help for beginner recreational kayaker

Looking for some advise for a beginner.

From the research I’ve done I’m looking for a 8’-11’ recreational type kayak for my wife and I. We are beginners for mostly Type 1 water (slower flowing creek up to 4’deep, 30’ wide, lots of floating along with a few exposed rocks) with maybe some Type 2 in the spring (the above but faster/more volume). Looking for a sit in with spray skits. Also some large lake along shoreline.

MOST IMPORTANT - easy maneuver, very stable and low as wife has limited water experience and comfortable seating.

Both in late 40’s, good physical condition at 5’8"/135lbs and 6’2"/185lbs.

Have seen a few online - Dagger, Pyranha, Jackson. Any suggestions on models or what to look for? TIA

New Kayaker
I’m new also and have found that I like Delta kayaks and plan to buy one soon. They are light weight. Where do you live? I live near. Seattle.

not rec boats
Technically, “recreational” style kayaks are not designed for white water, even class 1 and 2. They are for what we call “lily-dipping” in small ponds and slow-flow streams. The wide flat bottoms that make them feel “stable” on calm water are a liability in fast moving and rough water and actually make them more apt to capsize than hulls with a rounded or vee hull. Also their cockpits tend to be oversized which means they do not support a sprayskirt well and can pop off or implode when a lot of water gets on them. The short ones typically do not have reinforced bracing in the hull or sealed bulkheads in the bow and stern which means the entire hull can flood and sink the boat. Also, for whitewater you want to be able to control the boat with your body which means a good fit – rec boats are rather wide, deep and tub-like so they don’t give good body contact, especially for smaller people. They are “one size (does not) fit all.” Body size is an important factor in boat selection for kayaking.

It sounds like you should be looking at beginner whitewater or hybrid kayaks, not recreational boats. You might also consider some of the inflatables, like Innova and Advanced Elements. But that’s jumping the gun at this point – you need a little more hands-on orientation.

Is there a good kayak outfitter in your area? Not the “big box” sporting goods stores, but a real dealer with a range of boats and preferably one who offers on the water demos and intro classes and/or guided trips. If you would complete your site profile so we know whereabouts you are we might be able to recommend a dealer that could steer you through appropriate models and outfitting. You should also get some guided instruction before attempting fast water – you can get in trouble even on Class 2 without having basic scouting, risk assessment (like knowing which gauge levels are safe), paddling techniques and self rescue skills and practice. These are not intuitive and can’t be learned from videos or reading.

what’s your budget?
There are many good (and bad) choices in all price ranges, but you’ll probably get better advice if folks know your price limit.

The Deltas already mentioned look like nice boats. I’ve been impressed with the Hurricane brand kayaks.

Really basic rec boats not a great idea

– Last Updated: Feb-16-15 10:09 AM EST –

Willowleaf has the first part right - in any moving water the last thing you want a fearful person in is a boat that is not suited for that purpose. If you read the manufacturers' information correctly, you will see that the big cockpit, really short rec boats are for calm, flat protected waters. You are talking about moving water, with some current and rocks, or the shoreline of larger bodies of water which is where the waves will be landing if the wind comes up. In the really shallow current, if you really want to be safest you will need helmets. I suspect your wife would regard that as indicating high risk.

There is a further problem - while at your size you can make the short rec boats do at least something, your smaller (in weight) wife will find herself being blown or carried frustratingly all over the place because these boats don't track. She might start paddling with you but you could easily become a solo paddler within weeks. Seen it happen.

My advice if you want a paddling partner longer term - find some place to give you basic lessons before investing in any boats. That way you both will be able to purchase something that is likely to feel comfortable and be a good fit for your paddling. You might even find that to start with your wife prefers a sit on top because there is no confinement. Probably the most important part of this is that if your wife has an uncomfortable moment on the water during this, the coach rather than you will be the person who is associated with hitting those bad spots. I have also seen well-meaning husbands "help" their wife right out of ever paddling with them again.

And stay with smaller ponds - not larger bodies of water because of the wind issue and any water with current in it until you and your wife have both achieved some comfort level with this activity.

A bit more on the details in your original post - class 2 can be a heck of a lot more water than you seem to anticipate with two people who don't know what they are doing. And in class 2, you cannot count on the rec boat skirts holding. They are so big that they easily implode.

Rec boats
People here have a tendency to respond out of safety concerns, which should be first on your mind in water. But rec boats are not as terrible as some of our members like to see them! As long as you’re using them for their actual best use and you get flotation into them, they’re OK.

The real best advice here is to take a class or two in the kind of water you intend to paddle. Nothing beats what you will learn that way, including what type of boat fits you AND your intended use properly.

