Kayaks: Design and Function
Before you start shopping for a kayak, learn the basics about kayak design, because how a kayak is designed greatly impacts performance on the water. Knowing the different variables that influence kayak performance, helps you find the right kayak for your intended use.
Learning the basic design terms for kayaks like "chine" and "rocker" will also guide you towards choosing the right kayak for you.
So, whether you want a fishing kayak, or a kayak for touring long rivers, it's best to first get a grasp of kayak designs.
Basic Kayak Design
Generally speaking, there's a handful of basic kayak designs for specific types of uses and water conditions. Manufacturers simply tweak these basic kayak designs to offer customers an advantage in certain situations.
Kayaks are designed either for choppy, rough water, or calm, flat water, with a particular use in mind like touring long distances, or maneuvering in tight spaces (think fishing kayaks). The different hull designs truly impact their performance in each condition.
Kayak length and width impact stability, tracking, and maneuverability. A longer kayak is better for touring since these types of kayaks track better. However, they aren't as maneuverable, and therefore don't make ideal fishing kayaks, or whitewater kayaks. You'll have difficulty trying to position yourself near a piece of structure, or maneuvering around a large boulder in a longer kayak.
That much is probably obvious. What is not as obvious is how kayak hull shape influences performance.