Kayak recommendation

Hey folks my wife and I were pretty set on mirage drive hobies, either two singles or a tandem. We are now thinking of cheaper paddle kayaks possibly and I’m looking for recommendations. We will mostly be in saltwater large bays with some gulf kayaking. We don’t fish and are more concerned with long trips across the bay, some being close to 8 miles one way. If we get away from the expensive hobies I hope to get both of us in the water for 2k or less in kayaks that are built for long trips and glide well. Thanks for info advice.

size and skill
It would be helpful to know your relative metrics (height and weight) and your skill and fitness levels. Hard to make suggestions otherwise.

long distance and glide mean Long and narrow. If your buying new doubtful at 2k for 2 people plus PFD, paddle and other needed gear.

Depends on your size as to which kayak might work for you. Thinking at least 16 feet long say 22 inch wide. Unless your a big guy then maybe a little wider. Have to be plastic at that price for 2. unless used.

How far from shore?
If those 8 mile crossings mean places where shore could be a mile and a half to your left or right, going to less kayak is not likely to be safe. All it’d take is one day that the winds come up surprisingly halfway across to find out a barge won’t cut it.

Have you checked out any outfitters in person around you or is this board your first stop?

Been to
Sunjammers in Panama city. I’m a big guy at 220. Good fitness although we still understand that we need to work up to the longer trips. The responses here make me think that a hobie mirage tandem is still the way to go since we are beginners wanting to go fairly long distances. What do y’all think?

not really a :kayak"
Forgive me, but that Hobie, a 35" wide 122 pound foot-powered boat-shaped object is really not a kayak. At least not the sort of kayak that most of the people on this forum think of when we consider the sport.

Being “beginners” has nothing to do with this particular aspect of boat buying. Do you really want to kayak or do you just want something that propels you across the water? You will learn no skills that pertain to actual kayaking with a Hobie. I would consider starting with a Hobie roughly equivalent to imagining you could get into bicycle touring by starting with an electric golf cart.

And the fact that a Hobie is wide and heavy and propelled with your feet will make it no safer on open water for you if you don’t have the judgement and skills to enter that environment.

I really think you need to find a proper kayaking outfitter and get some seat time in actual sea kayaks that are properly fitted to your size and paddling ambitions in order to see if kayak touring is really something you want to do Then if that does appeal to you, get some instruction, and maybe take some escorted tours with a guide before venturing offshore. Skills like surf launching and self rescue are not easy to figure out on your own.

I looked at the stock in the store you mentioned (Sunjammers) and they really don’t have any seaworthy open water kayaks, just short and wide fishing and “recreational” boat models. These are boats made for sitting in one place or for lily-dipping in sheltered bays or within spitting distance of a beach – I did not see any that I would feel comfortable taking out in the Gulf or that I would want to paddle even a moderate distance.

For offshore coastal touring most people use 14’ to 17’ touring kayaks, either sit inside or sit on top, that are 22" to no more than 28" in width. Anything shorter and/or wider is not going to track well, especially in wind, strong currents and waves, or allow comfortable sustained speed for covering any distance. For the ultimate “speed and glide” there are surf skis, very long and narrow boats made to really cover the distance, but these require some skill and experience and would also be over your budget

Looking at the Craigslist offerings in the FL panhandle it does not seem you are going to find any used sea kayaks. Including PFD’s and decent paddles, your budget for 2 new touring kayaks would be closer to $3,000. If you were willing to travel some distance to find appropriate used boats you could trim that by a third to half.

