2 chunky chicks who like to paddle

ok-- we’ve rented enough and gone on guided tours… we’re ready to buy. Not athletes, not competitors, not planning to take on rapids and rolling for fun… just two chunky chicks who enjoy the activity. Living near the Intracoastal waterway in FL offers lots of opportunity for marsh and inlet paddling. We plan to buy used at first - one single and one tandem. (yes, we are seriously checking the paddling.net ads and there are some great ones. Probably where we will buy) We’ve paddled with and without rudder and prefer with.

If you were to offer a piece or two of kayak choosing/buying advice for 2 chunky chicks (5’3" 185, and 5"6 200) who wish paddle recreationally, sometimes take a skinny kid in the tandem and sometimes might camp, what would it be? I read the reviews and it starts to all run together. Is wider for stability? Is length for speed? arrghghghghg!! I’ve just always gotten in whatever kayak the guide gave me and had a great time. I didnt ask for dimensions.

You, in your paddling wisdom, hoping that we would have maximum enjoyment ( and good exercise) from our kayaks, would to tell us to be sure to…

Two Rec Boats
are listed one now in the classifieds for Florida. One is a Pungo and the other is Old Town Loon 138 tandem. Both are fine boats for calmer waters and calm days on the ICW.

I had the Loon 138T, if the child is small, it works fine. If you have a bigger person, trying to paddle in unison is tough. If you don’t, you have alot of paddle banging.


Good suggestion
Also the 138T’s front seat slides back for solo paddling. A friend has a pungo and i have a 138 solo and we trade boats quite often. I like them both for quiet water paddling. I have a 50 lb Llewellin Setter that comes along whenever i’m not fishing. Very stable boat as long as he’s sitting. When he stands it can get a little twitchy but we’ve never gone swimming (accidently).

My chunky-chick wife…
…has a Pungo 12 and loves the heck out of it. Easy to get in and out, and very stable.

awesome advice
You guys (and chicks) rock! this is what I need. Buy this, dont buy that. Thanks so much. Hope more is coming.

We plan to sometimes use both the single and tandem (when we take the kid) but if its just the two adults, we thought we would both go in the tandem. But might want to sometimes take out the tandem single. Therefore a tandem would have to accomodate two paddlers, but also be suitable for one paddler or one paddler and a passenger. So many variables.

We have a truck and would need to be able to get these bad boys up and down from the top.

Does a rudder make that much difference for the kind of marsh paddling we’re planning?

Also, we are in Jacksonville, so we are checking the ads in Georgia too.

Thanks so much for your help. Practical experience beats ad copy anytime!!

I know -FL, along/near the ICW…

Gotta love the handle(s)…

If you’re in South Florida, and particularly the Broward area, try Whiskey Creek in John U Lloyd State Park -it’s got a decently-sized launch area, access to the ICW under the bridge, and quiet paddling in trhe NMZ of Whiskey Creek. Downsidw is that it’s a schlep from the parking lot to the launch and back; see kayak cart, below. If you follow Whiskey to the end, you can pass the marina and also wind your way to the ICW.

But I’d caution you about some parts of the Intracoastal, especially in the JUL Park area -it’s near Port Everflades, so big ships, tugs, and barges ply the waters, as do all sorts of power boats -you might also want to try West Lake and Anne Kolb Nature Center up there, and in Northern Miami-Dade, Oleta State Park. ALl offer protected waterways for paddling rec boats on quiet waters.

You’ve got part of the equation down, but don’t forget, it’s not just a boat, it’s an adventure -a ‘buying’ adventure, L!

For starters, PFDs. Get them so they fit, they float (you) and then wear them, especially in places like the ICW. Get a decent paddle -not a slab-sided double-ended beginner’s ‘oar’ -one of those $35 specials that are often thrown in with a boat buy for free. They’re kinda you’re getting what you pay for… Around $100 should do you just fine.

