Kayak Choice - New Paddler

-- Last Updated: Jun-01-06 9:46 PM EST --

Have a lot of experience with water sports but am new to Kayaking. My wife and I want to get started and are considering buying new kayaks. I'm 5'8",175lbs, my wife 5'2", 130 lbs.Most of use will be in lakes with occasional trips to coastal areas and well as sounds near the coast. We think a day touring type boat will be best. We rented a WS 14' Pungo and thought it was OK but it was the first single kayak we've paddled. We'll paddle Necky 13 and 14'Manitou models this weekend. The 14 is considered a day tourer. Also want to try a Necky Zoar Sport. Looking for advice on these boats plus any others you'd recommend in this class of boats. I'd like a boat that leaves room for expansion as our skills improve. I was also advised to get 2 very similar boats as we'll paddle together and the speeds will be compatible.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

How about a well-made 13-footer?
Have a shuftee at this one:


Just bought one (without the rudder), and I show every sign of liking it.

I’m just her size!!

– Last Updated: Jun-01-06 10:12 PM EST –

Hi!! I am new in this and just bought a Manitou 13. I went and tried an Old Town Cayuga 146 and the Manitou 13. Talk about fast but stable too!! I believe this was one heck of a choice. I am her exact size (Man she must be a hotty too!!! LOL) I think you are on the right track on your choices. Doing the demo is perfect!

Good Luck!! I'm having a blast!!!

I demoed a manitou 13 too
I liked it. It could gain speed while staying stable. also, It could turn great and I thought overall it was a good kayak. I recomend it. manitou 13 was definatly one of the best boats I’ve paddled.

talk to as many actual users as possible
There are a lot of good boats to chose from. I demoed the Necky Manitous, and the 13 was on my short list. (One of many, eventual lists.) I can see why it and the 14 are amongst the most popular boats at GOPC. However, after much insisting that I was really only interested in shorter boats, I finally listened to the advice of a lot of more knowledgeable people, and decided to go with a 15’ Cape Horn with a rudder. The role for this boat is very similar to what you propose. I plan to use it in lakes and down on the NC coast for day trips.

Most of the experienced folks I talked with, including an old friend who has done a heck of a lot of paddling in his day, kept saying that if I got a 13ft boat, I’d be back next year for a 16 footer, as I’d outgrow the shorter boat pretty quickly if I was serious about larger lakes and bays and coastal waters. This was the exact opposite of the advice that I “wanted” to hear. But, in the end it made sense to me to buy a more capable yak with a rudder. Given what I learned by owning a short 9.5’ rec boat for a few weeks, I could appreciate the value of buying enough boat to get the job done. I just got it home last night, so can’t say much about how it fufills my wishes, but everything I’ve read here and elsewhere seems to point to the same conclusions.

I figure that with the cost of used boats being what it is, it’s far easier to have multiple boats than it is to worry about getting the exactly perfect all purpose boat. So, while the used 15 footer is lots longer and heavier than what I originally thought I wanted, it’ll be easy enough to add a shorter, lighter boat for other uses.

This may or may not be the path for you and your wife. But, do consider the bennefits of a longer boat with a rudder. And definitely consider buying used, if possible.

Demo as many boats as you can, but as important, talk to as many folks who are actually paddling where you wish to paddle as possible. When I did that, it changed my assumptions, and changed my wish list, considerably.

Given your size difference, “very similar” boats might not be the best approach. You wife would probably be more comfortable in something narrower and not as deep as what works for you.

That suggestion was made with good intentions. An all-too-familiar pattern is seeing wives in tubbier boats than their husbands, making it even harder for them to keep up. On the other hand, identical boats for people of significantly different size usually means that the wife ends up in something that’s too big.

Women generally have a lower seated center of gravity than men, and will be more stable in a narrower boat than most men. Women generally have shorter arms and torsos, so wide and/or deep boats force an uncomfortable and inefficient paddle stroke.

She may also be more comfortable with a paddle that’s shorter, has smaller blades, or a smaller shaft than what you like.

The best thing to do is demo/rent/borrow a lot of boats. Try an archive search here for “small paddler” – you’ll find a lot of discussion and ideas.

Listen to Angstorm and NM

– Last Updated: Jun-02-06 11:32 PM EST –

I am two inches taller than your wife and run up to five pounds heavier, and can attest that if you put her in the same model of boat as yourself she'll have a harder time keeping up. The boat that gives you a comfortable reach to the water with the paddle and good contact to steer the boat will have her swimming in the cockpit so less able to turn it easily, working harder to get a good bite in the water because her height and arm length are much less to reach around the sides of the boat. And she'll have a shorter and less efficient water line because the boat won't be sitting as deep in the water as for you.

In sum, she's likely to have a much less satisfactory experience than you. If you want to do this as a couple, that's a problem.

I'd also suggest that you take some more time and look for boats that are longer, have appropriate features for bigger water like two sealed bulkheads and deck rigging, and tighter fitting cockpits than you mention. Given that you cite coastal paddling and are in NC, once you have the bug you'll want to go out onto bigger stuff and will need a better performing boat than you are thinking about right now. Or you can do what a lot of us did and buy less boat then find that it doesn't do what you need in just a couple of paddles on an ocean bay. But while it makes kayak dealers happy it is real inefficient to be move thru two kayaks each within a single season.

Where are you in NC? I suspect that you may be within reasonable driving distance of some shops/outfitters that can give you better advice than your well-intentioned friend. Especially since you say that you boats that'll allow you to grow in your skills, you really should get some good guidence on this first buy. Depending on what skill sets you are thinking of, what you are looking at now could be pretty limiting.

Really good information which gives us something good to think about.

Thanks again,