First kayak

Hi, new to the forum and looking for some advice toward purchasing my first kayak “system” (i.e. boat, paddle, PFD, car rack… the whole works.) I’ve done a fair amount of paddling but only in rentals and my first visit to a kayak shop was an epiphany (“oh, so this is how a kayak’s supposed to fit!”)

I’m a 5’2" woman, about 140lb. I’m 50, in decent shape. I like kayaking rivers. If I’m on a lake, it will most likely be a very small one. I’d like to do overnights/weekends (on rivers) and will be solo at times.

I live in southeastern Michigan and have looked for a used kayak (craigslist, ebay, local ads, etc.) but there’s very little out there, so I’m planning to buy new at this point. My budget is $1,000 for the boat, paddle and PFD. We own a canoe and have basic PFD’s; so if I have to hold off on the PFD, I can.

SO… after doing some reading, browsing, shopping, the two kayaks that have caught my eye are the Perception Tribute 12 and the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 120. Both are in the $700-800 price range, which would leave me $200-300 for paddle, PFD and any other can’t-live-without gadgets. Both kayaks seem to fit me well. The Tsunami seems almost perfect for me but I have to admit that I really love the light weight of the Tribute.

Do these seem like reasonable choices? Are there other boats with comparable specs, price range that I should consider?

I have a 4-door sedan (Nissan Altima.) I’m balking at prices for Thule/Yakima roof racks systems and am looking at Inno and Rhino. Any thoughts there? Any kayak loading systems short women love? (Yakima Hully Roller?)


Cheap transport and stuff
1.) A stepstool to reach roof

2.) A simple pair of closed cell pads and straps

Used boats - local kayak groups - Detroit Metro

Boats, gear, lessons

I know I left out a couple - but it’s a start

some advice

– Last Updated: Jul-18-12 11:22 AM EST –

I've never paddled either boat but I hear good things about the Tsunami and on slower moving water and inland lakes it'd do fine.

Have you checked the classifieds in this website? How about eBay or craigslist?

Check Ebay and Craigslist for used rack components. You can find the crossbars and any kayak-specific hardware used for sure; finding the fit kit and "feet" for the rack used for your car might be tougher but OTOH the altima is a pretty popular car. Go to the thule or yakima website first and input your vehicle info to find out what you need, then head to ebay or criagslist. I saved myself over $175 this way - enough for a good used paddle.

Check the classifieds here and on eBay for used paddles. Ebay has a few nice werners if you search "werner paddle". A good paddle is worth the investment and I'd look for something in the $200 and up range (new). I saved about $75 x 2 paddles this way.

You may want to get your PFD new as fit is personal and lifespan is limited.

Short woman here…
I’m 5’3", 63 years old, and often paddle solo. The suggestion to look on eBay or Craigslist for used Thule, Yakima, or whatever is a good one for as you see, the prices for new are outrageous.

I have a Subaru Forester with the Thule Glide and Set mounted on the factory crossbars. I slide the boat up from the rear of the vehicle, using a cheap rubber-backed bathroom rug to protect the finish of the car. No need for a stepstool - I fall off of them anyhow.

As far as the boat goes, a nine pound difference is not a trivial amount, but if you’re going to use the boat for camping, the Tsunami may be a better choice because of the additional dry storage and the larger stern hatch opening.

I’ve also found a cart of some type to be a necessity when I’m alone.

Good luck!

Another short gal, here,
with a sedan.

I have Yakima racks. I’ve used Hully Rollers (not worth the money) and Yakima Mako Saddles which were okay. I’ve also tried various J-types, which I simply could not load by myself, even trying to use the Yakima boat loader, which was another waste of money for me.

By far the best saddles I’ve found, and they fit on my Yakima crossbars, are the Malone Seawings. Best of all, I can put two sets side by side on my Hyundai Elantra, and a friend and I can shuttle.

One tip: the Seawings will turn a little on the round Yakima bar no matter how much you tighten them, but that’s okay. Make sure the rear Seawing is slanted back toward the rear of the car so it doesn’t turn away from your boat as you load. Throw a couple of rugs on the trunk and slide the boat up.

You will appreciate a good kayak cart and there are many to choose from. I use a Paddleboy Nemo, which is a center cart, and I’ve figured out just the right angle to get it behind the car so I only have to lift the bow to the trunk without picking up the entire boat.

Finesse, finesse, finesse. What we have instead of height and big muscles.

I bet Celia will have some suggestions, too, about the boat. Listen to her. She’s also little, and extremely knowledgeable about all things kayaking.

