Beginer Paddlers

My wife and I are very interested in taking up canoeing or kayaking as a hobby. The problem is, we have very limited experience in canoeing, and no kayaking experience. We would mostly be paddling lakes and slow rivers. We’re not really sure what would be the best option for us, canoe or kayaks. Most of our paddling to start would be just day trips coupled with fishing. I would appreciate any advice on what to look for in watercraft and the accessories to go with them. Also, I’m a pretty big guy (6’2", 270 lbs), I’ve noticed there are limited options for someone my size, or am I not looking in the right places. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

one boat each or
one boat for the two of you? Which were you thinking?

beginning kayaking for two
What did you have in mind? There are tandem kayaks for two people, but keep in mind that they are longer and heavier. I am just getting into this myself and have researched different models and makes of kayaks. The smallest tandem that I could find (hard shell) was a bit over 12’ long - and weighed over 50 pounds. There was no way that I was going to get that up on a roof rack - which brings up another concern. How will you transport the kayak? Then, there are sit-on-tops and sit-insides. A solo kayak for one person runs about 9’ long and weighs only around 30-40 pounds. My problem was that I wanted something that would be suitable for 2 people but also good for one person, and so I decided on a good quality inflatable kayak that has removable seats to hold either one or two people. Also, I have a vehicle with a pretty high roof and I realized that I’d never be able to load it myself up on a rack. Lots of things to think about. I’m still learning as I go! Best of luck. The main thing is to decide if you want to kayak solo or tandem at this point.



Canoe’s A Good Start
My wife and I spent the first twenty five years of our paddling together in various canoes, and it worked wonderfully, especially with two young girls and a small dog. Lots of great memories of camping, or working thru a series of small gullies (little ponds) into the country. You got only one boat to deal with, lots of space, easy to load and unload. There are lot of nice tandems out there around 16’ in length - others can give you more specific model advice.

Since 2001, it’s mainly been single kayaks - more suited to light coastal cruising in our cold Atlantic waters. But there are still two canoes in the fleet, and they’re staying right where they are.

At your weight and where there are two…

– Last Updated: Oct-06-11 8:14 PM EST –

of you my suggestion would be a canoe, but before you run out and buy any old one, your best bet is to find a place where you can rent one and then try a few out.
My wife and I have been paddling canoes for over fifty years, and the excitement of getting out and exploring and paddle together has never gotten old, (like us!)
With that said, we both also paddle kayaks and have singles as well as a tandem.
When and if you do get a canoe, try to get one with a sliding seat or seats since with your weight you will have a hard time trimming the boat.

What ever you decide on, when you make up your mind, come back and post again, and various paddlers will recommend specific makes of boats for you to look at.

jack L

Kiss your disposable income goodbye
I had paddled rental canoes a lot in the past but about two years ago my wife and I got serious about it. I knew nothing about kayaks, didn’t even think about them. Bought a canoe and entered a race and watched the kayaks paddle away while my wife and I fought a headwind for two hours. I now own a growing fleet of kayaks and canoes.

First off, I wouldn’t recommend a tandem kayak as a beginner boat. There is a learning curve and when there is someone else to blame for when things go wrong it doesn’t make for a fun day on the water. Learn to paddle a kayak separately, then get a tandem if you still want one.

A canoe in the 14-17 foot range works as a tandem but you can paddle it solo later if you want. I would stay away from the kind with molded seats as you need to turn the canoe around when paddling solo.

As far as kayaks go, it depends on how you plan to paddle. For gentle creek s where you can swim to the bank if you capsize, you can pick up some cheap Rec boats. Perception Swifty is a nice 9 footer, but all rec boats are pretty much the same IMO and just get what you can off craigslist. If you want a better boat so you can do rolls and paddle offshore look for something with two bulkheads and perimeter lines 12-14 foot or larger. The 12-14 will also work for streams.

Look at the videos here on p-net for how to paddle tips, and take a kayak class when you can. If it hurts you’re probably doing it wrong.

Buy good paddling vests. The things at wal-mart do not work in kayaks. A paddling vest has the back flotation higher around the shoulders so the bottom edge does not bite into your kidneys when you sit in a kayak. WEAR YOUR PFD. It’s what separates us from the power boaters and is a badge of higher intelligence.

You are going to want nice paddles one day if you get serious about it. There are a couple hundred threads about paddles here. Don’t spend a lot of money on ones to start with unless you’ve spent a lot of time researching. Take a guess at the length and get your wife one with a smaller blade. IMO go cheap, you can use it as a spare later. Or experiment with different paddles before spending a big chunk of money. Some people here carry three hundred dollar spares too.

The law says you need a whistle too. Other than that it’s up to your local ordinances.

For big guy kayaks look for the boats that end in 5 like 145,165, these are the big guy versions of the 140 and 160.

A lot of the times when we river paddle now, I am solo in a 14’ canoe and my wife is in a kayak.

Last piece of advice- Don’t buy new boats from a big box sporting good’s store.

We don’t know some key facts such as where you will be paddling, what kind of water, in what kind of climate.

I am a committed open canoeist, but the fact is that probably 90% of new paddle boat purchases these days are kayaks. Kayaks, initially, are much easier to control and paddle than canoes, which take a significant investment of time and perhaps instruction to learn to paddle solo and even tandem.

Inexpensive sit-in “rec” kayaks are very popular and come in a variety of sizes. In warm climates, sit-on-top kayaks may even be more popular, but they are usually heavier than the sit-ins.

Renting all of the above or trying them out at a dealer or demo day can help give you hands on feel for the difference.

Definitely rent first (if you can). Try canoes. Try kayaks. Try different types of canoes and kayaks. See what you like. Take classes if you can too.

My personal opinion is that, barring a strong preferrance for kayaks or being in seperate boats, a canoe would be the more economical and versatile option for you and your wife. Only one boat to buy, store, transport, and maintain. Canoe paddles are cheaper. Canoes are easier to fish from. Easier to camp out of. A 16 or 17 ft. canoe will also easily accomodate a third person, pets, or anyone/anything else you want to bring along. Conversely, it is also easily paddled solo. And canoes can be poled, if the water level is very low.

Which one to choose???
I would suggest you consider renting or going to a store that has demo days or lets you demo different canoes and kayaks. Canoeing is a joint effort, whereas kayaking is more of a solo thing except for tandems. Being a big guy myself (6’ 1 1/2 and 250 lbs)I had a bunch of problems finding kayaks that will fit. A lot of them are made for smaller people rather than big guys like us. So try sitting in some before you buy. Also with the canoes look at longer ones in the 17 foot range as you will have more leg room. There is abig difference between a 16 ft and a 17 foot canoe in the amount of roomo it has. I’ve got a 17 ft. Wenonah Spirit II canoe and love it compared to a couple of 16 footer Wenonahs I rented for trips.

In addition to what’s been mentioned already, why not find out if there’s a local paddling club in your area and go to a few club meetings?

Chances are you’ll meet folks who are ready, willing, able, even enthusiastic about helping a new paddler get into whatever boat or sort of paddling is available in your local area. They’ll most likely be willing to go out with you and probably let you try out their boats if you can convince them you’re not going to scratch them.

I like canoes myself and eastern MN is great canoe country, but perhaps the ease of getting started in a kayak is more attractive in your situation.

Once you get into this, whether by canoe or kayak, you’ll open up a whole new world for yourself. Happy hunting and enjoy.