Advice on new whitewater kayak

Hey guys, I’m new to the forum and looking for a new kayak. I’m new to the world of kayaks and don’t know too much other than the basics. In your guys opinion what kayak is best for white water from class 3-5 on a regular basis, but can also fit a little bit of camping gear. I’m 6’4 and 215

start small - class 3 to 5 is dangerous
First, you say you are new to kayaking - I’d suggest starting a bit smaller. You don’t jump right in III plus. Class IV and V (and even III) can maim or kill. You work your way up to it.

Check out the article on basic types of kayaks in California kayaker Magazine in issue #10. The white water section talks about different types of white water kayaks. Can be read for free online at

you need to decide how important

– Last Updated: Jun-04-14 5:30 AM EST –

the space for camping gear is. I say this because the manufacturers have marketed two styles of boats you might be interested in: hybrids, and river runners. They also make creek boats and playboats for more specialized environments.

Hybrids are basically large river runners and also referred to as "crossovers"-they include a hatch for overnight gear and sometimes feature a rudder to help with tracking. Usually the manufacturer says these boats are limited to class III or IV water for a maximum.

River runners- are your ww standard kayaks. Designed a bit shorter than the hybrids, they are the boats one sees on a typical ww river most frequently. They turn easily, come in different sizes to match the paddlers height and weight. and are both agile and stable in ww.

A hybrid would be good for you because they tend to be stable, do have extra carrying capacity for cmaping and are easy to learn in. They tend to longer which makes them heavier to carry to and from the river but faster on the water than many other ww boats, they are less aggressive in design so they tend to not facilitate growth, and while their seats are comfy they don't necessarily encourage good ww posture.

A river runner is more ideally suited for general ww but lacks the capacity you desire for camping. Although if you pack very light, people do use these boats for overnights.

Some popular manufacturers are Liquid Logic, Dagger, Jackson, and Pyranha. If you google them along with the word kayak, you'll see the basic design categories for each manufacturer. For instance, Dagger's river runner is the Mamba while its crossover ww boat is called the Katana. Liquid Logic uses the remix as its core river runner and the xp boats as crossovers. Do a little web browsing and you'll get the idea of each boat maker's design categories and their competing products.

Once I get the type of boat that I want sorted out in my mind then I usually look to buy used-and I'm not brand or even model specific. Deals can be had if your willing to check out festivals, drive to someones house, check out local paddling message boards, and check the boater talk "swap" website page. Typically I pay about $500-600.00 for a used whitewater boat that is in good condition. Don't forget to consider the cost of a sprayskirt as well.

Or you can go to a store, pay twice as much for a shiny new boat and within two weeks of use it will become all scratched up and won't look so shiny anymore. That's what happens to ww boats when you hit rocks or drag them any distance.

Currently I own a perception mirage, wavesport y, liquidlogic xp, and pyranha shiva kayak. Each a different manufacturer but each kayak was purchased with a certain paddling environment in mind. If after a year or two I don't like or use a particular boat then I sell it off.

As above and…
Your proposal certainly indicates you are new to kayaking…

I am guessing that you live in a region where WW is plentiful. If you could give some sense of location people here could point you to places to go and learn the basics so you can make a good choice of boat. Even going used for the boat, it can easily be a $1000 investment by the time you add skirt, paddle (you want a good one), helmet, PFD, clothing for immersion (one of the guaranteed aspects of WW at any rating) and whatever you need to haul the boat. (And yes - even for class 2 you want a helmet.)

Getting some instruction would give you a better shot at spending that money wisely the first time.


– Last Updated: Jun-04-14 9:34 AM EST –

Your question is akin to asking "I plan to become a virtuoso musician and concert master for a major symphony orchestra. What kind of violin should I buy?"

Perhaps you will go on to become a competent Class V whitewater kayaker, but it is unlikely to happen in the immediate future unless you are gifted in that direction and can paddle 100+ days a year. And even if you do, you will likely have gone through several boats and perhaps destroyed one or two before you get there.

So forget about the Class IV and V stuff for now and worry about the Class I-III.

Joining a paddling group or club in your area can be a good way to get introduced to whitewater rivers in your area, whitewater technique, and also to see and perhaps try a variety of different boats. A lot of clubs have spring or summer paddling clinics that are not terribly expensive. Another option is to enroll at a whitewater clinic at a paddling school, an ACA course, or take private instruction with a professional instructor. If you posted a profile with your location it would be easier to make specific recommendations.

Many modern whitewater kayaks are really too small to hold any camping gear. Some older kayaks back from the 1980s and 1990s can do so but they lack hatches, so any gear has to go in through the cockpit which is doable but less convenient.

If you really must buy a boat now a cross-over design might make the most sense. Some options include the Pyranha Fusion, Jackson Rogue, Liquid Logic XP 10, Dagger Katana 10.4, and WaveSport Ethos.

These boats are longer than most modern whitewater kayaks and thus have more space in the back for gear storage. They also have retractable skegs, rear deck hatches, and a bit of deck rigging. They can all handle Class I-III water fine. I know that the Pyranha Fusion has been run on the Class IV Section IV of the Chattooga River, the upper Youghiogheny River, and the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

I have paddled the Pyranha Fusion and the LL XP 10. Of the two of these I prefer the Fusion.

Putting the cart before the horse
As others have mentioned, several of the major manufacturers such as LiquidLogic and Pyrhana make “crossover” type boats that are designed for running rivers and have storage features. You could certainly go buy one of these boats, but my suggestion would be to hold off until you have at least a rudimentary knowledge of WW kayaking, so as to make a more informed choice.