Kayak carrying… Neither of you is “tall”, and we don’t know what vehicle(s) you’re driving, and whether is has a factory rack and/or rails, but all-in-all, a good roof rack makes life a lot easier. You CAN go with the thwart cushions and tie-downs approach for a lot less and it will work, but it will BE more work, and probably won’t come close to the stability of a permanently installed rack.

You might also want to invest in a kayak cart to carry your boat(s) from your car to the launch and back. There are several out there, some of which will work for the kinds of boats you’re interested in.

The quik’n’dirty skinny on kayaks?

Wide generally

=good primary (just sitting there) stability;

=poor secondary (leaning) stability;

=easier to turn;

=tracks (goes & glides straight) less well -if you stroke hard, the boat may even turn away from the stoke to the opposite side;

=slow(er) speed.

Narrow generally

=less peimary stability;

=better secondary stability;

=usually more difficult to turn;

=usually but tracks better;

=fast(er) speed.

Ponty prows=cutting through waster and waves/wakes;

Bulbous prows=riding over water and waves/wakes.

‘Secondary stability’ is how well the boat reacts to agitated water, particularly waves/wakes coming in at the side of the kayak. A boat with good secondary stability rides those more easily and upright. A wide, rec boat will (try to) keep its bottom “on” the wave -so if it’s a large swell/wave/wake, it will lean over with the lean of the water on the face of the wave.

The boat suggestions are good rec boats.

But don’t forget The Infamous Swift; “We all started out in Swifties” -JackL

Have fun, get the gear, get out, and


-Frank in Miami

Addressing your rudder question…
Hi Katie,

You asked:

“Does a rudder make that much difference for the kind of marsh paddling we’re planning?”

I’m inclined to think that a rudder wouldn’t necessarily make a positive difference for you.

Though I freely admit to being a devout non-rudder/non-skeg sea kayaker, I’ve probably mellowed a bit over the years in terms of “allowing” my fellow paddlers to make their own choices in this regard. :wink:

That said, the supposed reason for using a rudder (or skeg) is to help the boat track (go straight) in conditions that it might otherwise have trouble keeping an intended course in (not for steering in calm conditions). Rudders on boats like surf skis, on the other hand, are a bit of a different matter, as these are indeed used for steering (those boats aren’t designed to be easily turned without a rudder and/or the constant racing stroke is not meant to be interrupted by turning strokes and boat edging).

Unless the boats you’re considering have a tendency to yaw severely with every paddle stroke, for the type of paddling you seem to be interested in, I’d say that a rudder might prove to be more trouble than it is worth. For at least two or three reasons…

  1. If you’re paddling a rec boat slowly in calm, protected marsh areas, you should have no trouble controling the boat with just your paddle and body.

  2. In marsh areas, you may find that a rudder can get fouled up with grasses and other bits of near surface vegetation, and this can render it useless, and perhaps even lead to unhappy jamming of the moving parts.

  3. This applies to all mechanical moving parts: There’s always the possibility that a mechanical device with moving parts can malfunction, become jammed, etc., and if you really can’t fully justify the need for such a device, it might be better to just not even bother with such things.

    In your original post, you wrote:

    “We’ve paddled with and without rudder and prefer with.”

    What kind of conditions were you paddling in?..and what type of boats were you paddling? Were you using the rudders for steering? (not really recommended). Or to stiffen up the tracking?

    The first kayak I ever paddled, without any idea of how a kayak is supposed to be paddled, was a Necky Looksha Sport with a rudder. Everything about my technique in those first few moments was wildly incorrect (and therefore terribly inefficient), and if it weren’t for the rudder, I would have probably felt that the silly boat couldn’t turn very well (at that point, I thought the rudder’s primary role was for steering!). I had a great time, and while I credit that experience with the discovery of my passion for paddling, it didn’t take me very long to realize that learning a bit about better techniques made me completely rethink my original appreciation of the rudder (at least in terms of how I used it in that very first kayak session).

