New Paddler

-- Last Updated: Jan-12-09 2:58 PM EST --

Hi my husband and I just got into kayaking. And is getting ready to buy our first kayaks this month. We have planned a trip to Knotts Island,NC in July and was hoping anyone could give us some advise.
We have always rented canoes and paddled the local rivers but it has not been an everyweeked thing. We are lookin for it to be though. So any advise on the best kayaks to buy that is affordable for begginers. And which ones are the best for sea touring and calm lakes and rivers?
Thanks and I will love any advise you can give.

My husband and I are both 5'7 and around 125lb. We would like to do alot of ocean touring and alot of slow river trips. We are going to be on alot of all day trips, sometimes camping trips. And after about a year or two I would like to be able to do longer stronger trips.

more info

– Last Updated: Jan-12-09 6:23 PM EST –

(original poster edited to add this info, so nevermind)

People can probably give you more helpful answers if you provide some idea of your heights and weights, and what sort of paddling you hope to be doing in a year or two. Ocean paddling? Just slow-moving rivers and lakes? Trip lengths? etc. That way you can get a boat that is appropriate for your plans and current skills, but which you won't outgrow as your skills start to develop.

Welcome and demo, demo, demo…

– Last Updated: Jan-12-09 3:12 PM EST –

There are alot of great boats out there. Try as many as possible. Paddlers are usually very glad to have others try their boats. Until you've been in a few, it is hard to know what feels good that you will not outgrow immediately.

You are both smaller than the target paddler for most sea kayaks. So, lower volume boats will probably fit better.

With the info you have given, among the boats I would recommend you try are; Romany LV, Vela, Avocet LV, Tempest 165, Chatham 16...

choosing a kayak
Go to events like kayak symposiums, and days when kayak shops schedule demo days. Try paddling as many different types as possible. Also, go to classes where you can rent kayaks and get instruction. If your goal is to do multi day trips you probably should look at sea kayaks and not rec kayaks.

my 2 cents

– Last Updated: Jan-12-09 6:38 PM EST –

hi ...generally speaking ....any kayak that will handle rough water will work fine for calm waters. Long kayaks are fine for open waters but are not the best choice for small , twisty streams where manuverability is more important. other things to consider ..rudder, yes /no ?? i vote yes. I would go with plastic(poly) boats for there durability. I would also pick a kayak with a high bow,(such as Current Designs) to ride up and over waves vs. a low bow boat (such as wilderness systems). IS boat weight a priority ? high cost,low weight Fiberglass boat ($$$$$) vs , heavy,lower cost poly boat ($$$)?
As is the caveat here , test paddle as many boats as you can , that you think may be what you want.Narrow boats( 26"and under in width) are easier to paddle over long distances and time frames but are a bit tippy at first and take a few trips to get used to. from my very limited experience anything over that and it paddles like a "barge". I have a Pamilico 135T @ 30" wide and it paddles like a barge. do you want or need a large cockpit? cockpit opening style needs to be considered. Q: what kind/make of boats have you paddled so far ??

I’m not an ocean paddler
I live in the Desert so my advice is questionable but here goes.

  1. there is NO perfect boat.
  2. NEVER go into unfamiliar areas alone. Find people eexperienced with that trip and go with them until you are comfortable.
  3. test before you buy.

    Ok, here are the answers.

    Many cities that have a kayak population will host Demo-Days where you can test paddle many differnt boats.

    The SouthWest Kayak Symposium in San Diego is one i never miss. A couple weeks later, the SW demo people visit Phoenix to repeat their Demo Days for REI. I try to not miss that one either.

    I imagine that your city has them too. So find it, paddle EVERY boat you can (they are free) and talk to the salesmen and MOSTLY the other paddlers.

    The salesman will try to sell you HIS boat, the paddlers will tell you what they like and dislike about that boat.

    If no demo-days are handy, ask if the store will let you demo the boats.

    Or, look up the local kayak club and join it and ask to borrow the members boats for a test paddle. Kayakers are more than willing to loan their boats… and talk about them.

    That alone will give you more info than you need.

    Also here ar e a few general rules about kayaks:

    -long and narrow = fast but tippy. Do you want to be in the ocean in a boat that tips over easily?

    -short and wide = slow and stable. You will feel safer but have to fight to keep up with your friends.

    -Sit on Tops are easy to get back into when you roll.

