First kayak for advanced beginner

Hi all I appreciate feedback on used kayaks I might consider. I am a solo paddler. I am female currently 5’7" 250 lb. I want something that will accommodate me now, but Im not quite as out of shape as the stats. I was an amateur kickboxer with a men’s team up until very recently so have some strength and a broader build with long arms. I gained 25 lbs during covid and should be dropping soon. I am fit at 180 and should be 180-220 in the next two years. So I think I’d like something that has max carry capacity of 300-350+. preferably. Over the past 20 years I have been out kayaking around 20-30x recreationally and for work as a biologist. My main interests in kayaking are just getting out on the water on lakes (I live near some big lakes Cayuga and Seneca) and calmer rivers and for wildlife viewing (near shore areas and perhaps slower rivers). In the future I could see doing a couple nights out but this isnt a priority, also have a small dog I could try in the kayak but also not a priority. My first kayaking experience in 1999 as a teenager I got caught out in the middle of lake Winnipesaukee in a rented recreational kayak, the wind picked up, there was a small craft warning and it seemed like within minutes all the boats were gone off the lake besides ours. I couldn’t keep up with my two smaller friends and was left in the middle of it. I got really cold and took on a lot of water but made it back. I’ve also been out on Cayuga in winter in a small motorboat and had a rough time making it back to dock. So I know the risks and would prefer two bulkheads (not a deal breaker) more as precaution than I intend to be out in rough conditions. Of course I’ve been looking at pungo and could be happy with probably the 120 or 125. But I can’t help but feel this will become a strong hobby where within a year I’d be ready for something a bit more of a challenge. I should also mention have a bad lower back with sciatica that lumbar support really helps and the seats that you can lift for under thigh support and tighten for lower back support would really help me. Besides wilderness systems, I’ve been causally considering old town (but probably too heavy for me), and also but know less about liquid logic, Necky, dagger and hurricane. I can spend about $300-750. Have seen a thermoform tsunami 140 and a couple duralite 14s in this price range. Figuring i could handle transporting something up to around 50 lbs by myself. Whoo sorry if that was long-winded. Thanks all​:pray::pray:

My nephew bought a 125 Pungo for his wife for the weight capacity. Its a nice boat but more recreation oriented. The 125 Tsunami is 12’ 9" x 26" wide. It has double bulkeads, deck lines, foot pegs, thigh pads. No need for a rudder. I paddled it for a season and took it across open water of the Upper Chesapeake Bay. At the time I was 6’ and 255 lbs, and the boat is comfortable, good capacity, sea worth and very stable. Of the two, I would look more toward the 125 Tsunami’s or maybe the new 140 that’s 25.5 inches wide, vs the old model that’s 24 inches wide. Lots of lighter boats. The Wilderness Systems boats are comfortable and roomy.

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Thanks I had been gravitating towards the tsunami 125 as a good compromise. My folks live near the Chesapeake!

Take a look at these resources on this site - the boats you mention are a broad list. Particularly from the top line item “LEARN” then clock on Types of Watercraft. It appears you have experienced the limitation of fully rec boats but there is a good bit in the middle.

And check out these folks for demo opportunities.

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You’ve paddled 20-30 times, so I think you can call yourself a novice now. :slightly_smiling_face:

You mentioned possibly bringing a small dog. That’s much easier with rec kayaks. If you want to leave that option open, perhaps a Pungo with console removed would give you enough room to have the dog in the cockpit with you. With the Tsunami, you would have to come up with a solution for the dog to stand/sit on the deck.

Other than that, the Tsunami 125 and 145 seem like logical choices because of the extra cockpit height and width. The 120 and 140 will be a tighter fit, as will most touring kayaks. My only reservation with the new Tsunami models is the high seat back might get in the way of some re-entry methods, but that’s just speculation, not experience talking.


For all the usages that you have described (calm lakes and quiet rivers, wildlife viewing, bringing a dog, maybe camping) I think you should also consider a solo canoe instead of a kayak, which would be more versatile for all those activities.

I suggest this as a regular kayaker for over 20 years, but I added a 13’ 8" solo canoe, a Curtis Lady Bug, to my boat collection a few years ago and have enjoyed it for quiet water paddling. I expect as I continue to age it will be a more practical option than my narrow Greenland style sit inside kayaks (I do not care for the wide heavy sit on top kayaks). In fact, my canoe was made by Dave Curtis, who still designs, builds and sells canoes in your general area (Hemlock, NY, near the Finger Lakes) under the Hemlock brand name.

