buying first kayak, totally indecisive


I have kayaked a few times and love it

I want to get a kayak, but it is so overwhelming

Not too expensive, say under $800, would consider spending more if folks think it is totally worth it,

It will be mainly warm weather flat

I want something I can manage myself so light is good, has the safety bulk heads or space for the blow up safety bags, not too long - up to 10 feet and maybe not a big slow lump as thinking it would be fun to join kayak trips on the meetup groups so would be good to keep up

Thank you for any help

what type of paddling?
You left out saying what type of paddling you ant to do - white water rivers, calm lakes, open ocean, etc?

You may want to check out issue #10 of California Kayaker Magazine. There is an article there on different types of kayaks (sit on top vs touring vs white water, etc.) that could help you determine the category of boat you would be looking for. Can be read online for free at


– Last Updated: Jul-02-14 1:09 PM EST –

I would be helpful to list your physical statistics, too. Kayaks are really not "one size fits all." What's your height and weight, and do you have any physical limitations? And how are you planning to haul it? These are all factors.

Limiting yourself to 10' boats may not be the best strategy based on what you are talking about getting into. Kayaks 10' and under are naturally going to kind of be slugs, slow and not as easy to keep straight as most longer boats. They have to be wider than standard kayaks in order to have enough displacement to float the average paddler. And if you are taller and or heavier, they are a poor choice.

Even if you are a smaller person, wide 10' and under kayaks are harder to load on a car roof rack and are no lighter than a 12' to 15' kayak (which it the usual range of length for versatility and especially if you expect to go on day tours with other paddlers.)

They also tend to have oversized cockpits, which can limit you as well since they won't support a sprayskirt well and being in a wide loose fitting boat means you don't have as good control of it. They rarely have deck rigging either (though it can be added) which is something that you need for getting yourself back into the boat after a capsize. in my experience, short boats are fine for fishing, nature photography and muddling about in ponds and slow streams, but they are not the best thing for making any distance or developing good paddling technique.

You're likely to get competing views of short kayaks here, but everyone has their own perspective and this is mine after 15 years of kayaking and having owned more than a dozen different kayak models.

Maybe you have not yet tried out kayaks longer than 10' (I realize the rental fleets that most people have experience with tend to be short rec style boats). I would strongly suggest you do so in order to give yourself more perspective on how longer and narrower feels. You may still elect to go with a shorter rec boat, but at least you will understand what the sacrifices will be.

There is no kayak that I know of below 12' that has bow and stern bulkheads, by the way, so you are right in understanding that will involve an additional expense and bother of float bags which you have to remember to deflate before letting them sit in the hot sun or they can rupture, and which you have to remember to re-inflate each time you paddle. I have several skin on frame kayaks that require them so I know of what I speak on this.

One budget priced boat that is often suggested for beginners is Dick's sporting goods Perception Sport Conduit 13. It's a 13' day touring kayak with front and rear hatches and bulkheads and some basic outfitting. It is still a little flimsy compared to mid range touring kayaks, but it is much closer to their performance features and is something that would allow you to develop good paddling skills and keep up with other paddlers on group tours.

I don't like to refer people to Dick's, since their salespeople tend to know little about the sport and they have a cheapo big-box volume attitude and kind of crappy gear and boats. But I realize some people don't have access to more knowledgeable dealers with better products. Do find a specialty kayak dealer or recreational outfitter that stocks them if you can. I see you are in Oregon, a region with lots of kayak dealers, though perhaps not near you. With an $800 budget they should be able to find something better than a 10' bathtub boat for you. Such dealers also tend to offer intro classes -- if you have not yet had a few hours of formal instruction, it can make all the difference in your skill and safety level and your enjoyment of the sport.

Another budget option (and the best value) is to buy a used boat and gear for your first one. Again, let us know your size, and we can be more helpful. Should be a lot of used boats available in your state.

Dick’s has improved quite a bit this year. In the paddle sports department I noticed a composite kayak, a couple of decent Riots, and some fiberglass paddles. The manager told me that they had made an effort to upgrade their kayaks this year.

Length, price
LotusFlower, for $800 you should be able to get a nice used kayak in the 12’ to 14’ range. That length will paddle better and have better safety features than a ten-footer. 12 to 14’ is considered a moderate length. It can handle rougher conditions.

You will get much more kayak for less money by buying used. Here are some examples from Craigslist to give you an idea of what’s available:

***Best of the lot for a beginner and strongly recommended: This is an extremely stable kayak that you can paddle almost anywhere. It is seaworthy in at least moderate conditions. I have paddled it in quite rough water and felt very safe. You can even camp with it. This 2012 model is actually better than the new 2014 model (better seat and other features). There is room to negotiate on the price. If I were you I would snap this up before someone else does. It’s worth driving some distance for. Personally I would drive across Oregon for this kayak. There are very few of them on the used market and it’s one of the best short kayaks you will ever find. Email me if you need more information on this kayak. Check the reviews here:

thank you
wow thanks so much everyone, this is so kind of you to spend the time and I totally appreciate it and feel much more educated

I am around 140lb and 5 feet 7, mid 40s pretty strong and fit.

It is mostly warm weather flat lake river I am interested in

I live close to Portland so thanks waterbird for the links, I am thinking that used one you love might be the way to go

Run, don’t walk
to see that Delta 12.10. It will fit you. It’s the best kayak you will find in your price range. In my humble opinion.