Choose Elie Straight vs. WS Tsunami

longer can be lighter and often is
The used 16’ Avocet low volume kayak for $750 I posted the link for is 4 lbs lighter than the 14’ Alchemy you are recommending and has similar paddling characteristics. It is also at or near the weights of the other shorter models that the OP has been considering (Tsunami 120 is the same at 50#, Elie Strait 120 is 46#).

For only $750, what she would pay for either of her initial choices new, the OP could have a highly versatile kayak perfectly sized for her that normally costs almost $2000 PLUS a full set of quality gear to get her on the water. And she would have $250 in her budget left for a smokin’ roof rack and some lessons. That is if somebody hasn’t already bought it.

This notion that longer equals heavier, harder to paddle, less stable, etc. is simply not true in most, let alone all, cases. My lightest kayak is the longest: 31 lbs at 18’. It is fast, maneuverable and stable and a breeze to load and haul.

I think we do a disservice to beginners by obsessing about “starter kayaks” having to be short and wide. Unless people are intending to fish or do narrow streams and whitewater, there is no reason a beginner can’t get a long boat to start with, especially since they are often lighter than similar volume shorter boats.

A perspective from a recent experience
FWIW, here’s a perspective from someone who pretty much just went through the same experience. I’m a 5’2" woman, 140lb, 50 years old. Just bought my first kayak after years of casual paddling on rentals. My budget was $1,000 for boat, paddle and PFD.

I bought a new WS Tsunami 120 after not finding anything used. I’ve had the boat for almost a month. I live 1/4 mile from a slow wide river and often paddle for an hour or two after work; up-stream for a couple of miles and then back. I did an overnight on a class I/II river last weekend and have plans to do another this weekend.

The Tsunami 120 weighs 50lb and, frankly, it’s at the very upper limit of what I would want. I’m a strong woman and an avid backpacker and while I don’t have any problems loading /unloading the boat on my car (Nissan Altima) by myself and carrying it from parking lot to the water, I do think twice when there’s a take-out with a flight of stairs up or a steep bank, something that’s not unusual on rivers and not always negotiable with a cart.

Also, being short, the biggest issue I’ve had with loading/unloading on the car on my own has NOT been the weight; it’s reaching the straps and tie-downs. I borrowed my husband’s Ford Escape one day and it was torture trying to hang onto the car (I’m standing on the back seat with the door open) when I needed two hands to tie down the straps.

I demo’ed boats from 10 to 14 feet before deciding on the Tsunami. I have to be honest and say that there were other boats that I preferred that were out of my price range and had I been able to find a used one of them, I would probably have gone that route. I particularly liked the Hurricane Tampico’s, specifically the 135S and 140S.

All that said, I LOVE having my kayak. At this point, it really doesn’t matter whether I made the “perfect” choice or not. At 12ft, it’s nimble and incredibly fun on a fast river. The minute I got off the river last weekend, I was already planning my next trip. I haven’t had any issues with storage space but I’m a backpacker and have pretty compact/light gear.

Tall cars…
I have to use a stepladder when loading the boats alone, to get the straps right, on the older Subaru Outback. Target and the like have some nice folder.

It is a pain, but I blame the car manufacturers who decided that long, low slung station wagons weren’t cool any more.

Car trade-offs
Having a 4-door sedan hasn’t limited me too much except when trying to access backcountry lakes and trailheads down two-tracks. I just don’t have enough clearance. Not sure if smaller hatchbacks or “station wagons” would do any better.

Interestingly enough, the biggest pain about the Escape was that I couldn’t open the back hatch with the kayak on the roof. I realized that I need an SUV where the back window opens as well (our old Explorer had that.) (Of course, no problem opening my trunk on the Altima with the kayak on top.)

How about listening to the OP?
You’re way off the other end of the scale from the kayak the OP is asking about.

“This notion that longer equals heavier, harder to paddle, less stable, etc. is simply not true in most, let alone all, cases.”

The OP has a limited budget. In her case, she would end up with a 16’ rotomolded kayak weighing between 54 and 60 lbs, when she has expressed wanted something as light as possible.

“I think we do a disservice to beginners by obsessing about 'starter kayaks” having to be short and wide.’"

I’ve been encouraging the OP to look at transitionals around 14’. Those usually have a width of 24" which is a perfect width for a beginner.

“There is no reason a beginner can’t get a long boat to start with.”

I can think of quite a few reasons for considering a shorter kayak. Most sports have a curve of learning skills and acquiring equipment. Kayaking is no exception.

It would be helpful to focus on how the OP perceives her own needs.