My Lady Bug is only 35 pounds so easy for me to car top (I am barely 5’ 5" and 73 years old). I often paddle it with a 230 cm kayak paddle, an old Bending Branches with slim tapered blades, as well as a single blade canoe paddle.

Hemlocks are costly new, but the older Curtis ones pop up used fairly regularly. I got mine, in pristine condition though nearly 40 years old, for $900 and have seen them as low as $700. Many older Curtis models, like the May Fly, Dragonfly, Vagabond and Lady Bug, turn up in central and upstate NY due to the location of Dave’s shop there. There were 3 for sale, all under $1000, here in Southwest PA the summer I bought mine. You can set up automatic ad searches on Craigslist to find specific boats so that you can be notified of listings as soon as they appear, which is how I found the one I eventually bought.


To me it makes sense to start by finding a good used recreational model among those on your list. There are others worth considering too and you’ll find people on this forum who have tried them all!
After a year or two, you may want to step up to a more capable boat, but that’s OK. Many of us have been down that road. If you’re so inclined, you’ll be able to sell boat #1 for a decent price (assuming good condition) and re-invest in something that better suits your improving skills. You are fortunate in that several makers of good, light weight kayaks, canoes and pack boats call upstate NY home (including Hemlock as noted by @willowleaf).
As you know from prior experience, Cayuga and Seneca, like Winnipesaukee, can get very nasty very fast. Best IMO to stay within a comfortable swimmable distance from shore in any recreational boat as re-entry will probably not be an option. Of course, lessons are always a good idea. I’m aware of places offering instruction in Canandaigua, Ithaca and (I think) Watkins Glen; there are others, I’m sure.

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I would stay near shore on Seneca and Cayuga anyway because of the boat traffic, and because I can’t think of a good reason to paddle across. The smaller finger lakes make better paddling destinations. I did Canadice last summer when I was passing through and it was lovely. The inlets to Canandaigua and Seneca can be nice to explore too.


Good point. :+1:

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Thanks all who gave advice. I ended up with a 14’ hurricane expedition sport circa 2008 and took it out today. Was in my price range and seemed to check all the boxes. I like that it is on the narrower end of the rec kayaks so I can improve my stroke and still stable enough especially secondary stability. Plus since its thermoform it’s a little lighter so I could manage a longer boat and I was able to carry it and get it on my car alone ok. I’ve only been out in rec kayaks so in comparison tracks decent once you get going, turns easily and plenty fast for my current needs.


[quote=“Kit277, post:10, topic:124993”]
circa 2008[/quote]

You don’t have to guess at the year. It’s the last two digits of the serial number, which should be on the bow or stern just below the seam that joins the deck to the hull. On the current Hurricanes it’s on the bow, left side facing forward.

Nice that you found a boat!

Just get a float bag into that bow if it doesn’t have a bulkhead. And be aware this is not the boat you will want to proceed with if you start thinking about learning to roll. But you can have a lot of fun with it.

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Thank you! Yeah I partly picked it because of the second bulkhead which made me feel a little safer, just accessed from interior. Yeah I might in a couple years and I might have preferred a tsunami but I wasn’t seeing any in my price range within a couple hours drive and I was worried about the weight of the 145 also. But this got me out this season and I’m happy for now.

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The Expedition 140 seems like a good choice at this point in time. Just be aware of the safety drawback of the large cockpit and understand the material. If you achieve your weight goal (I hope you do!), you can look at the Hurricane Tampico (the recent new design) or the Sojourn.

Only your first boat. If you get the bug bad there will be more. But great that you can get on the water now.
I just got my first of two cataract surgeries done. I am off of and out of the water until water gets chilly.

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Hope you have a speedy recovery :pray:

Thanks, already doing great. I paid for the fancy lens. Distance was great as of 36 hours, the midrange came on midday on the second day. If the second eye comes out half as well l am going to feel like l should be called Hawk Eye.

Means six weeks of no paddling, or swimming, but it is going to be great to live with.

That said, this was the weirdest surgery l have ever had. And l am at or over 10. Easy, but definitely its own creature.


Congrats. I’m impressed with the choice. Looks like you hit a bullseye finding a day tourer with a rec-sized cockpit opening in your price range, and in less than a week! That looks like a better fit for your use case than the usual suspects we were thinking of.

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I got cataract surgery back in December and now have 20/20 vision in both eyes. Am without glasses for the first time in over 50 years. Took a while to get used to that.

Unfortunately I have had more serious health issues that have kept me off the water all but one day this year. Hope to get back on the water in a couple of weeks with an annual two week trip to the Adirondacks later this month. This would be our 20th year, but we missed a year when NY State had Covid restrictions.

Hope you get wet again soon…