kayak buying advice needed

I need some help suggestions on buying a kayak. I’m an ultra distance cyclists and if it was a bike I was buying I wouldn’t have to ask a ?

I will tell you what I plan on doing with a kayak and some info about me.

Being really athletic I can say I’m probably a mid level kayaker out of the gate. Last weekend I went to Bladensburg Water Park in Md. and kayak 5 hrs. with a friend. They had Wilderness kayaks there for the rentals. She had what I think was a Wilderness Pungo 140 as her rental and all I know is I had a 120. After we finished I took the 140 out for about 5 minutes and it was a sweet kayak, very fast and very stable.

I’m 6 ft and around 190 lbs. and with exercise probably have no problem getting down to the 180 lb. mark

Here’s what I want to do with a kayak.

Maybe go to Canada doing a base camp and kayaking big lake waters.

Do local lake waters here

Lastly be able to go to the beach and do rough water kayaking.

Possibly take my Golden with me on these trips and so 3 bow/stern compartments would be nice so I can carry my gear and my golden.

I’m thinking a 14 ft. kayak with a rudder.

I see the Wilderness seems to be one of the popular brands along with Dagger.

When is the best time to buy a kayak, now or late winter, early spring.

I plan on using the kayak but not as much as my cycling. If I want it to last for quite a few years can I possibly buy a used unit or should I buy new.

Thanks for any help or suggestions

oh yeah if buying new I probably want to stay under $1200 is that possible.

The Pungos…
…You paddled are fine recreational kayaks but are the equivalent to K-Mart bikes and not well suited to big water.

Keep trying others and research.

types of kayaks
I suggest you read an article in California Kayaker Magazine on types of kayaks - issue #10 readable online at http://www.calkayakermag.com/magazine.html.

Pungos, as said, are recreational boats. Good for flat water conditions where you can swim to shore should you flip over. Simple and cheap.

Putting things into biking terms:

  • carrying a dog is like having a cargo bike
  • camping is like having a touring or gravel bike
  • playing in surf is like a mountain bike
  • covering distance is a good road bike

    If you try for one bike that will do it all, you will get a bike that will do none.

    Unlike cycling, there are quite a few things in kayaking that may not be readily apparent (like how having a compartment for a dog actually takes away the inherent safety that a sealed hatch gives you). I suggest you take a class in touring kayaking (a touring or day touring kayak being the most likely to meet the most of what you are after) which will teach the basics, including the safety aspects you may need.

You’re asking a lot!
I don’t think a kayak suitable for “big lake waters” is going to be able to hold you and a golden retriever, unless it is one of the larger sit on tops (SOTs). And with a SOT on big water you and the dog will get very wet!

Kayak design is all about compromises. A longer kayak will generally be faster than a shorter one although it will be less maneuverable. A wider kayak will be more stable but slower and less controllable. A Pungo 140 isn’t a bad recreational kayak at all but even though it has two bulkheads for storage and flotation (a must for any rough water) its huge cockpit will means that rough water will fill it fast. It is really meant for calm water use.

A good “big water” kayas will probably be 15’ or more in length and 22"-24" in width. It will also have a snug cockpit to allow a spray skirt to fit and keep the rough water out. Look at the differences between the Pungo and a more capable boat like a Wliderness Tsunami 160. The former is 14’ long, 28" wide and with a 22"x57" cockpit. The latter is 16’ by 23.5" with an 18"x35" cockpit.

I think now is a good time to buy as lots of people are selling at the end of the season, and lots of shops are offering big end of season discounts. If you are looking at a new boat find a local dedicated paddling shop - not a big box or sporting goods store - who will let you demo a few models.

On atleticism…
I’m about your size, 6’ and 190 and I’m quite athletic - well for an old fart - but don’t think that’s all you need to be a “mid level” kayaker.

Athleticism doesn’t hurt but kayaking is mostly about technique and that comes from tuition and lots of practice. I’m a scuba dive master, run every day, have been playing sports - some at semi-pro level - all my life and after 3 years of kayaking I think I’m almost at mid/intermediate level, although I do need to find some more indoor pool sessions for this coming winter.

Good luck on finding the right boat.

You’ve provided good information.

– Last Updated: Nov-06-15 1:42 PM EST –

I'm 6' 190 lbs. I'm a runner, and I actually regularly commute the 16.8 mile round trip to work. At the time I got into kayaking, I was running marathons, but I haven't done that in a number of years. Still, I probably relate fairly well to your endurance-oriented physical activities.

