in stability. But width can also impact agility and speed, especially as a part of the kayak’s length-to-beam ratio. Get a kayak that’s too wide for you, and it will feel too awkward and unwieldy.
  • Length – When you think of kayak sizes, length is probably the first dimension to pop in your head – and it should, because length, measured from bow to stern, determines the kayak’s performance. Long kayaks tend to be faster and track better – but this comes at the cost of reduced maneuverability.
  • Load Capacity – All kayaks, regardless of size, type, or brand, have a maximum weight capacity specified by the manufacturer. It’s an indicator of the amount of load it can take on and remain afloat, i.e. paddler and gear combined weight. In fact, you should stay 30% below the limit for optimal performance.  This figure is especially important when shortlisting fishing kayaks due to the extra weight of fishing gear.

Bonus Tip: Storage & Transportation 

It’s pretty easy to get too caught up in the excitement of buying your first kayak and forget about how and where you’ll store it or how you’ll get it to the water. There are responsibilities that come with kayak ownership; ensuring that it’s adequately stored and transported safely is a part of it. 

Top 12 Beginners Kayaks Reviewed & Rated

1. Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak

Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak
  • Best Beginner Kayak For Kids
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★★
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Lifetime’s Youth Wave, with its wide, pontoon-like hull, reverse chines, and 6-foot length, is the perfect choice for kids ages five and up. The hull’s design boasts exceptional stability – while the ergonomically-molded open cockpit and swim-up deck make it a lot of fun and easy to re-enter from the water.

Oh, and one more thing:

Lifetime’s Youth Wave is one of the most lightweight hard-shell kayaks out there, weighing only 18 pounds. It’s safe to say that portability won’t be an issue, and given the 6-foot length, storage won’t, either.

What might count as a downside is the lack of a padded seat; all that your little one is getting is the molded-in seating area. Most kids won’t mind; they’re still getting a fun, brightly-colored ‘yak with a swim-up deck. But some padding – or, at the very least, a backrest – would’ve been nice.

Technical Specs

  • Hard-shell sit-on-top kayak
  • 6 x 2 feet
  • Weighs 18 pounds
  • 130-pound capacity


  • Multi-chined hull improves stability 
  • Cockpit-operated skeg 
  • Tracks well without compromising maneuverability
  • Comfortable seating and enough legroom for tall paddlers 
  • Bungee rigging and multiple storage hatches 


  • It doesn’t include a padded seat or a backrest
  • The kayak’s tracking performance could be better
  • Primarily designed for use in calm, flat waters

Lifetime’s Youth Wave allows even the youngest, most inexperienced paddlers to get their feet wet with paddling – yes, literally – and play around on this kayak. 

However, if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars then the Ocean kayak frenzy is a great alternative, and pretty much solves all of the negatives of the Youth Wave, check it out here. 

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2. Sevylor Quikpak K1 Kayak

Sevylor Quikpak K1 Kayak
  • Best Travel-Friendly Beginner Kayak
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★
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Inflatable kayaks are generally an excellent fit for beginners – and a portable one, at that. But as far as portability goes, no one pulls it off the way Sevylor’s Quikpak K1 does.

A backpack that turns into a full-blown kayak – that’s what you’re looking at here.

The Quikpak may weigh a mere 18 pounds, but it’s a complete kayaking kit, where every part of the backpack turns into a functioning piece of an 8.6-foot inflatable kayak. Oh, and the backpack turns into a seat!

You’ll also get a pump and a collapsible paddle with your ‘yak, which proves my point about this being a great starter kit.

It won’t blow your mind with its tracking performance and speed, but as far as casual outings on the water go, I think you’ll be more than happy with it.

Technical Specs

  • Inflatable sit-on-top kayak
  • 8.6 x 3 feet
  • Weighs 18 pounds
  • 400-pound capacity


  • Deflates into a backpack weighing only 18 pounds
  • Three-chamber design and no-leak guarantee enhance safety
  • It comes with a collapsible paddle and pump
  • Features a front cargo net and a cup holder


  • Poor tracking performance with lots of side-to-side movement
  • The paddle’s build quality is relatively poor
  • It doesn’t handle wind and waves that well

If you’re looking for a lightweight, highly portable kayak you can bring along on all your trips, Sevylor’s Quikpak K1 is hands down, your best bet.

