cross-over kayak suggestions?

I’m a fit 65-year old guy who will be a retired professor soon and I want to get back into kayaking. I paddle a Old Town Penobscot 16 canoe right now. Is it possible to find a kayak that will work on our Ozark streams in southern Missouri AND track well in big lakes in Minnesota and Wisconsin? I’d rather not buy two kayaks but will do so if there’s nothing that will crossover between types of water. Thanks! bob

Dagger Katana, Liquid Logic XP9 or 10, others I’m sure. A good friend has a Katana and an XP10 (he’s a big boy) and he greatly prefers the Katana. Not sure why but if you’d like I can find out.

I’m inclined to suggest two kayaks,
one a pure river-runner like a Jackson Zen or a Liquid Logic Remix, and the other a touring kayak in the 14 foot range.

Crossovers will track OK with the skeg down, but they are slow and lacking in the glide that makes lake travel more efficient and enjoyable.

Crossovers are heavier and less agile than pure river runners with respect to negotiating whitewater, even easy whitewater. A pure river runner will be more satisfying.

You can hold cost down by careful shopping for used boats.

You might want more than tracking
If I were a kayaker, I wouldn’t mind having a cross-over kayak just for whitewater. I see a lot of cross-over kayaks being used among the people I paddle with. There are at least two or three on nearly every group trip. The ones I saw on my last group trip were made by Liquid Logic, but I couldn’t tell you the exact model. All the ones I’ve seen seem pretty capable in whitewater (“capable”, meaning they are not play boats but they will maneuver nicely and take you where you want to go, which is as much as most people want or need)

When it comes to flat water, cross-over kayaks are able to get the job done, by my standards they do so quite badly. Of the dozens that I’ve paddled alongside, all of them splashed and gurgled continuously at the bow, even at dead-slow speed. I can always hear them coming up behind me long before they get close. To me, a splashy boat is an inefficient boat, but I’d never want to put up with something that noisy even if that weren’t true. To me, flat-water paddling is a quiet activity, and I don’t want to hear my own boat, much less be heard by every person and animal in the vicinity. You may not care about noise and efficiency (many people don’t). I’m just warning you to not have unrealistic expectations about cross-overs on flat water.

Crossover thoughts
Realistically, any crossover will seem much lighter than a canoe. I usually use my crossover rather than touring boat for lake trips of three miles or so (less hassle loading and unloading boat). We have two modern crossovers and a Prijon Combi in the family. Our Pyranha Fusion is great at flatwater. On rivers, it is very capable but, for me, does not feel very playful (and is relatively hard to roll). Our Jackson Rogue is not great at flatwater but comes alive in the river. It is easy to roll and surf. There was a very informative review of crossovers in a recent issue of Canoe and Kayak. Crossovers can be hard to find on the used market.

What’s your experience with canoes?

– Last Updated: May-27-15 1:10 PM EST –

You say, "Realistically, any crossover will seem much lighter than a canoe." Really? I see that the Liquid Logic Remix XP10 weighs 46 pounds and the Dagger Katana 10.4 weighs 56 pounds, while one model of Pyranha Fusion and the Jackson Rogue both weigh in at 48 pounds. The heaviest decent-quality 14-foot solo canoes would weigh less than most of these boats in spite of a lot of extra length, and shorter whitewater canoes would definitely weigh less. If you think a feeling of lighter weight might come about because these boats are supposedly more nimble, think again about the nimbleness comparison too.

I realize the original question is about kayaks, and canoes have no bearing here, but I thought it worth pointing out that this comparison about canoes isn't accurate.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure the Fusion is one of those Gurgling Monsters that you can hear splashing its way along well before it gets near, so I wonder what makes you decide that it's great on flat water. Is the quietness and glide even remotely similar to a touring kayak? If not, "great" seems far fetched.

Royalex 14 footers run 45 to 60 pounds.
My 14.5 Guide Solo weighs roughly 55 pounds.

Whether kayaks or canoes of similar weights “feel” alike or different when hefted depends on the individual and the specific craft involved. Some kayaks balance easily and can be carried on a shoulder. Canoes, I find, are easiest to lift if I can finish by carrying on a portage yoke or on my head. I have 55 and 60 pound kayaks, and they feel heavier than they are, but someone more accustomed to them might find my Guide Solo canoe more of a chore.

I should have said “many” instead of …

– Last Updated: May-27-15 2:15 PM EST –

..."most". It's still a tough sell to say cross-overs will feel lighter than any canoe when only the heaviest canoes of similar purpose are even in the same ballpark. And I'm sure not convinced that the flatwater performance is anything better than "it'll get you there, but not gracefully" .

I can
only speak from my experience. I have a Liquid Logic XP9 & love it. Great for WW, and with the skeg down tracks very well on flatwater. I will say, it is slow on flatwater, but I don’t paddle on large bodies of water & am not in a hurry either. Comfy, & storage area is decent. If you’re planning on paddling lake Superior, would be way too slow for you.

Here’s a typical anecdote.
This is a single anecdote just from this past Memorial Day weekend, but it’s very typical.

We had 13 boats on the water. 12 sea kayaks, from a young girl in a 12’ X 20" Current Designs Raven, to your Sirrocos, Caribous, Cetus, Aquanat, etc. Then we had something of a crossover boat, can’t remember the make and model. But described as being great for simpler whitewater runs as well as flatwater.

So a couple of problems can come into play using this type of boat on open water. 1. The group is not a lily-dippin crowd, so there is something of a constant pace , albeit pretty easy-going on this paddle. 2. The person in the crossover is not a significantly more advanced paddler than the slowest in long boats.

