This is a take on the other thread only for kayaking. It seems that if you have no experience paddling a kayak (or least very little) then how would one properly judge the boats handling etc? I have paddle some kayaks and what I tend to notice the most is stabilty. Since I am a fairly quick learner even a boat that doesn’t have great initial stabilty is just a small learning curve away from being under control. So without the experience it seems I am at the mercy of technical data and peoples opinions and perceptions of different models. So when you start discussing similar models from reputable companies (same length, width, chine etc) is there really that much of a performance difference or are we splitting hairs? Will 6 months of regular paddling give me the ability to differentiate between them or will it take years?
Demo Lots of Boats
You'll feel the difference between boats. Try them out on a windy day if you can. How a boat behaves in the wind matters a lot.
I have never felt like two boats were nearly identical. Lots of folks buy boats without trying them but I wouldn't do it.
I tried four boats before buying
An Acadia - very stable and decent tracking for a shorter boat.
A Liberty - didn’t care for it the first time out, but it felt entirely different the second time around. Stable and pretty efficient.
A Manta Ray SOT - nice tracking and very stable
An OK Sprinter - could barely keep it upright
I felt like I could learn to handle the sprinter, but I knew it would take some time. Wanted something longer than the Acadia and Liberty, so when I saw a Manta Ray on sale, I jumped.
I knew it was a boat I could do fine in and that I would feel okay putting the wife or a friend in that was new to the sport. I will eventually get something else (dunno what yet), but in the meantime I have something I can take on flat water or light whitewater. I can try some fishing, and later on use it for overnight trips.
I felt good about the decision after talking with a local guy that has a small fleet of kayaks and he says that if he had to go down to one boat it would be the MR because it’s versatile.
I found out later that I got the boat at $5 above dealer cost.
Yes, some paddling (way) helps
The stability that you'll learn to feel as you paddle more is what most tend to call secondary stability, tho' there is periodically a dispute about whether such a thing actually exists. Regardless, what most mean is whether there is a point as you take the boat over on its side where it'll tend to slow down or hold up. If it is very distinct, it'll be harder to make the boat go past that point than it was to get it there.
That is the behavior that many paddlers value in waves and conditions. It goes to how easily the boat turns and maneuvers. The flip side is that a boat that has a lot of that tends to be more active on flat water than something like a rec boat. So the wiggling on flat water that bothers you now may be what you want for conditions.
Unless someone is getting into boats that are way under volume for their size, it takes a remarkably short time to get accustomed to getting comfortable with moving to that point. So a moderate bit of paddling, whether in rentals or doing a lot of demo days, goes a long way in being able to feel how well a boat will behave.
Yeah, there are things the techinically-oriented can argue about. But you will know when you are comfortable by how it feels.
One point to keep in mind - boats like the CD Solstice series, the Storm and Squall as well as the Solstice-named boats, have a fairly high wall of secondary stability but just tumble over past that point and can be hard to stop. Some other boats have a less secure feeling at that point, but are easier to control smoothly past it. Both of these design results have benefits for the paddler, but your paddling goals and paddling environment may mean that one is better than the other for you. That part often takes a little longer to suss out, more seat and skill time, hence the frequent recommendation to start with a used boat.
As to how to choose - the usual recommendation is to reach for a boat that is at the outer edges of your comfort zone but still one that you feel is more inclined to get you home safe than not. That is it doesn't scare you, just leaves you feeling that you'll have to spend a little time getting used to it. You'll know it when you sit in it.
Take some classes / Rent some boats
If you invest a couple of hundred bucks into taking some classes from qualified instructors and renting some different boats, you will have a very good feel for what kind of boat you are most interested in at the time. In the long run you will save money and buy a better first boat.
For a lot of us the kind of paddling we started out doing the the kind of paddling we love best are quite different . So keep an open mind and try things you thought might be pushing your boundaries a bit.
Yes, Rent Some Boats
A biking buddy of mine screwed up. He went out and bought a kayak and didn’t say a word to us, his bike racing pals, who are also doing the sea kayak thing. He bought a beginner boat. If he had spoken up we would have gladly offered up some boats to try. This guy is a strong athlete with good balance and could have skipped the beginner boat step. Now he’s looking to sell a boat and buy one that’s more suited to his ability and needs.
Wa. kayak shops
Hi RC ...googled up these kayak shops ..hope you can locate one and see if they have a test paddle day.or w/e ...although any shop generally will let you test paddle any kayak in inventory at any time.
I've also included the local yak shop paddlefest link to give you some idea of the number of boats you can demo at one of these type's of events. click on "adirondack paddlefest" on the web page below.
Being a beginner myself i can't offer accurate advice on the diffs between makes and models..good luck
At first it’s 90% boat and 10% paddler
After a while it becomes 90% paddler and 10% boat.