    -Sit Insides can roll back… IF you learn to Eskimo Roll. I never did so do a wet exit, climb back in and bail it empty. But then, i can’t swim either and hate to wear a PFD. and yes, I am crazy so learn from my mistakes. you won’t live long if you make them all yourself.

    -16’ sea kayaks cut through the waves so easily and fast… but i am always afraid that I’ll end up in the water.

    -a 12’ SoT makes me feel safe but also like I am paddling a tank.

    -Inflatables are almost unsinkable but they act like a sail when the wind blows.

    -Ocean kayak makes a hunting kayak that is so stable, you can stand up in it and fire a shotgun and not fall into the water. BUT it weighs 125# and try to lift THAT on the roof of your car at the end of a long paddleing day!

    -Never buy more boat than you can drag across the beach and load on the top of you car after 12 hours of paddling when you are exhausted.

    FYI, i made all the mistakes and am now working on making new mistakes. I bought my first kayaks without even knowing what a kayak was, taught myself, and spent years unlearning bad habits (like stop buying every boat you see because you will end up selling most of them as unsuitable) and learning new stuff.

Excellant advice,
and a great choice of boats offered here! One more thought: join a club, if possible. Much more opportunity to try boats where you will be using them, and much better than demo conditions.The more experienced folks will gladly offer their help, and just might save you a bunch of money, by keeping you from buying a kayak that you may quickly outgrow.

$.04 cents
a good boat for calm rivers and a good boat for ocean touring are generally not the same boat. Start with what you want to do first. If you come to love the sport you’ll want a few anyway. It’s addicting.

since you are smaller paddlers (like me) you will generally have a better Center Of Gravity (COG) so what others consider “tippy” you will adjust to quickly. I went from a 26" wide to a 20" wide kayak in four months. Luckily I was able to sell the two lightly used wider ones at pretty much what it cost me. Don’t make an expensive mistake and get a kayak that your skills outgrow quickly.

The advice about low volume boats is good as you will mostly do day trips and overnighters at first. Pack like a backpacker with light gear and you can do these easily. Why buy a huge boat for expeditions you may never take while you fight the wind and struggle to keep up in your SUV kayak on day trips? Besides, you can rent big kayaks for those first few longer trips, see how you do, and which ones you like.

finally, buy used. You will save a LOT of $$ and the first kayak you buy is generally not the one you are ultimately happiest with. Enjoy the learning curve by doing demos and taking lessons, meeting up with clubs, etc. as suggested above. They are all excellent sources of used boats, btw.

Happy paddling and good luck!

small paddlers

– Last Updated: Jan-12-09 9:10 PM EST –

At your weight you're both in the "small(er) paddler" category. Many boats come in multiple sizes, and you will probably be more comfortable and more efficient in boats designed for lighter folks. A boat that's too big will be heavier and have more area exposed to wind, making it harder to maneuver. A boat that's too wide or too deep will force you to paddle with your hands too high. A cockpit that's too big makes it difficult to control the boat properly.

Beginners tend to be very concerned about stability. You'll find that any boat seems to magically become more stable as you spend more time on the water. The goal is to relax enough to let the boat move under you with the waves instead of tensing up and fighting every little tilt. Loose hips save ships!

You might consider taking a class in sea kayaks to gain some paddling and safety skills before you go boat shopping. You'll be better prepared to make a good decision. Many areas offer winter pool classes.

There's a great sea kayak symposium in western Michigan every spring:
Good fun, good instruction, lots of boats.

Since you're both slender, you'll probably find that most cockpits are a bit loose. Be aware that it's normal for folks to add foam to their boats for a better fit. The strap-in hip pads are a great way to improve fit without making a permanent change -- good for rentals or loaners.

Most touring boats will do fine on slow rivers. Learning to edge and lean will make it easier to maneuver a longer boat.

Some people will tell you that "longer boats are faster", but that's not the whole story. Longer boats are potentially faster than shorter ones, but only if you have enough horsepower. At normal touring speeds there's not much difference. Anything around 14' and up should be fine.

For ocean use you'll want something with fore and aft bulkheads for safety.

There is no best boat -- everyone likes something different, and your tastes will change as you gain experience. Without knowing more details about you -- including your budget -- a few you might consider are:

Wilderness Systems Tsunami 135
Venture Easky 15LV
Necky Eliza
Hurricane Tampico 135S or 140S
Prijon Catalina
Valley Avocet RM
P&H Capella RM 160

Don't be afraid to buy a used boat.

