New to the sport...Need Boat Advice

My wife and I have decided to get ourselves Kayaks for Christmas, although the purchase itself isn’t going to be made before now and then (I want to research thoroughly). We’ve kayaked before, mostly in Ontario on lake water in a 14’ tandem kayak that was older, and less maneuverable than we would like.

We do NOT want to buy beginner kayaks. We want to purchase kayaks that we can grow into. I’m not necessarily planning on doing rolls, or hitting class 4 rapids, but I don’t want a basic short tour kayak.

We went to a local outdoor store here (not interested in going to a chain store), and they’re very knowledgeable about kayaks (they hold classes and open sessions as well). We told them what we desired to do, and of course they were familiar with all of the waters we would be hitting, etc,. Since it was the offseason, they didn’t have a ton of boats sitting around, but I did get to sit in a Dagger Axis 12, and Delysk Nifty 430. These were the boats they recommended for what we wanted (that they had in stock). I LOVED the tighter cockpit of the 430 compared to the Axis.

I came home to do some more research (I got a thorough explanation on site about advantages and disadvantages from everything to hull length, to high vs. low back seats. However, I can’t find much online concerning Delsyk kayaks, and their website isn’t the most informational.

A buddy of mine bought one a year ago from the same store. His is a Necky, I believe the Manitou 13. He seems to like it, and the reviews online are outstanding (including this site).

However, I’m open to any and all suggestions. With that being said, it’s probably best that I present what we’re looking for, type of water, our age/size as well.

My wife and I are 28. I’m 5’11", she’s 5’2" We will be riding local streams and creeks as well as the Susquehanna river. We also plan to hit Rose Valley lake (one of the few local smooth waters around) as well as a lake we visit in Ontario. No class 4 rapids, drops, extreme stuff, though.

My wife’s biggest priority is tracking and comfort.

I’m the same, but also want a boat that has some performance and edge stability to it.

We would like to spend around no more than $1100 or so for each Kayak.


Also feel free to weight in on recommendations on things like high vs. low back seats, and drop skeg vs. no drop skeg in our situation.

Wait 'Til Spring
Paddle shops have demo days in the Spring. You can try out lots of different boats for free. Internet shopping has its place but there’s no substitute for paddling a boat. That said; put the Dagger Alchemy on your list of boats to try.

I am from the area and do similar kayaking. I started out with the Prijon Calabria ( 14.5 long by 24" wide ). A good serviceable boat for your needs.

When I took it to bigger water I saw its limitations. I purchased a Prijon Baracuda ( 17ft lond by 21 " wide )

This definitely made boating more " interesting " I.E it is tippy in conditions.

This experience begat the Valley Aquanaut ( 17.4 ft. by 22" wide ) This boat with the skeg is my preferred choice in big more confused water.

For what it is worth I mainly use the 'cuda for local Susquehanna River runs.

fellow Susquehanna paddlers
We live along the Susquehanna West Branch in northern PA (literally, our property has over a quarter mile of river bank)and we canoe and kayak it and many surrounding streams and lakes often. I’ve also kayaked regularly over the years in upstate New York and Ontario, so I think I’m familiar with your destinations. I’ve owned 9 different kayaks and rented or borrowed at least a dozen more over the years, as has my boyfriend, so I can offer some comparitive experience. We’re not experts or serious adventurers, and despite experience with more serious whitewater in our younger days, we now prefer flat water, mostly casual day touring, or whitewater limited to Class 1 or 2.

After much trial and error, we’ve both discovered that we have the same favorite all around boat model, the Venture Easky 15. In fact, we’ve sold off several of the other kayaks we owned because we just prefer to use these for most of our trips. These are in your price range and you might want to include them your list of kayaks to try out in the Spring.

Easkys come in an LV (low volume) model that would fit your wife and a standard model that would fit you. A couple advantages these have over some similar models is that they are a bit lighter than other 14 to 16 foot boats. The 15’ size is long enough to be fast in the flats but flexible in smaller streams. These track like an arrow but turn easily. They are great boats in rough open water and waves, like you would find in Lake Ontario or Lake George, if you get up that way. They are even safe for coastal sea paddling (once you have the skills and equipment). Really fun and effortless to handle, solid (not squirrelly) for a beginner but will enable the development of more advanced skills due to the good secondary stability of the hard-chined hull. It will edge better than any of the boats you have mentioned so far.

Good looking and nicely finished boats too, made in Great Britain. The seat and cockpit outfitting, including thigh hooks, are well designed and easy to adjust. My beau has back troubles in most kayaks but he is completely comfortable all day in the Easky. You mentioned liking a snug fit and you will get that with this boat. Venture is a division of P & H Kayaks, a Brit firm that has long made higher end composite sea kayaks, and they have brought some of their design standards into these more economical plastic boats.