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3. Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak

Lifetime Tamarack Angler 100 Fishing Kayak
  • Best Beginner Fishing Kayak
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★★
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If you don’t have a large kayak-shopping budget and you need to make every penny count, Lifetime’s Tamarack Angler 100 is a beginners’ fishing kayak you should consider.

This flat-bottom, 10-foot kayak weighs 52 pounds, has a 31-inch beam, and doesn’t have many bells and whistles. What it does offer, though, is decent stability and a basic set of accessories needed for fishing trips – including two 6-inch dry storage hatches, bow and stern deck rigging, and two flush and one top-mount rod holder.

It doesn’t have a ground-breaking load capacity; the maximum weight it can carry is 275 pounds – and that could be a limiting factor for bigger paddlers.

Another potential downside is the not-so-comfortable seat – or the lack of padding in the bottom cushion, to be precise. But hey, at least the backrest is adjustable.

Technical Specs

  • Hard-shell sit-on-top kayak
  • 10 x 2.6 feet
  • Weighs 52 pounds


  • Features two dry storage hatches
  • Equipped with flush and top-mounted rod holders
  • Flat-bottom hull design ensures improved stability
  • It comes with a paddle


  • The seat isn’t comfortable enough for longer outings
  • The 275-pound capacity could be a limiting factor for bigger paddlers
  • You’ll have to buy scupper plugs for it

If you want a starter kayak that’s stable, reliable, and works just as well for recreational paddling as it does for fishing, Lifetime’s Tamarack Angler 100 should be at the top of your list.

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4. Intex Excursion Pro Kayak

Intex Excursion Pro Kayak
  • Best Tandem Fishing Kayak For Beginners
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★★
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Another excellent choice for those interested in fishing – especially if there’s someone you’d like to bring along on the trip – is the Excursion Pro by Intex.

This 12.6-foot inflatable kayak, made of three-ply laminate PVC and featuring a three-chamber design, is a tandem’ yak designed for fishing. The kayak’s 400-pound is proof of that, and so is everything you’re getting with it:

It has a bow and stern storage, D-ring tie-downs, an adjustable mounting bracket for additional accessories – and, of course, two rod holders. Plus, you’ll get two adjustable seats, a carry bag, pump and pressure gauge, floor-mounted footrests, two detachable skegs – one standard and one for shallow water – and two collapsible paddles.

Even though you’ll probably have to trade in the included paddles for something a bit longer, it’s still a tremendous starting kit.

Also, the 39-pound is convenient, but you might have to battle winds due to how light it feels on the water. Keep that in mind.

Technical Specs

  • Inflatable sit-on-top kayak
  • 12.6 x 3.1 feet
  • Weighs 39 pounds
  • 400-pound capacity


  • Three-chamber design for added safety
  • Includes a standard and a shallow-water detachable skeg
  • It comes with essential kayaking accessories
  • Features two rod holders for fishing


  • You should trade in the included paddles for longer ones
  • Stronger winds and currents tend to push the kayak around
  • The rod holders are weirdly positioned

If all you need is a budget-friendly fishing kayak for two – and an inflatable one, at that – you’ll be happy with what the Excursion Pro by Intex has to offer.

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5. Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak

Ocean Kayak Malibu Two Tandem Sit-On-Top Kayak
  • Best Tandem Kayak For Beginners
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★
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If you’re up for giving kayaking a try as part of a paddling duo, then a tandem kayak is your best bet – and that brings us to Ocean Kayak’s Malibu Two.

This recreational tandem measures 12 feet in length and has a 34-inch beam. Furthermore, the open, sit-on-top deck makes it easy to hop in and out – especially for someone who’s still in the process of learning how to get in a kayak.

Malibu Two comes with a 425-pound capacity – enough for two adults, and maybe even a dog or a child – but what’s interesting is that it can be configured for solo paddling, too. It’s a neat addition that makes this a versatile choice for families getting into kayaking.

It weighs 57 pounds, but given that it’s a tandem, I don’t think weight should be an issue. You’ll likely have an extra set of hands to help with transportation. Still, it’s something to keep in mind.

