First kayak, big guy, mixed use. Help?

So I’m looking into getting my first kayak. I went to REI and sports authority (I’m in Seattle) and tried sitting in a few different boats.

Initially I wanted a sit-on-top. After trying to get in and out of a few different large cockpit sit-in’s, I’m pretty sure I want to stick with a sit on top. I’m 6’4" with a big frame and weigh about 290lbs. Getting in and out of (let alone fitting into) the sit-in kayaks weren’t really that easy, the closest I came to being able to get in and out of easy was the Old-Town Vapor 10.

So I started looking more at the sit-on-tops. I tried the Wilderness systems Tarpon 12, the Mad river Synergy 12, and the one of the Ocean Kayaks (not sure which, big yellow guy. As far as “store feeling” I am REALLY leaning towards the Synergy 12, as it seems to sit a bit lower than the Tarpon and MUCH lower than all the other sit-on-tops I tried.

What I plan on using the kayak for is probably going to vary alot. I plan on spending some time on lakes with my lady, with a minor possibility of a camping trip here and there. I also have a friend that likes to run rivers that I plan on going with. Nothing too serious, maybe class 2 at the most. However I kind of like the idea of once my ability grows, to take on rougher waters, and maybe even take it out on the sound or bigger lakes.

After reading some reviews online, none of which seemed to address my exact body size and plans of use, it seems like some people seem to think the Synergy may not work well for those “rougher” waters due to the lack of scupper holes. Other opinions state it would be fine and the scupper holes on the Tarpon just keep their but wet. Also I heard of some initial stability worries regarding the Synergy as well.

So, I guess I’d like to get some more info or suggestions regarding the Synergy, or maybe even other boats to look into and why. I can’t seem to locate some shop in the area that has the boats I’m looking at to actually take out and “test drive” so I feel like I’m going to have to make this decision without really getting wet.

So, input, suggestions, anything?

Thanks very much in advance!

You mention paddling lakes with your
lady. She has her own boat? Both Synergies are solo only. Anyway, I would select the Synergy 14, even though I am 225#.

I don’t think the scupper holes are a big issue as long as you’re dressed to sit in water for a bit. The inside of the Synergy appears to be relatively small volume, and should clear with a hand pump. I doubt that you would want to use the boat out in cold bay waves.

I also wouldn’t want you doing more than easy ww rivers with occasional class 2s. The hull of the Synergies is not designed for ww maneuvers.

I wonder whether you shouldn’t be considering canoes as well. You could have a canoe that will do all the things the Synergy does, and more. Have you thought about canoes? You can take them out on bays as long as you use judgement about conditions. Let us know about what you’re thinking.

I don’t think any of those

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are going to work long term for a guy your size, because I am very close to that size and do not feel comfortable on the water in a couple of those boats. I would guess from those measurements you would be about a 42-44 waist, 33-34 length pants size? If so, then cockpit opening size and deck height for a SINK, as well as boat carrying capacity for those and SOTs, are significant considerations.

A Tarpon 140 SOT isn't a bad choice, but the 160 is better. The 140 will serve you well for lakes, estuaries or sheltered areas, maybe even a little more. You can easily run C-I with it, maybe even C-II if you become more skilled in WW. Then there is always Ocean Kayak's Prowler Trident 13, but the 15 is better. For a decent SINK that you can grow into as your paddling skill and venues increase, a WS Tsunami 145 should work well.

If you are looking for a serious seakayak, consider an Eddyline Nighthawk 17.5. It is built for big guys, and by that I mean _big guys_, not just those that think they are big. If you really want a smaller kayak and intend to keep it mostly in lower intensity conditions, you may also be able to get by with one of their large cockpit small boats, like an Equinox. Also, for a poly boat, the WS Tsunami 165 will work; a 175 is better. However, these would NOT be suitable for running Class II rivers! The most suitable SINK I can think of for that and your other multi purposes, for guys our size, is Liquid Logic's Remix XP10, and it is a whale of a boat for that purpose!

try an SOT of 16 feet. Plenty of room for you and your gear. Very easy to get off and on, and you can toss gear in the rear open hatch or use the dry forward hatch most of them offer for stuff you don’t need at close reach.

You can definitely do Class 1 and 2 rivers. You can add a rudder (or not) and do some serious miles along lake and ocean coastline.

Maybe you wanna surf? You might like to add thigh straps as your balance and comfort level increase - thigh straps make it easier to edge, brace and even roll…whether you’re in the surf zone or not.

And of course SOTs are awesome fishing platforms. People customize w. rod holders, bait boxes, GPS, fishfinders, etc. There is a whole forum here just for fishing out of kayaks and canoes, and SOTs are very popular.

There are many nice 16 footers by Wildy Sytems, Ocean,Manta, Native, RTM (the Disco is a very cool boat), Heritage (a SeaDart is fast, tho no longer made, it was only recently discontinued), and the superlight & quick Hurricane Aquasports, just to name a few.