You’ll save money in the long run, enjoy your time more and maybe even save your life with the lessons before you actually try to buy a boat.

Thank You All!
Looks like I have more homework!

We live in the middle of the CDN Prairies so no “close to home” opportunity for lessons, however I will look to see were such might be located - likely a 6+hr drive?? Most of our geographical area is more suited for large power boats, however we are fortunate enough that we have the creek in discussion near by where we often go hiking.

Budget is less of a concern than purchasing the right rig and having a great, safe experience. I am assuming it would be poly construction for our requirement.

Thanks for all the help!

This is true, but many outfitters rent
pure recreational kayaks to customers going down mild whitewater, up to class 2+ in spots. An example is the Broad River Outpost NE of Athens GA. I was at first aghast at seeing complete newbies navigating serious rapids in recreational SINKs, but those boats were smart, and got the paddlers through with an amazingly low number of flips or swampings. I did have to rescue one guy mildly pinned below a 5 foot sliding drop, and I was bothered that the boat had no interior flotation to speak of.

So, I would not tell rec paddlers they can’t run easy rapids. I just give them the best advice I can.

Maybe start by renting, even better guided trips, if you can’t get instruction. It looks like there are plenty of options in the state park areas, much of it quite calm water.

How far are you from Matah? Found Matah Adventure and Canoe Rental, about the middle of the state it seems. They do guided trips. You get someone who should be able to handle problems on the water, and a guided trip is a great way to enjoy the water and experience different boats.

And reach out for contacts here:

…5’ sliding drop…
5’ WOW! My assessment and explanation/description may be way off for most on here.

The water I’m talking about during summer months will have no white water and can be crossed with an any stock ATV in many places - 1’ deep. We have often crossed on foot without getting shoes wet. Many exposed rocks (less than 3’ across with most less than 2’) with generally slow flowing/calm pools where floating along will be the order of the day. Maybe more of a babbling brook for some people.

In the spring the flow will be 2-3x this but still no white water other than around some of the largest rocks. Up to 40’ across and not more than 5’ deep.

80’ elevation drop in 25mi that is all gradual.

It’s the moving part, not the white part
Yes, moving water creates white water around obstacles. But the issues and risks in paddling white water are actually in the area of handling the current - the moving part. It takes surprisingly little apparent current on the surface to place a paddler and their boat somewhere they do not want to be if they have not learned some basic skills and habits. The fact that the water is white around the rocks in those higher flows means that it is potentially dangerous in the not-white parts.

Go to the big box sports store
Get a couple perception Swifty’s. Paddle the hell out of them. If you like it buy better boats. You can sell the Swifty’s used And only lose What two rentals would have cost you.

A second voice of reason
I agree with EZ and Pirate. C-mon people. The OP is describing a creek that’s more mild, and with a more gentle gradient than many people will ever see. There wouldn’t be even 1 percent as many paddlers as there are in this world if everyone needed to find a place to take lessons and a place to buy good boats and get good advice before they ever hit the water. Here’s a classic case of water that’s perfectly suitable for the “you’ve gotta start somewhere” school of boating. It would be reasonable to tell the OP to stay off that creek when the water is high for the time being, but that’s about as far is it goes when it comes to dire warnings.

Also included…
Also in replies or the OP - most of the area is suitable for large power boats, or along the shores of a large lake…

A map of North Dakota shows two patches of larger bodies of water, a wider portion of the Missouri River to the west and a large lake/area to the east. I don’t know exactly where the OPer is, but they might be within range of either of the above. A bit more boat could be a significantly more pleasant paddling experience and rentals are easily available on at least one of them. It is at least worth considering if the location works. And that water will look palatable earlier in the spring than a creek that can run to 5 ft deep from a normal few inches.

I was referring to the …

– Last Updated: Feb-17-15 11:57 AM EST –

... the dire warnings about "moving water". The creek he describes, having a nearly constant gradient of 3 feet per mile and of very small size (as described by the OP), is far safer than many of the rental-boat meccas of the midwest, where thousands of total newbies get their first taste of paddling, yet fatalities (on these particular waters) are unheard of. Don't forget that the flow of very small rivers at 3 feet per mile is far more mild than that of big rivers at the same gradient, so don't go throwing out comparisons that are out of context here.

