Aspire 105 to Pungo 120

-- Last Updated: Aug-07-14 7:25 PM EST --

I'm 28 years old(6 foot tall, 215 lbs) and started kayaking as of recently. I've been borrowing someone's extra kayak and I probably have about 15 hours of experience, not much now but this is something I am going to stick with.

I was using a old 10 foot LL Bean sit in. He had a 12 foot sit on top. A couple of times I used his 12 foot and I just did not like it at all. I don't know if it was the extra 2 feet or the fact that it was a sit on top so I wanted to stay with what I was used to.

I did some research and thought that the Wilderness Systems 105 would be a good choice for me. I liked the idea of being able to turn better than worrying about speed with a bigger kayak. A lot of the reviews were saying it tracts good for a 10.5 foot kayak, but I was kind of disappointed in how it tract. When you are sitting still and start paddling, holy crap you feel like you aren't going anywhere but pointing left and right before you get some speed. Even with the rudder down it still wasn't all that great, or maybe I just had higher expectations with a $700 kayak vs a 10+ year old basic looking kayak(the LL Bean). Not to mention around here rivers are shallow and with my ADD trying to remember to pull the rudder up when I come across a rock that pops up on me usually slips my mind. I can see it getting broken sometime.

As far as what kind of waters I will be in, it will be mostly small rivers. I do visit the Outer Banks a few times a year so I will be using it in the sound. I can see where a bigger kayak would be better for that, but honestly the spots I go to now are mostly paddling straight. The only time I have to really turn is when I can see rocks under water. There is a spot where there are some small rapids and eventually I would like to try that out, but it wont be a regular thing. I took the Aspire 105 down a small section of rapids and it did great.

Sorry to make this post so long, but right now I have the chance to take back the Aspire 105 to exchange for the Pungo 120 and I just have to pay the difference but I have to make a decision soon because since I already used the kayak they really don't accept returns like this but since the manager is out of town for 2 weeks they said they would do it for me.

I'm just trying to see if going with the Pungo 120 would be a better choice besides the obvious bigger kayak. I think I just stuck with a smaller one because that's what I was already used to. I won't be able to keep swapping out kayaks so this one needs to be the final decision... As of now I am not excited about the Aspire 105 as I was when I was taking it home from the store. Has anyone had experience with the two?? Should I just give the Aspire 105 some more time to grow on me?

The Pungo 120 and 140 seem to
well thought of. Experienced friends have 140s and really like them. I’ve paddled them a bit and they felt very stable yet moved well. The 120 may be a good choice for your probably paddling and may be enjoyed longer than a shorter or lesser boat. Just thoughts. R

thanks for the response. i was hoping to get more replies from people but i guess this will do.

photo ?

link does not work…

Basically you have a Hybrid kayak
It has the beveled chine of the Pungo but a shallow arch bottom with grooved channels to aid in tracking some and then the skeg. The Shallow Arch bottom is better in rivers , shallow rocky river that is, than the Pungo would be. The Pungo has a semi V bottom which will draw more water than the 105 you have now. The Pungo if you want to turn quickly you need to try and edge it over more than you need to with the Aspire 105. I say try because really at 29" wide you’re not edging it freely. But indeed the Pungo would track better by quite a bit and be a little faster.

That leads me to your Aspire paddling technique. Have you tried any different strokes to counter the offset when getting moving ? Sometimes just a different canting of the blade can help or a semi J stroke aids in getting you moving ( aka, solo canoe style). Once under way go back to a normal stroke. Also getting moving maybe use some shorter quicker strokes and alternate sides quickly. As you get under way increase the stoke length and power. I.E. don’t dig in too hard starting off.

The Pungo is really not a river kayak, it can be made to do some river duty but you really need to read the river well and you need some leaning or edging background or learn to do it ASAP… And the 140 IMO is a superior boat in that regard than the 120, though the 120 is a good boat. The Pungo design was developed for flat water in actuality. I think you are closer to a river kayak in the Aspire, though still perhaps not what you are looking for. Maybe someone will make another suggestion. But those are mine off the top of my head. What other brands do they sell or will they not trade for another brand.

The Pungo 120 and 140 seem to
Yes they are well thought of and with good reason, they are good boats ! We own one of each and I have paddled both. The 140 is an inch narrower than the 120 and a little faster. Edging has more effect but then the 120 needs less to begin with. So well, that’s that I guess ! Let me just say that I personally like shallow arch in a river situation given a choice between that and semi V. At least shallow running rivers with rocks anyway. Deep slow rivers that’s a different story.

