First real kayak

Hello, new user here. I stumbled across this website and found a lot of useful information and joined.

I have been paddling for about 2 years now (box store SOT) and am looking to upgrade to a real kayak and improve paddling skills.

I mainly paddle rivers and creeks (class 2 at max) and overnight camping trips. I am about 6’2” roughly 205Lbs 34”waist.

I’m interested in boats with at least bow and stern hatches in the 12-15 ft range. So far from what I have looked/read the Sitka lt/xt and vision 140 seem to fit this category pretty well. When I search in the classifieds on this site and craigslist, some older or discontinued boats show up. I’m not against older boats, I Just don’t know anything about them.

What are the boats that do well in this category? Any suggestions or advice is greatly appreciated.

There are tons of reviews on this site that can be helpful in getting some information from owners on the handling and capabilities of various models going back as far as 30 years. And a lot of the reviewers will state their own height and weight which can be very helpful.

There are scores of kayaks that would fit your requirements but your budget and the availability will be major aspects of getting one this year.

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At your size, I would suggest a longer boat…16 to 18’. You won’t regret it.

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Thanks for the comments. I’ll dive into more reviews.

Andy- does the jump to the longer boat really make that much of a difference in more than just speed?

I use a canoe in water like that you plan to paddle (I mainly paddle rivers and creeks (class 2 at max) and overnight camping trips). However, based on what I see folks paddling on some of our club trips you might want to look at a Tsunami 145. Not my taste but they do seem to do the job.

You are a big guy, a 14 foot boat would feel like a barge. Just realized, that you do some WW. Look for a plastic boat then or a canoe.

I’m taller and heavier than you are and while I paddle 2 14’ boats, Andy is right.
But barge may be a little strong. I just started paddling a 14’ and had it at 4 mph in a few strokes.

I had looked at a Tsunami a while back, but never did spend a lot of time on them. I’ll check back into the specs on it.

Andy- Thanks

String - Are you satisfied with your 14’s? Coming from a box store yak, I’m sure any good quality kayak is going to paddle much better than what I am currently using. FWIW I have is a perception pescador 12.

Also, one main question I have is about the cockpit size. Is there a “rule of thumb” for cockpit sizing?

PA, I have had 4 14’ kayaks. A Hurricane Skimmer, an Eddyline Caribbean, currently have a WS Pungo 140, and Stellar S14S.
A qualifier, I am 6’5" tall and weigh 230.
The Caribbean and Skimmer for me were slow but I probably put too much hull in the water.
Family and friends who tried them liked them both.
The Pungo 140 is a fine combination of stability , speed, and comfort. It can carry a lot; I’ve camped out of it.
The newest is a Stellar S14S, a rec boat top and a surf ski hull. I’ve had it since December but paddled it for the first time today. I found it a bit tender until I relaxed and settled in. I pushed it a bit and was bouncing between 3.8 and 4 mph. It will take me a couple more outings to be completely comfortable.
I would not recommend it for someone my size. I kept thinking that it needs to be a 16’.

Thanks for the info. Were you able to do more advanced paddling techniques with the Pungo?

Pungos are great for what String describes, but with their flat bottom, lack of rocker (curve in the keel) and wide 28" beam they are not designed for “advanced paddling techniques.” If those are skills you plan to develop you need a narrower boat with a sportier hull.

And per my experience with Tsunami models, while more challenging than Pungos, they are not performance boats either. If you want to imagine a parallel with cars, Pungos and Tsunamis are reliable family station wagons and sedans. if you want more speed and handling, you need to look at other boat designs.


I would agree with that. We had a Tsunami 145 years ago, and it’s a perfectly serviceable boat. Extremely stable and not terribly slow. A newer paddler could certainly do worse but it wouldn’t be a good skills boat.

Given you do moving water, the 16’+, longer boats wouldn’t be my first choice. Instead I would look at the day touring boats (14-15 foot) that are being used for ocean play. Boats like the Dagger Alchemy 14.0L, Dagger Stratos 14.5L, Jackson Journey 14, P&H Delphin 155, P&H Aries 155, , and maybe any of the Valley Geminis.

I am 6’ and 230 pounds. I own and regularly paddle an Alchemy and Stratos. Have paddled the others listed a fair amount, All worked well,

There are strong benefits when first jumping to a sea kayak to taking an Intro to Sea Kayaking class. Along with reinforcing basics of strokes and such, they will make sure you know about how to self and assisted rescue. Often best to do before you buy a boat, as there is a lot toward the boat buying process you can learn during the class, either in the syllabus or in that the teacher will answer questions you have.


When I sold kayaks I used to refer to the Tsunamis as the Toyota Camry of kayaks. Comfy, stable, reasonably fast and totally vanilla. But a great boat for a lot of people.

Dagger Stratos/Alchemy 14 might be a great choice. I own a Stratos 12.5 now and had an Alchemy 14 years ago. Great do it all kayaks that are quite a bit more capable than the Tsunamis while still being user friendly. I own and love a Valley Gemini SP in poly but it’s fairly small so not sure you’d be comfortable in it. Also check out the new P&H Virgo , although I’m not sure if the HV version has hit the US yet.

And yes - take an intro sea kayak lesson. Super valuable.

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Willow,HD- Thanks. That’s what kind of had me circling back to the Sitka and vision, only concern is durability.

Peter- I had a fellow paddler mention the Stratus a few days ago. It has my interest perked. I plan on getting into some classes. I could see where it would be very helpful.

In general, if you really want a boat that will enable you to develop performance skills, it has to be one that will not feel “stable” to you initially. That insecure feeling typically goes away quickly once you get the feel of the boat and learn about secondary stability.

I’ve often paddled with friends and in groups with people in Tsunamis of various sizes. They are probably one of the most popular and widely available mid-price kayak lines for both SINK rentals and with the general public and that is because they do have great primary stability, fit a wide range of people and aren’t “scary” for new paddlers. For a lot of people they are clearly a good choice and are quality made boats with all the safety features and a solid reputation, so I don’t dis them. But they are what they are. (the one exception is the Tsunami 175, which at 17’ 6" and with 24" beam is closer to the performance sea kayak class, though one of those is more than double the weight of my 18’ kayak.)

Because my various kayaks tend to be rather unusual, people often ask if they can try mine out when we are paddling together, so I have traded boats with a number of Tsunami owners for short distances (over the years I’ve swapped into a 125, several 140s and a 165 as well as rented Tsunamis in assorted vacation locales). Always short distances when I swap, though, because every Tsunami has felt heavy and slow to me and I appreciate getting back into my own kayak.

Thanks Brodie, seems like Stratos has quiet a few votes. I’ve recently seen the P&H boats as they seem to be a very reputable company with quality boats.

I agree: take some classes, try out some boats; see what you like. Classes are super-fun and a great investment that will likely save you from some costly missteps down the road.

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I’m perfectly fine with the boat not being initially stable and growing into it. I mainly just don’t want to get a boat and then outgrow it quick.

What is a good resource to check in for classes? I’m in NE Alabama, so I’m assuming it’ll be a road trip to take classes.