New Kayaker looking for advice

Hello, everyone. I am considering my first kayak and need help! I am looking to try out kayaking, just for enjoyment and exercise, and have looked at numerous articles on the best options, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on anything. I don’t want to spend a fortune to start with, until I make sure that I will want to stick with it, so the inflatable kayaks seem a good option, pricewise. On the other hand, are they really any good? Or is it like paddling around an inflatable dinghy like we had as kids? Or am I better off biting the bullet and going with a regular hard-shell kayak? Part of the problem with finding a good option is also size. I am 6’2" and 250 lbs, so finding something that doesn’t seem like it would be cramped for legroom has been tough, based on the specs and reviews I have seen. Any recommendations and advice would be greatly appreciated! For the record, I will be using it on a lake, and possibly very slow-moving rivers. SO…sit-in or sit-on? Inflatable or rigid? And recommendations for paddles? Any other stuff that I’m not even aware I need to ask about? Thanks!

A good recreational kayak is a place to start, Something like a Wilderness Systems Pungo. There are other similar boats.
It is hardshell . If you can find one, they are easy to sell if you don’t like it. I’m too heavy for a 12’.
I weigh 230 and have a long body and I started with a 12’. I paddled it for a few years in lakes, rivers, and bays.
Along the way , I’ve decided a 14’ is better for me .
Welcome! You have opened a good Pandora’s Box. I think a bunch of us are grounded in the heat or by age and you will get a books worth of replys.
I have a 34" inseam and big feet and am not cramped in a Pungo and they have great seats.
But, I also love my SOT. It is a WS Tarpon. The difference is I have taken the Tarpon places I wished I hadn’t ( wind and waves) and it brought me back.

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Budget is?

If you can transport and store a hard shell kayak, that is always preferable.

Assuming your lake is not that large such that you won’t see large waves nor be paddling so far from shore, a recreational class would work fine. As would a sit on top. They both paddle about the same (generally being shorter and wide as compared to other boats). A rec class should keep you drier than a SOT and a little more protected from elements, but a SOT could put up with more conditions (waves and the like) than a rec and is easier to get back on when you flip or fall off.

This spring we bought an Old Town Trip 10 Deluxe Angler Kayak from Dick’s they run around 550 bucks. Being a fishing kayak it comes with and anchor and trolley that only take a minute to remove and there are two sockets behind the seat for fishing poles and they don’t get in the way at all. Other than that it is very much the same as OT’s normal rec-kayaks that cost more. It has a 325lbs weight rating and would have no problem with someone 250 and 6’2” as the cockpit is very long and roomy. It is only 10’ long but tracks quite well. What I liked about it that some of the OT rec-kayaks on the lower price point didn’t have is it has a sealed bulkhead in the stern with a hatch and that provides a good amount of capsize flotation. In addition I stuck a $12 18” yoga ball in the bow after removing a piece of foam they have in there and when I inflated it in place it contoured nicely to the bow and added a lot of floatation. You will flip it at some point and it is nice to be able to swim it in without dragging along a barrel of water. I added a painter line to the bow that stays coiled under the bungee on the deck is handy for tying it up and if you need a line to pull it along. You don’t need a great kayak paddle to get started. Get a 2 piece for around $30-40 will be fine. If anything I would spring for a good quality PFD and wear it. We started out with cheaper ones around $30 with 3 snaps and I wanted something better (comfort) and found a nice $170 one marked down to $65 I like a lot. it has a zipper front with one lower strap. They have more float in the front and allow free arm movement to the sides.

I would also not rule out a solo canoe as an option. They have canoes that paddle like a kayak with lower seats and foot braces like a kayak and a large open cockpit. To get a light one you are looking at a little more money though.

I’m older and like the seat height of a canoe better along with being able to kneel and move legs around more for long hours on our river. She loves the lower more nimble and lighter kayak I mentioned above. If you have a place you can rent a few and try them out it might help.

Welcome to the forum.

There is going to be a wide range of quality and performance (along with cost) in any class of kayak. There are inflatable models over $1000 (like some of the drop stitch type Sea Eagles and Grabner) that will outperform cheaper hard shells.

For people just entering the sport and who are unsure about what performance they want, we usually recommend seeking a used boat. That’s a bit more of a challenge this year due to low stocks of new boats driving up the market for used ones. But it’s still possible to find good deals if you look patiently and then act quickly when something suitable arises. It’s best not to expect “perfection” with your first boat and the majority of people who really get into paddling end up changing to a different boat as they gain experience and get more particular about what they want to do and how they want the boat to perform. Buying used means you can usually get most, if not all, of your initial cost back by re-selling.

I do have to disagree with Bud ^^ above – a $30 or $40 paddle is going to negatively affect your paddling experience more than a low end boat will. Heavy cheap paddles with metal shafts and clunky plastic blades can ruin your enjoyment and even lead to pain, poor form and injury. You can get a decent paddle (fiberglass shaft and well designed blades) for around $125 from Aquabound , Werner or Cannon. And another plus of seeking a used boat is that sellers will often throw in a paddle. it may or may not be the right size for you, though given your height and the fact that too many kayak dealers sell beginners 230 cm or 240 cm paddles, regardless of their height (which would be OK for you in most starter boats but way too long for most average sized women and shorter guys) means you have a better shot than most for finding one suitable.

