boat selection

I have a question. Why do I hear so much “it is a good begginers boat”. If someone knows that they want flat water, salt, not rapids of course, why would they not be put in the direction of a really good choice of kayaks. Why trial on a cheaper or not so good in performance, why not go right away to a really good kayak, budget permitting. Just wondering.

high performance boats
Higher performance canoes and kayaks often have less initial stability than the “introductory” models. People sometimes get turned off on boating right away if they keep falling over.

A beginning boater often doesn’t yet have the techniqe to bring out the performance in a higher end boat anyway. You wouldn’t want Ferraris for the Driver’s Ed class.

The high-end boats are also more expensive, typically. There are a lot of design nuances that amount to different paddler preferences. A beginning boater may really not yet know what he or she is eventually going to want.

Having said that, if you have a pretty good notion that you are going to pursue the sport with some dedication and make the necessary investment in time, and you have an idea of where you want to wind up, buying a higher end boat initially may be a very good idea. The cost of high-quality boats keeps rising, and if you buy a quality canoe or kayak and maintain it well, you will be able to sell it more easily than an introductory boat. You may well be able to recoup most or all of your investment if you decide to change boats later.

Good boats
My 2 cents are: I saw great boats I wanted, but figured I would work up to them. All it amounted to was me wasting thousands of dollars on boats that I didn’t really want. I could have bought my dream boats way earlier if I had just gone with what I wanted. Figure out what you want to do, closely research all boats that fit your category, and then test paddle, or buy what you feel is the best. At least that way you will narrow it down to maybe a couple boats rather than many leading up the ladder to what you really need.

We are not all the same.
Whats right for me will probably not be right for someone else. One doesn’t know what to look for in a boat until he has done some paddling. Some paddle for leisure some for adventure.

I wouldn’t recommend a GSX1000 Suzuki as a starting motorcycle why recommend an expensive composite sea kayak to someone who may just want to knock around a small pond.

that’s what i did
started out with a used Capella… I would recommend taking an intro to kayaking course to learn the safety issues, how to self rescue, wet exit, basic strokes, how to get in and out… then practice on a lake or protected area… it takes some seat time but in a few months you will be well on your way…

What pblanc Said
Some folks need more stability at first. Some folks don’t. The best way to know if you should start with a more stable boat is to try lots of boats before you buy.

You usually hear that because:
the original person has asked about a particular brand/model of boat, and it is generally one they have seen at Dicks or some other big box store and those boats are all beginner boats.



Depends on what you want to do,
but I can say that if I had had the opportunity to try a solo canoe back when I first got interested, I would never have had a kayak at all.

After years of tandem canoeing together, my significant other and I tried a lot of different kayaks. He was working out of town a lot, and our 16 ft tandem was unwieldy for me, so I wanted a little boat that I could load and launch and paddle alone. I could see the advantage in the longer, skinnier touring and sea kayaks, but they were heavy. I recall saying that if I were going to get one, it would probably be the little Swifty, 9 1/2 ft, 38 pounds. I found a yellow one in the living room on my birthday.

So that was my “beginner boat” my go-alone boat, my take-everywhere boat, for many years. Then I read about solo canoes a couple of years ago, but couldn’t find one to demo until Vermont Canoe moseyed on down to Florida. I’ve had my Tupper for two months now, and I’m sure everyone is getting tired of hearing about how much I love my boat. It is 13 pounds lighter, 3 ft longer, a lot faster and almost as maneuverable as the rec kayak. I’ll probably never own another kayak.

With all the zeal of the newly converted, I can’t imagine why everyone doesn’t have one.

I notice you are in Pennsylvania, so you could easily have an opportunity to demo one of the light weight solos.

Good luck and many happy years paddling whatever you end up getting.

Good beginner boat
I have always asked myself the same question. I think that most of the time people are calling anything cheap a beginners boat with the idea that if someone takes up paddling and then decides to give it up they have not really made a huge investment.The problem with that is that those inexpensive boats are heavy and do not perform well. A good analogy might be a person wanting to take up woodworking buying cheap tools. Where as a master craftsman can still do fine work with cheap tools,because of their skill, the apprentice with very little skill would struggle with even great tools.

The other thing that I think doesn’t make sense is the person that buys a beginners boat, really enjoys the paddling and winds up buying successively better boats as their skills improve spending way more than they would have if they just bought a good boat from the start. A high performance hi end boat has a much better resale value if the new paddler decides to not continue.

I always recommend that people learn to paddle first, then buy a boat, or buy a good boat and start getting professional training right away.

IMO there is no such thing as a beginner boat. You buy a boat for the intended use and you are G2G. If cheap is the goal buy a cheap boat and …enjoy.

