Beginner in need of help

Hey everyone,

I’m new here- avid outdoorsman, and trying to get into kayaking. I’ve been lurking on this board for some time now trying to get as much knowledge as I can, but I really want to try and get an expert opinion on types of kayaks hopefully. My gf and I are in the process of buying a pair of kayaks- we were pretty set on the pungo 120 based off reviews and such, but as I’ve read more since, I feel this may not be the best route ( maybe someone will prove me wrong?). What were looking to paddle in mostly, as living in western New York, would be small streams/ slow rivers, calm lakes, canals, and then living by Lake Erie I want to be able to at least paddle te shore line, but not head out far into the deep waters. Again, originally leaning towards the pungo 120- but now I’m thinking I may be more comfortable with something like the tsunami 125 so I could handle mild chop on Lake Erie?? Please help if there are any experts out there as I really don’t know alot about this yet. For reference, I’m about 5’8" 170-175 lbs, and the gf is 5’5" and about 110-115lbs.

Thanks :slight_smile:

Message board not your best source now
It is warm and trying to sort this out via a message board is more likely to leave you wasting money on a poor choice than satisfied. If you want to try more adventurous paddling - yes, the Pungo is not your boat. But you don’t understand why.

You and your girl friend need to do this together by the way, not you making the decisions for her, if you want to have a mutual paddling experience long term.

The way to solve this is to actually get into boats and get some face time with a decent outfitter. You don’t say where you are exactly, but a place like the one listed below that has quick start lessons with access to many boats to try, and maybe even some demos for sale, would be a good place to start.

Butt time, in the cockpits, of various kayaks.

You will never find a “one boat does all” .

Compromise and understanding of capabilities is key.

Take some intro classes , learn about hull shapes, lengths.

some reasons
I’ll give you some reasons why the Pungo is not likely to work for you: no bow bulkhead, oversized cockpit, short and wide with relatively flat bottom. This is a recreational kayak, meaning it is for warm water floats in ponds and shallow slow streams. It will not handle chop or waves well (a large powerboat wake could flip it – this is a drawback to wide flat boats that seem “stable” in still water). The lack of fore and aft bulkheads means if it capsizes it will sink with the stern in the air and be nearly impossible to re-enter. It does not have sufficient storage capacity for camping gear (I see from your profile that you are campers). The large cockpit doesn’t support a spray skirt well which means paddle drip and spray will get water into the hull – this means cool water paddling will be uncomfortable. NOT a boat for anywhere in Lake Erie or even Lake George or the Finger Lakes. Even a calm day on the Great Lakes can turn to heavy wind and waves in minutes. A father and young daughter drowned last month on Lake Erie after setting out on a “calm day” in similar boats. Putting a Pungo in the Great Lakes would be like driving a golf cart onto the Turnpike.

Plus these boats are slow due to width. Something a few feet longer and 4" to 6" narrower will perform much better in a range of conditions and be more fun and versatile. Your smaller girlfriend will likely bang her knuckles paddling a 29" wide kayak. I’m the same height as her and my kayaks are 21" to 23" wide. You really both need different sizes or even models – kayaks should be tailored to the user. She would swim in a Tsunami 125. A 120 would fit better and a 140 would be more versatile. There are other lower volume kayaks that might be more suitable. Elie and Venture are both brands that make some decent lower volume models. You “wear” a kayak as much as you sit in it. You need decent body contact with the sides and not to be sitting too deep in the hull.

I agree with Celia that you should find a good local specialty outfitter and get a qualified salesperson to introduce you to the different types of boats. Better yet, take an intro course in kayaking – well worth the money. Kayaking is NOT intuitive and getting the basics of paddling technique, entering and exiting and dealing with capsizes will greatly enhance your enjoyment and safety. Many outfitters have Spring “demo days” on local waterways where you can get the feel for different boats.

Be wary of reviews. Think about it: most people are reviewing their first and only kayak when they post these and have little to compare it with. And most people would not admit that they made a poor choice anyway. Everybody has the greatest dog, the smartest kids and the best kayak, after all.

Thanks for the responses so far
Thanks for the responses- very helpful. I essentially already purchased the kayaks, but haven’t picked them up yet so they haven’t even been used. I’m sure the store will let me return/ make adjustments accordingly.

There are a pair of articles you may find useful to read in California Kayaker Magazine. All issues can be read for free online at

Issue 10 has an article on different types of boats. The Pungo is a procreational boat, where the Tsunami is more of a day touring. For the small ponds and such, the rec boat likely would be fine. But Erie can be big water, so not so fine.

Issue 8 had a bit on getting butt time - exactly what others are suggesting here. Article describes why you want it, and how to get it.

I’d strongly suggest the take a course suggestion of getting Butt Time as one of the ways you go about it. Now is the time when the air is warm, but the water isn’t, and we have a rash of paddlesport deaths and near-deaths. That class would teach you a lot. An article on Taking Classes in Issue 7 covers some of this.

If you do find the Pungo is the route you are going to go, maybe also read the article in Issue #6 on selecting a recreational Boat. Even within this class of boats (which are generally lower end, and made for paddling when conditions are good) there is variation in boats and models.

