Best Beginner Kayaks – Top Models For 2018 To Start Kayaking!

You might be excited when you are buying your first beginner kayak, but the whole process can be difficult bearing in mind that you are new to the sport. Many first time buyers are afraid of making the wrong decision, and you also don’t want to spend a lot of money buying a kayak.

Even though there are different models of kayaks that differ in size, weight, and design, purchasing your first kayak should not be complicated. The fact is that you do not need any prior experience in buying kayaks. With the right information, you can choose the right kayak that will give you a good experience on the water.

Being a kayak enthusiast, I have collected and reviewed some of the best kayaks for beginners. If you read my reviews of each product that I have covered and the buying guide, you will find it very easy to pick your first kayak.

If you want to skip to the buying guide click here 

Best Beginner Kayaks Comparison:


Image Name Brand Length Width Weight Maximum Capacity
Zydeco 9.0 Dagger Kayaks 9”1 28.5” 36.5 lbs 220 lbs
Nomad Feelfree Kayaks 9”6 29.25” 46 lbs 330 lbs
Youth Wave Lifetime 6” 24 “ 18 lbs 130 lbs
Tarpon 100 Wilderness Systems 10” 30.5” 55 lbs 325 lbs
Sound 9.5 Perception Kayaks 9”6 28” 38 lbs 300 lbs
Malibu 2 Ocean Kayaks 12” 34” 57 lbs 425 lbs
Access 11.5 Perception Kayaks 11”6 31” 55 lbs 300 lbs
Hi Life Perception 11” 34” 55 lbs 280 lbs
Frenzy Ocean Kayaks 9” 31” 44 lbs 325 lbs
Aruba 10 Sun Dolphin 10” 30” 40 lbs 250 lbs


If you are a beginner looking to buy your first boat there are many options to choose from. Here I have reviewed some of the best boats available for beginners. There is a mixture of Sit on and Sit In style kayaks. There is no best option as both have many positives.
For more information on points to consider when choosing a kayak check out my buyers  guide

Dagger Zydeco 9.0 Kayak

What We Say

The Zydeco from Dagger has been a firm favourite, bringing usability in a premium design.

Dagger build a wide variety of boats and are well known throughout the industry as one of the brand leaders.

All of the boats from Dagger are well built with good components and premium materials.

The Zydeco is no exception providing a sit in kayak suitable for even a debutant. Providing a comfortable stable platform to experience the water. The zydeco is available in two sizes the Zydeco 9 and the Zydeco 11 design with the longer model better for longer distance paddling trips.

The large cockpit is easy to access both roomy and comfortable with the padded seat and thigh hooks providing a good fit. The large slide lock footrests are easily adjustable offering good support. The front and rear deck lines are ideal for securing essentials such as maps or water bottles.

Overall the zydeco is very stable and tracks well, suitable both on lakes, slow moving rivers and coastal use. The Zydeco is one of my favourite boats available in a range of great colours.

What They Say

Experiencing the joy of kayaking has never been easier

The Zydeco design has been completely overhauled for even more manoeuvrability and faster acceleration than ever before.

Now with even more premium features not found in average recreational kayaks, the Zydeco 9.0 offers a comfortable but dialed-in cockpit design that’s roomy enough for relaxation without sacrificing the performance capabilities offered by smaller cockpits.

The CFS-R outfitting rounds out the experience with amazing comfort and multi-adjust options for better fit and function.As the more compact of the new Zydeco family, the 9.0 is lightweight for easier carrying and car topping, while the shorter length offers increased control for twisty environments. And the super-sleek aesthetic looks great on both the roof and river.

Dagger Kayaks Zydeco 9 Kayak
Type Sit In Kayak
Length 9”1
Width 28.5”
Weight 36.5 lbs
Maximum Capacity 220 lbs


  • Available in two sizes Zydeco 9 and Zydeco 11
  • Good comfortable seat and adjustable backrest
  • Great range of attractive colours available
  • Large roomy cockpit
  • Super stable design


  • Only the larger Zydeco 11 is fitted with rear hatch


Feel Free Nomad Sit on top Kayak

What We Say

The Feelfree Nomad has been a best selling Sit on Top for a number of years. This popular design is perfect for someone getting on a kayak for the first time. The open deck provides the feeling of freedom and not being trapped which can happen with some smaller cockpits. The Nomad is very stable and comes fitted with a comfortable seat and backrest. The Sit on top is the ideal platform for someone wanting to experience kayaking. It is suitable to use almost everywhere for short paddles and playing in waves. The rear wheel in the keel is one of Feel free’s best thought out features, allowing easy handling and moving of the kayak from car to water, simply lift the front and the back will follow.

