Advice on First Kayak

Hello all,

I’m looking for advice on my first kayak. I live in a town on Lake Michigan and will be paddling in the bay, don’t really see myself venturing out on the big lake. I am 5’11" and 200 Lbs. I would like something for quick day trips and exercise on the bay during my lunch break.

I haven’t kayaked before but I have spent a great deal of time canoeing the rivers around here. I don’t know if that will make it easier, or more difficult to learn. Won’t be taking the kayak on rivers, I’ll stick with my canoe for that.

I do want to make sure that I don’t outgrow the boat too quickly and get bored with it.


first boat
My first boat was a 10 ft plastic dagger animas. The 13 ft r5 is graet boat. Best buy is used plastic that is small…16 ft…with front and back bulkhead…no rudder so you learn to turn…$400 is good…Next year after paddling many diff boats you might trade, I was dumb and went half way to credit hell on new fiberglass and scratched and sold it for less than half. Used kevlar is good but the 10 ft boat slid into trunk of taurus and used red flag on it. Maybe you could your cheap boat at friends camp. Moving boat to water is tough and expensive and dangerous. Racks are expensive and whistle and put water spots and sand on your car. But I like sadlles that I pop riveted into underside of door jams.

Skills first

– Last Updated: Mar-12-06 4:59 PM EST –

Your canoe experience will help, but you'll be much better prepared to buy a kayak if you take lessons first. Since you already know you don't want a "beginner boat", a couple of classes will help you feel comfortable and safe in the kind of boat you want.

One fun option is the WMCKA symposium May 26-29. There'll be classes, demo boats, and lots of friendly people.

Do contact the WMCKA -- they're a great resource for "west coast" paddlers!

There are a *lot* of boats that would fit you and could do what you want. You can eliminate some just by sitting in them at the dealer, but there's no substitute for trying them on the water. Most dealers will have demo days in the spring.

Yeah - skills and demos
As someone coming from a canoe background, IMO you’ll probably find that you are more comfortable with a boat wiggling around under you than a lot of newbies. So it may take a little more time and trying out to for you to get a boat that you won’t outgrow too quickly. The above suggestion is a great one, also visit paddle shops and try to demo boats.

general size
Like others have said, it would probably be a good idea to try some out. However, given your height and weight, then general size you will be looking at for a day boat will probably be around 17’ long and 21 or 22" wide. That is by no means hard-and-fast, but it will put you in the general ballpark. Some of the manufacturers list the suggested weight range for the paddler. That’s one way to narrow down the list of boats to look at.

One issue of canoes…
…that is the typical recreational canoe, is

that you probably learned to lean the wrong way.

When you lean in a kayak–or a white water

craft–you do what is called a “J” lean.

Say you’re happily paddling downstream and you

wish to go to the right: you’d lift your left

leg, gently dip the right edge, and swivvel

at the hips so that your shoulders stay level.

This would make a capital J with your left hip

forming the “hook” in the J.

But what happens with most recreational and

touring canoes, because you aren’t strapped in

like you are in a white water boat, you tend to

turn right by depressing the entire right side

of your body. This isn’t in the shape of a J,

but more like an Italic Capital I, leaning toward

the direction you are intending to go.

In fast moving water, this will make you dump.

It will also make you dump in a kayak on flat


Now, in a good touring kayak, you have to turn

the same way, ie, with the lean. (Remember: in

a good kayak, you don’t get in it, you put it on.)

If you dip one hip you have to compensate by

keeping your shoulders level–a J lean.

There are other different leaning differences,

which edege to lift,etc; but save that for later.

A really good boat for your purposes is the

Prijon Callabria.

Test, demo, and decided for yourself, but if you

can work out a demo with Prijon, try the Calabria.

I do know the Prijon rep in Chicago, maybe he

could set up a demo.

CAVEAT: I am not now, nor have I ever been an

employee of Prijon. I know that line better than

any other line and I am a far more than satisfied

customer. And it is as a satisfied customer that

I said what I did. The Calabria new runs about

800. It is 14.5 feet long and has many features

found on very expensive boats.

You may not like the Calabria. S’ok. There

are lots of find boats out there.

the problem with getting boat opinions is that many of them REQUIRE a skill level that may not be attained after a year or so to be safe. Especially when conditions go beyond “mild”. Yep, demos, lessons. Every manufacturer has something. There are some quasi/rec/tour boats that can do double duty as a second boat down the line and fun play boat now without being barges.

Take classes: I ditto what everyone else has said.

“I live in a town on Lake Michigan and will be paddling in the bay.”

I’m sure you know, but a bay can be dangerous too: Dress for the water temperature, not the air. Have a PFD, a boat with adequate floatation at both ends, and two or three bomb-proof rescues under your belt; when you need them you need them, or it’s good-bye family.

The best investment I ever made was reading Sea Kayakers Deep Troubles which chronicles all kinds of real-life scenarios people have gotten themselves into (at times at the cost of their life). Learn from others’ mistakes.

Does anyone know of a good paddling shop in Northern Michigan? I’m in Traverse City. Any recommendations would be appreciated.

I assume that they should be getting inventory in the next month or so.

First Kayak
As the weather gets warmer, you’ll see lots of paddlefests where you can go and try 30, 40 or more different kayaks for free (or a nominal fee). REI does a number of them, as do many other suppliers. Once you find one that feels right, hop on line here and see what people are saying about that brand and model. Good luck!