Kayak Suggestions for Novice Wife

-- Last Updated: Mar-11-15 10:45 AM EST --

We are new to kayaking, but I would like to buy a kayak for my wife. She is 5'3" and about 115lbs. She is a novice, but has kayaked before and prefers a SOT, and values stability and back support (has disc issues).

Cost is a factor - she is purely recreational, so not looking to spend a ton of money, and obviously something lighter would be better, but not a primary factor in purchase. Durability is good too since we'll be in Lake Erie, as well as some local creeks with a variety of water levels.

As for myself - I am 6'3" 230lbs and am looking for something that I can paddle in recreationally and occasionally fish with. Also not looking to spend a fortune. $500 Max, but would prefer less.

I really appreciate any advice - there are so many choices and I feel really under informed.

less than $500 will be tough
Hi there,

I’m not too familiar with sit on top designs. For you I would recommend current design’s solara 120. It is a great rec yak and has a weight capacity of 350 pounds and has an excellent, adjustable seat. It’s great for downstream applications, highly maneuverable, however, it probably won’t track as well as you’d like for a large body of water, but should do fine if you stick to the shorelines. I can’t really think of a good rec sit on top for under $500 that I would, personally, recommend. Some people in my normal paddling group use wilderness systems sit on tops and have paddled streams with reasonably swift currents with mild rapids. I don’t think those retail for under $1000 though. You’d probably have to come across some used 'yaks to find a deal in your price range.

some things to consider

– Last Updated: Mar-11-15 12:11 PM EST –

1. Sit on tops are never light.

2. Lake Erie is no place for cheap recreational style boats. It is serious open water.

3. Nothing under $500 new will be durable or perform well in open water. Boats in this price range are little more than pool toys, suitable only for shallow ponds and narrow streams.

4. High back seats are not necessarily good for people with back problems. A low backband or inflatable lumbar cushion offers better support.

Yes, you do need some more information. You're a large guy and your wife is petite and most cheap kayaks are not going to fit either of you. Are you in Pennsyvania or Northern Ohio? There is a good dealer in Franklin, PA and if you are anywhere near there it would be worth a trip to talk to them about what to look for.

By the way, have you considered a canoe for the two of you for outings and for you for fishing? Might be a reasonable option and within your budget, though a canoe would not be the best option for Erie (too windy).

Honestly, neither of you should be venturing out into Lake Erie without some basic instruction in paddling open water and in self rescue. And you need boats that are competent for the conditions you would encounter there (which rules out almost all cheap rec boats).

You might need to look at some of the Advanced Elements inflatables. Going to cost you more than $500 though.

some background info
You may already know this stuff, but California Kayaker Magazine had an article that talked about the different categories of kayaks and what they were good for. The article can be read online at http://www.calkayakermag.com/magazine.html. Issue #10.

Take a look at
Perception Tribe 9.5

Fits all the criteria you listed.

Random comments

– Last Updated: Mar-11-15 4:40 PM EST –

Some will line up with willowleaf's.

I agree that a SOT would be heavier, and what you will get at that price unless you score a good fit used is a glorified pool toy. So it won't have great features for comfort.

More of a question for me, a SOT is a fundamentally wetter ride if you try more significant waters - is your wife on board with that?

The venue you cite has waves and wind and things that aggravate the wet part. Maybe if you were talking a shallow meandering creek, but not that lake. It is big and it is cold. Especially this year.

I am sure you have all the best intentions. But I have said it many times before - if you want a long time paddling companion, take her to places to try boats and get some seat time so she can make her own decision. And you will find limited options trying by yourself anyway at her size - she needs a small person's boat and those don't show up on Craig's list every five minutes. A proper outfitter can likely hook her up with more options than you will be able to land on yourself.

As to yourself, there are more options for bigger than small. So while you are on the opposite end of the spectrum from your wife, that end tends to be better served in terms of boats being available used and new.

SOT and lake Erie bad choice
Bad choice is a sit on top for Lake Erie. Lake Erie isn’t very warm water until say mid July. Then only maybe 69F maybe a little warmer or colder depending on what part. I would say a Tsunami would work ok. BUT not $500 bucks. You wont find anything NEW at that price. Closest thing new in that price would be from Dicks sporting goods a Perception sport Conduit 13 BUT its a real wide kayak not good for small women.

