Do kayakers overthink things?

Just curious because I get and see a lot of questions about hypothetical and theoretical aspects of kayaks and kayaking and can’t help but think many of us overthink things. Specifications are just that, and kayak specs are just one aspect in the grand scheme of boat specs, physical conditioning, type of paddling you want to do, type of water you’ll paddle, physical attributes, intended uses, skillset/balance skills, etc.

Whatever happened to test paddling different boats and drawing our own conclusions?


I think people in general tend to overthink things, and the internet enables lots and lots of overthinking. But then again there’s a lot of underthinking, too.


Totally agree with this!

Agree in concept but it is challenging for most in reality. Early on (over 20 years ago), as a small paddler, it was hard to find boat that was truly designed for the smaller paddler. After years of venting on this site and others, along with some of the smaller paddlers here, we finally began to see a few LV models and finally almost an integrated approach by most performance kayak manufacturers to include LV versions of different kayak models. Before that happened, I spent a lot of time, money, and frustration going through used kayaks to get something that came close. I ended up building two SOFs to get a truly LV boat, as well as purchasing a preowned S&G boat.

Given the diminishing number of outfitters which carry high performance kayaks with a demo fleet, a paddler would be hard pressed to “demo” a specific kayak unless he/she is part of a paddling club where some has and is willing to lend a kayak of interest. I spent lots of time looking at specs, pics and videos of different surf oriented longboats. I read the reviews by those more advanced paddlers who were of similar size as me, doing things that I aspired to do, before calling up the kayak maker, ordering and making a hefty deposit. When the kayak was finished and the payment made, the boat was transported across the country, entailing another not insignificant chunk of change. Thankfully, the kayak has proven to be everything I hoped for. It is because I spent a heck of a lot of time thinking, researching and reviewing video.

The same process also applied to the custom waveskis that I have ordered and paddled. Hard to find a waveski, never mind a waveskier in the northeast. Got to do a lot of homework before making that call and deposit to get a waveski custom built.

Not thinking it out can be a costly approach.



Dealers for the most part have no kayaks to test paddle. They’re not selling like cars where a dealer has most every model on the lot to drive. Dealers don’t stock many kayaks if any for demo’s.

Give someone a new hull to demo and they scratch it, what does the next buyer want it? Does the dealer then discount it?


There is a dealer that I’ve bought a couple of boats from that still does demos of sea kayaks. The boats are part of their rental fleet, and they also sell off the demo boats at the end of a season or two. I bought an Anas Acuta from their demo fleet that might as well have been new - hardly any scratches and no dings. And also $900 under list.

There are a few others around that have rec kayak and canoe rental fleets that they let you demo. Nowhere near as many as in years past, though.


Not many left, and those that do often have inventory that is geared towards the rec/dayboat realm. Kayak Centre/Wickford is still around but their inventory of high performance sea kayaks is nowhere near where it used to. I have done a couple of drives down to Wickford just to check boats out. Not anymore. Closer to home, both Charles River Kayak and Canoe and the Billington Sea Kayaks have also seem to shift more towards rec boats than high Performance boats. I remember Charles River Kayak had instruction staff who I used to paddle with. I bought my Impex Montauk and the Delphin 150 from their demo fleet. I don’t see Charles River Kayak (now Paddle Boston) offering the types of ocean focused lessons and surf courses as in the past. I see very limited inventory of high performace seakayaks.

Of course, It was sad to see New England Small Craft closed, as it was to see the Ladds sell off Osprey Sea Kayaks. Both had owners and staff that were interested in and coaching towards ocean oriented adventures. One of the staff at NESC actually turned me on to surf kayaks. And, the Ladds were involved in the early convenings of the RI Surf Kayakers (RISK).

As noted in another thread, there are challenges facing those interested in high level sea kayaking, both on the equipment side as well as the participant side. Flip sides of the same coin, of course.


