New to kayaking

Hello everyone,

I would like to get in to kayaking and have been doing some research before purchasing a kayak. Problem is, I don’t exactly know what I’m looking for so was looking for some advice. I’d be paddling mainly on flat water and slow rivers. I’m 5’ 10", 160 lbs (if that matters in terms of kayak selection). Any suggestions on kayak brands, size, style would be greatly appreciated.



Demo boats
before buying. There’s time before the season ends.

Where in MD are you? There may be some outfitters that folks here can recommend to visit.

Need more info ?
that is like asking: " I am a new driver, what car should I get ?"

  1. What is your price range?
  2. Do you want a short fat yak, or a long skinny sea kayak.

    3 do you want it for fishing, touring, day trips, or multiday camping trips.

    Your best bet is to get to some place where you can rent some or demo some

    jack L

If you can’t find a demo event might
consider a days rental at a helpful large outfitter on the water who will let you try a variety of boats for your days rental. Also consider joining a local paddling club like the Baltimore Canoe Club if you are in that area of MD. They may have loaners or members with boats they would share. Both of these schemes worked very well for my wife and I before we bought our first boat. Also local outfitters may be selling off/renewing their fleets in the fall. We got a near perfect boat for 1/2 retail from a rental fleet. Just thoughts. R

More thoughts

– Last Updated: Sep-06-11 10:16 AM EST –

The reason you are not getting an answer about what boat to buy is that so many people have found, like us, that the first boat was just that. It was a stepping stone to what we really needed/wanted.

The first boats we got seemed perfect at the time when we were new and didn't really know much about kayaks or the kinds of things we needed to be able to handle in them. But we went to where we vacation and it took exactly 5 days to get stuck on an island while storms came through. We we had nearly 3 hours to mull over what more we needed both in terms of the boats and our own preparation. We came back from that trip and started aggressively looking for plastic sea kayaks, because we realized that was what we should have been in for where we go.

Paddling on quiet waters doesn't get rid of this problem. Even there, it is not uncommon to see people start out with a quite short, wide boat and find it too limiting by the end of the first season. There are two things that drive this. One is that they hook up with other paddlers - they are everywhere once you have a boat - and find that they are killing themselves to keep up when they go out together. The other is that the very reassuring stability of that first boat gets boring, fast, once they get their "sea seat" under them.

There is a host of boats in the transition length range - 12 to 14 feet - that are well-equipped in terms of safety for solo paddling and, happily, are now around in a size for someone as light as you. By for safety, especially if you would be paddling alone, I mean two sealed bulkheaded areas (front and back) and perimeter rigging. This stuff makes all the diff in a capsize. Many of these are plastic boats that'll be coming up used very soon from outfitters clearing out some of their demo boats and individual paddlers who decided to get a new boat for next season.

Yes, they are boats where someone else had had the chance to lay in the first scratches. But scratches don't mar the performance of a boat. More importantly, buying used leaves you with some money left to get a really decent lightweight paddle and the other stuff like a really decent PFD and paddling clothing.

So - to ask again - what part of Maryland are you in?

Flat water is one kind of boat and slow
rivers is another. The rocks in a slow river will beat up a boat intended for flat water but you can use a river boat on flat water. A river boat is usually made of poly by a rotomold process. It’s the same material as Tupperware and can withstand pounding against rock. The Prijon brand makes a river boat made from a different kind of plastic. It’s made in two pieces joined together. Flat water boats are made of several types of materials including fiberglass, Kevlar and foam filled products. Generally: The longer the boat, the faster it is but harder to turn. Generally: The narrower the boat, the harder it is to get into but less effort to paddle. Generally: The tougher the boat against rocks, the more it weights. There’s a lot to consider but once you start paddling it all changes really fast. At the start, it’s 80% boat and 20% paddler but after a couple of months it becomes 80% paddler and 20% boat.

New to kayaking
Hi Celia,

Thanks for the response. I’m in Baltimore County. I mentioned that I was looking for some versatility (in being able to paddle on slow rivers and flat water) because I’m a five minute drive from both the Gunpowder River and Loch Raven Reservoir. I like your idea of buying something used. Would you be able to recommend any outfitters that I could check out?

Check out the web sites for Appomattox River Company and Blue Mountain Outfitters. Good people.

My GF and I got 14’ rotomolded
kayaks as our first boats because they could be used on flatwater and on non-big-whitewater rivers. This is certainly one category of kayak you should consider given your description. (Seems like Celia was also suggesting similar boats.) In our case the boats were a Tsunami 140 for her and a Necky Manitou 14 for me. As others have said, your tastes may get more specific over time (ours did), but we had lots of fun in those boats – and still do, but now we much prefer our skinnier, longer, thermoformed plastic boats for the lakes (they are easier to paddle, glide wonderfully and are more maneuverable). However, the shorter boats are a bit more versatile (in my opinion), because I am more comfortable taking them on rivers – shorter can be nicer in narrower, turnier spots, and I’m still a bit protective of my thermoformed plastic boat (more protective than necessary) – I don’t worry much about sometimes scraping the bottom of my rotomolded plastic boat in the shallows on our smooth river rocks. Also, there should be a number of that type of rotomolded plastic boats on the used market – there are many more than the 2 models I mentioned. I hope this helps a bit. Caveat – I ain’t no expert!

Emotion Comet 110
Thanks for all of the helpful responses everybody,

I’ve checked out a few outfitters, but unfortunately even a lot of the used kayaks in the 10.5-12 ft range (which is what I’m looking for) are out of my price range. I did come across the Emotion Comet 110, however, which seems to be pretty affordable. I couldn’t find many reviews, and it makes me a bit uneasy that its on sale almost everywhere I see it being sold. Does anyone have any experience with one of these kayaks?

Thanks again

overweight sled

– Last Updated: Sep-07-11 12:18 AM EST –

Yuck. The Comet, at 54 lbs and 11' x 30" x 14" deep is more of a barge (or bathtub) than a kayak. Personally, I would not use a boat like that for anything other than a yard planter. There are better kayaks in that price range on the used market, even on the new market at this time of year.

Checking Craigslist in Baltimore I found these:

(good light touring kayak)

(an outfitter with a range of used kayaks starting at $275)

(another nice day tourer)

(and another)

(nice little folding kayak -- I have a larger version of this one.)