Need Advice on 1st Kayak Purchase

Living in Charleston. I want to do a lot of kayaking in the rivers and tributaries in the area, but also be able to do a little ocean kayaking. There are some small islands that I’d like to be able to reach and take some camping gear to and make a weekend out of it. Fishing is not a top priority, but I don’t want to rule it out either.

I’m just wary of talking to the vendors around here. It seems I’ve gotten a different opinion from every person I’ve talked to…and I feel like it’s because they want to sell me a particular kayak. So all suggestions are welcome. SOT? Length? etc…

Thanks in advance.

I’ll start
Welcome! to get advice tailored to you would you

pls. give the following: your height, weight, inseam, shoe size. The right kayak gives you a good fit & that’s important in learning to control & enjoy your boat.

Have you done any kayaking before? if so what did you paddle? How did you like it?

Also, what other sports are you into? Are you very athletic or more the weekend warrior?

When you talk about ocean paddling, how many miles of open water between the coast and those small islands? Paddling in open water is different from paddling in estuaries or small rivers, with differences in equipment & skill.

Kayaking is great sport to get into. Many people here who’ve paddled awhile, some in your area.

Just give us some more to go on.

Lets see…
I’m pretty small. 5’8"…about 145-155lbs…shoe size is around a 9 or 10. Also pretty athletic. I run, bike, swim and/or workout about 5 days a week. I also surf and play basketball and soccer on a regular basis.

I haven’t kayaked all that much. I had a vacation to Hawaii a couple years ago where I kayaked for the first time and loved it. Did a SOT in rivers and small ocean trips from beach to beach. I’ve done a little kayaking since I moved here about 2-years ago.

I’m pretty sure the islands around here aren’t too far away…so it wouldn’t be extensive ocean kayaking. Maybe some of the Charleston-area kayakers could help out with that answer.

Ocean is ocean is ocean
Not time for a fuller reply now, but one quick comment. The ocean can be just as dangerous, often more so, a quarter mile offshore as three miles out. The distance to those islands isn’t going to determine how much boat as much as the fact that there is ocean, any amount of it, between you and them.

If your going
to be in the ocean than get something at least 16 ft long with both front and rear bulkheads. The bulkheads trap air and will help the boat stay afloat if you should capsize.

There should be a lot to choose from in your area. Go to the local independent paddle shop (not a big box store) and to find out about the different styles and materials.

They should let you demo the boats you think you will like. If not go somewhere that will let you try before you buy.

Good luck and have fun looking and trying different boats.

After you try some different boats come back to and check the reviews on those boats. They may give you some insight that you did not think about while trying them out on the water.

– Last Updated: Feb-26-07 12:20 PM EST –

If you live in the Charleston area, you can go down to Sea Kayak Georgia, near Savannah. They sell a wide range of mostly high quality boats, including a good number that would suit someone of your size .( Valley Avocet , NDK Romany & Impex Force 3 immediately come to mind) It's most important that you try a boat out, not just for a piddle paddle in a lagoon, but a more extended outing. I'm sure that SKG is a place where you can do that. I haven't been there, but my experience with people who sell higher quality boats is that they're more knowledgeable and don't try sell you a boat just to make money, so you can get good advice. Nobody makes real $$ selling good boats anyway, so if they can get you in the right boat you'll be back for more gear & instruction, where they probably make more $$.

I have been most of the places
you mentioned in my Tarpon 160 SOT and it has been great.Handles waves very well with thigh straps , wind and current don’t affect it much,comfortable seat.

It may be too large for you. I am 6’6" tall/240 and it fits me almost perfectly.The foot rests are adjustable. You might want to looks at Heritage SOT.

Stick to the 16’ length ; no shorter than 14’for what you want to do.

my $.02

– Last Updated: Feb-26-07 1:45 PM EST –

I'm very new and started midsummer of last year.
So I prolly know where you're at.

Did hella research before going into store.
All mine (3) are Sit Inside Kayaks (aka SINKS) so I'll riff off that.

Consider at least 14 ft on up, to handle all kinds of water including some wave action. Because you are compact and athletic you might enjoy a cockpit 22 inches or narrower for speed and manoevrability. Something you can advance your skills in and not get bored. Wider (say 24" or 25")would make it more stable for fishing, there's the tradeoff.

