first kayak advice...


so, i had my first kayaking adventures last summer with rented kayaks. i loved it! i paddled lakes and rivers.

now…i’d really like to purchase my own kayak. but it’s very daunting! so many kinds!!! price is not an issue…i just want a very nice kayak for paddling rivers and lakes! probably will not see rapids or waves that are too gnarly. i want something versatile…

any suggestions?


Celery Stalks Me, Too

– Last Updated: Jan-05-08 12:00 PM EST –

Keep renting and going to demos 'til a boat screams out at you, "I'm it baby!!"

If you really get the bug that boat will NOT be your last.

Hi Celery
You probably want to include info about your location, height and weight, age, athletic ability. Even though price may not be an issue a good idea is to try out lots of boats, buy a used boat and paddle it for a while and then you will have a better idea of what you want before you spend a lot of money. Everybody believes their own boat is the best so weigh advice you get against that.

Find some paddling clubs or dealers that have boats to try out. You can meet some people from clubs or this list. Try different types of paddling lots of people who paddle whitewater or surf had no clue that is what they would love the best before they tried it.

height, weight, age, location, etc
i’m in michigan…but may be relocating to either austin, tx or portland, or this summer…depends what my job wants to do with me. i’m 5’5"…about 135 lbs…30 years old…and by most accounts pretty athletic.

i’ll try to paddle a bunch of different kayaks if i can. someone suggested the seda vida as a very versatile boat. i’ll have to give that kayak a paddle if i can…

Feathercraft Wisper
or Kahuna

narrowing the field

– Last Updated: Jan-05-08 1:00 PM EST –

Given your size and weight, you should be looking at kayaks built for small-to-medium sized paddlers. You're 40 pounds lighter than the mythical "average" paddler. A boat that's too big for you will be frustrating. A boat that's too wide or too deep will be uncomfortable to paddle, and a cockpit that's too big will make the boat harder to control.

Don't be overly concerned about length. There are boats of all lengths for smaller folks.

Demo/rent/borrow as many boats as you can, and consider taking a lesson or two. Even in a Michigan winter there may be pool classes and/or rolling classes near you that you could enjoy.

A paddle that fits properly is important to paddling comfortably and efficiently. Bigger is not always better.

Don't be too concerned about stability. Most beginners find that their kayaks magically become more stable as they spend more time on the water. If you're athletic, you probably have good balance, and being able to put the boat on edge when you want to is an important part of boat control.

If you feel the urge to buy something right away, buy a nice, comfortable PFD.

Some good advice here, angstrom.
Buy a really comfortable sea/whitewater kayaking pfd and good quality paddle, probably 210-220cm would be in the appropriate range. Werner, Aquabound, Lendal, Epic and other manufacturers have websites with information to help you size a paddle. Eventually, after you have developed some skills, you will likely find a paddle better suited to your style. Then, your first paddle can become your spare paddle.

Now that you have a pfd and a paddle take them with you when you demo different boats. Two variables that might have otherwise influenced your opinion of a boat have been eliminated.


Valley Avocet
If price is not an issue, and you want to start at the top, include a Valley Avocet on your demo list.

You are the perfect size for it. There is something about that boat that women especially love - my wife love’s her’s. See if you can find one of the ultra kevlar’s, since you will probably want a very light boat for carrying it yourself. My wife’s boat is incredibly light.

There are a lot of other boats to consider to, such as P&H Capella 161, WS Tempest 165,

Wherever you wind up living, it’s a good idea to seek out the serious paddlers (a club?) and see what and where they are buying.

Demo lots first 'cause…

– Last Updated: Jan-05-08 3:46 PM EST –

Your post says that you may be relocating to Austin or Portland. Not so sure about Austin, but if you end up in either Portland (Oregon or Maine) your description of paddling venues will change to include ocean bays. That would likely change both the type of boat that you'll want as well as the minimum skill level you'll need to handle likely conditions over the flatwater you describe now.

See if you can find a local paddling club that runs pool sessions over the winter in basic skills like sweep stroke, self-rescue and braces.

Two reasons for this. The first is that it'll make you much safer on the water. The second, maybe as important right now, is that once you work with these skills in a boat you'll have a much better idea of what people here are talking about in terms of boat fit. It flat out isn't going to make much sense until you have seat time to see how the boat and you work together. And getting a boat that you find is not the right one within a few months is time-consuming at the least.

I am about your size - an inch shorter but the same weight unless I get back to some good work at the gym. What fits me in a touring kayak will fit you. Get some time with basic lessons, try a ton of boats - I'm happy to give you my cut on any boats that I've spent time in.

More thoughts

– Last Updated: Jan-05-08 5:07 PM EST –

If you're on fairly large, slow rivers you don't need a short boat. Most touring boats are quite maneuverable once you get comfortable leaning and edging.

Folks who do more lakes than rivers tend to move toward boats in the 14-17' range.

There are ways to manage loading and transporting any boat, but lighter is always nicer.

If you like to build things there are lots of options -- Pygmy Tern 14, Yost skin-on-frame, etc.