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I like learning and gaining understanding. If I am interested in something, really interested, I want to know everything. I don’t consider that OCD aspect overthinking. :face_with_monocle: :laughing:

Overthinking to the point of paralysis is a possible downside when selecting a boat when you don’t yet have experience in them. However, if you know what you want your boat to do and how you plan to use it then considering all the multitude of factors and reviewing the stats just makes sense.

Ah, but having the direct physical connection to the boat and how it performs for you does supersede the thinking.

Having worked at two kayak shops I have seen a LOT of overthinking. Usually engineer types who get hung up on dimensions without really even knowing what those dimensions mean and how they impact performance (well this kayak is 1/2” wider so it will be slower!) It can be really frustrating as a salesperson as we generally don’t tell someone what kayak to get but at some point I have to stop wasting my time and go help other customers. Do your research and then buy a boat and go paddling. Unless you have many years of experience in lots of different kayaks you will not make a better decision by over analyzing everything.


That is the dilemma. There are many obvious reasons why a retailer does not have demo boats, aside from not having waterfront access.

A primary reason might be because they meet sales expectations without the added service. For example, I missed the seasonal restocking allocation of a specific model by two weeks and again the following season by one week. It didn’t matter whether I bought the boat, because they sold the available inventory within a month and couldn’t get additional models until next season. They have other brands, but not the one I wanted. Tbey had no intention to demo that boat in the future, so I keep paddling my trusty old kayak and just replaced the worn parts.

So dealers are faced with a dichotomy: follow a business model that makes a comfortable profit, or one that serves the public. In truth, a business exists to make a profit, so why furnish a demo boat when the product sells out regardless of the additional effort. The service oriented shop “might” benefit during lean times, but then on the other hand, it could be the shop that sufferes first. Fortunately, the shop that I deal with most (unfortunately, it doesn’t stock the brand I was considering) is a popular “hang out”. If the owner is busy with sales, the experienced customers are typically talkative and helpful. The popularity of the shop makes for high turnover of stock, and the manufacturers seem to give his shop priority for deliveries.

The shop is on the water and has a large inventory of rentals, which also serves as a demo fleet. The demo fee is about half the price of renting a boat, and the fee is roled into a sale. New paddlers would be well served to find such a shop, even if a one way trip is a two or more hour drive.

Rather than picking brains online about hypotheticals, a competent shop can put you in the seat of various boats and explain what features would best serve your specific needs. If the sales personnel are preoccupied, you may catch the attention of a like-minded experienced customer. I’ve benefitted by learning about local launches and conditions while talking with friendly patrons.

Many shops announce when they plan to sponsor paddle days around the area. Chesapeake Light Craft travels the country demonstrating boats. They hold several local events each season, as well as events on the west coast and an annually event at Mystic Harbor.

Don’t be shy about asking members in your geographic area if anyone is willing to meet and either discuss or offer an opportunity to try a boat or paddle, or share a spare boat for you to test. The worst that could happen is no response.

We are still settling into this brave new post pandemic world. The pandemic did a lot of damage to kayak shops both because of closures and because no boats were available for quite a while.

It has also dropped a lot of the paddling groups into babies again.

I think those paddling groups would be the only option for paddlers who would like to try before they buy. That would allow newer paddlers a chance to add their two cents to the discussion.

I know that I am not a normal paddler, my boat choices are in the 18" beam group, so I haven’t a great deal of pertinent info. I am also not a Meta fan, but that might be the best way to allow people to try new boats because the supply lines are still fractured.

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I feel like I don’t have much of a choice, I have to analyze the crap out of any 14’ or longer yak that might fit the bill for what I want to do w/ it.
Shops carrying sea/touring kayaks are basically non-existent in my part of the country, used ones are challenging to find, and if found could easily be a couple hours or more from water. Being able to sit in it on someone’s driveway (w/ my canvas drop cloth under it) is the closest I get to being able to “demo” a boat, and that could be after a 2-3 hour drive one way. Long distance to go just to find it doesn’t fit well.
So for me it’s read specs, tons of reviews, and stare longingly at hull designs that may be “perfect” for what I imagine I’ll be doing w/ it if I ever find one for sale anywhere near me.
Knowing that there’s a good chance the one I dream of may never show I also have to ask anyone (forum members) that have had experience w/ that particular yak what others are similar and/or how they are different . . . and then watch the “for sale” lists until I see something that maybe (?) could be similar to what I’ve been looking for. Then it’s off to read specs, reviews, . . .


