Are 300- 400$ 2 man inflatable kayaks or canoes worth their money? Could I get an ocean worthy one? What if one of the chambers pops at sea?

I want to get into rowing, but am not sure what type of kayak i should get. I need a 2 man kayak. I am in NYC and have access to calm waters and the ocean not so far away.

You don’t row kayaks !
I suggest you rent some kayaks as well as canoes, and then go from there.

Jack L

Lakes maybe, ocean no.
You may want to check an article in a prior issue of California Kayaker Magazine that talks about kayaking and small living places. It talks about inflatables and their limitations. Issue #9. Read for free at

In general, inflatables are slow. There are inflatables that can put up with amazing conditions - the ones for white water. You wouldn’t want to use on flat water. There are ones for flat water that can do decently (not as affected by wind and not as slow), but in general these are not the $400 ones you talk about. And the more expensive ones have more chambers and better materials, reducing the chances of troubles should a chamber get punctured.

Those $400 ones are considered by most as over-sized pool toys, so should be used in calm conditions on smaller bodies of water.

Keep in mind - inflatables are considered boats, so along with the kayak and paddles you are required to have PFDs.

not seaworthy
If you are looking at rowing for fitness, you should look at rowing shells, dories, wherries or other boats designed for oars. You don’t use oars and rowing in kayaks, you use a paddle that is not attached to the boat. Quite a different technique.

Nothing in an inflatable kayak that you can get new in that price range would be remotely seaworthy. Cheap inflatables are akin to pool toys – slow, hard to paddle, don’t track straight because your weight makes the middles sag, a lot of drag and susceptible to wind and currents. Far too easy to get swept out past where you would be able to paddle back to shore. Think of it this way, would you try to paddle an air mattress off shore? That’s about what you would be doing. When I was living in Michigan about 10 years ago the Coast Guard got so tired of having to retrieve and rescue people who got swept out past their ability to paddle back in on Lake Michigan that they began to hail and turn back people from leaving the sheltered bays in cheap inflatables and open cockpit short rec kayaks, especially on days of strong winds and undertow.

There are $1000 to $4000 inflatables and inflatable/folding hybrids that are seaworthy, from a few of the higher end Advanced Elements and the Pakboat XT models to the top of the line Feathercraft Java. But you need length and rigidity in order to have safe control and ability to produce forward momentum for coastal paddling.

There is someone selling a used Pakboat Puffin inflatable/folding hybrid kayak in the classified ads right now for $475. I have one of these and it is a decent little boat. The metal frame makes it more suitable for serious water and with a spray skirt and flotation bags under the deck bow and stern it would be marginally suitable for mild coastal conditions for an average sized person. But it would not be my first choice for that because it is a bit wide (28" ) and a bit short (12’).

At any rate, you should not attempt to take any kayak out into the ocean or river deltas that feed into it until you have had some qualified instruction in paddling and safety techniques and orientation about tides and the dangers that they can create for paddling.

If your main constraint is budget, there are free instructions to build your own inflatable or folding kayak at

It can usually be done for under $300 in materials.

You can also find used seaworthy plastic kayaks for under $500 if you are willing to look for them and educate yourself about what models are suitable.

But it sounds like you don’t have much experience with kayaking. I agree with the other answers that you should try it out a few times with an outfitter or sign up for a class in kayaking to get properly oriented so you have a better understanding of what you want to do, where you want to do it and what boat and equipment would suit those purposes.

I’m in NYC as well, and am curious what flat water you’re talking about. The Hudson and East River may appear flat, but both are deceptive - they are tidal estuaries and can range from placid to really scary. They have a lot of boat traffic, from jet skis to cabin cruisers to high-speed ferries to large tug-barge combos.

Also, I’m learning that a lot of the reservoirs and lakes in the NY/NJ in the area do not allow inflatables. Even the NY Water Trail put-in at Orchard Beach in the Bronx does not allow inflatables. I’m not sure if this applies to the other Water Trail put-ins.

When I first started out, I took some lessons at the kayak company at Chelsea Piers - there’s also the NY Kayak Co at Pier 10. In addition to the suggestions above, it’s a good idea to get some local knowledge.

but would need to be a previously owned one, You can find Innova Helios, and Sunnys on Ebay or Craigslist. Slow but seaworthy. If you blow out a tube at sea you swim or sink

I will be rowing around
the 5-towns area (near JFK) (Cedahurst, Lawrence, Woodmere and i frogot the other two). My brother has been scouting for places to go (he is in ny at the moment - im stuck down in TN for a few months). Seems like the water in the area is pretty calm. There is a dock somewhere on Rockaway Blvd right near the K-mart/ burlington shopping centers. Water there seems not to have too much action - but then again we dont really know as we have really little experience, particularly in NY.

I know where you’re talking about, but haven’t used a put-in in that area. I’ve read that some of the put-ins in the tributaries to Jamaica Bay turn into mud flats at low tide. Also, Jamaica Bay can be subject to sometimes high tidal currents and cross winds. It’s a fun place to paddle, though.

I’d suggest looking over the launch site map, as well as the map at NYC Water Trail:

Personally, if paddling Jamaica Bay I like the put-in at the south end of the Cross Channel Bridge, on the north end of Broad Channel. Also, I hear the put-in at Floyd Bennett Field is really nice.

You might also consider talking to or visiting the Sebago Canoe Club, which has a small rowing component on Jamaica Bay - nothing like getting some local wisdom:

Good luck, and watch out for crazy people in jet skis and speed boats…


– Last Updated: Jun-28-13 8:42 PM EST –

I can't believe I forgot to post this in my other response. I paddle at the Orchard Beach / Pelham Bay Park put-in regularly. It is used almost daily by single sculls and rowing crews, and is a great place for rowers.

In fact, the lagoon was dredged to function as the venue for Olympic Trials in 1964. There's still a viewing tower at the south end of the lagoon, by the finish line. Single scullers row down from the NY Athletic Club which has a dock about 2 clicks north, also from Glen Island which also has a shell-friendly dock. The interior waterway extends north to Titus Millpond in New Rochelle.

On Thursday I saw 2 osprey (one with a fish), a red-tailed hawk, 20-30 great egret, a great blue heron, many ducks and a couple of sea birds I didn't recognize diving for fish, not to mention a few turtles and some horseshoe crabs --- not bad for the city.

Google map these coordinates for the put-in: 40.872199,-73.797297

Parking is $7, but worth it, it's safe and there's almost never anyone parked by the launch.

Some inflatable are just as good

– Last Updated: Jun-30-13 5:21 PM EST –

Now, you need to keep in mind that buying some crappy 100 dollar inflatable kayak will not fulfill your needs. If you want to actually use a decent one, then i recommend looking into an advanced elements one. These are made of material that is very strong so they can withstand a beating. Just read some inflatable kayak reviews then you should be good to go. A price range of 500-700 can get you a solid inflatable kayak.

Aire Sawtooth
It’s a 13’ or 15’ inflatable that is the very best inflatable I have paddled…and have paddled many such as: AE Expedition (13’), AE StraitEdge 12’, Sea Eagle 380, and a Red Star Marine Pathfinder 13’. All decent, but the Sawtooth is as fast as a 13-15’ sit on top (hard shell), very comfortable, and excellent quality and about 38 lbs. If you ever get a chance to paddle one, do it…it will surprise you.