need advice from experienced kayakers

I’d love to hear from experienced kayakers what buying advice they would give to an advanced beginner kayaker.

  1. mostly, i want an all-round good performer for both oceans and bays – it doesn’t have to be the best at everything (obviously a good touring kayak will be a lousy surf kayak) but at the same time i want one that’s decent in a wide variety of conditions. (I’ll mostly be paddling around for 3 hours at a time along southern cal’s coasts and bays)

  2. want something that feels like it slices easily through the water and something that is very maneuverable and turns easily and accelerates easily (i tried various sit-on-tops – felt like I was steering a barge.)

  3. should fit someone 5’ 1" 100 lbs. (but will also be used by someone around 5’ 7", 160lbs)

  4. don’t want a novice kayak that i’ll quickly tire of. i am comfortable in the water and am not concerned about a boat feeling tippy

  5. want plastic, not fiberglass owing to my pricerange (about $1000 or less)

  6. one store touted the WS Tsunami 135 as a very good all-round performer. But another store said it is a bad boat for southern california – it’s too long to be super maneauverable and too short to be a good touring kayak. (I had thought the length seemed like a good compromise, and liked that it’s fairly narrow, but am scared off by the harsh opinion i got from one storeowner.)

    Any advice?

Maybe this one?

WS Zephyr 155
I got to test drive one recently but I was on very calm water. I think it would kick butt in rough conditions. Try one if you can. Also try the Tempest 165. It’s a little faster and a little trackier than a Zephyr.

Romany or an Avocet
Romany–either a used fiberglass one or the new ones just coming out in RM or the Avocet only in RM–smallish–16’ narrow beam British style boats highly rockered for touring kayaks–smaller people use them for day and overnight touring trips—somewhat larger but not too large use them for playboats in the surf etc

Consider used
If price is holding you back, go used. You get a lot more boat for the buck, and can often buy glass for the price of new poly, or very close to it.

But if you want to stay with poly (And there are very good reasons for owning poly boats other than price), consider a WS Tempest 165, P&H Capella, Valley Avocet, Necky Chatham 16, etc. Something in a true sea kayak design, rather than a crossover. You’re at least wise enough to know that from reading your post. Once you venture out of a protected bay once, you’re going to go farther next time…and so on. Been there.

Just make sure you can lift it, and that you absolutely love the boat before you put down any $$$$$.

Size thoughts

– Last Updated: Jul-20-08 1:25 PM EST –

Most of the boats mentioned will feel big for a 100-pound paddler, but will be good for the 160-pounder.

Don't write off the Tsunami 135 until you try it. There's nothing wrong with shorter boats for ocean use -- the Mariner Coaster is legendary. This may help:

A used Impex Mystic, P&H Vela, WS Tchiaka, or Eddyline Falcon 16 might work. The Necky Eliza is also worth a look, along with the Huricane Tampico 135S and the Prijon Catalina. A Pygmy Tern 14 might work.

Length isn't necessarily an indicator of maneuverability. A rockered kayak like an Avocet can outturn many shorter boats if you're comfortable leaning and edging.

If the boat will be shared by two paddlers of different sizes, these "hip snaps" can make it easier for both to get a good fit.

There still aren't a lot of good choices for 100-pound ocean paddlers who can't afford new composites. The common plastic 16-footers are all near 60 pounds, which is a lot for a 100-pound paddler to accelerate. Building a stitch & glue, stripper, or skin-on-frame is one way to get a lightweight boat that fits at a reasonable cost.

too big?
Thanks. My concern with some of the 16’ kayaks you mention is that they’ll simply be too hard for a 100lb. person to easily handle, make quick turns, and easily accelerate. That’s why I was thinking that a shorter boat (like the tsunami 135) might be easier to handle overall (but still be ok in the ocean). Is my reasoning wrong?

You’re not wrong

– Last Updated: Jul-20-08 2:35 PM EST –

A 100-pound paddler in a 60-pound boat is like a 160-pound paddler in a 96-pound boat. Something in the 40-pound range would be better for you, but that can be hard to find on your budget.