I don’t know about you Pete, but I find it difficult to procreate in the Pungo.

Iam from the Buffalo area
Iam in Tonawanda. I use two kayaks the one I use on creeks,canal small lakes is a 14 foot Wilderness systems Tsunami 140. I have taken it out a few times outside of the break wall in Lake erie and its ok. I wouldnt want to use a 12 foot pungo on the lake Erie. The pungo is fine for creeks not BIG lake Erie. I could always let you try my Tsunami 140 if you want. My other Lake boat is a NDK Greenlander Pro.

As far as outfitters Evergreen Outfitters has many differant kayaks to try. There kinda far away in Ashville right by Jamestown but worth the trip. Peaks and Paddles right in Tonawanda has many demos BUT all Prijon kayaks. There kinda pricey but very good TUFF kayaks. Also Oak Orchard kayaks has many brands to try. Even Bay Creek kayak in Rochester is another place about an hour drive from Buffalo.All of these places are hAving a demo day very soon.

We just did a paddle last night out of Erie Basin Marina and I could have let you try out my Tsunami 140. Plus another guy brought an extra kayak just in case someone eles wanted to go. Iam part of the Buffalo Outdoor Meetup group. Here was are paddle from last night. Check out the pictures. you might have to join the group to see the pictures. Its free. We have a large paddle going for this saturday I think we have over 90 paddlers going. Fun group meet other paddlers.

This could verge on relationship
counseling - but I agree 100% with Celia re making sure that your GF is included in the decision making. I went even further that that recently with my wife and backed out of the decision altogether (almost). She had her own conversations with the sales staff etc., she paddled several boats. I was clear that her personal expectations did not include anything other than quiet water paddling - despite my hopes for her in that regard. As a result she picked the Pungo 120 after paddling a number of boats including those that you mention and she is very happy. On the other hand, I am a life long paddler but never Kayaks. I picked a Tsunami 16.5 I think it was and after a week I realized I had picked the wrong boat for me so I went back to the drawing board and ended up with a Zephyr 16 which I enjoy a great deal. If you are not an experienced paddler or you are looking for a boat that is easy to keep going straight but hard to turn, the Tsunami could be excellent. I prefer a boat that is easy to turn and maybe a tiny bit harder to keep on track in the wind etc.

My suggestion is to paddle several boats and recognize that if you get serious about kayaking you will no doubt be buying a different boat down the line as you learn and as your skill progress. Just get something and enjoy it.

Ill join up
I would have loved to come out and give your tsunami boat a whirl. I understand as someone else said that if I get serious about this ill probably upgrade later on anyways- I just want to make sure I get a boat that will be good for recreation and still be able to go along just the coast lines of erie- we’ve been wanting to get close to the windmills from the water and see how they are up close. I’m actually part of a local search and rescue group, and I believe one of our members was out with you guys last night (I tried calling him for advice as well but think he was out paddling).

Relationship advice
Also, I love all these people coming in and giving me advice in the relationship aspect haha. Thanks all for the concerns :slight_smile: she’s actually the reason why were getting into kayaking. We’ve used them before a few times from renting and have had fun. By all means she is 100% included in the decision making. Her knee has been bothering her so she’s taking it easy on the biking/ running this year so well be trying to do more kayaking instead.

Yes join

– Last Updated: May-08-13 4:19 PM EST –

Yes join up the Buffalo Outdoor Meetup. I paddle with alot of different groups. this Thursday the 9th I will be going out with Peaks and Paddles, they have a Thursday evening paddle every week in Wilson on Lake Ontario. This time of year we usually do 12 mile creek as later in the year it gets full of weeds and what not. I could bring both of my kayaks and let you use the one. Or you could rent from Peaks and Paddles. They bring the boats for you so all you do is show up and paddle. Call them so they know your coming if you want to rent from them.I think its 30 bucks per kayak from Peaks and Paddles.You can request a certain length but only Prijon is what they have.

Looks like thunder storms Thursday so most likely no paddle. Oh there is a into to kayaking at beginning of June here


– Last Updated: May-08-13 2:25 PM EST –

Given the differences in your sizes, it makes no sense to have matching boats. A Pungo 120 is huge for someone her size. She'll be more comfortable and have an easier time matching your speed in a boat that fits her.

Something like a Tribute 12 that's designed for smaller paddlers would be much more appropriate.

In the Tsunami series, the 135 would be better for her than the 120. She also might want to try the SP.

For you, a Tsunami 120 would be plenty big -- there's no need to go up to the 125.

Ok - a few more comments
Great that your GF is equally involved in the choice. But you need to be aware that if she has a Pungo and you get something like a Tsunami, what she has is the limiting factor on where you can both paddle. Handling things like on-water capsizes are much more difficult for the big open cockpit boats like the Pungo, so being safe means that you stay within the capabilities of the least capable boat in terms of managing conditions.

