buying advice

I’m 5’4" about 135 lbs. I’ve gone sea kayaking once in Casco Bay in Maine in a tandem with my son…so I am a beginner. I’ enjoyed it and want to do it again…mostly in the ocean at Cape Cod or on the north shore of Massachusetts. I might try a gentle river occasionally, too.

I’m thinking of a tandem sit-in…(my kids are all between 5’7" and 5’11" and under 160 lbs) but one that I could also paddle on my own. I’d like it if the boat weren’t too heavy…so that I could put it on the roof of my Subaru forester by myself. I’d also like to pay less than a thousand dollars.

Is this an impossible orddr to fill?

Why a tandem?
You are exactly my size, by the way. Well, at least that’s the weight at which I start the day. If you go used you could probably manage the price, but…

Dealing with a tandem of any material on and off a roof is going to be a tough order unless you are willing to use extra stuff like a cart, and wheels hanging off the rear of the car, etc to handle it when you are alone. On one hand a plastic tandem would be less difficult because you could drop it on the ground without hurting it, on the other hand it’d be so heavy that you could mess up your back even with doing some weights to get into condition and using all of the above aids. And it may be that it’d be so difficult to handle that you’d never get out alone. And at your size paddling a tandem alone could be a real workout unless you found something very custom and light and well outside of your price point.

From the size of your kids, they are plenty big to be in a boat of their own. Are both of them really interested at this point, and/or would you be more likely to be out with one at a time?

If you like it enough to want to go out by yourself, maybe you should think about a couple of solo kayaks. It’ll make it enjoyable for you in a way a tandem likely won’t, and at those heights you will fit into a rather different (as in smaller) boat than either of the offspring.

You should be able to accomplish this
I would visit a couple of dealers to get a couple options as far as kayaks. Try to find a place where they let you demo them before you buy for comfort and personal prefrence reasons.

As far as transporting on your car there are several diffrent options as far as racks or even foam blocks. These dealers should be able to help you with these or check out the internet…

Happy Paddling…

Special k !!

not committed to a tandem
What solo would you recommend?

With all due respect…
thats a tall order.

My experience has been that a boat that claims it can be paddled solo or tandem is usually such a comprimise, it actually ends up doing neither very well (o.k., very poorly, actually). In my opinion.

Light and cheap are usually not synoni, synonom…usually not used in the same sentance, or avaible options in the same kayak…you get my drift. Light ocean going boats are very rare for under a thousand.

Sometimes the budget dictates how one is able to paddle, or, “how one wants to paddle” dictates the budget. Perhaps you can continue to rent or go “guided” until somehow the situation changes. Either way, don’t let it keep you off the water.


– Last Updated: Mar-18-06 1:27 PM EST –

Your size puts you in the "small paddler" category. A lot of boats will be too big for you. If you don't fit snugly in the cockpit, you'll never have good control, and too much volume means that you'll be fighting weight and windage you don't need. Something that's too deep or too wide will be uncomfortable to paddle.

You would find it difficult to solo a tandem in anything but calm, flat conditions.

If you're in the area, you might want to check out the New England Paddlesports Show, April 7-9 in Durham, NH. It's a good opportunity to see a lot of boats under one roof.

But if you're planning on ocean paddling, I'd strongly suggest getting some instruction before you start buying gear. You'll be much better prepared to make a good decision, and be a better and safer paddler out on the water.

There are *lots* of good resources in your area, including:!instruct.htm

Another good online resource is:

And if you like to build things, there are some very nice lightweight boats you could build for yourself:

Good advice above …
Do check out the resources that angstrom mentioned. There are a lot of good resources and shops in the MA-CT-NH-RI-ME-NY area. If you are near Cape Cod check out:

In reality the $1,000 limit will be difficult. Whether you decide on a tandem or two singles you will also need two PFDs and two paddles, although I would recommend three so you can carry a spare with you. Decent PFDs designed for paddling can be had new for $50-$100. Good quality paddles generally run $100 and up. Kayak rental shops will oftern sell off some of their rental equipment, usually in a fall clearance, but sometimes in the spring as well. I have seen good quality rental PFDs go for $20 and up at these sales and paddles in for $75-$90. Used, well care for boats are plentiful and generally can be found at considerable savings, but you really need to have an idea of what to look for and be patient. Many dealers take trade ins on boats as well as sell off their demonstration and rental boats. They could help you find a used boat or boats that might fit your need better than if you strike out on your own. Below are links to a few shops that have some used boats that may be close enough for you to visit if you are in the NE.

There are many more! Good luck!


“Light and cheap”…another option…

– Last Updated: Mar-18-06 2:44 PM EST –

It may be difficult for someone to know, from the very beginning, just how "into" paddling they may become, so this could be something to consider as I mention the following possibility (one may just not be "into it" enough to want to go this route)...

There is one option for acquiring a very nice boat that is both light and "cheap" (at least in terms of cash cost), and that's to build one's own Skin-On-Frame (SOF) boat(s). This type of boat can not only be built to a custom fit for an individual paddler, but they can also come in all sorts of different designs to fit one's preferences in terms of performance and handling, various levels of stability, and the types of water one wishes to paddle (they don't all have to be long, narrow, tippy boats! :-)).

In most cases, the materials required to build a nice SOF boat will cost $200 or less, and the weight of such boats (even longer boats of 16'-18') will generally fall into the thirty-somthing range rather than the 45 lbs. and above for composite boats, and even heavier for plastic boats of similar dimensions.