Tire Step
In our SUV at all times:

You’re on the right track!
12’ is a good length for the paddling conditions you have described. 14’+ boats are great, but they can be a hindrance on rivers and in marshes. Pretty difficult to turn a 14’ boat in a 10’ wide channel, or with a current pushing against the added surface area. 12’ is a safe length for large lakes and protected bays, as well. It never hurts to have more than one boat, so feel free to get a bigger boat in a couple years for bigger water. But for now 12’ is perfectly suited for your needs and your budget.

I’ve paddled both of the boats you have picked. In my experience the Tsunami will last longer banging into rocks and scraping the bottom on rivers. But, you will fit the Elie better and it is a better performer in the other waters you want to paddle. As someone posted before, the Tsunami’s are clunky. The seat is of higher quality and more comfortable in the Tsunami than what comes with the Elie.

My short and skinny on these boats…The Elie is more fun to paddle, responds better, and feels good. The Tsunami is clunky and big, but comfortable and roomy. If you go with the Elie, you may have to choose your river trips a little more carefully, whereas the Tsunami won’t care.

Good luck and have some fun!

a little respect, please
WB, you are entitled to your opinion. But, please, if you feel obliged to discredit my recommendations, at least read the details and base your rejection on valid arguments. The OP stressed that weight was a primary factor for her as well as a kayak suited to her height and weight. I considered what she was looking for carefully in looking for a viable option for her.

As I’ve pointed out several times, the used boat I found was the SAME weight as the 12’ models she was looking at and it is LIGHTER than the 14’ models you and others have been suggesting. Plus the sale is $250 under her budget and includes a paddle, PFD and skirt that would cost her $300 otherwise. In no way have I failed to consider all her needs in my suggestion.

I’m sorry to have to insert a tiff like this into the innocent OP’s conversation. I would have directed my comments to you in a private email but you still have not bothered to post a profile or direct contact option after many months of sporadic posting on here. I doubt I am the only regular forum participant who finds it disrespectful and even offensive that you persist in criticizing and even personally attacking other posters while hiding behind anonymity.

You’re cracking me up again
Hold on while I rush to post my e-mail address so you can contact me. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Sporadic posting, eh? You mean you would prefer to hear from me on a daily basis?

There is nothing disrespectful in my post. The problem is, it’s not possible to disagree with you and have you perceive it as respectful, no matter how it is phrased.

I did actually mean the maneuverablity of carrying them. The longer it is, the harder to carry. I recognize that they are great performers on the water. I have mostly used a 17+ Sealution II and absolutely love it, but it’s not practical for me unless someone is helping me load it. I did go out and demo a few that I have been interested in. The Easky was great, very stable and I could easily lift and carry it. The Elie Straight was also easy to lift and carry, but it felt very tippy and I didn’t feel that it tracked any better than the Easky. I think I am more comfortable without the thermoform too, for durability. I am planning to try the Tsunami, Necky Looksha and Perception Carolina next.

You are so right. I need to be able to get it on the car and as long as it’s not too high of a roof, that’s not a major deal if it’s in the 50# area (or less!), but yes those straps are hard when you are short. My vehicle is a trailblazer, so not too high, but I will have to stand in the open doorway to tie it up. Hopefully I will be able to use my husband’s pick up truck most often, but I want/need to be able to use mine so I can go when I want.Thanks so much for letting me know how that worked out. I plan to demo a Tsunami soon.

river rocks
I do think Rivers will be most frequent paddling experience. It’s hard for me to spend a lot of money on something. I’ll take practicality over pretty any day. Thanks so much for your advice!

Haven’t paddled the Elie…
…but I have been in some Tsunamis. Every single one of them has felt like a big, bloated barge to me. Seems like the designers sacrificed pretty much everything else for the sake of very high stability, so as to keep beginners happy.

Functional boat, but not fun. My guess is you’d outgrow it fairly quickly. =<br />

I did see that post. I have been hemming and hawing about that. I do see that it’s a deal and read all the reviews. I was a bit afraid that it’s out of my league. I do want something to grow into. I do want to do rivers. But i want to move on to other things as well. I am planning to try out the avocet if he still has it. Have you ever paddled one? Can you compare it to anything else for how it handles? I truly do appreciate all of your very specific advice and personalized answers. Thank you so much!

Tsunami vs Carolina
A dealer who sells Wilderness Systems and Perception told me that they sell far more Carolinas than Tsunamis for exactly the reason you mention.

We outgrew our Tsunamis
My wife and I are new to paddling, and started with the Tsunami 135 and 140 last year. 3-4 months later I bought a Zephyr 160. So much more fun boat to paddle. The wife now has an Impex Mystic which she says is her last boat. She is keeping the Tsunami for rocky places and when the water gets a lot colder due to the stability, but for 98% of the time the Tsunami will just hang in the garage.

