Kayak advice

Looking to get my first kayak, I have cameoed quit a bit in my youth, That was years ago . I looking for advice on a flat water, calm river and some coastal waters for michigan Kayaking. The catch is all the years of working out, power lifting and good food has left me to make any kayak out the the USS Titanic…(6-4 and 330) I’m looking to a kayak to Day trips mainly, but a week trip is not out of question. With this being my first, Kayak I do not really what to go over board on cost either.

I have seen seen kayaks out there where the paddle weight is 275 lb., but load weight is 350 lb. I guess I do not understand all of this.

Also what other gear is recommended?


You will
get plenty of good suggestions but I’ll get it started with this: the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 175 fits your qualifications. http://www.wildernesssystems.com/product/index/products/sea_kayak/sea_kayak_tsunami/tsunami_175_seakayak/ It is relatively inexpensive, especially if you can find it used. It is rated to carry 400 lbs. You mention Lake Michigan, there are at least 18 Wilderness Systems dealers listed in Michigan.

Obviously you will need a paddle and a life jacket (AKA a PFD). Don’t look to go cheap with either of these. You will be moving while wearing the jacket so it should fit correctly and be comfortable and cool. “Comfortable” and “cool” really don’t show up in cheap life jackets.

Many people (including me) say get the most expensive paddle you can afford. In many ways your paddling enjoyment is affected more by your paddle than anything else even the boat you are sitting in. There are quite a few quality brand names, styles and models to pick from. I would just say stay away from aluminum shafts and plastic blades; these typically show up on cheap price-point paddles or “box-store” paddles. Look for wood, fiberglass, and/or carbon fiber. The best paddles out there can cost well over $400. To someone unfamiliar with kayaking it might seem way over the top (even insane)to spend $465 on a high-end foam-cored carbon fiber paddle when they saw a “nice” aluminum/plastic paddle at wal-mart for $69. Don’t be fooled. Every single stroke you take with the paddle will remind you that you either have a well-built, well balanced, efficient work of art or a piece of junk. Expect to pay at least $150 for quality paddle.

You will want to get a bilge pump and sponge to remove water from the cockpit and some signaling devices including a whistle and mirror at a minimum.

You will need to think about a spray skirt to keep water out of the boat.

Beyond that other items to consider are: Paddling jacket/wetsuit to stay safely warm in anything other than tropical weather. Dry bags to store food, phone, keys, dry clothes etc.

Finally, it is a very good idea to consider taking a full day introductory class from a certified instructor (look for ACA or BCU). These courses will cover boat features, boat fit, equipment, safely entering and exiting the kayak both on land and in water. You will also learn proper paddling technique for a variety of paddle strokes. These classes usually run around $100- $120 for the day. Well worth the expense.

Good luck.

Good advice VF

excellent advice
I can hardly add anything to jbernard’s excellent intro. If I knew where in Michigan you were I could offer some specific suggestions for good outfitter shops and other resources (I lived and paddled in SW Michigan for 5 years). If you are near Grand Rapids, there is a decent kayak (WS Pamlico) for sale on Craigslist for $500 there that would fit you (wt. range up to 400 lbs.):


It is by the same maker as the Tsunami 165 but is more towards the “recreational” model rather than touring and is convertible from tandem to solo (though it would likely need to have a rudder added to use in the big lakes). If you are serious about doing more coastal paddling, the longer Tsunami or a similar model would be more appropriate, but the used Pamlico would be an economical and good performing starter boat that would be perfectly suitable for lakes, rivers and more sheltered bays on the Great Lakes and the double cockpit makes it “big guy” accessible. Per reviews on here for the boat, it does need additional flotation to keep it from swamping, and a spray deck would be advisable to limit water entering the large cockpit.


If you did buy something like this, I would reiterate jbernard’s advice to spend as much of your budget as possible on a good paddle and comfortable PFD. Once you have them, they will be usable with any fancier boat you might eventually move into.

Meanwhile, if you are near Earth’s Edge in Grand Haven or X riders of Jackson or Outpost of Holland, all are very good kayak dealers with a range of good boats and knowledgable staff. Earth’s Edge used to have “on the water” demo days right there on the inlet in the Spring which would be a great place to test paddle some models.

Good luck and happy paddling!

Take a Kayak Class

– Last Updated: May-08-11 11:43 AM EST –

Learning proper stroke mechanics will make for
a more pleasurable, efficient, experience.

You'll also learn a lot about kayak types.

If a boat has a ""big ol bottom" sitting in the water, any wave energy
will hit all that surface area and cause the boat to pitch, yaw, tilt hard.

Often a kayak will behave better in rough water when it sits "in the water"
i.e. heavily loaded, instead of just twitchily floating on top of it all.

Influences on Stability in a Kayak
1) Water conditions
2) Boat shape
3) Boat loading
4) Skill of the paddler
5) The paddler
6) Wind

Look at this site
Don’t worry about the page name by the title - it’s mostly basics. Much of what you need to know is here. Weight limits are about paddler weight, and then load with camping gear.

Second above advice to get a basic lesson. A lot of what you need to know is hard to get except from trying it in a boat. Also, do not underestimate the Lake Michigan coastline. It is an inland sea and has taken or come close taking more than one kayaker.

Advice Thanks
Thanks all for your input, I just look up the closet dealer for me. Jays in Clare. I will have to make a trip up and check Wilderness Systems Tsunami 175. As for Lake Michigan… adventure. Will that will be a further adventure. I live about 1/2 mile away from the Chippewa, Tittabawassee and Pine rives, very slow a lazy rivers to float. I have cameoed there rivers for years… Now I have the draw of the Kayak…

Thanks again.

As well as lessons, look for paddling clubs and groups, a local paddlefest with free clinics, etc.

Most of what I’ve learned has been through getting to know more experienced paddlers. Once they see I’m keen, most are very generous about sharing their knowledge and skills.

Another couple boats to consider:

Atlantis Titan

Seaward Chinook

Delta 15.5 or 18

There’s some threads here with good tips about paddling jackets, wetsuits, etc.

Neoprene booties are also nice to have.

Good luck and have fun paddling!




is there no clubs on the east side of Michigan? Saginaw Bay areas?

Capella 173
Just another option for your list.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY