kayak for daughter

Looking at getting my 21 yr old daughter a kayak…shes 5’ 7", 160 lbs. My son will use it on occasion he is 5’10" and 175 lbs. She will use it mostly on small and large lakes, some wide rivers, and occasional lakes with a bit of waves.

There are a couple of discounted last years models available for a two to three hundred less. They are

16.5 Perception Essence…1050 Cdn

14 and 14.5 Tsunami…1040 Cdn

Squall…1250 Cdn

165 and 170 Tempest…1350 Cdn

155 and 160 Zephyr…1350 Cdn

She has been out on a kayak about 5 times and has never been nervous or complained of tippiness. She took to it quite well. I dont mind if I lose a hundred or two in having to sell and rebuy in a year or two. Ill call it a long term demo fee.

We will be testing some of them in a few days. The Essence seems like a good deal, but the Tempest seems to get the best all around reviews, or I guess I should say that there are probably 60 Tempest reviews to every 1 Essence review.

Ive read that the Tempest and Essence are more for staright line cruising, the Zephyr for slower straight line cruising and “playing”, and the tsunami for slower straight line cruising, but some say it is a dull boat…just starting to research Squall.

Any ideas or reccomendations on what a good fit for her would be as far as her experience and size ? or what you think is a good boat or a bad boat ?

size & use

– Last Updated: May-18-12 2:37 PM EST –

I don't know the Essence. I have a little time in all the WS boats and the old version of the Squall.

Given her size, I'd stick with the smaller version of each of the WS boats. The smaller one will be easier to control, especially in wind and waves. She doesn't need the extra volume unless she's going to be carrying a lot of gear. I'm 5'9", 160 and greatly prefer the smaller versions. The boyfriend will still fit but he'll feel a bit less stable.

The Tempest and Zephyr are both fine boats. The Zephyr trades off a bit of straight-line performance for more maneuverability. If she is going to paddle rivers that require a bit of maneuvering, it'd probably be the better choice. It may require a bit more attention to paddle straight at first.

The Tsunami is a straight-tracking boat. It won't turn any better than the Zephyr despite being shorter, it'll be slower, and it is just as heavy.

Ask Her or Let Her Choose
The first question my daughter asked me was why her kayak was different from all the others? So I got her one that was like what others paddled, and now she is happy. So find out what your daughter wants and not what you want or what you think is best for her. I learned the hard and expensive way.

Essence and Zephyr comments

– Last Updated: May-19-12 7:54 AM EST –

My wife and I are fairly new to paddling, less than 1 yr. and we started with the Tsunami 140 for me and 135 for her. As soon as I got comfortable in the boat I found the Tsunami fairly boring, it was VERY stable, but it didn't want to edge and was difficult to turn.

I then bought a Zephyr 160 and enjoy the high degree of maneuverability and general playfulness of the boat. I bought this to have a boat to develop my paddling skills with. My daughter, who now has my Tsunami, tried the Zephyr during a recent visit home and she is now talking about getting a second boat.

I also bought an Essence 17 and the wife now has an Essence 16.5 and we are very pleased with them both. They are very comfortable to paddle, respond to edging for steering corrections but they track very well. They are not nearly as nimble as the Zephyr but I find my Essence to be a great distance boat since I'm not working as hard to hold direction as I am in the Zephyr. I think the Essence is a great bargain at the pricing they can be found at now. The only down side is they are heavy boats, and might be hard for your daughter to get on and off the car alone. We added hip pads to both Essences to give us a better fit in the cockpit.

You might also consider the Perception Expression 14.5. This is a new model with a soft chine and a skeg and is very reasonably priced. It is a much nicer boat to paddle than the Tsunami IMO.

Be sure to let your daughter test paddle any boats you are considering. Some will not feel right and one will likely be THE boat for her. Our daughter first paddled my Essence and wasn't impressed but she immediately fell in love with the Zephyr. Let her decide what feels right to her.

Tempests are great boats.

Quit a mix there

– Last Updated: May-19-12 6:57 AM EST –

The Squall is a full out sea kayak with the length and the trimmings. It is an older design, but it's gotten plenty of people on the water and onto more adventurous paddling. It is a a very tracky boat. It is officially a smaller (not tiny) person's boat. The Tempest is a newer version of the same idea, and all around full out sea kayak. The Zephyr is in the same family, but not nearly as tracky as the other two.