If you can get up to the southern 'Dacks in the Spring, Lake George Kayak has a rental livery and dock right on the shore where you can test paddle a range of models and they have typically had the Easkys as one of those options (though last time I was there in the summer they still had older Easkys that did not have the improved seat they changed over to in 2009).

I agree with others recommendations that you need to try a range of boats before you buy – kayaks are like shoes and some designs just fit you right and some don’t. But keep these in mind, as well as the new Islay model that Venture came out with this year. Great bang for the buck in a plastic touring kayak that is a little sportier than most in its class.

Butt time
There is an article in the Spring 2012 issue of California Kayaker Magazine (can be read online for free at about why and how to get butt time. Basically, you have to find the right boat for you, and only you can do that. We have some people here who absolutely love their boats, but they may not be the right boat for you nor for your conditions. Most of us have gone through many boats until we found the one for us. Buying new boats and then getting rid of it shortly after to get something different is an expensive prospect.

I would take some money now and do the basic sea kayaking course. Learn the basics of the boats, how to make them move efficiently, how to get back in if you flip over, etc. In your area, they may not have classes until spring or early summer.

Other option is go cheap by buying a used boat, but spend some money on good gear (paddle, PFD, thermal protection, etc.).

Kayaks are worn - how they fit matters

– Last Updated: Dec-19-12 12:29 PM EST –

Just like many aren't comfortable buying well made
hiking boots, sight unseen , over the internet,
without trying them ON first; so is a kayak purchase.

My advice; try before you buy.
Sit in the water and wiggle, skooch around, twist, etc.
- A kayak is worn; it becomes part of your body;
just like a hiking shoe allows you to travel terrain.

Proper kayaking involves twisting, moving, skooching.
Posture matters a lot as well, no slouching.

I thoroughly believe; a round or elliptical bottom hull
offers "predictable resistance" to capsizing and
what felt skittish day one, will quickly become your friend.

NEW kayakers often paddle empty, i.e. no cargo,
making a kayak "feel" twitchy, unstable, etc.
Throw some drybags filled with few pounds of "stuff" in.
Four Nalgenes at a liter each is 8 lbs.

A kayak can be made to fit; individually custom.
People buy shoe inserts every day for hiking.
Superfeet® insoles align and control the motion
of your feet, providing balance, support, etc.

The same can and IS done with kayaks,
quite simply, in your own garage.

A "loose cockpit" can be tightened up to fit your body.

Put the bucks in a short term CD

– Last Updated: Dec-19-12 3:52 PM EST –

Here is the most important thing you said - "We want to purchase kayaks that we can grow into."

You don't know enough to know what that means in a boat until you have some butt time. I am talking fit, tracking versus maneuverability, all kinds of things that are too academic for you guys right now.

I just reread and caught that the place you went to look at kayaks has pool sessions. Take advantage of them. The very best way to find out what features matter to you in a kayak is to actually try and execute things like rescues, on-water recoveries and braces. The first time you find a wet kayak sliding out of your hands, for example, you quickly understand the value of perimeter lines.

Also, you are making the common newbie mistake of underestimating the skills and boat features that are apt for being serious about class III whitewater. It requires some of the skills in which you expressed a lack of interest, like rolling. And the boat that does a great job of supporting advancement in flat water skills as well as having a nice hull for longer days tripping is not the same boat that will support advancement in whitewater.

I suggest that you focus first on a good flat water boat - which is not truly flat water by the way. It really just means there is not a strong enough current to drag you under a log, "flat water" can be plenty not-flat. WW boats are cheap and easily obtained used once you have some idea what you are doing.

You also probably should rethink buying new. If you really want boats to grow into, and thinking of the gear and clothing you'll want for the northeast, demo and used boats will get you some nice choices at the price point you mention. There are plenty of ways to spend money to support your local outfitter when you are first starting out.

Dagger Alchemy L and S
An L or S for you. An S for your wife. I cannot tell you how many people have told me if they only could have one boat it would be the Alchemy. Appomatix River Company is selling them for about $1200 but maybe you can get a deal somewhere when buying two.

If in a few years you don’t like it; I see used ones for around $900 to $1000 that get bought quickly. That’s not a bad deal for trying a boat for a couple years.

They track well with the skeg down, but as your skills improve you will keep it up in all but the windiest conditions. They turn like a much shorter boat. I’d happily take one on rivers to class 2 and I love them in ocean surf. I keep up with most sea kayaking groups in one. They are a little faster than a Romany, so they are not fast.

They pack enough gear for a weekend trip and if you have expensive gear or it is summer you may fit in a weeks worth of gear and provisions.

Don’t overthink this
I’m not sure what you mean by not wanting a “beginner kayak.” The two you mentioned seem perfectly suitable for beginners. As to whether you will end up wanting something else down the road, that will depend on how your interest in the sport (or lack thereof) develops.

I agree that the more prudent choice financially at this point is to buy used, but nothing wrong with new shinies as long as you aren’t telling yourself that these will be the only kayaks you’ll ever want or need.