Have fun!

For side-loading
Yakima Boat Loader Bar costs $60 and fits round crossbars. It’s just an extension that slides out so you only have to lift about half the boat’s weight at a time. Should work well for a low-to-medium height car roof.

You’ll need crossbars of some kind but can get away with using foam blocks instead of cradles.

Boat loader didn’t work for me,
but I was trying to load a 12 ft boat into J-styles by myself. The Js kept turning on the round bars, and I really just couldn’t do it. Might have been okay loading into saddles with the boat loader, but loading saddles from the back is easier anyway. The video made it look so easy…

Boat loader was helpful with two of us loading into the Js, but we could have loaded the boats without it.

Only reason I was trying the J-styles was in order to carry two boats, and I’ve found the Malone Seawings to be simpler to attach, easier to load and even two chubby boats (Phoenix 120 and Eddyline Skylark) ride nicely side by side without crowding.

PS: Malone doesn’t pay me for my glowing reviews, but they ought to.


– Last Updated: Jul-18-12 3:06 PM EST –

I've demoed both, and preferred the Tribute. As I recall it had a lower foredeck and felt a bit more maneuverable. The Tsunami family seems to be designed more for tracking which is not always good in rivers.

The forward bulkhead on the Tsunami is an advantage for safety and organizing storage. Not having a bulkhead makes it easier to stuff large things in the bow, but you'll want big drybags. Deepwater self-rescue is a bit less important on a river where it's any easy swim to shore.

A used WS Tchaika nearby would be worth investigating.

For loading, my 5'0" wife uses the "carpet on the back of the car, slide it on" technique.

another option to consider
It’s not an option that most newcomers to the sport are aware of, but you might want to also consider a super light folding kayak. I have an earlier model of this 24 lb (yes, that’s right) 12’ touring kayak:

The deck (which you buy separately) is removable so you can paddle with or without it. The boats are well made and strong and perform favorably to hard shell boats. I loaned mine to a 115 lb 5’ 3" friend for our group paddle to see the fireworks two weeks ago and she was easily able to keep pace with 4 of us in much longer hard shell touring kayaks on a rough and windy river. The boat sets up easily in 20 minutes and can break down in 10. Though it costs around $1,000, you would not have to buy a fancy roof rack – it is easy to load on a factory or cheap rack, even foam noodles, or you just dismantle it and throw the duffel bag in the trunk, or check it as airline baggage – some people even haul them in a Bugger trailer behind a bicycle! You would be saving probably $200 over having to buy a roof rack and carrying cart.

It is hard to explain how great having a 24 lb kayak is especially for an older solo paddler (I just turned 62) – I can lift it over my head with one hand. I have other kayaks weighing from 31 to 44 lbs but this is the one I am apt to grab for last minute local paddles or road trips. We have two Pakboats (the other is a 15’ one) and I have been extremely impressed with the quality and performance of them, even compared to my other kayaks, one of which is a $4,000 folding model. You can check on YouTube for posted videos of people paddling the Pakboat Puffins in various waters around the world (folding kayaks are highly popular in Europe and Asia where people have small apartments and cars). And being able to take your kayak anywhere with you on vacation, even when you fly, is a great money and time saver over rentals.

Anyway, just one other suggestion to consider. I think you can still order Pakboats through REI (and they have a money back guarantee.)

Don’t feel the need to stay loyal to one rack company.

For the base crossbars, the round Yakima style ones have the problem that eventually everything seems to twist on the round bar, unless it attaches to both bars – like a cargo box or bike rack but unlike all kayak racks. I would recommend either going with the Thule square cross bars or either company’s aero (better looking oval bars but more expensive). The aero bars will also limit you to what racks you can use but some people think they look nicer. I prefer the Thule squares. Overall, most Thule and Yakima racks will work fine with either round or square bars. Not everything works with the aero bars.

If you are just carrying one kayak go with the pads and/or rollers since you should be easily able to load from the rear of the car alone. Go with what ever brand you prefer.

Right now EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) is selling Thule 20% off. Both Yakima and Thule do 20% off sales a few times a year – esp around memorial and labor day – about the best retail price you will find.

If you want to try a slightly longer kayak a Dagger Alchemy 14.0S might be a good kayak to demo. The two models you are looking at are both very popular.

The Werner Skagit FG IM is a great starting paddle but if you have some extra cash the Werner Camano is a big step up.

Ocean Kayak - Venus 11
Hi there,

I recently bought a new kayak and went for the Venus 11. Pretty lightweight and sufficient storage for my needs.

