Buy a New Boat?

Hi all. I’m a relatively new paddler, and I’m hooked! I’ve taken some lessons, and done some independent paddling through rentals, and am now considering buying my first boat. I thought I might solicit some experienced advice from the community.

First, should I forge ahead in looking for a new boat, or wait until I’m a bit more experienced? I’m already forming opinions on the boats I’ve tried, but I wonder if after a couple more months of paddling the dynamics of the same boats will feel remarkably different. On the other hand, renting boats is starting to feel like throwing money away, money that could be perhaps better spent on my own boat.

Second, what is the best way to shop for a new boat? My approach has been to try out different boats from the rental fleets of the various local outfitters. Although the local guys carry some of the main brands (Necky, Current Designs), there are a lot of brands that I don’t have local access to. I can’t imagine buying a boat without giving it a good “test drive” first. Is it common practice to buy boats sight-unseen or untested?

PS Of the boats I’ve tried, the Current Designs Solstice GTS (high volume) has been my favorite. It’s fast (or seems so to me) and tracks well, but it doesn’t exactly turn on a dime. I assume once I learn to edge that maneuvering will be a bit easier in a boat like this?

buy a boat
No question, buy a boat, better yet 2.

If you have your own boat your skill will increase based on the fact that you will have more invested in your sport, and more importantly, you will have started to develop a personality and style as a paddler. A note of caution, it is adictive, I own 2 boats, but in the last year I bought 2 and sold 2 (I would have liked to keep them but I needed the cash for a new one). As a begginer it may be wise to buy used because you may grow out of it or decide it is not for you. Most used boats are great, just be sure you get a good look at it (or have a better paddler look at it) or better yet paddle it first.


What’s your height, weight? That’s a lotta volume boat.

The Solstice GTS HV is a great boat for its era and for speed, it is not terribly friendly to stuff like rolling and sculling. Just a matter of its time and the boat design that was going on. But your liking the boat is a pretty timely comment on when/how to buy. For a tripping boat you’d probably do fine with the Solstice, but if you see wet work or ocean surf in your future you’d also end up wanting another boat before long.

Bottom line is maybe to start with used boats and preserve a little cash while you go thru the growing stages. You need a boat to get started, but odds are you’ll need a different one to keep going at some point.

Try before buy

– Last Updated: Sep-05-06 3:18 PM EST –

Sounds like you're doing well!

Most new paddlers paddlers find that their boats magically become more stable and easier to paddle straight after logging some seat time. Turning does become easier when you get comfortable edging and leaning, but some designs are more comfortable on edge than others.

It's good that you're aware that your developing skills may change your taste in boats. One way to deal with that is to buy a used boat that you like now, even if it's not "perfect", with the expectation that you'll be replacing it in a year or so. Another option is to buy a boat that fits your goals, even if it feels a bit challenging, and develop your skills accordingly.

The most common beginner buying mistakes are probably buying something that's too wide and slow because it feels stable, or buying a high-volume boat for their expedition dreams instead of a lower-volume boat that matches their day-paddling reality. The progression from rec boat to expedition sea kayak to lower-volume sea kayak is a familiar tale among experienced paddlers.

Absolutely demo before you buy. If dealers aren't helpful, try to find a paddling club -- folks are usually pretty good about letting people try their boats. A symposium can be a great opportunity to try boats you can't find locally.

If you'd like ideas about specific boats, tell us more about your size, the kind of paddling you'd like to do, and why you have/haven't liked the boats you've paddled.

won’t turn, no matter how experienced you are. They even wrote a song about it “Give me 40 acres and I’ll turn this thing around” :smiley:

more info
Thanks for the very helpful and friendly replies! One of the things drawing me to this sport is that the community seems to be really mature, genuinely friendly, and eager to help newbies.

More information about me: I’m 32 yrs old (as of today, actually), 6’ even and about 180 lbs. I would consider myself to be in good physical shape – I bike and run pretty often (although kayaking has taken more of my weekend workout time lately, which is just fine with me, I’ve been loving it).

I suspect that most of my kayaking time will be day-tripping, just because like most of us, I work a day job (that is sometimes a night and weekend job as well, sigh). However, I do enjoy multi-day camping on occasion, and so I would like a boat with the capability to handle that sort of thing (probably in the 2-3 day range).

I live in Maryland, just north of DC, so there are plenty of good paddling venues locally –Potomac, Chesapeake, Maryland eastern shore, etc, and I want to try them all. Maybe I’m perverse, but I enjoy a bit of surf (although I might feel differently in 5 foot waves!)

