12-14' kayaks on rapids

If you missed my last threat where I asked questions it is here: http://www.paddling.net/message/showThread.html?fid=advice&tid=1739982

I went and got to demo some today, I demo’d the LL xp9, ethos 10, and for kicks a current designs squall. I was only on flat water but man I sure loved that squall!! So peaceful land easy going with foot controlled rudder and so nice and thin it was amazing. I definitely love thing boats!!!

The ethos 10 wasn’t bad but it sure can plow the water and I didn’t like the xp9 at all, even though it is more for my weight (6’ 110lbs) it felt way slower than the ethos 10.

With the skeg down it felt like the ethos 10 tracked about as good as my current rec boat, maybe a little better. I feel like it was just too much WW for me, considering anything close to class 3 is probably 2-3 hours from my location. While I will be on enough rapids to definitely avoid anything over 14 feet, I think something in the 12-13.5 foot range is more my cup of tea.

I am so skinny it really doesn’t matter how wide the cockpit is, my hips aren’t going to touch. Though with thigh braces I do have much more control.

The LL Stinger XP is starting to look really good. My question is, what other kayaks should I be looking at? I would consider a rec kayak and add thigh braces if needed. They had a dagger axis 12 which I plan to demo if I go up again.

Also picked up a new paddle while I was there, Aqua-bound Manta Ray 220cm. Plan to test it tomorrow and if I still don’t feel a difference in power between it and my current I may upgrade to a carbon shaft full fiberglass blade paddle for $235. Everything says I need a 240-245cm paddle while people on here say I need a 197cm blade so I chose in the middle, we’ll see how it goes.

Primary Use?

– Last Updated: Sep-20-14 9:42 PM EST –

I did not read every word in your other thread, so I might have missed it - do you intend on paddling primarily flat water with some rapids thrown-in? Or is it primarily easy rapids with some flat water thrown in?

If the latter, do check the Stinger. Although I think any WW-oriented design like that will quickly bore you to death on the flats, if you ever want to go quick. They all plow water when pushed to go fast. If the former, go with a short playful touring boat like the Dagger Alchemy S. Or Venture Esky or similar. Much nicer on the flats and good enough for class 2 or even more if you know what you're doing. For an experienced person 22" width in a touring kayak is plenty. Some prefer a bit wider for playing in WW, so some 24" models might also work. Wider than that in a touring boat - it will be unnecessarily wide and slow. For what you describe, the long transitional and short touring will both do just fine. Which one to chose depends on your primary focus. I paddled a Perception Sonoma 13.6 on decent class 3 WW quite regularly and it was fine. So were the 15' P&H Delphin and WS Zephyr.

Unless you need the durability of the 60lb long crossover/ww kayaks, go with a lighter touring at 40-50lb (being shorter, they do come near these weight in plastic).

Now and a bit later in the season is a good time to shop for sales of slightly used rental kayaks from the outfitters. Or to get a deal on a used one off Craigslist before winter comes...

For the paddle - same considerations: 215cm is fine in a 22" touring kayak on WW as is 196cm. I've used both and each has strong and weak sides. Don't go longer than 220 (even that is a bit too long for moving WW). Longer paddles (and I mean 210-220cm at most) work better on the flat water than a 200cm would and are fine for small rapids too. If you get into bigger whitewater, you want shorter than that for sure, otherwise, pick what's comfy on flat water. I wouldn't touch any paddle that is longer than 220cm even on flat water. Why bother? The blades will be too far away, less power, more yaw, more paddle to handle. Yes, if you are using it in a 3' wide bathtub or a canoe (what's the difference, anyway, wink-wink), by all means, go 240cm or longer. If you are sitting almost on the bottom like you do in a kayak, anything over 220 is just nonsense. I'm 6'4" and 210-215cm is perfect. I do have one that's 220cm and it is fine too if I don't pay attention, but longer than that just gets in the way for no good reason. We tall people, if anything, can use shorter paddles because we reach further down and over the sides of the kayak...

My dedicated WW paddle is 196cm and it is the right length for me to play in rapids in my short or long WW boat. It is too short for just paddling about - you will get tired faster with it on flats as you need to reach more forward for a good catch (plus it is heavier, being a tough WW design).

Axis Has a Big Cockpit

– Last Updated: Sep-20-14 9:33 PM EST –

The Dagger Axis has a large cockpit about the same size as the XP10. If you felt the fit on the XP9 on the larger size you probably will find the XP10 and Axis even worse for you.

