1st time Kayak owner looking to test out different models

I’m in the market for a kayak, and being it is the 1st one I will be buying myself, I’m looking to try out a few styles before I decide on a model/style that best fits my needs.
Does anywhere know a place in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area that allows possible buyers to test out used kayaks before purchasing? (maybe have a lake or bay nearby their shop.)
I was referred to Bel Haven Paddleboards in the NJ Pinelands, but can’t seem to find a working number or a functioning website for them.
Any help would be appreciated.

Bell Haven Paddlesports. The place changed hands a few years ago. Take a drive to River Connection in Hyde Park NY. Good range of boats to try it would be worth a trip. Give a call first for good advice from Marshall.

It is getting more difficult to find outfitters that offer demos or used boats. The popularity of stand-up paddleboards has displaced kayaking stock in shops many areas, especially those near tourism areas. You are likely to have to drive to several places at some distance to be able to try any boats on the water at all. Perhaps your best bet would be to try to find a regatta or other get together where a range of private owners might congregate. I have found most paddlers at such events are pretty friendly about letting people try their craft for a few minutes.

Another place that sells demos and has direct on the water access for test paddling is Lake George Kayak in upstate New York. If you could afford a weekend road trip to Lake George and stop at River Connection in Hyde Park on the way you would be able to sample a decent range of boats.

It does become unrealistic to think you will ever be able to paddle even a fraction of the models that might appeal to you on paper. So best to keep open to a range of options and not get hung up on “perfection” for your first boat. You are not likely to know exactly what you will want in a kayak until you have paddled one for a while anyway. This is why we tend to suggest that newcomers to the sport narrow down to a size that will fit them and the type of paddling they intend to do and look for local used kayaks from private owners in that range. You will be unlikely to be able to paddle them before you buy, but at least buying used gives you the opportunity to regain a good percentage of what you paid for the boat. If you are quite uncertain about what you need, then one of the suggested outfitters would be the best option, but be prepared to travel.

The farthest I’ve gone to get the kayak I wanted was flying 8,500 miles round trip to test paddle one (a Feathercraft Wisper in Vancouver, BC) and 1,100 miles round trip driving and taking a ferry across Lake Michigan to bring home a boat I did not paddle until after I bought it. Both turned out to be fantastic boats. So a drive from NJ to upstate NY is not all that extreme.

The desire to test used boats will also add to the challenge. Most shops don’t carry used, or have limited stock of used. Plus if the shop sells only new and you are looking to buy used, if you do demo the new boats you will basically be “showrooming” with that shop. This has caused a lot of shops to institute demo fees and the like, so they can at least recoup some money from the time and (hopefully minimal) wear and tear the demo usage on their boats has caused.

If used is what you are after, you might do better seeing if there is a local club in your area and then start asking if you can test paddle people’s boats. Our local club sometimes has demo days where people bring boats and let them paddle them. Ad it isn;t uncommon for people to ask if someone has a specific boat

Sunrift Adventures is having a demo day Monday at Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, SC.
Which is probably no help at all.

Here you go. https://www.philacanoe.org/

Thank you for the advise!
And yes I have just emailed the Philadelphia Canoe Club, hopefully they will have rowing events in the future I can attend.

Not sure how close this place is to you. http://www.bluemountainoutfitters.net/ From the online photo’s this place is well stocked.