Kayaking Advice for a Newbie

Good evening!

I am in the market for a quality, sit-on-top kayak. I will primarily be using the kayak for the purpose of Class A and Class I rapids (slow moving rivers/gentle rapids). I can’t assuredly guarantee that the kayak won’t experience the ocean once or twice during its lifetime, but it wasn’t a factor in my kayak search. I’m mainly looking for something that will allow me to experience and partake in nature’s beauty. Because I am a newbie, and I can’t be confident that I will be 100% dedicated to this hobby three months from now or even next year, I have set a strict price ceiling of $500 (for the kayak only). I also know that I should expect to spend at least $100 for a decent paddle. I have scoured Craig’s List for several months, and I haven’t been able to find exactly what I’m looking for. I found numerous fishing kayaks, whitewater kayaks, and extremely used kayaks, but I have struggled to find a suitable recreational kayak. After a dealer strongly suggested the “Cadillac of Kayaks,” aka Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100, I oohed and aahed over it for a few weeks, and ultimately decided that I could probably find something slightly more reasonable that better fit my needs. I rented a Jackson Riviera a few months back, and I enjoyed the length and it seemed stable, but it wasn’t overly comfortable.

As a conscious, price-discerning consumer, I would prefer something of higher quality than the brands/models with lower price points (and probably quality) that most big-box stores advertise. I’ve spent countless hours researching kayaks, and I have essentially narrowed my search down to two: Perception Tribe 11.5 and Emotion Temptation 11. After shipping and all other costs (pick up for one of them, taxes, etc.) have been considered, the difference between these two models varies by a marginal amount ($25). Both boats are brand new. With that being said, I have a couple of hesitations regarding both:

  1. Perception Tribe 11.5 ($449)-Majority of the reviews I’ve read rate this boat approximately 8.75/10. I’ve been told it is very stable, (which is DEFINITELY what I’m seeking) and that it’s also easy to maneuver (which would be awesome for a newbie). I have also been told Perception Sport is a “value” brand and uses a thinner plastic. While the Tribe doesn’t belong to the “Sport” series, I can’t help but wonder if the Tribe is also a “value” kayak, and, as a result will not hold up/perform to the level of similar competitors. Also, while it seems to have ample storage, it doesn’t have a dry hatch, but that’s not a deal breaker by any means, just a feature that the Temptation has.

  2. Emotion Temptation 11 ($382)-There’s really limited information online regarding this brand. Furthermore, I can’t seem to locate many dealers in the South who carry the Emotion brand, much less the Temptation in store. The Temptation 10 is an award-winning kayak, so to me, that establishes credibility with the brand, but that’s not the exact model I’m looking at. From what I found about the Temptation 10, reviewers seemed to be extremely pleased with stability. It also features a skeg wheel which seems like a neat option, but how durable will the skeg wheel be in the water when it makes contact with rocks? Next, I realize that the Temptation 11 is a 2014 boat, but it still seems like there should be reviews that one could reference online, and I can’t find a single one. It is also alarming, or unsettling, that the 2014, 11 foot version, is significantly cheaper ($80) than the Temptation 10. Knowing that Lifetime acquired Emotion a few years back, and because of some not-so-hot reviews of Lifetime, I slightly question the durability of the brand.

    After this lengthy request for professional advice, my last concern is whether I’m even comparing apples to apples? I’m not sure that this is even a factor, but I forgot to mention that I’m around 5’4" and weigh approximately 130 lbs. I appreciate and welcome ANY and ALL advice that you guys are willing to share with me regarding these two. Thank you in advance!!!

other considerations
Gonna be the Devil’s advocate here. If you go to buy a new boat you are not going to get a high quality kayak for under $500, I’ll tell you that right now. As you must have already noticed, around $1000 is the range of a really well made and equipped boat (like the Tarpon). You do get what you pay for with kayaks. All you get with these rec style sit on tops is basically a chunk of molded plastic, no rigging, no hatch seals, no adjustable seat, no tracking devices (skeg or rudder). They are for short trip casual paddles on benign waters.

But, if you are willing to accept the limitations of a cheaper boat you would probably enjoy either one you are considering – they are not all that different. While I appreciate your concern about hull strength and durability, that just is not an option if you want a cheap kayak.

I would not expect them to be any more comfortable than the one you rented, though – all are just molded seats. Such boats are designed for “one size fits most” which means there are no adjustments and people at the small and large ends of the spectrum are not going to fit them well. I’m an inch taller than you and find personally any kayak over 25" wide to be cumbersome to paddle. These are all around 30". My favorite and most versatile boats are around 14’ to 15’ and 22" or less wide and weigh 45 lbs or less.

Despite what is suggested by the manufacturers, I would hesitate to commit any boat of this model to use in the open ocean or a large windy lake. You might find it quite difficult to get such a kayak back to shore in strong currents, surf and wind. “Stability” is relative, in rough water wide flat boats will be more prone to capsize and be harder to control than slimmer vee-hulled boats.

Another thing to consider: have you attempted to lift and load a short, 55 to 60 lb 30" wide kayak onto your car yet? If a boat is a chore to wrangle, you are less likely to use it. Longer sit inside kayaks will be lighter by 10 to 20 lbs, and a narrower longer boat is easier to load and to carry to the water.

I have to ask the question, is there a particular reason you’ve focused on sit on tops? You are a relatively small person, unless you are planning to mostly fish or use it for a dive platform, why do you want an open boat that is heavier and slower than conventional sit inside boats? Have you tried a sit inside light touring kayak at any point so you have a feel for the difference?

These boats you are considering don’t have high resale value either, so if your interest wanes you won’t get much out of selling one. Keep that in mind.

