advice on purchasing a kayak

Hey there! I am new to the sport and looking for the right kayak. I was wondering if there is a type kayak(s) out there that will give me the stability of a novice but will push me harder into the sport. I will mostly be in steady creek waters at first but will be pushing for more once I get the hang of it. Is there a type of kayak and size that will be good for the recreational paddler but can also handle the white waters once I become more acquainted with kayaking? Thanks!

rent and try as many as you can
I rented kayaks for 2 years until I had a short list of boats I really liked. Your skill can change quickly, my first original favorite may have lasted me about 2 months, then I would’ve wanted to trade up to a more advanced boat. I ended up with a poly Tempest 165, and I still love my boat, the only thing better for me would be a kevlar Tempest 165 in my opinion. Everyone has a favorite boat, but everyone is different. Take classes and rent.

Go to a paddlefest if one happens near you. Good luck in your search.


– Last Updated: Oct-11-11 2:17 PM EST –

Mixed use kayaks are compromises in each of their uses, and if you are talking about gaining good skills for say class 3 white water will offer compromised levels of satisfaction. But the boat that will do WW really adroitly in he hands of a beginning paddler could be too slow for regular paddling.

It appears that you have decent flatwater paddling around Pittsburgh (Lake Elizabeth) as well as class 3-4 whitewater and a club that can provide good advice for how to get going. You should touch base with these folks.

Re the stability thing - if it means find a boat that won't let me capsize - you can worry about doing that or doing white water. Both are incompatible, at least if you want to learn anything.

Crossover or River Runner
I think all the mfg’s make crossover boats like the All-Water, Approach, etc. They can do easy whitewater and they get by out on the lake as long as you aren’t trying to keep up with long boats.

If you really want to do whitewater, look at the river runners and river play boats. Those are good starting points.

An older review, but may give you some ideas about hybrids.

If your goal is to play in whitewater, you’re probably better off starting with a whitewater class and then buying a used whitewater boat.

Buy two boats
Get a used WW boat and a used recreational boat. You could end up spending less than $500 and probably later being able to sell both for near what you paid. A good place to go for used WW boats is the classified pages of

Pittsburgh resources
As a Pittsburgh kayaker I can give you some local tips. First, we’ve got some great outfitters here. For flatwater kayaking, Exkursion in Monroeville (east of the Mall) is excellent. Besides carrying good lines of boats they offer a range of paddling classes, which I would highly recommend.

Wilderness Voyageurs down at Ohiopyle would be your best resource if you want to get into whitewater – they run guided beginner trips on the Yough that will give you a feel for what you might aspire to do.

Celia mentioned the Pittsburgh Explorers Club (I’ve been a member since 1972) – that would be one option to find other paddlers, though there have not been many kayak outings by the club lately. There is a kayaking social group (Pittsburgh Ka-yackers) who are more active and have frequent trips. Some members have extra boats that they will loan to newcomers (I have done that several times myself with my loaner kayaks). Doesn’t cost anything to participate with either group. You can find them on line.

My suggestion would be to take a beginner class at Exkursion (too late this year) as early in the Spring as they are offered. There may still be time to do a whitewater trip at Ohiopyle but it is getting pretty late in the season – they may not be still running.

Your idea of what kind of paddling you really want to concentrate on is kinda too vague right now for you to really be able to invest in a boat yet. I think you are on the right track, being willing to be open-minded about a “beginner” friendly kayak that will allow you to progress in skill. Once you get the feel for some rented boats (in classes and/or guided trips) you will be better prepared to take that next step.

cheap boat locally

– Last Updated: Oct-13-11 2:04 PM EST –

If you just want a boat to get started with this one just came up here for sale on Pittsburgh Craiglist:

I have a couple of those old Perception Aquaterra kayaks (different models than this one) that I've been pretty happy with. You can read reviews of the Spectrum here on under the "user reviews" tab.

This 14' model he is selling is usable for both flat water and white water (it has enough rocker to turn well in rapids) though it reportedly doesn't track all that well. It is best for somebody under 200 lbs, per the reviews. But for the price it would be hard to beat for a starter for you, something in which you could work on basic skills until you progress to a proper whitewater boat. And you could keep it as a backup boat, a loaner for friends or even sell it for close to what you paid for it next summer.