Female beginner looking for a kayak

Ok, first let’s get the basics out of the way. I’m 5’9" and 130 lbs. I went kayaking once in my cousin’s kayak and hated it. It was slow and everyone had to keep stopping for me. I’ll be upfront, I have NO upper body strength. That being said, for some reason I seem to pick up on things fast like in Vail, I didn’t look completely retarded by first time skiing. My whole family seems to be somewhat atletic.

I live in Michigan and my brother lives on the Huron River. It has some rapids but nothing like anything you would find in Virginia so mostly I will be kayaking there. Rocks, logs, and sometimes very low water. On top of that we might do pictured rocks lakeshore on Lake Superior. So should we do recreational or touring? My husband is looking to buy one today. Neither of us have too much patience but he has even less than I do. I will try to wait until the fall, especially because I know I will be somewhat picky but I also want a good deal, I forgot to water our money tree so I can’t get an expensive one. Also, we don’t have too many paddling stores that will let us try out the kayaks. Any suggestions from the women on this web site? I’ll try not to be too annoying but I’m pretty excited about trying this sport. I just don’t want to hate it.

I’m not a woman but you might try

– Last Updated: May-26-06 10:27 AM EST –

(if it is not too far for you), Fluid Fun in Bristol Indiana. They will let you demo and in my opinion have the largest assortment of boats in the upper midwest.


Ask for Mandy or Matt.

Have you seen the Calypso,
sold by LL Bean? It’s 12’ long, 24.5" wide and only 38 lbs. $600. Unfortunately it is sold exclusively through Bean, so there is apparently no way to demo it. It looks like a great all purpose kayak. Does anyone know if this is a relabeled version of a more widely available boat?

first impressions

– Last Updated: May-26-06 10:46 AM EST –

If you really want to paddle the Great Lakes, get a touring boat. I used to paddle mine on the Huron around Ann Arbor with no problems. If most of your paddling is going to be on the river and smaller inland lakes, you'd probably be happier with something smaller and lighter. Since you're a light, coordinated female, there's no reason to look at anything wider than 24". Narrower boats tend to be faster, and you don't want to be sliding around inside. At your weight, you also don't need anything that's too deep -- high decks just get in the way and catch wind.

The WMCKA symposium is this weekend -- probably filled, but might be worth a call:

If you're interested in Pictured Rocks, I highly reccommend that you go to the symposium up there this summer. You can demo a gazillion boats, take classes, and enjoy the area.

Lee's in Kalamazoo has a good selection and will let you demo.

Another source of instruction:

Kayak Corral
They have a good selection of touring boats and WW boats and will let you demo.


9325 1/2 West Michigan Avenue (US12), Saline, MI 48176

There is a good club in Ann Arbor.


If you join you can borrow club equipment. They do the Huron all the time and have pool sessions.

Light Touring Boat
in the 14-15’ range should suffice for nice weather paddling in Lake S. and still be okay for paddling a class I river (good flow, riffles, pretty straight forward and no drops/quick bends).

I assume plastic since you’re talking a river that can be bony (low flow) in summer.

I have a plastic Mystic which is 14’x22.5". Works for me at 5’3", 140 lbs. Actually can fit someone taller (and someone heavier with minimal stuff). The reason I like the mystic is that has a sufficient rocker to make turning easy on edge and thus useful for tight quarters like a river. It’s fun for play in rough conditions and winds but it’s too darn slow against a head wind in open seas. But, you’re not looking for that. The Mystic is not being made anymore (at least with a drop down skeg). However, the same hull is being by Pyrahna as the Pilot. The Pilot has a rudder option. Another boats to look is the new ones by Riot which also are in the 13’-14’, with some rocker. Again, good for class I river and okay for big lake on a calm day. I believe the Pilot and the Riot boats have bigger and small versions that would fit probably you and your husband. The other possibilities in the light touring range is Wilderness System’s Tsunami series.

Understand such boats are compromises and great with a range of slow flowing rivers and calm open water. But, pushing beyond the intended range will require increasing skills from you.

Thank you for your info. I’ve been online for two days looking for sites in Michigan and I was getting no where. Every link I took seemed to take me to another search engine.

LLBean reviewed
Here’s the review. Doesn’t sound good.


Take a look at this thread
This guy is offering a free kayak, all you have to do is marry him :wink:


Good luck with your research

The Huron is a bit more than class I
The usual run from Dexter/Huron metropark to Delhi metropark has a class II rapids just before Delhi and one below the usual take out called Tubbs. People often put in just above Delhi rapids and take out below Tubbs, playing on the way through. While you can negotiate Delhi rapids in something like the boat you are recommending I would actually recommend a WW boat, especially at higher CFS. An older, longer displacment hull would work fine and be cheap to acquire ($200 or so). Then she could focus on getting as good a touring boat as she can afford for Lake Superior. I have paddled Lake Superior and it is no place for a compromise boat.

Sun and Snow
Since you’re on the Huron, you can’t be too far from Ann Arbor. Sun and Snow in Ann Arbor does a demo day one evening each week, might be a good way to check out some boats.


Prijon Motion
The Prijon Motion would work really well for you.


My review
Yeah that was my review. Don’t go there. My wife ended up with a Carolina (the smaller one, 13’?), and she likes it a lot. Works well for her on our lake and portion of the Huron connected to it.


– Last Updated: May-26-06 3:02 PM EST –

Do consider taking a class. It'll make you safer, more comfortable, and better prepared to choose a boat.

A comfortable PFD and a decent paddle will make your time on the water much more enjoyable.

You'll probably hear that "longer boats are faster". That's not entirely true -- longer boats are capable of being driven faster IF you have the "engine" to do so. At normal relaxed cruising speeds a shorter boat may be more efficient. My 130-lb wife finds her 14' Tchaika much easier to paddle than the 16' boat she replaced.

Narrower boats are generally faster than wider ones. They may seem "tippy" at first, but being able to put the boat on edge when you want to will give you more control. Your size means that you'll be more stable in a boat than the average male.

You may have to add extra foam to the cockpit for a secure fit. This is not unusual -- most experienced paddlers customize their boats.

Lake Superior is not to be taken lightly. The Pictured Rocks shoreline is beautiful, but it's completely exposed, storms come up fast, and there's nowhere to land for miles at a time.

More links:


You have lots of choices
Lee’s Sporting Goods in Kalamazoo said they will let folks demo their boats. They have an excellent reputation. As folks have said, there are places around A2 as well.

I’ve used my Pungo Classic in a river in north central Ohio. I’m not sure if I’d want to take a longer kayak in a narrow river?

So I understand why the folks who can, do have three or more kayaks/canoes.