Help selecting 1st kayak for lakes

-- Last Updated: Aug-12-14 7:36 PM EST --

I would love advice on selecting a kayak for paddling a lake. I am 5'6" 140 pounds. I envision doing this for excercise a few times per week. Probably 1-2 hours at a time max. It will be mostly smooth with chop on some days. I have very little kayaking experience. I would like to spend less than $1000. If I could get a pretty good experience for far less money than that, all the better. Thanks!

start buy checking used ads
Here, craigslist and ebay, and any vendors in your area that may have used or demo models.

What part of the country? How large is the lake?

size of lake
I am in the northwest. (just east of Seattle) The lake is 7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. I have looked at Craiglist etc. but not sure what I’m looking for. Not sure where to get started.

Getting started
You’ll find excellent advice in this thread, which was posted last month:

I’d also check around for paddling clubs or outfitters which offer lessons on basic skills.

There are a lot of very helpful experienced paddlers here, so if you have any question about a particular kayak, just ask.

I’m not that experienced, but try to be helpful. :slight_smile:

Size matters
At your height and weight, you’re in the “smaller paddler” category. Look for boats marketed for smaller/lighter paddlers. Kayaks designed for average-to-large paddlers will be too big for you. a baot that’s too big will be uncomfortable and inefficient to paddle and harder to control.

Length is not the important dimension for boat fit. width, depth, cockpit fit and volume all make a difference.

A paddle that fits you is also important.

If you can’t test-paddle at local dealers, try to at least test-sit a few boats.

Used boats can be a great way to stay under your budget. Your local Craigslist is a good place to start.

A few possibilities:

Perception Tribute 12, Expression 14.5

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 135, Tempest 165

“starter” kayak
I have 2 kayaks I really enjoy. I’m 5’4", and have ranged from 150-200 pounds in my time paddling. I’m a lake/slow river paddler. One kayak is a Walden Experience. It’s about 10 feet long. I can easily lift it and maneuver it myself. It tracks well and I enjoy paddling it. I also have an Old Town Otter. It’s slower than the Experience…I won’t win any races in it! But it’s very stable, great for a leisurely paddle, and it completely fits INSIDE my minivan. A major perk for when I am going out alone! No roof rack to deal with, no fastening the hatch closed with a bungie cord. I can carry it myself, and it seems to be virtually indestructible.

I found both secondhand for around $200, and heartily recommend them. I spent a lot of time paddling my sister’s Otter before I bought mine, and I got to paddle my Walden Experience before I bought it. My niece has an Old Town Loon that she loves and recommends, too.

A lake that large in the PNW is going to be windy. With due respect to the paddler who loves their shorty rec boats, they would be unsuitable for your purposes. A mid length light touring kayak with a skeg or rudder would be more practical especially for fitness paddling.

I am close to your size and have owned close to a dozen kayaks. My favorite in that price range and for open, windy waters is the Venture Easky 15LV (LV for “low volume”). Nicely equipped boat that handles well and is lighter than many similar range models. They replaced the model with the Islay 14 this year but you might still find Easky’s for sale new. Rarely see them used as owners tend to get attached to them. I’ve yet to paddle an Islay but it has similar specs, is also based on a design similar to the much costlier and popular P&H Delphin.

These (the Easky and Islay) should be around $1000 to $1200 plus or minus, new or a bit less used.

I agree

– Last Updated: Aug-18-14 6:47 PM EST –

A lake that large in the PNW is going to be windy. With due respect to the paddler who loves their shorty rec boats, they would be unsuitable for your purposes. A mid length light touring kayak with a skeg or rudder would be more practical especially for fitness paddling.

A mid length boat 14-15' would be good for that large a lake. Try before you buy if possible I recently purchased at a good price a Venture Easky 15lv. The boat fit me well but has two channels that run down the length of the hull limiting foot movement. I should mention that I have since sold the boat. Besides the hull issues I myself and others found the hull to be on the twitchy side but I think you can counter that by dropping the skeg all the way down.

You are in luck.
Carolina, you do realize you are in the heart of kayak country. There should be no lack of choices in and around Seattle, but I’m going to suggest two things. First, it’s fairly likely that you will someday want to do some paddling on other waters in your area and there is so much to choose from. Second, you are very fortunate to live close to Tacoma which is the home of NC Kayaks. My suggestion to you would be to drive down to Tacoma and take a look at what NC offers. I know they are a bit out of what you have budgeted, but it will give you something to gauge all the other boats you might look at. You can arrange for a demonstration paddle and then you will really have a frame of reference for other boats.

Talk to Doug Searls while you’re at NC and I promise you will come away with some helpful perspectives. At the very least, you will have some insight into what the kayaking experience can be. Check them out at


– Last Updated: Aug-17-14 9:58 PM EST –

Is it just me or is there an echo in here?

Rent some first
You’re in a good place to try boats before buying. Kayak Academy (Issaquah) should be able to help you, and there are others. You might be thinking right now only of lakes, but if you have any interest in expanding to other types of water, try some different types of kayaks, not just those suitable for lakes.

Craigslist in your area

– Last Updated: Aug-18-14 10:53 AM EST –

Yes, you are fortunate to live in one of the most active sea kayaking communities in the US. Just the most recent selection of used boats posted in Seattle Tacoma is astonishing. Any of these boats, most well under $1000, would be options for you:
(that one would be a little challenging for a beginner)
(maybe having a boat that shares your name would be fun -- great beginner light touring kayak, by the way.)

Major echo
Maybe the OP decided against kayaking and took up equestrian sports instead.

Oh well, I enjoyed reading all the good advice given here.

That is not the echo she meant
Look at the first paragraph in willowleaf’s post and in the reply to it.

Another fun little trip
Drive on over to Port Townsend and visit Pygmy Kayaks. You can try out their boats and they might even convince you that you can build your own from one of their kits. They have a bunch to choose from and they are all very affordable.

Haven’t heard from you (the OP) for a while. Did you get a kayak? Let us know how you made out in your search.

I also found this used one for sale in Bellingham, Washington, the 5th one down white Greenland style kayak for $800, only 28 lbs. I have a similar skin on frame and love it for fast paddling on my local rivers. YOu’ll attract a lot of attention in one like this.