New to kayaking, bought a late 90s Cobra XL, many questions

Joined the forum to learn more about kayaking. Hello everyone. I live in Laguna Beach, CA. My daughter recently bought a SUP, and I thought it would be fun go to out paddling with her near the beach, but in a kayak since I am a little balance deficient. I am 5’9" and 178 lbs.

So I just bought my Cobra XL in a smooth, shiny light gray granite look from Offer UP. Made in New Zealand. Seems of high quality without my realizing it before buying… I think I lucked out despite my ignorance. It appears to measure 11’10" (I measured it twice), 28.5" wide, and with both optional A hatches fore and aft, weights 51 lbs on my scale. It appears to have been used for fishing. It had under the hatches a couple of different anchor setups with about 90’ of line, including floats. Fishing isn’t permitted in Laguna, so I probably won’t be doing that any time soon. It also came with a tall flexible padded seat, and a short seat, both of which attach via brass clips that are pretty weathered at this point but still work. It came with the original paddle, 220cm with quite large and squarish paddles. I take it this paddle design is intended for “power” paddling… like if I were to try to surf with it, which I don’t intend to do.

When I was about 12, a neighbor had a sit-in kayak that I borrowed on a lake for about once a week for a summer to paddle at 6am… so I do know the basics of paddling on flat water.

I have not yet tried it out since I had so many questions. I did buy car roof cushions/straps of 28" width, similar to the block surf brand. Also bought a scupper trolly from Salamander Paddle Gear to wheel it from wherever I park to the beach. It breaks down to fit within the A Hatch on my kayak in case I ever need to stow it on board.

If anyone has any experience with my particular kayak, which seems quite rare, or anything similiar from Ocean Kayaks, etc., a few questions:

  1. I bought two scupper plugs for the scupper holes under the seat. Good or bad idea for kayaking on relatively flat water just outside the transition zone? Also bought a paddle leash and I assume it is a good idea to use it, right?

  2. Any reason not to use the paddle it came with?

  3. Are there any rules about kayaking just off shore? — like do I have to have a life jacket? Am I allowed to launch on parts of the beach marked “Surfing”, or other parts marked “Swimming”?

  4. Does anyone use a leash (not paddle leash) with a kayak like you would with a surfboard or SUP?

  5. The Bungee cording is now 20 something years old. I assume I should replace that with new cording?

Thanks in advance for answering.

I don’t know that particular kayak, but as for the lifejacket the answer is always yes. I ALWAYS have mine on and I also make a habit of always being fully loaded with safety gear no matter where or when I am paddling. Life jacket is essential. The rest, bilge pump, spare paddle, paddle float and more is always brought because safety habits are the only way you know you will have what you need, when you need it.

thanks dcowell65 for those thoughts.

Always a PFD aka life jacket. Get a kayaking one with a shorter back and comfortable. Consider it a second skin.

Launching in surf you should never be where the boarders are, or swimmers. If you capsize your boat gets loose and becomes a lethal projectile. I have some concern re your capacity to handle it if it is real surf. There are a million ways to get hurt trying to launch a kayak in even small surf if you don’t know how to handle it. It sounds like you are a beginner. Stay away from that for now. Find something flat to start.

Redoing deck rigging is a periodic ritual. Yeah, replace the bungle.

You can start with any old paddle. If you keep at it you will want to spend money for a lighter weight one.

I have a wrist leash wrapped around my shaft. Am not a big fan personally of leashes to the boat. But there are arguments for it too. Just make sure you can’t get dragged around by it.

Welcome to a great sport and to the forum.

I wouldn’t even think of paddling without wearing a paddling PFD, and wearing it properly as well. There was a drowning in my state the other day when a guy flipped his boat on a river. He had a life jacket on but it apparently wasn’t fastened and came off.

Unsure what the beach regulations are in California, but it’s never a good idea to mix kayaks and swimmers. Or kayaks and surfers, unless the paddler is an expert.

Paddle leash can be a good idea so long as you don’t get tangled in it. For fun, when you do start going out, practice falling off your kayak, then getting back on.

Large square blades don’t sound too shoulder friendly or efficient. Any idea how much that paddle weighs? Since it came with the boat, may as well give it a try, but keep an eye out for a used kayak paddle in the length you need.

Have fun and stay safe!