If you like building things, there are also many fine kit boats you could build.

Many beginners dream of long camping trips, but reality often turns out to be mostly day paddles. Be sure you really will be carrying a load most of the time before buying an expedition-sized boat.

I think Necky kayaks are a great choice for smaller paddlers, both from a fitment standpoint as well as their lighter weight compared to some other brands. For day tripping in a variety of waters check out the Manitou and Looksha 14, and the Eliza.

REI has Necky Manitou 13 seconds on clearance for $620

Beginner Help…RE.
Wow! I did not know there was kayaks with smaller cockpits. Thats GREAT! That makes me feel alot safer. All the ones we have looked at and have been in have been so big. And I did not feel to safe or snug inside. The pads is gonna be a MUST for me too. Thanks for the diffrent brands of the smaller cockpit kayaks. The leads me in the right direction now

I also did not know about the demo days and winter classes. I am going to call around first thing in morning now.

Thanks this all has been a big help. We now kind what we are out to shop for now. Would love to find one used since we just starting out Now off to outfitters to start test them out.

We will be practicing around home in the little local river and state park lakes as soon as it gets warm. We need to get the hang of the eskimo roll…hehe.And so we are use to our boats before July. But our first main trip will be to NC. The paddling trips there don’t seem to be to hard for a beginner. And I hoping to meet some other paddlers there and get all the advise I can get. Maybe even go out with some of them the first day. :slight_smile:

Thanks again! I am also open to anything else that might be handy to know. Or any good tips!! Love reading all I can on it.

New Paddler…RE again
Also how would I go about finding a kayaking club near me? I am going to talk to the local outfitter around me this weekend and see if he knows,maybe. But any other way of looking for one?

Cincy group

– Last Updated: Jan-13-09 8:55 AM EST –

Ohio/KY/IN source of information exchange about paddling trips, events, equipment, courses, etc. You can post information or read and use it. Many trips are located in the region, but some extend to surf, swamps or mountains, wherever the adventure is. There's paddling trips for all interests and levels of ability. Beginners are more than welcome.

It's free, so sign on now.

More pics of our wide variety of events at


Based upon your given information
"We would like to do alot of ocean touring and alot of slow river trips. We are going to be on alot of all day trips, sometimes camping trips. And after about a year or two I would like to be able to do longer stronger trips."

If you are doing ocean touring, you need to know how to handle a sea kayak pretty well. If you’re committed to doing that, you will favor your sea kayak over any recreational boat on slow rivers or lakes. I found in very short order that recreational kayaks do absolutely nothing better if you are someone who is ready to paddle in the ocean (meaning beginning to be able to handle a sea kayak the way it was designed to be handled), they’re simply a cheaper, more limited design, good for the majority of kayakers who will never get into handling a sea kayak (there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s just where most people settle into the sport). The poster who admittedly said it may be questionable advice who asked if you wanted a narrow boat on the ocean - the answer to that question is undoubtedly yes, you do if you’re doing ocean touring. If you’re touring in the ocean, you want what’s considered a sea kayak. Even with your small size, the minimum length should likely be around at least 15 feet or better. Here I will say that if your not planning to get strong enough to realize the benefits of a nice, low volume, 15 - 16 foot kayak, open water can be a very dangerous place for you to be.

I do believe that wider, initially stable, flat bottomed kayaks are the best kayaks for most people I see around here on the water. If you read up a little and talk to kayakers, and this next part is important, who do the type of kayaking that you are wanting to do, (there are just a handful, around Wilmington, NC anyway, that can offer meaningful advice to someone wanting to do ocean touring, and there are thousands of kayaks), they will likely steer you in the right direction.

An important piece of advice I read before I bought my first kayak: Find someone who can point you to the appropriate boats to demo, and pick from those what you like best. If you simply demo anything and go home with what was most comfortable that first day, you will likely end up in a boat that you have grown out of after the first couple weeks of paddling, and that will never be appropriate for your original intent, or even for working on the skills you need to develop for your original intended paddling.

