my first kayak-need suggestions

Looksha IV
The Looksha IV is a huge boat for most women, although a lot of tour companies use it for multi-day tours. I found all of us women on one overnight tour on Lake Superior needed to use the rudders on the boats in rough water. Many other smaller boats (still long–16 to 17 foot) will be much easier for you and more responsive.

I second the suggestions to get a used 16ft+ boat for touring, and a used creek boat for playing in Class 1 and 2 moving water. I have a Betsy Bay Valkyrie for Lake Superior (17ft, 32 lbs, very responsive, easy to roll–but much costlier than your budget, alas), and a cheap, plastic Necky skegged 12’ kayak for goofing around in creeks, class 1 rivers, etc–and for friends to play in shallow estuaries and ponds.

Good luck!

now that I know
that the Looksha was indeed much too big for me, I’m really excited to get one that fits and will allow me to tackle longer distances or more difficult conditions.

As to coastal vs stiller waters, I agree it’s more important to have a boat that can hold it’s own in the ocean, and be a bit clunkier elsewhere.

I had asked about the Tsunami 140 earlier, and most of you suggested I get a longer boat. Have any of you tried the Tsunami 160?


– Last Updated: Apr-26-07 8:03 PM EST –

I haven't paddled one. By the numbers, they may be wider and deeper than you need to feel comfortable, which may make edging and rolling more dificult. Or I could be completely wrong. The only way to know is to try one.

Women generally have a lower center of gravity than men, and so often feel stable in boats that many men find "tippy". Women also tend to have shorter arms and torsos than men, so excess beam and depth really get in the way of a comfortable, efficient paddle stroke.

Tsunami 140’s
My wife and I both have Wilderness tsunami 140’s. We both love them! I did a lot of research, and narrowed our choices doewn to about three or four, but the Tsunami 140’s kept coming up on top in reviews.

So we were able to rent and try most of the models I narrowed our list down to. fortunately the Tsunami is one of those that was rentable.

Well, we both liked it so much, esp. compared to the others.

I am 5’ 9", male, 185 lbs.

My wife is 5’ 7" and about 145 to 150 lbs.

One of our daughters, who, at times goes with me, instead, is 5’ 8", and weighs considerably less than my wife, also does well in them.

Hope that helps. Tye Tsunami 140 is a light Touring. I think it would do fine for a three day trip around coast/bay of Maine - that we are planning for next summer. We just got them in August 2006, and went out 9 times in the first 7 weeks - we can’t go on Sundays much, otherwise it would have been more - before the water gets too cold (New Hampshire.)

This year we purchased wet suits, and went out in mid-April, the soonest the waters are not frozen.

Hope that helps.

First Kayak
Don’t know if you’re interested in a sit-on-top, but the Hurricane Aquasports Phoenix 120 is a very nice, durable, 12 ft. long, 38 lb. Trylon kayak that is also very stable for a first kayak. I am 5’3" and kayak alone about 80% of the time and literally toss the kayak on top of my Jeep Wrangler. It doesn’t have much for a hatch, but has a lot of space in the rear for piling up gear. I also had 6 additional eye hooks installed on the bow for securing additional gear with bungee cords. Great kayak for rivers, creeks and lakes.

Skipping the Beginner Step
I think you might outgrow that Tsunami very quickly. I agree with the 16’ and narrower idea. The Tempest 165 has the thigh support you’d get with a Tsunami. It’s worth renting or borrowing to see if you like it. Try before you buy. Try on a windy day if possible.

Agree with plastic Valley Avocet

You might consider some of the Seda kayaks. They seem to be very well made, light, and inexpensive for the materials. The Wilderness Experience store on ebay has some great prices right now on Seda kayaks. The starlet might be close to what you’re looking for–it’s just under 15ft long, designed for women under 150 lbs.

The prijon Catalina might be another boat to try–it’s plastic, but still under 49 lbs, and designed for smaller paddler (most women fit into the smaller paddler category).

[I find the tempest 165 to be too much volume for me, and I’m not that much smaller than you are (5’6", 135 lbs). It feels like a bathtub to me, but my friends love it]

Tempest 165 and Tsunami

– Last Updated: Apr-26-07 11:57 PM EST –

I used a Tempest 165 in a demo last weekend, in a 16' by 33' indoor pool. Granted there really wasn't room to explore turning the boat in that space, but it rolled and sculled fine as well as being OK in a balance brace. I am 5'4" and 135 pounds, and found the fit to be quite OK for those purposes. It felt like it'd be more of a tracker than the Avocet, but overall for skills work in bigger water I don't see anything it couldn't do. I think the Avocet's better manuverability might be an advantage in learning some big water skills, but either boat would do.

Interestingly, one of the premier Greenland rollers on the east coast, a woman named Alison Sigethi, uses a Tempest 165 for her classes. She likes that it shows you don't have to be in a boat tighter than your jeans to do a lot of these rolls. She is thinner than me and a couple or three inches taller - probably not so far off of your (Scenic...) size.

Re the Tsunamis - if you want skills for big water that'll end up including rolling, and for someone your size I'd be hard pressed to put them at the top of the list. In addition to the issue of width and helping to create a better stroke - narrower is better there - they aren't really made with that kind of thing at the top of their intended performance. My husband who is considerably taller than me was using a Tsunami 140 in a demo, and actually fell out of it when he was upside dwon being the rescuee in an eskimo bow rescue. The problem was the width - he had to really work to stay in the boat. You are a few inches shorter and a good bit lighter than.

