Complete Newbie...which kayak to buy?

I would like to start kayaking the No. Florida lake where I have a cabin. I’m a 62-year-old female, in good shape, but not athletic. Don’t want to spend a lot, as this would be used maybe 15X per year. I see there are kayaks that are 2-seater that convert to 1-seater. That would be nice in case a grandchild wants to come along. I would really love to get some advice from experienced kayakers!

Buy used sit on top rec boat
I am a canoeist so not really the one to tell you any thing. Buy used. If you do not like most likely sell for about what you bought for.

Since you are not going to be doing much more than going out in good weather and slowly moving around a lake a short wide sit on top will fit you best. Trying to use a paddling craft for some times one then sometimes two people can be done but is not a good way to go. Buy two used. A solo and tandem.

Research and look at the pictures of damage and how people fix so you will have an idea of what to avoid when buying used. Wear through, cracks, and brittleness are what I would look for. Especially in the bow and the stern.

Wide and flat bottomed will give you great initial stability. Narrow, long, and rounded/ “V” bottom will be faster but tip easier.

It on top rec boats are easier to get back on if some how you fall out.

Sounds like good advice…thank you. Yes, I will be going slow and leisurely, and don’t want to struggle too much to get back in if I fall off.

I’m going to differ
from the advice you’re heard so far.

Rent boats for a while. Yeah, it costs a bit, but if you can paddle boats and get a feel for what you like, it’s a good investment. Many shops have demo days. Clubs, sometimes, have individuals who will let you get a feel for a boat if you show an interest. Before you buy anything, and then have to lug a huge mass of hated plastic around, get a feel for what you are getting into.

After paddling a few boats, you will start to get the glimmer of an idea of the type of performance you want out from the hull. You probably (unless you study a bit) will not have a solid foundation of why hull A feels better than hull B, but you’ll at least be aware that you have a preference.

Possibly, a short fat pig of a boat is fine with you, but this is unlikely. More common is that people find all sorts of reasons to never pull the boat out and think that the sport isn’t very fun, it’s just work.

So look around. Florida has LOTS of water (more each day, actually, as the state is sinking at an appreciable rate). Paddle several hulls. Open boats can have decent performance and have a lot of popular appeal. They are easier to access and re-enter after capsize and these may be things that appeal to you now. Over time, you will probably develop a different opinion and may, or may not, want to replace that with a closed boat. In any case, give yourself a chance to pick something that you will use and enjoy.

And don’t forget, the paddle is really important. A good fit and comfort is essential to enjoying the sport.


Ditto Rick,

– Last Updated: Dec-26-15 11:10 AM EST –

with one additional comment: take a lesson so you can learn the fundamentals of paddling as well as get competent advice about gear, including a good PFD - which, of course, you will always wear when paddling.

The advice to buy used is often given and has its merits, so long as you have some experience and a general idea of the type of boat you want.

Try a few, get wet, take a lesson, and enjoy the journey.

Differ not so much.
Your advice is good…If the OP wanted more than a limited use, inexpensive, play around the cabin lake area paddle craft.

If a person wishes to start into paddling seriously everything you said is correct. Or we can just give good advice on what they ask for. in this case. A cheep inexpensive play on the lake in front of the cabin paddle craft.

Down side of Sit on tops (SOT)
They are a lot heavier than a sit Inside kayak (SINK) so harder to move around on land. I have seen more than one used SOT that leaks at the seam and gets water inside which is difficult to repair.

Paddling the lake around your cabin a capsize is unlikely in any recreational SINK and you are not going to fall off a SOT without trying real hard… I’ ve been paddling kayaks almost 7 years and took a lot of people out for their first kayak trip and never had anyone in a 29" wide kayak on flat water capsize.

How old are the grandkids? What is your budget like? A good paddle ($130+) will have more impact on how much you like to paddle than the boat will. A good PFD costs a little, you do not want an all purpose water sport vest from Walmart as it will not be comfortable in a kayak.

Lessons are a good idea if you can find them. Poor paddling technique will lead to arm or shoulder problems.

All the rentals I have available around me do not have much of a range of kayaks to try and do not expect a lesson to come with the rental.

A lot of people here, myself included, keep a Perception Swifty for the type of paddling your looking at. Pungo’s have room to hold a small child in your lap. For older kid get two solos, paddling tandem takes practice and patience.

I see it differently.
I think basic instruction benefits even the most recreational, disinterested paddler and trying different boats before you buy can save money in the long run.

I’m a good example of that, having started with a short, fat kayak to paddle on a quiet inland lake the summer of 2014. Never tried before I purchased and found that boat was a PITA to paddle and a waste of money.

Education and instruction made a world of difference and turned what was planned as an occasional pastime into a passion.

I hope the OP’s journey is as fun as mine.

I’m with irbc
I think I’m with irbc, but it could go either way. to the original poster, do you want to ’ get into’ a sport or just putz around the lake a few times a year?

if you’re just putzing around with little desire to refine your skills, a wide, used, sit on top kayak is just about the cheapest, easiest way onto the water.

That said, a cheap wide sit on top has generally poor performance so if you decide you like paddling a lot and want to increase your skills, you will need a different boat to do that. if you don’t care though, the point is moot.

a lesson or 2 isn’t a bad idea either.

enjoy paddling, whichever way you do it!

I’ll all
for saving money and buying used does provide some modest discounts (all too often, not as much as you’d think, though).

I like closed cockpits, but then, I’ve seen some very nice SOT’s, so I can’t be a complete snob about that.

My problem with the advice isn’t that it is wrong, just that kayaking becomes a passion over time. So many start paddling and realize that their first experiences in a boat are (a) really bad and never want to paddle again, or (b) lots of fun and want to do more, or © sort of fun, but the boats are so hard to paddle that they lose interest. Often, those in category c could well have had a better experience if the water>hull>paddle interface was smoother and less strenuous.

Personally, I love seeing someone learn to paddle in a boat that they feel is just a little too tippy for them. After a few hours, they seem to develop enough skill and comfort to forget that they ever thought the boat was unstable.

Classes can be excellent ways to effectively rent a boat, begin to learn about the sport, technique, and, finally, which paddle and hull attributes appeal to the paddler.

The OP has ready access to water and thinks that 15X/year is probably about as often as she’d paddle. I can easily see someone like this easily spending a lot more than their intended time on the water, and for this reason, I am recommending a more thorough investigation of the sport before purchasing.


I Think
you would do well with a high quality inflatable:

Lots of room for the grandkids, gear, light at 36lbs, easily stored/transported, very stable, and paddle well. Feel free to email me for some photos and a video of my Ocean Pro inflatable. I have a sea kayak and a 14’ sit on top and this one is just so easy to toss it in the trunk, takes 10 minutes to inflate (faster with electric pump), can be set up for single or tandem, and will take any kind of water from bigger waves to calm water.