New to kayaking - need help!

I’ve been shopping for a kayak as I’m just picking up the sport. I’ve rented often but would prefer my own so I have the freedom to “just go.” I’m looking to do mostly lakes, slow rivers, and perhaps coastlines and sounds. I don’t really want to spend too much (< $450). I’m not even sure what a good size/length is to get. I am 5’10", 200 lbs. Any recommendations would be much appreciated.

Can that budget stretch? Even going used for a boat, your best course, that isn’t likely to get you the other stuff you need for bigger water (coastlines and sounds) like clothing for immersion and rescue gear.

No profile - what coastline and sound are you talking about?

Thanks Celia. Well the budget could certainly stretch for additional gear. But for the boat itself not really more than $500. I’m thinking Chesapeake Bay (not really on the open water however) and the Outer Banks in NC.

Ebay can be a source if you are willing to drive to the pickup.

experience so far

– Last Updated: Feb-01-07 4:17 PM EST –

What have you liked/not liked about the kayaks you've rented? How would you like your boat to be different -- faster? more stable? dry storage?

For protected flatwater the Wilderness Systems Pungos, Old Town Dirigos & Loons, Dagger Blackwaters, and the Perception rec boats all have a lot of fans. Don't be afraid to buy used.

Most rec boats need additional flotation to make self-rescue possible, even on flat water. If you're moving out of protected water you should be looking at boats with fore and aft watertight bulkheads. Large cockpits are also a liability for dealing with waves.

For flatwater I wouldn't go shorter than 12 feet.

Some boat suggestions
Try Current Designs Kestrel, in roto. A 120 can be had new for a bit over $500, and the HV version should suit you just fine. A 140 can be had used/demo for close to that amount, and will provide a bit better tracking and handling.

Both are decent intro touring/day tripping boats that fit well for a beginner or intermediate paddler.

A used WS Tsunami 140 or 145 can be found for close to that amount, and is also good intro/intermediate boat.

To keep up your ambitions and skills, staying at about a 14’ length may not be a bad idea, esp. given your height and weight.

What would you consider flatwater? (sorry for my perhaps novice questions)

10-11 Footer?
I’m hearing that I should most definitely not consider anything in the 10-11 foot range? Why is that? My size, stability?

Heritage Featherlite 12’
I see a Heritage Featherlite 12 on eBay for $399. Any comments on this boat?

My son has a Heritage Featherlite 9.5, and it’s not one that I would recommend for unprotected waters. I’ve paddled his boat in Lake Huron, and didn’t feel very comfortable (a friend was trying my Capella). I don’t know how much different the 12’ version would be. It is a great boat for inland lakes, though, and that sounds like a good price.

Featherlite on eBay
hey slash: I live in SE MI. The sporting goods stores (chains) were selling it at that exact price point last year. So the eBay deal is not really enticing. If you really want one get one used for about half that.

As to what I think… haven’t paddled this one, but when I looked at it… really cheaply made, the combing finish is rough underneath, dinky seat and footpegs (beware big guy). They are really light, about 43 lbs I think. That’s the best I can say about it.

It has only one sealed bulkhead, minimal rigging, and scant front floatation.

Take the advice of the other more experienced paddlers here - you will get much better/safer value in a used higher quality kayak 12-14 ft than a new cheapie. A kayak you can enjoy, advance your skills with and not get bored with in a month or two.

Also remember that a good (midgrade) paddle, a PFD, and a cartopping system, plus safety gear, can set you back about the cost you have budgeted for a kayak.

Good luck! gather info and when the right one comes along you’ll know!

Length and all that
Aside from any arguments about speed etc, the boats under a certain length aren’t usually equipped in a way that would make a lot here comfortable recommending them for someone who wants to take paddling more seriously and maybe be paddling alone. I am talking about sealed bulkheads, preferably front and back, some deck rigging that’ll come in real handy when you decide to learn how to self-rescue, that kind of thing. In boats under a certain length, this stuff just isn’t there (because people aren’t supposed to be taking the boats anywhere it’d be needed).