Don't get me wrong - within their niche the Tsunamis are good boats. But they are more all-around do-whatever-OK boats than something like an Avocet, a Chatham 16, a Capella 160 or any number of other boats that you'll encounter.

Excellent Prijon

Don;t know where you live, scenicroute, but here is a great deal on a Prijon Catalina… Ideal for your size, under 49 lbs, strong blowmolded (not rotomolded) German-made plastic boat. Available in OH.

Elaho DS
Another relatively low volume boat that is a treat for play and skills work is the original version of the Necky Elaho - 15’10" long with skeg. It was made in both poly and composite. These boats came with ww oufitting - agressive thigh braces, Bomber Gear back band. They have the lowest rear deck of any production boat I’ve sat in. Oh yea, they also have a Valley day hatch. Can be had pretty cheap used.

I’ve used mine camping off the coast of Maine and for pool work.

Note: the current ruddered version of the Elaho is longer with much less rocker.

I think the Romany is probably a better all round boat, but the Elaho DS is a blast.

Try the Avocet
What Jay said about outgrowing your boat is true. My wife and I have been at it for two years now and love it. As her skill level increased, she found that she loved more advanced boats. We had the good fortune to meet a Valley rep (Sean Morley) who recommended we try an Avocet. And we traveled several hours for a demo. I knew within one minute of that demo that my wife would be getting that boat. It was perfect. She is about your size - 5’10" and 145 lbs.

It would have been smarter to start with such a boat, but at first she was frightened of a longer narrower and quicker boat. Now she is all smiles. We bit the bullet and got a kevlar model, which is so much easier for her to manage off the water.

doing demos next weekend
Thanks for the explanation re the Tsunami vs narrower boats. I hadn’t realized Tsunamis were much wider, and the reviews about the comfortable seats had me very interested (I spend 4 hours having severe hip and leg pain in the Necky Looksha last summer).

I will try to demo the Avocet and some of the others you suggested next weekend. And I’ll try to lift them. Cause the bottom line is, if I can’t get it down from it’s storage in the garage and onto my car by myself, it’s not gonna get used enough.

I’m seeing some deals on used boats, but I can’t pounce until I try them! Thanks for all the input.

that could be a great deal indeed. I’m in NJ though. I also have to demo some boats first to find out what style of boat I really want. Thanks!

catalina looks interesting
Will try to demo it as well. Thanks for the suggestion.

Hip and leg pain

– Last Updated: Apr-27-07 3:43 PM EST –

The Looksha IV has two characteristics that could have contributed more than necessary to your physical discomfort. One is a rudder with footpegs that kinda slop around - yes? I had a huge pain (literal) from some boat equipped like that which were were placed in when we did a four hour tour in Maine. It was the work involved in managing the rudder decently while having something to brace against - it was killing my calves and low back.

When we got my Squall, also a ruddered boat, before it ever left the dealer's lot I had them put in a Seal Line system that gave me a fixed footpeg with an additional bar above to work the rudder. First backache resolved.

The other thing is the size of the Looksha IV itself - when you are having to push/pull around something considerably over volume for you, you tend to contort your body in uncomfortable ways that hurt later.

I found that a snugger fit let me relax more – I wasn’t fighting to hold myself in place or keeping tense to keep from sliding around.

Remember that you can easily modify the cockpit of your own boat for a custom fit. When you go to demo you might want to bring a couple of small towels – you can use them to temporarily pad out spots in demo boats.

Another Avocet (in NJ too)
I bought a plastic Avocet as my first boat a year ago and love it. If you have never gone up to Atlantic Kayak Tours then you should. They rent/sell all Valley, PH, NDK, Necky boats and give super instruction and guided tours. Try a bunch. You should be aware that the Avocet will most likely need some outfitting to be nice and snug but it’s a blast to paddle in the waves. Car topping this boat onto a Jeep…by yourself…that’s a stretch honestly. Unless you are a solitary person, you can always find an extra hand to load/unload the boat.

I’m in NJ too btw…in the Sandy Hook area…

Good luck and have fun shopping


boats and skintight jeans

– Last Updated: Apr-27-07 4:41 PM EST –

"you don't have to be in a boat tighter than your jeans to do a lot of these rolls."

Absolutely. Dubside, who is a wiry small guy, rolls (a whole lot of ways) in boats that some people would consider barge-like.

I learned to roll in a too-big Squall. It's perfectly doable, though I prefer the better fit of my Tempest 165. I still have plenty of wiggle room and can comfortably paddle it for hours, nonstop, with no stiffness or after-effects.

I'm smaller than the OP at 5'2" and under 110 lbs. I shoulder-carry this kayak frequently. Even though it weighs more than half what I do, the balance point makes it a reasonable carry. Meanwhile, I cannot carry my slightly-lighter wood kayak because the balance point and outfitting make it extremely uncomfortable and awkward. So don't rule out a kayak based only on the numbers--sit in it, adjust any adjustable outfitting, demo it, pick it up, etc.

Impex Mystic
Has anyone tried the Impex Mystic? It’s only 14ft long, but I bet it’s a nice kayak, given the quality of the other impexes. It’s 43 lbs, and New York kayak has it for 20% off, which puts it within $99 of your price range: