buying first kayak

-- Last Updated: Mar-12-15 8:46 AM EST --

I'm looking to buy my first kayak. I started kayaking about 6 months ago. I am interested in a 14 ft. recreation/touring hybrid or touring kayak with larger cockpit such as 38" x 20". I want it to be no more than 50 lbs, so I can load and unload it myself on a small crossover SUV. It will mostly be used on rivers, streams, and small lakes, all flatwater, year round. I do want to look into basic coastal and ocean kayaking as well for summertime in Florida. I will be doing very rare short camping trips with it.

My question is about if I should go ahead and get the kayak I want or get a cheap 10 ft. recreational sit in for the next year? I am very overweight woman and in the process of losing weight. I would like to get a kayak that will last me for a number of years to develop my skills instead of something that I will grow out of skill wise in a year. I am 5 ft 6 inch and about 195 lbs, but am planning on getting down to at least 140 lbs.

Do you think getting the boat I want right now is a good idea or would it not fit well after losing weight? I figure it would be a tight fit now and then more a loose fit later, but still work fine. The other option is to get a cheap used 10 ft. recreational sit in kayak to use for the next year, then get the kayak I want. I don't feel like in the next year I would be able to do as many trips or develop as many skills if I go this route though.

Go cheap now
As cheap as you can. Fit is way more important than you think (I figured this out the hard way myself as a beginner). More importantly, you probably won’t get the fit right the first time, as it takes some experience and butt-in-boat time to figure out what you really want/need/like. Factor in your body-change plans, and you might as well spend a year playing around before putting in some dough for a more serious boat. You then either sell the cheap one on CL for what you paid for it, or just keep it on hand for guests.

38" long cockpit?
Gad! How long are your legs? 34" long cockpit will allow my 33" inseam legs with #11 feet to bend in/out without raking my shins on the front coaming.

As to cheap or not cheap; you don’t have to spend $4k on your first kayak but how soon do you want to go purchase another kayak for the intended coastal kayaking you eluded to. A 10’ isn’t going to have the hydrodynamics that’ll give you the efficiency for touring nor is it (some exceptions apply) going to have front/rear bulkheads for safety which is more likely going to be found on the touring styles.

I would normally recommend a kayak that goes a little longer of at least 14’ but an essentially a pocket sized sea kayak is the Venture Islay 12. I’ve had good success fitting it for larger paddlers. The only down side would be that you may develop a need for speed which case Archimedes says Longer narrower will go faster. Of course a P&H 1m Sail could be mounted to it but that’s a whole different can o’ worms.

Don’t fret weight goals. Get something that’ll allow you to have fun and you’ll kayak more which will help reinforce that goal.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

first things first

– Last Updated: Mar-12-15 10:31 AM EST –

Under no circumstance would I buy a cheap 10 ft. kayak. Chances are, you might get very discouraged with the performance of such a craft and lose interest in paddling altogether. Before you lose the weight, it might be better to consider a sit on top. I would caution you that if your plan is to paddle the weight away, you might want to dismiss that idea to start with. I'm not saying that paddling won't help, but losing weight is going to require a lot of other regimens.

When you get down to the weight you're hoping for and are able to maintain it, then go shopping for the boat you really want. By then, you'll have some experience to base your desires on and I'm betting you will be looking at boats in the 15 to 17 foot range.

go for the 14’ boat
I’d also suggest NOT wasting money on a short cheap boat. As has been pointed out, they don’t have the traits that will really allow you do develop skills and they don’t have safety features necessary for open coastal waters. They also typically don’t have good resale value so it’s kind of money down the drain.

One of my best friends is your size and she has a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140. Her weight fluctuates between 155 and 200 from year to year but she has been able to use the kayak at all weights. She carries most of her weight in hips and thighs, by the way, and has no trouble with the standard cockpit. The Tsu 140 is seaworthy and is quite a popular model, in fact some sea kayaking schools use it for their students. The cockpit is roughly 36" x 20" and the weight is 53 lbs. These are widely distributed and you should have no trouble finding an outfitter who stocks them to check out fit and feel. Spring is coming and many places have on the water demos where you can try out the fit and feel of lots of boats.

I paddle a Venture Easky 15LV myself, which is a bit longer and a little faster and weighs 46 lbs. I’m 5’ 5" and my weight has ranged from 145 to 165 over the years I have had it. But my brother and my ex-boyfriend, both around 5’ 10" and 200 lbs, also have used the Easky on occasion and really liked it. I have paddled my friends Tsunami 140 a few times and found it a little sluggish by comparison, but many people really like Tsunamis so that’s just a personal thing. The Easky 15LV has been discontinued but there may be stock at some dealers (though they are more rare than the Wilderness Systems dealers.) They still make the standard Easky 15 (the LV means “low volume” and they have replaced it with their new Islay 14LV). But the standard 15 might be too large for you once you have hit your target weight. My ex bought an Easky 15 and I found I preferred the snugger fit and lighter weight of the 15LV. They make some other models, like the Islay 12 already mentioned. As has been mentioned, a slightly longer kayak will be a bit faster and track better, especially in the waves, wind and currents of the seacoast. And the weight difference is not as much as you would think since longer boats can be comparitively narrower.

But I think you are in the size range to fit just about any standard mid sized touring kayak. Necky, Jackson and Dagger also have some good models in your spec range. I’ don"t have personal experience with those models (except the Necky Looksha, which is a fine boat that comes in several sizes). I’ll let others weigh in on those.

To be clear
By “cheap” I didn’t mean crappy, I meant a reasonable used boat, say, found on CL.

14’ first
I am with the others who think you should get a 14’ boat first, not a rec boat. Perhaps bend some of your desires some (the 50 pound limit comes to mind) as a way of getting a less expensive boat.

Necky Looksha 14, Dagger Alchemy are 2 that fit the size, have largish cockpits (yet can still take s skirt) and shouldn’t be much more than $1k new (or $700-900 used). Either would be good entry level boat with some room for growth. I am on my second Alchemy and use it for some pretty advanced stuff (check out my profile picture).

For lighter, you might need to jump up from rotomolded plastic (the basic plastic most use) to thermoformed plastic. This will drop the weight 5 pounds from a similar rotomolded boat, but add close to $1k to the price. Eddyline and Delta are 2 manufacturers that just make thermoformed boats.

The next weight jump is to go to composite (likely another 5 pounds and another $1k in price), but most composite boats have smaller cockpit openings.

good point
Yes, I agree that if she can find a decent used boat it’s always the best option for entry level. A long as it isn’t an 8 or 10’ rec boat.

Love the Alchemy
They are very forgiving boats, I have had a lot of inexperienced friends paddle mine as they are so user friendly.

When learning to paddle some boats seem like they will not track well, in an Alchemy, drop the skeg and it acts like a 16’+ touring boat. If you want to learn to edge a boat, the Alchemy has a very well defined secondary stability inspiring confidence.

I have kept an Alchemy in my “fleet” because it is a good jack of all trades boat.

Thank you
Thanks. Everyone confirms to get about 14 ft kayak and NOT a 10 ft recreational to start with as I thought. I have made a list of models I will start looking for to check out.

Found mine used at a great price. I’d recommend the smaller one.

another thermoformed
boat is the Elie Strait 14. I have a Strait 12 for my son and it’s quite nice, especially the seat. The reviews all complain about the hatches leaking but it is considerably less expensive than the other thermoformed kayaks.

The Strait 120 and 140 would be in the running for the OP–but without a rudder to keep it under 50 lbs and she asked. The seat is really very good.

Sadly, the reviews are pretty consistent about the leaking hatches. I wonder why they don’t do something to correct this long-known problem??

Hurricane kayaks
I’m surprised no one has mentioned Hurricane Kayaks. Take a look at their Sojourn or Excursion model lines. Hurricanes are also thermoformed.

Another Alchemy vote
At 200 an Alchemy L might be just right. At 140 you’d want to put the hip pads back in.

If I had to have just one boat, the Alchemy would be on my list.

Hurricane Sojourn narrow cockpit
Hurricane measures the exterior dimensions of the cockpit and lists it as 19 x 36 on the Sojourn. The actual interior dimensions of the Sojourn cockpit are 16.5" x 34". The length should be fine but the width is too small for the OP.