New Video: Kayaks 101 – Differences Between Kayak Designs

Are you looking for a kayak but overwhelmed by all the different choices? Well you’ve come to the right place! In our continuing “101” video series, ACK’s Roland Jimenez walks you through the basics of choosing the right kayak by identifying the differences between sit-inside, sit-on-top, whitewater, touring and the canoe/kayak hybrid design types.

Still have questions? You can leave a comment here or shoot us an e-mail to and we’ll be glad to help!

Choosing the Right Kayak

Knowing which kayak is right for you is a question we are always trying to help answer. In fact, it’s a subject we’ve talked about quite a bit this year! Since our Texas customers will be getting all the expert advice they want at our 2012 Fall Demo Days, we thought this would be a good time to look back on some of advice we’ve put out on selecting the right kayak for you.

Start with the basics. This guide will walk you through the different types of kayaks we offer, ranging from the material they’re made of to the shape of their hull. Once you’ve done that, get a little more specific with our 2012 Roundups. See which of our favorites made the beginning of the year list and the summer list. While some of the boats mentioned have had recent upgrades, you’ll be able to click through to the most recent model. After you’ve looked over all that, follow-up with any questions you might have by commenting below, we’re here to help!


To Tandem or Not…That is the Question

A Pro/Con comparison between Tandem and Single Kayaks

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard the phrase “I want to buy a tandem so that I can either paddle alone or with my…” only to find that after a few trips, that same person actually finds themselves paddling alone the majority of the time. So what now? Should I have bought a single kayak? Should I keep my tandem and buy single kayak? Should I have simply bought two single kayaks? Can I convert my tandem into a single? The answers: probably, good option, depends and possibly….

As simple as it may sound, choosing between a single or tandem kayak has caused many headaches and in some cases heartaches. Yes, heartaches. It’s an awkward feeling when you’re standing there in front of a couple arguing on whether or not to buy two kayaks or a tandem. Most of the time, one is concerned about money or the fear of paddling alone while the other simply wants the freedom to do what they want, when they want. Either way, it’s hard to pin point who is wrong or right because every situation is unique. So instead of immersing myself into the debate (which I have been known to do) let’s talk about the pros and cons of each option.

Feel Free Corona Tandem Kayak

Tandem Kayaks
Pros – They’re a great way to spend quality time together with a friend, significant other or children. You’ll be engaged in conversation and will get to share the overall experience. Once you get the hang of it, paddling in sync will be efficient and in some cases quicker and if one person tires out, the other can continue on.  While some tandem kayaks can be more expensive than similar single models, you’ll still spend less than you would if you bought two single kayaks.

Cons – The biggest issue seems to be lack of freedom. You run into the situation where one person prefers to paddle in a particular direction while the other may be completely opposed of it. On a similar note, the blame game is also a common occurrence, which basically means the other person is always doing the wrong thing and of course it’s never you (wink, wink). Then of course there is the simple fact that if you want to paddle alone, this can be a little bit cumbersome in some tandem kayaks. Not only will you have a kayak that is off balance, it can be a little harder to control and potentially unsafe. Cargo space can be limiting when paddling with two passengers and last but not least, if you plan to fish on a tandem, well, just make sure you don’t hook each other.

Native Watercraft Manta Ray 12 Single Kayak

Single Kayaks
Pros – FREEDOM to go where you want and when you want. With a single kayak, you have complete control and that alone speaks volumes. You’ll enjoy an argument free paddling experience and always have the option to kayak when nobody else is available. Your kayak is typically lighter so it can be easier to handle when loading and unloading alone. If you like fishing, solo kayaks can be the perfect setup and allows better access to more cargo space for your gear.

Cons – If you have a young child that is not quite ready to paddle on their own single kayaks may not be the way to go. While many do paddle with children in their laps, its not efficient and depending on conditions may not be safe. You may lose an opportunity to bond with your co-paddler. While some prefer paddling alone, most kayakers seem to enjoy the company when paddling tandem. Finally, if you wanted to share the paddling experience with someone else, you’ll obviously need to get two single kayaks, which will result spending more than you would if you just bought a tandem kayak.

Wilderness Systems Pamlico 145T Tandem Kayak with Solo/Tandem Conversion
Hobie Odyssey Deluxe Tandem Kayak with "Jump Seat"

Best of Both Worlds – Tandem to Solo Conversion Kayaks
Nowadays, most of the tandem kayaks available are capable of converting into solos with movable seats and some even have a “jump seat” molded into the kayak. For example, the Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T or 145T both offer true tandem to solo arrangements while the Hobie Odyssey Deluxe Tandem has a molded seat area that can be used by a single paddler or junior crew member.

Pros – The ideal kayak for those who want to enjoy tandem or solo paddling. In some cases, depending on the model and capacity, a 3rd person (usually a child) can sit in the middle position. Also exhibits the same Pros as the standard tandems.

