Fitness Kayaking: Which should I buy?

I am former college runner who is looking to use a kayak a 3-4 times a week to diversify my fitness program (45 -60 minutes per bout). I am looking to Kayak on generally flat water (a local lake) and maybe do some day trips in the future. I don’t see myself hitting the rapids. My question is, “Which should I buy?” I have been looking at a Dirigo 120 since it appears to provide some storage but some reviews suggest it may be a bit slow. I’m just starting this stuff and am primarily going to use this for fitness, but I don’t want to buy something that can only be used for exercise. Send me some advice.

My suggestion
For utilmate utility and verstility I recommend a canoe. Set up for rowing it offers the best full body workout you can get on a boat. As a row boat it will be fast and great for lake and bay touring as well. For twisty rivers padlle it. Want to bring a partner? Just get another PFD and paddle! Want to fish? Just though in your stuff and go! Want to advance to white water? Tie in floatation bags and put in knee pads.

I think everyone should start with a good canoe.

Unless you are open ocean paddling or in serious white water you’ll never need anything else.

For setting a canoe up for rowing you can look at the pictures I put on the yahoo group roughstuffrowing

Is the "local lake"
in your profile Lake Superior, or a small flatwater pond? If the former, you will definitely want something with proper floatation–two bulkheads, or the like (out with Pungos).

If it’s for fitness, any ol boat should do. But then you sneak in that you’d like to use it for something more. Are we supposed to guess what for? A little more information would help.

I like the canoe with a rowing rig idea myself, but its a poor substitute for a kayak if you’re gonna car top it every time for a 40-60 min workout. canoes are awkward to handle on land.

If you’re not going to do overnight, don’t worry about gear storage.

If you can, get something quick and somewhat light. By the way, Perception has 2 new workout specific kayaks, Cadence and Rhythm. they look neat for their intended purpose. I think working out will feel much better in a boat that has a straight glide and tracking instead of something you have to correct all the time.

Think 13ft+ and 24 inches or narrower and prefferably fiberglass if you won’t be beaching it hard on rocks.


“canoes are awkward to handle on land”?
I find kayaks to be much more awkward to handle on land.

I wonder how my Summersong would work as row boat?

My advice
If you’re cartopping it to the lake you want something easy-on easy-off, or it won’t remain part of your fitness regimen for one hour paddles. Look for something in the 12-15 foot range. The big problem with the Dirigo is that it is so beamy that it will be hard to get a good aggressive exercise stroke. (It is also pretty heavy.) You want something with a 24 inch or narrower beam.

Now the trick is that the combination of short length and narrow beam might be too small for you, so look at recommended height and weight limits (and sit in them).

My paddling is mostly fitness paddling–to diversify my regime of running, swimming, and biking. For years I used a 12.5 foot 24 inch beam Walden Vista. It is a decent exercise boat (a little slow), and weighs about 40 pounds. I recently built a stitch and glue Pygmy Arctic Term (17 foot, 23 inch beam) that weighs the same as the Walden. It is proving to be a great exercise boat, even though it is considered a high volume boat. I’m 6 foot tall, and about 195 pounds, with size 11 feet (size 12 in running shoes). If you are smaller and lighter than me, there are lots of short, relatively narrow boats that will fit you.

If you can afford composite, or have the time and interest in building a stitch and glue, you’ll get a nice light easy-to-cartop boat. Conventional fiberglass boats have some advantages over plastic boats for lake paddling, but don’t weigh a whole lot less than plastic.

light, long, narrow
if it isnt light its too much trouble. if it isnt long it isnt fast. if it isnt narrow it isnt fast. fast is fun. my recommendation: wenonah advantage solo canoe- used, about $800. if you see one listed in my area let me know!

Since you asked
With all due respect, paddling the Dirigo 120 for fitness will be like running for fitness in your basic pair of snowmobile boots. There is nothing about a rec boat that says fitness. By nature they are low impact, low heart rate, objects. Its not even the “mall walker” of fitness kayaks.

The “runner’s running shoe” of kayaks, of course, would be the surf ski. If you’re talking aerobic thresholds, watts, and calories burned, thats the type of boat you need to be researching.

If you look at the QCC, Epic, Gliders, etc, at least now your talking “sneakers” and are in the fitness ball park.

