Boat size

My wife and I are about to plunge into kayaking. Our interest are in some flatwater but getting into some rivers as well. So far I’m leaning toward the Dagger Axis boat. Some recommend the 12ft for me and 10.5ft for her while others say the 10.5 is fine for me. I like the idea of the more maneuverable 10.5 but will our time on flatwater suffer? Which would be best for me?

To properly answer, we need some
weights. If you are over 200 lbs, a 12’ boat is not going to be enough as you become a better paddler. I wouldn’t put anyone over child size in a 10.5’ boat.

I have seen too many instances where a boat that is too small for the weight works the paddler like a dog.

If all you will ever want to do is piddle around, no problem. If you ever plan to do 10 miles or more,get longer boats.

Once you have some seat time, there is no reason that a 12 ft, or even a 14 ft boat, should be difficult to maneuver. Anything under 12 ft tends to lack some basic safety features that you’ll find out you desire in the first capsize or self-rescue lesson, and tends to be slow on the flat.

The Axis is also a hybrid, for some moving water. You an go that way, or pick up a used WW boat for anything moving and get a boat that’ll work well for flats. The WW folks turn these things around like candy.

So - where do you plan to paddle, and what are you prepared to go out and learn about how to kayak?

Additional information
I fluctuate in the 190-200lbs range. My wife, closer to 120lbs. We’ll be spending time on lakes but really have more interest in rivers. A couple of local rivers that come to mind are the Clinch River in VA and Holston River in TN. Both are mostly tame but have small sections that are more adventurous. As far as getting out and learning, I want to use our time on the lakes to learn boat control and rolling. We’ll work our way up to bigger rivers.

You’re probably wasting your time learning to roll in a boat for flatwater if you are on lakes all the time. Simple self rescue is plenty for the odd chance you flip away from shore. If you want to do the upper reaches of those rivers you probably want two different boats. And learn to roll the whitewater boat. I know after I paddled flatwater in a hybrid boat I wanted a better flatwater boat and a canoe for whitewater rivers. But that’s just me. Either way you go you’ll be paddling and that’s all that matters. At least go with the 12.5.

Good luck

Ryan L.

Boat size
Many retailers will let you test paddle a boat before you buy, thats probably the best way to figure it out.

For myself I started out in a 9.5’ and it was fine but eventually found it was too slow and have since moved on to a 13.5’ and have noticed no difference in maneuverabilty.

Find demo days

– Last Updated: Apr-11-11 1:05 PM EST –

You can even get some free advice from the safety folks on the water at these. They should be happening soon. And used boats often come up at a good price.

You need to be attentive to fitting out your wife. 120 pounds means she is probably not terribly tall, and/or on the small side in build. You want some room to move around, but she won't have an easy time in a boat that comes nearly to her sternum and feels like she could fit two of her in there. That is assuming that you want her to pursue skills with you.

I am not sure about how the Axis would actually fit your wife, but Flatpick's post below suggesting that it is a perfectly capable at handling a full adult causes me to wonder how easy it'll be for your wife to find the water easily with her paddle. 120 pounds tends to run at the upper edge of boats intended for not-yet-adults. If you look at the dimensions of the Tsunamis for her size from Wilderness Systems - the SP and the 135 for example, you'll find they are significantly narrower and shallower boats. I think you'll see the same kind of change if you look at the Jackson WW river runners, which are well tuned for smaller size, at least in cockpit fit. They are planing hull boats so you have to think about width and depth differently than in touring boats or most hybrids.

either for both
the Axis in either size will fit you fine. The 10’er is more geared to tight maneuvering and the 12 is a better cruiser. Obviously, String has never paddled in the 10, which is a very capable adult-sized boat.

Since these are cross-over styled boats they will handle the more adventurous, swift moving rivers (read- very mild whitewater) and with the longer waterline and retractable skeg, will also handle lakes and flat water. You could do better in real ww in a ww boat and better in lakes/ flatwater in a different boat designed for flatwater BUT for crossing over to BOTH the Axis works fine!

steve (who aided in their development)

And how are they for learning

The OP indicated he wanted to do that too.

