Kayak questions, , pre purchase

As you read this keep in mind that I am 6-4, and 260#s, but in good shape. I am going to purchase a sea kayak but thought I would ask some questions of veteran paddlers first. 1). What is your opinion of inflatable models and kayak-in-a-bag models in terms of durability, capacity, speed, practicality, and comfort? 2). I am a bit claustrophobic and was wondering if any specific kayak manufacturer was known for making larger/largest cockpit openings if that is the correct term for where you sit. 3). What is the time frame/learning curve from the time you first sit in a kayak and feel like you are trying to sit on a tightrope until you feel comfortable with the craft? I am a longtime canoeist and use to think they were somewhat unstable but kayaks are at a whole new level of tippy? Thank you all in advance for the advice!

Never felt like it was a “tightrope”
…going from canoe to kayak, because I already had experience in other forms of sport which required balance and in spite of having several things “wrong” with me, I seem to have inherited from both parents way-above-average balance skills (or craziness, depending on one’s point of view…) which compensate for the problems. And I constantly work on balance and core strengthening exercises to try to keep aging side effects/old injuries at bay.

Since you already canoe you should be fine, as long as the kayak’s load capacity and seating area/cockpit is suitable for your size. It is just “different.”

Try a nice sit on top if you are worried about the claustrophobia. The wonderful thing about them is, that some of them are actually not only difficult to tip over, but, besides making you fall out so cleanly, you just flip them back over and they DRAIN themselves like magic ! Then you just get back on.

Racing kayaks or surf skis can be tippy. Regular kayaks, compared to canoes, not so much.

After seeing so many sad looking people with inflatables in the parking lots at the river take-out points trying to get the air OUT of those things while I just load the solid boat and happily go, I have no intention of ever being tired and hungry and trying to get something large and wet deflated and crammed into some carrier before leaving, ever. What a production. And inflatables are slow. I’ve seen some larger sized persons in inflatables and it was scary to watch… air is for rafts.

Spend rental or demo time first
Your post is full of a whole bunch of misconceptions that could easily get you to a purchase you will regret. Two big ones -

Kayaks are not especially tippy.

If you really want to be on open water with waves, a large cockpit is a very bad idea. It is not safe. You’d be better off with a SOT.

Get some time in before spending money. Few people know how to make a great choice when they are new to sea kayaking. And your pre-conceptions could get you to an especially bad one for someone who is already accustomed to being on the water.

folding kayaks

– Last Updated: Aug-18-14 10:43 AM EST –

I'm a big fan of folding kayaks, especially for folks our age (I'm 64) due to the ease of transport -- they typically weigh half that of a composite or plastic kayak of similar dimensions. Like any product, there are ranges of quality and you will pay more for a better boat. Most low to mid range inflatables tend to be rather sluggish and lack space for gear -- they are OK for fishing, recreational floating and some are suitable for whitewater. But your professed goal is touring so I think most of those are out of the picture. Also, due to your mass, an inflatable will tend to be deflected by the paddler weight unless it has some added rigidity. There are high end inflatables like the Feathercraft Java and Aironaut which would work for you but you may not want to invest $2500 to $4000 in your initial kayak.

I think you should look at folding kayaks and I have some models to recommend. At the higher end, would be the Feathercraft Big Kahuna, a fully equipped touring boat that has excellent stability and has an oversized cockpit for larger paddlers. My first kayak was the regular Kahuna and it was a wonderful boat for getting into the sport. I used it in a range of waters, from local lakes and rivers to the Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes. The 35 lb weight made it a joy to load and transport. I have several kayaks that I often share with friends to introduce them to paddling and always put any timid beginners in the Kahuna -- they all felt comfortable and secure in the boat -- in fact the only person who ever capsized it did so because she actually stood up in the boat to adjust her PFD! She might not even have dumped it but I yelled at her when I saw her stand and I think my startling her made her go over. She was embarassed and wet but had no trouble flipping the boat over and climbing back in. Like most Feathercrafts and other folders, the Kahuna has inflatable sponson tubes that run along the sides which add rigidity and flotation. FC kayaks also have wonderfully comfortable seats, which are adjustable through inflation valves. If you ever visit Vancouver, British Columbia, they make the boats there at the Granville Island retail park near downtown and if you contact them in advance, you can arrange test paddles of their models -- they are right on the water, a side arm of the harbor. Great company with fine customer service and top end products.

