New to paddling, need help!

First just need to say hello. Been looking around for a long time and this site seems to be one of the better ones.

I have wanted to get more into the outdoors for years now. As a small child my parents took me to the lake on their boat and I have always been drawn more to the mystique of rivers. now that I have graduated college and got a job I really want to find a nice canoe or kayak. Before I go about buying anything I will certainly go to an outfitter once or twice to rent one for an overnight trip and see how I like it (difference between canoe or kayak).

Seems for me a canoe is more appropriate because it will be easier to get my girlfriend or buddies to get in a canoe and paddle together rather than each having our own kayak.

Now on to the real question!

I have looked and looked for a good site but none seem to really help me out from the COMPLETE beginner I am. My dream is to get to the point where I can go on a two or 3 day trip down a river, camp out on the banks at night. For starters I don’t imagine doing anything over a class III rapid.

What are some good boats in the more affordable price range (preferably under 700ish - used can be an option for sure) that can offer a nice fun, easy ride down rivers?

thanks in advance. Really hoping to make this a life long passion.


– Last Updated: Feb-05-11 5:14 PM EST –

Both canoes and kayaks are great paddle craft and you should try each to see which you prefer. Both have advantages and disadvantages relative to the other.

Kayaks have gained in popularity relative to canoes in the last few decades. I think part of this is due to a relative decline in the popularity of tandem paddling (two people in a boat) and a decline in canoe camping opportunities. I do believe that kayaking is somewhat more intuitive for the beginner. There are fewer strokes to learn, they are symmetrical from side to side, and it is easier to make the boat go straight.

If you definitely see yourself paddling with another person in the boat, a canoe has very definite advantages over a kayak. Tandem (2 person) kayaks exist, but they tend to be quite long (making storage somewhat more difficult) and quite heavy, making car topping more difficult. They are also quite expensive.

Tandem paddling has dropped off in popularity partly because of a tendency for disagreements to erupt when the craft fails to pursue the intended course, which tends to be most of the time when starting out. It may be easier to learn the basics of canoeing in a solo craft since it takes the need to coordinate your efforts with a partner out of the equation. That isn't to say that tandem paddling isn't great fun, but if two beginners are starting out learning together in one boat, it helps if they both have a good sense of humor and don't mind too much getting wet.

If you definitely foresee downriver camping trips in your future, a canoe again has definite advantages. While not as mechanically efficient on the water, and more subject to adverse winds, they are much easier to load and unload, and typically much easier to portage. A kayak might not be too bad if it only needs to be loaded and unloaded once a day, and if no long carries are required, but if multiple portages in one day, with multiple loadings and unloadings are necessary, a kayak becomes way too cumbersome, in my opinion.

Class III whitewater is probably considerably more challenging than you anticipate. It is certainly possible for a boater to get up to a level of proficiency required to safely run Class III water in a season, or so, but it typically requires a concerted effort and multiple opportunities to paddle each month. Not to worry, since Class I and Class II water can be great fun as well.

you are thinking right
Hi back @ ya. I also grew up in kayaks and canoes with my folks.

You’re on the right track with the notion of demoing boats. Think about, and try through demos or trips the type(s) of paddling you’d like to do. You may even want t spend the better part of the first season renting if you can, until you determine a preference. OTOH, if you can’t, buy a used kayak or canoe; you can find many that will fit your budget, and you can always sell or trade up later (or keep it and expand the fleet).

If all goes well you’ll pass this down to the next generation.

For starters

– Last Updated: Feb-05-11 5:54 PM EST –

You don't want to do anything equal to a class III rapid. That's intermediate stuff.

You don't mention where you are. It'd make it a lot easier for people to offer good suggestions for local shops, paddle clubs and sources for used boats if you indicated where you live.

Best boat finding source I found is it will actually take you to another site now. Any how you can type in your zip code and search a key word like canoe. It searches ALL the craigslist adds. There is a grumman near me for 200 bucks. I bought my old town, and my mad river like that. You can narrow your search range from 20 miles to all of craigslist. You can easily find an old town discovery for under 500. Its a fantastic all around boat. Anyone who paddles will eventually own a canoe, so its a great first place.

Personally I wouldn’t rent a thing. I’d find a deal on a used boat in FEB when people are desperate to unload them. If you hate it, sell it in July there is a chance you even make money. (you won’t hate it). I would take a safety/skills course if you don’t have any experience on your own.

If you’re near the Mid Atlantic I’d
consider the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival in Charleston SC Apr 15-17. Great fun event, classes, and lots of boats to try. Camping on site. Just google it.

What’s your location? I’ll be happy to
meet with you and take you around. There’s some really great places around here to test paddle boats, great boat shows and the perfect beginner river.

short and sweet
Kayak or canoe?

rapids? you want a canoe.

portages? again, you want a canoe. Portaging a

kayak is a big drag.

class III? most people in an open canoe portage or

line around class III. Sea kayaks don’t

maneuver quick enough for most rapids.