I find no indication of bulkheads which would assist in rescue in any water. Are there any?

I need to get out more.
Still thinking about ECCKF.

difficult to answer your question
I think you will have to try paddling some boats of different lengths to get a feel for what your will prefer.

Demos are great, but they usually limit you to test paddling the boats on flat water. That is better than nothing, but it doesn’t allow you a good feel for what the boat will do in current.

Someone with a background tending towards sea kayaking is going to consider a boat in the 10-11’ range ridiculously short. Nowadays, someone with a whitewater kayaking background is going to consider a boat in the 10 - 11’ range as ridiculously long, although plastic whitewater boats were that length in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The so-called cross-over designs have become somewhat popular in recent years. These tend to have retractable skegs and a stern bulkhead with a “waterproof hatch”. That might be convenient for you if you anticipate day trips or overnight trips carrying gear. The cross-over boats are intended to be capable whitewater river runners that paddle tolerably well on flat water. Interestingly, they are not as efficient on flat water as some of the “full on” whitewater boats of the 1980s and early 1990s, however.

It sounds to me as if your primary focus is probably going to be river paddling and you don’t anticipate paddling long stretches on flat water. If that is so, you don’t need to have the most efficient hull. Even a relatively mild downstream current will make a less efficient but more maneuverable hull enjoyable to paddle.

I think your goal of learning to roll is a good idea, regardless of what type of kayaking you intend to do. You will want to be sure to buy kayaks for which decent spray skirts are available. Many recreational kayaks have cockpits so large that even if skirts are available, they tend to pop off relatively easily when capsized, so they are relatively useless for rolling.

You don’t need to have bulkheads in your kayak to roll or learn to roll. Virtually no whitewater kayaks have waterproof bulkheads, although some have a movable (non-waterproof) front bulkhead that serves as a footrest. They do, however, all have hull-stiffening, foam, vertical central pillars and I would recommend that any boat that you buy for river usage have them as they resist the boat collapsing if pinned in the current. Some rec kayaks have no pillars and no bulkheads, and will fold easily.

For river use, any kayak you buy that does not have a waterproof storage area (that also serves as flotation) can be equipped with a pair of inflatable bags that serve this purpose very well.

I rolled …
an Axis 12 last week without a spray deck (mine wouldn’t fit). It was, surprising to me, quite easy to roll (until it filled with water and I couldn’t get it to capsize).

I would not recommend this for learning to roll, over say, an old school ww boat, but it would do in a pinch. My biggest problem was finding a way to lock my knees under the cockpit - it does not have thigh braces.

To the OP: I’d give an edge to the Dagger Approach if you will be doing more trips in moving water and light whitewater versus lake travel. It has thigh braces which helps to control the boat better in moving water. Try them both if you get a chance.

For your wife…

– Last Updated: Apr-12-11 9:38 AM EST –

I looked in the Dagger line at hybrids, and the Approach 9.0 is a better fit in terms of volume and configuration for your wife. Its max volume is 200 lbs, which leaves plenty of room for her to add gear. The Approach also appears to come with integrated thigh braces, something that matter hugely if you want to roll. Picture bare knees sliding around against hard plastic...

I couldn't find any other hybrids tuned for someone her size, but I may have missed something.

You really need to be sure that she is in a boat that is well suited for her size and makes her feel like she has good control. If she is pushing a boat that is a barge for her, you are less likely to have a long term companion for paddling. Suffice to say it happens a lot that the guy decides everyone should get into kayaking, buys something too big for the wife because they don't understand things yet and ends up paddling alone.

One more thing while I am here - one common mistake is for guys to get smaller people a paddle with a big blade thinking it'll make it easier for the significant other to keep up. But it works exactly the opposite - you need a smaller blade for the smaller person. A really big blade is tiring and inefficient for a smaller person to get thru the water.