I eventually sold my Kahuna after 8 years to replace with a Feathercraft Wisper, a lower volume slightly faster model (I'm only 145 lbs). The Big Kahuna has a weight rating of 300. The only drawback is that a Kahuna costs $3500, though there has been a yellow one that looks to be in excellent shape for sale on eBay right now for $2200 or best offer. That is an excellent deal.


For a less costly but still excellent line of folders, look at the Pakboats. They make outstanding folding canoes and several models of kayak, some of which can be used as both closed deck and open boats. Their XT-16 is a closed deck model that performs very well in open water (I've used the slightly smaller XT-15, which an ex boyfriend owned). Their Puffin models can be paddled with or without the deck -- the Saranac can be used either as a solo boat or a tandem by moving the seats and swapping out the decks. The Saranac weighs only 28 lbs.


Here's a video of a paddler using a Saranac without the deck:


And this video should convince you on stability:


The Pakboats are easier to set up than the Feathercrafts because the deck goes on last (or not at all, if you choose to paddle it open.) The Feathercrafts require a little contorting down on your knees but I just set up the boat in the Spring, and unless I need to break it down for airline travel (another huge advantage of folding kayaks), I leave it set up and carry it on my roof rack. It's hard to overstate the joy of having a kayak you can carry with one hand.

There is a forum for folding/inflatable kayaks at http://www.foldingkayaks.org

It is not anywhere near as active as this one, though (some of the posters on it are also frequent participants here) but you could read some of the posts and categories with information on the various models. I am not as familiar with the other brands, but Folbot, Klepper and Longhaul are some other folder manufacturers who have a range of models, many with larger cockpits.

Another plus factor that I've already mentioned of "bag boats" is that if you are planning on adventuring far afield in retirement, you can easily transport your kayak and gear anywhere in the world. Even paying the excess airline baggage charge for the packed boat and accessories each way costs less than a day or two of renting a boat. You can also stash a bagged boat in a motorhome, float plane, sailboat or even a bike or motorcycle trailer. I have even boxed up and mailed my folders across country.

Big Guys
First off I will absolutely confirm what has already been said; sit inside kayaks are in my opinion, more stable than the average canoe. It should take about two minutes in the right sea kayak to feel pretty stable, but it might take months, or years before you begin to realize the true nature of a great kayak and how they will handle conditions that you probably wouldn’t dream of being in right now.

For someone your size, you will have to be a bit more selective for the right boat than a more average sized person. Current Designs, Valley, P&H and others have models that you should be comfortable in. If you’re looking for speed, stability and a boat that loves rough water, my personal choice is the NC Expedition.

another “big guy” hard shell model
I would add, to the previous list of “big guy” sea kayaks if you choose to look at hard shells, the Venture Jura (actually a division of P & H kayaks, slightly less costly versions of their higher end boats).


The drawback, as I’ve mentioned, is that these boats are in the 60 plus pound range. I just delivered a 62 pound Necky Looksha sea kayak to my brother in New York and it was a real bear to solo load it on my car roofrack.

The nice thing
about being big is that loading a 60lb boat is not a real problem. My Sea Lion is a one hand load, one hand push on the rack of a F250. The bad thing is that you get less choice.

Just went through this this spring. At 6’1" and 250-255 depending on time of day and being a fair canoe paddler switching to a kayak, my first thing to nail down was what it was I wanted to do with the boat. I like river tripping, multi day, a fair amount of miles, no resupply. I ended up with a sea/expedition kayak to handle the weight with a little left over for a cusion.