The Tsunamis are meant to serve multiple masters, including more casual paddling. Moderate in all respects, but one thing they do well is offer newer paddlers more comforting stability than the above narrower boats. If she is seems comfortable enough to not need that assurance, and it sounds like she doesn't,you may want to reach to the longer boats.

One point - at 160 pounds it might matter where she is carrying her weight for some of the longer boats. She should sit in all of them and make sure it doesn't feel too tight to be physically comfortable for the length of a day on the water.And your son should also siot ion all of the boats.

If It Is Over 25 Pounds - Forget It
A light weight surf ski would be ideal, especially for her age and size. Sure, there will be a learning curve at first, but in no time she’ll be up to speed running circles around you. Check out these 13 to 17 year old gals on surf skis in flat water:


The leader is on a Epic V10L & using an Onno Small Wing.


Test Paddle

– Last Updated: May-20-12 12:46 PM EST –

My daughter and son and I all went out and test paddled the Squall, a Tempest 170 and Zephyr 155 and 160. There is no dealer with a Perception Essence close enought to water to test paddle. They each tried a different kayak at the same time. Im 5' 10" 193 /bs (slim/fit) and they both liked and disliked the same thing about the boats.

It was a toss up between the Z 155 and 160. The 155 seemed to track better, and just kind of felt better on the water, but had a noticeably snugger fit height/depth wise. The 160 almost felt a bit too loose height wise. Its oddd that the 1" depth difference would be that noticeable. Its amost like the 155 was a bit too snug and the 160 not snug enough. Im just wondering if adding padding to the thigh braces on the 160 would help? We took the Zephyrs out a few times. The last time out , she got the backband adjuted much better. the first time out wasnt right and bothered her lower back quite a bit. She found it hard to adjust on the water.

The tempest 170 was different. A much snugger fit, but a different kind of snug. The snugness and feel was almost weird at first, but once on the water for a while, yiou got used to it. Seemed to use a little less effort to paddle and keep moving, and tracked much straighter with less correction than Zephyr.

We test paddled the new updated Squall. The boat itself had a really nice feel in the water and seemed to go throught he waqter nicely, but it just didnt feel right as far as comfort, position, and legs got numb quickly...seat just didnt do it for us.

The Tsunami 145 was like a lazy boy recliner...feels like it woukld be good for a lazy day paale on the water. very comfy.

The differences we noticed are between Z and T:

When slowly rocking each boat from side to side or trying to slowly lean the boats on their edge, the Z would spring back more than the T and the Z had much more resistance. The Z felt like it would be harder to tip over.

The Z was much easier to turn / maneuver

When on the lake going at an avge pace, if you sudenly stopped paddling, the Z would immediately turn to one side as opposed to the T, which would keep going/gliding straight.

Much harder to get in and out of Tempest from a dock, the cockpit was a bit smaller and thigh braces in diff location so seemd tighter to get into.

We had each boat out for about 40 minutes. The snugness of the boats didnt seem to bother us too much fo that time. Im just wonderin though. in the caes of the T170 and Z155 what that snugness would feel like after 2 to 3 hrs? The only kayaks we have used were friends' which had no thigh braces, so there was no confininbg feel, and you could wiggle move legs around a bit. Althogh that looseness i found would also cause discomfort after a while because it seemed like you legs or knees were up too high in the boat.

For now, the boat will mainly be used for 1 to 4 hour excursions, with maybe one or two overnighter trips this summer.

All in all liked both the Zephyr and Tempest, the Z was a tad more comfy and less confining,(maybe that confining feeling goes away ?) and moire maneuverable, the T seemed to use a little less effort to keep going. We might go try them again, they like them both.

Cant decide and hard to know what they will be like after a few months.

Too bad cant try out the Essence, they are down to 999. they are supposed to be "somewhat" like a tempest

Good report!

Fist, I’d guess that any boat with thigh braces might feel snug if you’re used to a more open cockpit.

Don’t know how you had the foot pegs adjusted, but having them too close can feel cramped. Most folks like them set to have some wiggle room when relaxed but be able to “lock in” with some leg pressure if needed.

Were you wearing what you’ll be wearing to paddle? Extra layers can make a difference.

