Kayaking 101

Okay, I, like so many others recently, jumped headlong into the world of kayaks. It didn’t take long for me to quickly build up a small fleet consisting of a Montour 11 (Perception Dagger), a Wilderness Systems Pamlico 108, a Perception Swifty, a Blast, and a Perception Caster 12.5. All great boats, though my SOT probably gets the least use (got it to take the dog and do photography, but has proven too wet to do the latter).

I’ve learned a lot from personal trial and error, and can see how all of my boats do different things and have different missions. My favorite is my very first boat, the Montour. It just seems to do everything well. I have gotten a few more folks into the sport and am happy to have them paddle with me, but they inevitably start asking questions to which I have no answers. My knowledge is, admittedly, limited.

I’ve also been developing a strong desire to build a strip kayak. A kit seems far more logical to this novice, but, again, I really don’t know. I like the way they look… But I really don’t know what to look for, and just the general knowledge is a little beyond me at this point. Heck, I don’t even know what a ‘greenland’ style kayak is compared to others (I presume it is much like my Montour/Dagger with the upswept bow and more narrow waistline).

It’s just the general knowledge that has proven surprisingly difficult to find which I’m after. It’d sure be nice to have a thread with really basic stuff that most folks here just take for granted.

General knowledge?
Do you live near Salty? He’s a real gem of a teacher. Whatever the subject.

Greenland kayak
has hard chines (i.e. the hull has sharp angles rather than a rounded look. Greenlands generally have good secondary stability, and can be held in a lean to carve a turn (the sharp chine behaves like a rudder when leaned.) All other things being equal, they tend to have a lower top speed than a boat with a rounded hull.

If you are building a stripper, it is easy to get the rounded hull if that’s what you want. If you go with a stitch and glue boat (see Pygmy boats and Chesapeake Light Craft) the Greenlands are slightly easier to build because there are fewer panels to stitch together than there are with a multi-chine model, which creates a rounder, but not perfectly round hull.

It is my understanding (not from experience) that strip-built boats take more hours to complete than a stitch and glue boat. Building a stitch and glue Greenland style boat, like the Pygmy Arctic Tern, is pretty easy to do, if you have a modicum of patience. It took me about 120 hours to complete mine. Someone with more confidence could complete it more quickly than that.


– Last Updated: Sep-13-08 9:56 PM EST –

The "Guidelines" section here has some good basic stuff.

here's another good reference:

An interesting technique site:

Building a stripper:

Building a stitch & glue:

Building a skin-on-frame:

"Greenland-style" is terribly overused as a marketing term. Here's a real(replica) Greenland hunting kayak:

If I Were You…

– Last Updated: Sep-14-08 6:16 AM EST –

I'd go to demos and try out different sea kayaks. Rent different sea kayaks. Find one that you really like. Buy one. Learn to roll, brace, edge. Then I'd start looking for a design to build.

But that's just me.

Twice I have met people who built kayaks before they had learned how to paddle a kayak. Damn, that's gotta hurt to put all that time and effort into a boat that you don't like.

Finding boats & builders
Many designers and kit manufacturers will give you contact information for owners/builders in your area if you call or email them. Redfish puts their list online:


This is a popular builder’s forum:


CLC did a demo nearby. I got to paddle several boats I was interested in. I was surprised by how much I liked the Pax 18.

Kayaking 101
Welcome to the beginning of a great sport! My first, and probably best piece of advice is to join a club. Hopefully you can find one in or near your area. Most likely you will find one of the leaders to be quite knowledgeable and able to get you off to a good start, regarding equipment, technique, and safety. Short of taking lessons at a full service kayak shop, (expensive), this will do more for you than anything else I can imagine. It is also a great way to meet other paddlers in your area and learn some of the best places to paddle. It is usually more fun to paddle with others, too, and can be much safer. Ken

Morning Rex
But then there is Bob W from Asheville!

I am not sure if you have ever met him or not.

He is probably the most enthusiastic greenland paddler I have ever met.

He never kayaked in his life, and decided that he would like to learn, so he took one of those courses where you build a skin on frame, and a GP and then learn to paddle it and roll it all within one week.

We met and paddled with him not too long after, and he thrives on rough water.

I am pretty sure he now has a Valley LV too.



Where I live…
There really aren’t any clubs in the area at all; in fact, it seems like I’m ‘the man’ when it comes to kayakers around here. I’ve gotten several folks into the sport, and if I thought I had the time for it, I’d start a club myself.

Rolling really isn’t on my agenda. My Montour is the ‘tightest’ one I have, and if you can’t get out of it you’re grossly overweight and stupid to boot. We generally have flat water here. Out in the middle of the lake the swells can get pretty deep, but it isn’t anything that would cause much alarm. I’ve been out on rough days and with the spray skirt fitted things are just fine; I actually really like getting out when it is rough. Most of the time I run the creeks leading off of the lakes though, and they’re generally glassy all the time. Here’s my photobucket page if you’re interested to see what I 'yak on:


There don’t seem to be any dealers nearby, which kind of surprises me. Not too far to the north is the Red River and the Sabine is just east of us. It would seem that this could be a bigger sport here. I do see kayaks riding on top of Hummers, Mercedes M Wagons, and other snazzy, upscale, and grossly useless showoff ULVs (unnecessarily large vehicles), but I seldom see any 'yaks in the water unless I put them in myself.

I have several hundred miles on my yaks from this spring and summer of paddling. I’m looking forward to many more. I just feel that the really basic, ‘common knowledge’ isn’t really so common. It just seems to be scattered everywhere in little tidbits. It’d be nice to have a good reference somewhere online.

Kayak 101.
No clubs, too bad. Have you ever happened on to this site? Quite helpful. Ken


Hey Jack
Good afternoon. I’m recovering from the morning hammerfest. (I had a good day)

That is so cool about the Asheville Greenlander. I’m glad that the ‘build-it-right-away’ thing works out sometimes.

Hey, my daughter says she wants to do a family team triathlon thing. She’s going to swim; I’m going to bike, and her husband is going to run. Wish us luck.

Rolling in a loose boat
My boat is not tight and I paddle on a lake that is more often flat than not. Rolling seemed like one more interesting thing to try for no reason other than to do it. Don’t let your boat’s fit make you think you can’t learn to roll.


I agree with Kudzu
Learn what’s what first, then build. I’ve got two of those, what do you call 'em in the yard, both of which were going to be “the one”, and they’re fine, but I sure wish I’d paddled my Explorer first.

However, I learned a lot about S&G building, and if I ever do find plans for The One, I’ll be able to do a much better job building it. Too bad it probably can’t exist in S&G construction though.