First-Time Buy: Ocean Kayak Prowler 13

Hey, guys and gals!

Ok, so I have a bit of experience paddling, but I must confess that I’m in the process of buying the very first kayak that I can call my own. After a ton of research and studying yaks in my price range (I’d like to spend no more than $800, considering I’m not particularly affluent and that I’ll also have to shell out some cash for a paddle, life vest, and any other necessary items), I think I’ve pretty much settled on Ocean Kayak’s Prowler 13. Academy Sports has them right now for $699, in stock, ready to pick up.

Some things I think I’d like about it:
-It’s not ridiculously expensive, but is packed with some of the same features as more expensive models
-It seems to have stood the test of time and consistently gets good reviews
-Great weight capacity (I’ll be doing a lot of camping trips and overnighters)
-Accessible compartment for small items (such as cellphone, etc.)/molded-in cup holder (no spilt beer)
-Molded-in foot brakes (I read a lot about adjustable brakes, well, breaking…)
-Versatile (I’ll probably be mostly still water paddling, but I plan on tackling a Class I or II river on occasion)
-Fast ENOUGH (I’m not running any races, but I don’t want to be the slowest boat in the water)
-stable ENOUGH (I like to fish, but I don’t necessarily need to stand to do so)

Before saddling up and dropping what I consider to be a good chunk of change, I guess I just wanted to throw my decision out there for validation more than anything. Is it a good first kayak? Are there others in that price range I should check out first? (the Perception Pescador Pro is in the same price range, with similar features, for example) What are some things I should watch out for with this particular model? Are the features I’m interested in really all that essential? What am I not considering? Etc.

Anyone who has owned one and still prefers it, I’d love to hear your thoughts, as well as any opinions from those who have had one and found it inadequate. The biggest complaint I’ve seen from reviewers so far is that they can sometimes get a little wet. Since I live in South Carolina and love cooling off in the lake/river/creek/yard sprinkler, I personally consider that characteristic a plus. I’ve also read that the stock seat is crap, but I can always upgrade that at my leisure.

What do you guys think???


Doesn’t sound like a bad boat, if you are looking for a sit on top. Sit on tops are wet rides and you are exposed to wind and elements more than if in a sit inside kayak. On fast enough and stable enough, that is very relative. It is as fast as most other sit on tops like this, but no where near as fast as a touring kayak. Stable as most other sit on tops, and will feel much more stable than a touring kayak.

Molded foot pegs are cheaper and easier, but they are not as adjustable as pedals. You generally can move a pedal forward and backward by an inch or less increments, where the molded foot pegs are multiple inch increments. If the molded are comfortable for you, no worries.

Have you considered used? Sometimes you can get the same or similar boat for several hundred less. Sometimes with extras, like a paddle and PFD. Or you might be able to get something better for the same money you’re looking to spend. Native Watercraft and Wilderness Systems make some good SOT fishing kayaks. I’ve never tried, but I’m not sure this type of boat is well suited for Class I or II water though. The main complaint I’ve heard from folks who have something similar is that they are heavy and somewhat awkward to move around on land, so a cart might be useful.

Honestly, Ocean Kayak products are generally not at the quality of design and production (including fittings and seats) as boats from Dagger and Wilderness Systems (or Jackson or Riot or Liquid Logic). Though they are a step above cheesy pool toys like Future Beach and Sun Dolphin, OK’s boats tend to be a bit clunky and are mostly sold in hunting and fishing and discount outlets rather than by kayak specific outfitters. The same is true of the brands Old Town and Ascend brands. All kind of barge-like. Speed is not going to be an optimal characteristic of a 56 lb, 28" wide 13’ long sit on top. Stable fishing and photography platform, yup. Acceleration and glide, not so much. And better get some good dry bags if you plan to camp from it. While it may seem like fun to get wet on a hot sunny day trip, you also have to be sure you are outfitted for when it clouds over and the wind picks up and you are tired after a long day – not always so fun then to be constantly wet. Not trying to talk you out of a sit on top since it is definitely what most people want for fishing – just want to play a bit of Devil’s advocate in making sure your expectations aren’t over optimistic on some facets of SOT use.

(BTW, I have never had adjustable foot pegs fail and I have owned over a dozen kayaks.)

As others have mentioned, it is generally better to get into the sport with a used boat for your first one. You are not going to realize that kind of features and performance you want to dial in until you have used your first boat for a while – an awful lot of people find they want something different after or even during their first season paddling a lot. You’ll get a better return on selling a boat you got used. And even if you make a perfect choice, you will get more bang for your buck buying used.

Nice thoughts - thanks for the input! I found a similar model - the OK Drifter - on Craigslist for $375. I may give that one a try first.

Thanks again!

Molded-in foot brakes … this is your first kayak.

I have an Ocean Kayak. It has gone through some real tough situations. It’s great for fishing the flats. It was fun in the Galveston surf. My friend uses one for camping. Be sure to secure your gear well. Its not a requirement to dump but it happens. I prefer adjustable foot pegs over molded in ones. Is this the kayak I do most of my miles in ? NO. Is this a good first boat? Yes. But don’t expect to get seakayak or whitewater boat performance. Given your projected use you’ll probably do fine.

Any thoughts on the Tarpon 12 vs. the Prowler 13? I know there’s at least one nod towards Wilderness Systems yaks in this thread, and curious what the rest of y’all think. They’re comparable as far as price. From what I’ve read, though, the P13 has better speed and is better for chop and distance.

To be a little more specific, I’m looking for something that paddles well FIRST; being able to fish from it is necessary, but secondary.

Every foot in length you add to a kayak, all other specs being fairly equal, the longer the waterline and the faster the boat. Longer boats can also be narrower since they can have the same displacement volume as a shorter boat without needing the beam. So, yes, for distance, longer is going to be a bit faster and easier to paddle. Even a foot longer can be noticeable… I don’t recall you reporting your height and weight. If you are over 200 lbs, a 14 or 15 foot boat might be a better choice if you want to cover distance, especially with a substantial amount of cargo. The heavier the load, the more displacement you need to keep the waterline from being too high.

I’m right at 200 lbs.

I just spotted a used Native Manta Ray 14 on CraigsList for $700, a Vibe Sea Ghost 13 for $500, as well as a Hobie Mirage Revolution 13 for $950 (a little out of my price range, but that sounds like a steal)…

I guess the lesson here is that a used yak might be the way to go. I’m going to have to drop back and punt.

Thanks for the advice!

The bigger paddlers I’ve known who do overnight trips in sit on tops have had longer boats like what you are now looking at. At 200 lbs plus your gear you will be between 225 and 250 loadwise. That can really sink a shorter boat deep enough to make performance an issue – if a boat rides too low it is more of a wet ride and can even capsize if you shift your weight too abruptly.

If you were just fishing or doing day trips and/or mild whitewater, a 12 footer would suffice even for your size. But I think you are heading in a better direction for your intended use by expanding your search to longer boats with more cargo capacity and a longer water line…

The Manta Ray is a good one. I rented one for a weekend and was impressed by how little the wind effected it.
I paddle a Tarpon 160 and weigh 230. I have tried other SOT, but always return to the Tarpon.

I’ve paddled more kayaks than I can remember and I’ve never found brakes of any kind in any of them. I have found a few that had breaks in them.