I'm prejudiced. Apparently not alone

A repeated topic here is “Which 9.5’ Kayak should I get?”
NONE unless you are paddling farm ponds, swamps, or very gentle rivers .
I understand the draw. They’re light, cheap, and easy to transport.
People tend to be satisfied with them until someone comes along with a 12’ +. No one wants to have other people constantly waiting for them to catch up. Well, I did meet one guy. Never paddled with him again.
If they have a cockpit it’s just a bucket waiting to be filled.
I’m sure there are more reasons, but I’m thinking about paddling.


here here!

The bell curve of cost:performance typically tells me to spend a moderate amount of money as you will get 70% of the benefits for about 40% of the cost of a high end (whatever).

I do this with most gear because when you buy the cheapest thing around, it usually doesnt perform well, last long, and you outgrow it quickly. Just save a little more and get a mid-quality (whatever) and you’ll likely be much happier with it in the long term. Think of a car - how many of us drive the cheapest most basic car? Almost no one because having things like cruise control or power windows make driving a car A LOT nicer. the mid model isnt that much more, so we all do it.

In almost all cases, whoever is asking about a short rec kayak is taking it out or thinking of taking it out in unacceptable conditions. These are truly pool toys and should be treated as such.
They are not designed for waves over 6", wind over 10mph, rivers that flow more than 1mph, rivers that are more than a hundred feet wide, lakes that are larger than a pond, water that is under 60*.
Pretty much everyone asking about one on here is violating at least one of those and things turn out ok most of the time, but know that your margin for error is very, very low in these boats.

String’s photo is a perfect example of where a rec kayak would be well suited. (but even then a coastal marsh can generate some strong currents at maximum-tidal flow so even then you need to think about your timing)

Its not that we hate on rec kayaks or are snobs, its just that they perform incredibly poorly in anything but flat conditions and become a liability quickly.

So im with you String, I am prejudiced as well

Edit - to be clear no one is talking about WW or surf boats. We’re talking about open cockpit $300 kayaks meant for ponds that are sold at Dicks or TJ Maxx. There are plenty of specialty boats in the 9-10’ range that serve their intended purpose well and are fine examples of watercraft, but there is not an epidemic of people buting WW or Surf boats and taking them out in inappropriate conditions. We’re clearly talking about rec kayaks only.


Right with you. I just read an article where a man drowned in is 9.5 ft kayak taking it out in the open Gulf, probably with no spray skirt, but they are just as deadly on a big lake on a windy day.
I have always believed that someone’s worst introduction to paddling was a short wide kayak. Unfortunately there are plenty of big box stores more than willing to fill the demand and offer no guidance on boat selection.

Above posters know not of what they speak.

9.5 boats are ideal for many people and many conditions. Reasonably priced and easy to one hand carry, transport (fits INSIDE cars) and store. Great sot for the surf, fun in the rapids with thigh straps. Could go on and on and on!


My opinion is there is a place for everything and everything in its place.

It is a little like Harbor Freight tools I bought a Sawzall type saw there for 19 bucks 5 years ago expecting to wear it out on a one month project and throwing it out. Five years later it is still cutting like a champ and I beat the tar out of it. If I was a pro using it daily I would have the real deal and paid 500 for it.

When I bought my canoe this spring I figured we could enjoy it as a tandem and I quickly learned she wanted her own boat and she wanted a rec kayak because that’s what her girls from the cross-fit gym all have and they go on river floats and paddle the inland lakes here. We have Lake Erie in our back yard and I’m sure there is a group of sea kayak owners that do that but I never see them in our creeks and small rivers and inland lakes. Most of the time you are putting in or pulling out over a 10’ grown up bank and a 10’ 40lb cheap plastic boat is good enough to beat over rocks all day.

I’m older and have bad knees and sitting even in a rec kayak for 5-6 hours is not for me but my 14’7” canoe converted to a single is perfect and at 80lbs I have to pick and chose where I enter and exit and sometimes need a hand dragging it out. I also take it out alone fishing and I see lots of people fishing from rec kayaks but for me they look like a little extra room would help.

I have had several people see me getting into the same place they are and comment they wished they had a fishing canoe.

Most folks here are not in a hurry when on the water and when everyone has similar equipment it is the norm.

I did tell her when we were getting her a rec kayak it was going to be a better one and it was going to have better flotation than her friends cheaper boats.

