Help me choose a kayak

My friend and I have decided to buy kayaks to use this summer. I live on the water and my friend is very close by. The body of water by which we are located is the Mohawk River. We plan to paddle on the river and an adjacent creek. The water on both the river and the creek is almost always calm and smooth. My friend has already decided on his kayak, a Perception Prodigy, but I am still trying to choose mine.

I am about 5’ 11" and 140 pounds. I don’t have much experience with kayaks, but I am comfortable in the water. I imagine I would like a kayak that is swift and easy to paddle over long distances while still somewhat maneuverable. I looked at a variety of kayaks in EMS today and liked the Wilderness Systems’ Pungo.

If anyone could suggest which kayaks would be good for me then that would be a great help. I am also fairly clueless as to what type of paddle I should use.

Go to a good paddle sports shop. Talk to people who actually paddle. Try as many boats as possible. A good paddle sports shop can be alot of help. This is also the time of year alot of symposiums are being held. These events usually have alot of pros who can talk to you about boats and gear. Good luck. VF

Here’s one:

To start
Pungo and “swift over long distances” are not compatible, nor is any kayak that wide compatible with speed. If you want speed you need to go to a narrower boat that you may find a little challenging at first, as well as a cockpit that may seem awfully small.

Where do you live? Do you live in the Capital District? If yes there are regular evening paddles of the ADK paddle group in which you can participate by renting (aka trying out) boats from a local shop. If further west there are outfitters and shops out that way that can be recommended as well, and I think similar arrangements. But since the Mohawk is the width of NYS, a little better geographical focus would help.

My Pungo experiences
Overall, it’s a good boat. I paddled a 14-footer for a few years on mostly slow rivers but also ranging up to Class III rapids.

Because of the wide cockpit, both its initial and secondary stability are excellent. You’ll have to try really hard to tip this boat over. You could even stand up in the thing in flat water, though I wouldn’t exactly recommend it.

Despite its width, if you’ve got a decent paddle you’ll be faster than most 12-foot kayaks because of the length.

Paddling a Pungo is like driving a truck, for better and worse. You can roll through moderate rapids like a Humvee going over a curb, while others have to use some technique. But you don’t get quick turns or get the feel of being one with your boat, like you might with something sleeker. The 12’ version is a little better with this, but slower and doesn’t have the dry-hatch for gear.

As a first boat, I doubt you’ll be disappointed with a Pungo. It’s versatile, comfortable and takes a licking.

great advice
at your size and weight there are many cool boats to try. Don’t be limited by one brand or one store.

Don’t rush it, you don’t want to be stuck with a kayak that bores you in a few months. This happened to me - I used my first rec kayak for a month, then went to a 13 footer which was much quicker, lighter and handled better -

what I should’ve gotten in the first place. Sold the rec kayak the following. Never missed it.

Get a good paddle and comfortable PFD (so that these are constants as you try different boats) and then demo, demo, demo. Try kayaks you might think are too long or too tippy for you, as this feeling goes away fast for most people.

Many paddleshops will rent a kayak you are considering so you can give it a good long test for speed and other things important to you. As a whole paddleshops are more dedicated to making you happy rather than just making a sale.

If you still like the Pungo best after that, go for it. You did your homework and are ready for a great season on the water.

Swift & easy to paddle…

– Last Updated: Apr-18-08 9:34 AM EST –

... on long distances while still easy to maneuver.

I was looking at Pungo 120 since I am a tall guy with large feet and most sleeker kayaks just would not accomodate my feet.

I ended-up with the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145 instead. It is a bit narrower than the Pungo, but best of all (for me) has smaller cockpit - I paddled it twice already and in calm water I do not need a spray skirt at all - not a drop came in from the paddle. It will come over your feet in the Pungo (may be not if you get the half-cover/cupholder thingy).

Even the 145 is slow - I would call it "swift and easy to paddle over long distances" ONLY if you go relatively slow. Also I was surprised that it does not track much better nor is it much faster than my sit on top Cobra Explorer (which traks decently and has very efficient hull for a sit on top). It felt terrybly tippy the first 2 minutes I was in it compared to the Cobra. But on the third minute I figured out it has much better secondary stability and the initial intability will be overcome by your skill after 30 minutes of paddling in it and will stop bothering you at all.