Very informational post, thanks. After reviewing your post I think we are looking for a recreational kayak. I was under the impression that the mirage drive could increase the range ofthose who are new to human powered propulsion. I asked the sale man at sunjammers how long it would take me to get from my launch point to the island we want to kayak to and he said that I can cross the bay at roughly 4mph. That makes it a one way trip of an hour from one launch point and 2 hours from another. Does 4mph sound about right to you? Would 16 miles round trip be considered a easy trip or a more advanced distance? My plan was to start at day break, 2.5 hour 8 mile trip to the island, hangout for a couple hours then 8 miles back at a slower pace I’m sure. Am I way off base here? I’m just trying to gather info on whether the way I imagine it in my head is the way it’s going to be in real life. Also when I mention going in the gulf all I really meant was going through the pass to the gulf side of the same island. Not way offshore, the pass can be rough though, not attempting this till we have some experience on the water. Thanks again, hope to gather more info.

Gulfcoast paddler here

– Last Updated: Mar-27-16 7:48 AM EST –

We just had a kayak race here near Biloxi, 9 1/2 miles up a bayou and the majority of people came in between 2 and 3 hours. Surf skis take about an 1 1/2 hours but that's a whole nother world of paddling.

I have a brother in law in Panama City and I went in Sunjammers looking for sea kayaks and the closest they had were some 14' Carolina's and all the salesman, mostly younger guys, said I needed to talk to one of there other salesman, who I came back to later to talk to, a guy closer to my age who was into offshore paddling also, and he didn't have anyplace local to send me to look for the boats you need to go too far from the beach. It's a nice shop but they have a different target market.

The used market can be bleak for tandems. I was looking for one for quite awhile. I was working in Jacksonville one summer and checking CL there and here in Biloxi and everywhere in between and found a tandem Necky in Tallahassee and snapped it up. Used solo sea kayaks come up but patience is required.

My wife and I took the Necky out too Round Island, 2 miles out from Pascagoula on what looked like a beautiful calm day in the Mississippi Sound. Along the route we had water breaking onto our spray skirts and at one point the entire 17' boat was briefly entirely submerged in a swell. That was pretty exhilarating feeling, nothing on the horizon but water, a speck of island 1/2 a mile away, and my wife poking up out of the sea 3 feet in front of me.

Had we been in regular recreational kayaks the skirts would have collapsed and the cockpit would have flooded. Mind you this was a calm day, waves at the beach 1 1/2 behind us were 6" and there were no whitecaps.

The big paddle here is to Horn Island, 8 miles offshore through the protected waters of the Sound. The Gulf starts on the other side. I have a friend who has done it several times including as a paid guide. On one of his guided trips he and another guy were leading 4 other boats out there and at one point 3 of the 4 were capsized and swimming.

I've been wanting to make that paddle but I'm either away on the job or we get cancelled by weather. It's not something a beginner, or even an intermediate would try solo.

The absolute minimum my friend will lead out there is a 14' kayak with two bulkheads, spray skirt required and that the people know how to perform an assisted rescue (google "T rescue")

We do downriver paddles, 19-20 miles is a good day of paddling. It's doable. Round trip in open water would be, let's say challenging. Not something you want to start with, but certainly possible with some experience.

If you're looking for a sea kayak shop coming west there is Fairhope Boat Company just your side of Mobile and Everything Kayak in Gulfport MS. I don't know of any other between PC and here, maybe more east of you, I don't know. There are some places in Pensacola but from what I've seen driving by they are going to be like Sunjammers. If you come this way to shop I can send you contact info for an ACA certified rescue instructor. He runs regular classes in Biloxi bay in the summer and I know he'll set one up if requested.

Keep in mind you have a thousand miles of paddle-able streams, springs and bayous within an easy drive of you. There is a local paddle club where about half the members use Hobie Tandems. As Willowleaf pointed out, that's a whole different style from sea kayaking. They can't go on all the paddles I go on, but on the ones they do go on they are more comfortable and working a lot less harder than I am.

You could easily pick up a couple used rec kayaks and get a couple very nice paddles and comfortable PFDs for well within your budget and have lots of paddling opportunities. Checkout the Green Wave Forum for info on Florida paddle sports. You will almost certainly run into people who have made the trip you're wanting to do.

