Are Composite Sea Kayaks Expensive?

I’ve heard it said here by many paddlers that composite kayaks are expensive. I do not agree. If you compare the cost of a top of the line glass, Kevlar, or even a carbon sea kayak to the top of the line equipment for many other hobbies/sports, you will see that it is actually a relatively inexpensive hobby/sport to enjoy with the highest level of equipment.

Compared to other boating activities, from fishing, water skiing, sailing, windsurfing, etc…the cost for a sea kayak and ancillary equipment is far less. I’ve grown up doing all kinds of these activities and make my living today selling boats and yachts of both sail and power. I can sell you an entry level plastic-based 14’ daysailor with trailer for about $6,000. That’s the cheapest new sail boat I could sell you and it is not capable of going to most of the places in most of the conditions I can in my sea kayak. Entry-level fishing boats are even more expensive. Of course I can also sell you an $800,000 yacht, but even these folks often use their boats less than I use my sea kayak.

Look at the top level of bicycles whether for the road or for the woods. You are looking in the $4000+ range at the top level.

How about taking up motorcycling. There are thousands upon thousands of new Harley Davidson ownbers out there. Most of these guys put fewer hours on their bikes than we do on our sea kayaks. Yet they willing spend $12 - $20K for one.

Skiing? Add up the equipment, lift tickets, travel and lodging and the expenses compared to hours recreating is much higher than sea kayaking.

So why are composite sea kayaks percieved as expensive? Bang for the buck sea kayaks are the cheapest way to go boating. And if you take your boating seriously and you can afford it, why wouldn’t you spring for better equipment?

$3500 for an all-carbon sea kayak is actually quite a bargain. A glass or Kevlar boat costs less. Even at twice the price of a similarly styled plastic sea kayak, the weight and performance improvements would seem to make the upgrade easy to justify by someone who takes their paddling seriously.

Does sea kayaking attract a higher proportion of thrifty consumers? Have the plethora of plastic “recreational” kayaks lowered the perceived value of paddling? Is there too much advice out there that encourages people to settle for plastic when their aspirations and pocketbooks would justify spending more?

The next question would be: How many potential serious sea kayakers are we losing because they settle for a cheap boat that does not excite them? Are all these cheap plastic “recreational” kayaks doing more harm than good for the true sport of sea kayaking?

I agree with you and I think it’s all relative. And I think that having cheaper, “rec” boats out there opens the doors to progress (or not) to the level of commitment you wish. Almost everyone I know who sea kayaks started out in plastic rec boats. Some of them have stopped at very nice plastic sea kayaks, and some have gone beyond.

Tightwad goes a paddling

– Last Updated: May-08-07 4:19 PM EST –

I boat with a lot of people who spend money like new millenium republicans or 70's democrats. Then, there are the tightwads that own the first dollar they earned washing Mrs Perkins car at age 8. It's framed on the wall next to their economics degree. The tight fisted ones are better at rescues because there is usually a very economical way to get the victim out of the water. The spendthrifts usually address the issue with kit they bought at full pop and display it prominently. Results vary as to the effectiveness of that approach.

The problem with the $3500 boat is it's still only one boat in the quiver you need. Mrs Dogmaticus and I are up to a dozen. Each has their specific use. Then there is the discipline specific kit, between surf, sea and river. The kayak retailers across this state see us coming a mile away. I was in REI a few weeks ago and noted to a friend, I just don't need anything now! Now that their sale is on, that view is open to modification.

But to answer your questions:

"Does sea kayaking attract a higher proportion of thrifty consumers? Have the plethora of plastic "recreational" kayaks lowered the perceived value of paddling? Is there too much advice out there that encourages people to settle for plastic when their aspirations and pocketbooks would justify spending more?"

Yes, but it also attracts spendthrifts. How else would boat makers fund their private expeditions? The types that spend 20 hours on a plane because they've never boated New Zealand don't strike me as frugal, either. The real cheap skatin' goes on in the QajaqUSA board. Wo! They make their own Tuiliqs and spray decks. A common boast is "Ya, I made my Chappelle 33102.786 to the tenth power Aleutian with only 80 bucks. Most of that was due to the 2 part skin sealer."

"The next question would be: How many potential serious sea kayakers are we losing because they settle for a cheap boat that does not excite them? Are all these cheap plastic "recreational" kayaks doing more harm than good for the true sport of sea kayaking?"