A few more possibilities:

Eddyline Merlin LT
Current Designs Suka, Willow, Vision 130
Impex Mystic
Necky Eliza UltraLite or Manitou UltraLite
Hurricane Tampico 135S
Prijon Motion or Catalina
P&H Capella 161 or Vela

first boat advice
Like others said-demo them first. If you are staying around Michigan for awhile try and get into Kayak Corral in Saline. They have the biggest assortment of kayaks and that’s all they do year round. Once the water is open they’ll listen to what your plans are and let you try several models to decide for yourself what you like. I’m sure other posters can let you know about other dealer options in their area that they have had success with.

re : kayak fit
I 2nd everyone else’s comment about trying out different boats… start looking for kayak shops in your area and call and ask about demo’s.Most shops will let you demo anything in inventory, some participate in demo shows. Attend those if possible. don’t rush or buy the 1st boat you look at or paddle. More and more company’s are making boats specifically for women. Go online and research the different company’s and what they have to offer. Just type in “kayaks” in a search engine. Poly boats are slower, paddle harder but take a lot of abuse …Fiberglass or Kevlar are fast and paddle almost effortlessly, but don’t take rocks too well. Do you want a rudder or skeg on boat? i recommend a rudder, it’s a option to use as necessary. Do you want a large opening for cockpit or smaller " keyhole" cockpit?? Yak’s that you can only put in/ take out, only 1 leg a time, aren’t much fun for a deep water launch. The 'yak you buy may depend entirely on what brands the local dealers carry. Do you plan on doing overniters with it? How important is storage space? Long yak’s track well but are hard to turn and have lot of storage… short yak’s are easy to turn but have limited storage space. Good Luck

re kayaks that fit
hi again …look @ hurricane kayaks if your local dealer(s) carry them. they make some nice ‘yaks for smaller framed people. Swift Kayaks also make some nice boats. I have a Current Designs 17.7’ Solstice GT in fiberglass…luv the boat. Gr8 open water boat but not good for small, tight, curvy streams.

Swift kayaks also makes some nice yak’s.

well…someone mentioned kayak corral in saline, which is right near me. so i’ll go check them out. their site say i can demo anything. so as soon as weather permits, i’ll do that.

i’m not a woman…but just a small guy. so i guess a woman’s kayak would fit well? just as long as they don’t look prissy, i’m fine any kayak.

not sure if i want poly/kevlar/carbon. i mean…i really like the idea of lighter…but i am a beginner and it’s quite possible that i might accidently abuse the kayak. are kevlar and carbon kayaks very fragile?

not sure if i want rudder/skeg. but i think i probably do. as for cockpit opening…i’d rather have a larger opening that’s easy and fast to get in and out of.

i doubt i’ll ever do overniters. and storage space is only a moderate concern. i doubt i’ll ever need tons of storage needs.

Don’t be so coy
If price isn’t an issue then why ask.

Necky Manitou
Look at the Necky Manitou line. They have them in 3 lengths. I have a 13, and I love it. They are a great hybrid and they can be outfitted with skegs.

Ridders/skegs/cockpit size

– Last Updated: Jan-06-08 6:00 PM EST –

Your last reply indicates exactly why so many here recommended that you demo lots and some that you get lessons before you buy. A lot of what you think now is the stuff that gets abandoned quickly, ending up requiring the purchase of a new boat much sooner than you planned. That is time-consuming, frustrating and expensive.

Rudders and skegs - a given boat will come with one or the other, unless it is a real entry level boat that may have nothing or rudder-optional. No one here has recommended a boat like this as far as I can see. Get the boat hull that works for you and take whatever comes with it, rudder or skeg. Trust that whoever manufactured and designed the boat put the right device on it. I don't see any intended use in your posts that would argue for being hard-core about either a rudder or a skeg.

Large cockpit - you do NOT need a large cockpit to be able to get out, in fact at your size you can easily exit from one that is pretty darned small. ESpecially if you are a guy - you're likely to have fairly narrow hips. But as a newbie, the cockpit that I'd recommend will surely feel too tight. And without some basic lessons you won't have learned that gravity works upside down too - in a large cockpit boat you'd fall out of it upon going upside down.

The problem with a large cockpit boat is that, when it comes time to learn the skills that you'll need and want to handle ocean bays, or to turn and manuver the boat in wind even on an easy river, you will not have the right kind of contact to control the boat. I wish I had a nickel for every average-sized woman who has been put into a boat with a huge cockpit so that they are comfortable, but needs to be towed home the first time they are out in wind because they literally can't make the boat go where they need. Do not buy until you have gotten and really had a chance to absorb suggestions from people who know more than you.

Also, if ocean bays are in your future say so when you go looking. The folks at the kayak shop need to be able to factor that in.

because having money for the kayak does not bring knowledge about kayaks with it. i kept renting this past summer…decided i wanted one of my own…and saved up. now that i have the money, i started shopping, and found out how daunting the kayak shopping process can be!

You in Ann Arbor?
Sounds like you are headed towards academic towns.

You’ll need to fit in with the proper boat at different institutions.

rudder vs skeg
after reading others posts …i would like to offer my advice and recommend a kayak you can grow into, that’ll you 'll be happy with 5 yrs from now when your skills are @ a advanced level.

I again recommend a rudder, as you can steer a bit better with a rudder , whereas with a skeg …it’s a fixed straight ahead position more for straight line tracking, basicaly your extending your rear keel depth down a few more inches to get better tracking. Downside of a rudder is you cannot brace against the foot pedals too hard w/o moving your rudder…this can be a setback in ruff water. As with a skegged boat … u can brace against the fixed pedals more. gets confusing doesn’t it !!! lol