The sit on tops can be enjoyed by all of the family. With some easy upgrades, the Nomad can affix rod holders to allow for a spot of fishing also.

Feel Free boats are a premium quality brand producing a range of great boats and accessories.

What They Say

The Nomad is an all-round single person kayak ready to play in the surf, drift along slow moving streams and rivers or even for anchoring down in your favorite fishing spot while you cast a line. It combines a large ergonomic cockpit, comfort seating system and proven hull design to create an experience on the water that any paddler will enjoy.

Feel Free Nomad Sit on top kayak
Type Sit on top Kayak
Length 9”6
Width 29.25”
Weight 46.2 lbs
Maximum Capacity 330 lbs


  • Stable platform suitable for all the family
  • Large Keel in the Wheel is an ingenious idea
  • Large rear storage area
  • Centre storage area available
  • Safe and fun


  • Less suitable for longer distances
  • Wetter ride, for all day use a wetsuit would be advised


Lifetime Youth Wave Sit on top Kayak

What We Say

For me one of the best aspects of paddlesport is that it is really accessible to all. Children should be no exception. By introducing them at a young age brings confidence and teaches them both water safety and motor skills. The importance of introducing children to kayaking is one of the reasons this kayak is featured so high in the reviews.

The Youth Wave kayak from Lifetime is the perfect Sit on Top kayak for children. It is small and proportional to their size. Meaning they will be able to control and manoeuvre the boat. The Kayak is both lightweight and very stable. This kayak is only designed for flatwater use but this can be the perfect introduction for any infant. The boat is big enough to allow the child to grow and continue to use right up until early teens.

The colours are bright and attractive even offering a popular pink colour which other brands dismiss. The boat is small enough for the child to use solo or to be towed behind an adults kayak

The kayak is sold with a paddle forming the perfect small package for children.

What They Say

The kids Wave™ kayak provides big fun for your little ones. Specifically designed for their size and their safety as well as ultimate stability. Perfect for lakes and ponds. This model includes a paddle. Recommended for adventurous children age 5 and up. Maximum weight capacity 130 lbs. Kayak made in USA from US and imported parts.

Lifetime Youth Wave Kayak
Type Sit on top Kayak
Length 6”
Width 24”
Weight 18 lbs
Maximum Capacity 130 lbs



  • Bright attractive colours available
  • Stable hull shape
  • Properly sized so can be paddled and manoeuvred by children
  • Swim up deck designed to assist re-entry


  • Only 2 drainage holes
  • No seat or paddling included

Children need to always be supervised by an adult when on the water. Never leave a child unattended with a kayak.


Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Sit on top Kayak

What We Say

The Tarpon from Wilderness systems has been one of the most popular boats ever built. Having stood the test of time. Taking various upgrades and improvements over the years the Tarpon in still a mainstay in the Wilderness system lineup.

The biggest development over the years has been the changes to the seat. Now equipped with the popular, comfortable, Phase 3 Airpro sit on top seat which is breathable and quick drying. Lifting you off of the hull of the kayak to give you a warmer drier ride.

The hull is both predictable and stable perfect for all conditions. The updated hatch uses the orbix hatch covers which are easy to use even with cold hands.

The Tarpon is a really good beginner boat, providing comfort and plenty of options to upgrade your adventure. By utilizing the Slide Track system which is a standard feature of the Tarpon allows an easy upgrade, with a host of fishing and camera accessories.

One of the more expensive of the beginner kayaks but a boat that you won’t outgrow. As your experience improves you will have the option to really tailor the kayak to suit your needs.  

What They Say

Versatile sit-on-top offers stunning performance for surf play, ponds, lakes, and bays. Larger tankwell boasts even more capacity than previous 14-foot models.

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 Sit on top
Type Sit on top Kayak
Length 10”
Width 30.5”
Weight 55 lbs
Maximum Capacity 325 lbs


  • Comfortable and stable
  • Easily upgradeable
  • Fast drying and breathable seat
  • Adjustable footrests
  • Orbix hatch covers user friendly and easy to use.


  • More expensive than other beginner kayaks
  • Wetter than a sit in kayak alternative.


Perception Sound 9.5 Kayak

What We Say

The Perception Sound 9.5 is a really stable kayak with plenty of options for beginners. The padded seat is comfortable and the adjustable backrest provides support. The large cockpit is easily accessible with plenty of space.

A really nice feature is the front dashboard moulded into the kayak this can be supplemented with a rod holder if you would like to try some fishing.

The Sound provides a rear storage tank much like other sit on top models perfect for accommodating a crate or kit bag.

The Sound 9.5 is also available in a larger Sound 10.5 for increased speed and storage capacity.

