new to flatwater, need boat advice

Hi. I am a former internationally competitive rower that has done some occasional recreational kayaking. I am now interested in training and racing flatwater sprint and maybe some marathon. I need to get a boat since there is no local club with racing equipment nearby. I am looking for suggestions on what to get because I want to learn good technique but don’t want to get a boat that I will outgrow in a few months of practicing balance. I’ve tried a stability 6 boat and did fine after a few bobbles and stayed dry my first time in it for a 30 minute paddle. I’ve spent a lot of time in a single rowing shell so I’m guessing my balance will come somewhat quickly (I hope!) Any ideas?


where do you live, how big are you, and are you looking for an olympic K1 style boat to race in or surfski for bigger/messier water?

don’t be afraid of any K1/fast surfski. Though, the tippiest ones will take you a while to get comfortable on for sure, even with your background. Main thing is to get on the boat 4 or more times a week. Get a wing paddle, don’t bother with any other kind. Usually it is best to learn wing paddle technique on a more stable boat so that you learn the technique properly. But also, trying to learn an extremely tippy boat and the feel of a wing paddle at the same time can be very, very difficult and possibly lead to technique problems. I started with a Fenn Mako Millennium surfski, considered one of the more unstable of all skis… It took me a while since I was also learning wing technique at the same time, but I’m glad I did it as there’s not really anything too ‘upgrade’ to.

western massachusetts
I’m in Connecticut river and flatwater lakes area. I was thinking olympic type K1 but don’t really know what my other options are. I’m 5’8" and 145lb, with more training my weight should be about 135-140. I’ve tried a wing paddle once and will get one. Any advice on length? I have 6’ wingspan even though I’m 5’8". I know most people find hand position based on 90 degree elbows. I’m happy for any suggestions…

Length adjustable
If you are new, you can get an adjustable length paddle so you can tune to your needs as you gain experience. I’m sure the folks at Epic or Pat at ONNO can set you up with a nice wing.

There are probably more used surfskis around than K1s although both can probably be found at good prices. The market isn’t big so they seem like relatively good deals to me.

wings and boats

– Last Updated: Sep-22-08 4:27 PM EST –

Definitely try to get an adjustable paddle for your first wing. You can then dial in the best length and feather for you and your body/technique.

try talking to a couple companies in your general area like
DAM good Gear (

Mississippi Kayaks in Lake Placid: .. they have a wide range of boats. I have a Kirton Tactic from them which is a great boat, but I am really too heavy for it at 190.

Epic, Onno, and Turbo from Canada all have good reputation paddles too.

forgot to mention.. there's a Kirton Tor for sale on the classifieds in Mass.

by the way, I’m a girl
not that I think it makes a huge difference but I realized that I failed to mention that I was of the girl variety…

Fast trainer
I just saw this ad on the Wild Turkey’s site. They are a group based out of southern Mass. I saw this kayak at Walden Pond a few weeks ago. It looked like new. The guy who owned it was really nice and offered to let me give it a try, but I did not have time. Perhaps it would be good for you. Here’s a copy of the ad:

Simon River Sport Laser, Fast ICF trainer. Great boat for flat water workouts.The Laser has a stability rating of 5, if 1= crazy tippy and 10=floating dock tippy.Comes with extra seat, 2 rudder blades and a custom carbon fiber over stern rudder. $1000 Firm Call Ken 617-388-3192

I replied to the ad. It sounds like it could work for me. My biggest concerns are that the simon river kayak website states that it is for paddler 110-220 lbs. That seem like an awfully big range. I’m also concerned that it is a developmental racing boat and that I would want to upgrade once I learned paddling technique and balance. The trade off is that I want to get a boat that will allow me to gain balance and technique and a more racing type boat may just be too unstable.

Nelo or Vajda

– Last Updated: Sep-23-08 2:58 AM EST –

.. would be the typical answer here in Europe.

The Nelo Vanquish is the most popular boat amongst the younger K1 crowd willing to put in the time.

Looking to the marathon crowd and the master classes the Vajda *sonic range of kayaks gains more popularity. The Vajda kayaks are slightly more stable(grade 2).

You have to be very realistic concerning your expected number of sessions on the water each week and concerning sprint/marathon usage.

If you expect to paddle less than say 100 training sessions a year, I would suggest you go for a grade +3 kayak.

Try KayakPro
KayakPro sells racing K1 boats for a variety of weight ranges, quality is high. They are a Nelo dealer as well. If you think you will ever do open water racing, the KayakPro Nemo is said to be very good for smaller paddlers 100-190 lbs.

Search Out Pam Browning
on this site. She’s in MA and a top notch race competitor who travels regionally for races. She has all sorts of racing K1s and is not averse to folks trying them out.

She has not posted in awhile here. But find a post by her and hit the email icon.


Come East a Bit
I’ve got a few boats you could try, and I’m just off route 2 in Harvard, next to a nice pond. I’ve got a Tor, as well as the old style Javelin (both Olympic or ICF K1s), and a few Unlimited styles. I’m 5’7" and 138 pounds, so I’ve found a majority of boats too big for me. The Tor is nice, as well as the tippier Typhoon, the Javelin is old style but fits a smaller paddler well. I’ve also got an ICF Mohawk (very tippy but extremely fast and responsive) and a Mohican (Unlimited and fast but sometimes feels a little big for me), and an Exceed (Unlimited, kind of like a small Thunderbolt). You could at least experience a variety of boats and see which ones feel best. Pam

I think you might find the Laser a bit big, and if you are used to rowing shells, you probably will be comfortable in a racing kayak pretty quickly. The Tor would be a better boat, but you’d probably outgrow that quickly also. has had a KayakPro Sino for sale, that’s kind of an intermediate, small racer. The Penquin that’s advertised on might be a bit advanced for you right now, but would probably be a good size. If you are just learning, I also think it’s important to get a boat that sits you in the proper position, the Kirton Typhoon I have, as well as the VanDusen Mohawk, both have completely adjustable platform seats and full wood footboats with toe straps, so you can sit up and rotate, important to start doing correctly right from the start. The new design ICFs are nice because where you put the paddle in has been cut away so you can get the paddle in close to the boat. The other thing to consider is don’t get a boat too advanced that could start you developing a bad defensive stroke that could take awhile to get rid of. So find something that fits you, find one with a seating arrangement that puts you in the proper position, and don’t go too advanced that you end up slapping the water more than stroking it. There’s some good dvds out there on forward stroke technique, also some good websites so you can see what you’re trying to achieve. And if you’re in the vacinity of Holyoke on 10/4, go watch some of the top paddlers at the Holyoke Cup starting at noon, watching someone like Dave VanDorpe is like poetry on water, listening to the strokes of some of the paddlers going by gives an idea of the power behind the paddle.