I didn’t really gravitate towards the Solstice because it offered a large amount of storage capacity (to be honest, I really don’t have a good feel for what is a “lot” of capacity in a kayak, having only done day trips to date). The features that make it attractive to me are its speed, tracking ability, and overall fit. I feel like I’m really dialed in and efficient in the boat. Other boats I’ve tried felt sluggish in comparison, or just didn’t fit me as well, although admittedly I haven’t been able to try many “higher-end” boats – most of the rental places don’t have a lot of that stuff, but I’m planning to demo some of the other Current Designs boats that the local dealer guys have in stock.

My general theory on buying is that I want something that I can be happy with as I grow more experienced. If that means I need to hold off on buying something before I gain more skills, then so be it. I do like the idea of finding a used boat. Another thing to keep in mind is that my fiancée is also getting into the sport, although she’s a bit behind me experience-wise (I started lessons earlier, then she became interested based on my experiences). Still, the ultimate plan will be to buy boats for both of us so that we can paddle together.

Any further suggestions?

wow, u must have a good job to be
able to afford a non-tupperware boat as your first! Some folks dont seem to like “rudder systems” from alot of the posts I read. I tend to agree. I purchased a CD sirocco a couple months ago (alot of bang for the buck). But if you have the bucks, while your test driving those CD models I’d suggest the Gulfstream and maybe the squamish (both skeg boats).

CD makes some good boats! check out the reviews on some of the different mfg’s and models on this site. Be sure to read the reviews that are based on folks whom have owned their boats awhile before writing their reviews.

good luck

buy used
I would suggest buying used boats. In my first year of kayaking, I bought and sold four without losing any $ on the kayaks. The one new boat that I bought, I am trading up and receiving 80% of my purchase price. My son used the kayaks as well and he gradually moved up in skill ( he was 10 yrs old when he started three years ago.)

At your size…

– Last Updated: Sep-06-06 10:31 AM EST –

180 and 6 ft puts you in a pretty sweet spot on boats. There are a lot that would fit you well - but I'd suggest that the Solstice HV is too big a volume. It's often true that an over-volume boat for the paddler will track like a banshee, and the Solstice hull is relatively fast (a Squall was my first sea kayak), but you'll hate the extra volume on other kinds of moves.

I wouldn't worry about the speed at this point, especially if you plan to paddle with your significant other. There are many boats with decent hull speed, all of which are plenty fast once you learn a good forward stroke. And you need to do that anyway if you want to avoid injury. Over time you'll find that going from pont A to B quickly is only a small piece of kayaking - there's all this stuff you can do in the middle that is at least as much fun.

If CD is available, I second the suggestion to try a Gulfstream. I'm not sure that it's not still a little high volume for you, but it turns and manuvers very nicely. If you can find a dealer or someone who has one, you should also try the Foster Legend, made by Seaward. These boats do show up used, and they are great boats for speed as well as everything else. And even a used one should be in decent shape if cared for - Seaward does a great job. Similar suggestion for a Valley Aquanaut, also shw up used. Just inspect carefully for quality. And lastly for now maybe an Impex Outer Island as long as you don't mind having an excuse to pick up a playboat down the road. Lotta speed, surprising primary stability so a good day tripper - just doesn't turn as easily as the others mentioned. Also the Wilderness Systems Tempest. Comes in a couple of sizes - I'd guess you fit the 165 - and you can reduce your cost by getting it in plastic. Slower, but still quite credible speed and a boat that'll do everything you need. (as long as you don't mind that the hatches aren't bone dry)

Try to locate a paddling club or group too. You may find that you can pick up any old thing to start, then try out others' boats. People around here are usually pretty friendly about that - in fact anyone who shows up with a new boat to the group and expects to keep it entirely to themselves at first doesn't stay around long. That's pretty typical.

So many choices

– Last Updated: Sep-07-06 1:29 PM EST –

You're just a bit bigger than the mythical "avarage" male paddler, so you should fit in the majority of sea kayaks on the market. That means that there are a lot of boats that could work for you, but it makes it harder to narrow the field.

For camping, if you're used to packing like a backpacker almost any sea kayak will be big enough to hold gear for a couple of nights. If you're used to packing like a car camper you may want a bigger boat IF camping becomes a regular event.

I rented a CD Squall for a while(a smaller plastic Solstice) and liked how it paddled, but after trying some other boats I realized that I really didn't like having the high foredeck in front of me. My favorite CD boat is the Slipstream, so I'd put the Gulfstream or Sirocco on your list.

I don't know what dealers are near you, but other boats I'd consider would be:

Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 or 165
VCP Aquanaut
NDK Explorer
Boreal Ellesmere

The Impex and P&H lines offer sea kayaks in a variety of sizes -- I'm not sure which would fit you best, but I've liked the models I've tried, and both manufacturers have excellent reputations.

