New user seeking advice

I borrowed a person’s kayak to go down a river in Nebraska. It was an old Perception Swifty with absolutely no bells and whistles. I learned from my experience with that kayak that it felt very unstable and wanting to tip over even if I leaned a tiny bit either direction. At the end of 6 hours on the water my back was killing me and legs were sore (no adjustable foot rests) and dumped in the water twice. What I learned from that experience is that I need to buy a kayak that is stable, adjustable foot rests and DEFINITELY a good comfortable seat with back support.

I’ve finally narrowed it down to a Old Town Sorrento 106SK because it seems to meet all my criteria though I wish the it had a tunnel hull. At times there were trees and other obstacles to get around so I think a 10 foot would serve me better than a 12 in tight spots.

I’m 5’10 and 200 pounds so I think this will work for me.

Looking for any thoughts or advice on my choice and I’m especially in the dark as to what paddles to buy.

Thanks in advance.

To short 14’+. The paddler makes the hull stable.


I have not paddled a Swifty, but both the 9.5 and 11.5 foot versions are wide, stable recreational kayaks. You may not find a different kayak that’s more stable than the Swifty.


You need a longer kayak. ALL kayaks under 12 feet are too small for you. You are too big for them. Maneuvering is as much paddling skill as the boat, though you dont want to get caught crossways in the channel both ends pinned.
When you are too big for a boat one of the first things you notice is its instabilty… Been there done that.


Welcome Norm. I’m no expert but, yes, that seems like an awful small boat for you!
Stability is interesting - you’ll feel much more stable when you are able to relax, but how can you relax if you feel tippy?! Catch 22, but once you can access to a boat of the right size, just give it some time and try to stay loose.

As others have said, it does not get more stable than a Swifty, at least on flat water.

UNTIL you are too heavy for the boat or are on water with current or waves. Too heavy for the boat actually makes it more unstable. Current and waves are simply not what a rec boat like the Swifty is intended to handle.

I would say that what you learned from that experience is that you need to seek out a couple of lessons or some other means of getting into different boats to better understand what will work for you. One trip down a river in a Swifty is not the best basis to make a choice about how to spend money on a kayak.


Welcome, Norm12!

My wife has a Sorrento 126SK. She appreciates the comfort and roomy cockpit, and it is a very stable boat. It has A LOT of rocker for a recreational kayak. This means that even with the skeg down it turns very well, but doesn’t track well (tracking = going in a straight line). With each stroke the boat turns a bit to the side, making it a bit slow and inefficient.

I’ve had a 12.5ft rec kayak for 20+ years - it doesn’t track well but it’s been more than adequate for many uses, including in open water in calm conditions, swamps, twisting creeks, etc. I initially got an Old Town Otter (9ft boat, very similar to the Swifty), and almost immediately upgraded to the 12.5ft boat, and stuck with that for many, many years. I think the Sorrento is similar, it will do a lot of things OK, but it has it’s limits (speed, tracking). If you’re going to go the Sorrento route, I’d strongly recommend the 126 SK instead of the 106 SK, both for your size and for the tracking. It’s still a very maneuverable boat at 12.5ft.

But as Celia said, the best thing to do is find an opportunity to test out the boat before you buy. I think if we’d done more testing on the Sorrento I might have steered towards something that tracks better, but my wife loves it. Several of the paddling shops around here do free demos - hopefully you can find one near you that does as well, or perhaps a rental place or place that does lessons. Paddling fests and events can also provide opportunities, as do some sellers on Craigslist and the like.

Finally, I’ll note that a boat can be outfitted to feel better. I have a kayak that made me numb pretty quickly, but adding a seat cushion ($20) and adjusting the footpegs and my footwear solved the problem. There’s a limit to how far this can take you - if a boat really doesn’t fit you, it doesn’t fit you (as it seems the Swifty doesn’t). But if you test paddle a boat that seems good in a lot of ways but doesn’t have quite the seat or back support you want, an added cushion or backrest might do the trick.