The Tsunamis are great boats for their purpose, but if you really want to enjoy the feel of the boat under you and expand your skills, I agree that you might outgrow it quicker than you think.

re: Tsunami vs Carolina

– Last Updated: Aug-14-12 5:53 AM EST –

That's surprising... haven't been in a Carolina 14.0, but dimensions-wise, they're quite similar to a Tsunami 140.

The only differences I really notice is the Carolina has less rocker and lacks the day hatch. So I wonder what's making the Carolina feel less 'barge-y'?

Sure, less rocker would increase the waterline length and likely make it a bit faster in a straight line, but that doesn't change the volume or the wide beam (24.5").

Weight and loading a kayak

– Last Updated: Aug-14-12 7:55 AM EST –

Weight seems to keep coming up here, and I wanted to get something in on that. As has been mentioned above, weight and length do not move upward together across boats of different materials and from different manufacturers. Different manufacturing processes even in rotomolded boats can produce quite different results at a given length.

There is the additional issue of limiting weight to one that is normally recommended as safe for a person of the OPer's size to lift. Given the usual no more than 1/3 recommendation and the height that is challenged by so many current cars, the only type of kayak that is reliably going to be safe is one with expensive and fragile kevlar layups or a skin on frame. Building a skin on frame for yourself is not the fastest way to get on the water.

At this height, half an inch from mine, handling just about any boat short of a teacup sized WW boat or the above layups comes down to assistive devices. Unless you want to risk blowing out your back that is... I prefer keeping mine working, especially at 60 yrs old. If handling even my lighter shorter boats alone I use a cart from car to water, and something like the rack add-ons from the manufacturers like Thule and Yakima or the Asseteague Roller-Loader to get the boat up and down from the roof. It takes a little more time, but it is by the far the safest for my back.

The worst problems we have loading boats at the end of an evening paddle with a very mixed group tend not to be the longer ones, because they are long enough to slide, but the folks who got 10 to 12 foot boats and are trying to get it onto something like a small SUV. We've had to help women get these boats up onto the rack (as they had to ask for help to load the boat to get there), in some cases we really don't know how they get the boat down once they get home. I suspect a lot of dropping is going on.

Most new paddlers who try test-loading a boat at an outfitter are doing it onto a vehicle that is not equipped the way it would be once they had the boat. And these places are often staffed by younger guys who simply don't think about back safety for women who don't regularly lift weights and are in their 50's plus.

Avocet LV versus Alchemy 14’

– Last Updated: Aug-14-12 9:52 AM EST –

I've paddled both, a full day's trip in the Avocet LV and some demo time in the Alchemy. I like both boats, but they are quite different.

The Avocet LV is a good all-purpose boat for a smaller sized paddler. It is the primary boat for at least one extremely good coach I know, someone who is a major Greenland paddler but uses the Avocet for days on the water teaching general skills. I found it wasn't way fast feeling (didn't clock anything) but it was no issue to keep up with our paddling group. It felt quite different in terms of tracking than the regular Avocet - it was easier to keep going straight in the currents around smaller feeders dumping into the Hudson than the regular sized one. It had a quite low deck, which I liked. This is not a boat that you'd want to paddle without a skirt, but skirts are basic equipment for us anyway.

If we didn't have the fleet we already have I'd have been interested. It just didn't add a lot new over what we already have, and it was a new boat price.

The Alchemy is a very fun, very maneuverable boat that really works for all levels. It has very reassuring stability - beginners get into this thing around here and love it - and five minutes later someone can take it out and do spins and rolls back to back and have as much fun. (as long as they dump the water out of the bulkheads) It is a very flexible boat. It is unlikely to be as fast in a straight line as the Avocet.

Both boats are fully equipped in terms of bulkheads, rigging and perimeter line, with recesses for a deck compass. Both will support learning skills very well, with the major diff being that the Alchemy is the one you'd take into surf because of its higher maneuverability. Both would be a great first boat.

This help? (not I bet) The price on the Avocet LV is quite good.

I am trying to pay attention to these things. I do plan to get a roller type of kayak mount for the top of the Trailblazer. I am a nurse. My back is already strained. I need it to last me longer! I appreciate all you are all telling me. Keep it coming and thanks! I do not want to outgrow my kayak in a year or two. Money is not something that comes easy! I plan to paddle at least once per week, minimum. I really appreciate the advice regarding my height/weight for style of kayak as well as weight issues. That is what I need the most. The guys selling them do not have to think about where their feet reach or how to get it on top of the truck or down the trail! I do!