Help me narrow down my search!!

Hi everybody! I am just starting my journey into the world of kayaking - my skill level is bare bones basic beginner. I would like to purchase my first kayak, and, have been doing quite a bit of online research this week. The amount of information is a bit staggering! I am an average sized woman who will be kayaking primarily on Lake Lanier or other fairly calm bodies of water for no more that 3 to 4 hours at a stretch. I would love to find the kind of kayak that I can grow with as my skill level improves. The qualities I’m looking for are ease of transport (I have little upper body strength), good tracking and maneuverability, a good balance between initial/secondary stability, and, affordability (especially since one has to include accessories in the overall price). I would like to stay under $650.00 for the boat alone. Oh, it has to come in pretty colors, too!! (I’m a girl, after all!) ha ha…

Thank you in advance for your helpful suggestions. It really does seem a little overwhelming right now!

A wannabee paddler!


You are going to get soooo many different boat suggestions here…mine would be a Necky Rec. boat (Manitou, Manitou Sport…)

One thing though, no matter what you get, make sure you actually get in it and paddle it forst before you buy it. Fit and feel is everything.

Good Luck

All that research, just give you a idea of what to paddle. Go to a shop and demo as many kayak as you can. Every kayak you get into will feel different. Look at used kayak to save money. Lot shop have demo that they sell off. But paddle it before you buy any kayak. Don’t buy the cheap paddle, you can’t good light paddle for a few bucks more.

(I have little upper body strength), Well that will change with abit of paddling.

Great minds think alike!
Hi! We seem to be on the same wavelength - I just finished looking at the Necky website. I plan to look at the Sky and the Manitou sport, leaning more toward the latter. The product reviews and message boards on this site are awesome - so much helpful info. Thanks for your input.

Take Care,


under $650
You might want to consider used boats as well as new ones. You’d get a bit more boat for your money. There are the ads here, club listings (look to the left under “Directories” and click on “More Links” - you will find a listing of clubs with links to their websites), local classifieds, and

You can always buy new, but looking at used boats opens up a few more options.

Good luck!

easiest way to narrow your search is to make a few decisions

First decide what kind of paddeling you would like to do (WW, or flat water lakes or Ocean/great Lakes) you’ve already done this

Then decide if you want a skeg, a rudder or a boat with neither…this decision will narrow the crowd significantly

decide glass or plastic

then decide on wheather it maters to you what kind of hatches it has (tupperware, or neoprene with a cover or the gasketted cover ones) (or if it has any)and what kind of bulkheads plastic,glass, or foam) or if it has any

These decisions should narrow the field to a few manufactures (if you want certain hatches or type of bulkheads)

next decide aproximat width and length and weight carring capicity (volume)

In the few manufactures that have passed your wish list so far…there are only a few boats that will fit you weight or your weight plus what you wish to carry

now find those few boats and test drive them

then look at color

and lastly look at price…this tells you new or used…(get the boat you want, not one that you won’t really like because it’s cheep) don’t be afraid of used…sometimes it makes the decission of paddle etc for you by being thrown in with the purchase.

If you decide to buy new, then buy the paddle first and use the same paddle to test all the boats on your now short list. That way you are able to determine that the differances you feel between any two tests are not shadowed by the paddle that the business let you use for your test. In the beginning a clunky paddle can give you a bad demo that with a better paddle it would have felt different and sometimes we buy by if we had a fun demo of not. This way you are only changing one variable

(buying paddles, buy the best you can afford)

not sure what I missed, hope this helps some

Best Wishes


Hi Roy!

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my question. Would it be too much to ask for help in narrowing down the selection of paddles? As with kayaks, there are so many different manufacturers and types of paddles to consider (materials used in construction, feathered vs.unfeathered, blade length/shape, shaft length/shape, etc.). Maybe I should just stick with hiking - all you need is a decent pair of hiking boots! Decisions shouldn’t be so complicated! Have a good night.


many ways to go…The first one you buy will probably become your spare paddle in the future after you move up the food chain…once you have most everything the first time around you will find yourself refining most all of your gear from the initial round of buying (maybe many times)

with that in mind

pick a paddle that is compatiable with the width boat that youv’e determined to be “the one to have” and with your arm/torso length

average sized woman…anywhere from a 210 to a 220 depending on your actual size, your boats size and you stroke (determined later)

so that said…if you opt for a euro style paddle a 215 could be a good starting point to look at initially…not all 215 paddles are the same either. some depends on the actual blade configuration…sometimes it just comes down to picking one that you like the feel of in the water

stick with major manufactures Lendal, Werner

get a 2 or a 4 piece paddle (more paddles are broken in car doors etc than while paddling, needs to be able to be made into a decent size that when you go somewhere it’s not a pain in the car.

carbon is nice but pricy for a first paddle. that later becomes a spare…look at something probably from about $150 to $250

Lendal is nice because with the 4 piece you can upgrade later by just buying a set of blades or a differant shaft length (I like Lendal, we all have our favorites)

some paddles have locking feruls that don’t really work so beware of some of the advertising

Lendals work.

crank shaft vs straight shaft

I prefer the crank…some prefer the straight shaft…you have to decide this one. I am in the camp that finds the crankshaft a more natural rotation as I stroke and find the it doesn’t prohibit paddle extension or any other paddle stroke method…some say differant

you might be wanting to join the Greenland Paddle cult (I too belong) this is a toughter one to give you any advice about…flex preferances and blade sizes are usually custom made for the person. Don Beal would be a good person to talk to if you decide to go wood…if you decide to go carbon then Superior Kayak is the only one that makes them…easier to buy your first Greenland paddle than to know what to make for the first time. getting the blades just right in an art. I know I’ve made a dozen of them and still don’t have one I like better than my carbon ones

Not sure what I left out…I got sort uv windy…again

Best Wishes


go to…

There’s a couple that’s on or under your budget. Free shipping and tax free also.