Thanks to everyone who responded. The Swifty must be better suited for lakes because when I switched with another person that has a Viper kayak the difference in stability was night and day with the Viper being extremely more stable than the Swifty. I plan on using my kayak primarily on rivers and being a new user I think I would get in less trouble with a 10 footer as opposed to a 12 and maybe if I stick with it and enjoy it I will someday graduate to a longer boat. Got lots of my info from reading articles like this o e that helped make my decision:

Still appreciate any advice on paddles.

It isn’t just length. As someone above noted, there is the issue of rocker. The same length boat with more rocker than another can be a bear to keep going straight. Most newer paddlers prefer a boat that does that better than going sideways easily. At least based on the number of people who come here after just having gotten a boat complaining that they cannot make it go straight.

There is also the issue of your size. I just looked and it appears that the bottom Viper has a weight capacity of 300 pounds. That alone explains the stability problem - you were too heavy for the Swifty. But it is still a 10’6" boat that could be a dog to keep going straight compared to a 12 footer. Which is not fun on a windy day.

As to paddles, you may not love the advice. The general rule is to go as light as you can within the budget you have. An oft recommended paddle for new paddlers is the Aquabound Sting Ray or its carbon fiber cousins. Come in at $160 to $210.

Thanks for the response. Where I’m located there is zero chance of demoing a kayak. Weight is a big concern for me account on 3 different occasions we had to get out of the water, drag kayaks up steep and uneven banks and then go through heavy brush with the longest stretch being 300 feet. My main thing going forward was to find a lightweight, stable kayak with a comfortable seat and adjustable foot supports. I’m 69 years old and still in pretty decent shape but I don’t need to be lugging around any more weight than I have to. The other 3 more experienced kayakers I was with were 51, 73 and 75 years of age and they seemed to be perfectly fine in 10 foot kayaks. I probably would have gotten in a lot of trouble trying to maneuver anything longer than a 10 footer let alone dragging one up and down steep banks and over rough terrain.

Thanks! I initially was looking at an Eddyline but found the Sorrento and was very impressed with the reviews. I don’t like buying things sight unseen but no choice in this matter and of course I hope I don’t end up disappointed

Maybe I will take another look at the sorrento 12 footer and decide whether 9 extra pounds would be significant.

Re paddles, I got a Perception Harmony Sea Passage with that kayak I got 20yrs ago, and it’s still serving me well despite a lot of banging off logs in rivers and swamps. It’s on the cheaper side but reputable (there are cheaper ones that are junk).

Celia is again right that you should get the lightest paddle you can afford. I used that paddle above for many years happily. Once I tried a lighter weight (more $) paddle it’s very hard to go back, but when you don’t know what you’re missing it doesn’t bother you nearly as much, unless it’s so heavy you’re taking shorter trips than you otherwise would.

[Edit] of course, the quality of Perception gear may have gone downhill in the 20yrs since I bought that paddle. The brand has been sold at least once…wouldn’t be surprised if quality has suffered.

Aquabound paddles are good and if you get fiberglass shaft and blades are reasonable.
Now ask what length you should get and get ready for another 30 pages of advice.
You do not need a 240 cm paddle that outfitters love to sell new paddlers. That’s because experienced paddlers seldom use them.
I agree with everyone about buying the lightest paddle you can afford but I don’t think you are going far enough in a 10’ boat to warrant the expense. BUT, a good paddle will travel with you if you decide to progress in your paddling journey.

We were in the river about 6 to 7 hours so my arms were a little bit sore at the end; used muscles in my arms that I haven’t used since working on railroad tracks. Thanks for the advice about lighter and shorter

Please get some paddling instruction. Your arms should not be sore. Correct paddling transfers the stress into your abs , chest, and shoulders.

Hi Norm and welcome to the forum.