Definitely meet and talk with some paddlers. Physical ability and determination are important factors in figuring whether someone will truly enjoy what it takes for safely paddling open water. Any type of kayaking can be great fun. Since you want to do a lot of ocean touring, I’m giving advice based upon that. On slow rivers, a rec boat paddler cannot maneouver their rec boat better than an open water kayaker can maneouver their sea kayak, they’re just in a comparatively sluggish and unresponsive boat that yet, is still appropriate for the situation, and is more appropriate for their skill level. The perception comes from the fact that a novice can turn a rec boat faster than a sea kayak. So try not to get hung up on the slow river vs open water thing. If you’re doing both, a sea kayak is more fun in both cases.

You might want to consider taking a kayak class either sea kayak or moving water kayak class depending on what type of paddling you want to do. I think that taking a class and using their gear (or renting gear) will help you understand all the things you will need to know before you even start looking at kayaks. Kayaks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and most instructors giving beginner classes will explain the shapes and composition of the various boats. They can even give you recommendations and you’ll learn the importance of various features of boats and all the other gear you’ll need to purchase.

I think you’ll find the instruction a good investment and it might even save you some money in the long run.

Good luck and welcome to the world of paddling! If you latch on to it, like most in this forum, you’ll learn it’s not just a hobbie, but a life long passion.

At your size there is almost
no advantage to going with the long sea kayaks. You’ll have an easier time handling and paddling a 12 to 14 footer and it might actually be faster to boot.

Unless you are very athletic or plan to be, anything over about 14 foot is just going to harder to paddle. Get as narrow a boat as you feel comfortable in or maybe just a tad narrower. You will quickly get used to a little tippiness.


not for sea paddling
My wife is about your size, and for sea paddling, being in a crossover rec-sea kayak, like those in the 12 to 14 foot range, is a big disadvantage, and also doesn’t allow development of good seakayaking skills. She does best in a 16 to 16.5’ long boat.

Yes, get a sea kayak that is the appropriate size for your body, but don’t make the mistake of buying a rec-kayak because you think you’re too small for a sea kayak. Sea kayaks aren’t long and narrow because seakayakers are freakishly large people. They’re long and narrow because that’s the design that fits the conditions of sea kayaking. And there are true sea kayaks sized to fit all shapes of paddlers, and they’re generally all in the 15-18 foot range.

we’re gonna make this confusing :wink:
aren’t we?

jimyaker, hello, I am 100% down w. what you posted except that kayaks longer than 14 feet are not harder to paddle nor do they require you to be an uber-athlete. Depends more on technique and boat fit than anything else.

I have a skinny (20") boat at 16’ & a 23" wide touring kayak at 13’5" - both easy & enjoyable to paddle, in part because I gave some thought to my size, how the boats fit me, & how I would learn to paddle them (many ways to do that).

Each person has to arrive at the optimum length boat that they feel they can comfortably/safely handle in the conditions they choose to paddle. Some people in shorter boats of 12-14’ do exceptionally well in keeping up w. the longer boats. Others do OK for a while then start to tire as the long boats get moving and maintain pace. Still others get a boat 17 feet or over, find it a handful & are frustrated that things never improve.

There’s a certain max efficiency in length that is different for everyone.

It all depends on the design & the paddler. Simplistic for sure but sometimes not so easy to know or, more importantly, feel til you try a lot of boats in different conditions.

For sea or any distance
a sea kayak will likely be better than a rec boat.

There are many smaller folk doing wonderfully paddling sea kayaks around 16’ long.

The P&H Vela at 15’8" is specifically designed for smaller paddlers and is quick. Everyone who fits who gets into my wife’s Vela loves it. The Valley Avocet LV is also designed from hull through cockpit for smaller paddlers. It is not as quick as a Vela but is more forgiving. The NDK Romany is a boat in which a wide range of paddlers feel confident. The LV has a small cockpit and lowered decks. The Romany is wholly capable and even less demanding than an Avocet.

If one wishes to try a boat under 15’, the one of which I am aware with the most respect from paddlers is the Impex Mystic.

I think we are saying the same thing
and that is that longer is not always better/faster.

My point is that a smaller paddler doesn’t need as big/long a boat to maintain moderate speeds. And that at some point, for a given padller, length just adds more wetted surface and therefore more drag. If the paddler isn’t paddling at higher speeds, the extra length often has a detrimental overall effect (takes more effort).

Not suggesting a bargy rec kayak, but there are valid reasons to lean away from the 18 foot range towards the 14 to 15 foot range. Looksha 14, Eliza 15, Tsunami 140, Mystic 14, and similar boats is what I’m thinking.