The XL was designed as a fishing kayak. That means that it will not be very efficient for paddling. The entrance and exit from the water are pretty wide. Combined with a large, square paddle face, it will take a lot out of you.

A better paddle will, eventually be a big step up.

Paddle leashes are often used by surfski or waveski paddlers. The situations they put themselves in a leash can be needed, as with whitewater people. IO have seen a few fishing people who use them. They do it so they do not have to pay attention to what their paddle does when catching a fish.

A kayak is considered a vessel by the Coast Guard. That means a PFD and noisemaker (whistle) is mandatory. Pre-fit the PFD before getting on the water.

I do not know Laguna, so I can’t tell you about local regulations, a lifeguard may be able to.

Hope you have fun and continue to paddle

I understand that leashes to the craft are not uncommon with surfskis, or boards.

FWIW I have never, ever, ever heard of a WW paddler using a leash. It could be extraordinarily problematical in rocks or near strainers. WW folks generally paddle in groups for safety, one of the rescue activities can be to retrieve the boat.

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For boating safety requirements in California check with your state regulators. I have no idea which Cali regulator office. I don’t recognize any of the other posters as Cali residents, could be some. It might be good for you to find a local instructor to get some “check-ride” paddle out of the way. Little waves can get big surprisingly fast. Especially as the tide changes.

For launching off the beach in the “swimming” area …bet the lifeguards will tell you quick enough.

PS…My sit on top is really sucks in any surf.

Thanks everyone. Today I had a plan to launch at a protected cove. At 2:30 pm, loaded up the yak, drove to the location, unloaded, put the wheels on, dragged it about a block to the beach, then dragged it about 50 yards to the cove. Told the Lifeguard I was going to launch… he said cool, even though it was a somewhat crowded beach with a couple of people spashing around in shallow water. Clipped the seat in, put the paddle together, and checked conditions.

Wind was 15 mph and aside from the protected cove, there were some small swells and about 2-3’ waves breaking close to shore.

So I chickened out. Will try again tomorrow morning when there is less wind, smaller waves, and nobody in the water where I will launch. I plan to mostly fall off, get back on, and paddle around a little. Also check to make sure there are no cracks that escaped my inspection… and see if the three hatches have decent seals and keep the water out.

Rookie – the paddle weighs 37 ounces.


The lifeguard was wrong, especially considering that you apparently plan to fall off the kayak. One time of your falling off , the boat getting loose and it could seriously hurt a swimmer. 2 to 3 ft waves are plenty for it to break someone’s leg. It is not the duty of swimmers to watch out for your kayak.

Avoiding that scenario is just plain common sense. If you think it has to do with your own nerve rather than the safety of others, you are asking for very expensive trouble.

A life jacket is a legal requirement to paddle anywhere (not just offshore), and not having one could get you a ticket. The law requires that you have one on board that is easily accessible and of the proper size for each person on board (presumably just you). You don’t need to wear legally, but pretty much everyone here (myself included) will strongly recommend you wear at all time, as a life jacket doesn’t work unless you are wearing it when you fall over.
Note 1 - If you get an inflatable type PFD, I believe you do need to wear it to be legal.
Note 2 - your daughter also legally needs a PFD, but paddleboards have the exception that one is not required if they are in a surf zone or marked swim zone.

SoCal has some pretty strict rules regarding where you can and cant launch. Each local jurisdiction sets the rules, so you need to ask someone for each place you are considering. Check local paddlesports retailers (not big box stores) for local suggestions - people like Southwinds in Irvine or Pure Watersport in Dana Point. Better yet, look for launch points in protected waters. Most marinas have a public launch ramp or dock - until you get used to the kayak, this would be much better than trying to launch through surf. Be worth a drive to Newport Beach or Dana Point.

The boat should be fine. Replace the bungees when you get a chance, but don;t let old bungees stop you from paddling now (they are not a safety consideration).

Use the paddle it came with, though chances are a nicer paddle will be a decent upgrade.

Scupper plugs are made to try to keep you a bit drier if you have water splashing up from below, but having them in keeps any water that comes in from above (paddle drip and the like) from draining out. With a sit on top kayak, I don’t use and instead just assume it will be a somewhat wet trip and wear appropriate clothing for that. Shouldn’t be a big deal either way whether you use or not.

Thanks Celia and Peter.

Remember there aren’t any waves at the protected cove.

