Flat Water Kayak Recommendations

Hi, all. I’m new to the sport, so I’d really appreciate some advice on the kayak options in my price range (under $1000). I’m a smallish guy (5’8" and 135 lbs) and will be paddling primarily on flat water (area lakes, slow rivers, etc.). I expect to take mostly day trips, but a boat that can handle enough gear for overnight camping would be a nice plus. I’ve identified several options that look like good contenders – Perception Carolina 12 or 14, Necky Manitou 13 or 14, Wilderness Systems Tsunami 120 or 140 – but I’m having a hard time narrowing the field. Ultimately, I hope to track down a dealer within driving range so that I can actually sit in a few boats, but I’d like to get a better sense of what I want/need before I take that step. Am I on the right track with the boats that I listed above?


– Last Updated: Dec-26-11 12:52 PM EST –

Given your size, I'd focus on boats in the "small/smaller paddler" category. For example, in the Tsunamis, the 135 or even the SP would be a better choice for you than the 120 or 140. Consider the Tributes instead of the Carolinas. A boat that's too wide and too deep will be uncomfortable and inefficient to paddle. A boat that's too big is harder to control, especially when the wind picks up.

I'm 5'9', 160 and usually prefer "smaller paddler" boats.

Tsunami 135

– Last Updated: Dec-26-11 5:59 PM EST –

would probably fit you great -- my son is about the same height/weight as you and it's a very comfortable size. you can camp out of it if you pack real light (we've taken our on multiday trips).

the Tsunami 140 is a great camper, but probably more volume than you'd like; it'll ride high without enough weight.

the Perception Tribute 14 should be near the top of your list at that price point. Also, the Venture Easky 15, and the Old Town Vashon (which is basically a rebadged Necky kayak) are worth a look. In fact, REI has the Vashon 146 with rudder on clearance for under $800! It might be about an inch too wide though, depending on your preference. Dagger Alchemy 14S would be fun; you might be able to find one for under a grand.

Depending where in NC you are, a visit to Appomattox River Co. might be doable, they have the biggest stock of kayaks & canoes anywhere on the East coast.

SP too small
We love the SP Tsunami’s for kids and even petite women, but I’m sure they would be way small for this guy.


Atlantic Kayak Tours

If you are in range…
Piedmont isn’t showing up but I am guessing the Greensboro to Charlottsville region. May be worth checking in with these folks for comment, maybe even an idea of pool sessions. These are a good way to get a sense of different boats for the cost of instruction on basics that you may want anyway.


means “foot of the mountains” – a geographic feature rather than a particular place; describes the hilly lands between the Blue Ridge (east side of Appalachia) and the coastal plains. I-95 pretty much follows the fall line (historical head of navigation where inland cities were established), so the Piedmont is the area west of that and east of the mountains. Lots of good rural river runnin’ and creekin’ to be had in the Piedmont!



I’m a Piedmonter

– Last Updated: Dec-27-11 2:35 PM EST –

In the Spring places like Get Outdoors and Great Outdoor Provision Company will have demo days. Check out their websites. They haul many of their boats to a local lake and you can try 'em all back to back for free. It's a great way to see which boats you like and you can talk to people who know their stuff.

Join the Carolina Kayak Club
Come to the Demo days in the spring. Buy a used boat you can paddle and then sell without loosing much and then you’ll know just what you want.

On the other hand GOPC has a nice Hurricane Cat 5 demo model for sale, since you’re the right size and you want a fast boat.

Do not over look the used market. The eastern/central NC area has a thriving craigslist market.You can get a lot more bang for the buck. I have had numerous new and used kayaks over the years. Only one in my current fleet was bought new. The rest plucked from Craigslist.

There are a few good paddle clubs in the area.They can be a helpful resource as well. Carolina Kayak Club and a few meetup groups are in the area. CKC has a nice demo day a couple times a year. Usually one in the spring and fall.

