kayak advice?

I’ve been paddling a solo canoe in flatwater for a few years and I want to learn to skillfully paddle a sea kayak. I’m 6’-3", 240 lbs. size 12 feet with no kayak paddling experience.

I’m looking to purchase a kayak. I’m friends with the owner of a local paddle shop and he has had me demo a Grand Illusion (new), Valley Aquanuat (used), Nigel Dennis (used) and most recently a P&H Capella 173 (used). I don’t yet have the skills to really test hull performance. I’ve realized that the fit and how well I’m locked in is how I’m judging each boat so I’m relying on advice to help me select the kayak that will best work as I become more skillful.

I think I’ve already ruled out the Nigel Dennis because of the tight fit and the heavy hull weight. The Grand Illusion is a stretch because of it’s $4,500 price tag.

I think I want to choose between the Aquanuat and the Capella 173. I’m going to do another side by side comparison this weekend.

Any comments on any of these kayaks or advice as I choose?


check foot room
More important than hull performance is probably how comfortable you are in the boat. With your shoe size, make sure you have enough foot room under the deck. I find that what seems not to uncomfortable after a few minutes can become unbearable after an hour or so.

Yes, you want to be able to lock into the thigh braces, but you would also like to be able to easily unlock from them as well and move your feet around.

You are also tall and may be somewhat “top heavy” compared to other paddlers. You may therefore require a somewhat wider boat to achieve a comfortable level of stability, although one of the nice things about a kayak compared to a canoe is that you have a strong brace immediately available on both sides of the craft.

decent options
If you’re comfortable in the Aquanaut, I think it should be a good boat for you. I’m 185, 6’, size 13, and I could imagine someone your size doing fine in it.

You might try a full-size Cetus as well, if you can.

Don’t worry too much about hull performance. As long as you get a decent sea boat with a fair reputation you’ll be able to get a good start. You may decide in a year or two that you want something slightly different, but that’s not something to try and predict now.

rent and classes instead of buy?
Can you delay the purchase and rent and/or take some classes before you go out and buy? The more time you have in kayaks in general, the better you will be able to determine what works for you. Each of us likes different tings, so we can’t really tell what would be best for you.

Barring that, stick to one of the used boats at first. This way if down the line you decide it wasn’t the perfect boat for you (which is more likely than not), you likely could sell it for close to what you bought it for.

Comfort is most important
To learn skills you need to paddle a lot. Get the most comfortable boat you can afford. I’d also look at plastic boats. They paddle well, but are not as cool or as light as composite boats.

You can buy the best carts for $150 so I’d quit worrying about boat weight. With a bit of planning and some carpet, you only need to lift one end of a sea kayak at a time to put it one the roof rack.