Buy nicer kayaks now or upgrade later?


I’m fairly new to the kayak scene but am really enjoying it. Want to get the whole family (3 people total) into it. I have an opportunity to get two Eddyline kayaks - one Whisper CL tandem demo and a Merlin LT (2007). Will need all the gear to go with it too - PFD’s, paddles, rack, etc. I can get all of this stuff for well under $4K. Both kayaks are in great shape and the accessories are new.

Just wondering people’s thoughts on whether they bought cheaper first and upgraded later, or just went in “full boat” (sorry bad pun) and got kayaks that will probably be the only ones they will ever need. I was an avid cyclist and learned that upgrading was always more expensive than spending more money up front.

What did you do? Thanks!

I started with an Aquaterra Keowee
and you dont get much more basic rec kayak than that.

Now I have seventeen kayaks and canoes each with a role in my life. I never lost much money on each “trade up”.

I suspect its a rare person that buys ONE boat and stick with it for life these days though our grandparents undoubtedly did.

I cycle too
I cycle too and “upgrading” is inevitable.

When one starts a new activity his/her skills improve and therefore the need for better equipment.

Like with bikes, kayaks come in so many different shapes/styles.

Unless you are really sure and positive on what you want, chances are the kayak you get now won’t be your last…

More thoughts on the subject at:

if the other two
family members are as gung ho as you are, you may as well skip the cheapie first boat stage.

Some people don’t start w. a rec boat or stay w. them long. This is not to diss rec boats but to say that people want different things out of the sport.

I personally used mine for a month - literally - before I wanted something better, faster, w. much better handling. And I had a third boat- a full on fglass seakayak of 16 feet - after 4 months.

So there is no hard n fast rule about where you start.

If you find boat(s) that do what you want to do in the waters you want to do it, new or used, inexpensive or top of the line, then that’s the right call for you.

That said, reconsider the tandem, as it takes real ongoing teamwork to paddle one well and to the continuing pleasure of both people involved. They may very well want their own boats, and soon!

Most here will probably disagree
But I think you should get the best equipment you can afford now. When I started out I was a WW paddler and had access to borrowed gear. I then bought a boat that was the same as what I was borrowing. It didn’t take long to figure out that I had made a mistake. I had been learning on old school boats and there were much better boats out there. When I bought my first sea kayak I went with a quality touring boat and never regretted it. I later sold it and bought another quality touring boat but benefited from my earlier experience. Along the way I rented and used various rec boats. They suck. Big time. At least if you want to do more than float around. Boats for a family introduce other considerations and your ultimate paddling aims make a big difference. But don’t get sucked into the rec boat > transition boat > wide touring boat > touring boat transition. If your ultimate objective is sea kayaking, get a decent boat now. If your ultimate objective is putzing around a flat lake then get the cheapest boat you can find and add flotation.

I agree
a very good prescription, Doctor.

IF someone is the type of person/athlete that they know they want to develop skills and progress (in any given sport) then cheap equipment holds them back.

Many is the time at classes, group paddles, symposia, etc. where I’ve seen people in entry level boats endure degree of frustration trying to learn some things. Part of it is paddler skills, but in a way that’s chicken and egg, as they are in boats that don’t fit them well, are too wide/too deep to be responsive, lack thigh braces, or have overly large cockpits even if they do.

So the initial less expensive purchase

is soon discarded as is the entry level paddle, horsecollar PFD etc. Now they are spending again on an upgraded boat, a more full featured, better made PFD, a lighter paddle etc. Total outlay is more.

If they just want to paddle around calm water a bit and just learn a few basic strokes and a couple of rescue manoeuvers, that’s fine too, and they can adjust their outlay for boats n gear accordingly.

Continuously scan for used boats on craigslist and rental fleets every day. Make that a daily habit. When you get tired of one boat you can pretty much recoup your cost when reselling it on craigslist. I’ve had 7 kayaks with each one an upgrade in length and performance. The first few rec boats were bought new, but all the other ones, light touring to full sized sea kayaks, were all used and resold for slight profit or breaking even.

