First Kayak

I’m just getting into kayaking and absolutely loving it. I’ve currently looking into my first boat and have a question for the more experienced paddlers out there. In trying to reduce the initial expense of getting into kayaking I am considering plastic. It seems that it would be better to get a boat on the cheaper side and have some time to learn about what I like and dislike before purchasing a 3k boat. However, I can’t get over the thought that I could put that 1500 towards a well thought out glass boat. What are your thoughts? Any experience with massive regrets? I’d love to learn from yours… Lol… Thanks, David

go cheap
I’ve been kayaking for a little more than a year and now own 3 kayaks.

My first was a Christmas present from my son. It’s an Islander Swifty 9.5 from Dick’s Sports. It’s a great beginners kayak, and less than $300. You’ll get a lot of people telling you that it’s a piece of junk, but I enjoy it still. In fact, I took it out today because it was easier and quicker to throw in the back of my pickup instead of my #3 yak. I was watching the weather and just wanted to get out on the river quickly.

Yak 2 was a 12 foot sit on top that I got in a trade for an old canoe. I was hoping to get my wife interested. It’s easier to paddle then the Swifty.

I’ve taken my granddaughter with me on it, so that led to…

Yak #3. It’s a 14 foot Old Town Dirigo that has a jump seat for my granddaughter. Being longer and narrower, it’s by far the fastest and easiest of the 3 to paddle.

It’s the only one I’ve had to purchase and it was less than $800.

You can find lots of decent yaks on Craigslist for well less than $1000, probably even around $500.

So, I’d start out with a decent used one or two and work your way up to your dream yak.

first boat
First find a dealer that’ll let you test boats (demo boats), then you can refine what you’re looking for and features you like and dislike.

I’d definately look at used boats first and not even think about a glass boat for at least a couple years. Not alot of point in finding a pricy glass boat that’ll fit you now then when your skills progress you’ll want something else anyway.

Bill H.

If I had to do it again, I would pretty

– Last Updated: May-27-09 2:23 PM EST –

much echo what the posters above have said.

I have several high end kayaks, but started with a 9.5" rec boat. From there graduated to a 17 foot long plastic sea kayak and then finally to the QCC-700.
Even though my QCC is my main stay now, those first boats get used and I won't part with them.
The little rec boat with a skirt is a great white water boat.
The 17 foot poly boat gets used in down river racing in the type rivers that I know I am going to be bumping rock.
As I progressed to each boat I pretty much had in mind what I wanted at the time.

Lastly; if you are an accomplished paddler now, and can try a bunch of higher end boats, and you get in one that seems to call your name, then forget all that I have said above and get it.


Go Craigslist hunting
Buy used cheap kayaks and get a feel for what you like through using them. I’ve bought 3 so far off of Craigslist and living with each has really taught me what I liked/don’t like.

First was a Necky Looksha Sport I bought with a trailer. Nice plastic 14 ft, great on rivers.

Second was a Tarpoon 140, I wanted to play with a sit on top kayak. I really prefer the sit inside style.

Latest was a 16ft Elaho I picked up for sea kayaking. Found I really like sea kayaking, like the 21-22 inch wide kayaks, hate the rudder.

So now I’m shopping for a nice 16-17ft sea kayak with a skeg and really solid hatches.

Plastics will run you used around 300-400 for 12ft, 400-600 14ft, 600-1k 16ft on up. I haven’t sold any of mine yet, but when I do it should only be for a small loss on each(if any). I consider that very much worthwhile for being able to live with a boat for a time, go out camping with it, roll it around in the surf, see how the model/style feels after a 6 hour day of paddling in it, etc.

Used Boat
Im a little hesitant to consider a used plastic boat because of some of the stories Ive read about warping, weather/sun damage. Ive seen some boats on Criagslist that are 7-8 years old that I would seriously consider if it wasnt for their age. What is the lifespan on a plastic boat? Has this changed much in the past ten years?

Rent different boats until demo sales…
Unless you can find a package deal used on craig’s list or e-bay. In our area three large outfitters have end of season blow-outs in sept/october. They sell rental boats, overstocks, used boats, used PFD’s helmets, paddles, you name it. I took a friend of mine who just started paddling last season to a demo sale and he left with a Dagger 12.5’ w/skeg, PFD, paddle, skirt, all for $450 bucks, all used. While he was shopping for his boat, I picked up a nice helmet, two paddles, two pfd’s (wife and daughter) for under $100 total.

As for what to buy…I’d go with a minimum 12’ boat if you know you want to try paddling beyond small ponds and lakes.

my exp
I started with a WS tsunami 140, a 14’ “transitional touring” boat. It was a great way to validate that I wanted to do a lot more kayaking, without dropping serious cash. Try to find one of these or similar 14’ plastic boats used and it’ll be in your price range.

It’s been about a year since I got it and I’ve already ordered a fancier 18’ glass boat because I’m sick of how big the tsunami is. If you’re sure you’ll love boating, just look for a nice glass boat used.

You do need seat time
to figure out what you want and what boats fit you and your kayaking needs. A local dealer can point you in the right direction and let you test the initial fit, but that 2 minutes in the store isn’t exactly like what you’ll feel after 4 hours on the water.

Of course if it feels terrible in the store, it isn’t likely to feel better later. Picking up used boats on eBay or Craigslist is a good option. Ask about damage or warping if you see anything odd in the photos.

In general, plastic is cheap and durable, if a little heavy. Once you have a year or so testing and trying out boats, you’ll have a better sense if you really want a long boat, or a short boat, or a more stable boat, or a boat that rolls easy, or a boat that tracks hard, etc. That is the time to start looking at buyng a boat for the long haul – fiberglass can last decades.

