Beginners Kayak, PDF, Paddle

Hello folks! New here, forgive me for the obvious rookie question’s.

I have never been in a kayak, but am determined to do so this summer. I live “near” several lakes and rivers. I am 5’11 and 165lbs.

I am curious what you guys would suggest for a good beginners kayak, PDF, and paddle. Lets try to keep the price range “low”.

Also, what brands and types would you NOT recommend.



Look for a used boat in the 12’-14’ range. Don’t waste your money on any thing shorter as you will outgrow it very fast. Quite often with a used boat they will throw in a PFD and a paddle. Some good choices are Wilderness systems Pungo’s 12 or 14’ Necky Manitou 13 or 14’.

What lakes and rivers

– Last Updated: Feb-24-16 7:39 PM EST –

If it is the great lakes it affects the answer. If it is rivers with rapids it also affects the answer.

There are not really beginner kayaks. There are kayaks for beginning kayakers who don't have any skills. But if you plan to get some skills, you will want a boat that can help you build them rather than hold you back.

(Oops, just caught the Indiana profile...)

I Used to be a Hoosier
Nail Ah’m a Tarheel.

Central Indiana means no whitewater. Tippecanoe and Tyler Too. Wawa See!

For economy, find a used kayak in the 14 foot range. Get yourself an economy life vest. (It ain’t a pdf)

Whoever sells you the kayak will probably throw in a paddle.

You have a start. If you like it, you’ll be buying better shtuff soonly. If you don’t like it, you can re-sell and break even.

Some articles you may want to read on California Kayaker Magazine (can be read online for free at

Issue #10/Spring 2013 - article on Types of Kayaks will give you the basics on the different types of kayaks out there so you can hopefully guide yourself to the type that would work best for you.

Issue #7/Fall 20122 - article on Taking Classes vs School of Hard Knocks - hopefully convince you the value of taking a class (or classes) over just buying and going at it.

Beginner Class!
Find a local dedicated paddle shop - not a sporting goods or big box store - and take a beginner class. It will be a few hours very well spent and will introduce you to all the equipment and terminology. You’ll have a lot of fun too!

Afterwards you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you want.

What are you willing to spend?

an option in your state

– Last Updated: Feb-25-16 2:11 PM EST –

I checked the local Indiana Craigslist posts and there is a real poverty of options. BUT there is one that might be well worth looking at if it is still available (listed 3 days ago and likely will not last long). They are throwing in a good Werner paddle and a roof rack for $450 which is really a very good package deal -- just the paddle is probably worth $130. It's a Necky Spike sit on top but it has a rudder and is a reasonable length. It is an older model but has some good reviews on here. A little wide, but it should be fine for recreational use in any lakes and rivers in your area. Owners even report using it in mild whitewater and for coastal surfing. Pretty versatile boat, though being an SOT it will be a wet ride in many conditions. And it is a boat you could probably get most of your money back on if you decide eventually you want something with difference characteristics and choose to sell it:

By the way, a PDF is a "portable document format" file. I think you meant a PFD ("personal flotation device"). With the money you will save if you get that kayak set up you could buy a really nice PFD, like an Astral V-8.

The boat floats that’s a good deal on an older yak.

brands to avoid
Brands to avoid: Sun Dolphin, Pelican and Future Beach (pretty much anything you would find at Walmart or the other big box discount stores.) These are all boat-shaped plastic pool toys with little resemblance to real kayaks in performance, quality or safety features.

And be wary of older used kayaks with the Aquaterra brand. Some of these are great boats and others are a pain in the butt. Short, fat and wide rec boats like Swiftys, Waldens and Otters are also less than optimal if you want versatility and to develop paddling skills, though they are fine for drifting and bird watching. Older used boats often have serious oil-canning (large flat spots melted into the bottom of the hull due to improper storage.) And you should never buy any boat until you have sat in the seat to see how if fits, preferably in the water. Or at least tried something very similar on the water. Most good kayaking outfitter shops will have Spring on-the-water demo days – watch for them in your area, even if you buy a boat now. Even though I have owned over a dozen kayaks (current fleet is still 6) I never miss a chance to try something different.

