First Rec Kayak - Trying to decide

I will be purchasing my first kayak soon. I am looking for a recreational sit in kayak in the 10-12(max)length, price range $600-850. I plan to go demo some soon, but I am new to kayaking and I really don’t know what to expect. I’ve only paddled about three times on an Ocean Scrambler II on a local lake. I’m looking for something stable(not tippy)easy to manuver and that tracks reasonably, even in windy conditions. I plan to use it on calm lakes and slow moving rivers.

I’ve narrowed my choices down to about four kayaks, which are the Necky Manitou Sport, Dagger Element 11.0, Dagger Blackwater(10 or 12 ft)and the Old town Dirigo 106. Based on general knowledge and experience, can anyone tell me which of these boats is the most ideal?


I have a 14’ Dirigo…
And really enjoy it. I can’t speak to the 10’ versions of any of these boats. But, I’ve had people in the 12’ versions of the Dirigos - they all seem to enjoy the boat. Depending on your size, if you’re small - it can be a bit wide and you have to be careful to not hit your knuckles on the sides of the boat. Though, that can usually be ironed out with proper torso rotation when paddling.

I’ve also had people in a 12’ Wilderness Systems Pungo. While I know it wasn’t on your list, the V-hull is seems to help the boat glide better than the Dirigos - but, people find it to be a bit more tipsy feeling than the Dirigos.

I think for what you’re asking - in my opinion, the 12’ would be better suited. The times that I’ve been in a 10’ boat (I’m a big guy, though) and have had people in 10’ boats - they have trouble going straight. There just isn’t much boat to really glide well.

I do very similiar paddling as you and chose to go with a 14’ boat, simply for a bit better tracking. And, the 14’ Dirigo has a larger cockpit - allowing me the flexibility to have my young daughter join me in my kayaking trips.

get a kayak

– Last Updated: Jun-24-08 8:21 PM EST –

that has a both a fore and an aft bulkhead.

If you have a boat without bulkheads and it becomes filled with water, it has potential to become a navigation aid (i.e. bow be pointing to the sky and you be swimming and NO way to empty and re-enter your boat).

I disagree in principal…
Yes, a kayak without fore and aft bulkheads CAN become swamped and unusable. However, with properly installed flotation bags, the swamp & flooding risk can be mitigated.


– Last Updated: Jun-24-08 8:54 PM EST –

won't keep you dry if push comes to shove in conditions.

Got three (3) VERY seaworthy kayaks; and if empty I keep Boze brothers' float bags fore and aft.

read the lit on flotation; and start here:

And there is lots more info to chose from.

How would a kayak rec/otherwise be different from any other watercraft in its need for flotation?


Pungo 120

You described a WS Pungo
and the 120 (12’) is a jewel but don’t recommend the 100 (10’).

Paddlin’ on


Friend has a Blackwater 12
with the over the stern drop down skeg. It tracks really nice in wind on the bay with the skeg down and yet manuvers well on class II rapids. She is very happy with it and often chooses it over her composite Slipstream (16x21) when paddling with slower paddlers.

Note: The amount of skeg can be varied by adjusting where the line is knotted (not variable while paddling like retractable skegs on higher dollar kayaks). After some trial and error we found the sweet spot setting for her weight and the winds we usually encounter and really improved the performance.


starter yak
I recently bought a Necky Manitou Sport but traded it after one week for a Necky Manitou 13. Although I liked the Sport’s stability and maneuverability, it didn’t track well and the front end plowed when I tried to paddle faster. The Manitou 13 works much better for me. It’s faster and tracks better with little difference in stability or maneuverability, and it only costs about $100 more than the Sport.

My wife has a Pungo 12, which I also recommend. However, it’s about 6 lbs. heavier than my Manitou and harder to maneuver.

Blackwater or Pungo
longer will be a little better out on the lake and still be fine in moving water.


please accept my apologies

your reply to my initial post was both reasoned and reasonable; unfortunately, my response to you was not.

As of this moment I formally resign from my brief stint in the bulkhead/flotation police.

In the future I will leave comments about rec kayaks to those who have actually paddled them.


Short 4 river, long for lake.
I have a 10’ Perception, which is lots of fun in rivers, up to class 2’s, but is a tub on lakes. Those I paddle with dont seem to have much trouble negotiating the small rapids in their longer boats, but glide effortlessly on the lakes. The advantage to my 10’ boat is weight, and loading. I can just throw it in the back of my Explorer.

If I was to do it again, I’d have purchased at least a 12’ boat however. Probably a 13’ or 14’.

If you were closer to MI…
I would suggest a place where I know you can get a Carolina 14 for ~$670 brand new. I really like mine and I enjoy the dual bulkheads and slightely wider body to learn on. I tried a Pungo and hated it, but you might like it. Don’t count out a 14 footer because of your price range, you can swing deals in kayak shacks if you do it right.

Appreciate that Mike.
I think we agree - flotation is required. It’s just the method of implementation. I actually 100% agree the bulkheads are a better choice - but, try finding recreational boats that have them.

My Dirigo has a rear bulkhead, but nothing in the bow. So, I made a float bag for it.

Oh and seriously - thanks for pointing out the principal versus principle thing. I just checked on both. “your” versus “you’re” is a huge pet peeve of mine.

Old Town Dirigo 14’ …
Are right within the OP’s price range. In fact, I picked up a used/rental boat sell-off for less than his price range.

My 2 cents…
The Old Town Adventure comes in two sizes:

the XL125 - 12’5" length

& the XL139 - 13’9" length

Have paddled the XL139 I bought for my sister and she has paddled it often. A good boat to learn in. Capable in some chop. Cruises rivers nicely.

Very spacious cockpit and comfortable seating (rec boat’s advantage for beginners). Fore and aft bulkheads for flotation/storage. Stable beam width (28"). Good carry capacity (350 lbs.).

A little longer than your stated preference, but I think that if you demo some boats you will like the tracking/speed/glide that a longer boat will have.

P.S.: I think the Adventure series is designed for EXACTLY the uses you listed.

I vote Dagger
I love my Dagger Blackwater 10.5 with a drop down skeg. It tracks well, is plenty fast enough for my flatwater nature watching trips, and has done well up to class II with only one spill. Even when it filled up with water and only having a rear sealed hatch, we were able to easily pull it to shore and dump the water out.

Manitou 13
The Manitou Sport is a good kayak but for a few extra dollars you can have the Manitou 13, which is narrower, faster, stable and comfortable. It’s a good compromise between a relatively slow 12-foot boat and a heavier and less maneuverable 14-foot boat.

I have a WS Pungo 120, a WS Tarpon 100, a Dagger Delta and a Fluid Spice, but my Necky Manitou 13 is my favorite kayak for general purpose use – flat water, mild ocean and up to class II rivers.

Second the Manitou 13
I agree with gary21cp on the Manitou 13. Have had mine 3 years now and no regrets. Generally use it on flatwater lakes, but have had it in Tampa Bay and Gulf of Mexico in 2-3 ft seas and felt very comfortable with performance. Easy to paddle, tracks great.

Too bad that WS no longer makes
the greatest boat ever, the Pamlico 140!