Looking for first kayak


I’m new here and am looking for a couple kayaks for my wife and I. We have only been kayaking a couple times, but have enjoyed it enough that we want to purchase our own boats so we can go out whenever we want.

We will be primarily be using them on lakes or rivers (live in western NY so lots of finger lakes nearby) Nothing too fast at least for a while. I’m thinking recreational would be good to for now.

We are both 5’6". I’m around 190 and my wife is around 140.

So far we have tried out these boats:

Jackon Coosa

Jackson daytripper

Old Town Huron 11xt

Current Designs Solara 120

Necky Rip 12

Perception (I forget the model, but the owner said he got it on sale for $300 at Dicks sporting goods)

I think we liked the Rip, Solara and Jackson kayaks the best so far. Are there any others we should try to look at?

I’d like to keep the price to the 600-800 or less each if possible. We have a few options to purchase from including: EMS, Gander Mtn, L.L. Bean, Dicks, and Oak Orchard Canoe & Kayak.

I haven’t tried out…

– Last Updated: Jul-06-14 12:28 PM EST –

...any of those kayaks but a couple of points. Try to find one with front and rear floatation. It looks like the Jackson might have that as it is a sit-on-top.

You also need perimeter lines. If (when) you tip over, you'll want something to grab on to. It takes very little breeze for a kayak to get blown beyond your reach.

Other than that, it will come down to what feels best to you.

probably the Swifty
The Perception from Dicks was probably the Swifty which usualy sells for around $350 to $400. It’s strictly a “recreational” style boat which means it lacks basic safety features (as already mentioned, no bulkheads or deck lines) and is short and wide. It is not a boat I would want to take out on the Finger Lakes where you can get some windy conditions. Short wide boats don’t track really well and can be slow and frustrating going when you want to cross windy waters. There tends to be a misperception that beginners should start with a short wide kayak because it will be “more stable”. That is not always true – such boats are less stable in rough water, which is what you may encounter on the Finger Lakes both from Nature (wind) and from power boat wakes. And such boats will limit both your skill development and your options for exploring other waters in your area, like the St. Lawrence River or Lake Erie.

Certainly there are plenty of folks (and many on here) who love their short rec boats and find they suit their activities splendidly. They may suit yours also – but I think you need to understand what the options are and what the limitations may be. If you do go for them, you really do need to get inflatable “flotation” bags to stuff in the open stern and bow areas. If you don’t and you capsize or get a lot of water from waves into the boat, it will sink and be difficult if not impossible to re-enter – not a situation you want to run into halfway across a large lake. They also tend to have oversized cockpits which means they don’t support a sprayskirt well, which means you will get pooling on it that you’ll have to periodically dump off or the skirt will implode and soak your legs.

The only boat that Dicks carries that I would recommend would be the Perception Sport Conduit 13 (only that model, not the shorter Conduit 11). It has both bulkheads and lines and it is long enough and narrow enough to give you comfortable glide and reasonable performance. It’s on sale now for $550. It is the only kayak they sell that has the characteristics of a standard touring kayak, though it is flimsier plastic with less rugged outfitting than Perception’s main line quality boats (Perception Sport is their stripped down discount line.)


Honestly, I don’t like telling people to buy from Dick’s (or, worse yet, Walmart). They are a big box chain generalist, not a kayak specialty shop and I prefer to support the dealers and outfitters who support our sport with quality products and customer education. Even if a beginner can’t afford to spend the usual $1,000 to $1,500 it takes to get a quality kayak and necessary accessories, if they buy a used kayak from a private owner (which is how a lot of us started in the sport) they are often enabling the seller to invest in another new boat from the independent outfitter.

It also benefits the beginner to get a better quality used boat, both for their own paddling pleasure and because used boats keep more value. If you really find you enjoy kayaking over the long term you will probably discover that there are performance characteristics you would like to improve on that you initial boat doesn’t offer. Reselling a good quality boat you bought used can often yield what you paid for it or just a little less (I have even resold used kayaks for more than I paid for them.)