Mirage Drive Hobie anecdote
Just a little anecdote regarding the efficiency of the Hobie pedal boats. I brought a couple sea kayaks for non-kayaking friends to go out for probably 5 miles total. A very in-shape young marine came along with his Hobie with pedal drive. He, like probably many, didn’t question that it was going to give him an advantage. He even joked about racing, to which I smiled and assured him that we wouldn’t leave him behind. He looked confused, and later said he figured I was joking.

We waited on him a lot that day, A and he fully admitted at the end of the day that he was completely surprised.

The Hobie has nice advantages, and it can be just plain fun to pedal around in a boat.

But the well-thought-out general design for traveling miles in open water - sea kayak design - it’s a real thing. And as mentioned above, Hobie pedal drives don’t fit that design.

It sounds like you’ve got some really fun paddling ideas. I hope you’re able to follow through on appropriate kayaks and skill sets. It’s very much worth the effort. Every step of the journey is a lot of fun.

paddle vs. peddles
There is a reason there is one company making a pedal drive system and a whole bunch of companies making canoes and kayaks with paddle power and it has nothing to do with patents.

It’s an interesting idea but if it were as superior as Hobie claims there would be competition, but there’s not.

Bill H.

A few thoughts
You are beginners with stated budgetary limitations. You do want something with room to grow in your capabilities. There is nothing wrong with recreational kayaks - they tend to have the highest initial stability, to be roomy for someone who is bigger or has creaky joints and also to cost the least. They tend to have a shorter and wider hull form, starting as short as 8 feet long.

Above these are touring kayaks, which tend to be longer and skinnier and with smaller cockpits (openings). These are “tippier”, but are a lot more efficient on the water and can be fitted with skirts to keep water out during a capsize if you learn to roll. They also tend to be more expensive. Touring kayaks start around 16 feet long.

There are also so-called transitional kayaks which are midway in form between the two, and can also take skirts.

I’d suggest looking at bigger/narrower recreational kayaks or transitional kayaks made of plastic, somewhere from 13-15 feet.

For some ideas, check out this Current Designs page of transitional kayaks, the “R” models are rotomolded polyethylene and less expensive, the others are composite.


It’s about more than how fast you go
Kayaking in a space where the wind can come up, and from descriptions above this appears to be the case, is about being able to handle what you encounter. Not how fast you can go, at least until you get the first part down.

You may have to drive some to get to a place that will set you up correctly. FWIW, my husband and l put in drives of up to a few hours and stayed overnight to get to our first good sea kayaks. Sometimes it takes some effort. Make a weekend of it and stay in some decent cheap motel if needed. You will be glad you did later.

It is way worth it to make sure you are getting into this right as a couple. Far more common for the guy to become a solo paddler in the first season, because they jumped into something too quick and figured their wife would follow, than not

My suggestion
If you can find a kayak shop that sells Current Designs, take a good look at the Sirocco. For the money, it is a hard boat to beat. You should be able to buy two brand new Siroccos for a little less than $3000. With the Sirocco, you will have boats that can handle any kind of water and weather that you should prudently want to paddle in.

My second suggestion is to look up the Carlisle Expedition paddle. This paddle in my opinion is the best you can do for the money and it isn’t just a beginner paddle–it is a great paddle

Get yourselves some genuine kayaking pfd’s (don’t skimp on these) and you’ll be all set to at least start the learning process. There are a few more things you’ll need for your adventures, but by then you’ll have a better idea about that.


– Last Updated: Mar-28-16 7:14 PM EST –

A couple of article you may want to read - all on California Kayaker Magazine and readable online for free. http://www.calkayakermag.com/magazine.html

Issue #10 - Spring 2013 - Basic Types of kayaks. Talks about sit on top vs recreational vs touring vs whitewater, and the basic uses and pros/cons. The Hobies are sit on top. Recreational is a much different beast, with significant concerns in open water. Some of the boats mentioned by others in prior posts are touring kayaks. Good to know the basics of the types of boats.