By the way, Chesapeake Bay and the Outer Banks should not be taken lightly, even in the Chesapeake area the rivers like St Mary’s that go down to the bay. At the lower end things can get fairly interesting, and of course at least half the time the water is flowing fairly fast in the wrong way for experiments…

How close to either of thse locations do you live? There are a lot of paddlers in the Chesapeake area, and probably good resources for used boats that can get you started off well.

new and Outer Banks
If you want to ‘surf’ in a kayak, the Outer Banks is fine for a ‘sit on top’ type. If you prefer quiet, and fairly calm waters, the Albemarle, Pamlico, and Currituck Sounds are right on the other side of the sand bar. I have a Pungo 120 and, in my opinion, is fine for the rivers and sounds. However, it has a large cockpit and if a skirt is not used, the sounds will definitely cause you to pump or bail water. It’s a great boat for a beginner or an old salt. As someone else mentioned…what did you like about the rentals you used. That is the BEST way to pick your boat. Find one that suits you and go for it. Don’t get frustrated by the prices. Once you have your boat, it will become a part of you in the water. Good luck, I know you have some great times ahead.

I paddle longer boats but thought I
wanted a Pungo 120. I had the opportunity to paddle my brother’s for 2 days last week.I no longer want one.

I am a reasonably strong paddler and when I pushed it, it started bogging down.I weigh 240, which could be a factor. My brother, who is a fair paddler , was breezing along in his Hurricane 140 SOT.

Point is, I wouldn’t buy anything under 14’ to start and I prefer 16’. Look for a deal on a used Tarpon 160.

where are you?
your profile does not say. Many of us here favor supporting small independent kayak dealers (as opposed to “big box” stores), but for $450 you won’t get far. To find something for $450, you’ll have to go used. Which brings me back to the original question. I suggest trying search engine for your local area (e.g. craigslist). You can often find a kayak for cheap there.

slash …
I’m surprised that the following hasn’t been mentioned yet. You have rented a few times, so you think you would enjoy the sport and want to purchase your own boat - that’s great! Others have mentioned that some boats don’t have watertight compartments (bulkheads and hatches) and without additional safety items, like properly installed float bags, may be difficult to re-enter in deep water (e.g. any water that is over your head). This advice, while sound, does not really mean much to newcomers to the sport. You need to experience “difficult to re-enter” in order to help you judge which boats will fit your need. I think it would be a good idea for you to take some training before your purchase. See if you can find an intro class, or better yet, a rescue and recovery class. These are offered indoors in swimming pools during the winter or outdoors in warmer weather. Either is fine.

I have helped teach such a course a few times. Some folks have rented boats for the class, while others have brought their own. What is nearly universal is that almost everyone I have worked with has had great difficulty getting back in their boat after a capsize. These are real experiences from intentional capsizes in the deep end of a pool. The most difficult boats to handle for self or assisted rescue are the ones with no floatation (i.e. a cockpit that is open from the bow to the stern), but many, many folks even have trouble re-entering a fully outfitted boat after a capsize. There are many reasons for this (e.g. personal strength, high decked boats, poorly designed or fitting PFD, lack of practice, etc.).

See if you can find a rescue and recovery class, rent a boat, ask the instructors about boat designs and safety features. See what works (or doesn’t) for you. Use this knowledge about safety to help you decide what boat is right for you. Enjoy the sport!

Some people will tell you they have never capsized and that the wide hulls of rec boats are very stable. This may all be true, but eventually you will capsize unintentionally and you need to be prepared for a self or assisted recovery. I was lucky in that my first unintentional deepwater capsize occurred during the second year of my paddling while taking a skills development course. I had learned (and practiced) self and assisted rescues and was paddling with several other classmates and instructors when I just went over. I’m still not sure why, but suspect I got hit by a motorboat wake. Stuff happens! Good luck.


Second and third that
The fastest and most inexpensive way to end up with a really satisfactory boat is to take some basic lessons so that you know what the things should feel and fit like. Nothing focuses your sights as well as flopping around in the water trying to do something that looked perfectly simple from land, and a nice warm water pool is by far the easiest place to do this.

It can also be a good way to hook up with people looking to sell their boats - right now a lot of new ones have been ordered and there is only so much space in the garage.

wow, i didn’t realize what i was getting myself into. i was just planning on a nice ride on calm waters… okay, perhaps i should not have thrown in the sounds/coastlines… i don’t want to try that just yet. i was not anticipating capsizing any more than i anticipate getting in a car accident on a nice sunday drive in the country. indeed, i am aware it is possible and certainly am prepared for it (i recently capsized in a canoe with my 6-year old son). are there people out there that just go kayaking for a peaceful, zen-like experience?

but to really reach nirvana…and become “one with the water”…you end up delving farther and farther into the paddling mysteries :slight_smile:

Best Wishes


It’s always zen
what changes is where you find that. Some here find it in pounding surf on waveskis, others find it four feet from shore on a lake watching the underwater life. For my husband and I, there is nothing like the sea. Other water can be as satisfying on a given day, but for us the salty stuff is overall the best.