Anyway, I did return this morning. Nobody was there at 9am except a couple of early arrivers, and nobody was int he water. Luckily, a docent who helps educate people about the harbor seals who climb up on the rocks of this cove came over to ask if I needed help adjusting my seat. she has a 9’ Hobie she paddles every once in a while.

So, I did launch in waveless, peopleless water… and did a big circle and returned to the beach after one minute. I don’t remember what it was like when I was 12, but right now it felt like I was learning to ride a bike. It felt tippy, side to side, on completely flat water. I assume like a bike, given a half hour or so, my brain will learn to keep me stable.

The docent suggested a place in Dana Point, called Baby Beach, where it would be easier for me to get my kayak balance. I’m going there tomorrow morning.


OK, I read too quickly and did not catch that the protected cove had nothing. The “2-3’ waves breaking close to shore.” took my attention. Sorry about that.

As to getting your balance, you need to accept that the boat is supposed to wiggle under you. It is what it does to accommodate to the surface of the water and your movements. The boat you have will wiggle a lot less than my sea kayaks but it is still what it has to do.

Your job is to let it do that and relax. Just stay upright yourself and let it do its thing under you.

Here is a web site of SoCal launch points on a group called California Kayak Friends - They have a “Mother’s Beach” listed for Dana Point, but their map cant find it. Looks like it is at

You may want to also poke around the site for other local info.

Regarding that scupper trolley, I’ve seen articles advising against their use. They can overstress the material in the hull and may lead to cracks. The scuppers aren’t designed to be stress-bearing structures. I’d advise not using it, and get a different trolley if you need one.

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Get over the chickened out type of thinking. You assessed the conditions, your skills and the choice of boats and decided it wasn’t safe enough. It’s not being chicken to play within your capabilities. Granted, we need to push ourselves to become better, but the increments that we push ourselves need to be bite size achievements. There would be far less tragedies if people simply did an honest appraisal of themselves, the water, the weather and boat. Nothing is a guarantee of safety, but doing what you don’t feel safe doing is a near guarantee of disaster.


Thanks for the continued advice.

I did launch today at Baby Beach, Mother’s Beach, whatever it’s called… the very north terminus of Dana Point Harbor.

Turns out I was too stiff yesterday with my hips. Today i decoupled my hips from my torso, and let them wiggle with the boat while keeping my torso/head vertical. The way I learned that is to purposely wiggle the boat side to side with loose hips to check the limits of the secondary stability and it sort of dawned on me. Then I capsized a couple of times in 3’ water to learn a good method of getting back on without recapsizing.

After I got that all figured out, I did a little ten minute paddle parallel to the shore and started working on my paddling technique. The wind picked up unexpedtedly to 25 mph, which people said it never does at that locaiton, and just about all the SUP paddlers, even the experienced ones, decided to call it quits. So I did too.


Yes, I had seen those videos as well. I gave it some consideration. First, a lot of those Hobies or other fishing yaks that had issues were close to or over 100 lbs. when fully outfitted for fishing, whereas mine is 51 lbs. Second, I watched how people put the scupper wheels on, then just rotate the full weight onto one wheel to get the kayak upright. All that stress on just one scupper pole, all that torque. So I just decided to actually lift the kayak while rotating it so as to avoid that issue. Only time will tell if my precautions are not enough.

Good for you! While watching technique videos, reading books, and taking lessons are all beneficial, seat time can also be a great teacher.

Sounds like you’re off to a great start.

thought i’d give you all an update –

First, someone commented that mine is a slow fishing kayak, Actually after looking into that, I think mine is a “tweener”, at 28.5" width. The models after mine, the Navigator and Dive and Fish, are considerably wider (31" and 33" respectively), more suited to fishing, and therefore slower,

Second, I broke my index finger falling off of a Stand-up Paddle board trying to back up to a dock to answer a guy’s question…I got off balance paddling backward, fell on my ass, and twirling my arms for balance whacked the edge of the dock with my hand. So I haven’t been in the Kayak for three weeks, Right hand is in a cast from the Ortho,

Lastly, I did order the Bending Branches Whisper paddle, which is 230cm and 37 oz, vs the 220cm and 46 oz (I re-weighed it), of the original paddle.

well, that’s enough typing with one hand.

Hope to be back here in about 8 weeks with more questions after 2nd cast is on and off and I’m back in the boat