Anxious beginner needing wisdom

For about a year now, I have been finding myself always wanting to be in the water on a kayak, and finally the other day my dad said you could have bought a kayak by now with all the times you’ve payed a ridiculous rental fee, and alas, he is right. So its time to get my very own boat, and I am very excited.

I am looking for a crossover boat, one that could take on up to class 3 preferably, and be smooth on the rivers and lakes in my Virginia town where I currently attend college for two more years?

I am partial to Dagger, and was wondering if anyone could give me some wisdom about if the Axis 10.5 could be what I am looking for? I was really digging the Katana, but the Axis is much cheaper, and it is my first boat after all. The class 3 thing isnt that big of a deal, but I definitely want something that can handle 1 and 2, as my longterm goal is to get into whitewater as soon as possible.

I am also 6’5 and only weigh 150 pounds soaking wet if the scale is generous. As I said I really love everything I have experienced about Dagger boats, but am open to better suggestions as I am looking to have the boat before I head back to school in August. Thanks in advance.


A noob who just wants to get on the water as fast as possible.


Dagger Axis

– Last Updated: Jul-13-14 12:04 AM EST –

I have Dagger Axis 12 and Liquidlogic Remix XP10. I also used to paddle a Dagger Blackwater 10.5, which the Axis replaced a few years ago. The Dagger Katanas are nice looking kayak, I would expect them to perform similar to the Remix XPs.

I have run class 1 to easy 3 in both my Axis 12 and XP10 as well as taking them both on slow moving rivers and lakes.

On whitewater the Axis is going to be the least capable out of the crossovers (Remix, Katana, Fusion, etc), it really is more a flat water kayak with some whitewater chops.

The outfitting is more rec kayak than whitewater.
Since you are so thin you are going to want to add hip pads and probably the thigh pads as well. I did and does give the kayak more control but that is going to run you another $120 to $155 (depending what hip pad kit from Harmony you buy). The Axis seat is very comfortable but the backrest is going to stick a bit over the cockpit rim even at the lowest setting. You can lean back a bit but not as much as you could with a back band ($65 if you add the Dagger brand one). If you buy the 10.5 and add thigh pads and hip pads you are pushing $900 and up to $1000 if you go with Dagger branded hips and backband.

I weight a lot more than you so you may not have this problem with the Axis. I have had the foot pads "unlock" a few times when I brace hard against them. Probably not a big issue if you keep on class 1 and 2 but if running more class 3 it could become more of a liability and something else that might need to be upgraded.

My Axis 12 tracks great on flat water even with the skeg up. It is pretty speedy for a 12 footer but dropping down to a 10.5 it is going to slow down a bit. Out of all the crossovers (ignoring the Stinger which seems to be a different animal) you are going to get the best flatwater performance from the two Axis kayaks--I have a hard time keeping up with my friends when they borrow it and I am in my XP10.

The best I can say about my XP10 on flatwater is it goes straight with the skeg down. It pushes water after a few strokes but you will get a great workout. On moving flatwater it is fine and nice and easy to paddle (especially with the skeg down). I think all of the crossovers need to be in a current, they just aren't great lake kayaks and really are more whitewater kayaks with some rec styling. The Axis is the exception here as it really is more a rec/light touring kayak.

On whitewater the Axis handles better than a similar sized rec kayak but mostly you have to pick some nice clean lines and go straight. The biggest problem is that the Axis does have a bit of a keel. Rocks that I just slide over in my XP10, I have to balance and brace in my Axis because of the keel. Same is true on shelves -- the stern keel can catch and unbalance you.

If I am going to run whitewater, even if there are long flat sections, I am taking the XP10. On a slow moving stream that barely reaches class 1, I would stay with the Axis. The only reason my XP10 would ever see a lake again is if I wanted to practice my whitewater strokes and roll.

Make sure you check the fit

– Last Updated: Jul-13-14 12:14 AM EST –

I'm no kayaker, but just for grins I attended a rolling clinic one time (yeah, this canoer and rower thought it would be fun to roll a kayak). Well, they had a bunch of whitewater kayaks to choose from and a couple of crossovers, and there was only ONE boat out of all of them in which I was just *barely* able to stuff my legs under the deck, and I bruised the heck out of my thighs on account of being crammed in there so tightly for half an hour. I'm 6'2" (actually, I think I've shrunk to 6'1", but I still have the same legs of my once-taller body), but you are 6'5". You may not fit in every boat you try either.

My Advice

– Last Updated: Jul-13-14 12:29 AM EST –

I am assuming you are more interested in river running since you are looking at the crossovers and the Axis.

If your goal is whitewater kayaking, regardless what kayak you get, I would recommend buying a whitewater paddle. You might have to go a bit longer if you buy a crossover. You might as well get used to the higher paddling style from the start.

If you really need a kayak that is 50/50 lakes and whitewater plus want to get the best experience in on each you are going to find that somewhere you have to pay a price. The Axis might be the best choice as you get a good flat water experience (slight less with the Axis 10.5) and fair whitewater performance. The other crossovers are going to be really nice on whitewater but fairly poor on flatwater. If you want a better flatwater experience you might want to look at a Dagger Alchemy. It is supposed to be a nice moving water kayak and would be nicer on flatwater than an Axis. My guess is you still would be just going straight down most rapids -- the Axis probably would play better being shorter.

If you are thinking about just going to lakes to practice whitewater moves than you might want to look at real whitewater kayaks or the other crossovers. You can usually pick up some decent used whitewater kayaks via Craigslist. Crossovers don't seem to come up used as much.

Also, lots of the crossovers are good big guys kayaks (which is why I like them being built like a linebacker). You sound pretty thin. The crossovers are nice if you have big feet and probably fit better for those with longer legs. I would check how you fit width wise and maybe look at kayaks with smaller cockpits.

If you are going to do a ton more flatwater kayaking over the next few years than you might want to buy a kayak with that in mind and worry about the whitewater kayak later.

Don't fall in love with a pretty kayak or brand. What is sexy today is going to look plain and dull in a few years.

Look for used boats
It’s not as quick as buying new, but you’ll get more for your money. I’ll bet you could find a decent flatwater boat, and a real whitewater boat for close to the same money.

Buy used ONLY
CRAIGLIST. Try to find a used down river older style plastic boat 9-11 feet with gear Float bags, fiberglass paddle or better, Lifevest, skirt your size for $300-600. You can usually transfer the gear to the next kayak.

If you end up kayaking you WILL buy other boats and different types of paddling require diff boats. Trust us.

Unless you are committed to hot dogging and have natural talent for gymnastic moves, start more general and explore the techniques first before investing. I loved my Wavesport Frankenstein for years. Check out the old fav pirouettes. Pay more for a good LiGHT paddle at this stage. Use the internet to learn but don’t forget your classes. LOTS of info for free. Learn safety so you’ll live. Lifevest. Check out The Kayakers Toolbox DVD.

Wisdom can be found here

Go slow my friend !