If you want to learn to kayak take a good lesson or 3 then buy the boat that best suits your aspirations and spend as much as you can afford.


what you are looking for
is a boat that you can use as a beginner (with good initial stability) but that has reasonable performance and that you won’t get bored with over the years. Let me suggest a couple–W/S Tempest-165 or 170, NDK Romany or NDK Explorer—and P&H Cappella–there are plenty of others that escape me at the moment but I’m sure others will chime in–the above boats may feel slightly tippy at first but you will get used them them in an hour or so and they will grow with you as your skills progress.

depends on the beginner…

– Last Updated: Jun-28-09 3:44 PM EST –

I never had a "beginner boat". Took a sea kayak class, got interested, wanted to paddle the Great Lakes, had more lessons & rentals, and finally bought an Avocet as my first boat. A "beginner boat" would have been a waste of money for me.

BUT I had lots of prior experience in small boats, was reasonably athletic & coordinated, and wasn't afraid of capsizing. Many aspiring paddlers don't have any of those advantages, and need some extra stability while they get used to being on the water and develop basic skills and confidence. There's nothing wrong with that.

If you really know what you want to do, classes before you buy will get you there faster.

I'd agree with steve that "beginner boat" is a bad label. Many boats that work well for beginners could keep you happy for a lifetime in their intended role.

I can relate!
I am a newbie kayaker who just got started a couple months ago, but being a long-time surfer and an all-conference swimmer in high-school i felt like i could probably zip right through the ‘beginner’ phase of kayaking. when shopping for a kayak i had the same instincts of the original poster.

i wound up buying a WS Tsunami 145, which i think would probably qualify as a “good beginner’s boat” but is certainly more capable than say an 11 ft recreational kayak. a few weeks in and probably 100+ miles of paddling i am already thinking about upgrading to something longer and made out of fiber-glass, but that said i am glad i started with this plastic 14.5 footer. besides the initial stability, there are other very real factors such as transporting the thing around, getting in/out of it, learning your strokes, and all that stuff. had i started with a 17 ft fiberglass boat i surely would have cracked or dented it by now and probably tipped it at least twice. there is some wisdom to learning on a boat that can be bashed around.

also, i have to disagree with some previous posters about resale value. after spending a good few weeks aggressively shopping for a used kayak, i have to say that the plastic boats that retail for around $1200 and can sell used for $700 seem to go much faster than the nicer glass sea kayaks that retail for $3000 and sell used for $2000.

The same thing goes on in WW
A good beginners boat is an older design that is more difficult to paddle but is cheap (or so some say). The most prominent example is the RPM. There are a large number of more current designs in river running boats, most with planing hulls, that are more appropriate for beginners because they have corrected mistakes in the older designs, are easier to paddle, and are easier to learn skills in. When someone says, “well, that is good enough for a beginner” and I know a beginner will struggle I get pissed off.

really good info, the kind we are looking for. Need a good boat for a young one, any suggestions.

I disagree
I don’t think that newer style kayaks are necessarily “easier to paddle” than older designs.

Obviously, shorter kayaks with flat bottoms are much easier to cartwheel, bow stall, flat spin, and do other retentive moves in, but not everyone wants to do those things or has the skill to do so.

More modern kayaks give up a lot of hull speed compared to older designs, and in my experience, they are often harder for a beginner to hold a ferry angle in, harder to roll, and certainly harder to do any kind of upstream move in.

Older designs have their advantages, as do newer designs. It depends on what you are trying to do.

You’re more right than not, but
few will admit it.

One issue is that design of longer, faster boats pretty much stopped in its tracks when the short boat revolution started. It isn’t fair to compare short planing river runners with boats like the Pirouette, when any designer with half a brain cell could improve massively on the Piroette.

Reread my post
My claim is that there are modern designed WW boats out there that are much better for beginners than the RPM. I did not claim that all playboats are better. You have distorted what I said by exaggerating what I said.

"any designer with half a brain"
could improve on the Pirouette. And they have. You know I think the Pirouette is a good boat for its time. But there are lots of boats out there that are improvements. The Dragorossi Mad Boy is one such boat that takes advantage of length but also incorporates much of what we have learned. There are other more accessible boats as well, like those from Jackson. I can’t see any reason to dis modern boats by calling them playboats when they aren’t.

You mention flat water. Have you tried a non beginner flat water boat lately. After paddling for more than 30 years and more than a dozen years in sea kayaks I still cannot keep a flatwater boat upright. I’m sure I could eventually get it but it seems like way too much work.

So a good beginner boat is a boat I think someone will be able to learn some skill AND have some nice outings without their coach right next to them.

I’ve been a lot of places and had a lot of nice days on the water with my beginner level skills and I’ve done a lot of it in beginner level boats.

So if you want to paddle to get outside and have some simple fun, I’d still steer you to beginner boats in the 14 foot range or as long as you can easily carry.

If you have more specific goals then I’d try to recommend boats appropriate for your goals.