Looking for lightweight Kayak for River

Hi all,

I had set my mind on getting a couple of Hurricane Santees but after asking the company if it would be o.k. for rivers such as the New River, Eno, Haw, and Neuse in North Carolina they indicated any whitewater could damage the boat. While, the plan is calm rivers, I imagine I will find some Class 1 or such in the rivers in my area.

We liked the Santees as they are light which makes it easier for my wife and I to handle them (storage, transport, etc.).

Any other recommendations out there for what I am considering?



If you are talking about the New River
portion in NC, it won’t hurt a Santee any more than it will hurt any lightweight canoe or kayak as long as you are careful and pull your boat over gravel bars when the water is low.

Every year I race my carbon/Kevlar kayak and we race our tandem ultralight Kevlar canoe in the portion of the New in Jefferson, and the most that happens is a few scratches here and there.

I wouldn’t hesitate to paddle a Santee there, but I don’t know about the other rivers

Jack L

Get A Plastic SOT
And go for it.

I met a guy who ran a class IV on the Salmon River in a glass SINK. It’s doable.

A SOT can handle Class IV. They are safer than SINKs on rivers. Get a SOT then have fun.

Thanks for the reply…
I am not going to hunt out whitewater, but do wish to be able to paddle on rivers that are in the western part of the state and my understanding is that they may have slight rapids (Class 1 or less) which is what generated my question. A friend of mine sent me a video of her paddling the New river and she showed them going through some light rapids. I believe the Eno also has some light rapids as well.


Class I Is Flat Water

Guess, I need to learn what the class is when they encounter certain ‘ripples’ as she describe it or rapids.

Class I is not flat water

– Last Updated: Aug-25-15 9:51 AM EST –

Your friend is right.

Class I is an easy rapid but implies there will be at least some riffles or small waves. Here is the definition of a Class I rapid per the American Whitewater Association's Safety Code:

"Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy."

Moving flat water is generally broken down into three classifications.

Class A is current that most decent paddlers can move upstream against. This will, of course, vary among different paddlers but is generally less than 2-2.5 mph. Quiet flat water such as a lake or pond falls into this category, obviously.

Class B moving flat water is current that most paddlers can paddle upstream against, holding their position without getting pushed downstream for example, while executing an upstream ferry. It is generally 2-4 mph.

Class C moving flat water is brisk enough that most paddlers find it difficult or impossible to keep place in the river against, generally faster than 4 mph.

Rating rapids can be somewhat difficult at times and can vary greatly with volume of flow. Even experienced paddlers will sometimes disagree on how to rate a particular rapid and it is hard to make precise definitions that cover all possibilities. Rapids have generally also been downgraded over the decades as skill and equipment have improved, so modern rapid classifications often do not agree with those found in older guide books.

Here is the American Whitewater site for rapid classification:



– Last Updated: Aug-25-15 10:42 AM EST –

The statement that SOTs are safer than SINKs on rivers should not be taken as gospel. I rarely see SOTs on rivers out here in the west. I see WW SINKs all the time (maybe hiker is thinking of recreational or touring SINKs not WW SINKS -- even so, I'm not so sure it's true). I do see and use touring kayaks on class I rivers quite a lot (up to Class II, but mostly class I).
You are way more exposed in an SOT which under certain circumstances can be dangerous.
Although an SOT may be able to "handle" class IV rapids, most are not designed for that use (that is, they don't have maneuverable whitewater hulls).
Capsizing and rolling a SINK is generally safer than capsizing and swimming in a river with a SOT (especially a cold and/or turbulent and/or rocky river).
I just wanted readers to know it might not be as simple as the post that SOTs are safer on rivers, period.

Although there are sit-on-top kayaks that are very whitewater capable, very few expert level (Class IV-V) whitewater kayakers in the east paddle anything other than a sit-in kayak. Most SOT kayaks are much harder to roll than SINKs.

For those who lack a reliable roll it is possible that a sit-on-top might be safer as there is a reduced risk of entrapment in the boat, but such paddlers should avoid very difficult whitewater anyway.

thermform plastic
I know what your looking for. Rivers that have some moving water with possible rocks submerged just under the water line were the boat might hit those rocks and damage a Thermoformed plastic kayak like Hurricane kayaks are made from. I would maybe look into a short around 10 foot rotomold kayak. Still wouldn’t be as light as a thermoformed kayak but it wouldn’t be too bad. Maybe around high 40’s to 50 pounds.

I do paddle with a few people who use thermoformed kayaks on rivers like that and are still going but I have also seen one split open too.

Pungo Ultralite?
Would a Pungo Ultralite be any more durable than a Santee? I have heard good things about the Pungos but haven’t paddled them.

Thermoform kayaks
My experience with thermoform kayaks is that they are well suited for deep class one rivers, lakes, and bays. I have damaged my Current Design 14 ft sot twice ( slow learner) by paddlng in slow moving and shallow rocky rivers. It sounds like a 11 or 12 ft rotomolded (plastic) kayak would work well for you.

If You Capsize In A SOT
You slide into the water with your legs pointed downriver. That is the safest way to be in WW. In a WW play boat, if you capsize, your head and shoulders are exposed to danger.

You don’t roll a SOT. It’s foolish to think that way. SAFETY FIRST!

Epic V7
46 pounds of river fun! Really turns well. If you bungie up the rudder it spins like a whitewater boat.

Anything "ultralight"
is going to be more vulnerable to rock damage in shallower parts of the rivers.

That is why I still have “the beast” - a heavier, sturdy plastic kayak, in addition to my heavier quality thermoformed one, because at certain times of year around here lately, the drought damaged rivers are rocks interspersed with puddles and the reservoirs are giant granular dust flats cut by a murky river, with “features” lurking just under the surface… what works in the spring and early summer may not be suitable in the fall. My default position, if it was only possible to have 1 style, would have to be to not go out when the water was low or be prepared to travel a great distance.

That being said, I was sort of shocked at how shallow the water can be to get over it with the thermoformed kayak, a big sit on top, since I don’t have a skeg or a rudder. But I also hit a rock with it 2 years ago in really shallow, really fast moving water, and I definitely do not want to do that again if possible- taught me to NOT ASSUME that just because one area was passable last year, that it would be passable the next one. Sudden stops in swift current ending up sideways = not good, pfds good, helmets really good. Kayak was fine. Worth the extra effort only 10 lbs more to lift it every_single_time.