First time I took it out it felt a bit tippy, but it was in a force 5 on the sea! Otherwise, it’s sturdy and pretty swift through the water.

I have wheels for it, but can easily carry it myself and get it onto the roof-rack (handi-rack, which has turned out to be a great purchase). I’m female though bit taller than yourself, 5ft 6".


Thanks for all the feedback; it was very helpful. I’ve also been browsing other threads and getting a lot of good info. Great forum.

I’m going to try some kayaks in the water this weekend and also take a basic class. That said, I’m pretty sure I want to buy the Tsunami 120.

Yes, I’ve combed ebay and craigslist for used (local) kayaks and roof racks. In the end, I’ve decided to go with the Inno roof system and the Malone Seawings. By using a combination of online codes and some credit card promotions, I got the Inno system for less than what I would have paid for a used Thule system, without all the hassles.

I’m sure I’ll have more questions later. Can’t wait to get in the water!

If you do decide to go with a WS kayak, EMS has them at 20% off right now.

Perhaps useful info
Newer paddler , sharing info

I have
a Perception Sport Conduit 13, which is a sort of cross between a touring and a rec kayak. It is very stable and fast, as well as being very maneuverable. It is olny sold at Dick’s, but only for $550, if it is not on sale (I got mine for $474). I think that it is the absolute best boat for performance on the market, though it lacks many features (paddle holder, cup holder).

Is a renamed Dagger Catalyst (which sold for $800).

Thanks but too wide
I looked at quite a few recreational kayaks at stores like Dicks and MC Sports, and found that they’re either sized for kids (under 120 lb) or sized to accommodate “all” adults, which means way too wide and deep for me. Same issues I was having with rentals.

You are correct
Most really rec boats will be knuckle knockers for you. And IMO cup holders don’t do anything more than get in the way of a good edge, and paddle holders often are designed in a way that makes it impossible to use a skirt. Both a good edge and a skirt are useful in a performance kayak.

For loading a boat solo, I use the Amagansett Roller Loader. I have also seen people talented enough to get parts from kid’s bikes and make up a version of their own - it has gotten pricy since we got ours. But it, or a functional equivalent, work great for right thru our 17’9" kayaks for me to load alone. (along with a small set of wheels to get the boat to the car)

another smaller person option

– Last Updated: Jul-24-12 1:01 PM EST –

It's a little longer than the Tsunami 120 you are looking at, but the Venture Easky 15LV is a nice boat with more features to it that is designed for small to medium paddlers. It's a boat you could take out in the Great lakes safely with proper outfitting and training eventually. I have one and and I like that it is 44 lbs and much easier to load than the 50 plus weight of most other solo plastic boats in that size range. Notice that it is 8 pounds lighter and 3" narrower at the cockpit than the Tsunami 120. It's a fast and fun kayak in any water.

It's a British made boat and can be tougher to find in stock than the ubiquitous WS boats, but REI used to carry them and might still be able to order one. They have a no-fault return policy if you didn't like it. Or perhaps you could drive across to Ontario and find one to check out.

Though they don't carry Venture, this dealer in Windsor has an impressive lineup including several smaller paddler light touring options:

I realize I have “better” choices…
… if cost wasn’t an issue. :slight_smile:

I’m pretty firm on the $1,000 budget for the boat, paddle and PFD. It’s my first kayak and I don’t think it has to be “perfect” for me to be happy with it. I’m a weekend warrior, not aspiring to go to the Olympics. :slight_smile: My local store has the Tsunami 120 for $800 (20% off) which is, I think, a good boat for the price. It fits well, has the dual hatches for overnights that I want to be able to do and I can pick it up and shoulder-carry it without problem. I’m pretty strong.

I tried (in water) a Bending Branches Glide paddle last weekend; I think I’ll be fine with the fiberglass shaft for now. My guess is that the paddle is what I will end up upgrading first but having a back-up won’t be a bad thing and it’ll make a good “Santa list” item. :wink:

I’m looking at PFD’s now and have $100 to work with… again, maybe not be enough for the perfect one but I’m sure I’ll find something that fits, does the job and allows me to paddle comfortably enough.

I’ve ordered Inno roof racks and Malone Seawings, which should be here tomorrow and then I can go pick up my boat! (YAY)

SOLAR outdoors
Check out S.O.L.A.R. as they have lots of paddlers

and share info freely as well in metro Detroit

Skin-On-Frame kayaks are handbuilt, light weight,

extremely durable, and customized to you.

Check out the Yahoo group

South East Michigan Kayak Builders