What boat for a beginner paddler?

The primary concern for most beginners is capsizing. Unplanned swims are worth thinking about, but should not be the only criteria. You also want a boat that will not be difficult to handle. A high performance kayak may be a little skittish - always trying to head off and do its own thing. This is because high performance boats respond to the slightest input, even if the inexperience paddler doesn't even know they did it. A well behaved boat for a beginner will not respond as quickly to inadvertent motions including those that might send you for a swim.

This means that boats that less maneuverable will tend to be easier for beginners and novices. For some people, a rudder will help compensate for less skill with steering strokes. But this points out one of the potential downsides of a "beginners" boat; since it does not require the skills to use it comfortably, it may slow down your learning process. This is fine if all you want to do is enjoy a little time out on the water without any aspirations for really becoming skilled. There is really no need to become a highly skilled paddler if you take care to stay clear of conditions which are beyond your abilities. If you intend to work on improving your skills, you may choose not to start out with a beginners boat, instead selecting a design that may be a little over your head at first. After all, you are only a beginner for a little while.

The Great Auk is well suited for beginners, it is stable and roomy. It is quite easy to control and paddles easily and efficiently. It is well suited for mounting a rudder if you wish. And as your skill improve it will be able to do what you want it to do.

If the longer Great Auk seems like more boat than you want to start out with, the 14' Great Auk is a good choice. Although, due to its shorter length, it does not track as straight as its bigger brother, it still will work well for for novice paddlers.

One solution for getting a novice out on the water is to paddle a tandem kayak such as the Guillemot Double along with some who is more skilled. This boat is stable and roomy and with the cockpits far enough apart that you won't knock paddles if one person stops paddling, it is a good choice for a pair of novices or to bring out a friend who hasn't paddled before.