Something that has helped others new to the forum in the past is to let us know what city/state you live in, your budget and how far you would be willing and able to travel for a boat. Quite a few folks have been able to locate a good starter boat by letting those of us more familiar with models check Craigslist and FB Marketplace in your area and suggest boats for sale near you that might fit your size and intended usage to check out.

The thing about starting off in any sport is you don’t know what you don’t know and paddle length is one of them. My neighbor came over this spring with a $28 paddle he bought at walmart aluminum shaft, 2 piece and adjustable and it may have been not been as light as a high end paddle but I was impressed with the quality and he didn’t notice it as being heavy. I think to have something to play with and figure out the length you want is nice and down the road it is nice to have a spare 2 piece paddle just in case. My cheap $30 paddle was a 230cm and too short for my canoe conversion. I made an extension for it to 260cm and was able to try out that length before I spend more money on a 260cm maybe next year. I’m sure I will notice an improvement but the easy paddling I do I don’t think I’m going to hurt myself with my Frankinpaddle for now.

Used is great depending on where you live. Around here I was lucky and found a canoe this year I liked and in the last 6 months there have been maybe 3 kayaks I would have even looked at and they all were really cheap and had low weight capabilities. Here it is next to imposable to buy a good name brand rec-kayak even at the sporting stores. They finally got a bunch of SOTs a month ago. It was the reason I ordered off line from Dicks as our local store had nothing. Cost a few bucks for delivery but when the stores do have them they are marked up.

I would like to stay around $600 or less, but flexible if I need to be to get something decent.

I am in NE Georgia (Rabun County), and I’m fine with a couple of hours drive to get something decent at a good price.

I’m new to the forum and would like to relate my intro into kayaking. While canoeing down a river with a another paddler, I swapled into my brother’s white water kayak. With no instructions, the next fifteen minutes was spent spinning like a top or upside down, only to recover and continue around to land upside down again. Hats off to white water yakers, but I vowed to avoid kayaks in the future. I bought a 16 ft Royalex Old Town canoe and tested a 9 foot long by 30 inch wide Perception kayak at the same time. I fell in love with the open rec kayak and have barely use the canoe since. Armed with a cheap paddle, I probed the Gunpowder River on the Chesapeake Bay. I learned about peak speed of a displacement hull by paddling hard enough that the rear deck submerged to within six inches of the cockpit coaming at each stroke. Ventured further
into open water, returning into a 15 mph wind that generated 18 inch waves, a forward speed of 1/2 mph gave ample opportunity to enjoy gallons of water breaking on my lap
I took it as a sign - I need a bigger boat. First a 12 foot Liquid Logic Stingray, then a 140 Pungo, then a 125 Tsunami, then a 145 Tsunami, then a 175 Tsunami with a rudder. The adventures of that progression has to be another story, but selecting a boat has so many depends that only the user can answer.
First question is how strong is your passion for exploring waterways. The conditions a paddler faces on a 5 mile lake is very different than the Chesapeak Bay, the Great Lakes, or rock gardens of the ocean coastline, not to mention a wild class 4 river. No matter what your need, the next question is how will you transport the kayak, where will you store it, and how will you carry it to the launch point. Finally, what can you afford. You can start out renting to figure out what kind of boat suits your style. Always test different types of boats before making a final decision. If you have a passion for paddling, you will find the money to buy that dream boat. Be careful of buying used boats. I’ve looked at “like new” kayaks that had bungee deck cords that were as limp as stretched out panty hose, indicating long hours stored out in the sun.
The boat you select will dictate whether you remain a kayaker or get tired and sell it. If your dream is to paddle away from shore and drink coffee, get a boat with a nice cup holder. I started out with a boat outfitted for fishing. Fish proved to be smarted than me, so I gave up fishing and got progressively bigger boats. Ten boats later, it would’ve been cheaper to buy that nice composite boat for $3,600, instead of a heavy rotomolded 175 Tsunami for half that price, which is too long to put in the bed of my truck and too heavy to carry to the beach. So the 14.5 footer goes out, unless I switch to the 17.5 when a small craft advisory is in effect. I do love the Wilderness System line because all their boats are very stable, handle similarly, and the seat is excellent; however, there are far better specialty boats. I’ve been able to push the 125 Tsunami to 4.6 mph over 15 miles and the 175 Tsunami to 4.66 mph over 38.75 miles on an 8 hr 20 min trip. I’m currently looking at a 15.5 Delta and would like feedback to compare.
My advice is to first decide how committed you are to make the investment in time. Then save the money to buy a quality boat thst makes you comfortable in the environment that is accessible to you. Accept that kayaking is exciting but more painful than fun. Buy “Fundamentsls of Kayak Navigation” by David Burch, and have the time of your life. Your kayaking experience will be cut short, if you pick an inferior boat, select a heavy paddle, and buy a poorly fitted PFD, because you most likely will grow tired of the effort without the pleasure of exploring great distances.

Check out The Greenville Sea Kayakers on Meetup

At 250 pounds when I got in a cheap inflateable the bow and stern meet at my head. ( not)

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