First kayak need advice

Hello! Am looking to get my first kayak and need advice. I’m 63 year old female. In good shape and 5’ tall. I just moved to charlotte NC and plan on paddling in small lakes. I know I need a recreational kayak but not sure length or width or brand.
Getting kayak on top of my suv will be a challenge also…
Any advice or suggestions welcome! Thank you

You have a tremendous array of choices in the 10’-12’ recreational sector. Are you open to used or are you looking for new? You can spend very little at a big box store, which few here will recommend. You’ll be unhappy with the quality and frustrated with the way it paddles (we want to you to love kayaking, btw!). Or you can spend many thousands for the best materials and components, but few here will recommend that for your first rec kayak either.
Do you have an approximate budget in mind? You’ll get some good ideas here.

Thank you! I’m fortunate that I can go new. My concern is how wide to avoid tipping vs weight…I really liked the Eddyline Sky 10 as just 32 lbs but it’s only 26 “ wide and reviews said it tipped easily….

There has to be a good outfitter in Charlotte. I’d start there.
Start by sitting in a few and then paddle the interesting ones.

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Reviews can be iffy. Tipping isn’t only about the width, it’s also about the paddler. I’ve never heard that the Sky 10 is particularly tippy. I have a Skylark, which is also 26”, and I don’t find it unstable at all. My 6’-5” husband did. Perceived stability is also affected by the paddler themself. At 5’, unless you are all torso, no legs, you will have less stability problems than many people, solely based on your center of gravity. And as your skill level grows, so will the stability of your boat :wink:

I started with a WS Pungo. It’s okay, and lots of people love them. It is super stable. However, at 5’-6”, with short legs, my biggest complaint was difficulty getting in and out. It’s 29” (maybe 28”?) wide, and I had trouble getting my feet and weight to the center of the boat when getting in, which made it a clumsy and tippy process. Granted, it was my first kayak, so I wasn’t experienced at all. Anyway, my point is that you might not want to go TOO wide.

Is my Skylark as stable as the Pungo? No. Is actually unstable? Again, no. Is it more fun than the Pungo? Most definitely yes! I’ve never paddled a Sky 10, but it gets great reviews, and there are always people who fall out of boats and then blame the boat, and not their skill level (or silly things they do while in the boat, or the conditions they took it out in,….). When I fall out of my boat, 99.9% of the time it was my own darn fault. Usually not mid-paddle, but close to shore, getting in and out.

Tskojec - I too would caution against being to focused on the tippiness. If you’ve never been in kayak or have very limited experience, any kayak will feel tippy at first. But I’ve seen comments over the years in kayak reviews where people mention that a kayak felt tippy at first, but they hardly noticed it anymore after a couple of hours. So, a kayak that feels a little tippy at first might feel just right after you get accustomed to it, while a kayak that feels very stable at first might feel like a barge before long.

I’m not familiar with the Sky 10, but based on photos and specs it looks like a good choice for a smaller person. But if you could sit in one and even better paddle it, that would of course be ideal.

If you don’t know the basic types of kayaks, you may want to read an article on this at California Kayaker Magazine - South West's source for paddlesports information. PDF version, Issue #10, starts on page 6. You could do either recreational class or sit on top.

If anything, a 5’3" paddler might find boats to large. Stability isn’t likely an issue o long a you are within the standard weight range listed for the boat.

Try to see if you can get and try different boats, preferably on the water. If you have a local specialty kayak outfitter, they often have ways t allow you to demo a boat. Or local clubs will have demo days. Or you could just go and rent boats or take tours. The used market is filled with people who didn’t really know what they wanted, so bought the wrong boat as a first boat only to resell it.

Yo may also ant to take an intro to kayaking class. Specialty paddlesports shops often have, but even your local REI might.

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You need to try out more kayaks, so you know what is tippy for you and what is not. Like others I would not expect you to have any issues with a 26 wide kayak, unless you have general balance issues.

Mecklenburg county offers some very affordable kayaking tours:

Activity search | ActiveNet - Online Recreation Activities (activecommunities.com)

Also, REI offers (slightly more expensive) classes:

Watersports Classes & Events | REI Classes & Events

In both cases they provide the kayaks.

