First kayak purchase! Aspire or Axis (10-10.5')?

Hey everyone!

Like the title states, I’m going to be making my first kayak purchase in the near future. I was looking at cheaper models at first (Aruba 10 and Lifetime Lancer), but I foresee myself doing this for a long time, and therefore want to buy something that will last/have good resale value. I’d also like to purchase something that can handle UP TO Class II rapids, as I don’t see myself trying anything Class III +. After spending countless hours researching, I’ve narrowed my choice down to either the Wilderness Systems Aspire 100/105 or Dagger Axis 10.5. Which model do you think would be best for me (and if you choose the Aspire, which size)?

Height = 5’ 11"
Weight = 160 lbs

Furthermore, I have three additional questions :smile: :

  1. If you own either of these models, how much did you pay/where did you buy them? I’m thinking $650 or less is a fair price to pay, but I’m not going to buy at retail prices ($799 - $849)! I’m located in the Rhode Island/Massachusetts area, but I’d be willing to drive to a local store within 3-4 hours from me if I can get a good deal.
  2. What kind of sedan rack and mount would you recommend? I’m clueless when it comes to this, as my friend has an SUV that usually transports the kayak I was loaned, and he only needed to buy a mount (Swiss Cargo).
  3. Which paddle would you recommend?

I have the aspire 105, which is an excellent river boat. Drop the skeg and the boat tracks like it’s on rails on the lake. Plenty of storage and weight capacity with the 105.

@gallej - you said the following about your expected usage “I’d also like to purchase something that can handle UP TO Class II rapids, as I don’t see myself trying anything Class III +”. Is river paddling of class I and II what you expect to do most of the time?

Sometimes people who post questions like this are actually doing flat water paddling, and only occasional white water. Much different boat and paddle recommendations for each case.

Being new, saving some money and buying a used boat is often a good recommendation. You can get a better boat for less money.

@rnsparky glad to hear that! Have you ever taken it on rapids? If so, how did it perform?

@“Doggy Paddler” thanks for pointing that out for me! I’m not crazy about the color, but I still may reach out to the lister!

@Peter-CA You’re right. I’d mostly be doing flat water paddling, but I’d like to have a kayak that can also handle up to class II since my friends and I will soon be making trips to rivers that have those conditions . What do you think about “crossover” kayaks like the Axis 10.5? I’d be open to buying used, but I can only find used Aspire 100/105s.

Most cross over kayaks don’t do either flat water nor white water well. I would think hard about how much flat water versus white water, and if it is like 80% or more flat water, I’d get a flat water specific kayak and rent something for white water (or get a second boat when you get into white water).

I do own a cross over kayak (Jackson Karma RG), but cringe at the thought of taking it on any flat water trips. Crossovers are slow and don’t want to go straight - you would get a hell of a workout trying to cover any distance. I have taken on class II rivers, and they don’t do that well either. Wear a skirt and learn to roll, as if you are like my experience, you will need to do that more than once.

Sorry if your Jackson doesn’t go straight, but the aspire does. It is also very adequate for occasional Class 2 rapids given its length and adequate paddling skills and proper outfitting (spray skirt, pump, etc.). Of course it does have a very large cockpit.

@Peter-CA Both models have a drop-down skeg, and I’ve read that the tracking in flat water is great (some people actually prefer the Aspire 105 over the Axis 10.5 in flat water). Speed is typically the main complaint I’ve seen for both models, but practically all 10’ kayaks will have that same issue. I know that the Axis 10.5 can be outfitted with a skirt, but I’m not sure if the Aspire can. Also, I’ve read that the Aspire is nearly impossible to roll, but I think it can be done in an Axis.

@rnsparky which skirt were you able to outfit your Aspire with? Like you said, the cockpit is the only thing that makes me a little weary of taking it in white water, but I do love the extra room to bring one of my dogs (they’re small) with me while on flat water!

One way to check on skirts is to use Seals skirt sizing program and see if they list one:

If you see a skirt as listed as fitting, that is a good sign that a skirt would work. The number is the size of the skirt, and the larger the number, the larger the skirt (and larger the opening).

If you are not wearing a fitted skirt in class II rapids, expect to swim a lot. A skirt on its own will reduce some swimming, as it will reduce the amount of water that comes in from splashes/waves. But it won’t prevent swims, as the currents., waves, eddylines, etc. all seem to work to flip people, and once you flip, you are swimming (unless you roll). Learning how to handle white water in a class or with a trained person could reduce the flips, and learning to roll makes the flips into a non-issue.

Speed is relative, and you are right that these are probably fine for 10 foot boats.

Speed has never been a characteristic of 10’ rec boats, IMO, but it is in the perception of the paddler.

The Aspire is a rec boat that is suitable for some rapids (up to class 2) but not pure “white water”. If you plan 90% of your paddling on mostly flat water, the aspire is a great boat. If more than half is involving rapids and you want to roll, suggest you get a ww boat.

@Doggy Paddler said:

This is your ticket, gas up your ride and start driving! with the $400 your saving you can get a nice Werner Carbon paddle.

You could buy it, paddle it for a while, and if you decide it’s not for you it should be pretty easy to re-sell. Wilderness Systems has good name recognition and it will hold its value.

In fact I purchased a WS boat off CL when I first decided I wanted to kayak, which proved to be entirely the wrong boat for me; yet it was a great buy as it got me on the water, helped me learn what I really wanted, and several years later I was able to re-coup the entire cost when I found a better-suited boat.

I too started with a Sundolphin Aruba 10, got bitten by the bug and just bought a CD Kestrel 120 as an upgrade… long standing history, lots of great reviews… should do me fine for years to come on the slow rivers and lakes around me.

At least have a look at something around 14 feet. Try it out if possible and you probably will be spoiled for anything shorter. Don’t go cheap on a paddle, but you don’t have to go nuts either. Look at a Carlisle Expedition. Be very sure that you learn what is the right length for you.

I’m 80% or 90% ww and only 10% to 20% flatwater. I make my ww kayaks and crossover work on flatwater. i keep the distances and time short, focus on form (good torso rotation), and just know that I’ll be slow. As far as rudders/skegs on crossovers- they do help to go straight and also with less effort.
If you are going to boat class II, stay safe, add beach balls for additional flotation, and remember that most rec boats don’t have pillars or walls for stuctural support (found in ww boats)…

Old post, the OP probably moved up to a powerboat by now.

How do these dated posts keep popping up?

OK…….Gallej…….what did you get? This was last summer. What did you pull the trigger on?

@shiraz627 @magooch @Overstreet I’m still alive, don’t worry. I actually haven’t purchased anything yet, but I’m currently looking at a Dagger Katana 10.4. I don’t really want anything in the 12-14’ range (for storage and weight reasons), as I’d likely be moving the kayak by myself before meeting up with friends. I’d be doing more flatwater than whitewater paddling, but I like the versatility of a crossover, and only want to buy one kayak. I’ve been looking for deals for the past couple of months haha