Great Lakes Newbie- which Kayak to start

I have done a lot of canoeing, but now that I’ve moved back to Upper Michigan, I’d like to get a sea kayak. I tried a Current Designs Sirroco and tipped it over within five minutes. I liked both the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140 and the Eddyline equinox I tried. The Eddyline is probably out of my price range. Both these boats felt really stable initially. My question is whether I’d likely outgrow these boats with a little bit more experience. I’d eventually like to take some trips to Isle Royale, Grand Island, and Pictured Rocks, so I’m looking at heading to Lake Superior a lot. There was also a used Necky Elaho with a drop skeg (an older model from what I can determine). Would this be a good boat for me? I’m hoping to get a decent boat that I can grow into. Thanks.

Great Lakes

– Last Updated: Jun-10-07 1:58 PM EST –

The old Elaho DS has a lot of fans. I haven't paddled one, but several experienced folks here have said good things about it.

I'd suggest going to the symposium next month in Grand Marais: There are classes, trips, demo opportunities, and the chance to meet a lot of Great Lakes paddlers.

I would not choose a kayak based on your first impression of it's stability. Most people find that "tippy" kayaks miraculously become more stable with improved skills and some butt-in-boat time.

How big are you?

Re: Size/GLSKS 2007
I’m short and broad 5’5" 205# (but working on it).

I just emailed the symposium. I couldn’t find any pricing for registration/classes.


found under demo boats/registration…

Have fun…

RE: Prices
Thanks a lot. I’d better hurry!

Am I right in guessing that your budget is in the new or used plastic or used composite range?

In plastic boats, I’d also look at the Valley Aquanaut RM and the Wilderness Systems Tempests. They’re common enough that you should be able to find one used.

RE: Boats
Are there likely to be folks selling used boats at the Great Lakes Sea Kayak Symposium? I was originally looking at 14’ boats. They seem to be getting bigger on me. What are the pros and cons to having a 16’ vs. 14’, given the kind of kayaking I want to do?

I’d like to keep my price range down to ~ $1300, especially since I will have to buy the accessories. The elaho comes with spray skirt, paddle, and PDF for $800. That sounds like a good deal to me for getting started and out on the water. That way I could come to the symposium ready to learn some skills. What do you think?


– Last Updated: Jun-10-07 9:24 PM EST –

If the boat and gear fit you and are in decent shape, I'd jump on it. At that price you should be able to resell it at minimal loss when you know better what you want, and in the meantime you'll be on the water.

The Elaho DS has a reputation for being very manueverable, which means it'll take some work at first to make it go straight. It'll come with practice. It also has the reputation of being very easy to roll. Probably not the best boat for cranking off miles, but a fine choice for building skills and playing.

A note on paddling the Pictured Rocks shore: It's not a beginner trip because it's a long round trip, you're exposed to the full fetch of the lake, and there are long stretches where there's no safe place to land. Grand Island in Munising harbor gives you some nice scenry with less distance and more protection.

As for used boats at the symposium: there were some, but not in any central location -- just look for signs on cars with boats or on the message boards.

Elaho DS
My husband’s first sea kayak. Ridiculously easy to roll and very manuverable, leaky bulkheads but nothing fatal. Just makes you remeber to always use dry bags. Great skills boat because of all of that. We still have ours for that reason.

But as said above, it isn’t the best boat out there for point to point tripping. This is a boat that wishes to explore many points inbetween the two you might choose, whether or not you always agree.

It will teach you a lot about paddling, and for shorter hops its high manuverability shouldn’t be an issue. Great rock garden boat if you want to do that with it. And you’ll eventually want a composite boat anyway, so there are some good arguments for the Elaho DS as a first boat.

I remember my Sirocco feeling tippy at first and I dumped it in some 3-foot surf over and over. Soon I learned to loosen up at the hips and let the boat do what it does naturally and it doesn’t feel nearly as tippy anymore. I enjoy it a lot. It is more of a day-trip boat, although you could do longer trips with it. I have paddled sections of Pictured Rocks and Grand Island with it; very nice boat for those outings.

Thanks Everyone
I think I’m just down to a matter of how well the Necky Elaho fits. If it fits well with thigh bracing and all that, I’ll most likely buy it. Then I can head to the Great Lakes Kayak Symposium and learn on it. If not I’ll have to find a rental for the symposium. There are a few mentioned on the website that I’m going to call tomorrow.