Tsunami link below http://www.wildernesssystems.com/kayaks/tsunami/tsunami-135

I put my sister in my Valley Avocet RM about same size as your wife and she loved it. Said she actually wasn’t feeling like she was swimming in it like other kayaks she has tried. I bought a new BUT older 2009 model for $1200 plus tax ,last year.

Tsunami should be able to get a 13 footer on sale in the 1000 range. I sold my used Tsunami 140 last year for $650 which I originally bought off ebay new, free ship, for $780. 3 years ago.

back strengthening
Just a side bar comment: if your wife seriously wants to paddle comfortably she would do well to find a physical therapist (or responsible chiropractor with a good rehab clinic) to get some strengthening and flexibility routines for her back and lower torso as well as stretching for her hamstrings. I’m a huge believer in such therapies after seeing how they restored my mother’s mobility and allowed her to avoid disc surgery after a debilitating injury from a bad fall that left her with an excruciatingly painful damaged disc. After 6 months of the therapy she was painfree and back to all activities, even though in her late 70’s.

You also need to be sure she can recover and climb into any boat she gets in the event of a capsize (of course this is also true for you, but if she has pain limitations it is dually important). A half mile offshore with a storm approaching would be no time to discover that pain or spasms rendered her unable to self-rescue.

The thing with “recreational” is that
… you do not want to be fighting the boat all the time, or it isn’t fun, so you may have to spend more than you thought reasonable up front, to get something that fits the both human and the water and wind conditions.

I agree you should really try to rent some kayaks and do some guided tours, or find a dealer who will let you do a demo or who will be having a “demo day” this spring. I am average height, but my legs and arms are long, so during the ‘exploratory rental phase’ years ago I learned that trying to get those legs in and out of a sit-in was NOT the way I wanted to go on a hot day in our climate here. At 100ºF +, dipping your toes in as you glide along can be a GOOD thing. That and for some reason they always tried to give me a short paddle, I kept banging my knuckles, and I swore when I finally got My Kayak, besides fitting my legs and not having to worry about my feet, it would come with something re the paddle that I liked a lot better.

Good luck in your search, it may take some time.

PS: don’t laugh, but if you have an older house, and go with longer models, make sure the kayak(s) will fit in the garage - with the door shut - before purchase. It is sort of hilarious looking sometimes in there.

Which end of Lake Erie
If you are on/near the west end it would be worth a drive to Wyandotte MI to visit Riverside Kayak Connection. Good, knowledgeable people there.

You being large in a bigger boat and she small in a smaller boat, your paddling speeds will be quite different - perhaps to her dismay. In addition to the various comments already made, I would suggest you consider a decent, sit inside, seaworthy tandem. Then you’ll necessarily stay together. Rent one and go out with a reputable outfitter and see what you think.

Caveat: It depends on the personalities of the two paddlers in the tandem, but tandems are often referred to as ‘divorce boats’.

You being large in a bigger boat and she small in a smaller boat, your paddling speeds will be quite different - perhaps to her dismay. In addition to the various comments already made, I would suggest you consider a decent, sit inside, seaworthy tandem. Then you’ll necessarily stay together. Rent one and go out with a reputable outfitter and see what you think.

Caveat: It depends on the personalities of the two paddlers in the tandem, but tandems are often referred to as ‘divorce boats’.

On that…
if the wife is in a properly sized boat for her size, with the right paddle that will allow her to hold a good cadence (NOT a big blade but a smaller one), strictly speaking she could be as fast as her larger husband.

Assuming they have the same interest in speed - and frankly I more often see that as an issue than any of the physical attributes of the paddlers involved. Guys are more likely to value a paddling experience in terms of distance covered per hour than women when they first start paddling. After a while they might discover the joys of spending all day in 100 linear feet of a tidal race, but at first it is often about sheer speed. I have seen women who bury most of the guys - but they also had the same interest in speed as the guys.