I'd suggest demoing a boat that's really made for a 100-pound paddler, like a Tsunami SP. Or a Current Designs Raven. It'll give you a good reference point for comparisons.

Don't be afraid to demo/rent/borrow boats that fit but are out of your price range. You gain valuable information, and you never know what kind of deals might turn up.

Is this boat going to be equally shared, or is the 100-pound paddler the primary user?

equally shared by both

The Tsunami
is a good kayak, I have a 120 in my herd (flock, quiver?) and am quite impressed. I am certain that the 135 would be very much the same. A good safe kayak that you can learn kayak skills in then maybe later look at something more expensive and longer if warranted.


– Last Updated: Jul-20-08 2:00 PM EST –

That'll take some compromising.

Here's yet another option if you're feeling adventurous:

I liked the description of
the Coaster, which claims to be good all-round for surf, ocean touring, and bays. But it’s made of a composite material that puts it out of my price range.

Where are you launching and paddling?

– Last Updated: Jul-20-08 3:26 PM EST –

You mention Ocean and Bays, are you going out by yourself?

Are you talking about paddling around Newport or Mission bay or are you talking about launching off beaches into full on surf? It makes a big difference.

Most common kayaks are going to be pretty big for a 100 lb paddler so you are going to make some compromises. So one kayak is not going to do everything well the Tsunami is probably an OK choice. The Valley Avocet is also a nice boat, but it too will be a lot to handle for a 100 lb paddler. If you find a used Coaster buy it, but not very likely they have almost a cult following.

I would not discount SOT kayaks for paddling the California Coast, you might want to see if you could get a hold of a Necky Spike or Dolphin, they are not made any more but they are great boats for Coastal paddling by lighter paddlers. There are sit on tops that don't paddle like barges or aircraft carriers, but that is the common kind you can rent easily. I think you will find that people that regularly launch from beaches and paddle out through the surf and up and down the coast use SOTs. People with SINKS tend to have to paddle in groups and a small minority actually paddle the open coastline. There are exceptions, the best thing to do is just get started, then paddle with folks from CKF or SDKC and learn about boats and the kind of paddling you will be doing.

will start out launching from
bays (Newport/Long Beach), but will eventually want to just be able to , say, pull up to a beach (such as Laguna) and launch into the surf.

for a maneuverable sot
a Venus 11 was also recommended to me. Any thoughts on whether that would be decent overall in bays/surf/ocean?

Maybe, but aren’t they all pink?
Not that there’s anything wrong with that…


An “advanced beginner” would know

– Last Updated: Jul-22-08 1:46 AM EST –

most of this in the OP otherwise he/she would just be a beginner. These questions come from a "true" beginner.

These are like "I want the ultimate sportscar that goes 180 mph, gets 6o miles per gallon, doesn't require maintenance and the insurance is $150 dollars per year for a teenager with a DUI".

"Beware" of adjectives.

I'd suggest you learn to paddle first.

Paddlin' on

g_k, you’re off your meds!
clearly what the young man needs is this:

run, don’t walk, to Monterey

Isn’t that your kayak?
Paddlin’ on


Skills, not boat

– Last Updated: Jul-22-08 1:54 PM EST –

That stated size sounds an awful lot more like a female to me, which also means a slightly lesser torso and likely upper body strength. But in any case, a boat that will feel good to a 5'7" 160 pound person is likely to be (too) big for a 5'1" 100 lb person to do much with other than stay upright and paddle forward.

That goes to what my question would be. There are some good suggestions above, but some further information about desired skills might make for better ones. If all this is about is getting in a boat and going forward, things like cockpit fit and overall volume are less important. If it is also about learning skills like rolling and being able to really manuver the boat, that matters more. IMO, if you are talking ocean you'd better be planning to get a roll and some great bracing and powerful options for turning. (and navigation and weather and a whole lot more gear than you may currently imagine)

I don't know the Tsunami 135 well enough to know if it would be as well suited to those skills as some of the longer boats. But I think it's a question worth considering.