I have a kayak where I can bring the dogs along. It is a durable flatwater kayak, and when I use it, it's a completely different activity than when I paddle solo. If I had to have one kayak, the dogs would unfortunately be left out. One I consider a sport. With a dog it's a relaxing activity, but doesn't feel like a sport. Given your predisposition to endurance biking, I would encourage you to explore the funner side of the paddling activity itself. For you, that is likely distance, glide, efficiency. You jumped in the 14 and instantly appreciated the difference from the 12. The same will happen as you move up the ladder.
I would suggest looking for used, and looking for anything from fast sea kayaks to surf skis. Try to find some people in your area who paddle these type of crafts, and see if they would be willing to introduce you to a boat or two, and maybe let you take a test spin. An outfitter works, or possibly posting a message to area clubs. Then ask them if they know of any deals around that can put you in used for the money you have. This is typically a good time to find great deals.

I’m going to make a prediction:

  1. You’re going to end up with more than one boat.

    I say this for one because there isn’t one boat to do everything you want to do. but I also say it because you mentioned that you’re athletic and a cyclist. I think the first time you get into conditions, you’re going to want to master them, and the first time you paddle a surfski you’re going to want one.

    On the boat, shop used. Check the ads here and criagslist. Before that, I’d try to get signed up for some winter lessons, given you’re in a populated area with indoor pools. That gives you a chance to talk to instructors as well as to get a sense of a sea kayak - much different and less limiting than the pungo you mentioned. You can also pick brains regarding boats.

    Shop used in spring, it seems like that’s when many people advertise.

Couple of comments
Don’t make a rudder a criteria, it’ll limit you too much in boat choices. Lots of newer boats that will do you well have skegs instead, and frankly you couldn’t pay me to be near someone with rudder on theier boat in surf.

IMO staying at 14 feet will mostly have the effect of shortening the time before you need to buy a new boat. I suspect more like 15-16 ft will get you into apt boats.

Finally, as above the Pungo and its recreational kin are absolutely not what you want for the uses you describe. Do yourself a favor and get into some proper sea kayaks before you buy anything to understand the difference. Find out how to manage a boat with weight shifts and edging. Then you will be able to make a more informed choice.

This is not saying that a ruddered boat might not ultimately be a good fit, as long as you cover all the sharp parts up before taking it into surf. But just time in a Pungo is not useful experience for choosing a boat for the kind of environments you describe.

Then Start Out Looking at Ultra Distance
Kayaks and working your way down to the mid level variety. If you can’t find what you want. Test out a Think EZ or Epic V8. You can paddle any lake and ocean with those two kayaks, no problem. Check out the Stellar boats and the American made Huki with gull wings.

Boat handling
isn’t something that one is born knowing and no amount of cycling will grant those skills to you. I actually laughed a bit at you when you implied you’d have intermediate skills simply because you consider yourself athletic. That attitude is like the swimmer who thinks that because his skills will make him a better than average water polo player. It just don’t work that way.

I have no doubt that you will learn the skills you need rather rapidly, providing you have the right attitude and learn physical skills well. Perhaps will be rolling up in waves with ease the first time you try, but I didn’t let my son cycle on the streets without training regarding laws, bike handling, and cycling in traffic. You are delusional if you think paddling big lakes (whatever that means) can be done without learning basic boating skills, investing in decent safety gear, practicing with same gear, and executing flawless self-rescues.

I agree with Celia that a rudder can hold you back as far as learning boat handling, or at least slow down the progress. A kayak, if fitted properly, responds to one’s body language and enables one to paddle in a variety of conditions, but you need to learn how to do these actions (competently). This can only be learned if one’s attitude is attuned toward learning those skills. This is something your post makes me question.


Used boats will still last awhile
Bulkheads can be reseated, deck lines can be restrung.

If you want to get on big water you should be looking for two bulkheads and perimeter lines. Perimeter lines are not the same thing as bungee cords on the deck for holding gear. Rudders are not all that. I have several boats and only one with a rudder and I’m not thrilled with it.

Dropping $$ on a paddle makes a huge difference in how you experience the sport. It’s where the k-mart bike analogy applies the most. Think around $130 and up for new. Also another $100 for a decent PFD.