Issue #2 - Summer 2010 - Hobie vs Native Watercraft pedal drive review, with some comparison to paddle power.

2nd the Sirocco suggestion
A big guy at 220, the Sirocco may be one that accommodates you well. I paddle with a number of ocean paddlers of various sizes that paddle the Sirocco. Well-skilled and adventurous kayakers. It’s a really nice overall design, and playful. It has the secondary stability to make it beginner-friendly in most cases.

A great suggestion for what you’re describing. Try one out if you have the opportunity.

Sorry I haven’t checked this in 24 hours or so. Thanks for all the additional info. I think you folks have convinced us that we need paddle kayaks. For what we want to do I think we need long narrow boats though. How much more of a learning curve are we facing with less width. We have never been in a kayak before. I really like those epic v5 surf skis, especially at 1500 bucks. Would it be easy for a total newbie to learn how to paddle one of these?

To develop proficiency
nothing is easy but you are looking in the right direction for max efficiency.


– Last Updated: Apr-15-16 11:26 AM EST –

The Sirrocco might be a good choice for the male but doubtful for the female. In fact you should look for different boats for the male compared to female as she most likely will be much smaller. You don't want her bouncing around inside a large cockpit. Looks like the Sirrocco is a large paddler boat from the specs.

You are jumping the gun

– Last Updated: Apr-15-16 11:53 AM EST –

Individuals vary greatly in their learning curves and their ability to adjust to unfamiliar sensations and situations. The fact that you've never been in a kayak before means you are planning to dive into a costly investment in equipment and a sport of which you have no knowledge. You may not even LIKE kayaking, have you considered that? A lot of activities look fun but until you have actually tried them you will not know if they actually suit you. How athletic are you? Do you have any problems with balance or seasickness? Do you have any flexibility, shoulder or lower back issues? Are you comfortable in deep water and a confident swimmer?

Really, you BOTH need to find someplace, even if it takes a weekend drive to another state, where you can go on a guided trip with some basic instruction in kayaking with an outfitter. Until you actually try kayaking you are not at all equipped to judge what you might want to do and what kind of boat would suit you.

Another point that has not been brought up yet about tandems is that if it is just two of you in the boat and you run into trouble, like a capsize, it is going to be more difficult for you to empty the boat and re-enter it on the open water. With two boats, the person still upright can assist the other. A swamped tandem in rough water can be a real bitch to handle.

Having a tandem also limits your usage to only when the two of you can go out, both because they are heavy to load and because most can't be paddled solo. There are some exceptions -- one being some models of folding kayak which can be set up as tandems or solos. I'm bringing those up because most newcomers to the sport don't even know that folding kayaks exist (even though they are one of the oldest type of popular kayak in the Western world). For just one example, look at the Pakboat XT-17:


It can be set up solo or tandem, weighs 44 lbs (less than most solo plastic kayaks), can be set up in about 30 minutes, knocked down in 15, and can be checked as baggage on an airline, meaning you can take it with you on vacation or carry it in the trunk of your car. Fully equipped, it's $2,000. I've owned the smaller XT-15 solo (no longer being made) and it's a great boat, comfortable and performs as well as most rigid boats. Folders are particularly good in rougher water as their slight flexing absorbs the shock of waves instead of being knocked around by them, and the inflatable sponsons along the sides make them quite stable. They are very seaworthy -- I've owned 6 folders and have taken them out in coastal waters in the Great Lakes, the Atlantic and even sheltered bays of the Pacific Northwest. People have crossed oceans in folding kayaks. There are also tandem inflatable/frame hybrid sit on tops like the Feathercraft Gemini.


Though more costly, these set up even quicker. Though the Gemini can't be set up as a solo, being a sit on top it would be easy to flip back over and remount in a capsize.

Hope I am not confusing you with "too much information". But it really is a broad ranging sport with dozens, if not hundreds, of options. Your first step at this point should really be some seat time in kayaks with a competent guide and instructor.