I am not absolutely loving my new WS Pungo 120 - What am I doing wrong?

I will admit that I am pretty new to kayaking seriously and really just got into it this summer. I had always borrowed kayaks in the past and I will now admit those ones were just cheap junk although I didn’t know any better at the time. I had a trip come up and I wanted to go but only had 4 days to get ready and no kayak to borrow. I ended up deciding to buy one. I considered just buying a cheap Sun Dolphin or Pelican but know you get what you pay for so wanted something better. I bought the best sit in that money could buy without me having to drive 100 miles to buy a better model. That was an Old Town Vapor 10 Angler from the new Academy Sports in town. I will admit that I didn’t do much research but this came from a known name so I went for it because I didn’t have much time to prepare. I also ended up with a 240cm store brand paddle.

This combination seemed to suit me just fine. I have no real problem with it but decided I wanted something longer and with a dry hatch for overnight trips. I ended up with a demo model Pungo 120 that a friend snagged for me from his outdoor retail store. I bought it for a decent discount and thought I was doing well. I also bought a shorter paddle based on suggestions of those here. I thought it was a 230cm but it ended up being a 220cm once I looked at it in detail.

I have taken the Pungo out twice with the 220cm paddle. It still feels awkward even with the shorter paddle. It just feels that my elbows are under stress while paddling with the 240cm paddle in the Vapor feels easy and natural. I tried the 240cm paddle from the Vapor on the Pungo and it was certainly not any better. I am almost wondering if the 220cm is too long for me on this boat. It sits 4-5 inches lower in the water than the Vapor so maybe I need a shorter paddle than 220cm. Does this sound like a possibility? I am a high angle paddler as well.

I am definitely keeping the Vapor as a spare or backup but am wondering if maybe there is something about the WS Pungo that just doesn’t fit me or if there is a way to make this work. I definitely would like to make it work if that is possible but would also consider a different boat if that is what it takes. I just don’t feel natural or at home in this boat the way I do the Vapor 10. I find it funny that a boat that I basically bought on a whim with a random store brand paddle I just grabbed seems to fit me better than something I researched and paid quite a bit more money for.

I love the speed and tracking of the Pungo but my elbows are sore as I type this. I wanted to upgrade to the Pungo to get a longer boat with more storage and a dry hatch as well as the better tracking. If this doesn’t end up working, what are some other options for a good overnight boat? Of course there is an Old Town Vapor 12 XT which is just a longer version of what I have. Then there is the Old Town Loon 106 or 120 which is their more premium recreational boat. Of course I don’t have to be stuck on Old Town but this is what has worked for me.

Any suggestions are welcome and I certainly don’t want to make a rash decision about selling this one and buying another but I will do that if that is what it takes to get one that works for me.



Something clicked as I was laying there at night thinking. I think my seat may be too far forward and it is causing extra stress on my elbows. I will check this out later when I have more time and let everyone know.

Your probably better off getting some paddling lessons rather than a new boat. If you elbows are hurting you’re probably doing something wrong.

Nearly impossible to tell without a video. But agree with Grayhawk. Elbows are an unusual joint to hurt. Best to start with getting eyeballs on your form.

check these out and see if any apply . I doubt it is the boat. I have a hunch you are trying very hard now that you have expectations of a faster boat and any poor technique you got away with before in the slow boat is now biting you. https://www.canoekayak.com/skills/how-to-avoid-elbow-and-wrist-tendonitis-for-paddlers/

Total noobs here also— fortunately haven’t had any ill effects from paddling.

My paddling and lifelong partner in mayhem has bad joints (shoulders, elbows and back) from sitting in a car in the passenger side, delivering mail for 35 years. He finds that paddling actually helps with his overall comfort level as long as he is doing that twisty torso move. We try to advise each other when/if we notice the other not rotating the torso on a stroke. Doing so also seems to help with speed. There are times of course, where we are just drifting and any stroke is really more of a directional thing.

Some place on here(I think here) was a video or 3 about the subject.

One suggestion is don’t get hung up on “high angle” paddling. Relax a little, let your arms bend a bit and rotate. You might find it easier to maintain torso rotation if you concentrate more on pushing the blade that is out of the water. You will naturally pull the blade in the water without thinking about it. The worst thing you can do is to slouch–sit up straight.

A lower angle has the benefit of being able to lengthen the stroke without lifting water. In time, you will find what works the best for you and your body will adjust to it. Don’t expect it to happen overnight–it might take years.

Very likely a paddling technique problem and possibly the onset of tendinitis. Elbow pain is common in those performing repetitive motions on a single joint over a period of time. Some things to reduce strain on the elbow.