Most eloquent description I’ve

– Last Updated: Nov-06-15 10:51 PM EST –

read about the sport was a response written by rjd9999 (Rick) in another recent thread:

"Boat handling is a complex dance between the paddler, the hull, the particular activity the paddler performs (one may want a different hull for photography than, say, fishing or playing in surf), and the dynamics of the water/conditions."

I have only 12 months of paddling under my belt, so I'm still learning the dance steps.

I can say that the advice I've been given (and read) here at P.net has been enormously helpful in the learning process.

follow up reply
I read all the replies and now have some morre questions thanks for all the replies.

I work around tools and every year they come out with a gimmick tool and when asked I always say I would rather have a tool that does one thing really good than have a tool that does 4 things half way.

To that analogy this is my thoughts now.

forget about the sea kayak as I live 250 miles from the beach and if I get the right info here I can always rent one down there for all the more I get there. It’s a thought but for now I want to face reality.

Forget the kayak with the dog.

Here’s what I want to do know big lakes like Canada and smooth water like local lakes here. . I probably want a kayak that is fast as I want to do upper body strength work outs and going distances in a kayak as I don’t get that cycling.

Is it possible to get a fast kayak like I want and also have storage that you could set up a base camp carrying you gear in on the bulkhead holes or whatever you call it.

Last questions comparing bikes and kayaks.

I know I don’t want a Walmart kayak like Dicks and box sporting goods stores.

In the cycling fields you have differnet levels of derailer components which is the guts of the bike.

It goes like this in the Shimano brand derailers

Dura Ace



on down the line.

If you buy a Trek bike you are paying for the name and might pay $1500 and only get 105. On other bike brands you can pay $1500 and get Ultegra. I never have had Dura Ace never need it.

I see that Wilderness and Dagger are 2 brands that show up some. Are there other brands out there that give you a better bang for your buck?


Doesn’t work like bike components exact
By the way, my ride when l can get to it is a Waterford rs22 with the 105 group except for the rear cluster which is ultegra.

Now as to boats, l reread your original post and had missed your assumption that riding a bike well meant you were starting out as an intermediate kayaker. No.

Here is the basic layout. Longer boats with bulkheads and full deck rigging cost more than rec boats with none or partial of the above. Composite boats, like fiberglass or kevlar, cost more than plastic boats. For 1200 for the boat alone you can get into a very decent used composite kaysk.

As to boat types, sea kayak has nothing whatsoever to do with the salinity of the water it is on. Sea kayak means one that is set up for long trips, camping multiple days and rough conditions. So it will have at least two sealed compartments, one front and one back, full perimeter lines so you can hang onto it in a capsize and bungies for thing like map cases.

In other words, a sea kayak would work for your goals of handling rough water and doing camping on bigger lakes.

You need to find a way to get into more boats and learn more about them to be able to make a good choice.

For you follow-up info:

– Last Updated: Nov-07-15 1:23 AM EST –

Here's something else to consider in your biking analogy. You said you are interested in getting an upper-body workout, so just to help out some, I'll point out why paddling is a lot different from biking, as well as in what ways the value of a faster boat actually matter.

With both biking and paddling, there will be a practical top speed, where you just won't have the strength to go faster, but with paddling, that top speed is much slower, so the differences in speed between different boats will be much smaller as well. When paddling, the amount of effort it takes to increase your speed increases exponentially with each incremental speed increase, and if you are reasonably fit you will quickly reach a point where even an extremely small increase in speed requires an extreme increase in paddling effort. At this point, it won't make sense to try to go any faster. In fact, once you practice paddling with a GPS, you'll quickly settle on a cruising speed that is a fair bit less than your maximum speed, because you'll realize that a little extra speed just isn't worth the huge increase in effort. And this is where the value of a longer boat comes in. The longer the boat, the faster its maximum speed will be. And the more efficient the boat (by being narrow, and in other ways affected by hull shape), the more gently the boat will enter that zone of maximum speed, and the more practical it will be to push *slightly* beyond that "maximum" speed. In other words, you still will have a definite speed limit, but it will be a less-abrupt "wall" than it is with shorter boats, and especially with boats that are both shorter AND wider. Because this speed limit will always be in effect, though, and because it is so much more pronounced than what you encounter when biking, you won't often push yourself extra hard the way you often do on a bike.