I think if you want a sea kayak, you will find that the cockpits are not real open, which was a concern for me at first. Once I spent a little time in it, changed the backrest to a back band, I got used to it. They are not more “tippy” but they are different. Once you get used to paddling from the center instead of shoulders, pushing against the foot pegs, and keeping loose, a brain bell will go “DING” and you will get more comfortable.

Figure out what you want to do with it, then start shopping craigslist. When you see one that looks like a fit, hit the reviews, then ask more questions of the people here who know what they are doing. Worked for me.

I just realized, reading your initial post on my tiny iPad mini, that I misread your height as your age. Duh. Yeah, a younger guy your size should have no trouble with a 65 lb boat.

mag article
On folders and inflatables, there was an article in California Kayaker that talks about this. “Kayaking & Small Living Places” in issue #9/Summer 2012. Can be read online for free at http://www.calkayakermag.com/magazine.html.

I would take a sea kayaking class, if you have not yet. This would provide a lot of background info that will kick start your learning journey.

On how long before it becomes comfortable - many boats it is a matter of minutes. Some boats are known to be twitchy, so takes quite a bit longer.

An inflatable kayak

– Last Updated: Aug-18-14 1:47 PM EST –

may not be for the OP, but I offer a dissenting opinion to the above comments about sad inflatable kayakers and air being for rafts not kayaks. Most IKers I see at the river are having a blast and are not in the least bit sad! They just had great fun in the rapids even though they may not have the expertise to roll a hardshell WW kayak. They can toss their inflated kayak on the car roof or into the back of their pickup just like a hardshell kayak or they have the option to deflate -- open the valves and roll. In addition, there are plenty of inflatables that can can handle a large person plus their overnight gear. I just didn't want the OP or other readers to think that the above comments about sad IKers were representative of general opinion. For context, I am referring to whitewater IKs -- I would not want to use one on a lake.
I suppose if one bought a cheap IK or the wrong one for the task, there could be problems -- but that goes for any craft (or any product).

Eddyline Denali
Eddyline just came out with a big guy kayak – very reputable company.


Thanks for the
vote of confidence.

Just clipped 1/2 century. Its nice to be refered to as young. Good looking referances I expect, young though, is getting fewer and farther between.

My experience
"The time frame/learning curve from the time you first sit in a kayak and feel like you are trying to sit on a tightrope until you feel comfortable with the craft?"

I was a total newb who had never paddled: two months ago on my first trip out in my 28" wide kayak, I paddled for about half a mile close to the shoreline. That’s how long it took me to realize that it would take a tidal wave to flip that kayak and that although I had zip experience, I could make it go where I wanted (forward, backward, and turns - had watched LOTS of videos).

I never felt insecure or uncomfortable. Just had to learn to trust the boat. About a week later, I was paddling out to play in the waves created by the ski/wave boats.

I also discovered that really large cockpits invite every splash and drip from the paddle to land on your legs. And that shorter, wider kayaks take lots of energy to paddle and don’t go very fast.

Am 5"5", 137#, not quite as old as dirt - and recently purchased a second kayak, which is longer, thinner, smaller cockpit, faster, and more responsive. Love it.

You’re younger, stronger, and you’ll no doubt feel comfortable within the first five or ten minutes.

Nothing about the boat
You ever been that far up in Northern Maine in Oct ? The weather changes super fast up there from about now on. I’ve seen everything laced in heavy white frost in the mornings in early Sept up there. I’ve seen snow in Oct.

50 is young!
It’s all relative. My new sweetie is 50. Compared to my cranky 65 year old ex, he’s my strong young boy toy.

But of course age is individual. Some of the strongest and most energetic people and paddlers I know are on their 70’s.

other post?

– Last Updated: Aug-19-14 10:47 AM EST –

GF - sounds like you meant this response for the guy who is planning to paddle the Allagash in October, no? I felt the same as you about that one, brrrr!