I've discovered that building your own boats can be very rewarding in so many ways; and not just in terms of cost, weight, and personal fit. Just the idea that we can create, with our own hands (and blood, sweat, and tears, by the way), a beautiful and seaworthy boat is something very special. For those of us who like this sort of thing, the building process itself can be a great deal of fun.

While it may seem a bit of a stretch to recommend that someone build their first boat, especially if they're not yet familiar enough with boat designs to make an "informed decision" about just what type of boat might be best for their purposes, there are indeed some people who have done a bit of research, perhaps paddled several different boats (always a good idea in any event), who have built their own as their first boat (for some people after all, it really does come down to a question of cost while still wanting a lovely and very light, seaworthy boat).



– Last Updated: Mar-18-06 2:52 PM EST –

Example of a commercial SOF:

homemade SOF:

different style SOF:

Take a little time
It would be extremely difficult for anyone to recommend a single boat for you at this time, or even just a couple.

To complicate things a bit, as noted above above, at your (and my) size the majority of the boats out there are really a bit too big for good control. If you had said you wanted to stay on quiet lakes and rivers, this may not present a major issue. But you indicate that you want to do some offshore paddling, and that starts getting into more boat. For a properly fitting boat, that usually means skinnier and what a newbie may find alarmingly “tippy”. If you get a boat that is too wide and barge-like, very common for a smaller person looking for their first boat, you could be regretting your choice before the summer is out.

You really need to go to paddle fests, like those listed above, get into boats to demo them, and sign up for lessons at a local Y or whatever if you can. Right now there tend to be a lot of groups offering pool sessions, where you could go and get down some basics. Also, look for local paddle groups. They are all over the place, and in a good group you may be able to try other paddlers’ boats.

Spend some time in boats, read the materials and visit the links on this site about kayaking, to get a sense of what is out there. Also, you should start thinking more about how much of your time will be in ocean bays etc. It’s what got us hooked, and it sounds like you too, but it does end up involving more boat and stuff than the rec type boat that’ll work for a three acre pond or slow creek.

Good advice, Celia
Each of us has our own personal experience of being a “paddling newbie”. Some of us, like myself, began to “dream big” from the very first moment we sat in a kayak. During my first hour in a kayak, I dreamt of paddling with whales, of exploring remote coastlines, splashing through the surf, etc. At the same time, I also dreamt of paddling in quiet wetlands, lakes, and slow rivers. For me, I knew right away that I would be looking for a “sea kayak” as my very first boat, and I haven’t regretted getting a CD Caribou as my first boat after having paddled just a few months, as it fulfilled all my initial dreams - and more - from the very beginning. Other people will dream of different things, and so a different type of boat may serve them well both now and into the distant future.

Something for anyone to consider though, is that for many of us, the more we paddle, the more our dreams will expand to include the types of paddling venues and skill sets we didn’t even consider in the first few moments of our paddling, and such dreams can sneak up on us much sooner than we might imagine. :slight_smile:


Rent, Join Class and/or Club
You’ll get to really try a bunch of boats, learn how to choose them, what equipment you need in addition to a boat, and most importantly, learn the skills needed to paddle safely in these conditions.

When it comes to sea kayaks, I’ve found that lightness comes with greater price.

Some women paddlers that I know enjoy the Impex Mystic, the Romany, and the Eddyline NightHawk (I own this boat).


SOT’s or Inflatables

– Last Updated: Mar-18-06 6:55 PM EST –

Since no one's mentioned it yet. They will most closely fill all your listed requirements.
Sit On Tops (SOTs) Tandems work just as well as a double or single and are inexpensive. No they are not light, yes they are rec boats. But I've taken them out and just puttered around for fun and had a blast. While it may be too heavy to car top by yourself, a SOT Tandem will be about 12 feet long. I think that will fit inside your Subuaru. There is no reason not to buy used. Cobra, is local here in CA, and there is always some of their kayaks in the classified ads that come in the mail. I see used Cobra tandems around here for 500-600 all the time. Check your local sporting goods store to see what they stock. Then look for them in the Ads.
Then there are inflatables. They are lighter, cheaper, easier to store, but more work to get out on the water. Don't get something for nothing. :(
Advanced Elements make well regarded inflatables, and the advanced frame convertable can work as a single or double. People I've talked too place them between Sea Kayaks and rec boats in terms of performance. I believe a basic set up of that boat runs about $600, but they have different options for decking that can add to that price. Also PFDs and Paddles will add up too.
I've seen both SOTs and inflatables out in the Ocean, in real waves. They are not as fast as sea kayaks, but they are a lot more stable. Also, if you do flip out, they won't fill with water like a rec SINK. So you just climb back on and paddle on. Of course getting back in a boat is a bit of a skill you should practice.
What was not obvious to me before my wife and I took classes, is how much skill is involved with true sea kayaking. I have not mastered an efficient stroke yet, which is much different than I thought. But my wife has it down pat. Getting into a sea kayak after being flipped out, is also a lot of work, more so than a SOT or inflatable. Speaking of getting flipped out in the ocean, sea kayaks feel very tippy to me, and I flipped out 3 times my first time out. But my wife never flips out, thats why she's the house's paddle master. So I would recommend taking classes before getting a long skinny Sea Kayak. But Rec boats are meant for easy going paddling for fun. So go have some fun.
Just my thoughts. Don