Is this a good choice for a first kayak?

Hey all, new user here, looking to get started kayaking. I’m in NJ, and there’s several paddle-able creeks around, with flat, slow moving water. That’s my starting location.
I’m 5’10", about 230lbs, and have some experience on small watercraft. I raced dinghies for a season in college (FJ and 420).
I don’t want junk, and I’ve been looking at used kayaks. From what I’ve read, anything 11-13’, with a fairly flat bottom and fairly wide cockpit are good places to start. I’ve found one, a Perception Sundance 12.0, that seems to fit the bill. ( is linking to craigslist allowed?). Has a carrying capacity of 400lbs, nice big storage, and the cockpit is huge (maybe too big? I don’t want to be soaking myself while paddling, but I am open to using a skirt). It looks to be a 2004-06 Airalite version, for $600.
Wondering if this is a good place to start, and if the price is reasonable? The seller claims the kayak sold for $1100 new, but I can’t find any info to corroborate that.
Thanks y’all, excited to be joining the community :slight_smile:

If it’s in good shape at 15 years old, with minimal scrapes and no sun fade, I’d say $600 is reasonable for an Airalite build.

But that cockpit is huge. The specs in the attached catalog say it’s 54 inches long. A spray skirt is going to collapse so it won’t help much. So from that standpoint, it’s best for flat water, or if you want room to bring a dog or small child along.

But the season is getting short in NJ. You may just want to go for it, enjoy it for the next month or so and then resell if you think you’d prefer something else.

@Wolf Thank you. I’d ideally like to get something I won’t want to replace in one season, but being a beginner it’s hard for me to perceive what that would look like.

The waters I would start on are exactly as you describe, flat as glass and slow moving. But I can see myself getting into more tidal waters in the future, so maybe a slightly more “sporty” kayak is the way to go? Like I said, I’m not completely green to small boats, and I’ll reluctantly admit I’ve gone swimming more than a couple times.

Comparable boats from Perception range from $760 - 1000 new, although they may be hard to find now. Be aware that there is no floatation in the bow, so if it swamps or capsizes you can’t get back into it on the water and it will be extremely difficult to tow to shore. You can add a float bag to it to correct this, but it will still take on quite a bit of water. This is not a boat for big open water.

The upside is, having a kayak you can then learn the pros and cons of the boat you have after some seat time, see if it does what you want it to, and make a more informed choice if you decide to move up. Very few people stay with their first boat, and with reasonable care you can usually sell it for about what you paid for it.

Although a spray skirt may not hold up to a large dumping wave, it will probably still prevent smaller waves and boat wakes from swamping the boat.

As the season is coming to a close, be very aware of cold water safety. A vast amount of information can be found at the National Center for Cold Water Safety and many other sites. Failure to wear a PFD and cold water, often combined, are the overwhelming cause of death for canoeists and kayakers.

If by tidal waters in the future you mean salt water, start now with more boat.

I suggest used, two bulkheads and at least 12ft.

The problem w the rec barges like you show is that they don’t support learning skills for more challenging water. If you want to be there, start with a more properly featured boat now.

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@rstevens15 Thank you for the detailed answer!
Thank you for that info on the lack of bow bouyancy, something to consider for sure. Obviously the plan would be to not capsize, but as the saying goes “everyone has a plan”.
From my limited understanding, in a boat like this in calm waters, the skirt is mostly to keep spray from the paddles from soaking you while paddling. I don’t think I’ll have to worry about boat wakes or waves, at least not for now. Maybe then even the skirt is excessive as long as I’m not going for the creek speed record :slight_smile:
Thank you for the link to the safety info, I will review it.

Celia thank you. As I understand it, the closer you get to the coast in NJ (and I imagine everywhere) the water is going to get quicker and more challenging. I can see myself wanting more than just creek noodling, so maybe a more capable boat is the right way. As @wolf and @rstevens15 mentioned, since I’m buying used, I can hopefully turn it over with minimal loss if it’s not the right fit.

You can easily add bow flotation. An inflated anything that you can stuff in or you can buy specific bladders.
I think it’s a good beginners boat.

How about this boat here: Necky Manitou 13

I’m trying to take into consideration what people are saying here, looking for something that mixes touring and recreation.

Again, the Manitou has no forward floatation, although the cockpit opening is a more reasonable size and it has perimeter deck lines. Perimeter deck lines are critical for being able to grab the boat when you are in the water and also for doing rescues.

You can generally tell if a boat has fore and aft floatation, which require watertight bulkheads, by the presence of fore and aft hatch covers. This gives you more room for, in theory, dry storage such as a dry change of clothes, lunch, rain gear, etc… It’s generally a good idea to keep anything in a hatch in a waterproof dry bag.

@rstevens15 I hear you. I’m just having a hard time finding anything with both forward and aft bulkheads under 14". I might investigate what string mentioned, aftermarket flotation for the bow. Perhaps I should be looking for something longer, but I was imagining the shorter boat would be better for the “windy-ness” of the creeks here.

A rudder or skeg is your best solution for windy days. They can keep you on track on all but the windiest days. They can be hard to find in shorter boats, however. Will do a far better job than just getting a shorter boat.

@rstevens15 Sorry I meant winding as in multiple quick turns, not windy :slight_smile:
I actually looked up the specs on the Manitou, apparently there is some amount of forward floation in the form of a “foam pillar”. The language suggests to me that it’s not as good as a full-on watertight compartment of air, but it helps.

I don’t think an extra foot of length will be a major problem. I take my 18’ boat far up some pretty small creeks when exploring. Have to admit I’ve occasionally had to back out for up to half a mile when the creek was too narrow to turn around in and there was no way to get out of the boat.

YMMV if you have a lot of very narrow winding creeks where you are.

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The Manitou at 24.75 inches wide versus the Sundance at 29 inches will be better able to handle slightly rougher water. It won’t just float on top and be buffeted by every little wave. Plus the smaller cockpit is a lot more seaworthy.

A skeg would be nice for windy days, but I don’t think that many shorter kayaks have them. The Perception Conduit is one I’m aware of at around 13 feet with a skeg.

Sorry for posting so many boat links, I’m learning as I go and I appreciate all the great advice here.

@rstevens15, what do you think of this kayak?: Carolina 14 airalite
Has the dual bulkheads, and yes a foot longer but maybe still ok?

@wolf, I’m liking the manitou, right now it’s between that and the carolina I linked above.

I believe Carolina’s (off all lengths) are relatively flat-bottomed as touring kayaks go. So you gain some stability but give up a little “lively” feel and speed. That might be a great kayak to start out in as a beginner but not outgrow it quickly. Of the three kayaks you posted, I think the Carolina is probably the most likely to be a longer-term keeper.

13’ and 14’ are essentially identical for winding creeks, don’t worry about that. The Manitou 14’ is a great boat from all I’ve read, look for one of those. And congrats on being used first! You don’t know what you want to paddle until you paddle. You’re first boat is often just a starter boat.

@Wolf gotcha, thanks for all the info.

@NotThePainter yep, gotcha. The manitou and the carolina are top of the list. Thank you.

Much of dealing with winding creeks is knowing how to paddle. Either of those boats are fine. My Pungo 140 is my creek boat, the 120 was even better but I was too heavy for it.
Those are tracking boats and become harder to turn in a hurry as the volume and speed of the creek increase. I’ve run a couple where I became intimate with a bush or 2 and a gravel bar. Luckily there were no stinging residents in the bushes.

@string thanks, alright I won’t stress to much about length.
Really I just want something that will be fun, challenging but not demoralizing.
The carolina got back to me and it’s sold :disappointed:, hoping the manitou seller responds soon.