I just sold my RM Chatham 17, now that I’ve finished building my Arctic Tern 17 and will stick with this very light weight high performance work of art for quite awhile. Yeah it would have been cheaper and faster skipping the purchase of all those previous boats, but as a new kayaker, I wouldn’t have had the knowledge or skills to go straight to a skinny 17 foot boat and green land paddle. Just upgrade as your skills improve and buy used, so you won’t take the big hit in depreciation.

Thanks everyone!
Wow, thanks for the quick feedback - I know there is no right answer, just wanted some other opinions. Here how I plan on using the boats:

  1. Family thing primarily, mostly on lakes - would like a pretty stable setup. My daughter is 10 and pretty small, so she’ll probably spend most of the time in the tandem initially. I will end up doing a lot of the paddling, so I want something fairly efficient. I test paddled the Whisper CL and was pleased by how easy it was to paddle the three of us by myself. Also, the easier it is for my wife, the more likely she is to enjoy it. :slight_smile:

  2. Adventure racing (3 person team) - my buddy and I in the tandem, our other teammate in a single. We raced on a total barge the first race we did and had to work way too hard and lost lots of time. Figure with a nicer tandem we can really move. The Whisper CL seems like a nice balance between stability and speed for a tandem without totally breaking the bank.

    Will we dabble in getting out in the ocean? Don’t know for sure, but it will be some time before we’re totally comfortable with that. But wouldn’t rule it out eventually.

    Thanks again!

10 year old needs her own

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Upgraded but got lucky

– Last Updated: Jun-02-10 7:23 AM EST –

We found a guy who turned our two 13 ft kayaks into one plastic sea kayak. Later found out the owner of the operation had not been quite apprised of this arrangement... but by then the deal was done.

Upgraded to expedition length and composite subsequently. The diff thru the boats was much about what we could do. We got lucky and avoided being a newspaper story one day in the 13 ft boats, were able to start improving skills in the plastic boats, and were able to accelerate that in the composite boats. By then we had a much better idea of what was a good fit for us.

All that said though... people new to kayaking just about always place stability and tracking up there as an important criteria. But as you paddle and spend time in the boat, a couple of things happen. One is that you acquire comfort and (hopefully) skill in bracing etc that means the boat doesn't have to be so safe in its stability. This may be particularly true if you like racing - the fastest of the racing boats are quite unstable until they get moving. The other is that people find out it can be fun messing around in messy water in boats that are more about maneuverability than tracking.

This stuff can change what you want in a boat. Essentially the security the new paddler was looking to the boat to provide is replaced by their own ability to handle the boat and conditions. Sooo - I tend to suggest that people buy up. But even doing that doesn't end the journey.

Good choices to start
You are starting out with 2 very fine boats with the Eddylines, both very capable for their purposes. They will also hold their value well if you decide to sell or trade them later. I think that starting out with a good boat that suits your purpose helps you to progress faster and enjoy the activity more. A boat that is too high performance for a beginner is probably as bad as one that is too low performance. You will find it takes a lot of effort to stay upright or get it to do what you want when you haven’t quite yet developed the necessary skill sets to make good leans, turns, etc. It’s not just about learning to paddle fast. However, the boats you are considering are all terrific designs and very well made boats. Sounds like a great deal to me!

