Hello - i am also seeking some advice for a kayak for my son. He is moving near me and we have loved to paddle boarding and canoeing together. Recently I have gotten into kayaking and he is really interested. We would both still be newbies in my opinion since I have not been kayaking long. He is 6ft 175, size 12 shoe. The types of places we would be kayaking would be large rivers, lakes and bays. No oceans for a while until we have more experience.
He would like a stable kayak, under 55 lbs and a kayak he could grow his skills while paddling, but not be over his head initially. We plan on taking lessons in the spring. There are a few on the classifieds and wondering if they would be good to check into or should he wait for spring. The Eddyline Nighthawk 16 is available and reasonably priced and QCC 500X. the QCC is a good price but i know it tends to be for a larger paddle. Not sure if it would be recommended for him. Both kayaks we could go and check out, but they are a little bit of a drive, so don’t want to go if not a possibility.
We live in Eastern Virginia and while we will be eventually going into the bays, this will be once we feel more confident in our skills and have had some courses.
As beginners, find a Dagger Stratos 14.5L. It covers all the bases you mention and is a good plastic kayak you will never want to let go of. Even if/when your skills increase in a year or two and you want to upgrade to an NDK, P&H, CD, Sterling, or similar sea kayak, you will still have those occasions and locations where you will prefer to paddle the Stratos.
The Nighthawk and 500X are very different kayaks. The 500X is meant for larger paddlers and/or hauling lots of gear. With just your 175 lb son in it, it will ride high and won’t feel very lively. It would probably be quite stable versus the Nighthawk but an “underloaded” kayak can feel unstable at times too.
I don’t know much about the Nighthawk, but it’s 2 inches narrower than the 500X, might feel a little tippy at first, but would probably be a much for fun kayak to grow into.
Thank you for this insight! Very helpful
Perhaps consider a transitional kayak in the 14’ range? Seems like a good fit for your parameters. Nick Schade explains why, so much better than I could.
Nick’s articles are great, but one point isn’t emphasized enough IMO - when discussing length with respect to speed, it is the waterline length of the vessel that matters. Overall length is irrelevant. Since waterline length is not normally published for kayaks, it can be difficult to effectively compare two kayaks. The Petrel (17’) and Petrel Play (14’) used for comparison in the article are not 3’ different in waterline length, it’s probably closer to 2’ or even less - the Petrel has longer overhangs while the Play has very short overhangs at both the bow and stern.
Which brings me to my point - what kind of vessel is the OP using? If you’re in a 10 foot boat and your son gets a 14+ footer, the speed difference between the two will be annoying. Generally I recommend keeping mix-and-match boats within 2’ in length difference to minimize drastic speed differences.
Photoyaker’s recommendation of a transitional kayak around 14’ is a good one. The previously mentioned Dagger Alchemy/Stratos 14.5 would be good, as would a Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140, which should be easier to find.
I have a current design Equinox GTS. It is about 16ft.
Look for a used CD Solstice.
It appears you have a bit more seat time than your son at this point? So you may already have gotten your head around something that could be new to him.
This is that stability in a kayak is about how it handles the water under it, much more than how the paddler first feels sitting in it. If the water includes waves as in the ocean to which you aspire, the boat has to move with the waves is a way that maintains a stable relationship with those movements. And the paddler has to stay out of the way and let the boat do its job.
So all those skinny sea kayaks that seem “tippy” on flat water are decidedly safer boats than a wide rec boat when you get into dimensional water. They also are a whole lot more friendly to skills development than a more rec-oriented boat. The hulls are designed anticipating the paddler will be practicing those skills, where in a design tilted towards rec boat use the paddler will find that the boat fights back when they try to learn some of those.
I am taking the long way of getting to the point that for you, as well as your son, you will want a boat that looks towards where you want to be rather than how it feels the first few times you paddle. A boat enabled for sea kayaking will feel “tippy” at first. But it will also save you the expense that my husband and I along with many others here went thru, where you find yourself having to get another boat within a season of starting out because the first one won’t carry you where you need to go.
You have a number of recommendations to go for a transitional boat at about 14’ above. This is a very popular and huge range of boats. So I suggest you make sure whatever you get has the following minimal features given your goal of picking up bigger water skills.
Two bulkheads (I am a personal fan of three if there is a traditional day hatch right behind the cockpit).
Perimeter rigging - static line - all around the boat fore and aft. You will want this the first time you practice rescues.
Cockpit fit so that you can reach a thigh brace or equivalent easily with your knees/lower thigh - you need this for edging and rolling.
Back band rather than a seat back - you want this for on-water self and assisted rescue. Climbing over a seat back that sticks above the deck is not a happening thing if you are already in the soup that made you capsize to start with.
I have a little time in the older Dagger Alchemy, which appears to have morphed into the Stratos. I was in the one for small paddlers where your son would likely be in the one for average paddlers. This was a wonderful design, somehow the designer managed to pack a fully performing sea kayak into a shorter version that handles and rolls like the best of the 16 ft plus boats. It is plastic so best to use dry bags for stuff inside the bulkheads lest some water sneak in. But a great boat.
It does tend towards more maneuverable and less fast than a tracker. But when you pick tracking over maneuverability in a kayak, you also pick a hull that is going to require more edging and more commitment to turn. This may not be the characteristic you like if you get caught in surprise weather and have to make for home in sloppy stuff. And for most people, this Oops moment is a rite of passage for paddling in bigger water.
Celia thank you very much for this answer. it gives me a lot to think about and also gives me some specific features to consider. This was such an awesome and thoughtful post. I am very appreciative of your suggestions!
Enjoy paddling with your son!
Thank you for this recommendation. I will look at it.