I’ve paddled whitewater boats and so prefer the “locked in place” feeling. I find that it makes for better boat control in rough conditions, and it makes it much easier to roll. Falling out of the boat when it flips is frustrating if you want to stay in it.

Cockpits can certainly be modified to fit. Most serious paddlers I know have customized their boats for a better fit.

Tempest and Zephyr
We tried the Zephyrs and the Tempest 170 again. A calm day again with a bit of wind. Would have liked to try them with a little bit of waves, etc to see how they feel and handle. When calm they are easy to paddle with no uneasy feeling in either of them. Each time we tried them, we had our swim shorts on, which is what we normally wear. We really like them.

We are probably going to buy Tempest 170 AND the Zephyr ( still deciding on 155 or 160) one for her and one for me. I assume that these two would be a good match for us paddling together ?

Also, I just hope that when I go out with my buddies, every so often, that I don’t get too far ahead…they use light touring and one has a rec/touring. Maybe when im out with them ill use the Zephyr and practice technique while we’re paddling, that way we’ll stay efven( we both plan on taking lessons once we buy)

Tightness in cockpit
A common mistake that people new to kayaking make is to get into these boats and lock themselves in very tight, then stay that way the whole time. By that I mean feet hard against the pedals, thighs or knees hard up against the deck and back or lumbar pressing into the back or back band.

The above, assuming the boat fits right, is the correct position for executing certain moves like a deep brace etc. It is not a position anyone can stay in for the length of a paddle without numbness and/or pain though. The nerves and blood vessels in your lower body need relaxed muscles to do their job best. A well fitting boat will allow someone to sit somewhat relaxed, but still have thigh braces and foot pegs at very readily accessible so you can lock into them immediately for a sudden brace or whatever.

The other common problem is that people rely on the seat back or the back band to set their seated position, which usually ends up having you sitting back too much and increasing the likelihood of pinching something down the legs. You should always be sitting erect - if the seat happens to be designed to meet you there that is fine, if not sit up anyway. I usually take an inch or more off my waist each spring when we start kayaking more seriously again between the core muscle strengthening and the rotation.

One other source of tightness is the use of foot pegs, which tend to concentrate a lot of tension down one path, rather than bulkhead blocks that allow for more flexible positioning. I have smaller feet, size 6.5 to 7 - and have yet to find any footpegs that don’t leave me uncomfortably tight and tense by the end of a paddle. Both of my sea kayaks have bulkhead blocks, mini-cell foam that have been cut to the shape of the hull and placed against the bulkhead of the boat (I am not tall either). This way I can put my feet anywhere to brace and not worry about things like slipping off a footpeg. Minicell is also a lot more cushy on the balls on aging feet than a hard plastic or metal.

I strongly suspect that you guys were locked in and didn’t move a lot while you were trying out the boats. This is not to say that you didn’t find one boat a little small and another a little big - “just right” is not easy to find. But much of what you report, like a numbness, is a common result of locking your self in and sitting back rather than erect and rotating.

Thanks Celia,

I never really new what was the right fit or where your body parts should be once inside the boat. I assumed that the proper fit or position was as you stated in the first paragraph, in fairly snug, knees hard up against deck, and as you said, its hard to maintain this for any length of time. So i assume that my thighs can be “loose”, a few inches below the braces with feet still on the pegs?

Good idea using the bulkhead blocks

Can be loose
You can even be sitting with your feet out of the pegs, though you’ll find that this gets in the way of a proper pumping action for a good forward stroke once you get some training on that. But in general you should be able to reach the control surfaces quickly, without having to live there all the time.

One other thing - you can edge a boat by lifting up the opposite thigh brace… or by just sliding your butt over to be sitting in the bilge. Old school is doing a lot of it via lifting, which tightens you up and can impede rotation. Newer school is to get as much as you can by just sliding over rather than contorting. It doesn’t have to be a big wide boat for this to work, just one with a seat that doesn’t place nasty sharp bumps in the wrong place when you shift around.

Don’t forget
Tempests have adjustable outfitting. You can move thighbraces backward and forward, seat front up and down, backband tighter and looser. If fit felt tight in the 170, try moving the seat front down.

They turn well in addition to being decent trackers.

I will try that

Thanks again
Yes, a little loose on the legs would be better. I guess it will take a few outings to find that sweet spot for adjustments.