Canoe is much easier to load and can carry bulky stuff.

Kayak is faster and more seaworthy on open water. If you have a few portages, you might start to fall behind. If you avoid portaging and limit yourself to class I water, a kayak works fine.

You can buy a 15 or 16 ft. canoe that can be paddled solo or tandem - not so with a kayak. Tandem kayaks are long (mine is 20+ ft) and solo kayaks are solo kayaks.

look for used boats on craigslist. avoid coleman and coleman clones. you can find a good used canoe for $700 or less without much problem.

and wear your pfd… buy one that you will wear.

Where are you?
Your profile doesn’t say. I ask because that will help us give you better advice (e.g. if you’re in Portland, go to Alder Creek and sign up for a class or two). Either way, that’s good advice: If you’re a complete beginner and there’s a kayak shop in your area, take a class or two. You’ll get a lot more information fast, and see an example of how it’s done.

Solo versus Tandem

– Last Updated: Feb-06-11 3:21 PM EST –

I agree with all advice given so far, and I think it's great that you are thinking about this situation in the way that you are. It seems to me that a big part of the solution is deciding on solo versus tandem. Solo could mean one, two, or more kayaks OR canoes, while tandem PROBABLY means a canoe (there are tandem kayaks, but their popularity among decent paddlers seems to be pretty low, from what I can tell).

You will find that choosing the exact boat to start out with is usually not especially critical, but if you want a canoe and you want to use if for both solo and tandem paddling, the number of 'wrong choices' is a lot greater. Learning to be reasonably competent in a solo canoe takes some time (more so than solo kayaking), and it may be more frustrating if you are learning to paddle solo in a larger, two-person boat.

I'm not trying to push you toward any decision at this point, only suggesting some points to be aware of. If this does become a serious hobby, you will find yourself eventually wanting at least two or three different boats. No one likes to think about buying several boats early on, but fear not, since even if you do that, you'll be spending less on your hobby than the guy next-door who plays golf every weekend.

Be sure to check out the "Guidelines" section right here on P-net. That stuff is very helpful. Once you get closer to deciding kayak versus canoe and solo versus tandem, as well as ranking the importance of the types of water you want to be ready for, you'll find that the people here will provide tons of opinions about boats to consider.

Been paddling for one year
The first boat I bought was $400 canoe from a sports store. Found out later it is eventually going to warp on me someday. Bought a paddle from the same place that I have since learned is the wrong size. Bought a low price PFD from wally world that was great until I got a kayak then I found out the difference between Kayak PFD and a ski vest.

Paddled my boat wrong for six months until I googled J stroke.

Bought 5 gal buckets to keep my stuff dry until I learned I was supposed to buy $50 worth of dry bags and a beach chair.

While I was figuring all of this out, me and my long paddle pushed that big milk jug canoe on two camping trips and about two dozen day trips on half a dozen rivers and through a couple different swamps. I’ve paddled up on gators, coyotes, wild hogs and I’ve lost count of the number of deer I’ve seen. I’ve been out to the near islands and spent the day beach combing.

With all due respect to the experienced users on this site, from whom who can gain a wealth of knowledge from by lurking in the background, before you get too wrapped up in it remember that a few thousand years ago someone straddled a floating log with a long stick in their hand and headed down stream. When he passed the first two people standing on the bank one of them said to the other “You know he’s doing it wrong” and thus the paddling sports were born. All the rest is cake.

After one year of being on the water I have questions that never crossed my mind before I started. Remember this is just your FIRST boat.

Buy a whistle, clip it to your PFD, don’t spend too much on a paddle until you know what you need, get any boat you can afford (and carry on your vehicle)and GO PADDLING.

My brother & I started kayaking in 2009. We took a couple of classes, which I recommend. Visit your local sports stores that carry kayaks/canoes & sit in the boats. If its a decent store at all there’s usually someone thats into paddling & good to discuss things with. When you buy, buy whats comfortable to you. My brother got a sit in kayak & I got a SOT (sit on top). I used sit ins at the classes we took. I don’t like the enclosed feeling. Jeff is the kind to buy something and trade it in. I’m the type to buy & use it until its old & pathetic. Jeff bought a used sit in & I bought a brand new SOT. The only thing I don’t like about mine is its heavy. We live in NC. I bought a Native, they’re made here. My yak is very stable, easy to manuever, its easy to get in & out of & if you fish, you can fish from it. Lord willing I plan on buying another SOT because my friends seem like they’re more willing to try paddling that way. Plus if you flip out of a SOT, they flip back real easy & drain themselves. If I had it to do over I’d do it the same way. The first time I took it down the local river this guy say it & had a fit over it. I let him sit in it and he called it the Cadillac of yaks. Your girlfriend might also like something like mine. It makes for a great float.