HELP! Beginner looking for 1st kayak

-- Last Updated: Jun-29-08 2:30 PM EST --

Hello! I need help, more like HELP!!!!!!!!!

I have been trying to take a class and learn some things about kayaking, test paddle some yaks, and then make a purchasing decision. This just is not working, here is what I want to do and my needs (PLEASE!!!!! I beg of you, please!, some information, thanks!):

(1) Flat water kayaking (lake)
(2) This is ONLY for fitness (for now...)
(3) Cheaper is better (kayak wise) budget $800 for EVERYTHING (kayak, PFD, paddle, roof carrying device, etc...)[NOTE: my budget before I did some research was $600 for everything! I realize some of my yaks listed below aren't going to fit in the budget]
(4) EDIT: thanks to someones advice (they sent me a private email) I am now not limited to 40 lbs.
Kayak must be light enough for me alone to put it on top of my Forester and for me alone to take it down (I have picked up kayaks weighing roughly 40 lbs - that seems to be about what I think I can handle without putting myself into traction)
(5) I will be buying new, I don't have the time or patience any longer to wait to go look at used kayaks and figure out if they are decent or not...
(6) I have never gone kayaking before. I have canoed and rowed (row boats).
(7) I have to fit in it easily, it must be a sit-in (my "dimensions" 6ft, 240-250lbs, 42" waist, size 10 feet)

So, here is what I have narrowed it down to (keeping in mind my "qualifications list"):

Pamlico 120
Pungo 120
Carolina 12
Prodigy 12

Any thoughts, help, advice, or cautionary tales are requested!



Go Used.
If you want to paddle for fun and fitness. The short boats you are looking at will be a bit of a drag. Look for some sit on top kayaks on Craigslist. You can probably come in with all the gear for less than $500.

Thanks seadart,

What do you mean “a bit of a drag?” As in not fun? or as in slow going?

I really want to stay “sit-in” and new. Maybe all of what I “demand” isn’t possible…???

Head Scratcher
You’re doing this for fitness, but can’t lift 50 lbs on top of a Forester? At your size, I would hope 50 to 55 lbs would be reasonable.

When most folks hear fitness they start thinking of surf skis and such, but it sounds like a wide rec boat is what you are going for. On lakes, longer and narrower will track better and you can paddle hard with any boat for the workout, so I think you’ll generally be happier with a boat that tracks a little better than some you listed. I would say at least a 12 footer.

Don’t go too cheap on the paddle. I would budget $100 to $150 for it. You can go cheap on the PFD and car topping for now (just get the foam blocks and straps or rope).

I am your size 6’1", 220lbs and a SOT is much easier for folks with big frames to deal with than many sit-in models. If you get a sit-in, try it out before you buy to make sure you can get in and out with no problem. Or, go for the really big cockpits like the Pungo.

With $800, using $100 for paddle and another $100 for PFD and car topping system, you have about $600 left for the boat, not enough for the Pungo 120. You may have to consider used to stay within your budget and still get a reasonable boat. I would say anything 12 foot or longer with a big cockpit and under 55 lbs.

You are also likely to find used boats with paddles and PFDs – all at a better price.


recommend a sit on top
get a tarpon or equivalent. Or better yet a synergy 14. Most versatile so you can sort of grow into other pursuits while working ont he fitness side of things.


Absolutely no reason to go new

– Last Updated: Jun-29-08 9:49 AM EST –

Especially for the boats you are considering. The 10-12 footers are relatively cheap to pick up used and frankly, they aren't fancy enough boats for it to make a big diff if they are used. And while many people may hang onto their first boat, most eventually add another boat. Save your money for that next step, including the much better paddle you are going to want.

The boats you are considering are slow, and aren't about speed. What most consider to be "fitness" kayaks are skinny jobs that are much narrower than anything you are considering. That doesn't mean that you can't use these boats for health purposes, just that they won't be a boat that you can count on satisfying you long term.

I rather like Brazilbasil's idea, going to a slightly longer SOT that'll leave you physically comfortable but give you more speed. You should take a look at equipment that'll help you to cartop a heavier or longer boat, like the Roller Loader wheels that you can use to help roll a boat up to the back of the car.

What kind of vehicle will you be using to haul the boat? What kind of rack does it have? (oops - missed the Forester)

Liquid Logic
The Seneca and Soluda are discontinued boats that are plenty roomy for you, fast, stable and perfect for lakes. They are heavier than you want but not too heavy for you. They are hard to find but when you do you can usually get a good deal on them.

Roof rack
The Forester has a nice sturdy factory rack. To begin with, there is no reason that you just can’t put a large cockpit boat upside down on the cross rails, maybe with a little padding, and secure with straps and front/rear tie-downs. I’ve done it with mine. That will give you a little time to scrape together $$$ for saddles or J-hooks, should you want them. Many of the after-market carriers fit on factory racks, so no need for a full-blown system, especially for a Forester.


Yes Slow Paddling

– Last Updated: Jun-29-08 10:43 AM EST –

Once you get some experience you will want a longer faster boat for what you are doing. On the shorter lighter side a Cobra Revision would actually perform better than the rec boats you are looking at. The boats you are looking at are not really considered SINK kayaks. Once you try a real fast paddling SINK you would never consider the boats you are looking at. Even my heritage seadart SOT greatly outperforms those boats.