What you do with this as time goes on is up to you guys - but this is why I tend to recommend taking a basics class including rescues before buying boats. There is nothing like trying to handle a capsize in a Pungo for driving home why so many of us prefer those skinnier boats with smaller cockpits and bulkheads fore and aft. Honestly, I have gotten to the point where I place that in front of being able to paddle straight.

AS to your idea of creeping along the shoreline of Lake Erie - be aware that many days that will not be much of a plan because that’s where the breaking waves are. Wind drives them higher as the water gets shallower… all of which means being near the shore could be the worst place. Though being outside of the breaking waves can be equally bad if you don’t know how to paddle thru them without getting trashed, or are in a boat that is an invitation to being trashed in surf like the typical rec boats.

You can have fun with many things that float, from a sexy but utterly unstable racing canoe to a construction of 2 by 4 lumber and swimming noodles. But you need to be aware of where they are designed to be used and why. If you guys have two quite disparate boats, it is a consideration you will need to keep quite actively in mind.

it doesn’t come with another paddler
Or did you mean by yourself?

Thanks for the advice
All good advice that you’re giving. Yea, I think we are both moving away from the pungo. We do plan on taking classes, and doing meet ups to talk and paddle with more experienced people. Honestly, we probably won’t even head into the Lake Erie shores at all this year until we’re both comfortable in our capabilities/ safety. Well stick to the calmer waters and build on our skills.

Obviously wasn’t what I meant to write (probably got autocorrected), but I am sure procreating in a Pungo would be possible.

It is tough now to get good info about kayaks. There are so many beginner boats and beginner salesmen. If it were me I would buy a kayak at least 15-17 feet long, with a cockpit, not too beamy with decent bulkheads and storage hatches. It would have an arched bottom and some rocker. It would probably be used and made out of fiberglass.

I wouldnt get fiberglass
I wouldn’t get a fiberglass boat if I was only getting one boat. The OP is in Western NY were Iam from. He said he wants to do creeks plus if he joins the Buffalo Outdoor Meetup group they do MANY paddles were a glass boat would just NOT work. Plastic works every were, glass cant go down say Oak Orchard creek which is popular paddle. You scrape bottom , hit rocks not something for a gelcoated kayak. My glass kayak ONLY goes into the Great lakes or Niagara River which feeds into the Great lakes. Otherwise its my plastic yak. Creeks are too shallow around here to use a glass one on such.

Of course there are some creeks you could but more that you cant or at least shouldn’t. I was paddling down Genesee creek last summer with a group and a women had a Eddyline thermoformed yak and it was brand new. She got caught up on a rock and put a 4 inch long crack in the bottom were the vee shape comes together. Before we started I asked if that’s the only kayak she had. I thought it might not be a good choice for this paddle. Water was low.

Quote below I agree except about it being fiberglass.

“It is tough now to get good info about kayaks. There are so many beginner boats and beginner salesmen. If it were me I would buy a kayak at least 15-17 feet long, with a cockpit, not too beamy with decent bulkheads and storage hatches. It would have an arched bottom and some rocker. It would probably be used and made out of fiberglass.”

Prijon kayaks - rentals
just an aside for Frost & his gf: renting Prijon boats can be a good thing for your search. Good choice for ppl who want to do sometimes rocky rivers and tour lakes as well. Their proprietary blowmoulded HTP plastic flexes a lot like f’glass in the water, but is very tough like rotomoulded plastic more commonly seen in plastic kayaks.

My top pick for your gf would be the Prijon Catalina which is sadly no longer made. I have one and it’s a fun, versatile boat, and one I won’t outgrow in size or skills.I’ve paddled a few Class 1 & 2 rivers and taken the boat out on Lake Michigan. It’s 15’3" so it sizes well for all of that. It would even do well on twistier rivers w. good edging and turning skills. And it is fun fun fun to surf.

If there is a Calabria or Motion she might rent one or both.

A SeaYak or Touryak might suit you. The latter is scaled slightly larger and a great boat for camping capacity.

Used Prijons do come around every so often. They can be a great deal because the plastic wears so well (assuming they have been stored out of the sun and its UV rays).

I’ll also put in a good word for the Jackson Journey boats. They make a regular and low volume version. 14 feet, dual bulkheads, and excellent adjustable cockpit outfitting. Stable and a decent mix of tracking and turning makes them a nice choice for a first boat or an only boat. Take them on the river, on the inland lakes, on the Great Lakes. Optional rudders.

Also make a stop to try the Dagger Alchemy - two sizes, S and L, both 14 feet. Dual bulkheads, seakayak outfitting, adjustable cockpit outfitting. Skegged boats. You can pretty much go everywhere in them except very shallow, very tight rivers/creeks.

Take the time, as you meet other paddlers, to ask to try their boats. And check out demo days. After a while you’ll get a real sense of what suits you and your gf will discover the same. You don’t need to demo dozens of boats - soon you’ll each get a sense of where to narrow down. Get a handful of top contenders, see where they are on sale or offered used.

Budget some money for a good paddle a couple snaps up from the cheapest. It’ll make paddling and learning paddle strokes a lot more enjoyable. The paddle connects body to boat so go with good quality there.