I suppose you could try a 14 footer, but I think the 16 suits a big guy. I am a pipsqueak, and just got a Hurricane Phoenix 120 (which is actually 11’3", 28" wide, and only 38 lbs.) Because the Hurricanes are made of thermoformed plastic and not rotomoulded, they are so light they are quick and agile, and easy to manage on land or water. One might make a good SOT for your lady '-)

Well to answer a few questions:

My lady is also purchasing a kayak w/ me. But she’s going with a sit in. We wanted seperate boats so we could do our own thing if we felt like it.

I haven’t given much thought to a canoe cause I really wasn’t too into that idea. I like the riding position of a kayak more, and obviously the paddling style. Plus I feel more stable and sleek in one.

The reason I was looking at the 12’ range was because I would think they’d be more maneuverable if I was in a river or the like. I had considered the Tarpon 140, which I’ll have to look at again. getting into the 16’ range is getting pretty big, not only for my pocketbook (the tarpon 120 is putting me close to the end of the budget), but if I’m going to make a purchase of this size, I want to make sure its what I want and won’t fail me. I guess storage isn’t a big deal right now, but another 4’ of boat isn’t exactly something I can just tuck into a corner. Luckily I have two larger vehicles so I should be able to put something that big ontop.

When I’m getting into the 14-16’ boats, am I losing maneuverability? What am I really gaining? I understand that something longer/bigger is displacing more water and the longer it is the displacement will be in a more streamlined fashion to help with overall efficiency. The load capacity goes up. Stability is increased I would assume? It seems to me a shorter boat would be a better way to go in a river, but it sounds like maybe I’m mixed up in my reckoning?

I’ll take a look at the models mentioned, but I’m really having trouble finding alot of these boats to actually sit in at the very least to get a “feel” for them. So even thought something is perfect on paper/internet, I think I’d have some hang-ups just ordering it, as would anyone I’m sure.

Also, keep in mind this is going to be my first kayak, and while I want something that will work and be enjoyable, I have to draw a line somewhere to stop “getting the better boat”, cause will I really notice/miss all the features/benefits of going with the next size/model up? Sure in a few seasons I may notice the differences, but I may want a whole different boat by then anyway.

I really don’t think I could justify the cost of going up to a 16’ platform, unless I could find one used, which I have yet to come across. But again, if the benefits to my overall use plans are that much of a gain, maybe its worth it.

Also, my hopes is my weight will be dropping back down, I’m at my heaviest now and am shooting to get back down to the 250ish area right now. And yes, 42" waist and 34" inseam is about right.

Thanks for the insight thus far, I’ll check them out and keep the info coming! I appreciate it!

Checked a few…
Checked a few of the aforementioned boats out, (also, appears REI just started a sale, so that could be great). I just don’t think a sit-in will work for me. But as for the SOT’s that appear to be work for me:

  1. The Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident 13 looks do-able.

  2. Hurricanes are out due to price and load capacitance to length ratio. Although they do sound sweet.

  3. The Tarpon 120 is doable, and the 140 might be doable.

  4. The Trident 15 is just too much unless I sell a kidney.

  5. And the Mad river is still very doable with that much more to spend on a paddle or whatever else.

    So, thoughts?

Check this:

It’ll show every used Tarpon for sale, via Craigslist and several others.

used boats
Let’s say a SOT for you, SINK for your lady - going used is the best way to go for a first kayak, both in price & in the reality that if you enjoy paddling you’ll want another, different boat anyway…the more you paddle the more you’ll refine your preferences.

Also you won’t have a lot invested in a brand new boat that depreciates 25% or more the first few times you use it. If you buy smart you can sell 'em at or close to what you paid for them - in essence, free paddling.

You can get a used 14 or 16 foot SOT and some gear for less than a new 12 footer. Kudos to you for making a goal to lose weight - but with your big frame you will still carry a lotta weight for a 12 footer and your long legs means you have to paddle very bent-legged. It really will in all likelihood be too small - you’ll be plowing water in it and maybe get frustrated w. the handling.

Try a 12, 14 and 16 foot SOT at a demo and see for yourself.

I got my Hurricane Phoenix 120 for way less than half price. It is a 2006 and man, it was dusty, dirty and without a seat. With some elbow grease, closed cell foam and a nice neoprene seat cover, I have one sweet little SOT. I already had the paddle, PFD etc so that was a null point for me.

With a little patience you can do the same for the boats of your choice - be they canoe, SOT or SINK.

Meanwhile go and demo - a lot - and start refining what features you really like and don’t like.