A good kayak outfitter will also usually offer on the water demo testing, and it benefits a beginner to get a feel for different models – performance differences can be profound between various models and sizes. They will also usually offer intro classes – can’t stress enough how these would benefit you both from learning proper technique (paddling isn’t intuitive, and most newbies get it wrong which can cause wrist and shoulder stress and unneeded fatigue) and in learning important safety procedures like re-entering the kayak in deep water after a capsize.

I checked Craigslist for your area and saw a number of options. There is someone in Seneca Falls selling two sit on tops for $400. If you are going to stick with warm weather paddling, those could be an option. There are also two Aquaterra Spectrum kayaks for sale (separately) quite cheap. These are older touring kayaks (it was another Perception brand). If they are not too beat up or oil-canned (flat dents in the hull bottom due to improper storage) those would be decent. I’ve owned a couple of Aquaterra’s and they are good touring boats. You can read the reviews here:


good advice
A lot of good advice in the previous post. Just one little correction: the Conduit 13 does not have perimeter lines, unless they added them this year. I have one from last year and there are no lines. I found some orange reflective cord at Walmart that I’m going to add as lines for mine.

Lovely area,
the Finger Lakes. Visited Cornell a few years ago and the topography is very similar to the Traverse City area.

The Necky Rip has a stern bulkhead and built-in flotation in the bow. The Solara 120 has dual bulkheads.

The p.net review section includes member reviews of the kayaks you’re interested in. Do check the date of the review, however, as sometimes a problem is corrected by the manufacturer the following year. I.e. an early review of the Necky Rip’s seat was very negative. Apparently corrected as that’s what I paddle and find the seat quite comfortable.

Do sign up for a skills class. Technique videos can be helpful, but can’t replace a qualified instructor.

Thanks for all the replies! I’ve been reading up more and talking with some folks on Craigslist and I think my wife and I are both pretty set on wanting at least 12’ boats. She really liked the CD Solara 120 so I have a feeling she will probably end up with it.

After reading some more I think I would really like to try out the Jackson Ibis. I thought the Jackson Elite seat was one of the best I’ve experienced so far and the Ibis has this seat and is 12’6" long. I’m not sure if it has bulkheads or not though.

I was also recommended to look at the Old Town Dirigo and Vapor kayaks.

We went to Oak Orchard Kayak in Rochester Saturday and tried out a few boats and decided to keep researching and think about the purchase some before making the jump since we were at around $2200-2300 for two kayaks, paddles, life vests and kayak racks. They were really busy since it was a holiday weekend and the kid who helped us didn’t really seem much more knowledgable than we were. Plus, their prices didn’t seem to be that great. For example, their ‘promo’ price for the Necky Rip 12 was $700 for last years model or $760 for the new model. That’s exactly the same as the MSRP. When I looked on their website most boats are showing at about $100 or more than the price the manufacture recommends. Does this sound right? Does anyone have any experience with them?

Buy used
For the Finger Lakes a beginner might be best served by a 13-14’ kayak with two hatches. Two hatches are important for safety as they keep water out of the kayak if you turn over. A length of 14’ is more stable in rough water than a 10’ recreational kayak. The best width for that length is about 24".

“Speed” refers not only to actual speed, but ease of paddling. It’s much easier to paddle a 24" x 14’ kayak than a 28" x 10’ kayak.

At your price point of $800 you can get a much better used kayak than new. $800 used will take you out of the recreational class (slow, usually does not have two bulkheads) into the transitional class (halfway between recreational and sea kayak). Below are some examples of what you can find on Craigslist. If any of these interest you we can talk more about their features.

You may have to travel some distance for a used kayak, but that’s part of the fun of buying a kayak.


http://albany.craigslist.org/boa/4554179809.html (The length is incorrect, but I’m not sure what model this actually is—perhaps a discontinued Expedition 140?)