If they survive their introductory phase and their cotton sweat shirt and jeans don't take them down to the bottom of the kelp beds they may wake up and buy a proper boat for their expanding range of kayaking interest. On the river last weekend many of the paddlers got into whitewater due to their introduction as sea paddlers. On TITS123 videos you hear the claim "he comes to sea paddling with a whitewater background. In my opinion, it takes all kinds. That's what I love about boating, the people I meet on the water invariably are very cool, cheap or spendy.

Augustus dogmaticus

Depends on what you compare to right?
There are sports/pursuits that require another to deliver a service to you for a fee: skiing and golf are two examples. Over many years that adds up quite a bit. But you get something for the service. We don’t pay, and we don’t get service.

Boating - I wouldn’t compare kayaking to that because it is just a different thing. Yes, a 30’ sailboat costs far more but quite frankly, you are getting far more for your money.

So what else is a solitary sport (yes, you can do it with others but it is not required), no motors involved, that you can do in a manner that has no service costs? Running - far less expensive. Biking - yeah, if you buy world-class gear you can spend over $3K but most don’t and don’t need to. Hiking - no need to spend anywhere near $3K.

So I don’t think about it that way at all. It is simply a value proposition. Is it worth it? You spend what it is worth to you.

As to cheap boats - different people want different things from paddling. Some want to fish, some want to lilydip, some just want to get out on some water, some want exercise, and some want expeditions. So you buy what you need, when you need it.

Dongetmestated …
Already had my rant for the month on the rudder section … LOL.

These boats ARE simple to make though …

… and material costs are nothing.

A good builder can do a ‘ester’ resin boat in a day.

I raft and kayak.
Own 3 sea kayaks, 2 plastic and 1 kevlar. Own 3 catarafts. I’ve spent probably 10 times as much money on rafting/accessories than kayak gear and that would be a conservative guess. My raft strap collection is in reality, my retirement fund.

Next to backpacking, I can’t think of a less expensive sport than kayaking.

Surely there are a lot of person-hours required, aren’t there? I look at one of these boats and it just seems like a lot of finicky and messy craftsmanship is required to put them together and have the hatches fit right, the coaming fit right, the seam, etc.


Too subjective a question
"Expensive" depends on disposable income, priorities, intended uses, and undoubtedly a bunch of other variables including attitude towards material possessions.

Any answers yea or nay are opinions reflecting those variables and nothing more.

From MY position, there’s no point buying an expensive car and having no money for gas, ya know? Because the idea is to GET OUT THERE AND PADDLE, and that can be done with a huge variety of kayaks, with a huge price range. You may sneer, but some of the people I see paddling “cheap rec” kayaks look like they are enjoying themselves more than some of the composite owning set. And consistently so.

I will be cheesy and quote a pop song (Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun”): “It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you have.”

Whatever you have, USE IT and don’t be whining that the grass is greener elsewhere.

I like dogmatycus’s post a lot. :wink: Good paddling companions are not defined by how expensive their boat is.

cost of composite kayaks
Another consideration would be the potential useful life span of a composite kayak. They seem to have the potential to be a much longer term investment. Many are seaworthy, and hold resale value long after their roto molded counterparts are so oilcanned and worn away they cannot even serve as garden planters. Not that I have anything against plastic kayaks they just offer a different kind of value.

I’m economically bipolar…
which is why I get along so well with paddlers. Last weekend, the paddler with the best moves on the wave and in general the most knowledgeable of the run had a old, banged up, chipped, gouged, horribly abused Werner paddle. My buddy who once held up a club paddle for 20 minutes with his latest tale of buying a titanium coffeee cup at REI would never have wanted to be seen with the guy with the beater paddle. I’ll have to get the sheen off my stick a little before I paddle with the Werner Beater guy again. To him I must have looked like a retail stormtrooper. But that guy, wo, he could paddle!


I don’t have top of the line anything.
All of my bikes, boats and gear (except a couple paddles and a couple PFDs) were purchased used. Actually, that’s not quite true. I have acquired some pretty nice canoe and kayak paddles used for bargain prices.

If there were charitable organizations to help low income people buy top of the line gear, I’d be signing up. Until then, poor folks will just have to tolerate low end equipment, if any equipment. Some folks can’t even afford the time for recreation because they work a couple jobs just to feed the kids and keep a roof over their heads.

You, and many people on this board, live in a priviledged world compared to many others in this country. I include myself in this group.

I actually can’t really afford most of the boats and gear that I’ve purchased in the last few years (all used). I charged them and it will take years to pay them off. So much for fiscal responsibility.

If it weren’t for entry level rec boats, some people wouldn’t have any boats at all because of the prohibitive prices.

