Kayak recommendations?

Hi all - I am considering purchasing a kayak, but I need a little help. I’ve canoed a lot before, but only kayaked a bit. I’ve done some nice mild sea kayaking in the harbor where I live, and I’m looking for a kayak I could use in the harbor and on our local rivers (nice calm rivers, no whitewater or anything). Any recommendations, or advice on types/styles to look for? Looking for something nice and cheap and good for a beginner. Thanks in advance!

advanced elements advanced frame kayak

– Last Updated: Apr-30-08 8:46 PM EST –

i am currently looking at this kayak. i have not kayaked yet, but everywhere i look it has great reviews. here is a link to a good starter package.
and people have taken this thing out in the ocean. it has a aluminum rib reinforced bow and stearn so it slices through the water almost as good as a hardshell kayak. it also can be fitted with a spray skirt. and i ahve heard of some guys using it in class 3 rapids so it is plenty durable. hope this helps :)

Your size?
Kayaks, including sea kayaks, are somewhat tuned a bit to someone’s size in weight and height. Given that you are a female and an “average sized paddler” usually means an average sized guy, it is particularly important to know your size to make a recommendation.

Also, would do you plan to continue going out on the ocean long term?

A few used ones in your area.

Demo !
Your best bet is to call any and all local watercraft dealers and find out if any of them are having a “Demo Day”.

This is where the manufacturers come with their boats and you are allowed to try different ones out.

Also you could go to various places where they rent them.

If someone suggests a boat for you here, it is usually a boat that they have, and what is good for them might not be good for you.



Cheapest One at Dicks
Go to Dicks Sporting Goods and buy the cheapest one they sell. Do not ask about life jackets or other safety equipment. Do not ask the staff what to do if you capsize and fill the boat with cold water. Just give them a credit card and you will be on your way.

Obviously I’m being a wise ass. But that is what too many people are doing and we will all be paying the price with increased regulation and fees in the future.

You have found Paddling.net and are asking questions. I suspect you will be responsible on the water.

Good Luck and have fun.

I did not see it mentioned…
… but as a beginner, a wide boat would be easier to master. But, if you are serious about it or want to cover more distance, boats like the one you link to (34" wide, 10.5 ft long) will very quickly become limiting. Also, consider how often you go out. An inflatable (with a frame) must take at least 15-20 minutes to setup is my thinking (never used one) - I would not want to do this twice a week but once a month it might be tollerable.

I am also a beginner, just haveing purchased my second kayak. My first has been a very nice sit on top. My second is a Tsunami 145, which is surprisingly stable and fairly comfortable. Yet I already see its limitations in terms of speed and at under 25" wide it is already too wide and tall and thus creates some limitations on how you paddle. A wider boat will put even more limitations. Question is if they matter to you or not.

So, go with the “paddle demos” advice and padle them in various conditions.

My previous two years of frequent but casual paddling in a sit on top did not give me enough knowledge to pick a boat. Reading a few books and watching a DVD or two (local libraries = free), reading-up on it here, trying every boat type in local stores - I got a better idea. Small-frame/foot size folks have tons of choices that are off-limits to larger folks with long feet. That aside, you need to paddle many hours before you actually figure out what you want.

Lastly, since beginners (me included) gain new skills every time we paddle (provided we think and observe and read/watch/learn), we keep finding much what we want evolves, but we often do not know how much our skills will improve over time. I think it is pretty much a given to start with an “approximation” of what one needs, perhaps a little more advanced than they feel fully comfortable with, then replace with what they really want later. For instance, my 24"+ Tsunami boat feels already a little too slow/wide. Yet it gives me reassuring stability for learning and a margin of error when I screw-up. Am I going to develop skills for a 22" 17 footer or will it create just trouble for me in rough conditions a year from now? No idea till I put a few more months of active paddling behind me.

So, having no good way to pick “the right” boat at the beginning, as “the right” changes meaning over time, buying used is a good way to start as the likeleyhood to pick the right boat the first time is minimal IMO. Just get something that would work for you and not restrict you in terms of setup time, weight, size (both small or big), and be ready to ditch it for something else later…

…for the responses! First, I am not looking to do any long-term ocean paddling (if I ended up wanting to, I’d get a sea-kayak, no?), and in terms of size and all, I’m 5’3" and about 125, so pretty average. One i found that has some decent reviews is an Old Town Otter? It’s small and recommended for kids, lol, but it’s not expensive, not heavy or too long, and wide for stability while I get better. Any thoughts on this boat? And yes, a used one would be great and I will probably be checking around. I’m sure EMS or REI have demo days so maybe I can check into that too.

You are not average
You are small. So look for kayaks for smaller paddlers. Don’t end up with a wide bathtub that is a dog to paddle but never tips over.

Just get
a Wildreness Systems Tsunami 120 and a good PFD and paddle and take some instruction.