I’m OK with used, but could use some gui
I’m OK buying used. The only issue is that I don’t really know what I’m looking at enough to make an educated decision on the spot.

Are there any brands I should look for or avoid? Any specific models I should really try to find?

How much difference will there be between say a 12’ and a 13 or 14’ kayak? What width should I look for in each size? Just as a general guideline.

I’m close to Buffalo or Rochester, and have been looking on Craigslist.

More info
Below are the considerations that go into buying a kayak. My assumption is that it’s good to have a kayak that can handled your PREFERRED conditions, but will keep you safe in unexpected conditions as well.

LENGTH: Yes, there can be a considerable difference between 12, 13, and 14’. The difference will be speed, stability, and easy of turning (among other things). Those 3 factors work together and there are tradeoffs among them. I suggest 14’ x 24" as a nice “do anything” kayak.

WIDTH: Over 24" you start to feel a loss of speed and glide (= more effort). Under 24" a beginner feels less stable.

BULKHEADS: You need two for safety.

MATERIAL: Rotomolded plastic is durable but heavy. For $800 you might be able to find a used kayak made of thermoformed plastic. This is sheet plastic, like what your car bumper is made of—very attractive, light, stiff.

COCKPIT SIZE: Your wife will be comfortable in a cockpit around 16" x 32", up to 35" long. For yourself you might prefer around 17" or 18" x 35" long. 38" long is a problem because it admits water more easily.

WEIGHT: For a 14’ rotomolded kayak, expect around 54 lbs, hopefully no more than that. Anything below 50 lbs starts to feel much easier to load on a car.

HULL SHAPE: Shallow or moderate V on the bottom is best for a beginner. Avoid a flat or round bottom.

CHINES: Ignore. Doesn’t matter for a beginner. Hard or soft will work for you.

COLOR: Should be easy to see on the water.

RUDDER: Not essential at this length. Sometimes useful for a 14 footer.

BOTTOM LINE: Look for a 24" x 14’ kayak with two bulkheads, that weighs 54 lbs or less, or as close to that as you can find.

If you find something you’re interested in we would be glad to tell you what we think of it.

OAK ORCHARD seems to have a large stock of new, used, and demo kayaks. I bet you could learn a lot by visiting them. They have a Perception Tribute 12 in thermoformed plastic for $700 for your wife and an Eddyline Merlin XT for $1000 for you (dubious stability on the Merlin? I don’t like it but others do.). They slso have a WS Tsunami 140 in thermoformed for $900.


Tsuname 145 http://buffalo.craigslist.org/spo/4532198420.html

Perception Carolina 14.5 $625 http://rochester.craigslist.org/spo/4545092678.html

I’ll look at those recommendations
great info. After speaking with my wife some more I think she really wants to stick with a 12’ kayak as she is concerned about being able to use it if I’m not around to help her.

The Tseunami is probably a bit on the expensive side for me right now but I might email the seller to see what they say.

I emailed about the perception, but it was already sold.

I ordered some Malone j cradles so I can easily transport whatever I get whenever I get them.

Your wife
When loading a kayak on a car the weight is more a factor that the length. If your wife is of average strength she should be able to handle a 54-lb kayak, although it’s not fun to load. Anything 45 lbs or less should be fairly easy.

Best way is to load from the rear onto some type of roller and then into saddles, with the kayak rightside up.

I would say that safety on the water is more important than ease of loading. Paddling alone your wife will want to be even safer. Most 12’ kayaks don’t have two bulkheads. When it fills with water it’s impossible to move it.

The ad doesn’t actually say what he wants for the Tsunami alone. His chances of selling both of those kayaks together are slim, so make him an offer. Maybe he would take $800.

Any info on the pygmy coho?
I spoke with the gentleman who is selling the tsunami 145 and he doesn’t really want to take less than $1000 on it, but he is willing to negotiate on both kayaks together.


