New Kayak Choice

My wife and I are both beginners in kayaking, though I have had a decent amount of river canoing experience. We have rented kayaks and really enjoy it. Where we live in Southern Maine we are blessed with many different bodies of water, from the ocean to tidal salt water ways to fast and slow rivers to lakes. Is there any kayak that would be ok to use in a variety of water types - such as slow rivers, lakes, tidal water and even maybe coastal ocean trips?

Any help will be appreciated.


As far as specific reccomendations, you really need to try out boats. That is the one constant here. Demo, demo, demo again, and when you’re done demoing, demo some more. I don’t know if you’ve ever backpacked, but kayak fit is a lot like backpack fit: extremely individual. Wilderness Systems, Current Designs, Necky, Valley Canoe Products, Impex, Epic, QCC, etc., there is no end to quality boat manufacturers. I would suggest getting into an outfitter and talking to them, demoing some boats, and when you figure out what you want to do and have some more specific choices, come back and bounce them off us. Between the users here, you can find feedback on just about any boat you can imagine. But without knowing what you really want to do, and what boats even begin to fit you, there are just too many choices to make an informed suggestion. Cheers and Merry Christmas!

To get a boat that will handle all of those different types of waters reasonably well, you’ll get a boat that probably won’t excel in any of them. The only place that’s a problem is in your head. If you want the perfect sea-going kayak, then you’re going to have something not suitable for smaller rivers. Etcetera. So forth. If you’re aren’t looking for the perfect boat for every situation, and you recognize that to get something for one type of water may need you to give up something for another type of water, then you’ll be fine and should be able to find something you like.

Ditto to the test paddles. They cannot be recommended too highly.

Also, be sure to consider both Sit-On-Top and Sit-In Kayaks. Each has advantages and disadvantages. As long as you’re compromising, be sure to consider all the angles.

  • Big D

Stick with canoes for most interior
waters, and go to sea kayaks for the Maine coast. You can also use sea kayaks on interior lakes and deeper rivers.

After you are comfortable in sea kayaks, and maybe have learned to roll, you can consider whether to try whitewater kayaks on Maine whitewater. But you can do all or nearly all Maine whitewater in properly equipped whitewater canoes, so there is no need to go in two directions (whitewater and ocean) at once in kayaks.

I agree that you should demo where you have the opportunity, but because of my outlandish size, I have purchased nearly every one of the baker’s dozen boats I have used in my 30 years WITHOUT any demo whatsoever. And you may get the wrong impression on a demo. After all, why should you, a canoeist, know that a sea kayak with little initial stability, and which turns left markedly when you lean right, may be a good boat, not a total squirrel?

used kevlar
Used boats are less than half price and no one boat will do it all. Please consider having a used canoe such as my brothers 18 ft kevlar winonah. Very competive in 90 miler canoe race. Then 2 used kayaks such as 16 ft plastic with front and rear bulkheads.

Kittery trading ( among others) has at least one canoe/kayak demo day every year. Sometime (usually in April0 they co-sponsor a weekend festival (for lack of a better term) at the UNH campus in S. NH. If you go there you’ll get the opportunity to see whats what and gather information on different boats, assorted accessories, maybe pick up some odds & ends that are priced at show special prices. Try to attend some of the seminars if any subject looks interesting, and check the parking lot. If by then you have an idea you might score what you want at used boat prices.

Paddle sport is so varied that for no one can really say this or that boat is what you want until you yourself know how you plan to use your boat the majority of the time. Me? I have a White water, rec, and touring kayak, and a 15 foot glass canoe.

Buy for safety
Which means to buy the boat that is designed to handle the most difficult conditions you are likely to encounter, probably the coastal bays. We paddle each summer in Muscoungous Bay and have done Casco - for that you are talking sea kayak. The one time you get caught in surprise bad conditions and have a boat that gets you home safe will make up for all the times that a smaller or less fitted boat may have been more convenient.

That means that for small rivers you will be in a boat that may feel overly long. My best suggestion would be to first buy the sea kayak, then add a used canoe or shorter kayak to your list to buy used for more protected water.


MIKCo etc…

– Last Updated: Dec-29-04 8:15 PM EST –

Living in Southern Maine, you owe it to yourselves to contact Maine Island Kayak Company.

MIKCo is one of the absolute best outfits of its kind anywhere.

Tom Bergh and crew are extraordinarily experienced. We bought our current primary boats from MIKCo -- and Tom only let us buy after demoing many boats in different conditions. It took the third trip (the second being to the Gulf of Maine Sea Kayak Symposium -GOMSKS) before Tom considered our choice of boats to be well based.

Ken Fink at Posiedon (sp?) handles Epics and is also a treasure of knowledge. Maine Sport handles a good range of boats - including Current Designs, Necky and P&H.

Demo everything that seems remotely appropriate.

And, as noted above, buy the boat that can handle the most challanging of conditions you are likely to encounter.

Second to Maine Island Kayak
It’s an easy ride on the ferry from Portland to get to them on Peak’s Island, and you won’t find any better around you. The worst that happens, if you decide that you want to leave off the sea kayak until a later time, is a chance to try out some really really nice boats with people who can be extremely helpful.