New to kayaking

My husband and I are considering getting into kayaking, but it seems like there are thousands of different Kayaks. We want something for lakes and for rivers. Some rivers get pretty swift around here (not planning on heading right for these though) Any thoughts on good starting equipment?? We’d like to start out cheap, just in case we hate it. Also, are there any good informational magazines out there that are just for kayakers? There is an organization that offers some training, but we will be learning pretty much as we go.

Buy a book on beginning kayaking…
…then rent as many different ones as you can to see which ones you like best.

Look for “Demo” days from a local kayak dealer.

And lastly “Try before you buy”



Buy anything

– Last Updated: Jul-13-05 11:33 AM EST –

Last year when I bought my first non-toy kayak, someone on this forum gave what turned out to be some very sage advice. They said "The only way to find the right kayak for you is to first buy the wrong kayak and paddle it around for a while."

Like you pointed out, there are thousands of kayaks to choose from. And I don't think that a beginner can make an informed decision. So your best course of action is to try to find a good deal on almost anything. I'd think that a non-rec boat in the 13'-14' range might be a good starting point, and maybe you could get it for $500.

Do as much kayaking as you can for a year. During that time, you'll learn what's important to you. Speed? Tracking? Stability? You'll discover all the things that you hate about your kayak and how your next boat will do it so much better. You'll also have the time to demo other boats and maybe try those owned by people who you meet.

But most importantly, you'll have a boat and can get out there and start having some fun and developing your skills.

don’t forget th other stuff
like PFD’s, paddles, seat/backrest fit(with the pfd on) will also make a difference in your enjoyment. Don’t go cheap just to save money, you can always sell good stuff for a fair price.

And if you do like it, you’ll want to upgrade anyway, so then you’ll have a pile of cheap stuff that nobody wants. A light weight paddle will make an all day trip a joy, a cheap heavy one will just make you tired.

And make sure your PFD fits you and the boat, if your boat has a high back seat, try and get a high back PFD, I started with a regular PFD that landed about half way down on the seat back, after about 15 minutes, it was very uncomfortable. The new pfd has a high back, and pockets, it is much better after 3+ hours in the seat. and it stays on, always.

A few thoughts…
I disagree somewhat with the “buy anything” approach as depicted by “enchant” (learning about what you might want in a boat by learning about what you might hate about your first “buy anything” boat). Why bother buying just “anything” if you don’t at least have a very good feeling about it to begin with? I’m also not much of a believer in the concept of “beginner’s boats”, and feel more comfortable with the idea of getting something you know you can “grow into” as your skills catch up with your dreams (and as this happens, your dreams will most likely continue to evolve/expand as well).

I purchased my first boat only three months after my first experience in a kayak. Those three months, however, were spent paddling seven days a week, for many hours a day, in many different boats. As even my “beginner’s skills” started to develop over this period of time, I took the various boats into increasingly interesting conditions; up to and including ocean swell, good sized wind waves, and even a bit of surf.

Toward the end of those three months, I tried a Current Designs Caribou, and within minutes after taking my first few strokes with it, I decided that it would be my first purchase. Though I am now beginning to expand the fleet, eight years later, I still love to paddle the Caribou!

A bit of patience, perhaps, is a good thing. Looking back, if I had gone out to purchase one of the first few boats that “sort of caught my fancy” within my first few weeks of paddling, I know now that I would have been terribly disappointed in a very short time. Instead, I just kept trying different boats until one came along that “spoke to me” in a way none of the others did, and it spoke to me not only of the immediate good feeling, but of future promise as well…and I haven’t been disappointed with my decision to listen to that voice. As I’m fond of saying, “if you keep looking, it will find you”.

Another thing…if you’re really having trouble deciding on a first boat, yet really want to get something for yourself right away, do consider purchasing a used boat. You can certainly get “more boat for your money” this way, and as such, you may be able to “upgrade your dreams” from the very beginning.

And finally, do listen to the ideas of us blowhards as we describe the boats we love for our own purposes, but when it comes to choosing your own boat(s), listen only to your own dreams, and to the boats you actually get a chance to paddle.


When I was reasearching my first boat…
…I read, especially the various kayak reviews. Based on what I read (and demo’d), I chose the Dagger Element. What I did not realize at the time that I bought that boat was how critical tracking would be to me. I do a lot of photography, and when I’d stop paddling to get my camera, turn it on, check the settings and wait for it to be ready, when I looked back up, I was facing a totally different direction. In spite of reviews that the Element tracked well, it tracks like a bumper boat. I also never realized how much I’d get into kayaking, and within a couple months, I’d outgrown my recreational boat. I was camping overnight without sufficient storage.

I should have bought something used for less money, or perhaps something better (and used) for the same money.

When I first started demoing kayaks, there were simply too many models and too few places to demo them to find the right boat. I also didn’t know what to look for. It’s like if I go to at a wine tasting. They all taste ok, and they all taste like wine. I can probably tell the difference between a $3 bottle of wine and a $30 bottle of wine, but probably not between a $10 and a $1000 bottle of wine.

I believe that knowledge of kayak qualities can only be gained by kayaking. I gained little from a few minutes each in several kayaks.

An additional thought
Hi enchant,

You wrote:

“I believe that knowledge of kayak qualities can only be gained by kayaking. I gained little from a few minutes each in several kayaks.”

