Deposit on wrong kayak?

After many years of talking about it, my husband and I finally decided to bite the bullet and get kayaks. I have no experience; his is minimal. He is 6’4", 180 lbs; I am 5’9" 165 lbs. We expect to do mostly still water, lakes, streams and maybe small rivers. But who knows … we’re new to this.

From internet research alone, I had been leaning toward the Manitou 13 or 14; yet after trying a number of boats, we put our deposit on two Tsunami 125s. Now I’m panicked that, despite liking it during the test paddle, it is too big for someone my size. We tried:

Manitou 13 & 14 Select

Tsunami 125, 145, 135

Any thoughts on boat sizing would be appreciated. It’s not clear to me what constitutes a “large” or “smaller” paddler.

don’t make a final decision

– Last Updated: Apr-05-08 8:03 PM EST –

Don't make a final decision before you take the boat on the water and try it out.

Some areas have the paddlefest thing where all the dealers put their boats on a beach and let people try them all. Or many dealers have demo possibilities (whether you get to take a kayak for free, or have to rent it for a day and then are allowed to apply the rental fee towards the purchase of a boat). Or you can sometimes take lessons, which at the same time gets you time in boats.

If that all fails, see if someone nearbye has one you can try out.

But before plunking the cash down for a boat, get in it and make sure it works for you.

We did try them …
I’m sun burnt and sore from trying them. The problem is, how is a novice to know? What feels right to me now, might not feel so right in 6 months.

The salesman should direct me, you might say, but they deal with all types, and sell them what they think they want.


– Last Updated: Apr-05-08 8:50 PM EST –

I'm curious why you didn't try the Tsunami 120 or 140.

There's no clear definition for "smaller paddler". Women usually have proportionally shorter arms and torsos than men, and a lower center of gravity. This means that they're often more comfortable in a narrower boat than a man of the same weight would be. A boat that's too wide or too deep will force you to paddle with your hands uncomfortably high. A cockpit that's too big will make it more difficult to use your lower body to help control the boat.

Beginners tend to choose the kayak that feels the most stable. Most find that stability magically improves with a little time on the water, and a boat that felt tippy at first soon feels very comfortable.

Beginners also tend to prefer roomy cockpits for entry/exit ease, and for fear of getting stuck if the kayak flips. When you practice wet exits you'll realize that it's hard to NOT fall out of an inverted kayak. If you're sliding around in the cockpit it will be harder to control the kayak.

If you like the Tsunami series, I'd encourage you to try the 120 and 140 for comparison.

But only you know what's best for you.

I predict you will love them
A lot depends on your goals, fitness level, etc. You could do a whole lot worse for lakes/slow rivers.

If you don’t love them after the first year, it wasn’t necessarily a bad decision, just a stepping stone. Let us know how they work out.

It sounds like…
you did everything right. Your wants and needs will change over time. All you can do is paddle the boat, find out what it does well and not so well. Enjoy the boat and learn what you can from paddling it.

I’m with angstrom on this

– Last Updated: Apr-05-08 10:28 PM EST –

You should try the Tsunami 120 or 140. I think you'll find that to be a better fit for you. Nice boats, too.

The Manitous are nice also. Probably a tad faster than the Tsunami 120 (seemed so to me, anyway) and relatively lightweight.

One advantage of the Tsunamis is the two hatches. Lots of 12' boats don't have a bow and stern hatch - the Manitou 13 doesn't, for example. I don't really NEED two hatches, just liked the idea. (I own a Tsunami 120 in Duralite so the weight is even less than the Manitou.)

You really can't go wrong with either one, but personally, I'd nix the 125 for you. I have a female friend who has one and she regrets buying it. Says it feels like a bathtub to her.

p.s. If you haven't taken delivery yet the outfitter should let you change your mind and apply the deposit to another boat. I think most reputable dealers would.

if you can change kayaks
the 120 Tsunami will probably fit you better. But, being a novice you won’t really know the difference. Like someone else mentioned what matters is that it gets you out on the water enjoying the sport.

No matter what kayak you buy will probably want to switch after a while (maybe a month, maybe years).

Tsunamis are great kayaks and you will enjoy it regardless of the size.

Tsunami 135
I am not too far from where you are. I decided to buy a kayak this spring since George wrote me a letter and is sending me a check soon. I thought it was the least I could do for the economy. WEll, anyway…to be honest, I didn’t get the chance to try any of the kayaks I looked at. I talked to people and researched it thoroughly. I figure I wouldn’t know what I was looking for if I did take it for a test paddle. But I am the gal that bought the Harley without ever riding anything bigger than a 125cc motorbike. OK… so I went through a midlife crisis of sort and have now sold the motorcycle, so please forgive my transgression here. My lawnmower doesn’t even have a motor these days.

My Tsunami 135 will be here next week. Ordered it from REI. I am sure I will love it. If I decide in a year or so that it isn’t what I want or need, I can sell it and move on. At least it will get me out there on the water.

I’m sure that you will be happy with a Tsunami…my husband and I both have Tsunami 140’s, and now our daughter-in-law wants to get one…needless to say we all love them! But if possible, try out the different sizes…even as a beginner you will know which one feels right.


