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Help! What Kayak Should I Buy?!? Kayaking in Malta is much more fun with the right equipment.

Updated: May 21, 2023

The Million Dollar (or Euro) Question…


WHAT KAYAK SHOULD I BUY?!?


loads un unsed kayaks, waiting to hit the seas
Racked kayaks

We get this question almost every week in the message box, and it is one of the most important decisions in your kayak journey.


Luckily, it’s not permanent though, and can be changed pretty quickly due to the popularity of the sport in the last several years, which helps kayaks retain their value for easy trades or sales.


Although we do not have rivers or lakes, the Mediterranean Sea offers many types of kayaking styles.


There are five main types of kayaks available on the market for us to choose from that suit the Maltese waters.


Let’s start with the cheapest and most versatile of them first. Keep in mind that every option of kayak comes in two versions. The single for solo paddling and the tandem for two paddlers. There are some kayaks that even have three seats, and more! (Like our new Rainbow Orcas, available soon for rent!)


1. The inflatable kayak comes, in what seems to be, three different variations from what seems like a pool float recommended only for the bays on calm seas which can be found all over the island. These can be used as tenders to get to your powerboat or sailboats as well.


Another popular brand, which is what we started with here in Malta is from the Intex Brand of kayaks. We had plenty of use from our Challenger and we have several members that started with the same model or the Explorer (we have all since upgraded to rigids). If you’d like to read more about our journey, click here.


As a special offer, our friend Neville from Intex Malta is offering our followers a discount if you mention Get Out and Kayak Malta (or Turu) on a wide array of Intex products. ***not a paid advert, this is just a gift from Neville)***


Intex Challenger Tandem Inflatable Kayak Kit
Intex Challenger Tandem Inflatable Kayak Kit

Finally, in this class, we have the mighty Gumotex models and SeaEagle. These higher-end models often have steel reinforcements, and some even have semi-rigid hull options. We still have our Gumotex Swing 2 and highly recommend them. At that time in our lives, we didn’t have access to a garage, so we didn’t have a choice due to space constraints. So, that is why the inflatable has become such a popular option for so many Maltese Residents. Malta lacks space, and it is the 5th most densely populated country in the world, so having a large kayak is not an option for a lot of people.


Some cons to look out for are that inflatables are extremely susceptible to high winds and currents. If you are not paying attention, you can easily be blown off course, or put into a bad situation. It is important to plan your trips properly, and if possible, have the wind assist you on the way home, not against you, as your strength is not as it was at the beginning of the trip. If you need help reading the Windfinder app, click here.


Gumotex Swing 2 Tandem Inflatable Resting in Delimara, Malta
Gumotex Swing 2 Tandem Inflatable, Resting in Delimara, Malta

2. The modular kayak is becoming quite popular worldwide, not so much in Malta, but still worth mentioning because we know there are a lot of travelers and adventurers that read and follow us, and this may appeal to them. The main draw to these kayaks is that they are indeed rigid, but they come apart and “snap” together, which also gives them their nickname, snap ‘yaks. What’s super cool about these kayaks is that not only do they stack together nicely, as seen here (visit our friend’s YouTube, FishaholicBoy to see a full review), but they come in a handy backpack style so you can just turtle it whenever you go instead of lugging around a huge 14+ footer by yourself through possibly rugged terrain. This type of kayak is becoming more and more popular with modern adventurers.


A kayaker with a colorful PakYak
A kayaker with a colorful PakYak

Some cons to pay attention to when purchasing a modular kayak are that they can be much heavier than an inflatable and you must maintain the connections properly to avoid loss of integrity of the rubber gaskets and steel clamps.


3. The sit on top (SOT) model of kayak is very popular on the archipelago for many reasons.


  • They are often easier to handle while loading and unloading.

  • You don’t have to worry about bailing out water because water free flows on these boats with premanufactured holes, called scuppers.

  • Self-rescue is much easier, due to not having to enter a cockpit.

  • Generally more user-friendly, especially for beginners.

  • No sense of confinement, as you are literally sitting on top of the kayak.

  • Perfect for jumping right in the water for swimming, snorkeling, or grabbing some footage with the GoPro10 and jumping back on.

  • Another good trait of the SOT model is that they are truly excellent to use for cleanup events. The large openness and stability of the kayak makes it easy to load lots of sea rubbish on and off to the support boat. Throughout the year, many NGOs like Zibel and QLZH organize massive cleanup events. Several of our members participate and contribute using their own kayaks. You can watch a clip, by clicking here and here.

Of course, these models come in several different brands and designs for all kinds of recreation from touring to fishing models. Some you can even equip an electric motor and sails!


Cruz Pro Galaxy Fishing Kayak
Cruz Pro Galaxy Fishing Kayak

Most rentals you will see worldwide are sit-on-tops for these very reasons. Same reason we bought ten of them ourselves! (Yes, our rentals and tours are coming…we appreciate your patience. Here's a pic of one in action!)