So this story was typical. We paddled in tidal creeks, with a plan to paddle across the inside of the inlet, and continue on to a restaurant for a nice lunch on the other side of the inlet through some more tidal creeks. The person in the crossover wore themself out before even reaching the inlet. We were fighting some wind and current on the first leg. And to paddle next to this boat, as described above by others, you could hear the turbulence around the boat just to keep time with the current. So one other had to just paddle back to the put-in along with them, while the rest of us continued in a more normal pace. And no one was in any hurry here. It’s just that the boat had no glide fighting the current vs. something designed for open water travel.

I’ve read plenty of anecdotes of people keeping up with group paddles in such boats. For an explanation of this, see the two points above.

how often do you paddle?
People have given you good reasons to go either with one or two boats. I think the final answer depends on your personally and how much paddling you’ll do in reality.

I have a crossover that works pretty
good. Like anything that does everything, it does nothing great. Through practice, I was able to make it do everything I wanted to do. It’s called the Prijon Cruiser, about 15 feet and heavy, about 50 pounds. I’m selling it for $100.00 if you want to get out to Great Bend, PA.

some more thoughts
I think the current crop of ww “crossovers” are all pretty ww capable and should be able handle your ozark streams with no problem. My ll xp10 is so stable I called it “boating for dummies”. Big, forgiving, comfortable to paddle- and I put it through its paces on the upper meadow, new river gorge, bluestone and lower gauley. Now for the bad news- all these folks are right, these boats are slow on the flats- I paddled my xp across several lakes and it is just plain slow compared to touring boats. Slightly better in speed than many ww kayaks but not by a whole lot. The xp is probably one of the slower crossovers- but its not just about speed and wanting to go fast, its about energy expenditure and being able to make headway. I still haven’t invested in a “touring” boat as I just don’t live near that many large bodies of water to make it worth my while. So I rent or as someone put it “suffer needlessly” in my crossover when I do hit the coast or a large lake.

“Crossovers” are indeed versatile. I camped out of mine, paddled swamps, paddled lakes, creeks, and paddled a lot of class IV ww in mine. There are certainly better suited boats for each individual environment but it is impressive that i paddled one design in all these different places. I haven’t spent time battling winds on large expanses of open water, tried paddling against tides or tried to keep up with experienced folks in longer touring boats. I also avoid steep creeks where a shorter ww boat is an advantage. So I can’t tell you it is good for everything but I have paddled lots of places in one.

One thing that folks won’t tell you is that the xp10 is a pretty decent play boat- the big bow makes it easy to “get on” features and it is easy to surf waves and holes in it. You won’t be able to catch air, do flips and other cool stuff but I know I won’t be doing that in any boat, regardless of type. That stuff is way beyond me.

I’d check out the review pages here on for the different crossovers to get a better idea of their uses and intended environments, and individual quirks and perks.

Longer boat
Wouldn’t he be better in a longer boat - say the 13 to 14 foot range. I haven’t been on Ozark streams in southern Missouri, but around here people take those on quickwater streams all the time, and it seems like it would be a lot better on those big lakes in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

What kind of whitewater?
What class? I’ve taken sea kayaks and transitional boats down Class I & II whitewater without problems. Since it sounds like you’ve canoed a lot, you appear to be comfortable paddling. Transitioning to kayaks shouldn’t pose too many problems. Everything I’ve seen of Ozark rivers, they’re not too technical, no really sharp maneuvering necessary but your mileage may vary.

yeah I like that idea,
a little bit longer boat to track better for the ops intended environments. We haven’t talked about portaging. It wouldn’t be pretty in a 'crossover." They are heavy for their length. I drag mine a lot. Don’t know if that’s an issue or not.

How big are the lakes?
I grew up in MO, and with the exception of the St Francis watershed, just about any craft will work in the Ozarks, so the limiting factor in your case will be the northern lakes. As long as those lakes aren’t so big as to require a full blown sea kayak and full-on sea kayak skills, you could use a ‘day touring’ boat like a 13 foot Wilderness Systems Tsunami as a do-it-all boat.

With a bit of practice, a boat like that would be plenty maneuverable for the Ozarks and still be efficient for lake paddling. You definitely don’t need what the market currently calls a ‘crossover.’ Those are overkill for the Ozarks and will be unpleasantly slow on a big lake.

If you already use your Penobscot in the Ozarks, a typical day touring kayak is probably similar in maneuverability.

Here’s A Photograph Of A SOT
Entering a class IV. Yes, that’s me about 13 years younger.

That boat has run many rapids and one of the first in Salmon country to do so. I’ve ran the Escalante into Lake Powell. The "experts said they doubted it could be done at the time. I ran the Verde. The “expert” gave me the same warning. It’s a 14’ Perception Illusion. I still have it. On flat water I can hold a 3 MPH pace.

I recommend people think about what they need for their personal enjoyment. To each there own. When I started running waterwater in a flat bottom touring SOT techniques for that still had to be perfected.

Thanks for your thoughts
Great contributions…thanks. You’ve given me a lot to think about. I agree with the last writer who sized up Missouri’s Ozark streams pretty well. Since we haven’t picked out a retirement camp up north, I’m not exactly sure about the size of the lake(s). Maybe I should save some money and buy two used boats, each with a different set of characteristics. Thanks again everyone. Very helpful. bob

Even my 14.5’ poly touring boat is 60
pounds, and poorly balanced for portaging.