I don’t have anything against any level of boats. I just want what is right for us and what we can afford and then forget about the rest and just enjoy them. :canoe:


I am prejudiced against big box stores and manufacturers that overhype the boats. Don’t know what to do about the people who fall for it.

Sparky, fatality after fatality comes up over the years from people having boats where neither they nor the boats should have been. Like it or not, a significant number of these situations on salt water are in rec boats. The good news about canoes is they wobble enough to scare people off of trying them on salt water, in most cases. The Kennedy-related incident last season notwithstanding.

I have recommended these boats to people. I have NEVER done so when they said they wanted to go out on big water.

Until you can infuse people with all the stuff they don’t know the first time they go out to get a boat - myself included when I started - at least slowing down people in picking up these 10 footers could reduce some of the mess. Because the alternatives cost more and are more complicated.

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Well… there are a lot of knowledgeable WW kayakers that like boats in that size range. Depends on usage and expectations.


String highlighted exactly where 9.5 ft rec kayaks should be paddled. He even provided a photo showing shore within about 50 feet. That is the water domain for rec kayaks.

For open waters, more sea worth kayaks are needed and specialized training should be sought out also…unless one is secretly seeking to be recognized with a Darwin Award posthumously.

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PJC, you are correct, but that population doesn’t show up a lot here and if they do it is self-correcting. When someone goes out not understanding they have a WW boat and ends up spinning in circles.

Keeps them near the beach and safe.

Putting the yak in the van… Cons… it is a big potentially loose object that can block your view.
My moniker was not developed randomly. The Fire Departmet will go after your yak inside your car if it entraps you… Sawzall and plastic no competition.

We are talking rec bathtubs not surfing SOT’s which are fun!

The good side is that 9.5 foot bathtubs can lead to a life time of paddling addiction.

My start in kayak was in a Aquaterra Kepwee. And I started in just the sort of area String posted a photo of. I did take it out in Long Island Sound in March with a nylon skirt and learned not to far from shore why I needed a new bigger and real sea kayak

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Almost every year we get a person picked from a channel buoy by the Coast Guard.

They are, invariably, paddling some big box store kayak and couldn’t get it back to shore. I. too, am prejudiced about those little sea cows. They are not real kayaks.

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The way it works around here and I don’t condone it, just what happens. Someone person or organization like a fire department or something has an outing. They ether advertise or face book lets go down the river next weekend. Rec boats get pulled out of barns and from behind garages and many people are in someone’s boat for the first time with no instruction and most of the time there is lots of drinking sun bathing and PFDs are used as seat backs. Then when someone gets in trouble and hurt or worse we hear about the dangers of the river locally and on forums it is the cheap big box store rec boats. I saw teens this spring when the air got warm going down with swimsuits on is all and the water was still below 50 degrees. Last week we saw a guy in a 5’ blow up raft with little plastic oars maybe a $20 deal at Big Lots and he was 5 miles from nowhere. As we passed him he asked how much more to get to the next takeout and I told him about 2 hours and he said ok thanks.

There is pretty much no education and it is a monkey see monkey do situation.

It IMO is not so much the boats as the fact people are not wanting or not getting any education on what they are doing.

Her OT 10 footer we bought thru Dicks a box store on line as it was very hard to find anything used or retail around here this year. With shipping it was over 600 bucks and I wouldn’t call it a toy. I did a few things that I felt made it safer and for what we will use it for and with our level of understanding I feel good about her safety in it, and once we get more hours in the water and more practice with reentry and such I will feel even better. Until then we are mitigating our risk with when and where we use it staying within our abilities and the abilities of our boats. :canoe:

Most of the comments here are pure BS. Thank you for allowing paddlers in smaller boats up to 50 feet from the shore. We sure don’t want to get runned over by your 16 ft $1500 3-hatch 2-bulkhead so called “sea kayak” on a local lake or river 60 ft from shore being expertly propelled by a greenland paddle.


After that post, my first inclination was not a good one . I don’t even get sad over the very regular reports of “kayakers” who don’t make it. I will continue to try to keep them from that category.