Turu and Franklin heading toward Coral Lagoon on our Rainbow Orca Rental
Turu and Franklin heading toward Coral Lagoon on our Rainbow Orca Rental

Some cons of the SOT, is that in the winter months, you will need to purchase extra protective gear for your limbs from the cold seas, being that you are fully exposed. In the same breath, if you don't protect your legs from the scorching sun, you will not enjoy yourself fully.


So, you need to prepare yourself properly by wearing sunblock, or clothes with SPF, like you see in the photo above. The only part of my body exposed to the sun are my fingertips, which I need to record and fly the drone. They are protected with SPF 50+ at all times and several times I reapply throughout each trip.


Also to note, SOT are traditionally wider than sit-in kayaks, making them glide a little slower, and sometimes they are hard to keep on a straight line, otherwise known as tracking.


The sit-in kayak is the preferred choice for a lot of kayakers for long-distance touring. The main reason people choose this version of kayak is due to the fact that these kayaks have a much lower center of gravity, making them have a higher degree of secondary stability, and they are much faster with much better glide than a SOT.


The G.O.A.K. Rainbow Oasis 4.3 meter kayaks ready to go!
The G.O.A.K. Rainbow Oasis 4.3 meter kayaks ready to go!

An experienced kayaker in a sit-in can easily roll the kayak at will, and turn back right side up, just to cool off, or, to recover from an overturn caused by a rogue wave that broadsided the kayak.


Another benefit to sit-ins are the protection that they provide from the winds, sun, and water on your lower limbs especially. In a sit-in, because the entire lower half of your body is in the cockpit, the sun cannot burn your legs, the cold winter winds cannot freeze your wet feet, and the sprayskirt (or better, a spray deck) pretty much eliminates the possibility of getting water inside your boat (we use Lomo Neodecks). Also, they almost always come with at least one waterproof hatch to put your belongings, usually more.


Some kayakers struggle to self-rescue (get back in their kayaks). This can be a problem for some, but with a little practice, there is nothing to fear.


Lella, enjoying the Maltese sunset on her kayak
Lella, enjoying the Maltese sunset on her kayak

Some cons of the sit-in kayak:

Stability: sit-in kayaks can roll, and for some, rolling back over, often called an Eskimo roll, is not possible and self-rescue may be too difficult for several reasons.

Length: Sit-in kayaks can be quite long, from only a couple of meters to over five meters and more. Some people don't have that kind of space, and that's why we had a Gumotex. Also, entering caves can be more difficult without proper paddle technique.


Flexibility: If you are not very flexible, getting in and out of a sit-in can be uncomfortable and can cause you to roll the boat unnecessarily. Luckily you can combat this with a workout routine that includes stretching exercises, like yoga. Being flexible makes learning the Eskimo Roll, and other techniques much easier.

Storage: The sit-in, simply doesn't offer the space required for a lot of things, so, you need to learn to take what you need. There are plenty of expedition kayaks, and we are not saying you cannot adventure in a sit-in, it's just different than loading up a SOT with dry bags full of gear. With a sit-in, you are restricted to your hatch space, as if you overload the decks, your stability is negatively affected.


Also to note, a sit-in is much more difficult to handle a lot of different gear. When all your cameras and drones are in sealed rubber hatches, you can only reach them if you park the boat and get them out, then reseal the hatches. So, you have to plan ahead.


5. The last kayak we will discuss today is called a surf ski, and is more of a performance and racing kayak than it is for recreation. These kayaks are often seen flying around Manoel Island area and beyond as these athletes push their limits and can travel upwards of 20km/h or more in these kayaks versus a sit-in sea kayak, which normally travels around 5-6km/h.


NK Exrcize Surf Ski with green nose
NK Exrcize Surf Ski with green nose

Visit our friend's page at www.outpaddling.com ***not a paid advert***


A major plus to these kayaks besides their unique design and speed, they are incredibly easy to remount after rolling out. In fact, much easier than self-rescue in a sit-in kayak, for example.


These kayaks have an incredibly sensitive, and effective rudder system, with sleek finishes which make them an incredibly light (under 20 kilo) and fast, sit on top.


Some cons to the surfski are that they are considered more unstable than a traditional kayak. They are designed for speed and performance, so, that should be expected and cannot technically be considered a downfall. Another possible con is they are not as durable and tough as an HDPE (high-density polyethylene) kayak which is the most common. So, one must be careful of the carbon fibre rudder, which is quite long compared to a standard sea kayak rudder system, and also, how to approach your landing. But again, this is a performance vessel and these things can easily be corrected with proper training.


Conclusion


All of these kayaks have their pros and cons, and it solely depends on what you plan to do with the kayak you own or plan to purchase.


Another thing to keep in mind before buying is what the kayak is actually made from and how it is made. These things vary and do affect performance, speed, and overall durability. We will save this for another article though.


Before purchasing, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with these things and perhaps rent if possible. There are plenty of companies that offer both sit-ins, sit-on-tops, and even surf skis.


Still have questions? Feel free to email us at info@getoutandkayakmalta.com and one of us will get back to you a.s.a.p.


Have a topic on your mind and want us to write a blog about it? Send us a message right from the website or email us.


*This is by no means every kayak in the world. I picked kayaks that related to the Maltese waters.*

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