  • paddle from the hips, not the shoulders. Grab the paddle at shoulder width and move it by twisting at the waist, not by pulling/pushing on the paddle with the arms.
  • relax the grip on the paddle - you do not need to hold the paddle forcefully, just enough to keep it in control - relax to the point where you are holding it too loosely and just add sufficient force to hold it, not strangle it.
  • to enhance power with the hips, press with the offside foot/knee (right foot when paddle is on the left side and vice versa) against (whatever) foot ped/thigh strap is available in the boat
  • paddle length can be a factor, but it is not as likely - still a long paddle is like starting from a standing start on a bicycle in too high a gear - it takes a lot of force to get going and all that force is provided by the body, potentially causing stress injuries

With luck, this will mitigate any injury you are doing to your forearm.


Agree that a lesson or two would be helpful. Not always easy to arrange so in the interim, here’s a link to site which has a well organized approach to the basics, including technique tips and common mistakes. https://www.nswseakayaker.asn.au/index.php/homepage/basic-skills

One thing you may want to do is reduce the number of changes. You changed both boat and paddle at some time. How about either using new paddle with old boat, or old paddle with new boat, and see how that goes?

My gut says that the paddle is more likely the issue than the boat, but this is a WAG.

I have arthritic joints and very sensitive elbows. They never hurt when I paddle my Pungo, or my other boats.
Peter has a good point about too many changes at once. Your body has to adapt to unfamiliar stress and movements.
It could be the way you are paddling. Do you understand what it means that your forward stroke should be a push, not a pull? Are you keeping your wrists as straight as possible?
And maybe, your paddle is too wide.
I strongly suspect it ain’t the boat.
My Pungo has been paddled by children, and mature people of both sexes with no issues.

I too suspect poor paddling technique. Your elbows shouldn’t really come into the equation.

And you should be sitting bolt upright so you can best rotate your torso. You should also be keeping your arms as straight as you can. Look up some videos on the forward paddle stroke, or even better take some lessons.

Here’s a good start for video instruction…


My elbows are always part of the equation, since they are between my shoulders and my wrists. Power to my paddle can only get from my legs to my paddle through all of the joints and muscles in between.

Proper technique and proper sized paddle (both length and blade shape/size for paddle) make a huge impact on my paddling comfort.

It took me a couple years and several paddle models and lengths to find what works best for me.

I am going to look through all this before my next trip. I have had a lot on my mind lately with work and think my seat may be too far forward. I will make this simple adjustment and compare it to the Old Town stored right next to it.

I have paddled 20 miles in one day in the old boat and close to that several times. I woke up the next day feeling like I could do this all over again the next day. These couple trips were both 4 miles. I woke up feeling I should wait a week before even considering another trip.

The old paddle is WAY too long as suggested by others in another thread. It is great for the Old Town Vapor but not this. The 220cm is definitely a step in the right direction.

I will look over everything and see if there is anything glaring. I really think I made a simple oversight and have my seat adjusted wrong but will report back.


I don’t understand the seat comment but the Phase 3 seat is very adjustable so I hope it helps.
I have had many seat issues with several boats, but never my elbows.

The first couple of times out in my Skylark, I was thinking it may have been a mistake. Took a number of short/longer paddles to figure out where I like the seat back , foot pegs even how I snug the straps on the PFD and how it fit with the seat back.

Well, now I guess I’ve been doing it all wrong for all these years. I don’t keep my arms straight and I don’t push on the off-side foot. Oh well–it’s probably too late to change now.

I may have some free time today so will mess with the seat some. I got the kayak a little over a week ago and was dealing with all kinds of stress and nonsense with work. I had one of those crazy as a loon customers I had to deal with along with law enforcement and the courts as well because of this nut. I feel stupid for overlooking the seat. Yeah, it feels pretty nice. I think it was just leaning too far forward and forcing my elbows to bend at a strange angle.

The foot pegs are adjusted properly. They were so far out when I got it that this couldn’t be overlooked.

I will look into my paddling style if the seat adjustment doesn’t work. I really don’t think that is the issue, especially since I have had zero issues with this in my other kayak on long trips. I was also paddling pretty much nonstop at a pretty good speed for about half of one of those long trips. We were running out of daylight and realized we had 10 miles to go so pretty much did the rest of that trip at a sprint. My elbows felt fine during and after this.


It’s usually taught that you press with the leg/foot that’s on the same side as the blade that’s in the water. This helps you rotate and provides the power. Elbows aren’t Frankenstein straight, but “broken” (some bend). If your elbows bend right away then you are probably “arm paddling” rather than “twisting” and using the power in your core and legs. Have someone take a look at your stroke. You might just need to adjust your footrest, or might need to change your technique. Too many unknowns without seeing a video.


@gstamer said:
It’s usually taught that you press with the leg/foot that’s on the same side as the blade that’s in the water. This helps you rotate and provides the power. Elbows aren’t Frankenstein straight, but “broken” (some bend). If your elbows bend right away then you are probably “arm paddling” rather than “twisting” and using the power in your core and legs. Have someone take a look at your stroke. You might just need to adjust your footrest, or might need to change your technique. Too many unknowns without seeing a video.


Wow! Thank you Greg; you have restored and validated what I thought I had worked on and believed was working so well. You have saved me a ton of introspection.