Fiberglass or Plastic in WV non WW?

Okay, I posted awhile back about looking hard for a Kayak and that all that was around were very few and far between dealers here in West Virginia.

Well I stopped by a couple of them and at both locations both dealers basically told me that no matter were I buy or what I get, not to get a Fiberglass or Kevlar boat for WV rivers.

Since I am very new to this, I will admit that I plan to kayak mostly on calm rivers and lakes, but the dealers have told me that if I go do the Elk river or the Greenbrier (Elk is one that I want to kayak on) that I will hit some rocks. They both told me that if I do get a Glass boat that I will learn real fast how to repair them.

I do not plan to go down any Rapids per say, but on the other hand I don’t have very good knees (I posted this before as well), so portage around large areas is not a very good option.

So I guess to make a long post longer, I am asking those that may paddle in WV rivers and lakes should I stay away from a Glass kayak or will it make that much difference?

If I go with Plastic (I know not the best term) then I have to start my thought and looking all over, but I don’t mind this has been fun.

For what it is worth…
I am not from West Va, or ever paddled there, but please let me throw a few thoughts at you.

A kevlar boat is a little more delicate than a fiberglass one, and I race my kevlar canoe every year in the New River Canoe races.

The river is a class I river with lots of rocks and gravel bars.

In five years of paddling it, I have only had to do minor repairs, which consisted of applying two part epoxy to the deep scratches that I got, (only once).

If you are going to be primarily paddling quiet lakes and rivers, get whatever boat you want to.

Point No. 2: Why not ask some of the paddlers that you see on the Greenbrier or the Elk what their thoughts are?

Go to one of the put-ins or take-outs on a weekend, and pick some of the paddlers brains.

Every paddler that I know would be more than happy to answer any questions regarding their favorite passtime.



I can tell you first hand…
about running the Greenbrier, (I have not been on the Elk, except in the Clay area) with my Old Town Loon 138. There are only a few class II rapids on the sections I have run from Ronceverte to Alderson, and I have never owned a Kevlar or Fiberglass Kayak, but in some of the lower water months this summer, I don’t think I would want to run anything but plastic. I am 47 and my knees are not in the best of shape either, so I also have no desire for portaging, or walking back to the put-in!

Just my .02!

Thanks Gzip,
that is kind of what the dealers are telling me…

Since I don’t know where all the put in’s are, I am going by the dealers and this board right now. Living in Spencer (Roane County) all we have is Charles Fork Lake, and it isn’t that big.

Get plastic
We went from North Caldwell to Alderson in kayaks. We stopped at the Greenbrier River campground the first day. Went on to Alderson later.

My boat is a Santee XL made by Hurricane Aqua Sports. Its plastic. Some place along the way I cracked the hull. It probably happened when I went over one of the rocks that surprised me. I didn’t realize it until later. All is fixed now.

All this is to say that you don’t want glass or kevlar. I also can’t think why you would need it.

For what its worth, there is a lake in Ritchie that opened last summer. They dammed up the Hughes river. You might enjoy paddling there.


buy one of each
Thats my solution.

You will want a poly boat for either the Elk or the Greenbrier because of the rocks. Neither is dam-controlled, and each gets bony at times. While it is painful to get a new poly boat scratched up, scraping a FG one is ten times worse.

If you end up spending time mostly on lakes (Chas Fk, Summersville, O’Brien, Hughes River, Woodrum etc)then a sleeker FG boat might be of interest.

As you have found, the market for anything other than WW boats in WV tends to be in poly. FG boats may be ordered from Current Designs at either the Pathfinder or at MSO, but do not expect either to stock several models for comparison. The market is simply not there.


Glass WW Boats

– Last Updated: Sep-26-04 5:24 AM EST –

tend to be "specialized" affairs -- slalom and squirt boats. The latter definitely would not be your field of interest at this point.

Get a plastic boat - used. You won't have to worry about "bony" rivers. If you're thinking just class I and mild class II's, then consider some of the older ww boats. The semi-planing hulls that bridge the old dispacement hulls and the newer planing hulls are good bets. These boats tend to have more length and speed on flatter water. Some examples would be Perception whip-it, Pyranha Acrobat, Eskimo Kendo/Samurai, Prijon Hurricane, New Wave Sleek/Screamin'Meanie. Depends on your size. Usually the semi planing hulls have a small and large model within each brand. A plus to these boats is that you can find them in the $200-$300 range.


Jack- - Weight being equal, a Kevlar and
glass boat will be stronger than a pure glass boat. Kevlar boats only get “delicate” when they are built with low weight as the main design target, rather than low weight PLUS strength.

PURE Kevlar boats are relatively uncommon. Usually a layer or two of S-glass on the outside prevents fuzzing and makes the boat much stiffer with little or no sacrifice in weight.

But he would not want to paddle those
boats on lakes and flat rivers. The fastest of those you named is the Screamin’ Meanie (not, to my knowledge, EVER available in plastic, but still can be had in composite from PS Composites), and the Meanie will not track well on flatwater. Nor will the others. He would be better off with a Prijon Chopper, or maybe a Dagger Crossover.

This needs a two boat solution.

Plastic boat cracked, so you recommend
plastic over composite?!?

I have a 22 year old composite C-1, used in heavy and shallow whitewater, which NEVER cracked. I have a 23 year old composite WW kayak, occasional use, which has never cracked. I have a ten year old S-glass/Kevlar C-1, 26 pounds, paddled often by former owner on the Ocoee and Chattooga, which has a few surface cracks in the S-glass, but has never cracked through. The S-glass surface has done an outstanding job of standing up to abrasion. All the scratches are quite shallow.

I own or have owned several poly boats. One cracked catastrophically after five years of use, but plastic has improved much since then. Plastic is more likely to come through a pin or a tremendous hit without cracking or tearing, but it does crack, tear, and wear through, and it is much less repairable.

If I were good enough to make a first run on some steep gradient stream in the Andes, I would use a plastic boat. Otherwise, I prefer composite boats, when good designs are available in composite. (There are few.)

If you see a nice, light, tough composite design you like, and you can afford it, don’t let the possibility of an occasional repair deter you. If you are a smart paddler, you will not hit that many rocks, and you will only strike glancing blows.

2 Boat Solution…
I agreed but recently there’s been a number of folks looking for the “compromise boat.” The “comprise” has generally fallen towards the “rec boat” end.


My old Noah makes a great flatwater rec
boat, fast as stink, but in WW, while a bit more agile than a Crossover, it is also evil and sneaky, and rather hard to roll.

Check out the Chetco (I think I have the name right) on the PS Composites site. 13 feet long, fast, but designed (by Jim Snyder, I believe) to be adequately predictable and maneuverable in whitewater.

Ok, I know where MSO is, but Pathfinder, is that the shop in Morgantown? I know we don’t have a lot here, but I can’t remember the name of the store up there.

Mostly I was thinking lakes, but on occasion I wouldn’t mind Rivers, that is one reason I have been looking origanally at Fiberglass boats… Just a preference thing for the lakes and bigger rivers.

Not worried about WW, just not my cup of tea.

Sorry I haven’t responded in a couple days, been out of town on business.

Joey, if all you’re gonna do is the Elk and 'Brier, then a rec yak is all you need. Thers’s a ton of 'em out there that will handle the class I-II water you’re talking about, plus handle the New anywhere upstream of Canard.