How To Choose The Correct Kayak Length For Me?


Choosing the correct kayak length and kayak size may be one of the biggest dilemmas you’ll face, especially if you’re a beginner and still don’t know what to really expect out there in the field. This article is here to help you to choose the best kayak for your needs and how to get the best size for your planned kayaking activities.

Before You Hit The Store

Ask yourself – why do you need a kayak? Do you plan to use it in white waters? Will you be kayaking in the ocean, or you need a fishing kayak? Do you need a sit-on-top kayak or sit-inside kayak?

Also, what is more, important to you – maneuverability or speed? Longer and bigger vessels are better at cruising, they are more efficient and the plus side is the great storage space. Smaller boats are easier to turn, which makes them great for places where the speed is not important, but you’ll have to change direction in a split of a second.

Why Is The Kayak Size So Important?

There are a few factors connected to the kayak size and kayak length, and here are some to help you see why it is important to take this purchase seriously:


Different water requires a different vessel. For instance, white water kayaks are not made for ocean kayaking and they won’t provide you enough stability and protection like the ocean kayaks will. On the other hand, entering the white water with an 18-foot kayak made for sea and deep water paddling will most likely result in a shipwreck.


Boats made for sea have different characteristics compared to vessels made for rivers. If you decide to take your white water kayak to the ocean, it may be really inconvenient and harder to control.

Ease Of Paddling

This one is simple – it is easier to paddle in the vessel’s natural environment because the vessel is made the way to get the most out of the movement provided by the body of water you’re paddling in. A few inches won’t make a difference, but 2 or 4-foot longer or smaller vessels can’t be compared.

What Size Should You Get?

Before we get to the size chart and talk about all the different lengths and their main purposes, advantages and disadvantages, the answer to this question can be quite valuable in making the final decision. Take your time and think about your kayak habits. Then check the list under this paragraph. When you find the one that fits your needs the best, take it. If you find yourself in a situation where you need some other kayak length, it is easy to rent it until you’re certain that you want to purchase another one.

There are some other things you should consider to find out which one will suit you the best:

  • Weight is one of the most important factors in this. For instance, a grown man will need a kayak for big guys, children have smaller kayaks for kids, etc.
  • If you plan on tandem paddling or paddling with your dog in your vessel, you’ll need a tandem kayak, which is bigger than the kayak made for solo kayakers.
  • Thinking about how to get your boat to the water in advance will save you lots of energy. With smaller and lighter boats, there won’t be any problems, but if you have to carry your heavy boat along with your equipment for a long way, it may become an issue you’d like to avoid if possible.

Kayak Lengths


Most of the time you’ll run into four different kayak lengths – 8-9ft, 10-11ft, 12-13ft, and 14ft. Each has its own perks and cons, so here we’ll try to explain them a bit better so learn enough to know what you want.

8-9 Foot Kayaks

Great for recreational users or beginners, these small kayaks are the easiest to maneuver, which makes them great for narrow rivers and streams. One of the main advantages is the stability it provides thanks to its short length.

The possible con is the fact that kayaks this long may not be most comfortable for a bit taller people or a bit heavier people, but on the other hand, they are a great choice for both women and kids. They also don’t have as much space for your equipment as you’d probably prefer.

10-11 Foot Kayaks

These kayaks are not fast but more maneuverable. They provide more space for both paddlers and storage. With the stability in mind and the easy turning ability, it most often comes with the price of limited speed. That’s why it is popular among beginners. Easy movement yet slow enough so it is possible to react on time makes it a great starting place to learn kayak basics. It is also great for recreational usage.

Their stability and the lack of speed make them a great choice for kayak fishing. That’s why most of the kayaks in this category have a place for a fishing rod already installed.

12-13 Foot Kayak

Kayaks with an all-around purpose, the perfect combination of speed, efficiency, stability, and turning ability, and with more than enough space to place your gear and any needed equipment, these are the best option for experienced kayakers who want to take things to another level.

They can serve as touring kayaks, also could be used for fishing and as a recreational kayak, so getting a 12 or 13-foot long kayak is always a good idea. Another big benefit is the fact that you can find kayaks in this category that fit every need because they can be used in rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans.

14+ Foot Kayaks

These kayaks are the fastest, the most efficient, and can be used for many activities. If you plan on going for a kayaking long-distance trip, getting the one that has a narrower hull will provide you much-needed speed and water efficiency because they will go straighter compared to smaller vessels. This means kayaks this big is not so good at turning, but they do provide more than enough storage space for your multiday camping or fishing trip. Also, most tandem kayaks are this long.

Speaking of fishing, there are also options with wider hulls that provide extra stability, making them perfect.

The Best Length For Specific Activity

Most kayakers already have a specific activity in mind when they go to buy their vessel, and here you can see which length is the best of any activity.

White Water Kayaks

These should be as maneuverable as possible; following a straight line is not required, so for white water kayaking the smaller the better kayak will do the job. Some are even smaller than 7 feet, but most spread white water kayaks are between 9 and 12 feet.

Recreational Kayaks

Made for calm, steady, and flat water, they are great for beginners and people who simply want to relax. Most of the recreational kayaks fall somewhere between 9 and 14 feet in length.

Touring Kayaks

These go from 14 to 18 feet, provide extra comfort, and are great for flat waters.

Sea And Ocean Kayaks

Kayaks made for open waters like sea and ocean are usually 17 or 18 feet long but can go anywhere from 14 up to 20 feet.

Surf Kayaks

Kayaks used for surfing are open water kayaks with spray skirts and go from 9 to 11 feet.

Globo Surf Overview

Choosing the best kayak length and kayak size is essential and could make you love or hate this sport. This article should help you choose the best one so you could fully experience kayaking the way it should be experienced.

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Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!