As to bringing up lakes, sure there's potential for danger on lakes if one goes far from shore and it gets rough, but in real life, that's not what newbies are doing, and a simple warning to that effect would be sufficient. I live in an area where there are lots of lakes that are a few to several miles across, and the shores of some of them see lots of total beginners all summer. If it's too rough, they don't go out. Boat wakes? Pfff. I see what goes on on these lakes with powerboat wakes all the time. The wakes look intimidating to beginners, but their rec boats just bob in the water as the waves go by. Seriously, in summer I can't drive a mile without seeing a car with rec kayaks on the roof, and the waters here are teeming with them every single evening after work, yet accidents are virtually unheard of. The fact that a lake CAN be dangerous in certain cases doesn't mean one is risking their life by paddling along the shore on a nice day. Perspective!

you have a choice
1. Buy a couple of swiftys as pirate says. There’s nothing wrong with that, in the conditions you describe. You may find they’re fine, or after a year or two, you may want to move up. In which case you’re not out a lot of money.

2. Buy something you can grow into. This is ok if you know what kind of paddling you’ll want to do as you get better, and have assistance fitting a boat to the aspiration. It may take you longer to master the learning curve of this boat.

3. Demo and take some trips. This is an easy and inexpensive way to get started. But it’s not always convenient and you can’t just pack up and paddle whenever you want to, like you could if you bought a couple of swiftys. Which IMO leads to a slimmer chance you’ll stick to kayaking.

If you go route #1, use common sense and get used to getting in, getting out, and capsizing.


– Last Updated: Feb-17-15 12:29 PM EST –

Granted I am not a WW expert. What I was noting was that what water looks like on the surface of a creek is not necessarily what it is like to paddle. We have a lot of class 2 around here that is quite mild by western standards, which I have been on with people who had quite decent work in long boats on the sea but no moving water time. Not all of them are willing to try it a second time - they find it unnervingly surprising. And this is people who will go out in some amount of waves.

FWIW, I would have been someone who agreed with that had it not been for duckies. I took one of them down the local class 2 the first time to get a feel for it in a big open bathtub. After that I was willing to try it inside a kayak. This was before I hit a real tidal race, so there had not been a huge amount of steady current in my paddling life.

The OPer is looking for a paddling experience long term that includes both he and his wife. He is looking for extremely stable for the wife - suggesting she has indicated negatory on capsizing as a fun activity.

Sorry, I don't think I am being dire in suggesting that they discount the creek part until he and his wife both have a chance to get some comfort down in really flat situations.

Agree 100%
Don’t waste hours upon hours researching a boat you will more than likely get rid of in a year or two. The Swifty’s at the big box store are just fine for what you are wanting to do.

I use one all the time in the creek by my house and it works just fine. Is it perfect, nope… but for what I need it fits the bill.

Misc comments

– Last Updated: Feb-18-15 12:36 PM EST –

I was ignoring the "Class II" aspect of his post and focusing on the actual attributes of the creek at summer levels as described by the OP (the rest of his description is why I also said it would be reasonable for people to tell him to stay off that creek when the water is high, for now). I still say that some of the most popular rental-boat places around here are on rivers having much more risk than what seems to be the case here (which is not to say those other places are risky - they are not). Shallow creeks develop much less velocity for a given gradient than medium-sized rivers, and the gradient in this case wouldn't be much even if it were a bigger river. I'm sure that creek is every bit as safe as his description suggests that it is.

As to rental places, that seems like reasonable advice, except I think some of the coastal paddlers on this site tend to have no clue what inland rental places are actually like, or how few and far between they are. If there's one nearby, you can check into the opportunity to try different boats. "What color Pelican would you like to paddle this time? Do you want one where the bottom is warped a lot, or just a little? We can accommodate you!" Seriously, you will NOT find anything but cheap rec boats and no boats that are longer than 10 feet (8 feet is typical) at any of the inland rental outfits I've ever seen, and I'm sure this is typical of other inland rental outfits unless on "prime" water somewhere. For example, I've heard that there are rental places on the shore of Lake Superior that offer quality boats, but that's a whole other world there, and there's a one-man operation here on the Wisconsin River, where the proprietor is a life-long paddling enthusiast who acquires all his boats one at a time off the used market, so he tends to collect a few quality boats among the junkers. Those exceptions aside, plastic beach toys are what you get when you rent kayaks out this way, and southern Saskatchewan being a long way from a paddling paradise, I'd expect the same to be true there.

Rentals are…
not so great around there compared to what I might found other places. Not going to argue with you on that one, at all.

But I am still not certain from what has been said exactly where the spouse’s issues lie. It might be fear of capsize, it might be entrapment or it might simply be that she is not interested in getting wet. The worst boat in the world from these rental joints will give both of them a little time to suss that really basic stuff out.

I am really focusing most on the idea of starting in a way that leaves two paddlers on the water - together. My husband and I were for years the only both-paddled couple in a fairly large group. Or I was the only female spouse who did - however you want to describe the situation. In any case, it’d be nice if this situation grew into the exception rather than the usual of what I have seen.