– Last Updated: Jul-08-14 10:10 PM EST –

Compared to the boats you initially considered, the Coho is much longer at 17-6, a bit narrower at 23", and relatively roomy inside with a 12" depth.


It's a SAG -a Stitch-and-Glue -which means it's thin ply literally stitched together, then glassed, and was made from a kit. It's a kayak you may or may not like, but it's a fairly good boat to paddle for the likes of me at 6-0, 205. It's quite light for its size -comparable plastic boats will come in around 70+ pounds, straight glass boats around 55 pounds, so in that respect, it's a good choice.

It is a tough construction and rigid, but it can get scuffed if you're a bit careless -but so can other constructions. Others just won't show it quite as much quite as often.

It might be a bit much for you, as a beginner, as it's rather 'advanced' from your first choices, and even advanced from your second set of boats considered. It might take you some seat time to accommodate to paddling in general, and because it's long, you'll need to learn to turn such a boat without a ruder -but that's actually a good thing, skills-wise.

On the other hand, a friend of mine built her own Coho, and was quite pleased with not only the results, but with paddling it, even tho' she was a relative newcomer to kayaking.

Try to buy from your local shops when you can, kinda helps keep more of the money locally circulating. And those folks, regardless of the fellow who helped you, tend to know considerably more than salespeople at Dicks, Sports Authority, et. al., and certainly more than the stock fillers at the likes of K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Costco, and Sam's.

Why not fill out a profile for us here at P-Net -we don't bite, and the guys who run the site are good about not getting info out so your inbox fills up with junk. It saves you from having to tell us P-Netters about who you are, where you paddle, what boats you have and/or want (wink-wink), that sort of stuff. There's much good advice to be had here -why not help us better help you!

Good luck with your hunt. May you find two nice kayaks as you begin to


-Frank in Miami

Lots of reviews

Say what?
Was that question about the Pygmy Coho a serious question? If so, that is a giant step up from what hitherto you have spoken. The Pygmy Coho is a very serious sea kayak–especially if it is built by a competent builder. If you aren’t familiar at all, the Coho is a kit boat that is stitch and glued plywood with a glass covering–very light, very rigid and the real deal. Google Pygmy.

Wrong kayak for you
The seller’s strategy doesn’t make sense because those two kayaks are very, very different. A person who wants one of them most likely won’t want the other. Point that out to him.

I’ve been reading
I’ve been looking at lots of information and yes, the question about the coho was serious, but right after I posted I started reading and decided that it is not at all what we want/need. It does seem like a very nice kayak though… just not for beginners or what we are looking for.

Last night we went and looked at a Current Designs Breeze I found on CL. It was nice, but my wife didn’t like ow cramped she felt with the smaller opening so she really wants to start with a 12’ rec boat. I think we are going to look at some less expensive options to get her something just as a starter and maybe upgrade later on down the road. Having a spare kayak will be fine especially since we have friends/family that have rented kayaks with us in the past.

I think I’m going to try and find a Tsunami to try out and if I really like it then I’ll contact the seller back and point out how different the two kayaks are and try to get him down in price. There is a small shop in town that also has a 13’6" Jackson Journey that I want to try out. It is a bit over budget, but it looks very similar to the tsunami specs.

Are there any other models I should seek out to try? I’m hoping to make it to the main Oak Orchard store this weekend and they look to have a pretty good selection.

keep an open mind
In the excitement of just wanting to get out there on the water, it is easy to jump too fast and select a boat that you will quickly outgrow. You won’t be sorry if you pick a boat that you might think is beyond what you envisioned. Go for quality and a design that gets your ticker racing and might be a bit intimidating.

CD Vision 150
Tomorrow I’m going to go look at a Current Design Vision 150. The person selling it said it’s about 3 years old and he is including a paddle and life vest. From what I’ve read it looks to be a good beginner-intermediate boat that should serve me well. The only downside I see is the weight at roughly 60 pounds.

What should I expect to pay if it’s in good shape?