Think about what you want to do.
Those Eddyline boats are super nice. If you are going paddling lakes and deep rivers, go for it. But if you envision tripping down bouncy rivers or even low waters with rocks, think plastic. I doubt this will be the last boat you will own even if you go top grade. You will soon find you want one for this and one for that. You may well find that in the future you may “downgrade” the type of boat you need for a certain activity. You can’t go wrong with the Eddylines though. I don’t have experience in a tandem kayak, but enough tadem canoe experience to advise just getting seperate boats unless you are very skilled at operating together and are extra cooperative partners. Tandem kayak takes an artful coordination level that I rarely witness among couples.

go with the best you can afford…
I was fortunate in that I did not have the money to buy a kayak in the beginning. Otherwise I would have ended up with something like a Perception Swifty or Pungo 120. I worked at Eastern mountain sports and had access to free rental boats. Shortly after my exposure to those smaller boats, I found the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140 to be a “better” boat. I probably would have bought something like that if I had the money. But again, I was restricted to rental boats due to my lack of funds. I made the “mistake” of being curious about those expensive narrow fiberglass kayaks and decided to rent one out from another dealer. My eyes opened up after that. My skills increased and what I wanted in a boat changed over time. I got a chance to try a bunch of different fiberglass boats and I’ve never looked at the plastic tubs since. Unfortunately since my taste in boats changed to the more expensive kayaks, I had to wait even longer before getting what I wanted. After about 6 years now I finally got the kayak I wanted in an 18 foot Carbon Kevlar Impex Force 4. It was a last years floor model so I saved quite a bit, but it still wasn’t cheap. I say go with the best you can afford for what you want right now, and make sure you give yourself room to grow.

more thoughts
worth what you pay for 'em '-)

Skip the tandem. Buy the rest of the package.

Here’s why IMO

The girl is old enough to have her own kayak. Your wife/gf/fiancee (e.g. your lady) if she has any kind of spirit & athleticism will want her own,too.

All 3 of you can paddle calm water together. You and your lady can get separate boats so you can practice real rescues alone and together - skills you’ll actually find you will use, and skills you will need esp. with a child involved.

Rescues in a tandem boat are a whole separate kind of drill and not easy for most, esp. beginners. I think this is a very important distinction for family paddling and just getting started.

You and your lady will enjoy a much better relationship on and off the water if you are not going to put each other thru the torture of mastering a tandem as beginners. I’m assuming of course that sometimes she will paddle tandem w. you when daughter does not.

After your girl gets tired of paddling w. Dad you will be stuck w. a tandem. By that time you will be wanting a boat for you and you only and I guarantee the Whisper, however nice a boat, will not be it.

start with a paddle
Get the best paddle you can afford, comfortable PFD.

Kayaks - buy used.

Better yet - go to a kayaking symposium to look at and sit in different boats, try different paddles and pfds.

Buy nice kayaks now, and upgrade later.

^^what he said
For $4K I could buy 3 decent used kayaks for each of these folks w. appropriate paddles (used), PFDs (likely new but on sale, used if in very good cond) and spend maybe $400 for a complete Yakima rack set w. all parts bought used off craigslist, eBay or gear swaps. And easily have $$ left over to spend on all sorts of cool kayak swag '-)

Skirts, PFDs, paddles, cockpit covers, etc are frequent throw-ins w. a used boat…if they fit each of the family members involved (daughter won’t be wearing a skirt anyways, and likely not the adults, at least not initially) and the PFDs aren’t squashed flat, then they are a very good savings.

OP try some boats before you buy some boats. Once you each try some boats (sized right for each of you) the tandem will look less and less appealing.

You find out which boats are sized right - for your body and skill level - at classes, symposia, clubs, demo days and/or heading to the nearest genuine paddle shop.

Buy the best you can afford based on
what you want to do. There are four general options that you have for kayaking. No one boat “does it all” but some do more than others.

  1. Whitewater…If this is what you want to do, go watch people do it, go to you tube and watch video, there is plenty of it, and buy a boat specific to whitewater. This boat will not be good for too much else unless you go with the new “hybrids”.

  2. Sea Kayaking…If you want to go out on “big water” salt or fresh, then buy the best boat and safety gear for this use that money can buy. Then join a club or find a club with others to paddle with who love sea kayaking. This will be the most expensive type of boat, so you might want to start used if this is your goal. For sea and whitewater, you should also strongly consider a rolling class, as IMHO this is an essential skill for either.

