Lack of places to try boats

-- Last Updated: Aug-05-12 11:07 AM EST --

It seems like between the economy and the lack of new and younger paddlers coming into the sport, the small mom and pop shops are evaporating everywhere. And with that fact goes the opportunity to try boats. When someone posts here questions about particular boats, the answer (justifiably so) is often ..... go demo, but of late I've seen many a small shops that did allow you to do so have disappeared, thus went the opportunity to demo. Many of the bigger places left are carrying fewer and fewer composites and will only happily "order" one for you - sight unseen of course.

After trying a variety of known quality small playful day boats, I have come to the conclusion that they do not work for me because of my size and weight (6' -220lbs.) and have been looking at boats in the 17'4" range to 17'10" range that might squeeze into this role for me, but have seen few places or opportunities (upper NE ) to try such beasts to see if they can exceed playfully just the touring use they were designed for.

Any thoughts and suggestions as to what craft for bigger guys that might fill such a bill without being too fat or to slow will be entertained even if only for the purpose of discussion. The Cetus seems to work well here, but have no experience with others like the Etain or Tiderace or for that matter the Walrus made up in Vermont. Paddled an NDK Explorer for years, but not as maneuverable as some of the newer designs. If I see a consensus, it might narrow down any trips I might take to find a particular model for a demo.

Challenge that thought…
Every day people drop that powerboat and switch

to a canoe or a kayak because it is LESS cost.

NO gas, NO trailer, NO truck needed to haul around.

No need to pay marina, dock, warehousing, insurance.

Canoe and Kayak sports are exploding around the USA

I know people paddling 20, 30, 40 miles in ONE day.

I’ve seen powerboaters go 5 miles and anchor.

Yes the economy sucks, but people are making changes.

If ever in Mass Charles River C & K used

– Last Updated: Aug-05-12 2:04 PM EST –

to have a pretty good line of kayaks to try, and even NewEngland Small Watercraft(name??) up in Rowley used to stock many, now whether one can demo from the Rowley shop...not sure. Also a shop in Plymouth, MA...its name = ??. Wondering if Kittery Trading Post allows demos other than their early spring show? Maybe Castine Kayak has some for demo...? Yeah, question marks after each...I know. Adirondack shops...MountainMan Outdoors I know does. Think Lake George C&K does. Also think you could out in western NYS online/physical shop, but a drive...but so is MountainMan Outdoors. Agreed it IS a chore finding a dealer that, at best, stocks certain boats...the recreational crowd of gaga paddlers is immense.

NE shops

– Last Updated: Aug-05-12 4:10 PM EST –

New England Smallcraft now just deals in fishing kayaks these days and doesn't carry any line of true sea kayaks the last I had heard. Kittery Trading Post's new business model is that they will order you a composite, but no longer order any for the store. Charles River is still carrying a decent selection and someday I will have to make the trip.

I've heard the bigger stores around Rockland and Camden Maine have backed way off on composites. Cape Diem in Bar Harbor that was offering lessons, coaching and carrying Impex has disappeared. Yes there are still some people who are connected to certain manufactures have some in stock as part of their guiding - coaching business, but travel and limited selection is still the case.

Yes I do know where some boats that might tweak my interest are and can possibly be demoed, but if I decide to act on this, I am not particularly interested in driving all over the map.

For now I would be interested in what others like for boats that have some maneuverability and sporty ness for heavier paddlers that aren't sp specific like the Delphin or big like the Zepher that they really only shine if you are staying in one spot and not looking to cover some mileage to the next spot.

I guess it depends on where you are.
There are lots of places to try boats in the Carolinas. I’d suggest a kayak outfitters vacation tour. I might start in Raleigh at GOPC and Paddle Creek, then go tour the Hurricane factory on the way to see Barrier Island Kayaks. Next stop would be Sea Kayak Carolina in Charleston and finish off with Savannah Canoe and Kayak.

If you paddle with all those folks and cannot find a boat you love, it might be time to quit.

For specific boats, the explorer is still a great all around boat and the Cetus HV is out but very hard to find.

Paddle with an outfitter
Go on a trip with a local outfitter that will let you try out multiple kayaks.Our local outfitter also takes the price of the rental off the purchase of his kayaks.

If you like the Cetus
You may like the P&H Aries – it’s a more playful and maneuverable composite than the Cetus (tested and loved both for different reasons) but still has decent storage. I’m pushing 6’ and there was room for my legs but I tip the scales at 145, so we can’t compare girth. It’s rated up to 270 lbs. Length is 15.5…may be worth a ride if you can find one.

Charles River in Newton, MA carries P&H and Necky and lets you demo til you drop. NE Small Craft in Rowley, MA has gone over to fishing kayaks as that’s where the money is for this small but excellent shop.

Osprey Sea Kayak Adventures in Westport is one of the best for setting up demos and they carry a full line of P&H boats. Their whole staff is extremely accommodating and knowledgable and, most importantly, wonderful to deal with.

In RI, you can try The Kayak Centre in Wickford where “Every Day is Demo Day”. They’re a Valley/Current Design/Necky and possibly Wilderness Systems dealer.

