Experiences with an Inflatable Kayak

06/15/2022 | Pictures and Article By Chubby Squirrel

View of the greenery on the shore from my kayak.

 Recently, I was asked by a friend to join his Dragon Boat team because they didn’t have enough paddlers. I was ecstatic, mainly because I had never done anything of the sort before, and figured that paddling wouldn’t be exceedingly difficult. After all, wasn’t it just using your arms to force a large spatula through the water?

 The answer was no. Paddling for the Dragon Boat team showed me a few things, such as that you should keep your head up when paddling, and that you should use your core and waist to move your paddle. Also, never start daydreaming, otherwise you will fall out of the rhythm and knock the person in front of you, upon which they will hit the water excessively hard with their paddle, harboring ill intent.

 But probably the most interesting thing I learned was that I actually enjoyed being on the water. Even with so many people sitting in front, behind, and next to me, I felt at peace. I could hear the waves gently caressing the sides of our vessel, and the birds singing their songs on the shore. It seemed so detached from the ebb and flow of everyday life; it was as if we were in a world of only ourselves, isolated on the face of the water. Especially in present times, a bit of peace and quiet is all anyone needs.

 After the race ended, I decided to purchase a watercraft so I could unwind on the water whenever I wished. At first, I considered canoes, but those require a trailer or roof rack, neither of which I have. Rowboats were out of the question too, for their size. After much deliberation, I settled on an inflatable kayak.

 I know what many people think when they hear the words “inflatable kayak”. The image that pops into their minds is a pool floatie, maybe an oversized yellow duck or something of that sort. The general idea is that inflatable kayaks will pop easily and leave the user stranded in the middle of a lake with no way to get to shore.

 All that could not be further from the truth. Inflatable kayaks, or at least the one that I have experience with, are reliable and fully capable of carrying the weight that manufacturers say they can handle. They may even be safer than traditional kayaks - their width makes them harder to flip over, even intentionally.

 A major benefit of inflatable kayaks is their size. Almost all will fit into a bag not much bigger than a gym bag, which allows for the user to transport it in their car without installing a roof rack or trailer. My kayak, the Intex Challenger K1, inflates in less than 5 minutes, and can be deflated and folded up again in that same amount of time.

 On the water, my Challenger K1 is surprisingly sturdy. Even during my purposeful rocking from side to side, the craft remained stable and was never anywhere near the verge of flipping over. Although I am a competent swimmer, I still have a strong disinterest in falling into the murky depths, so I appreciate the stability that my inflatable kayak offers.

 However, there’s a price to pay for stability. Because of their width and size, inflatable kayaks are generally slower than normal ones. For me, of course, who only wants to enjoy a sunny Saturday morning on the water, speed is of no great importance. If you’re looking to get somewhere fast, though, inflatables aren’t for you. In addition, inflatables are far lighter, which can be a benefit or weakness. On the one hand, they’re easy to carry just about anywhere, but on the other, they may track from side to side upon paddling, akin to how a duck waddles. This occurs because inflatables are extremely light, so they require little force to change direction. One way to fix this problem is through attaching a skeg (which came with my model) or rudder, which will allow your kayak to track in a (more) straight line.

 Obviously, there is also always the hassle of drying and folding the kayak each time after use, which discourages many from getting one. All things considered, I really think purchasing a kayak was worth it. I now spend my weekend mornings on the lakes near my home, sitting on a kayak and reading a book, listening to birdsong all the while. For something that only cost $90 off Amazon, I think I got as much bang for my buck as possible!

*Disclaimer: purchase at your own discretion. This is not an advertisement, just my personal experiences!*