First time kayak suggestions...?

Hello. I’m new to the kayaking world and in search of my first kayak to get acclimated and not spend too much $$.

Since I don’t really know what I want, I’m seeking a good entry point for less than $400. This would get me on the water and let me gain enough experience to know what I really need.

I would be paddling on slow rivers in SC and my main requirement is some sort of dry storage. Other than that, I’m open to suggestions and/or sources to buy used kayaks.


a paddling class
I would strongly recommend a paddling class before you start spending money. Not that paddling is hard to figure out, but starting off with good instruction and good gear might help you enjoy paddling more.

Here is an entertaining read - “How did you learn to paddle”,

Here is one place in Charlston, SC., they do both instruction and tours.

Otherwise general suggestions - when buying used you will save quite a bit of money. It is really worth spending extra on a good paddle.

good info
Thanks for the info. I’ve paddled at least 10 times in the past couple of years. I’ve done a short course too.

I’m most interested in suggestions on actual kayaks and/or places to find used kayaks.

Spring is near…
and it is way easier to get something that you’ll hate by the last week in May for under $400 than you are likely to realize right now.

Second the above suggestion - given the time of year, get a couple of basic intro lessons so you have an understanding of what you will need in a kayak. You can still go used for the first one, but it’ll be a closer fit than if you try to choose without some butt time trying to really paddle a boat.

Your best bet for that price
is to get something at Dicks, Sams or one of the big box stores.

They usually have packages that include a cheap heavy paddle, and a cheap PFD.

It is the way myself and a zillion others started, and then like you mentioned, move on to something better.

Also forget about lessons. Just get out there and teach yourself.

If you want to learn the basic strokes, just do a search on the net or pick up a book.

It wouldn’t hurt to try a few rental places first if there are any near you.

Jack L


– Last Updated: Feb-20-12 2:17 PM EST –

With your budget and entry level requirements, here are some suitable models I found in the Charleston SC listings. NOt knowing your height and weight, some might not be suitable, but this should give you some idea what the range is and what to look for. Going used is the way to go for a beginner. i would see if any of these sellers would take $350 to $400 for these boats (which is the reasonable going rate for a well-used but still decent condition plastic touring kayak). All of these have storage hatches and will be comfortable and easy to paddle on flatwater rivers and be much more enjoyable to paddle (and have higher resale value if you decide you want something different later on) than buying a klunky and slow plastic "bathtub boat" at a sporting goods store.

$400 limit
With a budget of $400, you don’t have much to spare on lessons. Given that the first boat almost certainly will be replaced within a couple of years IF you paddle often, check out used boats on your local craigslist first. You might be able to buy one and have something left for a couple of lessons, with a boat that’s the same (or better) quality as if you’d bought a new rec kayak from one of the general sporting goods stores.

Another possibility is to rent from a store that gives you full credit on the rental if you buy a boat from them. I did that when I bought my WW kayak. A one-week rental cost me $100, which they applied in full to the purchase price. They also discounted the sprayskirt and helmet I bought at the same time.

FYI, my first kayak was an Old Town Castine that I bought new for $700 or so. I sold it used for $450. This is a rec kayak that has sealed bulkheads both front and rear, plus a rudder. It’s a MUCH nicer boat to start with than the tubby, really short kayaks that Dicks et al sell. This gives you an idea of how much more boat you can get if you buy a used one in good condition.

Stay away from suggestions to buy new at a big dollar stores, it is a waster of money.

Craigslist was mentioned, has “for sale” section as well.

BTW, did you budget for transportation, that is how are going to get your boat to the water?

One note - in the future, when looking for a kayak do tell a bit more personal information - a 5ft person fits one boat, while 5ft 8in will fit something else. Same for 200lb vs 100lb. Additional consideration should be given to the weight - some folks can lift 60lb sea kayak and not notice, others might start complaining about 40lb being too heavy.

Ok - to know more…
Do you plan on joining up with friends who have boats to paddle, or just going it alone? If the first is the case, what kind of paddling do they do that you’d be wanting to join?

If it is a longer distance day, you may care more about some aspects of the boat than just puddling along by yourself.

And yeah size matters - the kayaks that fit my husband well are not great for me. But he can’t even get into either of mine.

Good point
I’m 6’0" and weigh 170 lbs. Picking up 40-60 lbs. shouldn’t be a problem.

thank you for the links
I’ll review them and compare. For me the biggest issue is not to buy some “junk” from someone, because I wouldn’t really be able to discern one boat from another.

Demo at ECCKF
You are in the Charleston area? Then wait for the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival and demo a bunch of boats before purchasing. For a $15 day pass, you can demo all day long. Also a great opportunity to get more skill development with inexpensive classes.

Bill Guiffre

Charlotte, NC

(though my heart is still in Charleston)

Definitely buy used.
Help put another paddleshop out of business !

buying used helps dealers too
I worked in the outdoor industry myself and completely disagree with the sarcastic comment about “putting another dealer out of business” by buying used kayaks (or canoes.)

When I buy a used boat, quite often that sale is enabling the seller to afford to buy a new boat from a dealer. And as I add to the fleet I usually buy another set of gear for it so I can use it as a lender to friends – sprayskirt, paddle, another PFD – so my fave local paddling dealer gets some gravy out of it. Half the kayaks I have bought in my life have been new from the dealer and half have been used. It’s all good and I believe selling our used seaworthy boats to newbies tends to get them more into the refinements of the sport far better than if they dump the same money on a Walmart plastic bathtub boat. There is a “churning effect” to having used boats circulate in the paddling market. The used loaners I have been able to accumulate have inspired love of kayaking in many of my friends with whom I have shared the boats. Several have gone on to buy new kayaks from the local outfitters (to whom I always steer them when they are ready to buy their own.)

Other unintended consequences – 2 years ago when I stopped at my outfitter (Exkursion) to look for a sprayskirt to outfit a $300 vintage Aquaterra I had just picked up, I spotted a sleek lime green new Easky 15LV displayed on the rack by their front door and fell instantly in love. Fifteen minutes later and $800 poorer, it was strapped to my car.

I have an Old Town Dirigo 140. It has a bigger cockpit opening then the one in the picture, and of course it’s also 2 feet shorter. They have the same seat, and it is comfortable and adjustable. Looks like the seat pictured is the newer one than mine, it has the straps for adjusting, mine has paracord. Overall the Old Towns are well made and durable and are a very decent rec type kayak. You could probably get them down in price, most things listed on craiglist are negotiable. And don’t write off Dick’s selection of kayaks. They have some decent ones there. I still use my little Islander Swifty 10 footer when I’m lazy and don’t feel like loading up the 14 footer.

I’m in the Columbia area…
and I’ll check with my local supply place about getting credit from rentals. That’s a great idea, especially since it gives me time to save up more $$$.

no need of that sarcastic crap…