During the process, you can apply what you learn about boat design. Sometimes the hard way is best.

@LowTech I can definitely see why you have to do that. The folks I was dealing with were in shops that had lots of boats available and also both offered on water demos (one for free, one for an amount that was put towards a purchase). That’s why it was so annoying!

Yes, most kayakers do overthink things. The message board is kind of like watching a sporting event and having someone breakdown the events of the game but the game itself is just being played by the players. There is a lot of learning and satisfaction that can come from that but ultimately it is not the same thing as actually paddling. It can however change and influence you but it is only in your head, until you apply it.

One thing, I like about paddling, is that you can make it into what you want. We have a wide range of paddlers and opinions on this message board. I like that diversity. Some folks are competitive and some are not. Some folks look for long extended trips and others focus on short day paddles. Lots of different environments, boat types, goals, experience levels. You can be selective and choose what threads you want to delve into. There are not a lot of parameters on this forum. Just be polite. It is okay to be opinionated. If you have stuck with this forum then I would say you have at least some interest in “thinking deeper” about paddling. Although, the most popular thread here? I’m guessing, it is still “pretty pictures”!

In the ww realm, I noticed starting out (early 80s) that I paddled with a lot of military personnel and engineers. Now the crowd is much more diverse that I paddle with. One reason why I paddled with so many engineers was because I was looking for mentors and many people, prior to me entering the sport, often made their own boats out of fiberglass, borrowing molds, and participated in races to evaluate performance… I think that process appealed to engineers. They also had enough income to afford the hobby.

Military personnel liked the thrill aspect and met the physical requirements so even now I continue to paddle with vets and active military personnel.

Several of my mentors were interested in the design, the boat building aspect, of the sport. It was only when quality boats became massed produced that the sport became really accessible to me.

I traded in patching someone else’s old used glass boat, or having to paddle a stock canoe like a tandem grumman or tripper on ww., New solo boats designed specifically for ww were being mass produced. Durability had improved. The process had changed and favored “doers” like me. Previously, it favored the “thinkers”. I guess you could say the sport got “dumbed down” to where even I could enjoy it.

Currently, ww kayaking is being “dumbed down” to market kayaks simply as “creekers, river runners, and playboats”. It is a good boat selling strategy. Convincing people that they need a new boat to enjoy new environments or to do new, specific tricks.

Have I over thought all of this? For sure!

When I’m upside down I’m just thinking it would be nice to breath some air. Paddling ain’t always complicated. “Breathing is good, drowning is bad.” Those were my deep thoughts right after I flipped in the base of a drop on Sunday. Nothing technical about any that. Those were my shallow yet submerged thoughts in that moment! Simple is good too!


Off Course, Of Course

Will the cable soon seize up?
Rudder snap off in the rocks?
Should I go with the skeg?
(Damn pebbles jam up the box)
Will this hatch lid soon leak?
Do I look fat in this skirt?
Am I right for this roll?
Look! It’s Freya! Let’s flirt!

Aiii-aii-aii, ohhhh,
Don’t you go yak’n, and yak’n, and yak’n.
Don’t you go yak’n unless you sit the right kind.
Don’t you go yak’n, and yak’n, and yak’n
Live humans that jump into coffins must be out of their minds.

With apologies to Steve:

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I can definitely understand the frustration in that as I have a mate that over analyzes everything.:roll_eyes:

So the question is “do you think that kayakers overthink things?”?

Do you think that the question is a little bit ironic? :smile:

Sorry, couldn’t resist. Now I’ll go paddling.


As winter comes on there will be more thinking . Treatises will become novellas. We’ll be thinking about equipment we wouldn’t consider in sunny weather like my questions on the Next canoe.

Got to think about something or your brain turns to mush.

That must be what is happening to me.