Advice needed choosing first Kayak

I will be purchasing a kayak within a few weeks and need some advice:

I am looking for a recreational kayak but also want to use it in the ocean as well as a pond or lake. I am looking at a few:

Wilderness Pungo 120 ultralight

Old Town Dirigo XT 120

I am 53 years old and want this to be a kayak that lasts for a long time.

I am 5-8 and weigh 212 pounds.

All I want to do it just go out, have a good time, maybe some fishing, just for exercise, fun and something to do.

Let me know if you have any suggestions.



Rec kayaks and ocean
Not a match. Are you around Cape Cod? There is an outfitter there that I’d highly recommend you go to and take tour out, get a sense of what padling these things can be about.

Also, I believe Massachusetts ultimately passed a state law requiring a couple of things like a compass that are not typically associated with rec kayaks. It was due to a couple of incidents, one of which was a couple of teenage girls that died when they went out in a rec kayak from a beach in Cape Cod. Whatever you do about the boat, you may want to confirm what you need under state law.

Yes work with a local outfitter(s) or
club(s)and try as many boats as you can in the conditions you plan to paddle in, and that you can handle comfortably on and off the water. Probably focusing on the ocean paddling as that will be the most challenging.


– Last Updated: Apr-12-10 1:49 PM EST –

We have 2 Pungo 120's I love this model, plenty of room to get in an out of. I'm 6'3 / 220lbs. My 12 year also has no problem handling this boat. Very stable and handles extremely well. Also has a detachable console that hooks on to store drinks and any small items. I'd opt for the regular Pungo 120, the duralites are not are durable

rec boats
Pungos are good comfortable and stable recreational kayaks which would be great for fishing or poking around in calm lakes. The flat, wide, and stable hull of a rec boat might make a novice paddler feel safe, but it becomes a detriment in ocean waves. Don’t know what your budget is or how much weight you can lift, but if you went up a notch to the cross-over / day touring kayaks you’d be faster and able to handle the ocean a lot more. A Carolina 14, Necky Manitou 14 or a WS Tsunami 14 would be more versatile in many conditions and have hull designs or safety features more like true sea kayaks.

other ideas
I had a loon 111 which I hunted and fished from, as well as goofed around in flat water. I sold the boat (fleet got a bit too large and I hadn’t paddled it in a year). If I where to do it again, I’d go with the loon 13 footer. A bit more room, faster, and better to handle the weather on a larger lake.

The AMC group I occassionaly paddle with has a 13 foot minimum for lenght of craft. Shouldn’t be a big deal as a lot of kayaks in the 13 to 14 foot range are very capable. They are not something you’d run out to Isle of Shoals with but they are small enough to be fun poking around a duck marsh, big enough to do a 5 or 6 mile harbor tour. Just don’t try to keep up with a serious tourer in a 18 foot boat.

REI, EMS and a host of other paddle shops have demo days. I’d suggest you try to get to one before investing and talk to the folks, talk to the safety boaters too, they are probably from a local club and since they aaren’t selling anything can give you a good idea of what to look for and what to expect.

First Boat
I was 50 when I bought my first boat which was an Old Town Dirigo. Fun rec boat for smoth water and I still own it. You will outgrow it quickly as your skills improve and you want to venture out to bays and oceans. I moved up to a Delta 12.10, thermoformed kayak, 2 bulkheads, perimeter lines and full deck rigging. At 13’ x 25 inches it is very stable and safe to venture out into the coastal waters and surf. At only 43 pounds it won’t break your back loading it.

There may be a Delta dealer in your area or they can be purchased from REI and there are reviews on this site as well as REI. Here is the Delta link .

I have since included a Delta 16 and WS Tempest 170 but still have my very versatile 12.10. Enjoy!

Pungos and other rec boats
are okay in small protected waters – close to shore. If you secure a lot of floatation in them you can put them in the ocean near shore, but your margin of safety in a rec boat is still pretty low unless you have a lot of training, folks nearby to help rescue you, drysuit, etc.

I’d lean towards a more seaworthy kayak for getting out on the ocean. See the WS Touring boats and any sea kayak over about 14 foot (for your size). Necky and Prijon make nice boats as well ($$$).


Pungo in the ocean!
I can be done just like a canoe in the ocean or in whitewater. The Pungo 140 is better because it has sealed bulkheads, but it is simple enoough to out fit the 120 as well.

At a minimum you’ll need floatation bags and and electric pump installation. Outfitting an open kayak our canoe for ocean water cann double the cost of the boat. Are you certain you don’t want a Tsunami 145 with a skirt made be the same company?

Why do you want such a short 12 foot boat? It will be much much slower than a 14 foot boat.

For ponds and lakes the Pungo is great but remember you cannot use it in cold water or far from shore without a lot of expensive outfitting.

If you are a begginer and you want a boat that will be safe everywhere get a sit on top and wear a wetsuit in cold water.

Pungo120 not a great choice for ocean
going because of the giant cockpit opening. If you really want to, like mentioned, you can rig it with flotation and a skirt, but go with a 14 footer. Better yet, look at the Tsunami series of transitional kayaks. I paddle my 125 with sea kayakers and am able to keep up on day trips just fine, although if I was going to do it on a regular basis you’d want the optional rudder. I’d skip the 145 and look at the 165 if you’re a larger paddler. Necky makes some good plastic transitional boats too. Old Town’s are a bit heavy, but ok. I’ve made my Tsunami125 work for me in all types of paddling, and added a Pungo120 as a “buddy” boat and something my wife could paddle easily and still keep up. It’s a great rec boat, and I personally paddled with a woman in a 10 foot pungo on LI Sound out to an area called “The Zipper” and with a well outfitted Pungo100 she was able to make it out and back. She was last in the group (ConnYak trip), raised a lot of eyebrows at the put in, drew a lot of interested stares at the sandbar, and was the talk of the trip at the takeout. Having said that, I could also take my F-150fx4 to Lime Rock Park and do hot laps, but why would I want to do that when I have a Saab95 Turbo Wagon parked next to it? (I did take my 1970 Corvette around that circuit, and that was more fun than I deserved to have) Try some more boats, visit some outfitters, and don’t jump in to the Pungo until you’ve done so. I love my Tsunami125 and its taken me everywhere I’ve asked it to competently, but I am planning on something a little more suited to the task when the bank account reaches the right number.

Remember that getting your first boat shouldbe a journey, not a destination. Good luck and have fun searching.