2 newbs shopping for beginner kayaks.

My wife recently decided that she would like to get into kayaking since we are so close to an inlet of the Chesapeake bay (very calm water), for exercise, get out on the water, etc.

We went looking at Kayaks at Dicks, Outdoor World (Bass Pro Shops), REI, and Boaters World. We are looking for something cheap to start out with, looks like in the ~$300 range is where we will need to buy. When we grow into larger kayaks due to skills/objectives, we can keep these ones for guests etc.

I’ve been reading as many reviews and looking up things the best I can. I’m a bit confused though, wondering what the best deal for us is. I’m 6’1", 185# if that plays into anything at all.

There is the Old Town (Olde Towne?) Otter ($299), Otter XT ($350-$379), and Otter Sport ($350, I hear it’s the same as the Rush from Dicks?) I don’t know what the advantage to each is.

I’m also looking at the Victory Blast, Islander Swifty 9.5, and Pelican Pursuit (10 or 100?) I’ve seen great reviews on the Blast, Swifty and Rush.

Just looking to see what direction to be pointed in, what to look for etc. I wouldn’t mind one with a storage hatch, but it’s not a dealbreaker. Especially at this price range.

So Glad to see you are going to be joining us as kayakers !!!. Let me tell you first off…Once you start you cant stop. I was a casual canoeist for many years and thought I would get a kayak just for some exercise. Well now I am deeply hooked. Soon you will be too, and youll love it.

To get started off look for places that have test paddle days many kayak shops do. also most shops let you try before you buy. You can go with a lower cost boat and later sell or trade up. You can also get a used boat and have a higher end rig for a discount ( check the for sale adds on this site ). I would recomend a hatch. you can bring along some lunch, blanket to eat on, extra clothes, spare water , etc. also if you dump you got extra floatation to use.

I would also recommend a good life vest ( dont go cheap on those. ) and maybe a class on paddling. I am 6’2’’ and 220 lbs and I get cramped in shorter boats after a while so while you sit in the boat at the store always think…" how will I feel in here after an hour or so ? " I would also suggest getting a boat that is just a bit skinnier or tippier than you might want , just a bit. maybe a 24" wide boat Because when you go out at first youll be a bit intimidated but then you will get the feel for it and thats how you develop skill and balance. plus after a getting used to it period you can do things in the skinnier boat such as edge and carve turns etc. after that youll be lusting for a 22" boat etc. next thing you know your on the ocean looking for 4 ft. swells !!!. I would also buy " beyond the cocpit " from USK ( on this site too.) , awesome and inspiring. but either way WELCOME !!!, and just have fun most of all. Hope I helped out . Bill

Big box stores
are not the best places to buy. Find a small local shop that knows paddling. Anyone who can read a price tag can work in in a big box store. But those who work in small shops have to know what they are talking about. Plus most will let you try before you buy and they can help you get a boat fit for your needs.

It will pay off in the long run if you support your smaller local shops.

Good luck and have fun

I haven’t been able to find a local store yet, but we’ve just started looking. I’m right between DC/Baltimore/Annapolis. If anyone can recommend a store or link me to a store finder I would appreciate it! :slight_smile:

Check out some of these
On the left of the page, see Directories / Dealers

Better yet - See link below


Your local phone book would probably be the best resource for finding a local outfitter. Sporting goods, canoes, kayaks, outfitters are all good headings to look under in the yellow pages. If you live near a substantial city, there should be at least one, and probably a few if you’re close to paddleable water.

Of all those stores you mention, I would avoid Dick’s the most. It’s true I have a personal vendetta against the company, but it’s because they are essentially the wal-mart of sporting goods. Sure, they have cheap prices, but they also have cheap products and staff that are less than helpful (if they’re even present). Never been to a Bass Pro or a Boater’s World, but REI is certainly not the worst place you can shop. REI gives a lot of money to local conservation and recreation groups (the one here has donated many thousands of $$$$ to local groups in the 1 1/2 yrs they’ve been in the city to clean up the rivers and parks, so they do directly help paddlers).

Second that
You can’t trust anything the sales staff at Dick’s tell you. They know nothing about the stuff they sell, so they just make stuff up. There must be several good independent shops in your metro area.

beginner kayaks
I first started in a Swifty. I am 5’10" and did not know it was too small for me until I took my first ACA kayak class. I could not get my feet on the foot braces and get my knees under the cockpit rims. I don’t see how you would fit into this boat.

One good thing about REI is that they have a 100% guarantee on everything. I bought my Swifty at REI. When I told them it was fitted incorrectly by their store employees they gladly took it back. I got a full refund.