I will give you maybe a little different advice and tell you that IMO you will likely be very happy with the OT Sorrento 106SK. It looks like a very well planned out rec-kayak and it sounds to me your usage will be quite similar to ours. This spring I bought a used OT canoe and we wanted to buy her a rec-kayak and with covid there wasn’t a lot to get in a reasonable time frame. We found an OT Trip 10 at Dicks on line that is similar to the Vapor 10XT she wanted the Trip10 is for fishing and came with an anchor and trolley I just removed. The Sorrento 106SK is a nice step up from both of them IMO. She had been using several of her friends old rec-kayaks the year before and enjoyed getting out on local lakes and our river but hated how the even cheaper rec boats tracked. We didn’t know how it would handle and like you had no way to test anything. The very first words out of her were “it goes straight”. We have had people in it over 250# and it worked fine as well and over 6’3” tall. Around here we beat the heck out of them on rocks and dragging them up and over muddy rocky paths.

We recently had an outing on our river to help the Fire Department and we launched 450 boats down the river in an hour. 440 were 10’ rec-kayaks with maybe 50 being SOT and about 10 canoes. We just don’t see the longer faster performance kayaks around here and I’m real close to the Great Lakes and seldom see any on Lake Erie as well. 10 footers get tossed in pickups or sticking out of the back of a SUV or on roof tops and when the bottoms get gouged up no one minds. The single layer OT rec-kayaks will take a lot of abuse.

The only thing I added to hers was I inflated a 18” yoga ball (couple pounds) under the bow deck for additional floatation and added a painter line to the bow also for dragging and securing the kayak. Not sure if the Sorrento has a bow bulkhead. The longer one might.

As far as a paddle, it’s already been said that determining your preferred length will be an issue. Celia’s recommendation of an Aquabound Sting Ray is right on target, but you don’t want to spend a lot if you have to guess on the length.

There are cheap, adjustable length kayak paddles out there, and I’d actually suggest getting one of these cheapies as a means to dial in your preferred length. Then, when you know what you want, get something like the Aquabound and keep the cheapie as a spare/loaner paddle.

Here’s and example. The paddle can be adjusted from 210 to 230 cm, which I think coveres the full range you might want to try. It’s heavy at 2.4 lbs, but it’s only $29.59 shipped free (there’s also a 5% off coupon you can click). To me, it seems like a good investment before you spend the “big bucks”.

Amazon Paddle

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Hey Norm, some of the article you shared I liked. Other parts not so much. Definitely try to get a boat that fits you and is physically comfortable for you to paddle. Having your own boat means you can be more independent and paddle on your own terms.

There are many factors that go into boat design. The article you shared seems to really focus on length. That’s just one factor in how a given boat behaves. Width, rocker, and hull shape are also just as important. In very general terms the article is useful. You are asking the right questions about how specific boats are designed and what would serve you well. I’m sorry I’m not more help there (very limited rec kayak experience).

The only river I’ve paddled in Nebraska is the Niobrara. The water was up and some folks in rental canoes were struggling a bit. I paddled tandem in a badly hogged out poly rental canoe and did just fine. I would have also been fine in one of my 6 ft ww kayaks or one of my 12’+ kayaks. So it is not really about length. It is more about you. Some boats would require more effort (tiring).

Beginners often focus on finding the perfect boat to get them down the river but just as important is your skill development. Obviously you’re interested in advancing, improving your comfort, and efficiency. Just realize the boat and paddle are only part of that equation. Right now your focus is on the boat/paddle since you are looking to get your own kit. I’m not much help there, listen to the others here. If you get bitten by the paddling bug, your first boat will turn into one of many. Most of us are still honing in on what we like.

Comfort is now my top priority in any boat. I’m personally okay with struggling a bit with tracking or stability when I’m learning a new boat. That leaves room for advancement. I grow into my boats. Sometimes the beginning is a little rough but soon the boat becomes a predictable old friend.

Seat time (practice) is important. There are a lot of good youtube videos on “how to” paddle. Check some out and focus on just one or two things every time you go out and practice.

Practicing is really just messing around and having fun in a controlled environment. It is okay to get wet and self rescue. You just want to do it in a safe environment. Tipping over isn’t necessarily bad. It can be part of a learning curve.

It sounds like you’ve already tried out a couple of different boats supplied from your buddies. Different boats can pose different challenges.

You know you don’t like the swifty. My advice is try some other boats and see what you do like. Keep paddlin’ and keep askin’ questions.