Kayak design has moved on so much since I started to paddle some 30+ years ago. The level or difficulty at which people paddle is owed in some part to the change in kayak design over the years.
I currently paddle a Dagger Phantom and despite it being used for pretty much the same stuff as my first plastic kayak – an Ace Swing, yet the technology and features are simply worlds apart.
So if you are looking for a kayak packed full of safety features what are you actually looking for?
Some of the following features can be found in all whitewater kayaks, some in creekers and river runners, and others only in creekers.
1. Large cockpit, easy to get in and easy to get out.
2. Step out pillar if it is a creek boat. This piece of rigid plastic sits in front of the front of the foam just in front of the cockpit. Having a rigid plastic post allows you to step out of the boat if the boat was pinned vertically. As they tend to be integrated into the seat unit it is less likely that they will twist out of place as foam walls tend to do when under pressure.
3. Multiple grab loops and broach bars. More places to clip into or grab hold of.
4. A full plate footrest that provides cushioning from impact and prevents your feet from sliding above or below it.
5. Tough repairable plastic that will help resist a kayak folding during a pin situation. Hopefully giving the paddler enough time to get clear. Some boats have additional metal bars/grab loops in positions where a kayak is weaker and is more likely to fold.
6. If a boat fits you well, it will paddle better. Outfitting should never be underestimated. Check out my outfitting guide here.
What have we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.