Pyranha Fusion S
The Dagger Approach 9.0 has a volume of 250 liters or 66 gallons.

The Pyranha Fusion S is a cross-over design of identical volume. It is 8" longer and a quarter inch narrower, so probably a bit faster. It has a slightly smaller cockpit than the Approach 9.0:

kayak trials
We have had the chance to paddle a couple of different boats. One was a Dagger 12ft sit in, unsure of the model, and the other a Wilderness System 14ft sit on top fishing boat. She had no problem paddling either of the boats. Buying her a larger paddle never crossed my mind. I’m the one having a problem keeping up. Her lighter weight has the boat out of the water more reducing her hydrodynamic drag making her paddle strokes more efficient. I’m not worried about speed, just having fun and playing on the water.

I paddle an Axis 12
and I really like it well. I mostly do class 2, low 3 and really like this boat. It is very easy to turn and tracks like a dream with the skeg down.

Also, it does not come with thigh braces but they are available from Dagger. They bolt right in and really improve your control.

The boat is great for overnight and even extended trips. If you don’t want multiple boats then this is the boat for you.

Windage, rolling

– Last Updated: Apr-12-11 2:12 PM EST –

It is not necessary to be squeezed in there, but the aspects that make a boat easier to roll (and especially to learn rolling in), include three solid points of contact - seat, feet and thighs - and a volume that is tuned to the paddler's size.

As an example, I did roll my husband's Inazone 232 or 242 that was too big a volume for me. But I literally came up panting by the third round because it took so much effort. I could never have learned to roll in the boat. But I've never had a lick of problem rolling my own Inazone, one that is a much lower volume. Same design, big diff in volume.

As to windage... this is not always a good thing. The more hull that is offered to the wind, the harder the boat is to manage when the wind starts kicking up. The difference can be noticeable at just 10 mph, a not uncommon wind speed across water. That's why canoes are often harder to handle in more open water than kayaks.

There is a sweet spot on a kayak's waterline, where it is loose enough to maneuver well and low enough to track as intended. The canoe folks tend to be clearer about this than kayak makers - if you look at canoes you'll see a listing for how many pounds of load it takes to sink a boat 2 inches, or 4 inches, that kind of thing. But the same applies for kayaks.

You don't have any problem sinking a boat at your weight - you are in the weight range that kayak makers have traditionally designed for well. But the field is much less crowded with apt boats for your wife at 120 pounds. It is relatively recent in the time of kayaks that the manufacturers have addressed this size person at all, let alone well.

Demo Day at Boone Lake

– Last Updated: Apr-12-11 12:03 PM EST –

I see you're in my area, somewhere in NE TN or SWVA. There will be a demo day next weekend, the 23rd I think, at Winged Deer Park in Johnson City on Boone Lake. You can call Mahoney's in Johnson City or Abindgon to verify the date and time. I saw the flyer up in the boat section while I was there Saturday. There are supposed to be reps from most of the major kayak manufacturers there with several different models from each company. Sounds like a great opportunity for you to try some out.
Good luck, and have fun shopping,

10 foot boats
10 foot boats are miserable for paddling in a lake. An hour long paddle of just four miles will seem like a chore. 10 to 15 miles days are really really hard. I’d highly recommend that you get and easy turning boat that is at least 12 feet long and 14 feet long is a lot better.

For your wife I’d recommend that she try the WS tsunami 135 and you should try the 145. Not the easiest boats to roll but good for day tripping, camping, and class 2 WW.

My point was that a 12’ boat is
typically too small for a 200 lb paddler,because it bogs down when paddled hard.

One thing you learn as you paddle more is that paddles do not need to be big or long. They need to fit you and the boat.There are legions of paddlers who started with 240cm paddles who have downsized. I did and now use a 225 for my wide boat (Tarpon 140) and a 215 for the sea kayak.