Welcome to Charlotte.

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Since you like the lighter weight of thermoform boats such as the Sky, I’ll just comment on them for the moment. Three brands dominate this group: Eddyline, Delta, and Hurricane. I’ll not say much about Delta because they’re made in Canada and have yet to establish a dealer network in the southeast. However, if you happen to run across a Delta 10 or 12 AR, it would be worth a good look.
Re Eddyline, my experience is the same as @JCH_ski. Most reviews I’ve seen are quite good and I’ve not found them to be tippy. In fact, I purchased a Skylark several years ago because it was recommended by two experienced Adirondack paddlers as being almost impossible to capsize. Today I use the Skylark for guests precisely because of it’s stability. My granddaughter (about 4’10 and 75 lbs) paddled it last summer with no complaints. I also have a Sandpiper. It may be a little more stable because it’s a couple of inches wider than the Skylark, but the extra width may feel to big for you. My suggestion is that you not write off the Sky, and you may want to add the Skylark to your list of possibilities. If there’s no independent dealer in your area, REI carries some Eddyline models. I don’t think REI offers test paddles, but at least you can sit in them in the store and they have a customer-friendly return policy.
Re Hurricanes, there aren’t many around in my area so I have no personal experience with them. However, others on this site know them well. Apparently some older models had quality/durability issues, but you’re looking at new so that’s not a factor. Stability is said to be excellent, and the factory is in in North Carolina so they should be easy to find in your area. The Prima 110 and Santee 116 look like good possibilities. The Prima is 3" wider than the Sky or Skylark and the cockpit is huge (20" longer than the Sky). That’s good if you want to bring along a small dog but otherwise I suppose it’s just a matter of preference. Note also that Hurricane advertises their boat weights without the seat … and their metal-framed seat is heavy. Add 4-5 lbs to Hurricane’s advertised weights.
I agree with @string. Look for an outfitter that will let you try before you buy. It seems fewer and fewer are providing that opportunity now, but it’s worth doing if you can find one.
Lastly, these boats are called recreational boats for a reason. Regardless of what the maker says, they are not great under all conditions. They are designed for fun on flat or nearly flat lakes, ponds and slow rivers (I find the Skylark and Sandpiper are fine in lakes with waves up to 8" or a bit more), but they stay in the shed above that. None of them, regardless of brand, will be seaworthy in rough water conditions.

Wolf’s comments are spot on re tippiness. 26" is not tippy. Well, maybe if you try to stand up in it… I have a Manitou Sport that is 26" long x 10’-11" and it is very stable and maneuverable, yet I can edge it to turn and it paddles at a decent speed. My Manitou 14 is not tippy at 24" wide either, the 14 tracks better. Pungo is a barge by comparison. If you are physically adept I would not suggest anything over 26" wide. Yesterday I was out in my 15-6 x 23 kayak (CD Squamish) in big lake (actually a bay but only 1/3 mile wide) chop and was grateful that it WAS a little tippy since that actually helps when the wind and chop pick up on “flat” water if the wind suddenly picks up.

Thank you all! What great comments and suggestions!

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Our Club has often had our members volunteer as safety boaters for various demo days. One of the biggest mistakes people just starting out make is to be overly concerned with perceived tippiness. Almost all kayaks when people are just starting out seem tippy. However, with just a bit of seat time, for many boats that feeling quickly disappears. As others have said, that really stabile boat often will quickly be found to be very slow, and if it has a wide flat bottom will handle very poorly in waves. It will tend to follow the tilt of the waves and resist you staying upright as waves travel under it. You likely won’t tip over, but the ride can be very uncomfortable.

As far as new vs used, especially for a first boat, there are some things to consider.

  • Once that new kayak hits the water it can lose up to 50% of its resale value. You can often find great deals on a used boat.

  • You can generally sell a used boat for about what you paid for it.

  • After a year or two few people still use their first boat as their primary boat. They may still keep it for certain uses or sell it.

  • With minimal care a kayak can last for decades.

  • Unlike cars, kayaks made in the last 15 years change little from year to year.

When just starting out I really recommend checking out the used market.

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