What They Say

The Perception Sound 9.5 kayak’s ultimate stability and durability make it ideal for paddlers and anglers looking to explore slow-moving rivers, lakes, and ponds. The 9-foot-6 sit-in design protects from the elements while its light weight makes it easy to carry. The tri-keel stabilizer hull stays on course with little effort by tracking straight and steering smoothly. Essential features include molded-in gear storage, two rod holders, and a dashboard will please the occasional angler.

Perception Sound 9.5 Kayak
Type Sit In Kayak
Length 9”6
Width 28”
Weight 38 lbs
Maximum Capacity 300 lbs


  • Dry comfortable ride
  • Moulded in dashboard
  • Bright vibrant colours
  • Padded seat
  • Good back support
  • Comfortable molded handgrabs
  • Moulded rear rod holders as standard


  • Moulded seat cannot be moved to adjust trim
  • No solid color options available

Ocean Kayaks Malibu 2 Kayak

What We Say

The best beginner kayak list just wouldn’t be complete without a tandem option. What could possibly better than getting out on the water with friends, The Malibu 2 is a great boat for beginners who just are not sure, or want to share the fun with friends and family

The Malibu 2 has space for 2 adults and a child or dog making it a really good option for all the family. It is also possible to paddle the kayak solo.

The 2 seats are padded and offer support, they are easily adjustable and can be removed for storage and transport. The Malibu 2 is one of the more basic kayaks with no real storage options but it’s designed for fun and to get you on the water.

Perfect on a lake or in the sea a fun enjoyable platform to share your adventures.

What They Say

The most popular compact, lightweight tandem sit-on-top in the world. Stable and versatile, it can be paddled solo or tandem. Fits two adults plus a small child or pet.

Ocean Kayaks Malibu 2 Kayak
Type Sit on top Kayak
Length 12”
Width 34”
Weight 57 lbs
Maximum Capacity 425 lbs


  • Perfect for all the family
  • 2 removable backrests included
  • Option of a third seat for child or pet
  • Really easy to get going
  • Good drainage for use in waves


  • No Storage space
  • Seat is very basic and not as comfortable as others
  • Heavier than a single kayak


Perception Kayaks Access 11.5 Kayak

What We Say

The Access from Perception Kayaks is a great boat for beginners. Another Sit on Top option with no frills this boat is simple yet super effective at 11”6 the boat is long enough to cover some distance with ease, The hull is stable and the moulded in rod holders allow the option to try a bit of kayak angling. The Access has a padded seating area to provide comfort and good drainage for use in waves

The Front and rear tank wells are ideal for storing equipment when out on the water. The kayak is available in some great colour options.

For a beginner the access is a really good option it’s both simple and user friendly, the extra length allows it to cover more distance and yet still very stable. The Access is also available in a shorter 9”6 option for smaller people or persons looking for a more manoeuvrable option.

What They Say

Your all-access pass to fun.

The Perception Access 11.5-foot kayak’s forgiving 11-foot-6 design makes it popular with beginner to intermediate paddlers. The sit-on-top design makes it easy to get in and out of for the entire family. The Access 11.5 maintains the maneuverability of its smaller sibling, while adding speed, storage, and stability. Perfect for slow moving rivers, flat water lakes and ponds, or coastal waters with light waves. Occasional anglers will appreciate the generous storage options, comfortable seat, and molded-in rod holders.

Perception Kayaks Access 11.5 Kayak
Type Sit on top Kayak
Length 11”6
Width 31”
Weight 55 lbs
Maximum Capacity 300 lbs


  • Simple to get going
  • Extremely Stable design
  • Padded seat
  • Lots of drainage
  • Good length for trips


  • Less maneuverable than the 9”6 version
  • Seat is not removable for transport
  • No backrest adjustment available.


Perception Kayaks Hi Life

What We Say

The hi life really is a hybrid with so many people torn between a kayak and a SUP why not pick up a design that does both. As your first beginner kayak having a platform that can introduce you to two different water sports in one amazing package. Brought to us from Perception Kayaks one of the world’s brand leaders in recreational kayak designs. All of their boats bring quality and performance. With a huge history of innovation and design throughout the industry it’s no surprise to see them again bringing something new to the market

The Perception Hi Life is equipped with so many amazing features, full size padded deck for standing as well as a really comfortable seat for paddling comfort. The Hi Life is fitted with a gear track to equip your boat with rod holders, camera even speakers the removable keeps you tracking true. With so many options this has to be one of the best boats for a beginner, giving you a taste of everything water in one amazing package

What They Say

The ultra-versatile Perception Hi Life 11.0 combines kayaking and stand up paddleboard fun into one. Impressive features and maximum stability make it perfect for any ability. A premium padded seat with hidden cooler recess, built-in accessory mounts, all over deck cushioning, cup holders, and comfort carry handles create an experience you won’t find anywhere else. Suitable for the entire family and a furry friend, the Hi Life even features the easy-boarding of a lowered rear swim deck.