The Axis 12 will perform much better on flat water than any of the crossover kayaks you tried out.

If you are buying a crossover kayak, you probably should get a whitewater paddle which are going to be shorter in length. Whitewater paddles max at 203cm.

I will be going on primarily flat water with some rapids thrown in.

“Unless you need the durability of the 60lb long transitional kayaks, go with a lighter touring at 40-50lb (being shorter, they do come near these weight in plastic).”

Can you explain this more? The only boat out of those under 50lbs is the perception sonoma at 41 lbs (which I find it crazy believe a kayak that size could be that light.) I couldn’t see much of a difference between 51-55lbs, 58-60 would probably be getting too much for me to portage at all filled with gear. 55lbs is really going to be pushing it.

Currently I am pretty mean to my kayak when it comes to dragging but with a more expensive kayak I would get out and carry it more.

Size & weight

– Last Updated: Sep-21-14 3:56 AM EST –

At your weight -- 110lbs? -- you should be concentrating on "smaller paddler" boats. You shouldn't have a problem with stability in a narrower boat, and as you found, they're more efficient to paddle.

If you just want to run through mild whitewater, any of the more maneuverable touring boats will do just fine. if you want to stay and play, a crossover or whitewater boat would be more appropriate.

The Stinger XP looks interesting -- I'd like to try one. The Pyranha Speeder is another type of crossover boat -- based on wildwater racers, designed for getting downriver fast. The size small Pyranha Fusion is actually designed for your weight, but is only 10'.

Most touring boats can turn well if you're comfortable getting them up on edge.

Used boats can be a great deal IF they fit you and your intended use.

A few more possibilities, emphasis on flatwater:
Perception Tribute 12
WS Tsunami SP
Dagger Alchemy 14S

Paddle length will depend on your boat width and paddling style. I use the same high angle for whitewater and touring, and am happier with short paddles.


– Last Updated: Sep-21-14 7:47 PM EST –

Thanks for the information. Yep, I figure when I find a white water area I want to actually play around in that will be the time I get a WW kayak.

I tested my paddle today and it is a world of difference from my older one, way more power and easier to get the boat moving and keep it moving. Length right now seems fine, if I can find some short paddles later I might demo them and see if they are better.

I plan to write a pros and cons list soon to narrow down my search but right now I have these boats that look decent:

GPX Performance
Dagger Alchemy
LL Stinger XP
Dagger Catalyst 13
Perception Sonoma 13.5
Perception Tribute 12
WS Tsunami SP

I also need to demo maybe a couple of these so I could figure out how maneuverable they are. In the stinger's case how much water it might plow.

Anything else anyone thinks I should be looking at? 14 foot would definitely be my maximum.

The Sonoma is thermoformed, so lighter. It is indeed 41lb with hatch cover and seat! Being short and narrow helps too. Beginners will find it tippy. Sturdy enough for scraping bottom on rocks, but not abusing it.

Zephyr 150 is 52lb at 15.5’ - had one in plastic, it is lighter than most and tough. I think there are some others but not many that are around 50lb or less. Delta makes some shorter and lighter ones too.

The Alchemy would get my vote
I really like it for rivers and surfing. Some have compared it to a longer Dagger Green boat.


– Last Updated: Sep-21-14 9:53 PM EST –

The Stinger is a hard core WW boat, made for big water. Lots of rocker. At your weight a lot of it will be out of the water, so it will actually have shorter waterline than comparably long touring boats. So, slower but way more maneuverable. I've paddled the previous version of it and I would not want to spend much time in it on flat water - heavy and slow, even though it is probably faster than the shorter crossover boats. It's made for big water and creek downriver paddling and it is fast for these waters but can't compete with something like Alchemy 14S on the flats. Plus, it is a big heavy boat - you don't need all that weight for what you describe you want to paddle. Nice kayak though.

Oh, and I think some of the older Looksha Sport maybe worth a look. I think they come in 14'...

Another thermoformed and closer to 40lb than to 50 is the Eddyline Samba.

Have you considered SOT
Like this one? http://www.cpakayaker.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=8365

Or shorter like the 12-14 feet range, like Necky Dolphin or Spike?

