beginner kayak


I am new to this site, sorry if this question is already out there. I am looking at getting a pair of kayaks for my wife and myself. I am looking at the Potomac 100es by pelican. and swifty by islander. I am having trouble finding out much info on these kayaks, I found both of these kayaks at dick sporting goods store. I am leaning toward the potomac 100es. please any help would be appreciated.


Please accept this as my

– Last Updated: Feb-22-09 9:28 PM EST –

prejudiced answer, but don't get anything less than 12' unless all you intend to do is wallow around a pond or paddle small creeks.
My first kayak was 12' and I outgrew it very fast to a 17'. At 12' you can get decent handling and speed;at less than that, you get a barge. Dick's carrys some 12' kayaks , including the original Pungo under a different name.
That doesn't matter if you stay with people who also paddle 10' boats, but chances are you won't.
If at all possible, go paddle some different boats.

so much depends on what you want to do
Strictly paddling around on flat water like ponds or small lakes is very different from big open water or camping trips. There is a lot in between including rivers, fishing, whitewater, etc.

Help us help you by providing a little more info on what you plan to do today, tomorrow, down the road. The first time you paddle away from shore, you might just find that you are hooked like a big fish, and you will outgrow the first boat quickly if you make a hasty decision.

Whatever your plans, research, go to a show if possible, talk to local club members, and MOST IMPORTANT, try before you buy! If recreational kayaking is in fact your desire, there are dozens of choices that could fit, based on where you want to paddle.

Give us more to go on, including your height/weight, and you will find many helpful voices here at P-Net.

For me, I started off knowing that I wanted to advance my skills and expand my paddling options qickly. I chose a “transitional” touring kayak (Wilderness Systems Tsunami125) that is also suited to larger paddlers (I’m 6’1" 260) and carrying lots of gear in case I want to camp. When I finally got my wife to join me (allowing purchase of boat #2 with minor fuss), I settled on a Pungo120 after paddling lots of recreational boats. My wife has no desire to join me in all of my adventures, but likes to day paddle. I occasionally push the envelope for her, so this boat allows her to keep up while providing a stable boat that is beginner friendly, but designed for a variety of paddling options including fishing, photography, and longer day paddles or light overnights. It is also a great “buddy boat” and I’ve had many curious friends join me knowing that almost anyone can paddle a Pungo safely with a little pre-paddle lesson on safety.

Paddle a bunch
Of boats b4 you buy. Find a store that sells nothing but kayaks/canoes and buy from paddlers. The information you are getting here is very good.As for the length of boat I urge you to listen to these paddlers, 12’ is the minimum for a kayak. Old Town makes a nice riding boat and is good for the price point. I own a Dagger Specter 15’5 and An Old town Cayuga 14’6. I ride the Old Town boat on rivers and have taken it on the ocean it really performs well. The Dagger I use for bays and ocean with some surfing. It performs well also. Happy hunting and welcome to the most joyous addiction…


– Last Updated: Feb-23-09 11:08 AM EST –

Between the two, get the Swifty. Get what you want and get on the water (once it warms up so you don't die, because that would seriously cut into your paddle time). I have never paddled a Pelican, but I have seen a number of complaints regarding product quality and workmanship and would avoid that brand.

Don't buy the 230 or 240 cm paddles the big box store will want to sell you. Get a 220 or 210. You'll be happy you did.

Get a comfortable PFD for each of you. One you will wear. Once in the water, you will NOT have time to put it on. Buy a comfortable one and wear it from shore to shore.

There is nothing wrong with "waddling on a pond or small river." I have spent many, many happy hours doing exactly that IN A SWIFTY, and the Swifty is very well suited to it.

The Swifty is an excellent entry recreational kayak. It's not a sea kayak and it's not a whitewater kayak, so don't confuse them for either. But for getting on moderate water and paddling along, I think you could do a whole lot worse. I think the Swifty is the best value in the recreational kayak market right now.

If you decide that you like paddling and decide that you want a more advanced boat than the Swifty, you'll probably be able to sell them for 1/2 to 3/4 retail value, so you're not risking a lot.

I am in direct contravention to the 12' as a minimum advice. I am at a point where 10' is feeling just a little too long.

- Big D

I admitted that I am prejudiced.
I’ve led and been on too many trips when everyone was waiting on a lilydipper in a short boat.And they were not happy.

I guess the advice is don’t show up for a trip and expect peole to wait for you because you are under-boated or inexperienced.

I am always happy to help beginners, but not in the middle of a trip.

No argument with that
But that applies to anything, doesn’t it? Biking, hiking, any kind of outdoor group activity.

