Advice For New Guy

-- Last Updated: Sep-22-09 10:45 AM EST --

Totally new to the sport, but I do have a power boat so my son and I think this should be a great extention for our love of being around the water.

We're looking for our first kayaks. I'm 5'11" 200lbs and he's 6' 180lbs. We primarily want to do rivers and with time and a kayak that will take us through the learning curve, but still be acceptable for a mild class III.

I have the opportunity to buy a Old Town Rush, or a Mainstream Rhumba. As a first timer I'm open to any suggestions, but these are available used in my area.

Thanks for any help and all advice.


None of the above

– Last Updated: Sep-22-09 12:45 PM EST –

Old Town Rush as far as I can find it adverts a "large roomy cockpit". Mainstream kayaks are stated to be recreational river kayaks, also big cockpits.

In addition to large cockpits being relatively unsafe in something like class 3, let alone questions about flotation in these boats - this type of boat will not support your learning what you need to know to handle into class 3. For that you need a a boat that fits what you may feel is alarmingly tight right now, or at the least a hybrid like the Dagger Approach or Zydeco.

Or you can get longer boats to learn skills in and cover distance on flat rivers, then pick up a couple of used WW boats when you have a better understanding of what you need.y WW folks turn around boats pretty fast.

Your son will be more of an issue if he is young - but in his case the WW side may serve you well. Jackson has put out a couple of kayaks that are great for smaller kids which don't track down flat water very well but fit great to support learning WW. I suspect others have too.

What kind of outfitters are around you so you could go and spend some time sitting in these things, get a basic intro on what you'll need to know?

Still Learning

Thanks…my son is 25, so I think what’s going to work for him will work for me. It seems that a Class II is a cutoff point for most kayaks. I figure I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me before I even need to consider a class III, so a boat that’ll give me the basics is the way to go.

To be honest, at this point I have no real concept of the difference between rapid classification, so building up to a boat that fits my needs and skill level is going to be a possible future purchase.


To learn
If you know now that you want to build skills for possible class 3, you are wasting your money on any “recreational” kayak. You’ll go to your first session to acquire those skills and find out the boat just won’t do what you need. It’ll go home and be a great planter, if you got it in a pretty color.

The various classes of whitewater are described by their features and water flow, but it boils down to risk. Swimming in class 2 usually works out OK with helmets and all, capsizing and swimming in class 3 is dicier and in class 4 or 5 is a really bad idea. There is a good reason that the WW folks put a roll way up at the head of the skills list.

I found the following in Atlanta. Check them out and get some time in their boats before you spend money on your own. There are probably others too, but these guys look decent on paper.

White Water Learning Center of Georgia

3437 Rockhaven Circle NE, Atlanta, Ga. 30324

(404) 231-0042

14 footer
I wouldnt run out and buy a full on whitewater boat if whitewater is only going to be a small portion of your paddling. Rather, pick up a boat in the 14 foot range with a tighter cockpit such as the Prijon Calabria. The boat will allow you to progress a lot farther in the learning process. You can still run these boats easily in moderate class 2.

Another boat you can look at is the Prijon Yukon Expedition. It is a crossover and is very capable in whitewater.

If the majority of your time will be spent in class 2 or 3 Whitewater, you can pick up Jackson Kayaks used for very little money.

So in essence, if you are just doing moving water with the occasional class 2, buy a long boat and learn how to use the current and paddle properly. It will help you later if you progress into a full whitewater river.

You don’t know much…do you
That’s ok. There are no dumb questions and ignorance is bliss 'til the cops show up.

Here is a LOT of information that should help:

Once you read all this stuff, you will be able to come back on here and argue about anything.

What does “do rivers” mean to you?

– Last Updated: Sep-22-09 8:08 PM EST –

Floating downstream? Or covering some distance on slow flowing flat water?

Do you want to learn to roll the boat (in cases where you must recover fast in order to not get in a strainer for instance)? Or will your rivers always be clean unobstructed, low level water and have easy exit points by swimming?

Do you want to go out for an hour or two after work or do multi-day?

Do you want to play in the boat or mostly flowat about or paddle from point A to B?

As you see, I'm not telling you what type of kayak to get yet, since you need to tell us what you want to do with it and what do you mean by learn with it -;)

Great Link!
Thanks for the link! Till the cops show up…I like that one! Looks like I got myself some read’n to do.

Great Points

Great points I never thought about passing on. I live very near the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta. This is where I’m going to start. Great access points and a smooth winding river. I can put in at the dam and hit two access point at 5 miles and 13 miles that’ll put me back close to my home.

Once I feel the need I can venture up to North GA where there’s a lot more to choose from. I know there’s a lot to learn and I’m not planning any 20 ft. drops the first week. :wink:

I also have Lake Lanier about 20 minutes from my house so I can get a little flat water in and practice the basics there without actually fighting a current.

In short…mostly day trips without rolling. At least not on purpose. I like the after work or a Sat or Sun. I guess I know I want to start slow, but get into more challenging rivers as I get more experience. My son is doing this with me. He’s 25 so I know he’s going to be pushing me to get on quicker and more challenging rivers. Not really too much of the weekend exploring.

I guess you really do need to sit and write down what you want to do with your kayak before you decide. That’s why I was thinking of about a 10’ recreational boat. Hopefully that will be a good boat as a starting point to see which direction I’ll end up going with the sport.