This is a site I found helpful also.

Ts 135
I would suggest that if you want a 12’ boat think about a Ts120. It will be tight for your hubby.

if you jump up to 14ish boats you would REALLY like the 135 and he would fit in a 140.

The 125 is going to be huge for you


Going back today to try again
First of all, thank you everyone for your responses. What a nice, responsive group you are!

I understand that a first boat, is a first boat, and can be traded if it turns out not to be optimal after more experience. However, this is a significant purchase for us, and we’d like to make good choices.

I did try the Tsunami 135 and liked it, although it felt a little tippy when I leaned, and took more technique to get into. I also liked the Manitou 14. I didn’t like the Tsunami 145; it felt huge and unresponsive. They never brought out the Tsunami 120 or 140 … and I didn’t ask for them.

The good news is that the deposit was on two boats that had just come in, so I expect they would have no problem letting me switch to another boat if I found one I was more comfortable with. I’m going to go back today, and try again. I swear I will not be swayed by what my husband likes or what anyone else says. I will just paddle and see. And then I’ll do my best to stop agonizing and just get out on the water.

us posted on what you decide. I am glad to hear that you liked the Tsunami 135. Being tippy doesn’t bother me. I know that once I get used to it I will much prefer secondary stability to primary.

Good luck and enjoy!

Wilderness Systems’ website is also helpful…

when I was a kid
I would get shoes that hurt at first. Felt like they didn’t fit. But after a while it was hard to tell they weren’t made for me. You’ll get to know and grow into your boat, whatever you choose. Everything’s good on the list.

personal bias

– Last Updated: Apr-06-08 12:40 PM EST –

I'm a 5'9", 160-lb male, and I almost always prefer boats marketed for "smaller paddlers". I like a low deck. If a boat is too big for me I never feel fully in control.

One thing that'll make any boat feel better is learning to let the boat move under you instead of fighting to stay perfectly upright. As you get more comfortable on the water you'll relax and let your hips roll with the waves while your upper body stays loosely centered.

There's a site with nice animated instruction here:

There are no industry standards for measuring boats, and certainly no standards for marketing and advertising language. Your confusion is perfectly normal.

From another woman

– Last Updated: Apr-06-08 11:56 AM EST –

Don't worry about boat feeling slightly tippy at first. In fact if it doesn't, you'll be bored silly with it within a few weeks.

And "technique" to get the boat is only going to be a fatal problem in the long run if it takes two guys, grease and a shoe horn to get you in. You'll be hopping in pretty quick.

Your biggest issue long term is going to be paddling with your husband, and the likelihood that he'll be a stronger paddler than you. This isn't personal - he's got more muscle to apply to the effort and probably will do so. So what you need is a narrower, more spritely boat that gives you a little more advantage on the speed/ease of paddling side. The guys above probably know more about which of the boats listed than I do.

Also, get a least a couple of basic lessons including self-rescue. With two of you paddling together, you have a lot of advantages in how to handle problems on the water if you know what to do.

Tsunami and Manitou…
both good choices. Manitou (I like the 13 myself) is probably a bit faster which might make it easier to keep pace with your husband. As Celia said, he’ll probably be faster just because of his strength.

Having said that, I own a T-120 and like it a lot. I used to own a Manitou 13 and my ex still comments about how that boat got more use than any boat I’ve ever owned, and he’s right. I only traded it because I hated that rear hatch (hard to get the neoprene on unless you have at least three hands). Sometimes I wish I had kept it. (sigh)

If you can, check out the Riot kayaks also. I’m a big fan of them. High quality plastic and they include some nice little details. Many of them track extremely well even without a rudder because of their channeled hull. Riot makes quite a few models that are good for women. The depth dimension (when it’s given) is a good indicator of whether or not a boat’s going to feel too big for me. Perfect depth for me is about 12.5". Your mileage may vary.

Good luck, and paddle safely!

The saga continues …
First off, I agree with all of you about the disparity in strength. My husband is very athletic with a good weight to strength ratio. We cycle a fair amount, but go out on a tandem bicycle together, as that is the only way I can keep up with him. We considered a tandem kayak, but ultimately decided against it.

We went back to the outfitter today, in the rain, decked out in goretex, and gave it another go. My tall, big footed, husband decided he was still most comfortable with the Tsunami 125.

I narrowed it down to the Tsunami 120, 135 or 140. I had scads of room in the 120 and 140; the 135 had a smaller volume cockpit, and was much snugger, but not uncomfortable. I was fishing for a recommended knee angle (kind of like you would when fitting a bicycle), but couldn’t seem to extract that from the dealer. All they would say, is to go with whatever felt comfortable. Right now I am leaning strongly toward the 135. While it is not as immediately comfortable as the other two, I believe I will appreciate it more as my skills grow, and I hope that the extra foot of length and the narrower width (22.75") will help me keep up with the hubby.

I will go back next weekend and do a 2 hour river trip in one of their demo Tsunami 135s. The dealer, Bel Haven Paddlesports in south Jersey, has been most accommodating.

Once again, thank you all for your help.