Advice on a new kayak

Hi, I recently started kayaking, about 2 months in now. My first kayak is a sit-on tandem, 13.5 feet, it’s a Pelican, not sure of the model. I use it mainly to go out with my son who is 4 on the lakes around Southern NH.

I picked up a Walden Vista 12 foot kayak off of Craigslist, and after taking it out I regret it haha. The kayak is a pain in a butt (literally), and does not like to track straight. I usually find my tandem goes to the left a tiny bit and I am working on correcting that. The Walden however goes more to the right, and sometimes to the left. If I stop paddling and coast I end up with the kayak turning to the right on it’s own, and then I am sideways within a minute. Ok, rant over.

I am not sure what kind of kayak to go for really. I mostly kayak on lakes. There are speed boats and jetskis, so I deal with wake sometimes, but nothing huge. I’d like to be able to kayak in slower moving rivers, definitely not white water or anything, and potentially the Great Bay area on the seacoast in NH (for anyone familiar with the area). I’m 5’7" and around 175lbs. I’ve been looking at the Dagger Stratos 12.5S, Liquidlogic Inuit 12.5 or 13.5, or possibly the Wilderness Systems kayaks (like the Tsunami). Could someone give me some advice please, and point me in a direction maybe? Even if it’s just more things to consider before buying something else.


I’d go for a something in 14’ range and you might as well get one with a skeg or rudder. You won’t need it until that one time when the wind unexpectedly picks up and then you will need it.

Pick up the Quiet Waters NH book by Hayes and Wilson. You’ll find the lakes and rivers without the powerboats in there, its a great resource. We have the NH/VT, CT/MA/RI one and the ME one which was just updated recently.

And hello from SW NH!

In general, a longer kayak tracks straighter and is harder to turn. Some shorter boat manufacturers build in keels to help force the boat to track straighter. Sounds like your Pelican has a keel, and the Walden doesn’t.

Keep in mind, you CAN learn to make the Walden paddle straight it would actually be a good learning tool to help you do a better, more straight paddle stroke. And once you learn this, then a tracking boat would not be an issue. Lessons could help with this process.

On smaller bodies of water and creeks, a somewhat shorter boat is more advantageous. So the 12-13’ range you are looking at would be good. But with the kayaks you listed, moving up to a 14’ or so boat (like the Stratos or the Tsunamis) would tack much better than a 12’ version. Guess it comes down to how much you want boat that tracks.

Why mess around; you’re eventually going to want a real sea kayak. However you didn’t make it clear whether you intend to keep taking your son along on the same boat. If that is the case, then that’s another matter, but if you are thinking of a boat that tracks, turns and does everything else like it should and is reasonably priced, check out the Current Designs Sirocco.

I sent you a message - in NH and selling some ‘yaks. Might work for you. If not try Craigslist- lots of people who sell good boats for good prices.

Smaller women, heavy guys and tall guys have more research to do to narrow down a list of boats that fit but you are right in that zone where a ton of different boats will work for you. You might find that getting a boat for “today” might be limiting? So you might want to think about a boat that will grow with you as your skills and desire for more varied waters expands? But paddling with a little kid is a technical/safety fork in the road you should discuss in greater detail with the experienced members on this forum…

Our neighbors have a granddaughter about the age of the OP. They got her a small kid size 'yak and they tie her bow line to their boat. She has her own paddle. It works pretty well for them. She’s happy and thinks she’s paddling. Mom, grandpa or nana get a bit of a workout in the process.

Also? Greetings to the OP from SW NH. As NotThePainter said those books are a great resource. One thing I HATEHATEHATE is kayaking with my head on a swivel because of speed boats racing up and down the waterways.

@PhotoMax said:
But paddling with a little kid is a technical/safety fork in the road you should discuss in greater detail with the experienced members on this forum…

Corey, experiment with some ballast in the Walden. While I agree you probably need to find a better kayak for your purposes, you may find you can coax the Walden to track straighter with some weight distribution, at least enough to justify keeping it for a “loaner”. Plastic gallon water jugs with caps work well for this – just submerge and fill them and try various weights of water and placement to dial in some improved performance.

I was out with some folks on a river paddle last year and noticed a young guy about your size in an older 10’ Pelican rec boat was having a lot of trouble fighting the kayak’s wandering bow. He was having so much trouble correcting the direction that he was getting very tired and frustrated. When we stopped along shore for a break I helped him fill the back hatch with about 15 pounds of rocks. That was just enough to modify the water line and keep the too-light stern from trying to “pass” the bow. He was able to keep up with us (in 14’ and 15’ touring kayaks) much more easily. Fortunately for him, we two little old ladies (in faster boats) were setting a relaxed pace.

Depending on your particular boat, it may need ballast in the stern or the bow.

Thanks all for the help. I lucked out and ended up selling the Walden for what I paid for it, not a bad deal actually.

I’m hunting down something around the 14 foot area now on CL. I found a few Tsunamis 145, and a nice looking Dagger Prospect 155, and a few others.

A Venture Islay 14 Skeg just came in on consignment. Seacoast NH could be an option as I’m tempted to go Paddle for the Prom in Portland in September.

See you on the water,
Marshall Seddon
The River Connection, Inc.
9 W. Market St.
Hyde Park, NY. 12538
845-229-0595 main
845-242-4731 mobile

I’m selling 2 kayaks in New Hampshire, a 14 foot and a 15 foot, both with rudders. Liquidlogic boats, sort of a hybrid between rec and sea kayaks, best for calm water, but we’ve taken them out in windy conditions on bigger lakes. $350 each including paddle. You could try them before buying. In case you’re interested - they are not yet on Craigslist but will be soon.

Visit a local trusted paddle shop and talk/visit with local members as above. Try out a bunch, see what you like. Try different styles too, maybe you might prefer a sit inside or another length or seat type. Also try different people’s paddles. Some have not worked out for me at all.