Pungos not good in Outer Banks
If you do that consider some alternative. Not good for or designed to handle waves.

Other than that, can be a solid boat.

grubfish - The company pretty much sells every name brand out there. There’s probably a thousand kayaks at the place. Here is their site They will trade for anything they sell there.

Celia - The areas I plan to kayak in the sound down there are usually calm waters. Also near downtown Manteo.

One basic boat fact

– Last Updated: Aug-10-14 12:39 PM EST –

About the Aspire 105 you said, "holy crap you feel like you aren't going anywhere but pointing left and right before you get some speed." In reply to that I can think of two things. First, no matter how good the design of the boat, one that's that short with your 215 pounds on board is going to be a slug when it comes to acceleration and straight-line travel speed. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as boats are designed to be maneuverable for a reason. Second, you need to realize that with any boat that is made to be fairly nimble, to accelerate cleanly you need a good stroke. You've barely gotten started at this, and I'd bet the farm that your stroke is basically a sweep, and with that kind of stroke, a boat that does not provide a huge amount of resistance to changes in heading will wig-wag a lot rather than just take off in a straight line. Work on making the blade travel a straight line, right alongside the hull, rather than make it follow the edge of a partial circle at some distance away from the hull and you'll find that the yawing action is reduced a lot. One nice thing about a boat that turns easily is that, if you are willing to pay attention, it will provide greater encouragement for you to become a better paddler.

I can't say whether the Pungo 120 will be better for you. I'm sure it will track harder. Someone said the Pungo will have greater draft but I'm not so sure, since being longer will have the opposite effect.

The Pungo draft
It has a soft bevel chine, then a semi V bottom and a bit of rocker. I weigh 220 lb, add a little gear in my 140 and the boat draws the better part of 6" to the center line of the keel at the center of the rocker. My wife has the 120 and she is lighter than me, I’d say her boat is drawing more like 5". The 120 is also wider, effectively changing the chine line a bit, flaring out the soft bevel more. The 140 definitely carves a sharper line in the water though, it’s just a sharper hull with longer entry and steeper sides. Nice boats if your purpose works with them ! Both are nice paddling boats, IMO, but the 140 edges a little if you want or need it to and is a little faster than the 120.

When I think of a shallow drafting boat I think in terms of 3-4 inches. Or even if it’s 6 inches it’s a friendly 6 that will ride over some rocks, maybe a soft chine and very shallow arch bottom for instance. Pungo’s have that V to catch things.

And no I wouldn’t put them in the sea category, we use ours in estuaries, lakes and ponds. MOdely sand and or gravel bottom. Gonna try some light class 1 with them this fall maybe. Also, we may go into Cape Cod bay in a SW wind which is off shore and it leaves the bay calm for a mile or two out. We just break from the outgoing tide and hit the beach till the tide turns back in again.

There are many other kayaks out there besides these! For me personally if I wanted to do outer banks even owning Kayaks I would rent one. Here you can rent a Tempest for 40 bucks a day for instance.

I have been working on my stroke. When I first started kayaking I didn’t pay much attention to my stroke, but since I’ve done it more I do focus on a better stroke. I try to put the paddle out close to the boat where my feet are and pull straight back.

Here’s a picture of the river I am usually on where I will probably spend 80% of my time. The only time I really need to make sharp turns is when I come up on a rock close to the surface in shallow waters.

A video I found on Youtube of the water

I would like to attempt to go to this sound while I visit the beach I realize those are ocean kayaks but a Pungo 120 would not do this?

I’m open to other brand kayaks. This is just the only one so far that I liked and felt very comfortable in. I can’t really spend over $850 on one.


– Last Updated: Aug-10-14 5:36 PM EST –

I would take my Pungo 140 right down that river if most of what you paddle is like that. It will do more moving water than that actually, the problem comes when rocks are numerous and near the surface. You read my take on draft ?

As to the ocean. Those are beautiful pictures and in the conditions of the water like in those pictures of course a Pungo will do that. However, one thing about the ocean it can turn on you like the wind and literally sometimes because of the wind. The Pungo is certainly good in swells, takes a foot to 18" chop fine. I was in 18" boat wakes today. Depending on the angle it might take some two footers but if it starts rolling you are getting swamped with the big cockpit. And also you may get swept off track ( Yaw) in that case as well. It does take a following sea pretty well though. Now I'm speaking of the 140 all this time because that's what I'm in most.