Regardless of whether you buy a boat now or not, though, if you are truly interested in running serious WW (Class III +) your primary focus needs to be on acquiring the skills necessary to do so safely. Your best bet is to find a local school/outfitter and take some basic WW kayaking classes. If you skip this step, you are likely to find your WW paddling career short, disappointing, and potentially injurious.

Lots of that lately

– Last Updated: Jun-04-14 1:31 PM EST –

Putting the cart before the horse, thinking they can skip beginner steps, inflated view of ability to play big right away, thinking physical fitness = paddling skills, equating ownership of equipment with having the skills and judgment to use it well, viewing "survival" as the same as competency...

No wonder instructors carry so much liability insurance.

Or...the poster is trolling.

happens every spring
And of course no one paid attention when pool classes happened over the winter…

pblanc’s response
I meant to say how much I liked that earlier - this part - "Your question is akin to asking “I plan to become a virtuoso musician and concert master for a major symphony orchestra. What kind of violin should I buy?”

I play violin, a pretty competent amateur with more gusto than technique at times as long as my aging joints will let me get away with it. I got a nice violin about three years ago, finally said goodbye to my original honest but more limited instrument.

The better violin has made me a better player, as the luthier predicted. But it has not given me skills I never had - just made me better at the ones I already had gained.

Like the OPer here, the foundation skills have to be there before the better instrument can make a difference.

Liked the question
I kinda had the same thoughts on my mind as the op. but you can scratch the class v off my list. I don’t need to go there… Maybe not the IV’s either…

I live on the Nolichucky River. I’ve been down the lower a couple of times but the boat I have you couldn’t take down the upper. I figure I need to save for two used boats. One for ww and one for open water. I’d get the ww first since I live here.

I know my skills aren’t good enough to go down the gorge. BUT, I could always portage around the falls until I get better. I know the river pretty good. I fish it all the time. And a few years back we went out and swam a few rapids all the time.

I’d rather make one purchase that would hopefully fit my needs and hopefully last a few years.

I went the crossover route for four
years and was boating 50+ times a year in my xp10. I ended up doing just two boat camping trips in that time period although I intended to do more when I purchased the boat used. My own thinking is that hybrids are just big versions of ww river runners. On the whole my xp did fine- lower gauley, upper meadow, dries at lower flows, paint creek, new river gorge- but there were some drawbacks - it was heavy to carry and load, I did not fit in it as tight as I would in a normal ww boat, harder to roll, put more stress on my knees because my hips weren’t locked in. Some of that may just be xp10 specific or true of all hybrids in general with their bigger cockpits and comfy seats. I was more disappointed on true flatwater because of the effort required to move the boat when I was overnighting. It did allow me to skip some portages on the NFCT in New York so what you gave up on the flats I reclaimed by not portaging.

Now all that bein’ said, my xp10 was good at some stuff nobody would really think about- with its big ol’ bow, it was easy to catch features, like surfin waves, and was super stable- so much so that it was hard to progress into a better paddler. The boat “held a line” and was stable on the NRG at 2 and 3/4 ft. The river is turbulent at that level. I was rolling in it about once a year, because it was stable but it wasn’t making me more confident.

The seat was comfy- but the boat wasn’t outfitted to be paddled cab forward, in an upright position, aggressively. Not enough back support. It encouraged me to slouch. So in the end I bought a used creeker. My buddy tells me to burn the old boat (xp), that it was ruining me as a paddler- teaching me nothing but bad habits. But bad habits are kind of fun to have and hard to quit. In the end, I knew that I wanted to do more than just one boat allowed. Did it work? yes, but with multiple boats you can have a better experience.

If you would
Please tell my wife for me that I need more boats!

I liked that answer too, and …

– Last Updated: Jun-05-14 11:18 PM EST –

... and for similar reasons. I was a percussionist in my younger days, and quite technically proficient at some of the instruments. It took a huge amount of PRACTICE. Further, practice of the fundamentals never ended, though in time, more and more features got added to those "fundamentals" that were constantly worked on.

I paddle whitewater, but heck, I'm mostly a flatwater canoer, and it took me years of flatwater paddling to develop a good enough stroke to be able to go long distances without much effort. It would have been neat to decide, "I'm gonna be really good at this" and have it happen.

Better from another wife?
We have 11 boats between the two of us - 4 whitewater boats, 6 sea kayaks and a canoe. I can’t say they all have gotten equal usage. But each one has moments when it is the best choice.

But seriously, there is a real safety issue especially for less experienced kayakers. The safest boat to be in if doing whitewater, even class 2, IS a proper whitewater boat. Touring boats have safety risks that experienced paddlers get by, but that does not mean those risks do not exist. The whitewater around here is more tame than the stuff in the states further south or out west. But river beds are still periodically littered with the bent and crunched up bow of a non-whitewater boat that got stuck between rocks. More often than not, someone’s legs were in the front of that boat when it got pinned.

On the other side, the safest boat to be in for open water IS a proper touring boat with two sealed bulkheads and full perimeter line - neither of which is a match for whitewater. The drowning season started late up north this year because of the long winter, but it is on. We have already seen reports of drownings from people going out and capsizing or getting swamped and having little recourse because of the boats they had.

These are two completely different boats. If you have some of that serious whitewater near you, two boats are not overkill. To note - even getting over to the side to walk around a rapid requires some amount of skill from the paddler and responsiveness from the boat. A proper WW boat will make that more reliable.

The best for ww huh… how about =
“Shorter than 15’”. I wouldn’t go flat with sharp edges yet and be on the defense 100% of the time before you know how to keep your boat traveling in a straight path.