kayak or paddleboard or canoe or something?
July 18, 2019 4:57 AM   Subscribe

I would like one or more small human-powered craft that one-to-three people (adults and/or teenagers) can use to explore beaches, coves, islands, estuaries, sea lochs and shorelines in general. What would work best?

This would be for me & two mid-teens, or any combination of those three. Typical locations would be south-west of England, or west coast of Scotland. Never more than a couple of hundred yards from shore, or trips of more than a mile or two. Still & sunny conditions only.

I've used a stand-up paddleboard, and kayaks (solo & tandem). Both are ok, but I've found kayaking to be more versatile & felt safer in anything other than flat-calm weather. What I'd love would be something that just one of us, or all three, could jump in & have fun - but that leads me towards a Canadian-style canoe in my mind, and I don't think I've ever seen one of those being used offshore - perhaps there's a good reason for that.

Three paddleboards? One tandem & one solo kayak?

Assume reasonable safety equipment, competent swimmers, sensible behaviour, etc - but any non-obvious safety advice would also be welcome.
posted by rd45 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Canoes can tip fairly easily (I’ve never brought them out on the ocean so I’m not even sure how that would be) and the only ways I know of rigging a tipped canoe are with another canoe nearby to assist or being in shallow enough water that you can right it from underneath and standing. I think kayaks would likely fit your needs best, though two person kayaks are available if that’s a bonus to you
posted by raccoon409 at 5:09 AM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

There are inexpensive 3-person kayaks. I know nothing about inflatable kayaks, but obviously that would make cross-UK transport much easier than roof-strapping one or more kayaks. I mean, for less than £200 quid I'd give it a go at least.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:19 AM on July 18, 2019

We have a two-person inflatable kayak, and it's fine for one person as well; it's possible that might be true for a three-person as well, though I don't have any direct experience with ones that big. If you go that route, read reviews very carefully and look for multi-layer construction - protection of the hull from punctures is obviously super important in a way that you don't have to worry about as much with a hardshell. One nice thing about inflatables generally is that they feel even more stable than their hardshell counterparts. So much so that while I've never done it solo, I used to take an inflatable canoe out with my niece and she could jump out to swim and climb back in without it ever feeling like tipping was even an option.
posted by solotoro at 5:41 AM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hi, I'm Canadian and have canoed and kayaked on short and long trips. In my opinion, canoes are great on rivers and inland lake trips where portaging is likely. They carry lots of gear. they are very maneuverable but can be unpleasant if there is a bit of chop on the water. Kayaks also hold lots of gear, but you have to better at packing. They are far more stable, particularly if you are going to be any distance from shore.

I'd suggest some sort of kayak.
posted by TORunner at 6:18 AM on July 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

For my family of three, we like one 1-person kayak and one 2-person kayak. The reason being is we don't all always get to kayak together, though we like to. The above allows one person or two people to easily kayak together. To us, this added flexibility means more usage out of the kayaks.

In terms of kayak vs. paddleboard, we had to make that decision too. I personally would LOVE to have a paddleboard, but the rest of the family won't use it as much. Kayaks, being more versatile, topped the list. I'll admit though, friends have blow-up paddleboards and I love being able to hop in the car and go paddleboard somewhere new.
posted by ramble-on-prose at 6:23 AM on July 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

A small rowboat like a dinghy would work.
posted by bdc34 at 6:40 AM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing "kayak". I'm not clear by what you mean by "Canadian style kayak", so forgive me if I link you to something you know about - but you may want to consider the ocean-going kayaks, which tend to be more stable and often have storage space that's easily accessible.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 AM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

If at all possible I would try to take a quick trip or two as a group in a the kind of craft(s) you're interested in before purchasing - for instance some people really love double kayaks but others hate them. (My stepmother, who leads guided kayak trips, calls them "divorce makers.") I think they're probably like tandem bikes that way.

I grew up canoeing (open canoes) on rivers and lakes and I occasionally kayak now on lakes/rivers/oceans; I like both but kayaks are much more stable in surf and choppy water and, as others have noted, you can flip a capsized kayak without towing it to shore (the same cannot really be said of an open canoe). I have limited experience with SUPs but a big advantage of the kayak over the SUP is that you can store things (lunch, a change of clothes) inside the kayak; this is harder to do with an SUP.
posted by mskyle at 10:20 AM on July 18, 2019

Agree kayak. I have a SUP that I love but in my opinion it’s harder to propel yourself than it is in a kayak, so harder to explore and go longer distances. In mixed kayak and SUP groups, the SUPs always seem to lag behind

Also I have not seen SUPs that will hold 3 people, although they may exist.
posted by sillysally at 11:16 AM on July 18, 2019

I would go with 3 kayaks, and kayak lessons for everyone.

You can be in a group together with the kayaks, no one has to feel left out by being in a solo kayak while others are together, no one has to feel like they didn't get a turn to be in the solo kayak. Great for teens as they have the independence of their own kayak while being together as a family.
posted by yohko at 11:36 AM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Kayak. We have and love our canoe, which happily holds 3, but it requires substantially more skill and is way tippier than kayaks. I am just waiting for the day when I can buy some kayaks to round out our fleet.
posted by annabear at 1:21 PM on July 18, 2019

Kayaks can be "sit in" or "sit on". I think the latter are better for beginners, and maybe for people with some non-paddling activity in mind, like fishing.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:56 PM on July 18, 2019

Nthing the above:

Canoes hold a lot but are better on stiller water.

SUPs look really fun but I personally prefer kayaks. If you like SUPs, inflatable ones look great. I think of SUPs as decent for playing around but maybe not the best for really going places?

2p+1p kayak would be my choice as long as y'all can deal with the 2p. They make me a little nuts though.

Try before you buy! More than once, more than one type. The cost of 1 kayak pays for a lot of rentals. And the things you need to own add up (Paddles/PFDs/Roof Rack/storage).

On a hot day Sit on Top kayaks are great. They're also great to swim from and are essentially unswampable/unsinkable. Sit Ins are better on a cooler/rainier/windier day but getting in and out on the water takes more strength/skill.
posted by jclarkin at 3:45 PM on July 18, 2019

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