Bought one from them a month ago. Got it in day 8 of 10.


– Last Updated: May-04-06 11:38 PM EST –

Weight is probably going to be a big factor for you. For the "average" woman, anything much above 40 pounds is going to be awkward to load/unload/carry by yourself. Low price and light weight tend to be mutually exclusive, so don't hesitate to look for something used.

Many beginners focus on boat length, but beam and depth are probably more important for you padling comfort. Most women have shorter torsos and shorter arms than the average man. A boat that's too wide or too deep will make it difficult to have a comfortable, relaxed stroke. Most women carry their weight lower than most men, and so are more stable than a man would be in the same kayak.

As for paddles, some folks with low upper body strength are more comfortable with smaller blades -- kind of like riding in a lower gear on a bicycle. A paddle that's too long will make it harder to paddle straight. Feather is a subject of endless debate, but most 2-piece paddles let you switch between feathered and unfeathered. I don't like aluminum shafts -- too cold and noisy.

Just for reference, there's a ton of useful kayaking info here:

It's aimed at sea kayakers, but a lot of it applies to any flatwater paddling.

Go used
And take some lessons, get in touch with a paddle shop/lesson place near you to be able to get into various demo and used boats. You have tough criteria, and a boat that an average sized woman can really get into skills with is not an easy find either Most are too big.

Rec boats are out if you want to work skills, as may be a lot of the middle range “touring” boats because of your versus their size. As to upper body strength, you are going to have to get some or you’ll hurt yourself paddling. And it’ll come from paddling anyway.

As to balance between primary and secondary - if you are even thinking this way you’ll be in a bit more boat than you may presently realize. Another good reason to try a lot. Similar the tracking/manuverability bit - more of one usually means less of the other, all boats are a compromise. You need to figure out where you are personally comfortable.

test paddle
You need to paddle as many as you can. Eventually one will feel right. Find a dealer that will encourage you to try out their boats. A reputable out-fitter is a wealth of knowledge. Did I mention test paddle?

paddle safe, LJB.

you need to wear a few more things than just hiking boots…you could get scratched when you hike thru a rasbery or blackberry patch. Unless your really, really careful


best Wishes


Your response to my questions
This is such an awesome site. I appreciate everyone’s willingness to share their knowledge, experience, etc. I understand what you are referring to - yesterday I had an opportunity to try out one of my girlfriends kayaks. It’s a Liquidlogic Sapphire - I felt like I was being swallowed up by the cockpit - too wide and deep. With each stroke, the paddle kept hitting the left side of the boat (probably more of a reflection of my poor technique/inexperience). The boat was also heavy and awkward to handle by myself. So, thank you for your input. The search continues…this is almost turning into a full time job!!

Have a fun weekend,


Hiking boots!
Ha Ha! Yeah…I can picture it now…me and a pair of hiking boots and my birthday suit!! That would sure clear out the woods in a hurry!!

As always…thanks for your time and all of the advice you’ve given me to consider. I’ll let you know what I finally decide.


Craigs list!!!
I recently bought my Kayak from Craigslist and acording to many on this list i got a great deal. i have been kayaking for about 3 years now but i had no idea who Valley was. After the advice from someone from GRO i bought it and i love it!!! Trust in Craig, he wont let you down.

Advice from a newbie in your neck-o-the-

First, I am a complete newbie. I picking up my boat tomorrow morning and taking it to the hooch for a float. So here goes:

  1. Lake Lanier in the summer is a zoo. Be careful!

    I had a deckboat on lanier for a couple of years. For May->July4, the place is crazy. For the other 10 months of the year, things are a bit better.

  2. REI has a 15% off all boats sale right now. That might make the difference between a Necky Manitou and the manitou sport, for example. I bought a Manitou for myself.

  3. The craigslist Idea is good. I am purchasing a used Perception Acadia tomorrow morning with paddle for $400 from an ad on craigslist. He has two, and I am buying one. Someone else had a Necky Looksha or something (a much BETTER boat… too big for me to store) for about $550. If the Acadia might be on your list, send me an email and I’ll give you this guy’s phone number (he lives down in buckhead), or go to craigslist atlanta, to boats, and search on “kayak”. I figure that if my GF outgrows the Acadia, I should be able to turn it around and sell it for not much less than I purchased it.

    Like I said, I am a newbie. I am doing my first “trip” tomorrow… A float from Medlock Bridge Road to Roswell Park. (I live next to Roswell Park). Also check out the Atlanta Sea Kayakers website and forum.

I second the Manitou. I’ve had one for two years now and believe it meets all of your criteria. In addition to lake paddling (my primary venue), I’ve had it on the Gulf near Tampa on a moderately windy day in 2-3 foot seas and was pleasantly supprised with it’s ability to handle these conditions easily. Obviously, it’s not a boat designed for long-distance touring.

but wait, there’s more…

– Last Updated: May-05-06 4:31 PM EST –

And given where you live, think about trying a basic whitewater class sometime...

Cockpit fit
Most experienced kayakers end up doing some customization – usually gluing in foam – to adjust the fit, but if you’re really sloshing around it’s a sign that it’s the wrong boat for you.