neophyte--anxious to learn and paddle

I want to begin kayaking. I’ve never been in a kayak but really anxious to get started. Where is the best place (internet site) to go to learn the basics?

Also, I am 6’5" tall, 290 pounds. Are there affordable kayaks out there that fit? What should I be concerned with when looking for a kayak to buy?

Any advice is welcome.



A class would be a better start
Try several boats (classes, rentals) if you can. It might save you from buying an expensive mistake, especially since stores (not just kayak sellers) are probably going to become more hard-sell this year.

Look at this link
About the buying a kayak part.

Start with lessons - in a boat on the water. You can’t learn how to kayak from a chair in front of your computer.

while taking a class could be useful, it is absolutely not necessary. kayaking isn’t rocket science, if you are somewhat athletic and semi-coordinated, the best way to learn is just get in one and paddle.

find a local store that rents kayaks, they’re usually easier to find in touristy towns near the water, and take one out.

i don’t want to over state it but kayaking does involve some risks so start on a warm, sunny day, when the water is warm and the breeze is down, paddle on a lake and stay close to shore to build your confidence. as you paddle more and more, learn to respect the weather, the body of water, and hypothermia.

if renting isn’t a hassle or a financial strain, i’d recommend doing so for a little while. the reason is as you progress, your comfort level changes, so if you were to buy a kayak based on your very first paddle, you may outgrow it a couple of months later. conversely, if you get an “advanced” kayak right off the bat, you may be swimming more than you’ll be paddling, which can be frustrating.


– Last Updated: Mar-25-08 6:18 PM EST –

A good start is the "GuideLines" on this site.

A couple of good sites:

Yes, there are boats and equipment for large people. What kind of kayaking are you hoping to do? If you're interested in whitewater, or surfing, or ocean touring, or serious fishing it'll affect your choice of equipment.

For basic flatwater paddling, one option would be a "recreational" kayak like the Pungo 140:

Another option might be a sit-on-top:

Used boats and equipment can be a good way to get started.

You need a BIG BOAT!
At 6’-5" and 290 lbs there are not many sea kayaks suitable for your size and weight. Definitely make sure you are full advised of a kayaks design displacment before purchasing a kayak.

I know the QCC700 has the capacity, but the cockpit opening may be tight for you.

You will be looking for boats that are at least 17 ft or larger and probably 23" or wider. Frankly, there just aren’t too many sea kayaks suitable for you. So be very careful that you do not impulsively buy the something just because the price is right.

Everything else about getting started is pretty easy. For you finding a boat that fits will be the challenge.

REI Demo Day March 29

– Last Updated: Mar-26-08 4:05 PM EST –

The Dallas REI is having a Demo Day Saturday, March 29 at White Rock Lake. Call to get the exact location. They move it around sometimes: (972) 490-5989.

There are many kinds of kayaks and canoes. And there are usually knowledgable folks who can help you get started.

Edited to add:
And if you'd like lessons, Barbara Cutter is a good teacher.

Try the QCC website
QCC kayaks has one that will fit you perfect. I know this because my dad is right around the same size that you are and he paddles the 500 model from QCC. They are a quality made boat somewhere in minnesota or wisconsin, cant remember and you have choices of color, whether you want it in kevlar, fiberglass or composite. Tons of options.

my advice
is to look at sit on top kayaks (SOT). They are usually a bit more stable, have heavier weight capacities, and more comfortable to paddle. I am 6’5 and 400#'s and I just bought a SOT - a malibu x-factor and I love it. They are also easier to get back in if you tip.

How Bout A Free Demo Tonight?
Mariner Sails Wind and Water Sports and the Hurricane Kayaks representative are holding a free demo (with dinner provided) at White Rock Lake this evening. There will be several yaks there that would be a good fit for you.

The demo and dinner start at 6:00 at the North parking lot of the Corinthian Boat Club. For more details you can call Chris D. at Mariner at 972/241-1498 or go to their website at for info and a map.

