New blow-up kayak, beginning paddler, Seattle

Hi friends - my new SeaEagle just came in off backorder! Looking for recommendations for easy launch sites and calm waters to practice in, near(ish) Seattle. I live close to the south end of lake washington…
Also: I went on a little sea kayak trip out of port angeles and the company outfitted us with these wetsuit-overalls which I was dubious about but ended up very grateful for. Think I should have something like that for fall paddling but dont know where to look.
Thanks so much for any tips - !

I am guessing that they outfitted you with a dry suit. Wetsuits are the stretchy tight neoprene outfits like rubbery long johns that surfers and scuba divers wear. Many people wear them for paddling cooler waters but outfitters in your area are more likely to use dry suits which are look like fabric ski jumpsuits. There will be plenty of stores in the Seattle area that sell dry suits. new ones will cost you from $600 to $1200. Look on line at vendors like REI and Outdoorplay. You might find used ones for 20 to 50% less.

The ocean around Seattle and some lakes and rivers fed by mountains with year round glacial ice are cold enough that you will need one to wear for paddling even in the summer. If you are going to paddle in a lake, you need to wade out in it before you take the boat out to see how cold it is. If you can’t stand the temperature just standing in it with what you are wearing, it is too cold for you to risk going overboard away from shore. Cold water causes a gasp response and loss of muscle control. Not anything to mess with.

You need to buy and always wear a PFD as well (life vest) and should probably get some basic lessons before you try to launch in anything but a small warm inland pond.

Go to a good kayak outfitter in town and talk to them about lessons and recommendations for safe launch and practice paddling areas. Also find out if you need an annual state permit for your kayak and what areas are allowed and safe for small human powered boats.

Which model did you buy? Sea Eagle does make some higher end and very competent inflatables but some of their cheaper models are not designed for open water conditions (big windy lakes or sea coast areas). You can get in trouble in those if there are strong currents or winds that keep you from being able to paddle back to shore.

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Wow, thank you! - the overalls were the rubbery kind (not easy to get in and out of but cozy) - and I di have a PFD and a hat and gloves, and a whistle! but that’s about it. I’ve taken a couple of very basic lessons (just enough for going out with a guide in a rented kayak) and with experienced friends a couple times. Do you think I should take an actual series of lessons tbough?
The SeaEagle is a SE370 (double), it had great reviews for sturdiness and handling.

I think the overalls you had were wetsuits. And if you are in waters below 60F (and even if in 60s, especially if you are away from shore or get cold easily), having them would be good. I think Lake Washington can get into the 60s, but you should check local reports to see what it is when you paddle. The Salish Sea is almost always under 60F, except for the far extents (like down in Tacoma).

The standard is farmer john/farmer jane style of about 3 mm neoprene thickness. Get one with relief zipper (for women, it is a zipper that opens under your crotch). Something like this:

A paddle jacket is also good for warmth, but a non-paddling specific wind breaker jacket could work also.

Inflatable boats paddle slowly and are very much affected by wind. Stick to sheltered areas. Lake Washington is safer than Salish Sea, as there aren’t currents in the lake and water can be warmer).

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Super-helpful, thank you! Really grateful for the specifics (I’m so in love with this website/ community message board already…)

My memory of paddling in Lake Washington is that is does not ever really warm up enough to be safe without a wetsuit other than the most shallow, sheltered areas. A quick google search tells me that the temperature is 59 degrees right now, at the height of summer…

I can attest from doing many self rescue exercises there that 59 degree water is COLD. Even with a wetsuit, you don’t want to spend much time immersed.

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Thanks, Andy.
(I was sobered to read yesterday that 2 healthy 20-somethings drowned right near Seward Park on Aug 9th - both while in sight of their friends, but unable to be rescued in time (even though rescue divers got to the shore within 2 minutes, in one case…). Never would have imagined it possible in that environment, especially to young, strong swimmers…

Not to try to frighten people, but there’s any number of stories where strong swimmers that weren’t prepared for cold water immersion couldn’t make it to safety at what seems like minimal distances.

From here:

On March 6, 1968, nine elite Marines, trained as water survival instructors at the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Academy, capsized while paddling a canoe across the Potomac River. They wore sweat suits. They had seat cushions but no life jackets. None of the Marines was able to swim 100 yards to shore.

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Oh, yikes. Well, that settles it. That story completely takes away any embarassment about buying a wetsuit for lake paddling (one of my experienced- kayak friends was actually surprised I’d been outfitted with one for my group paddle off Port Angeles - and that was big water! - now I’m surprised she was surprised…)

It is best not to pay attention to intro model kayak reviews. Everybody loves their first boat and will give it a “10 out of 10” or 5-star review, though they have NO experience with anything to compare it to. It’s like somebody who has gone barefoot their whole life getting a pair of plastic flip flops and rating them “the best shoes EVER.” As in, “I don’t know anything about shoes but these seem better than nothing”.