Technical Specs

  • Hard-shell sit-on-top kayak
  • 12 x 2.8 feet
  • Weighs 57 pounds
  • 425-pound capacity


  • Accommodates two adults and a child or pet
  • It can be configured for solo paddling
  • A wide beam ensures a spacious deck and a stable ride
  • Features Comfort Plus seats with four-way adjustability


  • It might be on the heavier side when carrying it single-handedly
  • Storage options are limited – if you need dry storage hatches, you’ll have to install them yourself
  • Can be slow to turn at times

If you’re looking to try kayaking with a partner, the Ocean Kayak’s Malibu Two is one of the best, most comfortable – and highly versatile – sit-on-top kayaks to consider.

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6. Intex Challenger K1

Intex Challenger K1
  • Best Budget Inflatable Kayak For Beginners
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★★
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Intex remains one of the most recognizable – and trustworthy – names in the lower-priced part of the inflatable kayaks market. And this budget-friendly sit-in ‘yak, known as the Challenger K1, is proof of that.

A Sit-In kayak measuring 9 feet in length and weighing a mere 27.2 pounds. The Intex Challenger K1 is a complete beginner-friendly kit; you get a pump, paddle, carry bag, repair patches, and a detachable skeg.

What more could you ask for at this price point?

One thing that could be an issue – at least for bigger paddlers – is the Challenger’s limited load capacity of only 220 pounds. But given that a cargo net is your only onboard storage option, I don’t think you’ll be bringing lots of additional gear, anyway.

Technical Specs

  • Inflatable sit-inside kayak
  • 9 x 2.5 feet
  • Weighs 27.2 pounds
  • 220-pound capacity


  • A complete entry-level kayaking kit
  • Lightweight and highly portable design
  • Features a removable skeg for improved tracking
  • It comes with a paddle, pump, and a repair kit
  • It’s easy on the wallet


  • The limited load capacity won’t accommodate bigger paddlers
  • The vinyl tends to get uncomfortably warm
  • You’ll have to replace the included paddle for something better

I like that Intex’s Challenger K1 comes as part of a complete entry-level kayaking kit, offering excellent value to beginner paddlers on a tight budget.

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7. Pelican Sentinel 100X

Pelican Sentinel 100X
  • Overall Best Kayak For Beginners
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★★
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If you’re still new to the sport, managing an 80-pound ‘yak probably isn’t your idea of fun. But there is a way to get a feature-rich hard-shell that weighs just over 40 pounds.

Enter Pelican’s Sentinel 100X – a lightweight 9.5-foot kayak that feels right at home in calm and slow-moving waters and weighs a mere 41.8 pounds.

Also, just because it’s a beginner-friendly kayak doesn’t mean you don’t get to be comfortable in it. The Sentinel 100X comes with Pelican’s ExoShell removable storage compartment, an anti-slip carpet, a storage platform with bungee rigging, and the ErgoLounge Seating System.

I love how lightweight it is, but the 275-pound capacity is a bit of a let-down for a bigger guy like me. But for shorter outings that don’t require much gear, Sentinel 100X is the way to go.

Technical Specs

  • Hard-shell sit-on-top kayak
  • 9.5 x 2.5 feet
  • Weighs 41.8 pounds
  • 275-pound capacity


  • It’s incredibly lightweight and easy to manage and store
  • Anti-slip carpet on the deck
  • Pelican’s ExoShell removable storage compartment
  • Multi-chine flat bottom hull ensures a stable and secure ride


  • The seat is adjustable but doesn’t provide enough back support
  • You’ll have to get a paddle separately
  •  The kayak’s 275-pound capacity is relatively low

Pelican’s Sentinel 100X is a compact and lightweight kayak for beginners looking for a stable, comfortable, and reliable sit-on-top that won’t break the bank. 

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8. ADVANCED ELEMENTS AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

ADVANCED ELEMENTS AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak
  • Best Inflatable Kayak For Beginners
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★
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Advanced Elements’ AdvancedFrame isn’t the first inflatable kayak you’ve seen today – but it might just be the best one of all.

Featuring a three-layer PVC hull with aluminum ribs built into the bow and stern, this is anything but your average inflatable kayak. The hybrid design makes it rigid and puncture-resistant – and the multiple air chambers add to its safety, which is always a plus.

It’s worth noting that this 10.4-foot’ yak clocks in at 36 pounds, which isn’t heavy per se, but it’s higher than average as far as inflatables go. The perks of having a folding frame are worth the extra pounds, though.

As for the kayak’s capacity, AdvancedFrame comes with a 300-pound weight limit and plenty of storage, too – including bungee deck rigging.