Do look at a used boat

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if it is a budget issue. I _can_ paddle several 12 footers, but being almost a match for your size and having about 30 years experience in both canoes and kayaks and so can compensate for the boat's handling characteristics, unless you actually try one on the water then compare to a suitable 14 or 16 you will grow to dislike it all too soon. That being the case, you will either be faced with selling it, possibly at a loss if a new boat, or find that you are not getting the satisfaction you had hoped out of the activity. It will plow through the water sluggishly, and you will always feel "on edge" with it.

One of the common problems with the kayak mass marketers, as opposed to dedicated paddle sports stores, is that they must stock for percentage. Thus, their boats tends to be in the size midrange. If there is any specific category they will universally exclude, it is boats designed to accommodate big folks.

I don’t see you in a 12 footer
You’re gonna really need something longer. The Trident 13 should work very well for you. Also have a look at the Ride 135 by Wilderness Systems.

You’ll lose some maneuverability in the longer kayaks but it’s nothing that can’t be made up for with paddling tricks. The biggest gain in the longer boats will be how you fit in them. You will also see a gain in capacity often.

I’m not had first hand experience (or seen one on the water) with the Synergy but again go with the 14 over the 12. I like the bow and stern tankwells but no scuppers might be an issue.

Listen to Druminator
A 12 foot boat for someone your size is going to be painfully slow. Get a used boat. I think a used Tarpon 160 would be ideal but any used 14 footer would be better than a 12 footer for you.

I can manuver my Tarpon well enough for class 3 WW. It is not a play boat that will do moves and stunts but it will run a river. Class 3 WW is more about the skills than about the boat. Lots of folks crash mant class3 runs with all sorts of SOT trash and inflatable duckies and stay upright. But if whitewater was really your passion you would be asking here about the right boat. Whitewater is a team sport and you’d try your friends boats.

Any boat that lets you try it out is good. However, don’t waste your money buying a new 12 footer. If you don’t like it you will lose half the price when you sell it. If you buy a used boat and use it gently you can sell it for about the same as you bought it for.

Paddling is FREE!

my decision
I’m your same height and carry a couple more pounds. I spent a year researching and decided on the OK Big Game. I’m really happy with it. I should do anything you described, and from personal experience it has done all well.

Both the Tarpon 140 and Synergy 14
should work well. Of the two, I prefer the T-140 for my size/weight range if you plan to run it in any WW over Class II. I found that the scooped out front end on the Synergy would cause strange things to happen when hitting any curling standing waves. The T-140 had more forward buoyancy and tended to ride over them rather than dive. Other than that, the Synergy is a pretty decent boat.

Ok ok
Hah, ok, sounds like 12 footers are out.

Believe me, I have been looking multiple times a day at craigslist and any other used boat source to try and find something that would work for me that’s not on the other side of the country. Unfortunately I’ve come up empty handed thus far. The few boats that would have worked either were sold or were damaged/etc beyond what I’d feel comfortable spending money on.

Now I’m no fan of depreciation myself, and I know there is a slight gamble of really hating the boat and losing money on it if I buy it new, but right now that gamble may be worth it. The sale at REI knocked alot of the prices on the boats I am looking at down a fair amount, so now its a matter of timing, I can go and buy something that I know is there for a better than normal price, or I can take the chance that I can find something in the near future somewhere used. Of course there is always the possibility of the exact boat I want popping up used right after I buy one new. However, I’ve been a big guy my whole life and have found my choices to be pretty limited from everything to clothing, to bikes and now to kayaks. So usually I find its better to jump on ANY deal that comes my way rather than hope and wait for it to be a better deal.

I’m hoping that one of the local retailers have the Ocean Kayak Trident 13 in stock so I can sit in it and see what I think of the Trident layout. The 15 is just pushing my budget too far. I’ll also check out the Tarpon 140 as well. I did find another boat shop, albeit a fair amount smaller than the REI, but I’m going to check them out after work today and see if they have anything I haven’t had the chance to check out yet.

Unfortunately the Synergy 14 doesn’t appear to be available through REI, but I’m going to call and see if they can get it and if it’d be applicable for sale prices.

No offense.
You’re WAY too big for a 12’ boat. You need 14+ easily.

(I range from 250-275 lbs. and dog out 12’ boats.)

Go with at least 14’. I’m 6’2+" and 275lb. I have a Native Manatee 12’ SOT and when camping I have to use scupper plugs to stay dry. I also have two 12’ pungos and wish one of the three was 14’ or 16’. The SOT usuall stays in the garage unless both boys are paddling with me. The SOT handles like a barge with my weight but my sons seem to do better in it.

Wonders never cease. I came across a Ocean Kayak Prowler Trident Angler 15 today on craigslist, with paddle and a bunch of fishing add-ons. Seems like a great price, going to check it out on sunday. Hopefully its in good shape and I’ll jump on it.

Wish me luck. I’m very excited that I was able to get on this boat before anyone else and they were willing to hold it for me until I was able to make it out to check it out.