Just as running in boots or casual shoes, etc, will tear up your knees, feet, hips, and back, fitness paddling in a rec boat will tear up your shoulders, and, as previous poster said, there so wide they aren’t condicive to high angle racing technique, so you have to watch out for tendonitous, or paddlers elbow.

I am not being elitist here, these are just simple facts and observations. You did classify yourself as a former collegiate runner. If you said you were a chronic couch potato, then yes a rec boat may be a beginning fitness tool. If you are serious about fitness paddling, you need a boat that is designed for maximun glide per paddle stroke and conducive to proper racing stroke technique.

I recommend researching the more fitness based boats, trying, then buying used with a used wing blade.


Glide & more glide.
If you take up fitness paddling and really start to rack up the miles, sooner or later, you will want something long & slender to help push that water & easy to haul around. The choice of canoe or kayak is up to you. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed both. For starters just pick the boat you can paddle most in your local conditions. More boats have been known to follow. Good luck & have fun!

Thanks Pjunold
I just saw the clip of Robert Clegg standing in his K1 to perform the amazing transition to portage. Wow!

I saw him start a minute and a half behind Ian Mackenzie and Peter Newton in this years ski to sea race and pass them both to claim first overall for his team. He is quite amazing.

Thanks for the archive link and thanks for the video clip.


Possibly an Outrigger
Lots of outriggers in our community. They are performance boats. The learning curve is much faster than a surf ski because of stability created by the uma,… I mean the llama,… the unu, the huli,…the outrigger thing.

While you may be able to locate a used Valhala ski for the same $800 you’re willing to pay for a rec boat, a used outrigger may be more difficult to find.


Long and Lean Kayak

or a voyager. both are fast and I have found that on average a canoe takes less time to get off the car and start paddling with then a kayak. (or at least a seakayak. I often bring my solo canoe to work to work and stop on the way home for a paddle afterwards. no problem.


The guy said "kayak"
a kayak is a kayak not a canoe!

One of these days we are going to drug you and tie you into a long skinny yak, and when you wake up you will be so overwhelemed with the new delightful experience that you will immediately go home and burn all your canoes, buy a kayak and go to a chiropractor.



PS: Tell Red Cross Randy that the “beer/wine” exchange will have to wait until the next race.

Some Options
If you’re looking for a shorter boat, then maybe an Epic Cruiser 16. It’s plenty fast, very stable, and has most of the performance attributes of its bigger sibling, the 18. Maybe a QCC 600, too.

If you wanted something fast that still has the capacity to go on day trips, then some of the offerings from Kayakpro (Jet, etc.), Nelo (Razor), or SRS (older Dart X) might fit the bill, if your waters are on the flatter side, and your balance skills develop to suit.

If length is not an issue, then check out the QCC 700, Epic 18, etc. as suggested by the poster above. I’d say a stable surf ski like a Futura II, Mako XT, or V-10 Sport would be lots of fun, but they’re very limited in cargo carrying capacity (ie* none), and can’t tell from your profile where you live-they do get cold in the winter. :wink:

Perception makes a boat
specifically for what you describe.But, any boat , paddled regularly, will increase your fitness level. A rec boat will take more effort than something longer, sleeker , and lighter so if fitness is the goal it might bge a good trainer.

It has to be fun and to me fun is fast. The r5 is a great first kayak from dimension? About 13 ft long and 22"? in wide. Moving any boat is the tough part so maybe someone on the lake could store it for you or even let you use theirs because many people have a boat for an ornament. I would slide my my 10 ft animas into the back of trunk with back seat down on taurus. Rowing a canoe is great exercise and canoes tend to weigh much less because they have no top. I would hate to see anyone buy a 30 in wide slug that weighs 80#.

BBK valkyrie
If you want something light, fun, and fast, try a BBK valkyrie (or whichever boat in their line fits your size). My valkyrie is 17 ft long, thin, about 30 lbs, and very fast on the water, plus tons of fun to paddle and seaworthy if that eventually becomes your goal. Sure, it’s not cheap, but who cares in the long run (besides my credit union manager).

Rec boats are great for certain goals (playing on a hot day in the local creeks, ponds, and little lakes), but fitness isn’t really one of them.

Used (trainer) K1 with wing paddle
Profile says flat water…