Mariner sponsors a group paddle and free demo every Thursday evening (at 6:30, same location) at White Rock and everyone is invited. They don’t care whether or not you are a current customer. Some of us regulars call it the “Thursday Evening Hydro-Therapy Session”. This would be a good time to try out some of their other good lines of yaks. The “Mariner guys” are patient, honest, extremely knowledgeable and down right nice folks to know and deal with.

I hope that you come out and join us tonight. Since it will be a bit windy, bee sure and wear something that you don’t mind getting wet! Hope to get the chance to meet you in person.


I forgot about your demo night

– Last Updated: Mar-27-08 4:53 PM EST –

I work in Fort Worth so won't be able to make it, but I hope to make one of your Thursday nights if you still have them.

won’t be newbie for long…
Thanks all for your helpful responses. With info. like this, I’ll be paddling right along with you.

I especially appreciate the responses from the metroplex people. I look forward to meeting you on the water.


This is a good recommendation, but even if you’re the same height and weight it still might not fit. You “wear” a kayak, and you might be just different enough so that it wouldn’t be comfortable - but of course this is a good one to try if you can find one in the area. QCC doesn’t sell thru dealers and since they’re in WI they’re pretty common in the northern midwest. Not sure about your area, though.

My first time in a kayak was at a day-long beginner’s class and I’ve been hooked ever since. Have fun and be safe!

I’m 6’5" but you’ve got me by 50 lbs.
The Necky Zoar, which is no longer in production,would fit you.Current Designs also makes a boat for big paddlers.

Have you thought about a solo canoe ? There are several that would work for you like the Wenonah Prism and Voyager.

learn online!

check out this website. it’s very impressive. watch, analyze, visualize yourself doing the same, go rent a kayak and add water- viola! instant expert. start a kayak school, make millions.

das ist so europeische!

Narrow kayaks are very tippy. You can’t even get in one without bracing the paddle off the bank.

You lean a few inches the wrong way and over you go.

You will be under the kayak in about two seconds and you better know where that pull cord is on the spray skirt.

This other beginner yesterday couldn’t find his pull cord and got stuck under his kayak for a while. He freaked out and was clinging to the capsized yak like he was in a hurricane. He could hardly swim to shore. He looked like a young football player.

If you forget and tuck that pull cord under the skirt then can’t find it, you could drown.

If you are starting out don’t even bother with the spray skirt. There is no way in hell you are going to roll back up on your first day.

Practice a wet exit first. because you are going to get wet.

If you can’t do a wet exit and self rescue then you shouldn’t kayak.

To comment
Your prediction about stability may not be true for everyone. It is a pretty individual thing. I’ve seen some pretty tall guys with lots of good reasons to have stability concerns find it to be no problem at all. I’ve seen others with a more favorable set of body dimensions who seem particularly talented at capsizing.

As you acquire seat time I predict that you’ll be getting in and out of the boat with much less reliance on the paddle. Many of the sea kayakers I paddle with would have to stop for a moment to remember how to use the paddle as an aid to getting into the kayak. The expensive foam core carbon paddles probably have a lot to do with that, but regardless it becomes much easier.

That said, your general point that getting some formal instruction on the basics and being ready to capsize are very well made. It sounds like you are having fun.

Find a good outfitter and ignore
half the ‘advice’ you get here. Then find a club or an experienced paddler to help you with the basics.Books and DVD by experts can also be helpful.

While there are many very knowledgeable paddlers here, you probably don’t know who they are.

Actually, I was giving advice from me to another beginner. I’ll stand behind my comments. narrow kayaks are very unstable.

it doesn’t take two seconds to go under water, it takes less than a second. not enough time to catch a breath for an unsuspecting beginner.

I think stability has more to do with the design of the yak than the paddle.

Of course some people are not going to have to use a paddle on some more stable yaks. That’s not what I said.

mine has soft chines, less stable when loading,

as for taking classes, i think it depends on the instructor. i was watching several classes and the instructors were just shoving people off. some of the yakers had no desire to learn any technique.

a lot of kyakers seem to know very little about the water, kayaking is their first water sport.

I think there needs to be more awareness of how unstable kayaks are for beginners and how easy it is to get trapped up underneath.

I’m done with it.