You will "pay" for that longer length in slightly greater paddling effort at slow to moderate cruising speeds, but as long as you are up to putting forth slightly more effort at those speeds, you'll have more speed in reserve for those times when you really want to "pour on the coal", and more important, you'll expend less effort at speeds that are approaching the maximum speed of a substantially shorter boat but which are well under the maximum speed of a long boat. This might translate to barely more than a 1-mph difference during normal cruising, but that adds up to a lot of additional distance over the course of a day. Just realize that there will always be a pretty well-defined top end to your speed.

It sounds to me like you'll want a pretty long sea kayak, which is also ideal for carrying gear for extended trips on lakes or large flat-water rivers. I'd guess you'll be happiest in a boat length of 16 feet or more, but I'll leave that to the kayak people to discuss (I'm a canoer and rower, but the principles I described here apply to all small, motor-less boats).

Sea kayak or surf ski
I am with the others that a sea kayak is likely what you want.

Or maybe a surf ski, but they are a bit of a specialty thing and likely out of your price range. And won’t carry gear like a sea kayak.

Of course, if you get a less efficient boat you will get a better workout over same distance than a more efficient boat. Same with using a less efficient bike, though people don’t seem to choose this route…

BTW - where are you at? What places are you talking about when you say large lakes?

On your question about brands and such, there isn’t a large component part of a kayak price, like in bikes. Some brands can and do charge more to match a design or technology they only have (Sterling and Hobie come to mind). Only brand I can think of that is more value is Perception (versus its sister brand of Wilderness Systems).

But unlike bikes, it is easier to buy a used boat with less questions of its remaining life. Not as many parts to wear out, and much of the wear it may have can be easily seen.

At this point you do not have enough knowledge nor experience with kayaks to invest in something. There really is no standard time of the year when there are “better deals” when you are looking for used boats, as you should be, so it is not going to really make a difference if you wait until Spring to invest in a kayak. And what WILL make a difference is getting some seat time in some different models so you understand how they feel.

Going back to the bike analogy: your being impressed with a Pungo 140 as “sweet and fast” is comparable to somebody who had never been on a bike getting on a 10 speed “granny” boardwalk bike and thinking it was badass. A longer and narrower proper touring kayak or a surf ski is going to blow you away when you try it. There are dealers in your area who will have Spring “demo days” where you can sample the wares on the water. Even if you don’t end up buying new, you should get some seat time in longer touring boats and even surf skis to get a feel for a boat that really performs. Though cycling and kayaking skills are quite different, one thing they do have in common is that proper fit gives you a good body feel for the “machine” and your control of it.

I live inland too, and most of my paddling is done on wide deep rivers and large windy lakes, even on the Great Lakes at times. And my preference, even though I am 40 lbs lighter than you and 5 inches shorter, is kayaks from 15’ to 18’ long and no wider than 22". They are fast, fun to paddle and have plenty of cargo room.

Treat yourself to a really good PFD for Christmas (hold off on the paddle until you have selected a boat.)

There is a “reviews” tab above this forum string. Click on it and select “kayak reviews” and you will see that there are literally dozens of kayak makers and hundred of models. Yes, there are some good Dagger and Wilderness Systems models, and they have a huge dealer distribution structure, but they are far from the only brands and certainly not the most desirable. One could almost call them the “Giant and Trek” of the kayak market, along with Necky, Venture, Riot and Elie, all of whom make decent rotomold plastic touring boats in a range of sizes and types in the $900 to $1600 range. A step up from them are companies like Valley, P & H, Stellar, Epic, QCC, Current Designs, Tahe and Eddyline where you are getting to close to $2000 and above range for new boats. Most used boats in good shape can be had for half the new price and sometimes even less than that. But you have to have a good idea of what you are looking for.

You have the winter to educate yourself on kayaks and kayaking – this is a good site to start with and there are many resources in here that you can use to start the process.

Excellent analogy

– Last Updated: Nov-07-15 3:47 AM EST –

If l had never experienced anything other than a 30 pound three speed bike l probably would think a high end Walmart 10 speed bike was pretty hot. But it isn't....

Though the bike time could help with the oper's balance once they get into a good touring boat a foot or so skinnier than that Pungo. Might get them 30 ft further from the dock than someone else before the first capsize.

Smiling at this post ….
“Being really athletic I can say I’m probably a mid level kayaker out of the gate.”

Go Check Out Adventure Racing
Paddlers and see what kind of kayaks they are racing? Basically, a used marathon K-1 racer probably would fit your needs. They are pretty stable compared to sprint kayaks and usually sell for under $2,000.00.