Beginner Yak: Composite vs Plastic

Ok here is my question I am fairly new to kayaking. My wife and I have 4-5 year old hand me down Pungos. They are nice because there is no real worry of damaging them. I am considering next summer picking up a new kayak. The one that catches my eye right now is the Current Designs Kestrel.

I am wondering if composites are too unforgiving for newb?

– Jeremy

Only if scratches will give you hives

– Last Updated: Aug-16-06 5:34 PM EST –

The only diff between the two is that composites will show scratches more. But unless you will find that prohibitively depressing, no reason not to go composite. It doesn't have anything to do with stability or difficulty. I could point you at a plastic boat that could make a newbie very nervous (Nordkapp) or a composite hull that feels like a rocking chair compared to most kayaks (NDK Romany).

Composites will NOT show scratches
more. And composites can easily absorb the impacts associated with a newbie. However, for newbies, most of the time there is a plastic yak that will be cheaper and just as serviceable.

Composite is for LIGHT WEIGHT. There is no other reason worth fooling with it.

On the deck

– Last Updated: Aug-16-06 7:14 PM EST –

The decks of my composite boats show scratches from the paddle hitting or scraping it, something that didn't show on my plastic Squall with exactly similar use. That's why I got a lighter color and dealers get white or similar for a lot of their demo boats, given that they'll eventually be selling them. And the bottom and sides of both kinds of my boats have shown scratches and wear, but I can't see that when I am paddling.

Kestrel 140
My wife has the Kestrel 140 in TCS, only used about a dozen times, but it’s been a slow summer for us.

Anyway, highly reccomend from my paddling of it. Try it for yourself, and see how you feel, but Deb and I would probably vote it 10 of 10 for everything except big wind on big water, and white water.

She’s seen a few rocks with it, and her poly boat, I think they are less noticable on the TCS, but then again, it is a lighter color than the poly.



After about the second time you play the game of putting your rotomold in the sun, and try to press out the dents caused by your racks, you will want a composite.

I had a 14.5 roto that was 62 lbs. My current 16.5 compoaite (WS T165) is 48 lbs. on a scale, not mfg. spec sheet.

Piggy backing
If you don’t mind I’d like to piggy back your post a little. I was going to make a somewhat similar post about the Kestrel 120’s when I just saw yours.

I’m planning on test paddling but the dealer is about 5-6 hours away and I’m not sure if he keeps both the roto and composite in stock. The plastic is 6" shorter then the composite (12’ instead of 12’6") but the plastic is an inch narrower (25" vs 26"). I’m curious, besides the specs, what the real world differences are in the two. I’ve read a lot of great things about them and many are from people with the composites.

Do they still handle pretty similar or are they almost like different boats on the water?

Thanks and sorry for butting in.


I Like Plastic, But It Is Not Repairable
I actually prefer plastic, except for the weight, and composite boats can be as heavy as plastic, depending on the layup.

I do feel a slight edge in performance with the composite, but no real big deal.

I hear some people like fibgerglass because it is repairable, but really haven’t ever seen any badly wrecked plastic boats in my experieince.

I think anyone who paddles enough to wear out a plastic boat, is probably going to have more than one.

What kind of water?
Plastic is still the best choice for small rivers where you may be scraping bottom or banging against rocks frequently. But I love the light-weight of my plywood and glass Arctic Tern. It’s easier to lift than my very first boat–a plastic OT Otter. For big water, you’ll love a lighter boat everytime you load/unload it. And the stiffer hull is nice, too.

Kestrel 120…
Only the Std. RM 120 is 25" The HV RM 120 is 26" as are the others.

You may not notice much difference in the water… All nice boats.

I had a Std. 120 and thought is was a great rec boat.