First Time Boat
I’d highly recommend going out and getting some lessons and renting/borrowing different boats. You’ll find some you like, some you hate, and some you just think you could “live with”. After a while you’ll find one that makes you say “Ahhhh”. Buy it.

One more round…

– Last Updated: Sep-23-09 9:18 AM EST –

I get the sense that you still think you can get started properly with a 10 ft rec boat. Even if that works for you (I doubt it) it'll be a very short honeymoon for your 25 yr old son. But if you are set on this, at least get float bags for the pumpkinseed (10 footer) boats and a decent paddle that'll work with the boat that you'll be looking for by Christmas.

You are coming into the end of the season. There is an outfitter I saw that does day trips on the Chattahoochee who will likely be selling off some of their rental fleet pretty soon now, and it looked like they had some boats in the "transition" family. By that I mean 12 to 14 footers that have more capacity and growth room than the punpkinseeds.

As to rolling, you have the misunderstanding of a newbie. Learning to roll a boat is not about what you plan to do, but acquiring the comfort you need to handle unplanned incidents and learn better bracing. You get these benefits long before you actually have a reliable roll.

If you do try to learn to roll in one of these big cockpit, poor contact 10 footers... well, you'll find out.

I agree
If you are anxious to get out on the water right away and have a great deal on some used rec boats, there is nothing wrong with buying them, but you won’t be using them on Class III rivers.

There are tons of magnificent mountain rivers in northern GA, northeast AL, northwestern SC, western NC and eastern TN to explore. I got involved in whitewater when I lived in TN years ago, and my primary motivation was just to be able to explore those mountain rivers, which necessitated being competent at handling the rapids.

It is a bit late in the year now, but I would strongly consider enrolling yourself and your son in an introductory whitewater kayaking clinic at either Nantahala Outdoor Center or Endless Rivers Adventures on the Nanatahala River near Bryson City, NC. You can check out their websites. They are located about 3 hours from Atlanta. NOC has 2 day and 5 day clinics from May through August and they provide equiptment, lodging and meals.

Ken and Juliet Kastorff at ERA do private instruction rather than clinics, but there are plenty of campgrounds and nicer accommodations in the Wesser, NC area to stay at.

The guest appreciation festival (GAF) at NOC should be coming up soon. This is when NOC sells off some of its rental and instructional fleet and their is also a huge private flea market which is an opportunity to get a deal on a used boat,paddle, etc.

my advice
Not a direct answer to your original question, apologies, but my advice to a newbie is to get professional instruction. You’ll enjoy it and learn a lot fast. Welcome to the sport!

Whatever you do, avoid the infamous “Georgia Kayaker” like the plague!!!

He’s heretical, I hear

Instruction is nice to have
Get your hands on some DVDs & books from the local library and if you have a good instructor at hand - take a class and test paddle a few boats.

Then get a 12-16 foot used boat that is not wider than 24" and the cockpit is not longer than 35" or so. That would do very well for you to learn and to use on flat water and even some mild flowing water, once you can keep you balance in strong currents. If you get it used, you will be able to resell at no loss or a small loss if you do not like it.

The 10 footers are fine but are painfully slow and by virtue of the fact they are so short they need to be too wide to allow good paddling style and are less capable than the above-mentioned boats in moving water. Unless you go for some of the hybrid designs from Dagger, Pyranha or Liquid Logic or Jackson and others that are more white water than touring and these are serious boats for moving water (but still sluggish on the flats)

I’m impressed! What a great forum. I’ve been on several others, but this one is incredible. Thanks for all the information.

To tell you the truth I must sound like an idiot on here, but I guess I need to start somewhere. There’s a great place outside of ATL on the Chattahoochee that’s been helping point me in the right direction. I’m goign to be hooking up with them for some instruction.

Oh, and if you see a guy floating upside down in his kayak banging his head on rocks along the bottom you can tell your friends you saw the new guy from Atlanta!

I can’t wait to get started!

Good luck
on the 'Hooch.

Last word, maybe, but probably not
If you want to paddle rivers and move up in difficulty, there is absolutely no reason to bother with a rec boat or a transition boat. By all means take lessons and use, borrow, rent, etc. other persons’ boats. When you decide to buy, buy a real WW boat. Get a used one. Forget that it may be slow in the flatwater sections. Who cares about that. You want to maximize your experience and ability to control your boat in the rapids, especially given that your son is paddling with you. You will not regret it and you will save money. Running rivers is great fun in a proper boat. It is hell in a rec boat and a disappointing compromise in a transition boat. Spend the $300 or $400 dollars for a decent used WW boat and go for it.

My bic scapa is my river boat
It’s not what i want for a marathon but it is great for slower paddles of 15 miles or so. It’s a pleasure in pushy class 2, but I’ve not had it in class three. It doesn’t surf well but it turns well and side slides OK. For bigger water you’d want a real whitewater or surf boat and for longer distances you’d want a real sea kayak.

If I could only have one boat this would be the one. Also check out the Ocean Kayak Scupper pro. A sit on top would make a ggreat first boat. One thing about the Scupper Pro is that you won’t find used ones for sale often; people keep them.

If you want to get into some
water quickly, consider a Dagger Torrent or a used Perception Torrent. These are SOTs designed for mild WW. No skirt, no pumps, so rolling, easy to get on and off of and they are very forgiving in rough water. Hiwassee Outfitters has gone from renting duckies to the Torrent this year.

I think they are $800+ new, but used ones are often in the $300 range. I have two

Great starter boats for someone interested in whitewater.