kayak choice assistance please

I am debating between two kayaks: Emotion Bliss and Dagger Zydeco.

I have joined a paddling club and want to get a better kayak than the aruba 8 I have been playing with recently. My experience prior to moving here has been in a Perception Swifty. The members in this club suggest that I purchase a kayak longer than 12’ so that I can keep up with them on longer trips. In reviewing the longer kayaks, I find that they are generally heavier. To be honest, I was leaning towards the Necky Vector SOT 14 but after playing around with a 50lb bag of dog food, have decided to go as light as possible as my back is not in super good shape.

Both the Zydeco and Bliss have fairly good ratings but the Bliss is noted to give a bit more speed because of it’s shape. It is built for the smaller paddler. I am 5’ tall and I weigh 155. By the time I get the kayak, this number will be closer to 145. I want to play with the “big dogs” on their day long excursions and I have a certain amount of pride and don’t want to be the slowest person on the lake either.

I think a kayak that is as light and small as possible yet fast (an oxymoron I know) is what I need. I need to be able to load and unload on my own too.

I was also looking at the Ellie Sound and straight but there are lots and lots of people out there who are warning me that Pelican is not doing good things with these.

If you were me and you wanted to be as fast as possible yet still hang with the bird watchers sometimes, what would you pick?

Thanks in advance!!


Hmm. Some thoughts.

– Last Updated: Jan-28-14 6:47 PM EST –

Actually, neither the Bliss nor the Zydeco is much of a step up from what you have. And neither will help you keep up with the "big dogs" in 12' plus kayaks. Drawbacks to both is that they are quite wide for their length (they have to be to provide the volume for flotation) which makes them awkward to paddle for us folks with shorter arms and upper bodies. Also neither has basic safety features like deck rigging and front and rear bulkheads (open hull kayaks like that will swamp and sink unless you stuff flotation bags in the bow and stern - an added cost.) I don't think at your size you will have a great fit in the cockpits of them either. A sloppy cockpit makes for tiring paddling.

I realize you'd like to stay light as possible, but i am more inclined to suggest for your budget that you look into the 13' Perception Sport Conduit at Dick's sporting goods. It has the safety features and is a couple inches narrower and will be faster than the shorter boats and easier to paddle. Yes, it is around 50 lbs but a longer narrower sit inside kayak is easier to carry and to load on a car than a short wide rec boat or sit on top. You just lift the bow up onto your rear rack and then walk back and lift the stern and slide it up. They also have a Conduit 11 that is shorter and a few pounds lighter, BUT it is wider and has only a stern bulkhead.

There are some nice smaller person boats that would be lighter for you, but lightness costs money. There are $1200 to $1500 range kayaks that would be great but may not be realistic for you. If you can find a dealer, you might look at the Venture kayaks by P & H. As a smaller person myself I really love their Easky 15LV which is being phased out -- you might find one on sale and at 46 lbs it is manageable and a really fun and fast kayak to paddle.

Unless you can have somebody help you locate a used light touring boat within your budget, I think you should do a little more research if you want to go on day tours with people in longer boats.

Spring is coming eventually (at least I sure hope it is!) and most shops will have demo days. It would be worthwhile to check out some other models and do a cost/benefit consideration. Since you are clearly planning to up your participation in the sport, you may find upgrading to a touring boat rather than just a slightly larger rec boat, will give you more options and greatly increase your skill potential and enjoyment for more challenging trips. You've had your "beginner" kayak -- I can't see just buying another entry level type boat.

Sorry to say, you won’t play with the big dogs with either of these boats. If your club advises to go longer than 12 feet, 10 feet isn’t gonna cut it. I’d listen to them, or you’ll be paddling alone.

It would be helpful to know your budget and where you’ll be paddling.

One model to consider
Willowleaf is right. And though I’m no kayaker, I see the differences in various styles of kayaks all the time. One model that I can definitely recommend as a big step up compared to any in your list is the Necky Manitou 13, which is a boat that’s at the lower end of the “touring” category. One could argue that you should even consider 14 feet as a minimum target length, but I know the Manitou 13 can easily keep up with any “normal” group of paddlers, and it will be noticeably more efficient (maintain a decent cruising speed with less effort) than any of the ones you mentioned. However, the price for a new one will be noticeably higher too.

Check the specs and you’ll see that the Manitou 13 is noticeably narrower than the boats you mentioned, and that’s where part of the extra efficiency comes from. Up the length to 14 feet and you can get a forward hatch too. However, there should be quite a few boats which are extremely similar to the Manitou 13 and 14, so mainly I present this as an example of the category of boat which will suit your stated goals better than the ones you’ve considered.

