Help and Suggestions for new paddler

After having borrowed some cheap “Swifty” kayaks from relatives to float down a small local river, I am in the market for a beginner recreational kayak.

The challenge is finding a small, “cheap” yak that can handle my 250 pounds in a river that gets very shallow in some spots. I’m no expert on class of rapids, but I would say this is just a Class I river. Maybe Class II at spots, but certainly nothing more than that.

After reading endless reviews of the cheaper box store yaks, I have identified three that may work well for me, and I’m looking for all opinions as to weather these would good for my application. I did buy an Old Town Heron 9 Angler on sale, but after one trip down the river, I was not impressed with it. It’s not bad, but I think the Swifty tracked and handled a bit better. I don’t want to buy a Swifty because it’s a little cramped for me and not comfortable for very long.

The three yaks I’m considering are the Old Town Vapor (Or Trip 10 from Dick’s), the Perception Sound 10.5 from Gander Mountain, and the Ascend FS-10 from Bass Pro. I cannot find reviews on the Perception Sound 10.5. The Vapor seems to have good reviews, but I don’t care for the enormous cockpit. The Ascend is nice and probably leading the pack, but it’s hard to catch them on sale. With the lack of being able to “try before you buy” with the big box stores, I would rather buy when they go on sale.

The Vapor and the Ascend both have a pretty big keel on the stern, while the Sound has a “tri-keel” design. Would the big keel on the Vapor and Ascend present a problem for shallow water? Would the Sound be better?

Also, how would these kayaks handle in faster moving water? My Heron seemed more difficult to keep straight through the rapids, as it seemed easy to get spun around. Keep in mind I’m a beginner, so I’m sure a lot of that is me, but the Swifty seemed easier to keep the bow pointed downstream in the faster water.

In the end, I guess I want the impossible…a short boat that tracks decent, is good for a beginner, and will float a fairly big guy over some shallow water. I realize I can’t have the best of all worlds, but any recommendations on a boat or comments on these three would be appreciated.

P.S. On paper, the Wilderness Systems Aspire 105 seems like it would be a great kayak for my situation, but I’m not sure I want to spend over $700 on one just yet. Do you think the performance of that boat over the three that I listed would justify spending the extra money?

Thanks in advance for reading my lengthy post and for your answers!

Try used first
What region are you in? For what you want, don’t waste money on a new kayak until you have had a chance to beat up a used one to get the seat time. A used one will gt you oriented and allow more funds for a good paddle.

I’m in central Pennsylvania.

Instead of the box store
a paddle shop or local outfitter should let you test paddle some different boats. a rental livery might also give you a chance to try several. the rental places often sell some used boats at the end of each season

your size

– Last Updated: Jun-11-14 1:50 PM EST –

A big problem is that short boats are not great for large people. The boat needs to displace a certain volume of water to support the paddler's weight and a short boat has to be wide to accomplish that. Wider boats are slower and harder to paddle. limiting yourself to such short craft is going to affect the performance you seek. There are outfitters in central PA (I live and paddle in PA myself). You may have to drive a couple of hours to find one with a good range of boats but it will be worth while. The big box sporting goods stores are far from ideal sources for good kayaks.

There is a good kayak dealer in Harrisburg, Blue Mountain Outfitters. They have a range of boats and can help you find something that works for you.

Blue Mt. Outfitters

– Last Updated: Jun-11-14 2:52 PM EST –

I have stopped by Blue Mt. Outfitters one time, last year.

I agree with everything you say regarding small boats/large passengers. My concern with going to a longer boat is ease of portability. It's nice to just throw them in the back of the pickup truck, and I will need to carry it fairly long distances to/from the river, sometimes through wooded areas. Also, I don't know if a longer kayak would be ideal for a small river. I will be paddling in Swatara Creek, which is more like a small river than a creek, but it's still pretty small. Are you familiar with it?

Perhaps I could step up to an 11 or 12 foot yak?

Lots of choices

– Last Updated: Jun-11-14 5:59 PM EST –

Folks here get hung up on seakayaks.

If you are mostly paddling rivers there are several really fun boats in the category of "cross over boats"

A good example is the remix 10' boat. There are other models from other companies too. Check out Jackson kayaks for some of their new models.

having a short kayak that is easy to transport and fits in tight places is actually a good idea, and no problem if you are not trying to paddle fast.

used ones in your area
Better bang for your buck to buy used. Here are some in your area on Craigslist. Always better to start out used. If you don’t like it you can usually get back most of what you pay by reselling it:

Bought a yak
I didn’t expect this, but while visiting the in-laws in Vermont we took a run over to New Hampshire to do some shopping. Long story short, I picked up a Dagger Axis 10.5 for 20% off (plus no sales tax in New Hampshire). Not a bad deal for this early in the season and it took some of the bite out of buying a new one.

I usually don’t impulse buy, but I had already read the reviews on this kayak and they are great. My biggest concern is how well it will do in shallow water. I guess we’ll see. I like the drop down skeg to help tracking. The reviews say it works pretty well.

Thanks to those who posted links to used Kayaks!

good choice!

– Last Updated: Jun-17-14 12:43 PM EST –

A buddy of mine (a pretty big guy, probably 240 lbs) has an Axis 10.5 and loves it. He uses it for everything from nature photography (his profession) to mild whitewater (up to class 3). He has sent me shots of shallow fast local streams that he has successfully run in it (with the skeg up, of course) so you don't need to worry about that.