Any couple that paddles together has to work this part out. I know a number of married couples where the husband mixes up paddling with the wife in more sedate jaunts and does faster or riskier stuff with other friends. My husband and I generally paddled together, and many here do, but among the local paddling crowd we were very much the exception. A lot of the married paddlers in the larger group were there stag.

The tandem thing might work, but right now it is early to tell if both of these individuals will ultimately have the same interest in paddling.

Lake Erie
Just to clarify - we’re in Buffalo and when I said Lake Erie, I really just meant the inner harbor inside multiple breakwalls.

Appreciate all of the advice.

What is the level of motor boat traffic?
I am asking because I have been on the shores of Lake Erie near a break wall and seen motor boats come screaming in when a summer storm popped up out over the water. They did not throttle down until their bow was nearly inside the opening… and about 7 minutes later we discovered why when the lightning came onshore.

If you are thinking of paddling among this kind of thing, I would suggest that your criteria include clothing and boats that are brightly colored.

Not all paddling requires

– Last Updated: Mar-12-15 11:11 AM EST –

14' to 16' sea/touring kayaks, capable of crossing a Great Lake or carrying a weeks worth of camping gear.

There is NO reason not to get a SOT if you are venturing near shore or in protected waters in good / warm weather.

Yes, I agree with Celia on the cautionary notes about motorized traffic and seawalls. My handiest and most frequent kayaking locations are Pittsburgh’s 3 large “industrial” rivers. Due to the shipping lanes for barges and other traffic in the middle, we paddle mostly within 50’ of the banks which often have concrete walls along them. There are also shoals and sandbars along the shore. Whenever large barges and, more so, the screaming recreational powerboats come flying through, we can get tremendous reflected turbulence as their wakes hit the walls and come back. I have seen some of these micro-tsunamis flip people in short flat bottomed rec boats (which have poor stability in steep waves). But my sea kayaks just bob over those waves, even when hit broadside – in fact I enjoy turning into the waves and surfing them at times.

Busy harbors can be really challenging for kayaking. You need to be aware of what is going on around (and behind) you at all times and be in a boat that you can quickly move out of the way of oncoming traffic.

Iam in Buffalo area too
Even behind the break walls like right were the Buffalo river comes out into the lake still behind break walls just past were the Destroyer ships are it can get quite wavy from power boats plus there are a lot of big steel walls that the waves rebound back into each other. I have seen only a few sit on tops in the area and when I do they are almost always very wet paddlers. I was out on Lake Ontario Wilson area and it was pretty calm with an occasional wave coming in. A guy was using a Hobie that you peddle. He got soaking wet even under those conditions as every few minutes a wave would come in and he would get splashed quite good. Other wise it was fairly smooth. So like I said I wouldn’t use a sit on top. There generally slow too as they are typically very wide . Although the Hobie peddle one can go along ok. If its dead calm there dry then.

Rent a kayak at Paths Peaks and paddles but they mainly carry only Prjon kayaks but also sell Hobie sit on tops. There in Tonawanda. Other places that are a little farther away are Evergreen Outfitters near Jamestown they have a Wednesday night paddle you could try a variety of kayaks. Another place would be Baycreek in Rochester they also have paddles were you could try a variety of brands. Oak Orchard kayak sells many brands BUT not sure if they have any paddle nights to try some, they only have a very very small muddy pond were you really cant make much of a judgment on the kayak.

Who are you replying to?
The post you replied to is about having bright colors so motor boats will see them, and even above my comments were mostly that the wife should try out some boats and choose one herself rather than the husband trying to guess for her.

Wherever you got the 14 to 16 ft sea kayak thing, it wasn’t me. Having seen Lake Erie when she was angry, I happen to agree with it if they want to wander into less protected areas. But I didn’t go there in this thread.

kayak choosing
If you’re in Buffalo go check out Oak Orchard Canoe and Kayak. They have a great stock, I think around 1000 kayaks, they also have a try before you buy program, best of all lots of demo kayaks pretty cheap too according to their prices on their website. I remember seeing a few 12 -14’ demo kayaks, good brands for not much more than you were looking to spend.