Recreational kayaks are safe to use on calm, protected water but they can be dangerous in exposed, open-water conditions because they lack safety features like floatation, bulkheads and deck lines.
Popular manufacturers of used recreational kayaks on Craigslist include Pelican, Sun Dolphin, Old Town, Ocean Kayak and more.
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Touring kayaks are longer (14 to 18 feet), narrower and have more storage than recreational kayaks. They are designed for longer trips and come equipped with storage and hatches with lids that can be removed.
Most touring kayaks are sit-inside designs. They are designed to move straight and efficiently in the water and some will have a skeg or a rudder for directional control. Typical brands of used kayaks on Craigslist include Wilderness Systems and Current Designs.
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Whitewater kayaks are very short (6 to 8 feet) and have pronounced rocker, meaning that they’re shaped like a banana with upturned ends to maximize maneuverability in currents. Consequently, they are slow and inefficient to paddle on flatwater. Popular brands on Craigslist include Jackson Kayak and Wavesport.
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Knowing the characteristics of these broad categories of kayaks—and which one best aligns with your objectives—is the first step toward making an informed decision.
2 Missing out on critical safety features
Along with choosing the right kayak for your desired pursuit, it’s essential to purchase a used kayak that matches the environment you’ll be paddling. Recreational kayaks are by far the most common type of kayak for sale on Craigslist. They’re great for sheltered conditions, but they’re dangerous for use on open water.
If you want to paddle in open water, cold water or any environment with the potential for wind and waves, it’s critical that you choose a kayak that’s meant to be seaworthy in more advanced conditions. For example, most recreational kayaks lack bulkheads (walls in the kayak interior that create watertight chambers for floatation). As a result, when a cheap recreational kayak floods with water, it’s likely to sink.
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In contrast, touring kayaks are designed to float even when swamped to facilitate open-water rescues (an important skill you will want to learn in a kayaking course).
3 Not giving a kayak the once-over
Regardless of the material the Craigslist kayak is made of, you should give it a detailed inspection. Examine the deck and hull for damage including deep gouges more than 3 mm or 1/8th of an inch deep; obvious abrasion, especially if the worn areas are a different color from the rest of the kayak; and deformities, which will make the kayak paddle less efficiently.
Recreational kayaks and some touring models are often made of durable plastic that’s meant to withstand plenty of abuse; some damage is fine, so long as the shape of the kayak remains intact. Cracks in a composite, namely fiberglass or Kevlar, kayak often reveal that the kayak is old or received rough treatment.
The best way to check the integrity of outfitting components—including seat, backrest, thigh pads and foot supports—is to take a seat in the cockpit and make sure the outfitting works properly. For example, if the kayak has ratchet straps, crank and loosen them. Next, use a flashlight to take a look inside the kayak. Take hatches on and off and see if they seal.