Buying used lets you recoup your money if you tire of a boat, or just decide that paddling was a phase (this never happens). It will also let you try $1000 boats for about $500.


Warping, sun damaged, older boats
> Im a little hesitant to consider a used plastic boat because of some of the stories Ive read about warping, weather/sun damage. Ive seen some boats on Criagslist that are 7-8 years old that I would seriously consider if it wasnt for their age.

About this, yeah you may find this. It’s not a big deal. My first kayak has a bit of “oil canning” in it that I didn’t understand when I was buying the yak. But that doesn’t mean I got a bad deal. It’s a used kayak, I don’t expect them to be pristine and honestly, for a first kayak a little performance hit wasn’t anything I’d ever notice.

Just spend some time pricing out different kayaks. Figure out what the average prices are and then buy one that looks in good condition and you’ll do okay. That 8 year old kayak might have been garage kept and be in great condition. The 2 year old one may have been a rental that was stored outdoors and is beat all to hell.

A used kayak won’t be in perfect condition, but the up side to that is you worry less about banging it up.

My plastic Perception
Swifty was a gift to me in August, 2000. It has been stored outside in partial sun in central Florida. It has not been treated with 303. It has been dragged over logs, scraped over oyster beds, even dropped on the pavement once. Aside from a little oil canning (flexibility in the hull) it is fine.

It will probably outlast me.

Demo, demo, demo
Play in as many different kayaks as possible. Find out about local clubs and outfitters.

Don’t buy any model that you haven’t paddled.

I know way too many folk who bought rec or transition kayaks only to outgrow them within a season or a year or so.

Boat purchase suggestion

– Last Updated: May-26-09 5:50 PM EST –

I agree and slighly disagree with the postings above and wanted to offer a slightly different perspective which I didn't see in scanning the postings.

I agree that you should test as many boats as possible to test your comfort level and to see what style or fit you enjoy.

With regards to purchasing, I suggest buying something slightly ahead of where you are skill-wise, so you have some room to grow. So many times I see someone who spends hours and hours of research to get the best deal on a $300 Big Box boat. A boat with few features, outfitting and comfort features. The same person paddles for half a season, finds out they love paddling, but quickly outgrows their wide, slow and short boat. In every instance these people wish they would have taken my advise and purchased a more advanced boat.

I hope I don't sound like a rec boat snob. I like anything that introduces someone to the sport/hobby of paddling, but very rarely does a new paddler stay to their backyard pond or local reservoir. Skills quickly advance and before half a season is over they're looking to advance their skills, cover longer distances, camp, perform rescues, roll, etc. but find they don't have the proper boat. All the while they spent tons of time reseaching a $300 paperweight for their garage. After one season they're back at it reseaching a boat upgrade and looking for someone to purchase their old boat.

Up the ante a bit, if you were eyeing a 9 ft. rec boat, take a peak at a 12-15 ft transitional boat. If you're looking at a mid level boat, try out a 15-17 ft. touring boat. Your skills and pocket book will thank you.

The plastic boats of today are much better than yesterday, For less $$ you'll only save 6-8 lbs over a glass boat and today's plastics are much stiffer.

My two cents,

Another idea

– Last Updated: May-26-09 6:23 PM EST –

If you know what kind of kayaking you want to do. Go ahead and buy a used boat that is not a beginner boat.

You'll learn more quickly and may only need the one boat. Later when you know more your advanced used boat will no longer be your ideal boat, but you'll be able to sell it for about what you paid for it.

This works great if you know your only interested in river kayaking, sea kayaking, or white water kayaking.

For example it makes no sense to buy a boat that cannot be rolled easily if you want to be a white water paddler.

On the other hand if most of your local water is flat water and pumpkin seed shaped starter boat may be a boat you'll want to keep forever.

I think buying used is a good idea if you can find what you are looking for. I agree with others that it’s best to start out with something larger rather than smaller.

I got my first kayak last spring after my wife got a WS Pungo 12. The local dealer was out of Pungos, so I started looking at Neckys. I initially bought the Manitou Sport, which is about 11’ long, but returned it after one week because it just felt too small and slow in the water. I traded up for a Manitou 13, which has served me well, but I now wish I had spent a little more and gotten the 14-footer.

I’ve been shopping for a used 16-17 footer now for a while but nothing has popped up that meets my criteria. The problem with a lot of used plastic boats on the market is they are old enough that you have to start worrying about degradation. I’ve seen several nice P&H Capellas for sale in my area for about $600, but they were all about 6 years old or older. After contacting P&H, I became wary about buying a boat that old because they told me the projected “life” of the plastic was about 8-10 years.

Used Boats
While the general concensus seems to be that the deals are to be had with used boats, I think Ill still be picky. There is no use in saving 30-50% of the cost if you loose 70% of the life and functionality. It seems that this has to be addressed on a boat-by-boat basis.

My rotomolded plastic wavessport ww boat, which recieves a beating, is still going strong and it’s 10 years old. I store it inside and out of the sun, but it will easily last another 10 years.

I had my preception eclipse for more than 8 years and aside from the usual scrapes and general wear, there was no degregation of the pastic. Again it was stored inside out of the sun.

I don’t think some of the posters her are giving plastic enough credit. Under normal use and smart storage even an older plastic boat will last for years. I wouldn’t shy away from a well priced 6-8 yr old rotomolded, performance kayak with normal wear and tear. I’d take that boat over a Dick’s sporting good special anytime.

Don’t Leave your Kayak in the sun!

– Last Updated: May-27-09 8:39 PM EST –

With apologies to John Hartford:

Don't leave your kayak in the su-u-un
It'll warp and it won't be good for anyone,
Don't leave your kayak in the su-u-un
They get all wavy and they just won't run.

It just won't float, just won't float, just won't float
just won't float, just won't float no more.