I agree. This is why I recommend a bit of patience; even if this means taking one’s time to paddle many boats (for hours each time; not just minutes) over several months, and in varying conditions, before making a first decision. This will also give a novice more time to develop a few skills along the way, which will then be critical in making an informed decision that one can be happy with for perhaps even a very long time.

If one really doesn’t have easy access to many different boats, or the time to really give each boat a fair trial (much more than just a few minutes each), I can understand how one might purchase a first boat sight unseen (or nearly so), then perhaps end up considering all its shortcomings while thinking up the requirements for the next boat. I just feel that if we can exercise a bit of patience, we can come up with a first boat that will indeed make us very happy, and I’d rather see this happening for others as it has happened for me, rather than having one’s first boat feel limiting to them after just a short while.


Holding my comments back for now.
I guess I’d like to hear more about you and your husband, and what you expect of your gear. No judgement calls here about height and weight but some boats and gear are built for specific sizes, big and small. Your profile says you like flat water and whitewater both. How big of whitewater do you want to tackle with this gear? You also say you like camping and fishing. Do you plan to do these out of your boat, and if so, how do you like to camp (ie: ultralight or include kitchen sink)? From your profile, I would recommend used rec boats and comparable gear to start, but I may be way off base.


Re: an additional thought
> This is why I recommend a bit of patience; even if this means taking one’s time to paddle many boats (for hours each time; not just minutes) over several months

Well, I just don’t know that I’d have the nads to take a boat out for a demo and not come back for hours. Also, I know that there have been times when I’ve been standing on the demo dock waiting for someone to bring in a specific boat, and I’d be a little miffed if they took hours to return.

Another thing is that I can’t imagine the kind of patience it would take to know you want a kayak and to wait several months while all your friends are out kayaking without you.

We are pretty versatile. We camp off the back of our motorcycles and sometimes, we take the kitchen sink in our blazer. We aren’t thinking of a lot of whitewater, at least not yet. We do want to camp and fish from our kayak, as well as just paddle around the lake. We also want to be able to take it on some of the rivers around here like the Current, the Niangua, and the Jack Fork. These can get to moving pretty quick in places,bends and small drops, etc. but there’s not a lot of big “white water” - at least when they are mostly calm. These are considered “floats” around here. My husband is 5’6" and 140Lbs. I am 5’8" and weigh 170lbs. We are both runners and are in resonably good shape. We would appreciate any advice you have. Thanks.

You misunderstood me
I’ll try to be more clear.

When I first started paddling, I rented boats from three different local rental shops, so that I could try as many different designs as possible. Since I was renting (purchasing “season passes” from the shops), I could take each boat out for as many hours as I pleased each time. The “paddle each boat for 20 minutes” type of “free demo” didn’t make much sense to me. Boats I was especially interested in after an initial paddle, I’d keep re-renting over several days or weeks. I also took a summer job at one of these rental shops, so I had “rental free” access to all their boats during hours I wasn’t working (during the night as well).

During the first three months before I purchased my first boat, I paddled every day, from morning until evening (yes, seven days a week for three months!). It may have taken me three months of paddling every day to finally make up my mind (actually, the Caribou made up my mind once I got around to trying it toward the end of this three month period), but the time I spent on the water in those three months may well have been more time than some people will spend in a year of occasional, seasonal weekend paddling of just a few hours here and there. In any event, since I was paddling every day, I certainly wasn’t sitting around not paddling while my friends were out paddling without me! :slight_smile:

By the way, I also rented from places that allowed me to take the boats off-site, so as my skills developed over those three months, I went from calm and/or windy lake paddling to some lively saltwater paddling as well (even paddled with a pod of Orca on a stormy day during the third month). Since I also spent all those months trying boats, I had the opportunity to paddle the boats in varying conditions (calm, wind, rain, ocean swell and surf, etc.), and all this was very helpful as I made my decision.

As I think I mentioned in my other post, had I purchased any one of the first few boats that caught my fancy once I knew I wanted my own boat (nearly from my first day in a kayak), I would have been very disappointed in a very short time. As it was, I did take my time, and I’ve never been disappointed with the result.


Good paddle
wont wast time repeating what others more qualified peole here have said. but will sugest you don’t neglect your paddle choice. deal witha lot of first time kayakers on river trips. we use lots of paddles difrent weights lengh ect. what i see a lot of is that. if someone gets a paddle that is to short/heavy ect they work a lot harder than they need to. everybody is difrent. but the right paddle fit and a a solid

(price of your choicing) will help make it a better experence.

Well, We have been doing some reading and right now, right or wrong, this is what we’re thinking - we are probably definately going with Old Town - they seem to have decent prices and most of the reviews are pretty good. My husband really likes the Rush. And I can’t make up my mind between the Casco 100, the Dirigo 106, and the Sebago. Of course, I am having a hard time finding anyone that sells the Sebago. Any opinions on any of these? Can anyone give me a comparison between the Dirigo and the Casco? I really like the storage of the Dirigo, but don’t want my arms to fall off paddling. Is the Casco better? Or do you know of something else that is comparable that is better?

By anything used
I love the idea of buying a boat you can use used getting some basic skills the spending some bucks on another boat. Selling the used bout you should not have to lose much money, It takes skills to evaluate a boat and as you skills advacne your desires might well do the same.