REI sells a much better beginner boat, Tsunami 140.

I am not sure why beginners including me all seek out short wide boats. To me they are actually harder to paddle and you quickly outgrow them

I recommend to start out with a touring boat like the Tsunami. It has a large cockpit, is wide enough to feel stable in it. I found the longer boats actually much easier to paddle and easier to keep straight.

A another good beginner boat is the Necky Manitou 14 or the Necky 13 boat( not sure of its special name)

You want bulk heads in case you go over. They keep the boat from sinking. Two bulk heads are best.


All the advice is much appreciated. Thanks for the list, I’ll see which stores are near me and hit those ones up today.

Only issue really is I think the boats you are describing are going to cost about 2-3x more than what we really want to spend right now.

The comment about Dicks is TOO funny, because we could not find ANYONE there! REI was a bit annoying because the guy we spoke to kept trying to sell us the class, and not a damn kayak. I’ve been doing the research on it, and most if it seems to be common-sense stuff. I don’t really want to spend $180 for us to take a beginners lesson, rather put that towards boats. We’re just going to be in a calm no-wave cove for now, so I’m not going to be doing any river or open water stuff yet. When we outgrow these we’ll buy some bigger better ones and either sell these or keep them for guests to use.

Annapolis Canoe and Kayak
These guys seem to know what they’re doing:


Possibly Sams club
I recently added a 3rd boat to my fleet to introduce friends to paddling, Found a red boat at Sams called Dimension ($297.00), it appears to be the same as an Old Town Otter, but with a bulkhead and hatch also contains foot pegs, paddles, spray skirt, in fact its made by the same company that owns old town. The best advice that many will say is to demo boats first, a good demo event should not make you feel pressured, but offer a great opportunity to get the feel of different yaks, follow this advice if possible… Enjoy

If you find any shops around your area, you might see if they also have rentals available. We started out renting, and it was a great way to try out different boats and to see what you really like.


also known as SpringRiver Annapolis
I’m a long-term customer & recommend them. Under new ownership, Dave is very knowledgeable and helpful, low-key & no pressure. I have bought several boats from them and last year, before the ownership change, my elliptical machine from their Rockville location (now under different ownership).

They rent too - located in Eastport, their rentals are on the water. Busy boat traffic area on weekends so I recommend weekdays if you go that route.

I always try to buy something there or bring along someone who needs something - I strongly support small shops and advise against the big box stores.

agree with bluekat
The money spent on first rec- boat rentals is well worth it if you find you want more performance after a paddle. Further away than the Eastport SpringRiver for you is Patuxent Adventure Center, where my son works. They also have rentals on protected water (Solomons Harbor). There are plenty of other rental places around too - my preference would be for those on the water.

It looks like we’re going to hit up that place in Annapolis linked above. It doesn’t sound like they have boats in our price range, but they do have demos for $10/boat per half hour. Being new, I don’t really know what the difference is in a $300 10’ boat and a $450 10’ boat, all other features being the same. I don’t think they make 12-14 footers in my price range.

yep - they are called "used"
My first kayak was a Pungo when they first came out - incidentally, bought at SpringRiver’s old location on route 40 near Ellicott City & now gone. I quickly learned that I wanted more speed & sold that Pungo for, I think, about 250-$300. It was like new & not a scratch on it…

Check with Brad at Stark Moon kayaks…
…Brad will not steer you wrong. Tell him what

you want, and let him help. Brad makes his money

from happy repeat customers.

(I do not, nor have never, worked for Stark Moon.)

We went to the store in Annapolis, Annapolis Canoe and Kayak I think it was. We took out a Current Designs “Whistler”, a Necky Manitou 14, and a Necky Manitou Sport (10’11"). The first two are $1K and the last one is $670ish. What I noticed is typical I guess, the long ones tracked straight, went faster, harder to turn. The short one turned a lot easier, but didn’t coast as well, tracked worse etc.

Still though the budget of boats he is showing us was 2-3x what we are looking for. They carry Heritage, Wilderness, Current Designs, Necky, and Native.

Looks like they all have an entry-level boat in the $300-$400 range, I don’t know how they compare to other brands I listed above though (probably better).

I know that the more I spend, the nicer of a boat with more features I will get, but we just got married in Dec and bought a house in May, so we don’t have $1500-$2K to put into a hobby right now. I need to get the best value I can for the money we have to play with.

Check with Brad…
…another thing to do is look to the liveries

around Oct after they close.

I’ve seen some good deals on used boats. You just

have to be careful about HOW used they are.

Not a bad idea but can’t wait that long. :slight_smile: