I’m looking at getting a kayak for some lake trips along with doing some easy white water…class 1, 3 and MAYBE 3. I’ve rafted up to class 5, but never kayaked them. I’m looking at the Dagger Axis 10.5 and also the Dagger Katana 9.7. Both have a drop down skeg. Any suggestions?
The real question is:
do you have room in your garage for 2 kayaks ; ?
you are looking for the white whale
Many people have looked for the do-everything kayak (including me) with no success and wind up with water specific boats. It is frustrating to take a WW boat on flat water, and possibly dangerous to take a flatwater boat on WW.
I have owned, or still own, a Dagger Alchemy, Wilderness Systems Zephyr and a Liquid Logic Stinger, all boats are capable of doing what you have stated. The Stinger is a terrible flatwater boat when side by side with the other two. If I had to choose one boat for multi tasking I would choose the Zephyr.
Kayaks are sort of like golf clubs, you could drive a golf ball with a putter, but it is not very effective or fun.
I have owned an Axis, itis a good entry level boat to find out what you really want to do, but you will probably wind up selling or trading for a more water specific boat.
The reality is you can used 10'-12' rec kayaks as well as 14+ touring kayaks to go down white water. You can use a whitewater kayak on a lake. You will have a better experience using the right kayak as well being safer if crap goes bad, especially in whitewater.
I own a Dagger Axis 12 and LiquidLogic Remix XP10. I have used both boats on FW and WW class 1-3.
I really enjoy my XP10 on whitewater but you should consider crossover kayaks as longer more stable, thus easy for beginners, whitewater river runners. The addition of the skeg allows them to behave like a similar size rec kayak on flat water -- they will go straight (even if you don't constantly paddle) but will be slow. Crossovers are really moving water kayaks. On flat sections of rivers they are great while getting to the next set of rapids. I also like my XP10 on narrow twisting streams, where the short length and easy turning is an advantage. But I only take it to lakes to practice paddling or if my friends borrowed my other kayaks. Paddling it feels like you are always fighting. If you just want a slow mellow stable paddle they are fine but if you want to paddle for a few hours and see some sights you will get a hell of a workout and start thinking about a new kayak.
The Axis isn't really a crossover like the XP10, Katana, Rogue, etc. It has some slight whitewater styling (rounded bottom but a partial keel, a bow pillar) but you probably need to add the thigh pads depending how big you are in the legs. Tracking is great on the Axis, even without the skeg. My 12 is pretty nimble (with the skeg up) but nowhere near as much as my XP10 -- the 10' is probably better but still would it expect it to be outclassed by any of the crossovers. On lakes a 12' is the minimum I would want to be in at this point. A bit slow but at least you don't feel like paddling is struggle and you can keep them at a nice cruising speed.
The Axis is nice on moving flat water. On whitewater it is just OK. The bow/stern keel can unbalance you if it hits a rock, where a crossover/WW kayak rounded bow/stern would just glance off it. Your approach to most rapids is to go straight trying to avoid going over any rocks. It edges pretty well but you are not going to be able to make really sharp turns. It is fine if you got some water under you and punching through wave trains is fun but when the water gets shallower and you get more rocks the keel can make it feel very unstable. Also, in panic situations I have had the foot pads unlock when punching down.
Still I had many fun years of paddling my Axis. I can't bring myself to sell it even though for flat water I replaced it with a 15.5' kayak and white water I use my XP10. The XP10 is now my shallow water narrow stream kayak as well but I still take the Axis out sometimes.
My advice (to you and myself if I could go back in time 10 years) is figure out what paddling you are going to do more of over the next year. If flat water I would consider an Axis 12 the entry level but you probably should look at longer 14-15' kayaks. If whitewater then consider getting training first before buying a kayak.
I’d just add, think about where you are going to go paddling. If you live near a lot of flat water then that’s what you’ll probably end up paddling the most. If you’re near ww then that will become your primary focus.
Kayak for Beginner for FW and WW
The two boats you mentioned are what I consider to be ‘compromise’ boats. And, like any good compromise, all parties are left disappointed by it.
The skegs will make them feel about 2’ longer than they actually are when deployed so they will track a bit better on flat water. But, there’s always a but, with their rounded hulls and minimal keels you will still struggle to go straight.
Another compromise is in the seating position. In my book, the seats are designed for keeping your weight forward so you can more easily dig in for maneuvering in tight spots. That same position will get tiresome and uncomfortable during a long, lazy paddling session.
Good luck with your search. Have fun with whatever you choose.