The original poster didn’t suggest he was interested in joining trips. Nor will a couple of extra feet at the waterline turn a lillydipper novice into a speedy and efficient pro.

Unless a trip is intended AS a beginner trip, should a novice actually be on it? If a trip is intended and advertised as a beginner trip, then I’d think you have to expect lillydippers and slow-boaters to be on it.

  • Big D

I’ll trade you an America 11 for your 13
It’s even camo so the fish won’t see you coming! ;~)

If 11’ is too long, I could make it a Victory Blast at just over 9’. But I’ll have to change my name after the transaction so you can’t find me.


He’s got a point though.
I wasn’t interested in joining trips three years ago either. Thought I’d buy a boat, float down a lazy river while fishing and laughed at anyone talking “efficiency”. Now I’m looking for a 16 footer (will be my fifth boat), never fish anymore, never go out solo anymore and could wear my first boat as a PFD while paddling in my 14 footer. Things do change, and it’s at least worth the conversation for this guy to think about.

OTOH, if the only way this guy’s getting on the water NOW is with a Swifty, then I’d tell him to go all in for it. And I second against the Pelican. I met a guy that said his melted flat on his roof rack in the “intense” Minnesota heat . . . .


So, YoS. What is your opinion of
8’ long boats?

Probably too long for WW, aren’t they?
(not taking the bait)



I’m not strictly advocating 12’ minimum
But based on the information given by the OP, it’s hard to give any concrete advice. Sorry Big D, I’m going to have to disagree with you here, at least until we know a little more.

Will back up the “avoid Pelican” advice…

…and eight foot boats are good for whitewater, given the right cockpit!

And rocker.

Tempting… but…
I’ve been using my 13’ America again. I’ve found that I can flyfish from it rather comfortably. After getting used to fishing from a Wave Sport Diesel a few years ago, fishing from the America is almost like sitting on a dock it’s got such high initial stability. I’m planning to use it from time to time for quick trips on slow water when I don’t want to hook up the trailer for the Cargo or when I feel the need to burn some calories going upriver.

  • Big D

"I’m going to have to disagree with you"
I’ll reconcile myself to that some day, I’m sure.


  • Big D

I didn’t really expect you to take that deal, you know.



Why not?
The 11’ Americas are comfortable and maneuverable given that they’re flat bottom recreationals. I think they were rebadged Perception Sierras. I know a lot of guys who had the Sierras and liked them very well.

  • Big D

thankfully, civil discourse separates us from the chimpanzees…especially the psychotic ones that live here in connecticut 8-O

I started with an Old Town Rush
That at the time I thought was huge!(tall) I paddled it every day for three months, lost some weight, and immediately went into a Tempest 170 in plastic. truth is that I fell in love with the idea of kayaking and all the different aspects you could do with the right boat and equipment. I am up to 10 or 11 boats now, the shortest being 15 feet 9 inches. A 12 to 14 ft boat is more than adequate for the ponds and lazy areas you describe just like an Otter, Rush or swifty. What a 12 to 14 ft boat will do though is extend your time in it before you purchase your next boat should you get as addicted to it as most here, and will give you more opportunities for different locales or even camping options. I don’t know what the budget restraints are but bear in mind that you will need a good quality paddle for each boat, a pfd and possibly a sprayskirt. don’t forget a paddlefloat and pump! And I can’t stress the paddle part. spend some money, at least more than a 40 pair of shovels on an aluminum tube. Aquabound make decent paddles for their price point.

Definitely agree you should go to a paddle shop and talk to them, demo boats for a while, and make some decisions after your butt has been in the seat for a few hours.

If you do decide to get a recreational boat that is 8 to 10 feet long please bear in mind that there is no flotation in those boats. I doubt the big box stores would have float bags so you will need to go to a paddleshop anyway. GET FLOAT BAGS so you can displace as much water as possible. (Most 12 to 14 boats have hatches with internal volume that gives flotation. I kid you not. A nine foot boat with no flotation may not sink all the way but the coaming lip will be barely above water even with the foam blocks in the ends. If you try to get in you sink, If you try to pump the water out, you have a tremendous amount of water to get rid of and you will be exhauseted if you could even do it at all and then you will have to try and climb back on board. (Ask me how I know this)

Take a lesson or two on self rescue and assisted rescue as well as a good forward paddle stroke.


decent paddle

good pfd and maybe a sprayskirt

a whistle

float bags

paddle float and pump

some comfortable for water temperature clothes

With that you can demo boats to your hearts content

and then get a boat that you know will work for you.


Check Craigslist…
I love my Tsunami 140 and you wouldn’t outgrow it as fast as a smaller rec boat.

Also, check out used kayaks on Craigslist and you can get more boat for le$$.