Honestly, until you’ve actually experienced kayaking you are not going to know what kind of paddling really appeals to you and what kinds of waters you might want to explore. Do you like reasonable speed, handling and adventure or low effort relaxation?

Craigslist deals

– Last Updated: Feb-25-16 7:57 PM EST –

I saw that add the other day, and it does seem to be a pretty good deal. My only gripe is it being a sit on top style. I do not mind getting wet, but I would like to use my boat during fall and winter. Brrrr

The only "paddle shop" I can find near me is an REI. I am a member of their Co-Op so I would really like to purchase gear from them! Classes would be great, but I can only find a summer-fall outdoor classes. Id really like to get started sooner than that if possible. I'll go into my local REI this weekend and ask around.

"But if you plan to get some skills, you will want a boat that can help you build them rather than hold you back." Great advice!!

Paddle shops
Since your profile identifies you as being in central Indiana, try doing a google search for: paddle shop Indianapolis. There seems to be a few listed. Just based on their website I would check out Rusted Moon Outfitters. It is difficult when 1st starting out to know what type of kayak you want. My general suggestion would be to look at 12’-14’ models. For entry level paddles look for fiberglass shaft in the $100 to $130 range (new prices)from makers such as Werner, and Aqua Bound, there are others I’m sure. Avoid the really inexpensive aluminum shaft / plastic blade paddles. As for PFD; a Coast Guard approved Type 3 that is comfortable and fits properly. If you are looking to start paddling before summer, be sure to read up on the hazards of cold water submersion. Dress for the water temperature. Check if REI or other outfitters offer boats for demo or rental. Some places will apply the rental fee to the purchase price of a new boat if you buy within a certain time frame.

admire your enthusiasm
That you have never kayaked but are already interested in going out year round!

Actually, this will require more than just having a sit inside kayak. You’d need to invest in $300 to $1000 worth of cold water protective clothing for that (a wet suit minimally, a dry suit optimally) and have reliable self rescue skills.

It really all depends on your intended use. If you just want something that is stable and that you can paddle on calm waters, then look into a recreational boat - I’d suggest something at least 12’ in length.

If you will want a bit more of a challenge then a narrower and longer boat (which will be faster) with fixed bulkheads fore and aft (so the thing will float if you tip it) is mandatory.

Looking at REI’s website, they have a Boreal Ookpik on sale for $650 which is a very good price and could be a terrific multi-purpose boat for you. I don’t know if REI offers rentals or try outs, but go see if your local store has one in stock that you can at least sit in.

good deal on Kokatat paddling pants

– Last Updated: Feb-28-16 12:11 AM EST –

That is a REALLY good deal for a new kayak. A little heavy but it has all the safety features and performance you could need for most usage. Per the reviews it even fits pretty big guys.

(sorry for the confusing post header -- I didn't notice that the site "auto-fill" converted my simple "good deal" into a previous title I had used last year! There's no option to edit the post header.)

I agree
If I didn’t already have a somewhat similar kayak, I’d be jumping at that.

Boreal makes a really nice kayak, even if they’re now manufactured in China.

I’m not sure where the Kokatat pants come into the equation though. :-o

post header "auto-fill"
You have to watch – this site has an “auto fill” (like Google search does) for the “subject” header. I just typed “good deal” and it automatically expanded it to another header I had written over a year ago that started with the same two words. Can’t edit the header so it will have to stay that way.

Good to know.

BEST advice
Take a lesson, try out kayaks on the water, even if you have to travel. The difference in your safety, your knowledge for buying the right boat, and your enjoyment is quite significant.

You can easily buy a SOT or a SINK rec kayak from anywhere, but you won’t know if it’s where you really want to be, even if it’s cheap.

I didn’t and started in an online purchased Emotion Glide. Excellent rec kayak for starters, but needed the addition of a bow float bag for safety ($35 from them). Fast for a rec kayak, stable, fine on lakes and rivers, but seriously NOT for open ocean water (or the Great Lakes). And I can keep up with longer sea kayaks until wind or tide shows the real difference in boat performance. However, this is still a rec kayak, a small play boat for flat water.

Taking lessons later showed me what I could have bought instead.