In the Store: Whitewater paddlers: Whereas you sit in a canoe, you wear a whitewater kayak. Choose one that fits snugly but not painfullylike a ski boot. » Sea kayakers: Rudder or skeg? Rudders afford the most control but have the most moving parts (hence require the most maintenance), while a skeg is simpler and more elegant (there's nothing hanging off the back of your boat). » Fiberglass or Kevlar boats are fasterand more expensivethan thermomolded plastic boats. » Size matters: Make sure your boat has enough cargo capacity for the trips on your list.
In the Field: Sea kayakers: If you ding your fiberglass boat and can see fibers, slap some duct tape on it and then repair it when you get home. » Whitewater paddlers: En route to the river, strap your boat to your rack hull side up. Doing so will prevent your boat's underside from "oilcanning," or denting.
At Home: Sun is the enemy of all watercraft. Keep a tarp over your boat to fend off UV rays.