Kayaking is becoming a very popular activity - particularly among those who enjoy other water sports. Although it’s wise for beginners to start on flatwaters like calm rivers or lakes.
Take a look at our River Kayak Buying Guide.
More confident kayakers will often take on rapids or the open sea. Though don’t attempt these rougher waters until you’ve had some experience dealing with mild winds, currents, and waves, as kayaking in the sea is a very different experience to paddling on flatwater. Strong currents and heavy winds are two major challenges for sea kayakers. And you’re more likely to get wet from sea spray. Fortunately, the best sea kayaks are specifically designed to keep you dry, and they have a rudder and/or skeg system that gives you extra control.
There are two main types of kayaks: inflatable and rigid. In this article, we’ll take a look at the 6 best sea kayaks at price points to suit every budget. As well as the most important features to consider when buying a new sea kayak.
If you’re new to the sport, take a look at our guide on Kayaking For Beginners (How to Kayak & What You Need to Get Started).
If you’ve been kayaking a few times and want to invest in your own kayak, you might be wondering whether it’s best to get an inflatable or a rigid kayak. With so many models available, it’s hard to know where to start.
Inflatable kayaks are exactly what you imagine - kayaks that are inflated and deflated before and after use. They’ve become more and more popular over the years, so let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of inflatable kayaks.
Advantages of inflatable kayaks:
- Size & Weight: inflatable kayaks are lighter and easier to carry than rigid kayaks. They also pack down to fit inside a large backpack or duffle bag, making them much easier to store and transport (no roof rack required). You can even pack them in a suitcase and take them on holiday.
- Stability: Made with a wider base, inflatable kayaks are generally more stable than rigid kayaks - making them perfect for both beginners and experienced kayakers. And they can actually have a higher weight threshold than some traditional kayaks.
- Durability: Inflatable kayaks are specifically designed to withstand knocks and bumps - bouncing off rocks and hard surfaces in the event of a collision. The best inflatable kayaks will be made with “drop-stitch technology” meaning that small fibers inside the board interlock whilst the board is inflated - creating a tough surface. While the outer layer is made from rubber and PVC, making them generally more durable than rigid kayaks.
Disadvantages of inflatable kayaks:
- Cost: Many people opt for an inflatable kayak because they think they’re cheaper than rigid ones. And while this may be the case for basic beginner models, high-end brands and kayaks designed for high performance in rapids and rough seas may cost just as much, if not more, than rigid kayaks.
- Control: Because inflatable kayaks are lighter than rigid kayaks, they can sometimes be more difficult to control. Generally, rigid kayaks tend to perform better in rough waters, although technical advancements mean inflatable kayaks are becoming increasingly effective on all types of water. You just need to bear this in mind, especially if you’re a beginner.
- Inflating/Deflating: One of the biggest drawbacks of owning an inflatable kayak is the fact you have to inflate and deflate it every time you use it. This can take up to ten minutes with a pump, or a lot longer without. It can also be a little tricky to get the correct level of air into your kayak for optimum performance (measured in PSI - pounds per square inch). The higher the PSI, the more rigid your kayak will be, so you need to pay close attention to this before heading out on to the water.
- Cleaning: As well as needing to deflate your kayak after every use, you’ll also need to make sure you wash, air, and dry your kayak too before packing it away to avoid it becoming damaged while in storage.
Best inflatable sea kayaks
At Decathlon, we have a range of inflatable kayaks to suit all abilities and budgets. Here’s our pick of the best sea kayaks:
This inflatable touring kayak is our best sea kayak for beginners. Whether you’re paddling solo or with a friend, it’s the ideal kayak for half-day trips.
- 2 raised adult seats for comfort
- Side tubes & wide inflatable floor for stability
- Patented bow shape for good glide performance
- Deflates & can be stored in its backpack
- Up to 2 adult kayakers
- Perfect for beginners
- Half-day touring
A solid inflatable kayak with high-pressure drop-stitch bottom, perfect for up to 3 adults for around 3 hours of kayaking.
- Raised seats for comfort
- Side tubes & a wide inflatable floor for good stability
- The bow shape gives the kayak good glide performance
- Robust drop-stitch bottom & tarpaulin side tubes with pressure relief valves
- Secure storage at the front of the kayak & behind the seats
- Up to 3 adults
- Beginner to intermediate kayakers
- 2-3 hours of touring
This 2-seater inflatable kayak is great for experienced kayakers, for touring all day long at sea, or on lakes or calm rivers.
- 2 very dense foam seats for comfort
- Efficient & robust
- Easy to inflate in 6 minutes
- Suitable for use all year round
- Up to 2 adults
- Perfect for experienced kayakers
- Full-day touring at sea
Take a look at the full range of inflatable kayaks available at Decathlon.
Rigid kayaks are the more traditional type, usually made from wood, plastic, fibreglass, or composite materials. There are hundreds of designs on the market, and regular kayakers may prefer a rigid kayak over an inflatable kayak because they’re ready to go - just push it into the water!
As with inflatable kayaks, there are pros and cons, so let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of owning a rigid kayak to help you decide which type is best for you.
Advantages of rigid kayaks:
- Ready to go: Rigid kayaks are no doubt heavier and more difficult to transport than inflatable kayaks, but the main advantage is they will get you into the water much quicker. You don’t need to spend time inflating them, and when you’re done there’s no deflating or packing away afterwards. A great bonus if you like to go kayaking regularly.