Why not set the pace?
Get a 15’-8" Novus Composites Kayaka and you will not only be able to keep up, you will probably have to put the brakes on to keep from running away from the mob. They’ve got a brand new one on sale right now for $1199. nckayaks.com

thank you
what is your take on the Elie Strait 140?

btw I appreciate your comments. I will stop looking at the bliss and zydeco.

perception sport conduit
Thats an awesome boat and the price is not a killer either. I can do that.

Necky Manitou
If you buy a Necky Manitou, spend an extra $100 and buy the 14. I bought the 13 first and love it. I added a 14 later for a front bulkhead for ease of self rescue in bigger waters.

Many will recommend higher end boats, but I have paddled my Manitous for several years and I can maintain the pace of almost everyone I’ve paddled with.

Would I love a high-end 22" wide composite boat? Of course. Still you can find Manitous on Craigslist in great shape for $600-700.

When I win the lottery, I’ll buy a $4000 kayak.

weigth specs are often wrong
Weight specs, as posted, are often wrong. Some manufacturers do and list weights without hatch covers, outfitting, etc. I would go and check boats out in a shop and pick them up to check weight. Also get butt time in the boats paddling them, as not all boats are comfortable to all people.

One way to get lighter is change materials. Rotomolded plastic is what you currently use, and it is the heaviest. Next lightest would be thermoformed plastic. Then composites. As you go lighter, unfortunately, prices go up.

I believe Elie is a thermoformed boat, so should be lighter. But I have also heard they use a thicker plastic, so in the end there is no weight benefit.

I’d start with ways to haul the boat
As has been said above, neither of the boats you are talking about are serious steps up in terms of speed.

Nor should you be using your back to haul your boat, unless you are completely without a choice.

So you need to look at how you are moving the boat around, and ways to make that easier physically. That will give you more head room on the length of boat you can get.

So between car and water, you need a cart. Basic ones can be gotten for as low as $30. For loading on/off the car, you need to find ways to slide the boat up rather than lifting. This can be anything from a large towel spread out to protect the paint job to fancy stuff like the Amagansett Roller Loader and a third party system.

I don’t know what rack setup you have right now so it is hard to tell what would work. But the right tools will allow you to focus on the boat you want to paddle rather than the one you can dead lift.

Lots of potential answers
Just how fast do they think they paddle?

I find that I can easily keep pace with 14-16’ boats my companions paddle, but I’m in a 9.5’ Emotion Glide! The difference is in the paddler up to 4 mph or so, which is the speed I’m learning most people seem to do.

Of course, the longer skinnier boats can be paddled much faster - they’re more efficient. Do they really use them that way, though? I’d question that.

So many other factors seem to be working here: waterline, length, width, hull shape, wind resistance, etc.

As to lighter, if you really want light, look at skin on frame kayaks. Can’t get lighter than that, and they’re strong too, and often fast. Not so easy to get these on the used market and they aren’t cheaper, I’ve found. But they are certainly lighter.

Elie Strait comments

– Last Updated: Jan-29-14 10:01 AM EST –

Unfortunately I don't have any more than a few minutes seat time in the Elie Strait, from a quick test at a dealer's on-the-water open house, but I had been intrigued by that model when it first came out with very good reviews. It is a well behaved kayak, was my impression, with a very comfortable cockpit and nice forward glide. I was impressed with the outfitting -- it has the look and feel of a more costly boat. I do understand there have been some complaints about the durability and customer service, but that is often true with other models and makes. I think it is a decent boat, but for the same price range I still prefer my Easky 15LV. Other kayaks in that same mid-price and mid-size range are the aforementioned Manitou, the Perception Carolina and the Wilderness Systems Tsunami (in your case it would be the 120 or 140 models). All around $1000, plus or minus. Yes, the Conduit is a great value for almost half that.

Somebody else mentioned skin-on-frames -- I am a big fan of those having owned 6 of them over the years. Some areas of the country you can take a class to build your own -- since people do build them they sometimes turn up used. I bought a used one that was 18' long for $800 and it only weighs 31 lbs, which is quite nice for transport. A good intro to what they are all about is the fun blog of Brian Schulz, who designs and builds them out in Oregon:


This is his famous F-1 design which you could build in one of his classes for $1400. 14' long and under 30 lbs. In one of these everybody else in the club would be struggling to keep up with you:


Also, Tom Yost's site where you can see photos of kayaks that people have built using his free designs:


These are kind of off the track of what we started talking about, but both are enjoyable sites that provide some added insight to the world of kayaks.

The manitou 13
I might be able to get a manitou 13 for $500 which I think is an awesome deal.

I don’t have a carrier yet but I can stop at dicks and pick one up.

My take is that the ladies in this club want to go bird watching and the guys want to do longer stretches of flatwater. I want to do everything I can. I am totally done with winter and ready for spring!