Kayaks of this type can be skirted, which protects the cockpit from waves breaking over and also lets you enter the wonderful world of bracing and rolling! Are you up for that? :D

Floatation in both ends improves safety dramatically. If the kayak does not have two sealed bulkheads plan on outfitting the vacant end with float bags. Heck, float bags can be used as redundant floating aids for a kayak with bulkheads. Especially if you do solo trips.

Whether you like a skeg or rudder is a matter of preference (demo both) but it would be good to have one or the other when the currents aren't going your way.

Sit in the cockpit for fit, raise and lower your legs to check for clearance. How do the footpegs feel. How tight is the seat fit? You want a nice snug fit that does not impede entry or exit.

A better kayak will have deck rigging fore and aft to assist w. rafting up with another paddler, climbing up (self rescue) & a place to stash things like a paddle float.

Weight can be a factor depending on the height of your vehicle & how much you want to lift and carry. Lighter means more $$$ for fiberglass and/or kevlar (and thermoformed plastics like Trylon) so pick them up and see how they feel to carry and lift to shoulder height.

You can do this and check the fit of the cockpit even before you go on the water.

Choose a good PFD and a good (even used) paddle, not a big heavy club. Take 'em with you to all demos so you have them as constants while you try different boats.

Join a local paddling club and get into basic skills and safety. Add to your water safety knowledge (visibility, signalling, right of way, weather reports)how to handle getting in and out on the water (not just the shore).

People there will be of different skill levels & are happy to share knowledge... some will give lessons formally or informally... and clubs can bring along an extra kayak for you once you have a basic skill set!

Pls. let us know in a little while what you have your eye on ... there are reviews here and people who may have the kayaks you're considering.

It's a cool process to find the right kayak... enjoy it and keep us posted!

local info from
two sources. First is very active local paddling group Go on some paddles, learn some skills and see what gear works and is worthwhile. Weekend of April 20 -23 is very good event at James Island, the East Coast canoe and Kayak gig. yes, lots of vendors but you can see, feel and try for just the $15 daily entrance fee.

Lessons and Where

– Last Updated: Feb-26-07 4:34 PM EST –

It sounds like you may be within reach of SKG? If so make the drive there a very early priority - we had the good luck of accidentally hitting Maine Island Kayak Company early on in getting real about the ocean and that one stop made all the diff in getting us going in a good direction. I can't say enough about how much better it works out to have your early contacts with an outfit that is primarily about training and secondly about selling boats rather than the other way around. You are right - so many places you go will be about getting your cash rather than getting you into a boat that'll make you smile.

Local paddling groups are also prime - you should try being with others anyway to start, and it'll give you a chance to get into other boats. Kayakers are usually fine with letting others try their boat(s).

And try to hook up with lessons as early as possible, for two reasons. One is that it's a better idea for your safety etc anyway, the second is that you'll understand a little faster what it is you'll want in a boat. Until you start edging a boat and trying to really handle it, you aren't likely to realize why those 22 inch wide boats are so well liked for more aggressive and big water paddling.

See if that paddling group listed is having or knows of pool sessions. Most areas where there are pool sessions tend to ramp up the Fundamentals of Kayaking type sessions in March thru May, since that's when the folks who got boats for Christmas are getting antsy to take them out the first warm day.

As to what boat - may depend on how much stuff you may want to carry for camping, how much of a priority that is. We have done kayak camping all but one year in Maine since we got the long boats, and it is qutie wonderful. Being more exposed to the air in a SOT may mean a bit more money spent on clothing for the water, like wetsuits etc, depending on how long you want your season to be. But you are a bunch warmer than we are up here so you have a good bit more flexibility.

Celia Is Giving You Good Advice Here
You’ll make a much more informed decision, and more importantly, you will become aware of the skills and safety equiment needed to paddle safely in the conditions that you desire, and have more fun doing it. Enjoy…Lou

Aw shucks!
Thanks Lou. But I’m still just a hacker in a boat. The ocean water making it anywhere near 50 by you yet?