Another Trying to Decide Thread!!

-- Last Updated: Apr-08-10 12:34 PM EST --

First off, I'm a beginner paddler looking to purchase a kayak. Have done a tremendous amount of research and test paddled a couple of boats. I'm ready to buy but want to buy something that I can use for a number of years (I call it upbuying!)

I'm 6', 185 pounds, athletically inclined and plan to paddle flat water, some sea and then who knows. I have sat in a number of kayaks (all of which are plastic which is the material of choice due to budget) of which many did not fit. The WS Tsunami 145 fit great but it's a shorter boat and more of a tourer - might be great now but in a year I might get bored of it.

Also tested the Valley Aquanaut HV which seemed to work well. This is a boat I can grow into over the course of years so I'm keeping this on the short list.

Other possibles:
WS Tempest 170 (I fit in the boat fine but have not paddled)
WS Zephyr 160 (have not seen or paddled the boat)
Perception Essence (have not seen or paddled the boat yet)

Any opinions from you experts out there on the above boats or ones that may fit the bill.

Aquanaut HV too big

– Last Updated: Apr-08-10 4:08 PM EST –

My husband, and many of our paddling friends who are bigger, fit his regular Aquanaut just fine. He is your size.

As to finding a boat to grow into... a more maneuverable and less tracky boat will give you the most to work with in terms of learning how to handle a kayak. It may also be a little frustrating if you get out into wind. You are the only one who can balance this out.

You may want to think a little more about going used and not-the-final boat to start, get some skills down, then look for the long term hold.

Opinion from an average paddler
One thing that I wish people would consider more is who they will be paddling with. If you paddle alone you really won’t notice the difference in boat speed in similar class boats. Yeah you might go 20 miles instead of 18 in a day but is that what it is really about to you. If you are paddling with others you will be frustrated by having a tremendous performance advantage or not being able to keep up. So really think about your paddling company.

You described the exact type paddling we do and we are more than happy with our 16 x 22 plastic boats. In my opinion that is a good starting point and you can make your high end boat purchase with a more specific target in mind. Plus you will make all your mistakes loading, unloading, etc with plastic so the damages will be minimal.

By all accounts, including my brother,
who just bought a Tempest 170, it is a great boat.

Not to mention…
That’s good advice-I heartily recommend buying a less expensive, plastic boat to start with. In addition to the reasons mentioned, you MAY (just may)decide you don’t even really dig it, and the boat might end up sitting. I have seen that more plastic, lightly used boats get sold on Craigslist, while the more expensive, higher end ones take a while, for just the right buyier to plunk a ton down on a used boat.

However, my greatest reason for buying a lesser expensive boat, is that if and when you DO decide you are going to be with paddling a while, and CAN justify an awesome new ultralight high end boat, you still have your plastic boat to bring and introduce a friend to the sport. I have a few more boats than I need, but they always get used once or twice a year minumum, by friends who are interested in giving it a try. Having a spare boat around, is aweful convenient sometimes…

Good stuff…
Thanks for all of your input. I agree with many of your recommendations. I’m not too worried about buying new as I have yet to see a kayak on Craigslist that would fit the bill and most actually hold their value fairly well. In the unlikely event I lose interest or decide the boat I buy is not for me, I’m willing to sacrifice some dollars and sell it used as I will not be losing much. Who knows? Maybe in a few years I will have a collection of boats!

Keeps those opinions and tips coming.

Necky Eskia
For specs, see the following:

It’s a great boat for what you described and suits larger paddlers well.

used boats!
You’re in rhode island, right? There are scads of used boats for sale around you. Check, craigslist, the Pnet classifieds here, Also, The Kayak Center has an inventory of used boats for sale. I’d highly recommend getting a used boat because you lose about a third to a half the value if you buy new and then turn around and sell used. If you buy used, you lose nearly nothing if you sell it later.

As far as boats - I’m exactly your dimensions. The Tempest 170 is a good choice. Good all-around boat. It’s a little roomy for my preferences, and if you are more comfortable in a snug fitting boat then you could try a Tempest 165. But for most paddlers our size the 170 is probably a better choice.

The Zephyr 160 was way too big, in my opinion. It also felt too stable - hard to lean. True to it’s intended design, it tracks poorly with the skeg up. If you want a boat like that, try the Zephyr 155, or look at a Valley Avocet. That boat fits great. Good all-arounder, leaning towards the maneuverable end of the spectrum. Really easy to lean, but very solid on edge. If you plan to carry a lot of gear, or do extended camping trips, the Avocet might be a bit overloaded at our size though.

As your shopping for boats, take a lesson or two. It’ll help you evaluate boats better, and ultimately you’ll make a better choice. I hear good things about the coaching at the Kayak Center.

.05 cents
You’re lucky - a size/weight to fit many seakayaks.

Aquanaut HV is for sure way too big. The standard 'Naut is more you. So are a lot of other seakayaks - a class at this stage would be both fun & useful. You’ll get a really good idea of your preferences. The boats you consider now may not even make the final cut. Talk to people in bona fide paddleshops - it happens a lot.

Take advantage of all the demo days coming up.

It’ll be interesting for you to demo the Tempest & the Zephyr. T is more for tripping (day and multinight) & the much more rockered Z is more for playing. You will get a good idea of tradeoffs as you search for a good all rounder.

As it’s your first kayak do not buy without an extended water demo (not the 15 minute variety on dead flat water). Try for a day w. a little wind and waves for a true test. If you already have a PFD & paddle use those for each demo.

If you see a good used fglass boat that makes you smile and fits you well, buy it. In this economy many high end used boats are sitting on the market, awaiting offers. If you get a really good deal on a superb used glass boat, you can often sell it for what you paid for it, sometimes more if you take care of it. Some designs are classic & proven - they hold their value.

Plastic or used, there’s almost no reason for a beginner to buy a brand new boat, unless they are of a size that makes something very specific a necessity, e.g. big person, small person. Which is not you.

If you turn out to be wildly into it, you will likely outgrow your first anyways -thus the evolution of the guest boat '-) Or, if your first boat is a playful day boat, your second can be more of a tripper/gear hauler…or a much shorter surfing kayak, one for fitness/racing… thus the evolution of the personal fleet :smiley:

My size
My size is not the overall issue as to whether or not I fit as I consider myself somewhat of a ‘regular’ sized person. I think it has more to do with my 34/35 inseam and size 11 feet. The Avocet fits fine if I’m bare foot. However, when wearing any type of footwear, my legs simply don’t fit even with the footpegs maxed out. The Kayak Center said some people prefer to remove the pegs and use the bulkhead as bracing but I prefer not to do that for a number of reasons. As well, the bulkhead was too far away and I would not be able to brace against it.

I am constantly scouring the classifieds and if something fits the bill, I’ll probably bite. However, I’m too darn impatient to wait but on the other side of the coin, I want to make an educated and proper decision.

Don’t worry about the footpegs. You’re better off adding foam to the bulkhead until your feet can comfortably rest against it. You can leave the foot peg rails in there, and just remove the footrests. That way you just slip them back in if you want to lend the boat to someone, or if you decide to sell the boat.

Definitely don’t let something as inconsequential as footpegs decide which boat you get. The feel and fit of the boat itself is much more important.

I’m your size
I’m 6’ tall, weigh 185 pounds and have size 11 feet. Inseam 32-34 depending on pants.

185 is a very common target paddler weight for which sea kayaks are designed. There are many boats which will fit you.

Most sea kayaks termed HV will be too big for you.

Used composite boats can cost as little as new poly.

Among the American boats available in both poly and composite, the Tempests are very well designed boats. I personally like the 165 best, but a 170 would work well for you. You might also try Chathams, both 16 and 17. They are also very good boats available in both poly and composite.

I think the Aquanaut is one of the best all round sea kayaks available. I also feel that every paddler would enjoy having a Romany at some point in their paddling career - the earlier the better :wink:

My personal sea kayak stable includes a Valley Nordkapp LV, NDK Romany, Valley Aquanaut, and Necky Elaho DS. I love my Nordlow, but do not recommend it for novices. I would not hesitate to recommend a Romany or Aquanaut to anyone who fits. The Elaho DS was my first sea kayak and is still a great skills boat and fun to paddle - though maybe more of a niche boat.

Buy a boat that is more capable than you are, but one that does not scare you. Good paddling requires equanimity - being frightened is not conducive to learning or enjoyment.

I have two to add
I’d test a Hurricane Tracer. And I’d add a Scorpio by P&H to your list of great boats to try.

My 5’10" brother with size 11 feet

– Last Updated: Apr-08-10 3:45 PM EST –

said the Tempest 165 was a squeeze,foot-wise, and the the 170 was just right.
He also tried the Tracer and said it weather-cocked badly.

Second Opinion
I’m 5’ 11" and about 205.

The Aquanaut HV is the only sea kayak I’ve ever been in that seemed like I’d never be able to get it to fit, it was too big.

I paddle a Zephyr 160, it fits me well and the outfitting from the factory is easy to adjust to paddlers of various sizes. For me, the 155 Zephyr was too restrictive, too little bend in my legs. This is a personal preference, so it’s best to sit in them and see for yourself, what you like. I seldom go over 4 KN speed for any distance (unless I have wind or current assistance) and can maintain 2KN into a 30 KN headwind, so this boat is ‘fast’ enough for me - again a personal preference. I only need the skeg with significant sidewind, or with significant following seas. For me it tracks just fine. I can do a 360 turn in about 4 sweeps.

Second don’t worry about the footpegs
You just add minicell foam, shaped to the inside of the boat, to rest your feet against. Much more comfortable especially if you have larger feet. You can leave the footpegs and rails in, just bury them against to foam block. That’s how one of my boats is set up, so I have the foam but I can pull it out and use the footpegs if someone else wants to use it.

And the darned hard surface hurts you feet over time.

Try Smaller
Try the Tempest 165 and the smaller Zephyr. The seat can be moved back in the Tempest to make ins and outs much easier. The Zephyr requires no modification. I think you’ll enjoy them a lot more as you progress as a paddler.

impatient '-)
totally know what you mean. Got my first seakayak (glass, Brit, used) four months into my first paddling season… and it was my 3rd boat (the rec boat was sold the following May).

You’re in Rhode Island. Like Michigan, the potential crop of nice boats is there. More and more will be listed as the weather warms the waters. The month of May is particularly active out our way.

Hold out just a couple more weeks. Bet you will be very glad you did…

2nd this^
Unless you’ll be using it primarily for week tripping, you’ll be glad you did it.

great all-around boat
Have owned a 16’ Romany by Nigel Dennis for 13 years and it does everything well. Get a used fiberglass one if possible. Glass is much more forgiving for transportation on your car inasmuch as summer heat will cause most plastic boats to melt and deform the hull unless transported on their sides or with the deck facing down. They are very sturdy boats and easily accomodate size 12 shoes. The accessible day-hatch is a big plus. The stability of the boat is fantastic. The hatches are about as watertight as you can get. Would highly suggest you don’t go shorter than 16’. It holds alot of gear and tracks well. I hardly ever use the skeg. As the waves and wind get more trying the boat excells in performance.