Need Versatile Second/Intermediate Kayak

I am a beginner into intermediate, looking for an intermediate kayak. I have read the reviews, which are certainly helpful, and know that finding the right kayak can often be about personal fit and needs. But I also thought of posting here to see if a trend appears for a specific model. (bouncing around the reviews can start to get very confusing).

Until now I have paddled typical rec akayaks on both flat water and tame rivers. NOW, I would like an intermediate kayak for day touring and weekend camping trips on large lakes, impoundments and rivers.

I have taken an indoor self rescue class and plan to take a rolling class next winter. In the class (two sessions) I was in a Necky Zoar Sport and really liked the cockpit. I liked the thigh braces to help with hip movement while practicing coming up from 180 (sumulating a roll back up, from a 180, while holding onto the bow of a companion boat). Although I liked the Zoar Sport, my back did feel it by the end of the 1/2 day session (then again, I am 47, yet agile).

So…of course, I am looking for the ONE model that has it all:

– good fit (not into a bathtub feeling)

– tracking (fine with buying a skeg model - in fact may perfer it for those windy days)

– storage (for an over night, two nights if possible).

– long enough for hours of day touring, yet short enough for river work.

Looking at the standard 14+ models available at places like REI and EMS.

Any comments would be appreciated. I know I won’t find a perfect one, just trying to get to 80%.

What size are you?
No one can recommend a kayak without knowing some vital statistics.

First, the same boat won’t set you up for learning river work as well as be a happy choice for touring. You are better off getting an old used WW boat for the river, something like an Inazone or maybe a Dagger RPM for your size. These boats can be gotten quite cheap and have a long and well-deserved reputation for getting people started. The only way a general purpose boat helps much is if you want to blast down the middle of get a lower class river without really doing much along the way.

As to choice of boats, I show Philadelphia 76 miles or an hour and a half away from New Jersey Paddler. Before restricting yourself to the stores you mention, you should take the time to go see these folks and maybe get some bigger water time with them in boats via demo or lessons. They may have some great used deals too.

And about the rolling - I’d suggest that if possible you go after that this season, before next winter. Even trying to learn will inform your choice of boat much better than any single thing you could do.

Back Soreness
Back pain can be attributed to lots of things. You say you were at a pool session and your back became sore. A pool session doesn’t really approximate the conditions you will experience in actual paddling. You may have had a sore back from trying over and over again to learn a skill, using muscles that are not as strong as they could be. When I go to skills sessions, I find that my back gets tired when I just sit and watch other people. My posture probably goes to hell when I am just sitting as opposed to paddling. I can paddle my s-o-f for about 3-4 hours at a time before I feel the need for a break. I have no seat or back support when I paddle that kayak, but I believe my stomach muscles, by remaining engaged, help to support my back. On the other hand, my husband’s back becomes easily “strained” and painful if he does not have some sacral support for his back. Note that this is different from lumbar support. So, you may find that the act of paddling, rather than practicing skills, does not irritate your back. Or you may find that you need sacral or lumbar support, or both. Time will tell. You can always modify the back rest or seat to make your kayak more comfortable. You can also put something under your thighs to relieve the stretching of your hamstrings if they are tight. That can also affect your back. Lots of people on this forum can suggest ways to help you modify your cockpit so that it is more comfortable for you.

Right. Should have added these.





30" waste

30" inseam



Does that help?


– Last Updated: Apr-27-08 10:59 AM EST –

I should also have mentioned two things, perhaps.

River use: not talking WW heavy rivers here. I paddle the Delaware River most and that is pretty tame. So I agree, I may have to get two boats, all in due time.

I am planning on heading the NJ Paddler. However, wanted to get well informed before I went there. The "apply" anything garnered from responses here to anything heard, learned, etc. there.

At your size
You should be able to take a boat officially for a small or smaller paddler. The average/small bit is still largely gauged against guys unless women are explicitly mentioned in the boat’s description. But for a good cockpit and volume fit, you should consider getting into boats with women in mind. I suspect you’d fit in OK, and if you aren’t a kitchen sink packer (like me) you may find that a boat which is a little narrower and longer than you are thinking feels pretty good.

Question not asked - are you specifically looking for plastic, composite, or no preference?

Plastic or Composite: thinking plastic for now, since I am still relatively new and this will most likely be a transitional boat that takes a bit of a beating. Plus, my older son will also use this from time to time and I like to share with anyone who enjoys getting out. So it will be “hitting the river” figuratively and the rocks and bottom therein, literally.

However, open again to arguements for composite. Don’t think fibergalss would be a good choice for my skill level and needs.

Sounds like plastic a plan

– Last Updated: Apr-27-08 12:16 PM EST –

Wilderness Systems and Valley tend to have almost anything that is available in composite also with a plastic version, as you have already found out Necky has a number of plastic boats too. BTW, IMO at your size the Zoar isn't the best fit.

I am not clear about why you think a boat has to be on the shorter side for river work, if you are not talking about WW. I am not at all suggesting that there aren't shorter boats that would do the job, but I am concerned that there is something about your paddling that you aren't making entirely clear yet. Are you talking about spending a lot of time in twisty creeks or marches with beaver dams to carry over, that kind of thing?

Definitely check out
the Jersey Paddler. I’ve gotten two boats there, they have a huge selection, and good staff. You can see what they have on clearance/used on their website. When you got to paddler you can test paddle 3 boats for $15 (last time I was there that was the rate). If you purchase something within 30 days of your test paddle they apply that $15 as a credit to your purchase.

IMO and limited experience it sounds like the WS Tsunami 140 or 160 could fit the bill for you, or the Necky Manitou 14. Another possibility may be the Old Town Cayuga line.

I’m sure others will have more recommendations, but as we’ll all say it is a personal decision, so go sit in a lot of boats to find what fits you well, then get a few of them in the water to see how you handle them in the wet stuff.

Good luck.

Hey, I’m upstate by Milford. If you get
up this way, I can help you…a lot.

Bel Haven Paddlesports
Bell Haven Paddlesports in Green Bank, NJ, is another place you may want to try. They have on-site demoing and decent pricing.

You’re in the “small paddler” category, especially if you want to advance your skills. Something like the new Tsunami 135 might be good, or the Necky Eliza.

you may like the valley avocet
for touring, but not for ww