The Perception Hi Life is the most versatile boat ever built, offering a sit-on-top design that can be paddled like a kayak or a stand up paddleboard. Its maximum stability and unique features create an experience that’s unlike anything else—perfect for sharing the water with kids and pets. Fun for all ages and abilities, the Hi Life is up for any adventure, whether that means cruising, swimming, fishing, or simply relaxing with your favorite beverage.

The extra-cushy kayak seat hides a built-in cooler recess for quick access to drinks and snacks. Unique cushioning across the entire top surface keeps feet happy all day. The low-profile rear swim deck with handles makes it easy to get back on board after swimming, while the large open front area is the perfect perch for small children and pets. Rugged and low-maintenance, the Hi Life features Perception’s legendary one-piece roto-molded high-tech polymer construction for superior UV, impact, and abrasion-resistance. Proudly designed, molded, and hand-assembled in the USA.

Perception Kayaks Hi Life
Type Sit on top Kayak / SUP
Length 11”
Width 35”
Weight 55 lbs
Maximum Capacity 280 lbs


  • Two incredible watersports on one platform
  • Stable and fun for all the family
  • Easily upgradable
  • Option to paddle seated or standing
  • Removable fin to aid tracking
  • Soft padded deck for comfort
  • Lowered back deck to aid re mounting


  • Flat deck means you are in for a wet ride
  • No footrest for seated paddling
  • More expensive than other beginner designs


Ocean Kayak Frenzy Kayak

What We Say

The Frenzy has been ever present in the Ocean Kayak line up. Selling thousands of boats worldwide and introducing countless people to kayaking. The Frenzy is the perfect companion at the beach or on a lake. A good keel helps tracking and the comfortable padded seat provides support. The Frenzy is an all purpose, all the family design. Suitable for just about anyone to take to the water. At 9Ft long, the frenzy is very manoeuvrable and a real joy to paddle. The moulded footrest means anyone can paddle with no adjustment necessary. Front and rear tank wells provide storage space for days out on the water, Brightly coloured and highly visible the Frenzy is fun for all the family.

What They Say

Are you looking for compact, affordable fun for everyone in the family? Take a look at the Frenzy. It has the stability and fun of the Yak Board with the addition of a strong keel line for good tracking in a compact craft. It’s the kayak that people keep for a lifetime. Forgiving in the surf, riding waves or paddling calm waters. What’s not to love?

Ocean kayak Frenzy Kayak
Type Sit on top Kayak
Length 9”
Width 31”
Weight 44 lbs
Maximum Capacity 325 lbs


  • Padded supportive adjustable backrest
  • Brightly coloured
  • Perfect for all the family
  • Highly maneuverable
  • Keel to aid tracking and stability


  • One size fits all,
  • No internal storage option
  • No room for optional upgrades


Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Kayak

What We Say

The Aruba 10 is one of Sun Dolphins most popular models and it is easy to see why with a whole host of features this sit in kayak really is a great beginners boat, designed for lakes and flat water at 10” it carries its speed allowing you to explore your local waterways. The Boat has an adjustable backrest to provide support as well as padded thigh braces for comfort. It doesn’t come from one of the premium brands but it certainly deserves a mention at a great price it is a hard kayak to ignore.

The rear storage is big enough for all your accessories.

What They Say

Take a break from the daily grind and hit the water for a relaxing and fun time out. This Sun Dolphin Aruba kayak was designed to move through the water with ease and grace, and is perfect for short or long trips. The cockpit is non-confining and surprisingly roomy, so you won’t feel claustrophobic or trapped while cruising in the vessel. With a high-quality adjustable backrest and adjustable foot pegs, so it’s great for couples or families to share, just adjust the back and feet areas to meet individual needs. Stow snacks, beverages and extra gear in the roomy storage compartments. Great for rivers and lakes. The maximum weight capacity is 250 pounds.

Sun Dolphin Aruba 10 Kayak
Type Sit In Kayak
Length 10”
Width 30”
Weight 40 lbs
Maximum Capacity 250 lbs


  • Lightweight simple design
  • Adjustable backrest for support
  • Padded thigh area for additional comfort
  • Large rear hatch for all your accessories


  • No seat paddling
  • Only suitable for flatwater conditions

Remember to take a look at the buyer’s guide to help you choose the perfect beginner’s kayak.

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