If you think you want a SINK go look at some real SINK kayaks and see how they perform before you get stuck with a rec boat.

Bic Sport SCAPA
If you want something that is inexpensive that is FAST, try the Bic Sport “Scapa”:

It’s $669, and it’s a SOT. But it’s a long & skinny SOT, which is rare. You’ll get great exercise on this boat.

Thanks for the replies

– Last Updated: Jun-29-08 4:35 PM EST –

I am capable of lifting and jerking a lot of weight, but, I am not looking for weight training every time I go kayaking. I also do not want to struggle to get the boat on and off the Forester. I know what I can and can't easily handle by myself without straining and without damaging the car...but, thanks for your help (jimyaker).

To the others. I guess I am looking at the wrong type of kayaks. Everyone (not just here) is saying longer and narrower. I am new to kayaking, isn't that going to be easier to tip? So, if I can get into the kayak (without tipping) and then get going, won't I feel like I am going to tip over? Isn't it going to feel wobbly? If the answers are yes, then how long (how much experience) will it take before I overcome this? I am not worried about getting wet, but, if I never overcome that feeling I won't really enjoy the experience and may not continue with it.

I really do not have the time to find a used kayak. I just wasted 2 weeks trying that route...Summer will be over by the time I find one. The only thing I can think of to speed that process up would be to go to my local kayak stores and see what they have used. But, without being an expert on kayaks how am I supposed to know which of their kayaks would be good for me and prices wise what would be a good price? I think that would lead me to taking even more time to write everything down and come home and do research on the internet and then go back and hope the kayak I finally decide on is still there for sale....too much time and frustration.

As for putting the kayak on the Forester, the model I bought doesn't have racks, it does have the rails though. I was thinking of the foam blocks and straps as you suggested. The area I would be traveling to to kayak in is VERY close to my home and I am not that worried about that part.

Sorry if I seemed a bit snippy, but, sometimes it seems that people would rather put you down then try to help (jimyaker).....sorry if I am being too thin skinned.

Thanks for all the constructive comments!!

I am really excited about trying this out!

You’re big Guy
A 12 footer will likely not be what is best for you in the long run. NJ has plenty of used kayaks on eBay all teh time. But you MUST sit in it first, poreferrably on the water. Not new as you will likley be buying another soon once you find out what you really what–and there is no way any of us can give you that advice–you will need to paddle it. But shorter is generally more weathercocking, slower and tighter for a big 250 lb guy like you.


Pungo 120 package
I found a Pungo 120 package (includes yak, paddle & storage cover) shipped from LL Bean for $800.

Will this kayak work for me? I know “it depends”, but, essentially - can this work for my purposes?

Thanks to anyone who can answer…

Fix #6 first
There’s plenty of resouces for doing a Kayaking Basics class near you that will supply all the needed equipment for the class. Learn a the fundamentals first and it will go a long way in your equipment purchasing wisdom.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Everything you say…
in the post dated 11:14 is a reason to get some instruction and/or stay dirt cheap and used. And within 10 ft of shore. But if you plan to kayak without being ready to handle a capsize you shouldn’t be in or on the boat to start with - at least not on water. Dealing with that should be part of kayaking. If you learn how to handle it it’s no big deal, if it is something to fear you are right. It’ll probably ruin your kayaking experience.

Getting some basic instruction and paddling in guided groups is the best way to learn which kayaks would work. Saying you want to get on the water without being able to handle a basic emergency is unlikely to make anyone want to point you at a boat.

I give up
I give up!

Thanks for everyones thoughts…

If somehow through all this I get a kayak, and manage to not drown, I will come back to this forum and post some messages…

Philadelphia - local kayaker drowns
By the way, I saw this last night, she was an instructor.

My thoughts are with her family.

Places in NJ…

– Last Updated: Jun-29-08 11:22 PM EST –

Sorry if I sounded snotty - we've just been thru the usual spring of reading stories about people in kayaks and canoes who got in over their heads and didn't make it out. A shop owner I know who gets the stats said that the count of rescues and near misses is up this year too.

From the boats you list, you have probably been stopping in a big box sports stores like Dick's. Good place to go if you want to make a bad choice, but you'd be better stopping in kayak shops.

This may be a bit of a drive for you, but if in central NJ it is still reachable and these are good people. or 1-888-22-KAYAK

From a quick glance at their site, it appears that they have a wide range of kayaks.

Another option for you may be the Philadelphia Canoe (and Kayak) Club -
Lessons and I am sure a decent number of used boats from sale from club members.

In addition to the articles on this site - you should check them out - the following site has great getting started type info.

You should consider the possibility of taking some time to get some solid skills down and be ready to hook up with other paddlers. You are probably within reasonable reach of Barnaget Bay or other NJ coastal locations, so at some point bigger water will be where you want to go. But you have to be ready for it.

I suggest the Pungo 120
It’ll track well and has decent speed, while stable, not too heavy, and holds alot of weight.

no prob
No problem.

I am in frustrated mode.

I was hoping to give my information and someone could spit out some kayaks that would suit me. Then I could use that list to whittle it down to the kayak I finally bought…wishful thinking.