Sea kayaks are designed to take seas conditions. Made to perform in changing currents, made to cross larger chop and swells on track. Best I can tell ya ! Certainly though a Pungo can touch on calm sea waters and certainly estuaries. But remember, the design was specifically developed for still water. I've seen people out here in Cape Cod Bay in much dumber choices than a Pungo. I mean like plastic cans they picked up at the Job Lot for $199 or $299, no PFD, you name it. But they don't go far, they play with them just off the beach a ways.

It’s not the right boat
The Pungo is a rec boat, and if you read the manufacturer’s description they will tell you it is for calm, flat water.

As the above person mentioned, people have gotten away with going offshore in a Pungo. That is not the same as it being a good idea.

In ocean sound wind and waves a Pungo is not going to keep water out of the boat. The cockpit is too big and you can’t skirt around the problem. It is also nearly impossible to empty it of water and re-enter to get dry in the case of a capsize. A boat full of water, and a boat in waves not designed for those conditions, makes a capsize more likely.

The place a rec boat like the Pungo shines is when you can swim to shore if need be. Ocean sounds are generally not in that category.

The Pungo is a great boat for the right purpose and (though no one here seems to believe me) I have steered friends towards these boats. But for an ocean sound, rent a sea kayak or better yet take a guided tour the first time. You will learn a lot and be able to relax to just see the sights because everything else will be the guide’s problem.

I appreciate the help. As far as ocean sound goes I’ll just rent one down there. That way I have the right boat for the water.

My other considerations would have been the diringo 120 or axis 12. I dont know if I could give up that phase 3 seat in the pungo though

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Bought the Pungo
I traded the Aspire 105 in for the Pungo 120 yesterday and I am so much happier with the boat. Feels much more comfortable.

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Ya Pungo’s are pretty all right
Good rec boats and especially the 140 starts to take on a little more tendency than just rec except the large cockpit of course. I’ve paddled the wife’s 120 too though, it’s nice. I know she loves it !! We are thinking about a little camping trip with them up in Maine actually. But the OT Camper Canoe may win out on that one. Not sure yet, just tossing around the idea right now. We will be up in the Moosehead lake area in two weeks then again two weeks after that.

Have you paddled that river in it yet ? Report back how you made/make out if you would .

Yes I did go down that river. I loved it. So much better than the 105. My only complaint was since the water is shallow and the v hull. A couple of times I came up on rocks and the boat tilted more than the flatter hull on the 105, but it still wasn’t all that bad. I didn’t feel like I was going to tip over. The dashboard might have to go though. Makes getting in and out of it tricky so your shins dont hit the sharp edges of it. The dry storage doesn’t really stay dry from water dripping off the paddle and when you open it water will get inside from water sitting on top of it but its no big deal


– Last Updated: Aug-14-14 12:28 PM EST –

Ya in a faster river the v could get to be an issue, like fast and real rocky. But you have experienced it now and accept it. Hats good. Congrats on you Pungo swap !

pungo 120

– Last Updated: Aug-18-14 7:39 PM EST –

I took it out a few more times since I last posted. I still am really happy with it. Yesterday I went to another section of the river and the water level was really low in places. The closer I got to the dam they tore down the more rocks I encountered along the way. A few times I hit rocks just below the surface and the boat did not get very unstable. It was enough for me to think to myself 'oh sh!t' because it caught me off guard but it wasn't so bad. The water was flowing pretty quickly where the dam used to be. A lot of it is a big open water flowing down little separate 'rapids' that flowed for about 30 yards or so. It wasn't very deep so I parked my Pungo on some rocks and walked through the rapids because I wanted to try to ride it down. Walking down it was fine but walking back up I could really feel the force of the water wanting to knock me down. After a few minutes of looking at it, I figured what the hell... I got the Pungo in position to ride one of the sections down. It was a lot of fun but there is NO turning whatsoever in the Pungo 120 going down rapids which is kind of scary. I realize what I did could of been stupid to some people, but hey, I wanted to try it and I am still alive lol.... When I got back away from the dam far enough to very very slow moving water, I stood up in the boat and was able to paddle standing up for a few yards before I fell over. My balance sucks so I feel like someone with better balance could of stood up longer. I did it a few times falling over into the water to get some practice getting back into it because I have yet to flip out or fall out of a kayak. I still cannot get the courage to try to flip over on purpose while sitting in it.

The dashboard that comes with it I will probably leave off. I don't really see a use for it besides the cup holder. The dry storage on it doesn't really suit me. When I paddle water drips down onto the dashboard so when I go to open it up water that's sitting on the dashboard will fall inside of the dry storage. It also has sharp edges on it so moving my legs around and getting in and out of it I hit my shins on it