Bottom line, if you are sure this is what you want, just flip a coin and buy either one.

I am pretty sure the Perception Sport version of the Tribe is the Rambler (9.5 and 13.5 Tandem).

It is important to feel comfortable in kayak but you frequently have to customize it to some degree or other. When I started kayaking my ankles always hurt, then I added some foam pads but eventually just bought kayaking booties that had pads for the ankles. Some kayaks I need just a bit more padding in the seat, so I use a butt pad in them.

I also have one kayak with an amazingly comfortable seat on the water but if I sit in it on dry land I quickly want to get out. Mainly because on the water I am engaged with the kayak – I am sitting forward and not leaning back in the seat and kind of slouching.

Also the kayaking seating position isn’t really the most natural. You do get used to it – that is assuming you are sitting correctly to start with as beginners frequently seem to expect something more like a recliner that is big and open – probably why the Pungo sells so well.

Still you want not to be in pain, else you will never go.

Getting on the water is better than staying home thinking about it. If you get a very low end kayak at least you get out – just as long as you keep it on easy water. You might within a year want to ditch it however. Lots of us have kayaks like that, usually they become loaners for friends.

Thank you!
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I gladly appreciate you playing Devil’s advocate. I suppose I was under the assumption that hours of research plus adding a few hundred more to my budget than what big-box stores carry would automatically translate into a quality kayak. This is why I’m so appreciative of your advice. Like I stated earlier, I’m trying my best to balance finding a good kayak, but also trying to be mindful about overspending, without fully knowing that I will fall in love with kayaking. I just want to feel satisfied and okay with whatever purchase I make. I want to know that I’m getting more than “a chunk of molded plastic.” :slight_smile: For the time being, I am looking for recreational kayaks, but I don’t necessarily want to be limited by that. I do know that I’m not interested in whitewater kayaks.

The weight shouldn’t be too much of a concern, but obviously lighter is better. I’m glad that you mentioned that sit-ins weighed less because I had no idea that was the case. I chose to look for sit-on tops based on my limited experience with them and at the recommendation of friends and acquaintances who kayak recreationally. I think I’m going to see if I can find a rental place that will allow me to rent a sit-in. I guess the main concern I have is the ease associated with getting back inside if, for whatever reason, I fall out.

After reading your response, I very briefly looked at a few sit-ins online (Dagger Axis 10.5, Old Town Dirigo 106, Wilderness Pungo 100, and Wilderness Aspire 105). Would you feel more comfortable about taking these options out on a windy lake, gentle rapids, or calm river? Obviously, these boats would be at the extreme tippity-top of my budget, but I didn’t know if they were substantially better than the two (Perception Tribe 11.5 and Emotion Temptation 11) previously mentioned or not. Being a newbie, I just hate to extend my budget if it’s just a brand thing with the ones mentioned above, and these boats aren’t truly superior to the others.

Again, THANK YOU for all of your advice. I look forward to your response!

Thanks for informing me about the Tribe/Rambler. It doesn’t really make sense to purchase a Tribe if the Rambler is the identical model, just in the sport version. Gosh, there are so many different models and options it sometimes becomes difficult to for the novice kayaker to make sense of it all!

You made great points regarding individual comfort levels. I’m still researching away in hopes of trying to find a balance between a good kayak and a good price. :slight_smile: Do you think such things pop up on Craig’s List?

I’m appreciative of your advice.

used ones your area

– Last Updated: Jun-20-14 1:27 PM EST –

You will find that most serious kayak enthusiasts started with used boats. You can get much more for your money if you know what to look for. For instance, for $650 I just picked up a boat for my brother, a used sea kayak in excellent shape that sells new for $1800 and the seller included a $130 paddle, a new $100 spray skirt, a $20 bilge pump and a $50 PFD. That's $2100 worth of boat and gear for less than a third of it's new cost.

One model we often suggest for newbies with a tight budget is the Perception Sport Conduit 13 which is made for big box store Dick's Sports. It is the cheapest new sit inside kayak with basic safety features like front and rear sealed bulkheads and deck rigging. You might want to add that to your short list. Price is $550 and they often have discounts. I think this week there is a shipping special though pickup at the store is always free.

You're smart to consider safety aspects at this point -- yes you do need to know how to climb back into a sit inside but it really is not that complicated. If you really want to be in a position to make the best choice in a boat, try to find a kayak outfitter who offers an intro to kayaking class. Not only will you learn proper paddling technique (kayak paddling is NOT intuitive and most beginners get it wrong) but they will teach you basic safety skills like capsize recovery. You will also get to feel how a sit inside kayak works, since every class I have ever seen used sit-inside kayaks (SINKs). SINKs also tend to be narrower than sit on tops, so us shorter folks can paddle them more easily (I tend to bang my knuckles on the sides of wider boats) and they glide straighter and are easier to propel at speed due to less water resistance and less wake turbulence.

Great information!
Thanks for telling me about that specific Perception model. I’m also amazed at the deal you were able to snag on Craigslist. I’m going to watch the price of the Perception model while continuing to research and learn more about other models so that I can possibly jump on a good deal when I see one on Craigslist. I’m thinking that might be the best option at this point because it sounds like if you are an educated kayak consumer, great buys are out there. Thank you!!!

look for a used better quality boat
The reality is most of the starter boats like those you are looking at get used a few times then sold. Scour the craigslist ads and I’m sure you can find a boat that’s barely used. I often see these sold as a whole package with paddle, pfd etc after someone decides the sport is not for them or they move up to better boat.

About the only thing that goes wrong with plastic boats is they get left in the sun on a rack and get warped or dents from getting soft.

For a starter boat, you are better off with a sit on vs a sit in rec boat.