The Prijon boats have good reputations, as does the Seaward line, but I haven't paddled one.

The QCC 700 might be a good boat for you. They're mail-order only, so no demos unless a local paddler has one, but if you don't like it you can send it back after 30 days for a full refund.

And if you like to build stuff, you could build yourself a boat...

If you haven't already, be looking for a comfortable PFD, some basic clothing, and a paddle. Having your own gear makes it easier and more comfortable to compare boats.

And if you give other boats a fair try and still really like the Solstice, buy it and enjoy it. Nobody else can tell you what's right for you.

Impex Assateague for YOU!!!
If you like the Solstice HV, but don’t like the way it tracks too strait, you need an Impex Assateague.

This is EXACTLY why I didn’t buy the Solstice, but did buy the Impex Assateague.

The Assateague is designed for the larger paddler. It is a Performance touring style boat. it turns very easily, and with a “lean” it is very impressive.

The Assateague does have a skeg. If or when you need a little help going a straight line a windy day, etc., just drop a little skeg.

Feel free to send an e-mail to me if you have any questions, and feel free to read the review I did here on P-Net.

It is a really great boat. I paddled for 3 years, and tried about 20 boats, and finally settled on the Assateague. Never been sorry! :slight_smile:

Try a Caribou
If you have a CD dealer nearby try a Caribou. Good speed, plenty of volume.

You might also look at the Impex line. You should be able to find a dealer nearby.


find out what you want, what would satisfy you most. Consider conditions, gear, price, and type of boat. Try some out too.

I’d say get some canidates… then try them out

QCC demos available
at Water Walker Sea Kayak, Belfast, Maine. Folks have come from as far as Minnesota to test paddle our boats. Come from someplace farther, and maybe we’ll give you an award!

Thanks for the great suggestions, all. It turns out there’s a dealer just south of DC that carries Impex and P&H. I think I’ll hit them up this weekend and just try as many boats as possible.

I’ve just started to learn to edge now, which I think will make it a lot easier to evaluate the characteristics of these boats. Next, on to rolling…

Have fun!
Please let us know how it goes – it’s always interesting to hear someone’s thoughts after a demo session.

Hmm, would this boat be too big for me? Impex advertises it as the boat for “larger” paddlers --at 6’ even and 180, I’m not sure that I qualify. The local shop has one in stock. Unfortunately, the sold all their other Impex boats and won’t be getting any more until the spring, so I won’t have a good basis for comparison. Bummer.

Boat trials
So the fiancee and I went out demo’ing today. First stop was the Impex dealer. She tried a Montauk, I paddled an Assateague. My preference would have been to demo a Currituck, but sadly they sold out the remainder of their stock on those last week. The Assateague was definitely too big – a nice boat, but the cockpit felt far too large, and it didn’t feel as nimble as some of the other boats I’ve tried. My fiancee liked the Montauk quite a lot, and it’s on sale, so we filed that one under “definite possibility.”

Next, we headed over to the CD dealer. I paddled a Gulfstream, my fiancee tried a Rumour. Honestly, I was sort of expecting that trying the Gulfstream would confirm my preference for the Solstice, but I ended up liking the Gulf a lot. It felt really good on edge, a real joy to turn, and the tracking and speed, while not as good as the Solstice, seemed pretty solid. My fiancee pretty much fell in love with the Rumour. Sadly, that one is not on sale. Ah well. My personal takeaway from the experience is that I’m really undecided now. I liked the Gulfstream a lot, but is a 45 minute demo really enough time to know whether I’d still enjoy paddling it after 4 hours? I don’t know. I know the boat is lauded for its maneuverability, but would it be frustrating to paddle for long straight-ahead stretches?

Oh, one other thing. We did rentals the other night at a local boathouse, and the woman working there had her own Andromeda on-site, which she let me paddle (she offered, which was really nice). I didn’t much like it – seemed rather “squirley.” Not tippy, in the sense that I felt like I was in danger of capsizing, but I never felt as if I could really get comfortable.

I’m also still curious about the Currituck and the Foster Legend. Does anyone have any thoughts about how those boats compare to the Gulfstream?

2nd the Caribou…
… many people feel dailed in to that boat as soon as they try it…

I second Celia’s suggestions
about the Gulfstream probably being too big. I own one and also a Nigel Foster Shadow (the big brother to the Legend).

The Legend will fit you better than the Gulfstream and is faster. It tracks well, but so does the Gulfstream. The Gulfstream and Legend both turn nicely and they are both easy to roll.

I just think that for your weight and size, the Legend will fit you better and is also a little faster. The Gulfstream will broach much more easily than a Legend.

You might also want to check out an Explorer and a Pintail. Both of those are excellent boats too.