Good Luck.

another model to consider
Not to confuse the issue more, but if you get a chance to check one out, the Venture Easky 15 LV (low volume) made by P & H, is a terrific boat in that price range and is lighter and a little more fun to paddle than the Manitous or Tsunamis, also more nicely fitted out, in my opinion. I find the kayak more nimble and versatile than the other boats, with good storage and a very comfortable cockpit. Being around 10 pounds lighter than a Tsunami 140 is a huge plus in loading and carrying. Darned good looking boat, too, very cleanly finished – they are made in England.

Can’t say how the Easky compares to the Carolina models as I have yet to paddle one of those. Judging from the boat designs and specs it is probably comparable.

Tempest 165
I’m within an inch of being same same. If you expect to become a stronger paddler, and may need to keep up with other paddlers in longer boats, the Tempest 165 would be worth a look. I know a few newbies that went straight to the Tempests, and have been happy. I have camped one night with mine. I put my tent ahead of the foot braces, and had packed a not-very-compact sleeping pad. With real backpacking gear, you could do better, and probably be out a couple of days.

Tempest 165
The T-165 is the boat that I’ve most recommended to newbies and novices. It is a boat that is reassuring while being wholly capable. Like the Romany, it is a boat in which new paddlers feel comfortable yet is responsive enough to not outgrow.

There are a lot of T-165s around. Well worth trying one.

since he mentioned camping
I would think that would make the LV a tough choice, especially with a skeg. Here are some estimated storage volumes

Easky 15:

Bow - 12 gal

Stern - 20 gal

Weight - 50 lb

Easky 15LV:

Bow - 11 gal

Stern - 18 gal

Weight - 46 lb

Tsunami 140:

Bow - 18 gal

Stern - 26 gal (incl day hatch)

Weight - 53 lb

Tsunami 135:

Bow - 16 gal

Stern - 22 gal (incl day hatch)

Weight - 48 lb

Manitou 14:

Bow - 13 gal

Stern - 18 gal

Weight - 49 lb

The Carolina is basically a simplified Tsunami (no day hatch, less rocker & flatter center hull) but sometimes you can find them for much less.

You should get a boat for the paddling you do most often. A lot of beginners have expedition dreams and make the mistake of buying a boat for the once-a-year trip they hope to make. Expedition boats paddled empty are not much fun. If 95% of your paddling is day trips, don’t buy a freighter.

in your backyard almost
Liquid Logic Inuit 13.5 an impressive kayak indeed built in NC.

Im with this guy
Liquid Logic all the way. Especially for long flat trips and camping, soooo comfy and tons of storage for a small boat. Tracks like champ too

You are in the right ball park

– Last Updated: Dec-29-11 4:45 PM EST –

Once I tried weighing choices by reading specs and reviews and drove to a dealer finally to try different boats and was immediately able to toss out a couple choices in 10 seconds of sitting inside them on the show room floor.
To echo what angstrom posted above, some of the boats are quite large for day tripping on a slow river on the off chance you will go camping sometime. I have Tsunami 140 in the stable but it's not my first choice for day tripping on the creeks or river. Have you considered a kayak for day tripping AND a canoe for overnight expeditions? Durable used canoes on craigslist for under three hundred and can carry much more gear then focus on lighter 12 foot yak for day trips.

Thanks for the advice/suggestions…

– Last Updated: Dec-29-11 9:03 PM EST –

You've all given me some new avenues to explore and lots of good information that should help me narrow my choices. It's so easy to get caught up in the minutia, so I especially appreciate the practical advice. I think I'll keep my focus on boats in the 12' to 14' range since they're closer to my price range and should meet my needs. Fortunately, I'm a very light packer, so I really don't need much room for short camping trips. Now it's time to try some boats in person. I'm very close to Charlotte, NC, and the posts about the Liquid Logic Inuit brought the outfitter's store at the US National Whitewater Center to my attention (they're a Liquid Logic dealer). I knew about the USNWC, of course, but I had no idea that they had a retail store. Seems like a good place to start!