    A few days later, I was paddling a Looksha IV. This boat did have a rudder, but I began to realize that I only needed the rudder for its intended purpose; to stiffen up the tracking when the boat wanted to go where I didn’t want it to go. I also began to think about the idea that perhaps the undeployed rudder itself (sticking up into the wind) might have even contributed to the need to use it in certain conditions! Thus began my journey toward boats that I felt didn’t need a rudder at all. During this same period of trying many different types of boats and developing some more reasonable techniques, I began to realize my own aesthetic preferences as well, and I came to dislike the look of those gawky contraptions sticking out of the stern.

    Three months after my first experience in that Looksha Sport, and after trying many different boats (with and without rudders and skegs), I purchased my first boat; with no rudder, and no skeg (Current Designs Caribou). Eight years later, I still love to paddle the Caribou, and my second boat (kit built wooden Arctic Hawk) is also rudderless/skegless.

    I realize that my story, and the types of boats I happen to prefer don’t relate directly to your current experience and intended purposes, but I did want to illustrate how a beginner might think about rudders, and how that same person’s view of the situation can change with a bit more experience. If you were to ask me about my opinion of rudders during my first couple weeks of paddling, I would have said “I love them!” Three months later (and to this day eight years later), I’d say “I hate them!” :slight_smile:


Dagger Charleston 14 or 15
If you want something a bit more than a Pungo, with some bulkhead storage, good stability, and a skeg for directional control … try one of these 2004 and earlier models. You will fit just fine!

Brave Husband
BrewerPaul, you are a brave man describing your wife like that … even if it MIGHT be true.

As far as tandems
my wife and I started in a Wilderness Systems Pamlico 135T and still use it regularly. It is stable, quick for a tandem, tracks straight yet turns easily, is very comfortable and the front seat moves back for solo paddles. A larger person will have no difficulty with the fit.

Only downside is weight which is near 70 lbs. but I think you’ll find that typical for rec tandems.

Good luck and hope you get some yaks soon.

Maybe a used Phoenix Vagabond

– Last Updated: Jul-20-05 7:12 PM EST –

for the tandem/solo. 16'5" long and 46lbs in the fiberglass layup. They sell for about $2000 new, but there was a well used one available here in IL a couple weeks ago for just $350. It tracks well while paddling, but will turn a bit when you stop paddling. It turns easily when you want it to. You can see it in the "Poke Boat" section at http://pokeboat.com/Vagabond.htm. No rudder needed on this boat.

The two position front seat can be moved toward the center for solo paddling. I've paddled mine solo several times and tandem a few times.

The biggest challenge with this boat is making the seats comfortable enough.

Happy paddling

Hey fellow chunky chicks!!!
I am with you! A fellow chunky chick! I just purchased a Perception America 13.5. I am picking it up on Monday. The America 13.5 was the first kayak I ever paddled–last year as a rental in OBX. I really liked it. Since then, I have paddled and demoed a few other boats. But I kept coming back to that one. So I finally bought one. I like the size of the cockpit–easy when you have a bad knee! I am not looking for any kind of racing kayak or super high quality performace—just a kayak I can paddle and enjoy. I can’t wait to pick it up. Check them out, too!

Take care and have fun.


Hydra Kayak
Check out the Aquanaut Twin Kayak by Hydra. http://www.rotonics.com/mathandl/Aquanauttwin.htm It is a sit-on-top that has three molded in seats. Use the front and rear seats for a tandem, sit in the middle for a single or sit in the rear seat and put two kids in front of you. I call it my blue barage because it feels like it is plowing through the water when compared to my fiberglass touring kayak. It has good maneuverability and is very stable. Look at my profile and you can see a picture of me in it loving life at Big Shoals on the Suwanee River.

I live near Fernandina Beach and get down to Jax acouple of weekends a month to visit my parents who live on Julington Creek. If you would like to try the Hydra sometime e-mail me. Also checkout www.fska.org for other paddlers in the area and lots of good information.