I want to know what you think of the elie strait 140. If I cannot get the manitou, I might be able to get my hands on one fairly cheap. I like the looks and some of the reviews.

thermoformed boats

– Last Updated: Jan-29-14 1:13 PM EST –

Are lighter than poly and there are a few choices in the 12-14' range you can explore. Not cheap new, though.

I haven't paddled the Elie, so cannot tell you anything of value.

I DIYed my cart easily and cheaply from some cart wheels and PVC pipe. Plenty of ideas on the Web for that, and it works for short and longer hauling. So loading onto the cart and off becomes the only issue if weight matters; it's different if you're loading on a car top, though.

The BEST advice is still to paddle it first before you buy it if it's at all possible. Otherwise the likelihood of disappointment is high.

“Try before you buy” and beginners

– Last Updated: Jan-29-14 2:29 PM EST –

I'm of the opinion that if a person doesn't have loads of experience, demo paddles are of little value except in figuring out if the person fits in the boat reasonably well. From my own experience when much more of a beginner, the true capabilities of any boat were way beyond my comprehension anyway, let alone my ability to take advantage of them. I think a lot of experienced paddlers truly have forgotten what it's like to not know much.

My advice to any beginner or semi-beginner, as is the case here, is to get a boat that is generally recognized as a good choice for their particular goals, and then as long as the person fits it, they can GRADUALLY figure out whether it's as good a choice as they hoped. I say "gradually" because there is no other way. Even the part about how well they fit the boat can't be totally figured out in a brief test paddle, and sitting in the boat on dry land is a pretty-good second option, especially for a person who has at least some paddling experience.

Taking this to a related idea, the OP is considering a boat that's very nicely priced right now. One has to weigh that against the likelihood of finding a similar deal later on when spring arrives, AND the likelihood that there will be any chance of test paddling that boat. Usually with used boats, there's no good way to arrange a test paddle anyway, since the boat is in the seller's garage and they are anxious to send it off with the first person who shows up with cash in hand. Most sellers do NOT want to waste their own time helping a potential buyer with all their questions and doubts.

I agree
with GuideboatGuy, better to start paddling with a reasonable and available boat than wait for a theoretically ‘better’, unavailable one. (Within limits of course)

Couple of things
What do your fellow paddlers paddle?

Plastic or fiberglass?

Whats your budget?

I would get at least a 14 foot kayak.

Just 2 months ago sold my used 14 foot tsunami 140 for $650 on craigslist so look there too.

Get a proper loading device for kayak to car will make a 55 pound kayak easy to load. Some use a roller from the back of car others lift from the side. Look around. Malone has a lower cost loader onto there jbars. I uses a roller with v-saddles from a place near me oak orchard kayak makes and sells .

Oh Dicks sporting goods conduit 13 doesn’t have deck lines just bungee cord. Deck lines are really needed for safety, they could be added if you want. At least it has 2 sealed hatches for floatation.Still a wide kayak at 26 inches. Try to stick to 24 inch and smaller for width for speed.

answers to your questions
My fellow paddlers… well in the first meeting it appeared that several of the guys were in extremely long kayaks (type unknown). Another guy who seemed to try to be most knowledgeable and eager to jump in and try anything…paddles a swifty. The ladies appear to be also in the swifty style boats with the exception of one who will be paddling a SOT 10’ something.

I was all excited about a necky vector 14 until I read that these guys are going out in the dead of night. Getting wet is ok but not at night when I am already sorta cold. But the boat seemed nice.

My budget is odd. If I grab that necky manitou now, I will have barely the $550 the seller wants. If I wait a bit longer I could possibly save up to $800 but I would rather not wait.

14 - 15’ Kayaks
such as

  • Tsunami 14x
  • Dagger alchemy
  • Perception Carolina
  • Venture Easky 15
  • Necky Manitou 14
  • Venture Islay 14

    Are all excellent choices.

    I would recommend starting in the 14-15’ class of quality boats with full decklines and front & back watertight hatches. This class of boat will perform well in most any inland or shoreline situation and unlike the shorter, slower and less seaworthy “recreational” class it won’t be limiting as your skills and interest expand. They are suitable for club paddles, lake and sea fishing, 30 mile open water day tours, small wave surfing, rock hopping, tidal race play, rolling, creeking, etc…

    Most nowadays are skegged, which makes paddling open water in wind much more enjoyable in many conditions.

Kayak advice
This advice is all good. The Manitou 13 is fast, and light for its size and material. I think you would be very happy with it. After you buy the kayak and get a rack, think about getting a better paddle. A $100 paddle is four times better than a $50 paddle. A $200 paddle is twice as good as a $100 paddle. A $400 paddle will make you think you have died and come back with a stronger body. Go out with the club and switch paddles with some experienced members. Lifting a paddle in the shop does not compare to actually using it after you have been paddling for a couple of hours.