The small cheap boats have their place.
Many many people who end up devoted paddlers with serious kayaks and canoes start off with one of these little cheap boats.
Not only are more serious boats more expensive, most have sharper learning curves. If someone goes out and buys one of the mass produced rec boats they can and will hit the water. They can learn some of the basics there and figure out if paddling is for them plus figure out what they want to buy.
There are many many boat configurations to choose from and a little time in a cheap boat can really help someone learn enough to figure out what direction interests them.
Then when they find a deal on a used Chesapeake 17 or an older Eddyline for example, they are more ready to deal with a long narrow boat. They have a basic understanding of things like balance, weight and what it takes to transport one of those things.


What is BS? I see mostly factual, reasonable statements

Small and cheap boats are fine, in their place. Our beef is when they are out of place, which happens frequently and often results in rescue or death.


I don’t really care what floats your boats. What people need to know is what doesn’t float their boat. What doesn’t float your rec boat is a 12" chop, wind over 10 mph, and a 3 mph current.

I belong to FB group Long Island Kayak Paddlers. Three thousand plus members. Sea kayakers, WW or surf guys I doubt there’s 12 seriously :flushed:.

Some listen about safety, some are lost causes. The water temperature battles, what kayaks is good I want to spend 300 then cross the Great South Bay. It’s not cold, I stay in the shallow water, I hug the shore, clueless. I’ll put my PFD on if I need it. I use to be an Olympic swimmer 85 years ago. Clueless but when someone tells you and shows you a clue consider it.

They are so cheap they won’t spend 15 bucks on a dry pouch for their phone. No I have a Ziploc bag it’s fine. Their budget for a PFD is 35 dollars, and so on.

I can’t believe there isn’t more deaths. Some have come around as they see a few local fatalities.

Can you take me out with you? No because I’d be fast than you with no paddle with my cupped hands.

Yes I rented two SOT kayaks 13 & 15’ . Went back and bought two the new week. We got a 13’ Hobie Quest and a 15’ Ocean Trident. Still have them not used in many years. When I started I wanted to learn and be safe. I have much much respect for the water.

If you want to buy a pool toy you need pool water to put it in. You tell them if it fills with water it will just sink you won’t even have anything to cling to.

Then you get into transporting them :scream:


You don’t understand. The issue is the seaworthiness (or lacking of) in these rec boats. It’s not a matter of being run over by the bigger boats, it’s a matter of the fact that eventually you will probably end up swamped or some other boating accident. These little boats with huge cockpits can’t fit a skirt so water enters easy. There are no bulkheads so there isn’t and residual floatation to them when they fill. They would be nearly impossible to drain and re enter if you can’t stand on the bottom so that makes it important to be within swimming distance of shore.


Personally my 250# …no 240# :grinning:… is too much for my 12ft SOT. I paddle boats 14 to 17 ft. Sea Kayaks. I also have and use some canoes with float chambers. But there is a whole lot of people that paddle REC boats and for that matter canoes in various water when and where they shouldn’t. I remember paddling back from the sea caves at the Apostle Islands in my sea kayak with my hydroskins on passing Sun Dolphins with paddlers in swimsuits. Apostle islands are in Lake Superior…water in the 40s to 60s.

In 2018 the Coast Guard reports 663 deaths in boating accidents. Of those 84 were kayakers and 44 canoers. Really low numbers for a nation of 350 million. Kayaking Statistics | 2018 USCG Breakdown - Yak Logic

In 2018 we were at Corrnel Wisconsin (sp?). There was a paddle parade where they attempted to set a record for the number of kayaks and canoes in a one mile paddle parade. There was about 200 boats. I’d say there was 198 rec kayaks and canoes of all shapes and sizes. …and two seakayaks.

People were asking us , "…are those really kayaks? They’re so long. " So I’m thinking that Short rec boats are the norm on that lake. As the paddle progressed the wind started and there was a little ripple. A following “sea” condition of less than 6 inch wavlets bombarded the boats. This lady was squeezed into a 8’ SunDolphin. It doesn’t have any bulkheads, but it does have a rear hatch. Those wavelets washed up over the stern and started filling the boat. A short time later she was expressing concern, loudly, about her boat sinking…and it was as she and husband paddled toward a nearby shore.

Everybody made it. They all had a good time. You can get into trouble everywhere. Especially if your skills and equipment is not up to the task. But there is a place for rec boat.


Problem: People using Rec kayaks where they shouldn’t be.
Solution: I don’t see one.

I always recommend that new users take kayaking lessons from a competent instructor, before even buying a kayak. That would likely even prevent the purchase of a rec kayak.

That ain’t going to happen on the scale that’s needed.