  3. Touring/Tripping…Touring boats are probably the most versatile of the bunch, especially in plastic. They usually combine the features of sea and recreational boats to provide a boat that can do a lot of things pretty well with the right safety and outfitting gear. You can take a touring boat out on bigger water with the right gear, or down a river with some Class I or II whitewater without being in over your heard (assuming you have some skills). It is a style of boat that lets you experience a lot of different kayaking without having to upgrade right away. I am starting my 4th season with a touring boat(Wilderness Systems Tsunami125) and have been just about everywhere without feeling unsafe or out of my element. I can keep up with sea kayakers, and I’ve done some crazy whitewater. Would I like a longer boat for big water? sure I would, and add a skeg please. Would I like to paddle some more whitewater? that would be fun, and a new ProLogic10 hybrid would work great (I’ve rented them) for me. But financially, I can’t upgrade to the sea kayak I want, yet. Had I chosen the fourth option, I would not have been able to do a lot of the paddling that I’ve enjoyed to date, simply because boats from option 4, with some exceptions, are simply not a safe choice for sea and whitewater kayaking.

  4. Recreational or “Rec” Boats…characterized by prodigious width, flatter bottoms, larger cockpit openings, and little or no deck rigging. Seating is often flimsy and uncomfortable for long days. These boats are typically for the beginner who wants to get out NOW, but are best suited for flat protected water where the chances of waves, rocks, or the need for skills is minimal or non-existant. They are for splashing around, some fishing, or figuring out if you even want to kayak. They are usually cheap and available at big box sporting goods chains like Dicks’s or Sports Authority. Notable exceptions or “High End Rec Boats” include the Wilderness Systems Pungo, Necky Manitou, Old Town Dirigo. These offer rear bulkhead, some rigging, and a bit of a keel for better tracking.

    If you have no idea what you want to do, or even if you will stick with kayaking, or maybe you are not a person experienced around water in general, or want something to leave at the lakehouse for those hot summer days when guests come to visit, get a recreational boat and stick to paddling around flat water. If you like it, you can always upgrade.

    If you know you want to be on the water (like I did as a beach rat, former power boater, surfer, pisces minded guy), maybe a nice touring boat that allows you to sample a variety of locations with relative ease would be the best choice as the boat will grow with you, at least for a while. I live near the coast and enjoy camping trips, so I am leaning toward upgrading to something longer, with more storage, that I can take on open water and improve my skills. If money was no object,I’d have a hybrid for whitewater days and long river day trips and a sea kayak for open water. Two years ago I added a recreational boat for my wife (A Pungo so she could keep up, or at least so I didn’t have to slow to a crawl), this year a canoe for me and the dog. If you like paddling as much as I do, you’ll probably start adding boats like others here have mentioned. I just think touring boats give you the most options to the money when getting started. Used or new on sale, whatever you can afford. Paddle safely and have fun.

Big disparity in fitness level
One of the reasons why I want a tandem is that the fitness difference between me and my wife is very significant. The tandem will allow us to be on the water longer and if she gets tired I can easily get us back. Also, having a tandem will give us some flexibility - I can be in there with my daughter, my wife can be in there with my daughter, or me and my wife can be in there. Whoever is left gets the single.

Also, the whole adventure race thing - having a tandem is nice because our woman is a total stud on the kayak and us two guys in singles would be really slow compared to her. But if we’re in a boat together we would push her pretty good.

We got to demo the Whisper CL and I was surprised at how easy it was to paddle by myself fully loaded. I think it would be a really nice adventure racing machine.

tandems are cool
Paddled one several times. Never owned one.

Check the weight especially if you plan to cartop it, and check the overall length for storage considerations.

Sounds like you have good reasons to own a tandem right now. That might change in the future, but as was said, if you get a demo or used boat at a good price and treat it well, you will be able to sell it in the future with little loss (or you might make money off the deal).