Kayak newbie

I’ve had a lot of experience with a canoe [+10 years] during my late teens and early adult - now 50 years old. I’d like to try kayaking on a small calm river in my area. Do you suggest getting lessons etc. or jumping in a give it a whirl? Also, what’s a good kayak and equipment for a 200 lb person with needs for creature comforts? Thanks in advance.

Jump in and give it a whirl.
But go rent some first and try them out.

If you are anywhere near a larger city, check with the kayak stores and see when they will be having a “Demo Day”, or go onto the various kayak manufacturers web sites and ask them if they are having one any where near you.

There are lots of lakes and places near the ocean where there are outfitters that rent them.

My guess is that three quarters of the kayak paddlers that you see have not taken lessons.

If you will be paddling a long distance from shore you should learn a “self rescue” which requires a paddle float and a bilge pump, and you can self teach yourself from a paddling book, but if you are just going to be in a small river there is no need to learn that at this stage.

Good luck



Rent and/or demo first
if you can. There’s no substitute for experience.

The only downside is that rental equipment can be pretty bad – at one livery I got a paddle that felt like rebar with a cutting board glued to each end.

As for creature comforts, lots of folks seem to like the seating and space in the Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 & 140, or the Old Town Dirigo(s).

Check the Guidelines on this site(look left)for good basic information.

At the very least…
At the very least, find someone experienced to show you how to get in and out of a kayak, both at a dock and in shallow water, and how to exit the kayak if/when you roll over.

I had a lot of experience in canoes when I first got into a kayak, but there were big differences. I was lucky- my first rental was from an olympic racing canoe & kayak club’s summer rental fundraising program. They had a half-dozen 13-foot bloats perfectly suitable for kids and newbies- and a large pile of big-spooned lightweight racing paddles to choose from.

The teenaged staff were quite used to newbies, as they ran the recreational canoeing and kayaking summer day-camp programs for the town’s little kids, when they weren’t training for nationals. The pigtailed, sunbleached girl who took my eight dollars asked me if I knew anything about kayaks. Glad I said “no”. She gave me a half-hour primer on getting in, getting out, how not to roll over, what to do if I rolled over or shipped water, and made me practice getting in and out of the boat a few times, dockside.

Totally, totally worth it. I still remember and use the getting-in-the-boat technique she taught me.

Look at “Old Town"
Old Town Makes a recreational line of Kayaks, and I started in Kayaking with one of them. I also canoed with the Boy Scouts for many years, and was your same age when I got my first Kayak. But I do weigh a little more than you do.

I started with the Old Town Adventure XL-139 Kayak. It is 13’9” long, by 28" wide. It has a comfortable seat, front and rear bulkheads and hatch covers for flotation, or dry storage.

I thoroughly enjoyed it for a season,and when I was ready to move to a Composite Kayak, my wife started kayaking in it.

I would highly reccommend it to anyone getting into kayaking. But as always, test paddle several kayaks before buying one.

Thanks all for the good advice…
now if I can convince my family to buy a nice kayak for Father’s Day. One heck of a lot better than that tie I’m sure they have their eye on :wink:

find a club
Longtooth, I’m in a very similar situation to yourself. I’ve spent 30+ years in canoes and other open boats, and am currently trying to see if kayaking is for me. I’d suggest reading everything you can from the guidelines section of this site, to the left. Then, I’d suggest renting a couple boats and going to a demo days event, if that’s a possibility where you are. But, more than any of that, if you can find somebody experienced to show you the basics on your first time out, you’ll do lots better. If you can find a canoe & kayak club near you, perhaps you can get together with them for a lake trip and pick up some pointers on entry/exit, posture, body positioning and paddling. When I did that, I found out that I was instinctively doing everything wrong. :wink:

Your profile says you’re in W. PA. Maybe somebody at 3 Rivers can help you out, though they list themselves as mainly WW.


Phase 3 seating
When you’re ready to buy, nothing beats phase 3 seating. The comfort and adjustability is great.