My first kayak was a Necky Elaho DS. I
still love it. I have done many week long trips in it. You have to travel light, but it is easy to do if you don’t have to carry too much water. Of the boats you mentioned, it is the only one I’m sure you won’t outgrow in 6 months.

Elaho DS - Thigh Braces
Ours has quite aggressive thigh braces - which we like. But a reasonably long cockpit so was not an issue for my husband. Just to mention though - it is possible that the original thigh braces could be replaced with slightly milder ones if they present a fit issue. Would probably take some hunting to find them because the newer replacement braces tend to assume that they will screw in, but should be possible.

Elaho DS

– Last Updated: Jun-13-07 8:34 AM EST –

I still have my Elaho DS because it is a great skills boat which supports rolling bracing, sculling etc... maybe even better than my Romany. The coaming in the rear is lower than the deck so it is easy to lay out flat on the rear deck! The boat is a ball of fun and you will not outgrow it.

I've used mine on the coast of Maine - among other locales. The Great Lakes are BIG water. I think you want a real sea kayak and not some 14' barge.

The downsides are: the leaky compartments - notable but not fatal water in rear and day compartments after rolling sessions, weathercocking - more than my other boats, and bow wake - it is a quick boat though not fast.

I wish either of my Brit sea kayaks had the thigh braces of my Elaho. My Elaho came with agressive thigh braces and a Bomber Gear back band. I've pulled the stock back bands out of both of my Valley and NDK boats and replaced them with Bomber bands.

Sea Kayaker did a very good review of the Elaho back when it was introduced. I believe the drop skeg version was only made for a few years. It is a quite different boat than the ruddered version.

What other gear should I get?
I get to take the boat for a test paddle Saturday. If everything fits well, I’m going to buy. I ordered a kayak carrier for my truck (the foam block kind with tie downs), NRS little john wetsuit (grizzly),Extrasport Retroglide Sabre PFD, and NRS Deluxe Touring Safety Kit (kit includes a bilge pump, whistle, signal mirror, paddle float, paddle leash and a boat sponge all conveniently packaged inside our Mesh Deck Bag). I know I’ll eventually want a kayak cart and paddle jacket. Am I missing anything essential? I’m really hoping the elaho works out.

PS- I also registered for the Great Lakes Kayak Symposium. With a little small lake time, and a few trips here in Little Bay de Noc (Lake Michigan), I should be ready to get off on the right foot.

Neo Spray Skirt
You’ll do well to get a decent neoprene sprayskirt. I also like wearing rash guard under my Farmer John. Rash gaurd or equivalant silky tight fitting top will prevent skin irritation, especially in the armpits.

Buying Gear
If you can, hold off until you get to the symposium for more major purchases. You’ll get a lot of neat ideas of what kind of gear works best there just by seeing what coaches and other paddlers use.

great advice
Great info at the symposium and some deals to be had also.

Sounds like I’m set for now
Thanks guys. My order arrived today a day early from NRS. I think I have all the essentials I’ll need until later in the season. I’ll check out the rash guard. The elaho I’m looking at comes with a Voyager spray skirt, cockpit cover. Not sure what the material is. Hoping everything works out Saturday. I head down to northern WI for three weeks June 25th. The place I’m staying is on the edge of a small lake so I’m hoping to get some decent hours in the kayak. Then I should be ready to take advantage of the instruction at GLSKS.

Bought the Necky elaho!
The couple I bought it from were really patient in terms of letting me try it out and getting it loaded on my truck. I took it out for a 50 minute paddle here in Little Bay de Noc in Gladstone, MI. Had no problem getting it off the rack, into the water, and back on the truck by myself. Had a few ridiculous moments, because the water was so shallow at that part of the bay. After walking out quite a bit further and re-entering the boat I was able to get going. As predicted here, I had a fair amount of trouble getting the boat to go straight without the skeg dropped. It went great with the skeg down, but of course there was a fair amount of “drag” then. It didn’t feel nearly as tippy as the scirroco, but it was very responsive, and I had to be fairly careful. I think it helped that I was aware of keeping my hips loose. I stayed close to the shore and in fairly shallow water, in case I had problems. I have a feeling I’m going to be happy with this boat for quite some time. Thanks for the great advice everyone!