Technical Specs

  • Inflatable sit-inside kayak
  • 10.4 x 2.7 feet
  • Weighs 36 pounds
  • 300-pound capacity


  • A folding aluminum frame paired with an inflatable hull
  • Seven air chambers for improved safety in case of leaks
  • High-support, adjustable padded seat
  • Offers adequate storage and high enough load capacity
  • Good tracking performance without giving up stability


  • Some may find it relatively pricey for an inflatable kayak
  • It doesn’t include a paddle or a pump
  • Setting the kayak up takes some getting used to
  • It’s a bit hard to dry off the interior

Advanced Elements’ AdvancedFrame handles almost like a hard-shell but retains the portability of an inflatable kayak. What more could you want from a beginner-friendly hybrid kayak?

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9. Pelican Maxim 100X Sit-In Recreational Kayak

Pelican Maxim 100X Sit-In Recreational Kayak
  • Best Lightweight Kayak For Beginners
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★★
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Many people will be expecting to see the Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 on a list of best kayaks for beginners, so why have we not included it? After all its super popular beginners yak! Good question, let me explain – there are quite simply better kayaks out there within the same price range.

In steps the Pelican Maxim 100X, designed to meet the needs – and wants – of beginner and intermediate-level paddlers and provide excellent all-around performance, Pelican’s Maxim 100X is one of the best lightweight hard-shell kayaks currently on the market.

The hull, made of RAM-X polyethylene, measures 10 feet in length and weighs only 36 pounds but still offers a great deal of impact resistance. Design-wise, the shallow V chine provides a blend of stability and maneuverability.

I found it surprisingly agile and easy to maneuver – for a beginner kayak, that is – without compromising stability.

The Maxim 100X also has a decent – but not great – 275-pound load capacity, along with mesh-covered rear storage and a hatch. Unfortunately, the storage hatch isn’t very large or completely water-tight, but it does the job.

Technical Specs

  • Hard-shell sit-inside kayak
  • 10 x 2.3 feet
  • 36 pounds
  • 275-pound capacity


  • A great choice for beginner- and intermediate-level paddlers
  • Exceptionally lightweight for a hard-shell kayak
  • Shallow V chine hull improves stability without affecting agility
  • The ERGOFORM Seating System ensures comfort and support
  • Wider cockpit opening for easier entry


  • The bow storage hatch isn’t entirely waterproof
  • A paddle would’ve been a welcome addition for beginners
  • The weight capacity could’ve been a bit higher

All in all, Pelican’s Maxim 100X is the best sit-on-top kayak for beginners, it provides an excellent blend of convenience, performance, and portability – and is an amazing fit for the average paddler getting into the sport.

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10. Perception Crank 10 Pedal Kayak

Perception Crank 10 Pedal Kayak
  • Best Pedal-Drive Kayak For Beginners
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★
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A pedal drive system isn’t something you’d commonly find in a 10-foot beginner-friendly kayak. So, feel free to think of Perception’s Crank 10 as more of an exception than an actual rule.

The 10-foot sit-on-top boasts a 35-inch beam, which, in itself, promises a spacious, comfortable deck and plenty of primary stability. Speaking of comfort, the lawn-chair-style seat, also known as the Captain’s Chair, is adjustable and breathable – and can be removed when needed, too.

What’s more, it has a 350-pound capacity, complete with a tank well and bow storage area, and small storage trays at the sides. It also features two Solo Mount recesses for adding aftermarket accessories.

Keep in mind that the pedal drive system adds some weight to it, and the Crank 10, as small as it is, clocks in at a hefty 87 pounds. If you’re in for a lightweight kayak, look elsewhere.

Technical Specs

  • Hard-shell sit-on-top kayak
  • 10 x 2.9 feet
  • Weighs 87 pounds
  • 350-pound capacity


  • Fitted with an easy-to-use pedal drive system
  • One-handed rudder control
  • Adjustable and removable lawn-chair-style seat
  • The wider beam ensures rock-solid stability
  • Two Solo Mount recesses for aftermarket accessories


  • It’s pretty heavy for a kayak of its size
  • The offset back handle makes loading and unloading harder
  • Not everyone will appreciate the price tag

Paddling is a lot of work – so, why not go with a sleek-looking, pedal-powered kayak, like the Perception Crank 10? It takes kayaking to the next level!