- Easier to control: Many people find that rigid kayaks generally give you more control compared to inflatable kayaks. If you’re keen on sea kayaking, a rigid kayak is definitely worth considering.
Disadvantages of rigid kayaks:
- Weight: Rigid kayaks vary in weight, depending on what they’re made of (wood, plastic, or fibreglass). But they are all heavier than inflatable kayaks, which can make carrying them to and from the water a two-person job. Rigid kayaks generally can’t take as much weight as an inflatable kayak, so you need to take this into account when deciding what gear to take with you.
- Durability: Generally, rigid kayaks require more maintenance compared to inflatable kayaks, as they’re more prone to knocks and scrapes. A wooden kayak will require the most maintenance, whereas a plastic or a fibreglass kayak is a little more resilient. Though what you’re likely to save in repairs, you’ll pay for upfront in the purchase price of a kayak.
- Storage & Transport: Rigid kayaks are big and heavy, which can make them more difficult to store and transport compared to inflatable kayaks. They can’t be deflated/packed away, so you’ll need a roof rack on your car to transport them to the sea. You’ll also need to consider storage space and whether you have room for a kayak at home or in the garage.
Best rigid sea kayaks
At Decathlon, we have a range of rigid kayaks to suit all abilities and budgets. Here’s our pick of the best sea kayaks:
A fun, all-round rigid kayak for beginners. Perfect for touring or kayaking in the sea.
- Unsinkable & self-bailing
- Wide footrests for a comfortable position
- Bow fairing with a full-length keel for stability
- For 1 person
- Touring or sea kayaking
This kayak is ideal for touring on lakes, calm rivers, or at sea. It has capacity for 2 adults + 1 child, making it great for family outings.
- Pre-formed seats & footrests for good positioning
- Wheel at the rear & carry handles for easy transportation
- Very stable - self-bailing & unsinkable
- 2 adults + 1 child
- Family outings
- Touring on lakes, calm rivers, or at sea
This kayak is perfect for beginner and intermediate touring kayakers, and is approved for sea touring.
- Integrated transport wheels that fold away when in the water
- Adjustable seats for a good level of comfort
- Good glide thanks to its "3 volume" hull
- 2 adults + 1 child
- Solo, tandem & family outings
- Touring on lakes, calm rivers, or at sea
Take a look at the full range of rigid kayaks available at Decathlon.
What type of kayak is best for me?
As we’ve seen, both inflatable and rigid kayaks have their advantages and disadvantages, so what type you go for depends on several factors, including: your skill level, budget, and what storage space you have. Here are a few more things to take into account before choosing your model:
- Stability: If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to choose a model that is slightly wider and with good stability. Often, kayaks that are stable in flat water are unstable in rough water, and vice versa, so this is an important factor when looking for sea kayaks. There are two areas of stability to consider: primary stability (indicates the kayak’s stability when it is resting in flat waters) and secondary stability (whether a kayak is able to remain stable when tipped on its side). A sea kayak must have good secondary stability as you’re more likely to encounter rough water.
- Hull shape: The hull shape indicates the type of cross-section the craft will have - this also affects the stability of a kayak. A V-shape hull is the most recommended shape for sea kayaking because it easily adapts to waves and strong currents - providing great secondary stability. The round hull shape improves primary stability in flat water but is not recommended for the sea.
- Weight: You need to think about the weight of the kayak, as this will make a difference to how easy or difficult it will be to transport and carry into the water. Also, the more a kayak weighs, the deeper it will sit in the water, which will generally make your paddling speed slower. A lighter kayak will sit higher up out of the water and will glide more effortlessly, allowing you to go faster. Though this could make the kayak less stable in rough water. Your own weight is also something to consider, so check the specs of the kayak to see the maximum weight it’s able to carry safely.
- Location: Sea kayaking is a great opportunity to take in some amazing views and spot all sorts of wildlife. But certain waters and coastlines come with different challenges, so you need to take this into account when choosing a sea kayak. Some examples include wind direction and strength, currents, boat traffic, and fewer opportunities to shore access (so the kayak you choose will need to be able to carry you and all your gear).
- Deck volume: When choosing a kayak, you need to ensure you’ll have enough space for your legs to fit comfortably, as well as any kit you may need. You don’t want to feel too squeezed into your kayak, especially if you’re going out for a full day of fun on the water.
- Manoeuvrability: The length of the kayak will determine how easy or difficult it will be to manoeuvre. Longer kayaks are designed to track straighter and offer more straight-line speed, but can be difficult to manoeuvre quickly. Shorter kayaks can make tight turns and move around rocks or other obstacles more easily.
Overall, inflatable kayaks offer more benefits than rigid kayaks. They’re easier to store and transport, and more convenient to maintain. They’re tough and durable, and generally more stable than rigid kayaks, making them great kayaks for beginners. Though inflatable kayaks do need to be inflated and deflated each time they are used.
It’s also recommended that if you are going to paddle in rough water, you should always wear a buoyancy aid as your chances of tipping over are much greater. And if you’re kayaking in cooler waters, you can look the part and stay warm too with a kayaking wetsuit.
At Decathlon, we have a huge range of inflatable kayaks and rigid kayaks which will withstand rough sea waters. We also have a large range of wetsuits, buoyancy aids and accessories - take a look at our kayaking shop with our in-house brand Itiwit.