Cons – Depending on the model, the center position may be a bit uncomfortable if only using the molded in seat. Also exhibits the same Cons as the standard tandems.

So there you have it. Like any decision there will be pros and cons (as well as opinions) so it’s just a matter of weighing the options in order to determine which one best suits your needs. Everyone’s scenario is different but if your budget allows, I personally suggest that you get a tandem kayak along with a single. This way you can enjoy a day out on the water with the family or venture into the wild on your own.

Roland J.

ACK San Marcos Seminar Recap

Meet and Greet at the ACK San Marcos Store

On Friday, January 7th, San Marcos ACK held an informal seminar with Chris Roberts. Chris has a long history in the paddle sports industry. He worked for Wilderness Systems in 1996 and continued on as the Production Manager after they merged with Confluence Watersports through 2001. Today Chris is working with Pyranha and Feel Free Kayaks. Click here to continue reading his bio.

The seminar focused primarily on the differences between sit-on-top kayaks and sit-inside kayaks, but the floor was open to any questions regarding kayaks and their designs. The overall discussion was a great opportunity that benefited many beginner kayakers as well as those that didn’t have a kayak yet, by getting their questions answered from an expert in the business. The group also enjoyed some refreshments and snacks.

Everyone Loves Snacks and Refreshments!

We plan to continue hosting events such as this one. If you are interested in hearing about these events in the future, join us on Facebook, Twitter and/or sign up for our newsletter. We are also working to implement an events calendar specific for each location in this blog. We will be sure to notify you when we do.

Thanks to all that attended this event and we look forward to seeing you at the next one!

ACK San Marcos

Note: If there is a specific type of class you would like for us to offer, we want to know — leave a comment below!

ACK Seminars: Understanding the Differences Between Kayaks

Speaker: Chris Roberts
Date: Friday, January 7th 2011
Time: 5pm-7pm
Location: ACK San Marcos Store
Address: 4554 South IH35, San Marcos, Texas 78666

ACK San Marcos would like to invite you to join us for a free seminar discussing the differences between the many styles of kayaks. With so many different types and models available choosing the right one can be confusing, so we’ve tailored this seminar to help answer one of the most common questions we get — “How do I know which kayak is best for me?”. Whether your desire is to enjoy a leisurely morning paddle, conquer class 3 rapids or fish your favorite fishing hole, this two-hour seminar will fill you in on everything you need to know to help you choose the right kayak for your purpose. Time for Q&A will also be available for specific questions that you may have.

Speaker Bio: Chris Roberts has a long history in the paddlesports industry. He worked at Wilderness Systems in 1996 and continued on as the Production Manager after they merged with Confluence Watersports through 2001. Today Chris is working with Pyranha and Feel Free Kayaks. Not only does he understand the manufacturing and business side of the paddlesports industry but he is also an avid kayaker. Since 1979, Chris has been whitewater kayaking all over the US, Canada, Chile and Nepal. While whitewater kayaking is his passion, he is a multifaceted paddler with experience in kayak fishing, kayak fitness/training, canoes and everything in between.

Snacks and refreshments will be served.

For more information, please call 512-396-2386 or email us.

Want to print and share this information? Click here to download the flyer.

Which Kayak is Right For Me?

The process of purchasing a kayak is the same as any other luxury item: discover your need, research the possibilities, and finally, experience the ride. Kayaks are manufactured by companies who emphasize different aspects of the kayaking experience; some rely on flotation stability and accessibility of features.  Other companies might build their kayaks specifically for use on open water or white water kayaking. With so many possibilities, walking a showroom can be exhaustive and a little overwhelming, the different styles all lined up for display—how do I know which kayak is right for me?

The process begins when you decide which style of paddling you expect to engage in. When you have the kayak, will you be kayaking recreationally? Or would you prefer to tour the local river systems and go sightseeing? Perhaps you intend on catching a prize speckled trout. Whatever you decide, this will slim down the long list of options on the showroom floor.

Okay, so after a few evenings of browsing the various blogs and the purchase reviews you’ve come to understand what style of kayak is your best fit.  Now the real research begins. Each brand has something distinctive about it. Your task is to find the nuances that differentiate the boats. You might ask yourself some of these questions: Is there enough maneuverable cockpit space? How much hull storage do I want? What’s the largest kayak that I can easily store? Can the kayak be easily repaired? Will I be able to load and unload the kayak myself? Asking yourself (and the store associate) questions like these will help you find which kayak is right for you.

Now, before you decide to purchase, find a rental version of that kayak (if it’s difficult to find one, you might take that as a hint?) Take it out and get a feel for it. Turning a theoretical kayak into a tangible experience before you buy is your best advantage. You’ll have the experience to back up your decision. And when it’s all said and done, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger; if you’ve found the kayak that works best, then don’t second guess yourself.

Get a head start, and enjoy the water!

Chris Steckel,
San Marcos Store Associate