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11. Driftsun Rover 120 White-Water Kayak

Driftsun Rover 120 White-Water Kayak
  • Best Whitewater Kayak For Beginners
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★★
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I know you probably didn’t expect to find a whitewater kayak on a beginner-friendly list, but we all have to start somewhere. And that includes whitewater kayakers, too.

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to Driftsun Rover 120 – an inflatable whitewater kayak designed for those who are dipping their toes into the adrenaline-fueled world of running rapids.

The Rover 120 features reinforced 1000D PVC construction, drop-stitch floor, weighs a mere 22 pounds, but still has a 300-pound capacity. Plus, it comes with a removable tracking fin, an EVA foam padded seat, an action camera mount, and a two-piece aluminum paddle.

It’s rated for up to class IV rapids, too – but as a beginner, you shouldn’t go beyond class III, at most.

Technical Specs

  • Inflatable sit-inside kayak
  • 8.5 x 3 feet
  • Weighs 22 pounds
  • 300-pound capacity


  • A traditional river rocker profile for up to Class IV rapids
  • Seven self-bailing drain valves for quick draining
  • Features an action camera mount
  • Includes a detachable skeg for flatwater paddling


  • There’s not much room for any additional cargo
  • The included two-piece paddle won’t work for whitewater
  • Tends to feel sluggish in flat water

Driftsun’s Rover 120 is a simple but rugged, one-person inflatable kayak with everything you’ll need to get a taste of whitewater kayaking – in up to Class III and IV rapids!

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12. Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 Touring Kayak

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 125 Touring Kayak
  • Best Day-Touring Beginners Kayak
  • Rating: ★★★★
  • Price: ★★★★
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Much like running whitewater rapids, touring isn’t the type of kayaking you’d get into as a total beginner – as in, the first-time-entering-a-kayak kind of beginner.

But if kayak touring is your jam, add Wilderness Systems’ Tsunami 125 to your list of kayaks to consider.

It’s a 12.7-foot long ‘yak with a 26-inch beam, which, I know, seems relatively narrow compared to some other kayaks I’ve shown you. But given that it’s shorter than an average ocean-friendly touring kayak, it’s surprisingly maneuverable and easy to paddle – even for a beginner.

What’s more, it’s equipped with comfort-oriented features, including the easily adjustable Phase 3 AirPro seat, SlideLock XL foot braces, and padded thigh braces. And, it has a 300-pound load capacity while still weighing a reasonable 51 pounds.

If it came with a rudder system, it would’ve been perfect. That aside, it’s hard to find room for complaints. 

Technical Specs

  • Hard-shell sit-inside kayak
  • 12.7 x 2.1 feet
  • Weighs 51 pounds
  • 300-pound capacity


  • Storage includes two hatches and removable mesh bags
  • An oh-so-comfy Phase 3 AirPro seat and SlideLock XL adjustable foot braces
  • Flared sidewalls improve stability
  • Excellent choice for day touring
  • Relatively lightweight construction


  • It might not provide enough legroom for tall paddlers
  • It would benefit from having a rudder system
  • The kayak’s price tag can’t be considered “entry-level”

As touring kayaks go it’s incredibly agile, maneuverable, a breeze to paddle, even for absolute beginners, and puts your comfort first – that’s Wilderness Systems’ Tsunami 125 for you. 

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Best Kayaks For Beginners: Final Thoughts & Recommendations

Group of people wearing life jackets near kayak

I’d be happy to recommend any of the kayaks on this list to a beginner paddler.

But ultimately, the best kayak for beginners should be one that meets your individual needs, fosters your love of kayaking, and helps you progress as a paddler. And depending on factors like your preferred paddling location, type of kayaking you’re interested in, your lifestyle, and available storage, some will suit you better than others.With that said, I still believe Pelican Sentinel 100X takes the cake as one of the best beginner kayaks currently on the market. It’s stable, reliable, comfortable, weighs a little over 40 pounds, and won’t break the bank. Add a paddle, and you’re good to go!

Feature image by Thomas Dwyer (CC BY 2.0)

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Sam OBrien

Sam is the founder and editor of WaterSportsWhiz. With over 20 years of experience across various water sports, he provides trusted reviews and expert advice to help others pursue their passion for getting out on the water. When not working, you can find him kayaking, paddle boarding, or planning his next water-based adventure with family and friends.

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