I agree with tsunamichuck

Posted by: tsunamichuck on Apr-30-08 11:50 PM (EST)

A few used ones in your area.

good kayak
once again i recommend the advanced elements advanced frame kayak. it i s good all around, not likely to tip, can handle class 3 rapids , and you can get everything you need short of a spray skirt in a package for 520$ and free shipping if you have it sent to an rei store and pick it up.

it should be a good size for you if you can handle about a 240cm paddle which i hear is a good size for this kayak. i recommend that before you decide though, go to rei and try one out to see if it is right for you. this is my choice for a first kayak as i do not even need a car to transport it, just my bike and one of those bike trailers made for hauling kids that you can fit your gear into. i believe that it is a great start for begginers on a budget like you and i and should keep you happy for a while until you can manage and afford a high performance kayak. i have asked around and this looks to be the best option for me, and maybe it is for you too, but you have to make the decision on what is best for you. but over all i would stay away from any inflatable “kayak” that is under 300$ if you want decent quality. also advanced elements has incredible customer service. if something breaks they will replace it short of deliberate destruction or doing something incredibly stupid. one guy over inflated the floor in one of these and customer service was so impressed in the way the seam blew that they sent a whole new floor to him free of charge. they really back up their product.

Don’t take advice from another beginne
A 240 cm paddle is ridiculously long for you. I am 6’5" and use a 230.In a canoe.

Start with a more technical boat like the Nordkapps recommended by Tchuck who knows what he is talking about.

Like EVERYONE will tell you, go demo some boats.Get the one that feels a little unstable because one that is immediately stable for a beginner will be a drag in a month.

sorry, just trying to help
all of my info is not firsthand and i was just going off of input from owners of the kayak i recommended, and i have no experience. i am simply relaying information. i was jsut trying to steer her away from those olt town otters. at the time i had some strange idea that i had seen a cheaply made inflatable by that name, but i was mistaken. if you can manage a hard shell go for it, and if you can afford a nordkapp then definately go for it.

Rei and EMS

– Last Updated: May-02-08 12:08 AM EST –

staff really do not know much about kayaking. Your salesman may have as much cockpit time as the TMan. Go to a kayak shop like Charles River Canoe and Kayak in Newton or the Kayak Center in Wickford, RI and demo some of their boats. I was just a bit tongue in cheek about the Nordkapp, being that there are quite a few for sale , but you can score a really nice older fiberglass 'Kapp for about $800. I have had 2. Love the boat and the solid layup.
Wanna go cheap? Pick up an old school whitewater kayak like a Dancer or Crossfire. ( There are numerous others). You find them for around $50-$100 on Craigslist or a local whitewater kayak board. They are tippy at first and hard to make go straight but once you get the feel of it, you will develop a very smooth and efficient stroke. Very versatile boats. Not great at what they do but more than adequate. Don't like it? Sell it for what you paid or a bit more. People here will tell you they would not buy one but they sell for $200-300 on ebay all the time.

Efforts to help

– Last Updated: May-02-08 7:48 AM EST –

It is nice that you tried to be helpful. But - this question is from a canoeist who it is safe to assume already has the balance part down better than most who start out in wide kayaks as their first boat. She also could likely put herself and two of her clones into that boat you are talking about.

It's just not the right boat for this case.

No no no to Otter

– Last Updated: May-02-08 8:04 AM EST –

You are not average - you are a small or verging on a very small paddler. As I mentioned, "average" in kayaks is still really sized around an average guy. You are actually a bit under the average for women too regardless of generation, but that's no matter right now.

The problem with the boats like the Otter is that should you capsize you have the devil of a time with self-rescue, even if you have secured float bags in there, because the boat lacks features like deck rigging that would make it viable for a 5'3" person to get back over the boat and in. And it's a bathtub and won't support your learning anything especially useful about kayaking. I assume that you have dealt with basic safety considerations in canoeing, and would like to apply the same process to kayaking.

Tsunamichuck has an interesting suggestion. The other alternative would be something like a Tsunami 135, a boat that has some of the handle and features of the sea kayak that you may ultimately want and can support your learning to handle one.

Or you can go with an old school WW boat that will support skills and just means you have to stay within swimming distance of shore in case of a capsize. If that direction, I'd add these that should fit you very nicely and be a hoot for skills work - Dagger Piedra, Perception Whippet or Pirouette S. None of these boats will remotely do expeditioning - they really are just close to shore boats - but they will support all the "big water" skills and when available are way cheap. The biggest concern is the brittlenes of the plastic, but if they have been stored under cover they can last a good while.

For what it is worth:
I think the OT Otter is a great starter rec boat for any one.

You would have to work to tip it over.

Tie a plastic orange juice bottle with the cap on and the bottom cut off in and that is your bailer.

If you do manage to tip it over, swim it into shore and then bail it out.

Once you realize that you are going to stick with paddling you can then look to upgrading to a longer narrower boat.

It has worked that way for hundreds of people and I’ll bet they don’t regret it.



240 cm?

– Last Updated: May-02-08 1:04 PM EST –

for a 5'3 paddler? interesting.

in my experience a 240 will make a fine center post for holding up the community tarp in the campsite...less useful as a paddle.

To mitigate a bit…
JackL isn’t wrong about the Otter as a starter rec boat, though IMO it doesn’t belong in active harbors with maybe a fishing fleet or other such activity.

However, if your ultimate goal is a sea kayak and you already are comfortable and have time in a canoe, it would not get you as much as someone who really just needs to get used to being on the water to start with. At your height, it would do very little to get you going on a good paddle stroke. Assuming you are typical build for a woman, with proportionately shorter torso than a guy, it’s so wide that you almost would have to use an over-length paddle to get a decent catch.