Choosing Touring Kayak Length

So in just over a year of paddling my cheapy rec kayak I am ready to get out of it and move up. However, I am not sure where I want to go.

I use my kayak for many different purposes in many different situations, non of which are whitewater. I Use it for cruising around in lakes and calm rivers, play a little in it at the beach, and fish out of it. I want something with a small enough cockpit and braces so I can learn to roll and play in the waves without worrying about filling up the boat.

So here is where the needed advice comes in. I am looking to stay under 900 bucks, and used is certainly an option. Looking for plastic. I have been leaning towards something like a perception carolina 14.5, but am now wondering if even that could be too long for some of my plans (mainly concerned about in the surf). What are y’alls opinions on something a bit smaller like the Wilderness Tsunami 125? I really am unsure on what a good length would be.

Also, I’m 5’9" 180 lbs… thanks for any advice

Fit for rolling etc
Given your height there are some bigger volume boats that will give you a better fit for things like rolling, but on details that are important which may send you to something other than the Caroline…

Low rear deck, fairly low sides as well. The lower the rear deck the easier it’ll make laybacks, the lower the sides the easier it makes controlling the boat with your lower body.

Positive thigh braces - something that comes over and really allows you to control the boat just with your thighs.

Narrower beam - roughly, narrower tends to be easier to roll and scull. Though there are limits - I was in a very high decked, though quite narrow, deep V shaped hull this last week with huge volume and no useable thigh braces for my size and could not get the thing up at all. I’d get it halfway up and just didn’t have any purchase to finish the roll.

re: tsunami
I have been generally pleased with my tsunami 160 so I would think the 125 is a nice kayak as well. I am already considering giving it to my wife and moving myself to something with a little less initial stability and even narrower. Despite that I think the Tsunami is a nice line with excellent outfitting and a fantastic seat. The cockpit is nice and tight compared to most other recreational level kayaks and the price should be right in line with what you listed as your budget.

Incompatible criteria
You can play in the surf with an 18 foot boat. Lots of people do it. But that is not ideal for someone just starting to play in the surf and is not the first choice for surf kayaking. Fishing requires a stable wide boat and you don’t want that for surfing. Going down a river? What class? Anything can go down a river with no rapids. Almost anything can go down a river with ripples. But if you need to maneuver, you need a boat that does that well. The shorter the better. There isn’t really a boat that does all of the things you want to do. How about three $300 boats? That is quite reasonable on the used market.

IMO, people worry too much about length and not enough about beam, depth, cockpit fit, and how the boat handles. I was out on the lake today in my 16’ Avocet playing with other folks, and could turn as well as the 10-12’ rec boats if I got up on edge. I also fish from it despite the 22" beam.

The used multi-boat option makes sense, though. A SOT for surf, and a creek boat for rivers and fishing. The inexpensive touring boat will be the hardest to find.

thanks for everyone’s suggestions. As far as playing in the surf goes I don’t really “surf” them much, as we just don’t get waves big enough for that here in Texas unless a tropical storm or something is coming ashore. I usually just plow into them and let them crash over the boat or let them hit me broadside for the thrill of tipping the boat. Kinda weird huh. But that is why I am looking for a boat with a good fit that I can put a skirt on that can take waves breaking onto it… my current rec boats cockpit is so big the skirt has a hard time holding that water back. Fishing isn’t much of a problem and I don’t really need a wide kayak for that as I usually get out when I find a good spot to fish anyways.

So… does 14 sound like it would function good for me? Seems like a 14’ day touring boat offers some versitility in its function and will let me use it where I want.

Also, to the person asking about rivers, any that I will run are basically flatwater, more like a slow moving lake.

Thank you all for your help- Extremely useful.

16 ft long by 22-23’’ wide is the magical number to me . Rudder equipped 16 footers tend to have plenty of room for camping for a couple days and decent speed and good manouverability. Skeg boats usually tend to have lower volume pointier ends for the same length thus less gear space(reduced further by the skeg box) and often a slower boat because of less waterline length(yes i know its over geniralization).

I’m thinking CD Squall,Elaho,SeaYak and the like.

Most importantly,look for fit,something you feel locked in without being crammed into.

I don’t think I’d limit your search to only 14’ boats. For example, I have a 17-1/2’ and have paddled several others that are a few inches plus or minus, but they all feel different. One I tried would be a great surfing boat and fun in the rough stuff, but for me it wouldn’t be a good expedition boat. The one I have is great for long trips.

Differences here are with the rocker, hull shape and waterline length. These differences are at least as important as overall length. There’s nothing magic about 17-1/2’ kayaks, just what I have experience with.

Length can be…
…important, however, for other reasons:

storage, transportation, etc.

But you are spot on, in the main.

From what he said, I’d guess something in the 12-15 foot range might be about right.