What you have is a lower end “recreational” inflatable. For some of the kinds of waters you have described you would need something more like the Sea Eagle 393RL Razorlite, a model that costs $1,000 or more fully outfitted.

The $350 Sea Eagle 370 is NOT really safe or suitable for coastal use or large windy lakes. It is strictly a moderate river and small pond boat. It does not have a dropped stitch floor so it is not rigid enough for the speed and handling that you need in serious water. These boats are closer to a raft than a kayak and are slow and easily blown around by the wind…

I’m not trying to discourage you from being pleased with your new toy but you need to understand it is not a touring or sea kayak in any way.

if you can limit your use to very small waters, it will be OK but you will not get much speed or distance using it. You should never take it in the ocean or even bays where you live. Winds and tides could easily draw you offshore so far that you would not be able to get back under your own power.


A lot of so-called “experienced kayakers” are just people who have paddled a lot without bothering to educate themselves about safety and technique or outfit themselves properly. It is not how long somebody has paddled that makes them a good source of information but how conscientious they have been about learning the sport and practicing it safely. Don’t let anyone shame you out of seeking best practices and being safe rather than sorry. People who paddle cluelessly and recklessly are legion on our waterways. Most manage to get away with it without disaster or death but some are not as lucky.

I applaud your efforts to seek good advice from multiple sources.


Back to wetsuits: I got my full 4/3 mm surfer type wetsuit used on Ebay for $30. It’s a Xcel brand that came in like-new condition and is very warm and a comfortable fit. Xcel’s women’s size range is quite accurate. I got the same size as my regular clothing size and it is perfect. Many of the other wetsuit companies have ridiculously small-running wet suits. I am slightly smaller than the average adult woman (size 12) and in some of the big companies like Roxy, Onneil and Body Glove even their XXL barely fits me. (I guess they figure most wetsuit wearers are anorexic teenage surfers.) So check size charts carefully if you decide to buy one.

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Willowleaf, thank you so much for your support and advice. So appreciate your time and thoughtfulness.

Re: wetsuits, Do you know the “NRS” brand that Peter-CA mentioned, above? They have what seems a pretty specific sizing chart…
(I’m 6’ tall, 160#, so I usually buy men’s clothing - but was thinking to go with a women’s model for that nifty crotch zipper :slight_smile:

I really appreciate your perspective on my new boat. A little disappointed that it might not be a slick as the reviews said, but I’m totally ok with keeping low-profile and in lazy waters, given that I’m so new… though I must admit I was looking forward to exploring some of the smaller, tucked-in bays around Olympia/Gig Harbor, once I got a little practice in local lakes… But fortunately, there are quite a few of those, and smaller rivers like the Duwamish, near me.

Anyone know anything about Lake Tapps, by any chance? Lake Sammamish?

Tomorrow I will practice blowing it up in the yard. Baby steps… :hugs:

A great place to paddle that boat would be around Foster Island on the north end of the Arboretum. Plenty of fun to be had there.

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NRS makes great wilderness sports clothing. I have their Hydroskin “Farmer Jane” (the sleeveless zip front overalls) and a zip front jacket. They are like a less rubbery version of a wetsuit, but a little lighter than might work for you in colder waters being only 2 mm. But if you wear their 1.5 mm Hydroskin jacket over the 2 mm Jane that insulates your core with 3.5 mm total. The two pieces might be a good mix for you because you can wear just the Jane with a wind cutting shell jacket over it in milder condition.

Here are links to a 2 mm regular neoprene NRS Farmer Jane and the 1.5 Hydroskin jacket, both on sale. A lot of the vendors seem to have them marked down now – end of summer. That same company (Moosejaw) also has a 2/3 mm Xcel women’s full wetsuit on sale, similar to mine but not quite as warm. But, again, layering pieces can give you more temperature protection range.

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Oh perfect! Thanks Andy… can’t wait…

Hooray! Love it, thank you… (I wanted to send a photo of my first step (successful inflation in the back yard :hugs: ) but I cant figure out how to do it in here…
I cant tell you how happy and grateful I am for your kind support and advice :canoe:

when you want to post a photo, just download it to your device desktop. Then type your “reply” message here and click on the little photo icon in the middle of the icon bar above ^^^ (the rectangle frame with the mountain and sun in it). You’ll get a pop up window “add an image” and click on “choose files” and then pick the image you want from your desktop and choose that. Click the blue “upload” button at the bottom of the pop up and the image is in your response, ready to “reply,”

You can also simply copy/paste a photo into the text in the post.

I have padded up there in the summer when the water was so cold that hypothermia could set in very quickly if you went in the water, much less in the fall. I would wear a wet or dry suit anytime I was out in open deep water where I might have to swim, especially in Puget Sound.

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