Best For Newbie

I tried kayaking last summer and liked it and want to get one of my own. Right now stores are having sales so I’d like to get one while the getting is good. I’m currently looking at Dunham’s sports (look in their online ad this week) but it’s the Future Beach Vector 124 it looks like a good all around boat, but there’s one possible issue I have, I’m right at the 250 lb. weight limit for that particular model, do you think that will be an issue? I don’t plan on carrying a bunch of extra stuff with me (maybe a fishing pole and a few essentials, nothing real heavy). My budget is a maximum of 400, does this seem like a good choice or should I get something with a higher weight capacity, they had another kayak at the store, that wasn’t quite as nice but it did have a higher capacity, but it was smaller (narrower and shorter so I don’t understand why it has a higher capacity).

Thanks in advance!

Be easier if…

– Last Updated: Mar-28-11 8:54 AM EST –

you mentioned where you would be paddling and whether with others. The shorter, wider starter boats like the one you are looking at hit their limitations fairly quickly if you are thinking ocean, not so fast in ponds and slow flat rivers.

If you are thinking about going longer or with others, you'd have a better chance to enjoy it with something closer to the 14 ft range. You also may step up to a forward bulkhead as well as the rear one. This would assure that the boat would float rather than point to the bottom in a capsize without your having to spring for a float bag up front.

That said, the Vector does seem to be at the upper end of their sit-inside boats with at least one bulkhead back and some bungies. I have a hard time believing that these boats have the same performance as something like a Nordkapp as the ad infers, but they look fine to get started.

$400 can get you into more boat by going used, and you may live in an area where boats will be coming up for sale now. People new to kayaking often don't realize that there is a kayak/canoe club near them, with a possible source of very decent used boats.

Whatever you get, your budget also needs to include PFD, a few inexpensive safety items and maybe a couple of clothing items you will find you want.

The paddle can be a cheap one, but your arms will thank you if you spend up a little for one that is lighter weight.

Looking at the website for those boats, it took me a minute to realize that they’re naming the boats by the length in INCHES, not feet, as many others do. So a Vector 144 is not 14 feet, as I assumed, but 144 inches long. (12 feet).

My hats off to the marketing department!

probably too small for you
The proportions of that boat suggest to me that it is too small for you. Not only will your weight cause it to ride low in the water, it is not designed to be particularly fast and at that short length it will be very tedious for you to paddle. If you are alone you may not mind, but if you begin paddling with other people it may be frustrating to be unable to keep pace with them.

As Celia points out, you need to budget for a paddle (a good one new starts around $100 – best not to cut corners there) and a decently comfortable PFD will run at least $40 and up. Add a spray skirt and bilge pump and you are over $200 just for the accessories. If you really can only swing $400, you would do better to watch Craigslist for a used boat. That is usually the best option for a “newbie” anyway and they often throw in a paddle and even a PFD. This is a great time of year to find used boats because people are getting them out of the basement or garage from last year and deciding to get a new or different boat. Used kayak ads have surged in my area lately.

Most people who really get into kayaking end up upgrading their first boat anyway, as they get a feel for what they want to do with it and how they want it to perform. One advantage besides initial low cost of a used boat is that the resale will be closer to what you paid for it. Kayaks, like new cars, lose a lot of value when they “drive off the lot.”

For your size (your height will be a factor too, even you shoe size – some boats are too low inside the hull for size 12 and up feet) I would stick to boats at least 12 feet long and more favorably 14 or 15 feet. They will track better and be easier to paddle faster, also will have the volume so they won’t ride too low in the water. I find a 14 to 15 foot light touring kayak very versatile for both flat and moderately fast water. Watch the weight of the boat too – many cheap boats are ridiculously heavy (the one you are considering seems overly heavy to me for its size) and that makes them a pain to load and transport, often reducing your use and enjoyment.

If you see boats for sale on Craigslist, you can always post a question about the make and model here (be sure and include your height, weight and intended use) and you will get feedback from people familiar with the models as to their opinions on whether that boat would suit your needs.

Thanks for the advice so far, I’ll mostly be doing casual, short trip sorts of things. Where I live in Michigan there are many smaller lakes and smooth rivers that I’ll be going to. I don’t plan on going on long trips or anything like that. Maybe I’ll do some more shopping around and look for something longer, it’s too cold to go out right now anyway.

where in MI?
Ask your Dunhams if they have demo days. If not - ask them why not.

I’m not trying to pick on Dunhams exclusively but they’re one of the big boxes that sells kayaks that are hobby-killers. Uncomfortable, flimsy, and poor performers.

If you’re in SE (or SW) MI, there are plenty of resources to try out boats before you buy, and plenty of used kayak opportunities where you can get more for your dollar.

I’m in southwest MI, half way between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. The kayak that my cousin has is actually on sale at MC Sports this week for $400 (I either didn’t notice this at the store or ignored it because I was looking for cheaper at the time). It’s a 12 footer and I’ve used one so I know I fit in it and it’s comfortable.

Check out these folks
I am guessing that they are about 60 miles from you, a reasonable drive to get set up correctly. They look like they know what they are about and may have a decent assortment of used boats.

Quiet World Sports in Jacjson, MI

Lee’s Adventures

– Last Updated: Mar-29-11 10:20 AM EST –

They are close to Kalamazoo

Their closest demo day is on May15. Demo day - you bring your posterior, they bring their boats.

mark - call these guys

– Last Updated: Mar-29-11 9:51 AM EST –

Lee's Adventure Sports in Portage, MI:

The link I posted is to their demo days in May. But you may want to make a trip over there earlier.
finding a comfortable boat on dry land is only half of the equation. You'll thank yourself if you demo something and find out what you like when in the water. I sure wish I had.

EDIT: Celia and Suiram beat me to it. Both very good options that will be more than willing to help a newbie.

additional plug
The Famed/Notorious Keith of instructs for Lee’s.

Go, Kayak Now!

Your location
One thing that I spotted when I mapped a line from Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo was that you are within 50 miles of Lake Michigan.

This means that you are within very tempting reach of a body of water that can be surprisingly challenging.

I know that you are saying just flat quiet stuff here, but you may want to include budgeting for a guided tour on the big lake to see how you respond to the bigger water. No one starts out wanting to take that kind of paddling on, but as you get more seat time those bigger venues start to look awfully appealing. Better to know earlier on that’s where you want to end up.

thanks suiram - another good source
I should have thought of that one.

Lots of good people and outlets in this state to help one get started.

"West Michigan Coastal Kayaker’s Association" are partially responsible for the disorganized paddling in your area, check them out

They also hold kayaking symposium at the end of May

second this!
I paddle there often. Some great sandy beaches and at times, challenging (and fun!) surf.

I think I found it! Will go to the store tomorrow and just give it a sit and see if it’s comfortable. it’s right on the front page this week, it’s the Perception America 11. It’s a foot shorter than the other one but has a higher weight limit (450 as opposed to 400, still got plenty of extra but the further I am away from the limit the higher it will ride in the water and be easier to paddle I understand), It’s got good reviews on the site here, and it’s $100 cheaper than the other.

Or do you guys think it would be beneficial to get the extra foot in length, reviewers said it handled well and one guy was even bigger than me said it was OK.

If I like this at the store I think we have a winner (just kinda hope they have it in blue)!

I think…
that you don’t have enough paddling time right now to choose a boat that is likely to be a long hold for you. So if you are going to jump now it should be a really good deal on the price.

BTW, sitting too high in the water isn’t a whole lot more fun to handle when the wind comes up than plowing water when you are too low. But it does pose fewer initial stability issues.

That’s a rec/touring boat. Nothing wrong with that at all, as long as you know what you’re getting into. Not sure why it’s not listed on Perception’s website.

It may be the boat for you but a comparison with something else might be in order. OTOH the price is good and you can always (try) and sell it if you want something more down the road.

Better shops for you

– Last Updated: Mar-30-11 11:06 AM EST –

Wow, now that I know where you live I can tell you much better sources for kayaks, gear and instruction. I started kayaking during the 8 years I lived in Grand Rapids -- you are within spittin' distance of two of the best outfitters in the state, Earth's Edge in Grand Haven (currently having a pre-season sale on some great boats) and the Outpost in Holland (if you can get over the "Village of the Damned" creeps that town always gives me). I bought my beloved first sea kayak, a Feathercraft Kahuna, from the Outpost.

In fact, if you can hold off a bit, Earth's Edge does demo days on the channel in the Spring where you can test paddle all sorts of models. They are terrific folks who know their kayaks well and will really educate and help you make a good selection. They also offer classes, as I recall.

You owe it to yourself to visit those shops (in fact, I am jealous that you are so close to them) -- you may be pleasantly surprised to find that you can afford a really nice boat that will give you more enjoyment than the plastic bathtub rec boats.

EDIT: Hmm. Just checked their website and it appears The Outpost has switched from kayaks to stand-up paddle boards. But it might be worth calling them to see if they still sell any 'yaks.

SECOND EDIT: There's a guy in Walker selling a Necky Looksha for $600 on Craigslist.

Excellent price for that boat and you could take it anywhere, including the "Big" lake.

Looksha specs
Here’s the factory specs on that used kayak – would be a great starter kayak for your size, and one with good resale value if you decide you want something else:

It may already be sold though.