1st Kayak purchase: need advice

Hey everyone,

Well after taking a SOT out a few times in the Monterey Bay this past summer, I’ve caught the kayaking bug. I’ve been researching for a little while and didn’t realize that there was so much to take into consideration before you purchase. So let me begin by telling what I’m gonna be using it for and how much I’m looking to spend.

To begin, I’m a 25 yr. old male standing just above 5’9" and weighing roughly 175lbs(figured I’d throw that in there just in case you need it for reference). Now the kayak is primarily going to be used in the Panama City, FL Bay area. I’m purchasing it foremost for fitness purposes in order to coincide with road biking, but would also just like to get out on the water and relax as well. I may also be using it to paddle down some creeks and small rivers every now and then as well.

From paddling a SOT for a few hours at a time, I realize now that I would prefer a sit in style.

Since this is my first kayak, I would like to keep it under $1000; maybe $1100 or so with a rudder included.

So far I’ve been considering the Old Town Cayuga 140, Perception Carolina 14.5, Current Design Kestrel 120 and 140,

Necky Manitou 14 and the Zoar Sport. If there are any other models that I need to take into consideration, please let me know. Since it’s primarily going to be used in the bay but also occasionally on small rivers, I figure 14 ft. would be middle ground. Of course maybe one of the 12ft. models would work as well, I’m not sure if that would be too small or not. If you could give me any advice on this as well, I would greatly appreciate it.

Pamlico 140
Quick! Buy one before they’re discontinued!!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist!

Everyone will advise you to demo first. However, if you’re young and living anywhere near the ocean, you may want to consider a yak designed for big water. If you have storage room, I’d say buy two different used yaks.

Somebody is gonna tell ya
so I might as well - - if you get a chance - - demo them all.

I don’t see any in your selection that I wouldn’t recommend - - but Ive never been in any of them either. You have been doing so reading and research. Maybe some of the folks down that way know of any events happening where you could try some out

First Demo, then go used
If you want to move along in terms of skills you might well be buying a couple or three boats in the next few years,

going used for the first one reduces the amount of value you will lose when you sell it, to get a boat that fits you new skills.

A used pygmy coho would be a dream and might be close o your price. Used p&H plastic capella, and lots of other boats.

Hey - - there’s an Idea
Build that Pygmy Coho - Under a grand - highly rated, light, nice looking wood/fiberglass

If I had a $1000.00 to throw at a boat, that’s what I’d be doing. Either an S&G Coho, or a cedar stripper of some kind.

Alas - - ain’t happening this year for me.

I agree
What everyone said above - demo them first. Without a doubt. The size of cockpits, how the seat is, etc. all are different, and can make a big difference in how comfortable you are.

And buying used is definitely an option (though from a private party might provide a less harshly used boat than from a rental fleet).

Don’t forget - if you haven’t yet, take a lesson on basic recovery methods for sit in boats. Better yet, consider more advanced classes that might meet your needs (surf zone, tides & currents, kayak navigation, etc.).

BTW - I took my first class at Elkhorn Sough in Monterey. Sure is a beautiful place to kayak.

First steps
Best advice from me - look around your area for some basic kayaking classes in pools. A lot of paddling clubs and outfitters run such sessions over the winter at Y’s etc, and it is a good place for you to get into boats and get a sense of fit and performance to help you make a best possible “first” purchase. Also will make you a safer paddler by giving you some basic skills.

As to the boats - it’s not the length but the performance and some basic safety features. Would you be paddling alone, possibly well out from shore in that bay? If so you need perimeter rigging to be able to hang onto the boat should you capsize. For general safety purposes you need either two sealed bulkheads or at least a float bag in each end. The point of this is that, should the boat capsize, it’ll stay on top of the water rather than one end filling with water and pointing down to the bottom. Merely annoying in a few feet of water, but leaves you with no options but a long swim to shore if it happens well out there.

You generally need to get nearer to 16 ft in length than 12 ft in length to get to these kind of features.

Re rudder - don’t pre-plan that. Just take whatever device comes on the boat, skeg or rudder. For overall paddling they are both useful, and manufacturers generally make this easy for you by designing their boats with one or the other. QCC offers either so it is a tougher call, but at this point you are not likely to be looking there.

I think the best advice you have been given is to go out and buy used and cheap. The boats you are looking at are in the cohort of what many, including me and my husband, got as their first boat. A huge number of those people will tell you that the boat lasted maybe one season before they wanted something that was longer, or more manuverable, or could support skills like rolling (most of the boats you mention are challenged there because of huge cockpits). In fact the 13 footers ones that my husband and I got made it all the way to Maine for vacation, and exactly 6 days into the vacation before we got caught in weather and realized we needed three feet more boat and a lot more features.

If you can’t demo, do some research.
Internet. Call stores and kayak companys – being aware that their motivation is to sell.

And hey, just buy it. If you do have the bug you want a different boat soon after – no matter what you buy. The Carolina is a good starter boat, as is the C.D. Kestral.

Try If You Can…
maybe a trip to a local outfitter for a couple of guided trips and lessons just to get a feel for different kayaks.

Being the first, with a $1000 in hand, I would shoot for something used in the 14-16’ range, with bulkheads (ruddder/skeg, your pick). probably can find it around $600-800, leaving some cash for a paddle and a PFD. Still need paddlefloat and pump, another ~$100. Buying a used boat is a good approach because you don’t fret as much over it, you won’t too much about the cosmetics (waste of time), and very likely you move on to another boat in a year or two if you really get into it.


(big believer in buying used)

Panama city
If you can find an outfitter that has boats to demo, do that as a first step. Once you figure out what you like and dislike, you can then look for used one for a good price. That’s the best route.

But I know Panama City isn’t exactly a sea kayking hot bed. So you may or may not have a whole lot of options in outfitter or used boats. In that case, you might have to rely a bit more on research and go from there. Given this is the end of season for much of the country, you might be able to score a steep discount in shops some distance away. In that case, you won’t lose much money if you ended up selling it to upgrade to something else.

The one thing to remember is for the majority of kayak beginers, their first boat tend NOT to be their last. So there’s no sense in researching it to death because your preference may change once you get more water time.