For you, being smaller, I'd say look at the WS 140 model - many say it is faster than the 145. They also have 12/12.5 models I think, but neither of these three would fit my feet comfortably, so I picked the larger one. There are also sleeker models that I could not fit the butt under 36" waist in, so I did not even try. But they might work for you if long paddles at higher speed is what you're after. If just leisurely paddling, I think the Pungo will be great and there is no need for anything fancier but more demanding on your skill or compromising comfort.

The 145 turns reasonably well, in fact it does not track as good as I hoped (I do not have the rudder for it). It tends to go quickly go off course as soon as I stop paddling in the slightest head or tail wind. And while I paddle I have to correct it way too much for my liking - already thinking of installing a skeg/rudder for straight tracking, not for turning.

But I'm new to it so I might as well change my impressions over time.

The Pungo is a great comfortable boat but I thought it would be too restrictive for me - too slow, too wide, too open. If these qualities do not bother you, then go for it - all else is OK IMO: very comfortable and not overly expensive (in my shop the Pungo 120 was $650 and the Tsunami 145 was $950 after some in-store discounts, so there is a difference that can well go towards a nicer paddle and flotation device).

Oops - re friend with Prodigy

– Last Updated: Apr-18-08 10:23 AM EST –

I didn't pay enough attention to your saying that that your paddling buddy has already acquired a Prodigy. In terms of keeping up with him, a Pungo would be faster and, as already noted above, is a very solid rec boat that can be fairly versatile in the right hands. (Though as a beginner I wouldn't advise class 3 rapids.)

That said, the question I should have asked is what kinds of things that you've seen others do in kayaks that you'd also like to try out. If you want to do rolling etc, you really need to look to a boat that is considerably more outfitted and with a smaller cockpit than a Pungo. If you want to stay at a less aggressive level for a while, in more protected water, and maybe do a little fishing the Pungo is a good start.

Word of warning though - odds are your friend will be looking for another boat by the middle of the season. People usually grow out of the Prodigy-level boats quickly. I'd also not put a Prodigy in the top of my list for paddling in the Mohawk because of things like boat traffic and the locks, but that's another discussion.

As a Pungo140 Owner

It was my first kayak and I bought it with little or no research.

As a plus I have never sat in a more comfy kayak, including dropping the seat back down and snoozing while the wife is bird watching. For short paddle, lazy days it is a good kayak

However, I joined the local sea kayak club, and while I could keep up with other kayaks in my Pungo 140 it was a brutal workout rather then enjoyable paddle. Also they required a spray skirt and getting one on the pungo 140 is not fun, and kind of useless. It took me only a month to outgrow the Pungo, for all sorts of reasons, before I was looking for kayak #2.

As other have said resist the temptation to jump right in, borrow, rent, try out as many as you can. Personally, if I had gone with a WS Tsunami, Tempest, or some other mid range kayak to start with I probably would still just own the one yak.

Have fun, good luck

No question
in my mind. WS Tsunami 120. Stable,2 bulkheads, good cockpit layout, safe and you won’t outgrow it quickly.

Try as many boats as possible
Some one said it earlier in this thread:

Try as many boats as possible.

Try as many boats as possible.

Try as many boats as possible.

Try as many boats as possible.

Try as many boats as possible.

Try as many boats as possible.

Oh, and did I mention: TRY AS MANY BOATS AS POSSIBLE?

can’t he just spend $1000 every year looking for the next boat?

Current Designs - Whistler
Had a similiar situation as you last year. Tested many boats and liked the Wilderness Systems Tusanmi 140 or 145 until a friend recommended I look at Current Designs products. I found the CDs better quality for the same price and purchased 2 Whistlers, one for myself and one for my wife. We couldn’t be happier with them. We do mostly flat water (lake) paddling but get out on class II or III rivers from time to time. We’re really impressed with the CD Whistlers.