Sea kayaks on rivers
It seems to becoming more and more common to see 12-14 kayaks on rivers. I don’t like the idea but many people do. Learn how to roll ASAP. Being upside down in a river is a very vulnerable position. Wear a helmet and learn how to brace.

what don’t you like abouit…

– Last Updated: Sep-22-14 2:08 PM EST –

your current boat? That might help with advice. Rec kayaks have some keel and so track reasonably well in the flats (where you say you will primarily be). Also, if the rapids are on the mild side, it could work there, too. Seems like you would want to add front float bags (if you have a rear bulkhead) and also a sprayskirt (maybe your cockpit opening is too big for that?). Do you mostly want to go faster to keep up with friends in longer boats? (Sorry, I did not read all of your original post -- maybe you answered this already -- but it could help to add here.) A large spray skirt might be okay if the rapids are not so big as to cause a failure (implosion) when hit with a wave. Just trying to save you money for that full on WW boat later. Maybe you want a new boat because it's fun! -- been there!

12’ ww boats were the norm at one time
I am old enough to remember when ALL whitewater boats were 12’ to 13’ long (think of the Dancers and Pirouettes and the Augsburger glass Olympic style slalom boats we used to build over molds in our outing clubs). So I fail to see why anyone should get their panties in a twist over seeing longer boats on whitewater, particularly open rapids on wider rivers. I’ve taken my 15’ low volume plastic touring kayak down some Class II and III river sections without problems (yes, I had a neoprene skirt and a helmet.) Depends on the boat and the paddler.

Here in Western PA there is a bunch of crazy “hair boaters” who buy battered old sea kayaks up to 16’-17’ and take them down Class IV sections of the Youghiogheny.

No twisted panties here

– Last Updated: Sep-22-14 4:48 PM EST –

Maybe that remark was not directed to me.
All I'm suggesting is:
1) OP be clear about what he doesn't like about current boat, could help suggestions;
2) PERHAPS current boat is fine for his purposes.

(I have paddled my 14' touring kayak in Class II water -- no objection, no twists.)

Nope, definitely not using a SoT. I appreciate the suggestion but don’t like being exposed to the elements.


– Last Updated: Sep-22-14 7:18 PM EST –

I currently have a $200 Aruba 10 from Walmart, lets see. I don't like how wide it is, I don't like it having such a flat bottom, spray skirts seem pointless and there is definitely no rolling, I have heard you can install thigh braces but not sure if they would work on this one, would prefer it to be faster/easier going, my "rear bulkhead" is two styrofoam blocks shoved in the back of the kayak so it is all one compartment, my rear hatch doesn't even connect to the boat when closed so it lets in a ton of water, not sure how important but no perimeter lines, the cockpit swallows me up and I feel like it is impossible to twist while paddling because my legs and butt just twist as well, and a hard plastic seat (currently using outdoor lawn chair cushions.)

Edit: Sorry, forgot to answer. I only go with one other person and he is in the exact same boat as me but we are both looking to upgrade. He thinks he wants a crossover and I am more fit than him so I definitely won't have a hard time keeping up, if anything I will casually go while he keeps up with me. I go alone as well.

nice list
If this board had stickies, that would be a list to have people read before buying their first kayak at Walmart or Dick’s.

It happened to me one time

– Last Updated: Sep-22-14 8:47 PM EST –

I recall a time someone was looking for advice on kayaks for rivers with Class I riffles, sometimes with an occasional short Class-II drop (using guide-book ratings, which are usually quite "generous"), and lots of flat water in-between. After seeing lots of advice for tiny squirt boats, and knowing that skill-less paddlers in rented canoes would generally bumble their way through such rapids pretty easily (and knowing that I and various friends don't even break conversation in such conditions when paddling general-purpose solo canoes), I suggested that a 13- or 14-foot touring kayak would be perfectly fine in the riffles and superior on those long flats, and wow, what a hostile reaction I got from two of the whitewater kayakers here. They told me in no uncertain terms that only a full-on whitewater boat should even be considered for such water. Naturally I asked for a solid reason, but got none (just got some nonsense about how "so and so paddles more whitewater than you do, so you should just take him at his word").

oh, I didn’t realize

– Last Updated: Sep-22-14 9:54 PM EST –

the level of a rec boat you got (didn't read the previous thread, sorry). I have seen some "rec" boats on the river around here (upper Snake) outside of the class III - IV section, that do fine -- more like the Dagger Zydeco I think (I don't really know the rec product line). Of course, you can get a boat that will be faster and more versatile than a decent rec boat -- e.g. for easier lake travel.

A Walmart $200 Aruba is not a kayak, it’s a POO: Plastic Ovoid Object. Friends don’t let friends buy POO. But you might want to hang onto them anyway once you find proper boats – they could be fun to ride down a snow hill as sleds. Or fill them with ice to hold the beer at cookouts.