I feel blessed to be able to service the debt that I have accrued for the used equipment I have.

You rock! That is an outlook that is destined to create a great and happy life!

Very refreshing


Do you make 20k a year, or 100k?

Yanoer, I accumulate my old stuff…
and wait for the right time I hear someone is broke and can’t afford stuff. I recommend that to anyone who can afford to give something away that they save it for when someone else can use it. Kayak clubs and board groupsd are a great source of info to hear if someone’s style is muted due to economics. Can’t have that.

I like nice stuff and if it is redundant, the not so new goes to a new home. My world turns better that way. Hopefully, they’ll do the same when they undig themselves.


I absolutely agree. Just see the letter section on the McHale Backpack site.

This guy has the same issues with backpackers. He offers a completely custom backpack, custom fit and made exactly to your specifications for $375-$750 vs. “high-end” off-the-rack packs made over seas for $200-$500. Yet, he only makes a couple of hundred packs a year. All of us who have had the privilege of having Dan make us a pack know that our “more expensive” packs are a tremendous value vs. anything else.

That said, on our budget, wife and I own three composite kayaks, all were either used or demo boats. We would have wound up with two rotomolded PE kayaks had we paid full retail new…

I really hope we never get into sailing…

Kayaking is cheap.
The most expensive kayak and gear to get going and stay safe including some training is under 10K. Once you buy it. barring some tragic and unforseen circumstance, you have it for a good long time. If you keep it all for only ten years (with good care this is a conservative estimate) that would make it only 1K per year. I know that all my other interests/hobbies cost me a bunch more to get into and continue.

Its all in what you want to spend your money on. I can’t imagine buying a new car because I find them to be “too expensive” but a new boat, or skiis, or parachute is no problem.

I also don’t think its a matter of privilege if I want something I have to find a way to make the money to buy it just like everyone else. I have had periods of up to a year long where I worked 7 days a week, 12-14 hours a day manning multiple jobs to “enhance” my income to meet a goal. That would be a personal choice giving up some of todays lifestyle for the lifestyle you wish to have.

I think the biggest thing is “ITS ONLY MONEY”. You can’t take it with you so you should probably use it here. If you are saving it for your heirs then don’t whine about the prices of anything.

This reply is meant to be general to several points made and not to any one individual.

whatever you can afford to get you on

– Last Updated: May-08-07 9:34 PM EST –

the water! I am blessed that I can purchase a nice kevlar kayak and a composite solo canoe. I enjoy the heck out of both and don't regret for a minute the initial expense. I get so much more from that investment. And yes, there is a difference between top of the line and middle of the road.

However, I have many paddling partners that can't afford the gear or boats I can and make the best with what they have. We all enjoy are time on the water. You don't have to settle for a rec plastic kayak when there are well designed plastic/royalex touring kayaks or canoes used or new that will get you where you want to go. No need to be left behind when great club paddling trips are announced. You don't need a top of the line composite kayak to enjoy the same activities I do with mine!

yanoer, I second the “you rock”

– Last Updated: May-08-07 9:53 PM EST –

Yanoer, you have written many things on Pnet over the years, and frankly, what you have written above is the most profound. I envy that you wear your heart on your sleeve, and you just tell it like it is. Honest. Humble. Unpretentious.

I would say, from knowing you, that you are a very savvy buyer. By that I mean, you know your gear, you do your research very thoroughly (both before and after you purchase equipment), and you strike the best deals possible for gear. You wait patiently, as you know what you want and what you wish to spend for it.

I am glad to have your insight and wisdom as a central Illinois paddling partner.

It’s all in the buy-in
So you lay down $3k on a boat, use it for 3 years, and then sell it for $1500. Say you use it 20 times per year, this equates to $25 expended per outing. Can’t rent a glass boat for anywhere near this, let alone take it anywhere you want, any time you want!

hell yes
dam expensive. sales of composite kayaks have been flat or dropping over the last few years in most markets. most kayak buyers have never heard of Pnet, are not paddling nutters like we are and put the value of the activity relatively low amongst their recreational free time.

while i know that Eddyline has been making thermorform boats for at least 7 or so years, this material is booming and will continue to do so as it’s use finds it’s way into better designed and more appealing kayaks. i can assure you that the price is a huge issue and you will see makers like Delta Kayaks make major inroads in the next couple of years, and there will only be more. there will always be a market for composite boats, but it will surely be chipped away relentlessly by the thermoform revolution that is coming, and price is a driving factor.