First Kayak Options

I’m finally looking to purchase my first kayak. I’ve read many similar threads on this site and have come across a lot of great advice for beginners, but I’m still a bit torn on what I should do.

Here’s my situation:

I’m 5’10" 165lbs and live in the Atlanta area. I’ve rented kayaks before but I really don’t know too much. I will be paddling mostly on the Chattahoochee (slow moving river, Class I and II) and local lakes such as Allatoona and Lanier. I may do some fishing as well but I would prefer a sit-in kayak. I don’t have any short term plans to use this kayak for whitewater or long trips. I could end up being someone who kayaks only 5-10 times a year or take it up as a lifetime hobby (hoping the latter). The top end of my budget is $650 but $500 or less would be ideal… I’m flexible.

Based on this, I looked around and identified some options. REI is having a 15% off sale through Memorial day so I need to make a decision by then hopefully. Right now, these are my top two options I think:

  1. Used Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 - $650 (negotiable)
  • The current owner added a paddle holder, fishing rod holders, and an anchor trolley. He can detach the anchor trolley and sell for $50 less. It is about 2 years old with minimal wear. It was originally a returned item at the local REI. He assured me the original buyer returned it because it was less stable than he wanted and not because of a defect. I think I can get the price down to $550 maybe less based on conversation with the owner.

  1. Perception Prodigy 10 - $462 (after tax)
  • I’ve heard this is a great starter kayak and seemed to be one of the best values at REI. Full price is $544 after tax.

    I know the best thing to do is demo these both and see what I like, but unfortunately, I will be out of town until Memorial day and can’t demo the Prodigy before the sale ends… so based on all the information above, what are your thoughts? What is a fair price for a used Pungo 120? Should I go with 12’ or 10’? Any other kayaks I should be looking at that fit what I’m looking for?

    Look forward to seeing what you all have to say and can’t wait to get on the water!

Both are rec boats
which means that they will effective or even at times manageable in moving water - class II can be more interesting than you probably realize - or on a particularly windy day if you decide to go out to the middle of a big lake. But then again, if you read the manufacturers’ own description you’ll see that they are not intended or designed to do these things.

A lot of people have gotten started in rec boats, and had a ball with these boats as far as they went. Most who have developed particularly strong interests in kayaking have subsequently gone on the hunt for a more capable boat, either for touring or for moving water, in as little as six weeks or after a full season.

Bottom line - getting on the water is fun and these boats will do that. But they are boats designed for a fairly easy, sheltered water. If where you are likely to be paddling is different from that, you will eventually be on the hunt for a different boat. But to point out something quite helpful about these two boats and others like them, they make great “guest” boats should you increase your own fleet and want to bring a non-kayaking friend for an easy near-shore paddle.

Rec is within budget
I understand that they’re both rec kayaks, but I think that’s all I can afford at this moment and I see myself being in mostly calm waters.

Go with the 12-footer
Ten feet is awfully short, especially at your size and weight. Either boat will “hit the wall” pretty quickly if you try to build up any speed, but the maximum speed of the 10-foot boat will be a half-mile-per-hour slower, and that’s a lot when considering the speeds that are possible in these boats. If you PLAN to always go slow, it won’t make any difference which boat you paddle, but it’s so common that I see people in short rec boats putting lots of effort into attempting to go faster and not realizing that the extra effort increases their speed a small fraction of a mph and mostly gets wasted making a bigger wake. Actually, I should say that I commonly see MEN do this, not women. Most men have the strength to easily get a short kayak up close to hull speed, but they don’t realize that all that extra effort they can apply at that point does no real good, unless maybe they are Hercules. Both boats are slow, but you’ll really notice how much faster the 12-foot boat can go compared to the 10-footer.

I’ve noticed that beginners are usually very attracted to short boats, maybe because something three to four feet longer just looks ungainly, and of course price is often a factor too. Time in the seat eliminates the ungainly appearance of longer boats.

My brother -n law has the Prodigy
and likes it.

He is in his fourth year with it.

Every time we are in our 18 foot long composite sea kayaks paddling with him, he keeps right up with us.

jack L