Choosing a Kayak

I have been canoeing many many times and have loved it every time. Yesterday I went with some friends and some had kayaks (Dagger’s but I’m not sure which models). I have decided that I want to get a kayak for myself. I would say that I’m pretty descent in a canoe, but I’m not sure about kayaks. I’m trying not to spend over $400 on everything. I will only be going on rivers and lakes, nothing to intense. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

I’m sure you realize that in addition to a boat you will also need a double-bladed paddle and you may possibly need a spray skirt.

To try to get a paddle and boat for $400 you are going to be limited to finding a good deal on a used boat and paddle, or buying an introductory recreational kayak of the “pumpkin seed” variey at Dick’s, Gander Mountain, or the like.

You will probably do better looking for a used boat as your budget will probably get you better quality that way, but your choice will be limited to what is available within an area across which you are willing to drive. Asking recommendations for a specific boat therefore, probably don’t make much sense. I think it would be better to see what you can find listed either here on pnet, or on craigslist, and check to see if there is a paddling club in your area. Many times club members have used boats for sale.

If you find something within your budget, post a new thread asking if it will fit your needs.

As for kayaking vs. canoeing, it is my fairly strong opinion that kayaking is easier to get started in than canoeing with one possible exception. If you wind up buying a sit in kayak and plan to use a sprayskirt, I would recommend you spend some time learning to roll it as it will do wonders for your comfort level and enhance your safety as well.

I’m sure someone will be along shortly to tell you you don’t need to learn to roll to paddle a kayak (which is true), or that kayaking is much harder to master than canoeing (which is not).

on something like craigslist
you can find amazing deals that could be perfect for you, and you could end up with something you wish you hadn’t jumped into. I have a friend who recently went out and bought a whitewater boat for $150.00. There’s great whitewater in the state, but on the other side of the state. He didn’t realize that a whitewater kayak is designed to travel with current, and to spin, not to cruise through flatwater. On the other hand, I found a Catalina for my girlfriend in nearly new condition for $300. It is a straight tracking, lower stability sea kayak. Her main use would be to paddle active paddling trips in the ICW, flatwater rivers, and ocean, learning to edge, brace, and roll. She just nailed the roll last Thursday. She’s been taking it out on her own, and says she really likes it. Someone wanting a stable kayak not looking towards more advanced skills probably wouldn’t enjoy it, as the original owner likely figured out.

So what impressed you most about the kayaks? Was it maneouverability? Was it that they seemed to track well? Was it their speed? Was it that they could roll to cool off? What is it about a kayak that you think you would enjoy? Would you look at it more like a very active sport, or more a leisurely relaxation oriented activity? What is an active sport to you? Are you playing golf to stay active, or are you running marathons? Who do you expect to paddle with? What types of paddling do they do and what style boats do they have? Are you likely to enjoy and be driven to learning the more difficult to learn skills, or will you be turned off by paddling which requires a higher level of intensity?

In reality, there’s also a good chance you’re not sure the answer to many of these questions without paddling. In that case, you should go demo some boats or find someone to lend you something you can try out on a paddle. If you can give a good indication of what style boat may be appropriate at this point, then give your size (height, weight, waist size), post what you find available in that price range, and you can maybe get some opinions on whether that boat is worth taking a look at for your given purposes. You’re not likely going to be able to be too choosy in that price range, but you can find some really great deals that will suit your needs well, as long as you can define those needs.

more thoughts
I have never used a kayak before, I just decided that I wanted something of my own that I would use when I wanted. I wanted to get a kayak over a canoe because I could go out by myself, one thing I couldn’t do with a canoe. I planned on using it to go down the river and cruise with my friends. I would use it a little more than that to go out by myself. I am 6’0", 178 lbs., and my waist is a size 34. That price range was just a thought, I could spend more than that if I needed. Since I am so new to kayak buying I’m not even sure what to look for (brands, sizes, etc.) or where to look for one.

kayak types
You can go canoeing by yourself. A solo canoe is preferable, but lots of people paddle tandem canoes solo. You can sit on the front seat facing the stern of the boat and paddle the tandem that way. You may need to put a little weight (like a milk bottle full of water) right in the stem of the canoe opposite your sitting position to trim it.

Or you can kneel just behind the center point of the boat and paddle it that way. Since tandem canoes are wider than solo boats, many paddlers will kneel near the center of the tandem with both knees in one chine and paddle it “Canadian style”, with the boat heeled over toward your paddling side. This makes it a bit easier to paddle close to the side of a wide tandem, and makes it much easier to turn a long tandem canoe.

As far as kayaks go, there are several categories of non-racing kayaks.

Sea kayaks are long and fast and patterned more or less after the traditional craft used by the Inuit and other native people to hunt on the open ocean. They are geared more for speed, efficiency and long-distance paddling and have plenty of volume for carrying gear for trips (if they are provided with bulkheads and hatches). They are very seaworthy, but have a much larger turning radius than whitewater boats. They are typically more expensive and are harder to store because of their length. These are nearly always sit-in kayaks (SINKs) which are usually paddled wearing a sprayskirt, except perhaps in calm conditions.

Whitewater boats are short and made to spin on a dime. They typically do not have enough volume to carry anything much, and can be painful to paddle long distances, especially on flat water. They are basically designed to have the benefit of downstream current to assist propulsion. There are sit-on-top (SOT) whitewater kayaks, but the majority are sit in boats and are paddled wearing sprayskirts.

Recreational kayaks are shorter and wider than sea kayaks, but usually not so short as whitewater boats. Some have a watertight compartment with a hatch. They often have large cockpits and are very often paddled without a sprayskirt. Because of their shorter length, greater width, and generally less-efficient hull bottom designs, they are considerably slower than sea kayaks, but are stable and predictable and can be fun for “poking around” on calm water or easy rivers. There are also quite a few SOT recreational kayaks.

There are a few kayaks which call themselves “cross-over designs” which are intended to have adequate efficiency for flat water travel, but enough maneuverability for milder whitewater river-running use.

– Last Updated: Jun-30-09 6:35 PM EST –

Looking at the last post, I would be getting a recreational/touring kayak or maybe even a "cross-over" kayak. I planned on getting a used kayak since it will be my first one, and a used 2009 model is not what I was looking for (the price is much more than a 2006-08). Is there a good website to look for used kayaks?

The friends I went with had kayaks like this...

I like how they have the compartment to store things and quite frankly just the look of them. My friends had a Dagger models that looked just like the one above. I'm not looking for anything too fancy, just a nice used boat to go out on.

Also, what else would I have to get along with a boat and double-edged paddle?

other stuff
I assume you have a PFD. If you are not planning on paddling whitewater, you probably don’t need a helmet.

You probably need some type of river or water shoes or neo booties. Athletic shoes are a bit clunky to fit in a kayak. You may or may not want a sprayskirt, depending on what type of water you plan to paddle. You often tend to get a little wetter in a kayak than a canoe. You may want some kind of paddling jacket, if you don’t have one. You need some way to transport a boat on your vehicle if you don’t currently have a rack. A set of foam blocks works reasonably well.

There is a lot of other stuff that you can buy but may not need (depending on the conditions in which you plan to paddle) such as paddle floats, bilge pumps, compasses, paddle tethers, etc, etc.

I paddled a friend’s Kestrel around a lake and I thought it was a pretty decent rec kayak.