If you’re in ME, Tom Bergh’s Maine Island Kayak Company is your best bet for SKUK (NDK) and he’s great about demo’ing, besides being a pretty cool and interesting guy.

Demo’s are available at the small shops; just seek and you will find.

Bought from both …
… Charles River and Kayak Center, over the years. Both are great places to demo and poke around. CR seems to me to be more laid back, while KC is more of a business atmosphere. But the advice I’ve received from KC has been more useful … CR is more “what ever feels right”, while KC will be more definitive.

One thing in RI: no tax on boats, including any items related to the boat that you buy at the same time (paddles, etc).

Both have some nice boats … top of shelf would be P&H at CR, and Valley at KC. Both I think may still be selling Wilderness glass boats, but you can the those at any chain now.

Might also contact paddling groups
in your area. Our group runs a demo day each spring and invites area outfitters and members to share their boats with the group (500 members and growing) on a local lake, has free basic classes, and great fun. R

I Still Say We Need a Paddle Town
Wouldn’t it be great if each US coast had a town that sold everything paddling? I nominate Wilmington, NC for the east coast. It’s centrally located, lots of water, and it’s close to me.

Does NY = NE?
Not sure where you are. Got harbor/boathouse, got fleet, any excuse for a demo day is a good reason to hang the Gone Paddling sign on the door.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

boat options
Others have chimed in with options in the NE area for demoing. I will address another aspect of your post – available boat choices. Unless you have very unique dimensions, 6’ 220 lbs definitely does not size you out of smaller, more playful sea kayaks. I can think of several off the top of my head that I’ve seen work for guys around your size:

  1. P&H Delphin/Aries 155 - essentially the same boat in either poly (Delphin) or glass (Aries). Very manueverable and playful. Great for surf. I’ve put a number of guys your size and larger in them comfortably. I paddle one myself (same height as you, although a bit lighter)

  2. NDK Romany Surf - I think they’re only making this one in glass now, but it’s a fun 16’-ish boat and seems to fit folks in your range.

  3. P&H Capella - Never paddled one, but I’ve known a couple of guys around your size that do.

  4. Wilderness Systems Zephyr 160 - another fun boat for play and surf, somewhat similar to the Romany.

large guy boats
WS Zephyr 160

WS Tempest 170, 180

WS Tsunami 170

Eddyline Nighthawk 17.5

Impex Assateague

CD Sirocco

big guy play boats
I’m 6’7 and 220 and spent the last few demo days around Seattle trying boats.

I owned a Tiderace Xplore-L for the last few years. Great cockpit fit, good performance but I wanted something more play, less tour. Done many 30-40 mile days in that boat and lots of rough water touring.

The Tiderace Xtra is nicely rockered and playful but a little too short for my feet. Same with the Tiderace Xcite, great play but still usable for a week long tour, except not enough leg room for my 36" inseam. These would both fit you as I have 6’ friends who paddle them.

I bought a Sterling Reflection. Fantastic boat, tons of leg room but built by a tiny shop in Bellingham, WA. A friend of mine who’s 6’6 and 240 with size 15’s was used as a fit model. The boat is all rocker but I’ve done everything from 25 mile tours to rock garden and surf sessions. The boat won ‘gear of the year’ award from Outside so he’s(Sterling) swamped now.

I am also 6’ and 220#
I am also 6’ and about 220#. 32 inch inseam, size 11 shoes. I do have a belly, but also have large, muscular legs from years of mountain biking.

I fit the Dagger Alchemy 14.0L just fine. And the Delphin. have you tried these? Maybe short playful boats aren’t out the the question.

Bowrudder also had some suggestions for boats that are short and playful, but a little larger.

Local kayak shops are just one place to get demo time. The article listed below from California Kayaker Magazine talks about clubs, classes, buying used, and other ways to also get butt time to test boats:

I’m about…
the same size as you and found the Capella a little snug. I ended up with a Scorpio as the cockpit was a little longer and easier to get in and out of. Scorpio is also very maneuverable. Also owned a Sirocco and it too was a very maneuverable boat, with much softer initial stability than the Scorpio.

I Second the Larger Alchemy
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. What we here in the US need is a paddle town on each coast. If you want to gamble, go to Las Vegas. Want a choice of plays to see? New York. Wouldn’t it be great to go to a town that had every major paddle craft available? I nominate Wilmington, NC for the east coast.

Paddle Clubs & Groups near you may
have fun “demo day(s)” where members and local outfitters bring as many of there boats as possible for all to try at a local lake/pond. Our annual ones in E. NC have been very successful and we throw a basic paddling guidance class for newbies too. We may become a local Charleston-like festival soon :-). Just thoughts. R

I’m 5’10" and I refuse to disclose my
weight. But, it is well north of yours - by a lot. the Zephyr 160 fits me very well and there are a few notches on the foot pegs left for longer legs. My feet are size 11. I really enjoy this Kayak. I am no expert kayak paddler. This boat is manageable for me and I feel it is teaching me things.