Advice on kayak type for beginner

I am an injured distance runner and I am missing long solo runs. I think paddling will be a good replacement for me. My husband and I have a double Ocean sit-on-top kayak that we love. This however is too big and heavy for me to manage on my own. I need something much lighter that i can manage all on my own. We live near a lake that sees a lot of wind and chop and that is where I plan to paddle. I live in California and we do not get any snow or ice so I should be able to do this all year-round, though it does get quite cold in the winter. I am 5’6.

I would truly appreciate suggestions on the type of boat I should be looking at. Also, if anyone has any suggestions on a kayak carrier /trailer for a bike, I would love to hear about that too.

Thank you for your time!

some reading
There is an article in the Spring issue of California Kayaker Magazine on different types of kayaks and what they are good for (and not so good for). Can be read online for free at Article I am referring to starts on page 6.

I’d suggest reading that first so you can get a feel for the types of kayaks out there and perhaps start self selecting some about what may be right for you.

Note - the reason I am not suggesting even a type of kayak is we don’t know enough about what you are after and where you plan to paddle.

Above plus
To add more about where you plan to paddle… while lakes are often relegated to the not-serious-boat category, any wind or chop that could be challenging gets you to needing some more things in a boat like bulkheads etc than if that is not in the equation. It doesn’t matter whether the wind and chop (or waves?) are happening in water that is salty.

Loading the boat onto a third party rack system can be simplified with the right tools, so a longer boat that might suit your paddling needs is not to be feared. Below is what I use when I have to load a sea kayak alone (I am loading onto Yakima cross bars with stackers).

It has gotten pricier since we bought ours, but it is worth it. Carts for the distance across ground from car to beach are available in a huge range of prices and types - including cheap.

More info
I would ask you how much do you want to spend? Any restrictions on size of kayak for storage reasons? How much do you weigh?

Lighter usually requires more money for at least either a thermoformed plastic or fiberglass/Kevlar kayak. Thermoformed plastic is lighter and a fiberglass/Kevlar is even lighter, I paddle sometimes with this women who uses a small Eddyline kayak which is thermoformed plastic. I don’t remember the model name but its about 12 feet long and has both front and rear sealed hatches. Its supper light. I picked it up with one hand over my head. She is about your height.Another women I have paddled with has a slightly bigger kayak but its a fiberglass/Kevlar kayak and its also super light. Its a Current Design brand kayak but again don’t remember the model name.

Also one thing to keep in mind being new to kayaks are the better/safer ones will have both front and rear sealed hatches so if the kayak should tip over or takes on alot of water in the cockpit it still floats.

Hunt Johnson Wave Witch
12’5" 30 pounds, comes with a rudder, good for fitness paddling, very seaworthy, good surfer.

Hunt lives in Encinitas near San Diego.


– Last Updated: Nov-06-13 11:34 AM EST –

If you like to build things....

Starting in a sea kayak is perfectly reasonable if you're adventurous, have decent balance and aren't afraid of getting wet as part of the learning process.

At 5'6", if you're built like a distance runner you'll want boats in the "smaller paddler" category. Good fit is critical for comfortable and efficient paddling. width, depth, volume and cockpit fit are more important than length in sizing a boat for your needs.

My suggestion would be to take a class that uses sea kayaks and get some basic skills before you start boat shopping. You'll be much better prepared to make a good decision.

The best parallel to distance running might be a surf ski:

I Agree: Surfski For Distance
And perhaps a used Epic V-10L, that’s “L” model, which many 5’6" paddlers weighing under 150 pounds prefer. This way you’re not out a lot of money if it doesn’t work out. Don’t worry about stability, it’s mostly mental and you’ll be up to speed in no time, for you have the ability to go long. If teenage racers can learn to paddle in 3 weeks, you can do it too. Have confidence, for unlike running, the movement is concentric and enjoyable. Warning: it’s addicting and you’ll probably upgrade to a Fenn Spark by Summer?

Where in CA?
Where in California are you? Me and my better half have been trying out as many boats as possible in the SoCal region and I highly recommend the practice. If you are in the L.A. or San Diego area both South Wind Kayak Center in Irvine or Aqua Adventures in S.D. both have a number of boats you should test.

Beginner Surf Ski
I agree - for fitness paddling you want something made for this. I would not recommend an advanced ski like the V10L to start. You need years of experience to master one of these in strong winds and bumpy water and months to be comfy on calm flat water… Not a beginner boat.

look at Think Eze, Epic V8, and the like. There are also fitness kayaks like Think Fit and Hurricane Force 5 that, while quite different from ea h other, are good options to start.

I would not go with the Wave Witch either - way too short for what I think you want or will want shortly after you start. These are fun but slow and wide.

also look at Stellar S18s and he new Current Designs surf ski-like sit on top kayak.

Lots of options to choose from, including some wild water boats like the Pyranha Speeder, which is an excellent workout boat and can be had used for $600 and new for just over $1,000.

Buy used if you can, until you figure out what you want.

Thank you
Thank you for the links!

kayak transport
That could be very helpful and open up a lot more options. It is so important for me to be able to handle this on my own. Thank you!

more info
Thank you for your response. In answer to your questions: I did not really have a budget set yet. Trying to figure out what that will be. If I can get a yakak for a few hundred then I will go out and buy it now. If it will be a few grand, then I will need to start figuring out how to budget for it. I really just want to make a good decision. I would prefer to buy used as these days I just feel like there is so much “stuff” in the world and I like to reuse when I can.

I am 5’6 and 145.

Thank you

even more info
Oh, and no restrictions on size for storage

Thank you
Thank you both for the info

Central CA
I am from Long Beach, but currently living in the central valley so there are just not as many options for outfitters. I am looking at some options in SF. We will be heading south for Christmas so I may be able to check out your recs then. Thank you.

Thank you
Thank you for the specific recs and thoughtful response. I will look at those models. Do you have any recommendations on where to look for used boats besides craigslist?

In San Francisco:

– Last Updated: Nov-08-13 2:41 PM EST –

I'd go see Kenny Howell of California Canoe and Kayak or Jude of Huki Outriggers and Surfskis in Sacramento. Near Long Beach, DeAnne Hemmens of Ocean Paddlesports is my expert of choice. And in San Diego, Keith Keilor of Valhalla Surfskis is California's long time Dean of surfskis. They should have quite a few used kayaks or surfskis to demo or try out?

Wow! Thank you.

Not in your area specifically

– Last Updated: Nov-08-13 5:22 PM EST –

But now and a bit later is the season where retailers try to sell off their fleets at substantially lowered prices. Local paddling clubs might also have for sale lists. Got to find someone local to tell you about these two options in your area.

Edit: just noticed that locals have answered that question. I would only add, on a separate note, that you can get a sit in or a sit on top with similar performance (e.g., Epic 18x vs. V8). Many companies make two versions. So, you should make a decision on what you prefer and feel safer with. A sit on top (which surf skis are) are easier to self rescue and generally considered safer for this. Sit ins are warmer when the weather is cold.