Rudders are great for bird watching and
photography. They allow you to control the direction of the boat while your hands are busy holding your binoculars. I have a rudder on my Summersong solo canoe and it’s a great help for bird watching.

be careful
I recommend Pungo 120 and if you can afford it get the Duralite ones. I wish I’d waited and just purchased a Duralite to ride aside my regular 49 lb one.

Unless you are short and agile, then the Sonoma Airalite 10 might work. I thought it would work for me though, and am sorry I purchased it but I’ve got some fibromyalgia and other physical problems as well as size. It would work for a shorter heavy person I think.

Make sure the cockpit is easy to get in and out of and that you have room. If you do an internet subject search on overweigh kayakers more information may be obtained.

your taking kids?
I was in Dick’s Sporting Goods recently (quit howling- when they were Galyans they stocked drain plug kits) and saw a Classic 12 selling for I think $300. It seemed to be either a Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 without the fancy seat or a Pamlico 120. I’m not sure what your budget is but that pricing may make the search easier. The cockpit on the Pungo is big enough that you can put a small child in front of you, the Pamlico has a smaller cockpit but most of the difference is behind the seat- I think the kid still fits. Some companies sell fancy little seats, but we just used boating throw cushions ($10 @Walmart) As the kids got older and started to complain about a seat I duct taped a soft foam stadium seat (straps hold up the back) to the throw cushion.

Paddling is also an issue- it seems to me that small children riding with an adult in a kayak have a desire to paddle that is inversely proportional to their ability to provide any forward motion. I.e. young kids that don’t have any idea will be paddling like mad and as they get older you will find that if you don’t hand them the paddle it will stay on the dock (time for their own kayak). Since they don’t do much work I try to give them a kid’s paddle with a small blade. If you are close to a paddling store you may be able to get a nice wood one for I think about $25-$35. They look pretty, they have a nice feel, and they are cheaper than the heavy slab sided plastic and steel kid’s paddles sold at discount stores. Like someone once said – if it isn’t doing anything useful it better look good. 

Another plus is that I think the wood paddle is more forgiving when they hit you in the head with it.

For the type of boating you have mentioned I would think a skeg is a better idea than a rudder. Skegs make boats track straight in the water. Rudders on a Kayak are trimable skegs used on open water with a quartering wind. Some plastic boats don’t need skegs to track straight (like the Pungo) this is not the norm. Most plastic recreational kayaks benefit greatly from a skeg to help straight-line paddling. The Dagger Blackwater series have the skegs built in- this is a nice design (for the skeg). If you have to add the skeg later and can’t make it yourself I would look into getting a recreational skeg kit from Riot- the price was less than $50 the last time I looked- rudders start at $200.

Not that long ago I was also seduced by the dark side and bought a tandem recreational kayak so that I could go kayaking with my kids. Do not buy a plastic recreational kayak- they are big, they are slow, the cockpit opening is huge. The giant cockpit has the advantage of catching as much water as possible from passing motorboats wakes and it makes for an extremely flexible boat so that some of your paddling energy is absorbed with boat flex on each and every paddle stroke. And no matter what anyone says I don’t think it’s a problem that we needed a crane to lift the thing back on the car after every trip(just kidding- getting it back on the car was easier than getting it off- we would just lift one end and then push – those screams you hear are from the Kevlar boat guys with the hulley roller saddles thingys).

My recommendation: get 2 of Dick’s Classic 12s and if the skinny kid is old enough (can they move the boat with the paddle) pick up an Old Town Otter ($249-299 everywhere) if Dick’s is to far away then get Wilderness Systems Pamlico 120 at $399 nearby

If you get up early enough on Saturday you should be on the water by noon, be sure to pack Sunscreen and water bottles.

I forgot there is one advantage to the a tandem kayak, when you get really mad at your paddling partner you are always close enough to give them a whack with the paddle 