Newbie in need of advise

My wife and I are looking into buying a couple kayaks for the two of us. We have been in the water twice. Once in a Tandem on our honey-moon (Thought the marriage was over after that event) and once in separate boats last week (That went much better). We are looking to do basic flatwater touring nothing extream for now. Just wondered if any of you might have some advise on getting started, selecting a good kayak, paddle, pdf, etc. We live in the Atlanta, Georgia area and plan on doing most of our paddling in this region so the climate is pretty mild.

New B Advice
Sounds like a fun adventure for both of you. Don’t recall the name, but there are some great kayak shops in your region.

I would HIGHLY recommend both of you taking some paddling classes from a reputable local shop…or plan a vacation including some lessons. Then rent a bunch of boats to match up your skill level and skill intent (where you hope to be next year at this time) and your pocket book…and THEN…DEMO…DEMO…DEMO boats. You are entering into a fine time to demo boats…it can be a very enjoyable process. You will then have the data you need to make some decisions. Also…take into accout the availablity of some great used boats.



I know of one place that has a try before you buy policy, and they let you rent also. As far as classes, I only know of one or two and they are darned expensive. But then again, I would bet that the “you get what you pay for” adage goes for classes too. Thanks again!

My $0.02
I bought my boat from Paddlers Paradise up in Woodstock, a bit north of Atlanta–great shop with some really knowledgeable owners/staff.

Consider paddle weight, particularly for your wife, whose upper body strength might be less than yours. All paddles feel fine and light enough for the first hour or so, and then they seem to get heavier as the time goes by. A lightweight paddle can prevent some post-paddle sore shoulders!

It seems that very few people eventually trade up to boats that are wider and/or shorter. When you demo, try different widths. While wide boats seem more stable at first, once you get used to a boat, regardless of width, you will find your balance in it. Meanwhile, a wide boat tends to have more drag since there’s more boat in the water. It’s not a matter of speed; it’s been my experience that a narrower boat handles upstream paddles against current more easily than a wide boat.

Keep in mind the boat weight, too, particularly if you will be cartopping.

And enjoy the shopping process!


Sea Kayak Georgia
As above, travel, look for local paddling groups where you might be able to try out boats and connect with more experienced paddlers, talk to different shops etc.

And I don’t know how far from you they are, so maybe you’d have to plan a weekend to the shore to make it worthwhile, but you really should try top get to Sea Kayak Georgia before making a final decision. They have some boats that you may be hard-pressed to find further elsewhere and are just a great place to get exposed to full sea kayaking information.

Thanks Peggy
Thanks for the reminder, I do have a tendancy to forget about the upper body strength difference sometimes. On the subject of paddles, I have been hard pressed to find a general consensus on length, blade width, etc. The one that I heard as a general rule of thumb for length is the paddle should be as tall as the individual holding it. This seems a little too “general”. I’ve also heard different variances to this rule.

As far as blade width, I don’t want to have to paddle like mad ot get anywhere, but I also don’t want to push off to cruising speed in one stroke (My upper body strength is nothing to write home about either).

Any thoughts??

Sea Kayak Georgia is on/near Tybee, right? Last week we stopped by Tybee on our way to Jekyll. first time we had been there in 5 years, man that place has grown! There are some places near me that I can go, and you guys are right, my wife and I need to get in some classes. I’ve been reading some of the other posts regarding capsizes and whew, that would be pretty rough if we weren’t with someone more experienced.

Thanks to all for the advise

new gear
It’s better to get a great paddle and an ok boat, rather than vice versa.

For your paddles, go for LIGHT and short. 210 or 220 is probably the longest you want to go. I infinately prefer a narrower blade–much less strain on your body, and less wind resistance. Before my greenland paddle, I used an Aquabound Expedition AMT, the carbon version. It was the best deal by far in a very light, carbon fiber paddle–$180 instead of $300 to $350 for equivalents. Bending Branch makes paddles a lot of my friends like. Try to get a paddle that’s 30 ounces or less.

For your boat, used boats are often great deals at the end of the season. All the guiding services around here sell a lot of great used boats at the end of each season. Lightweight doesn’t matter as much for a boat once you’re in the water, but heavy boats are hard to get on the car, so that might discourage you from going out. I’d personally recommend against a recreational kayak (ie, less than 15 feet, wide, little floatation, no bulkheads). They tend to have a lot of initial stability, so they’re hard to tip over at first–but they don’t have much secondary stability, so they’re not very good in rough water.

And please do take a class in wet exits and rescues! You need to be able to get out of your boat and back in safely. A class in the forward stroke is nice too, but not as critical as a safety class. Around here, a two or three hour group class in exits, rescues, and basic strokes costs $50, which is completely worth the money.

An additional thought or two about…

– Last Updated: Aug-15-05 4:32 PM EST –

...demos and renting before you make your first purchase decision...

There are many very obvious reasons to "try before you buy", and to try as many different boats as you can during this period of time, but there are a couple of things that I feel are not mentioned nearly enough when we get into these "first boat" discussions...

During the time it takes you to try many different boats, not only might you be able to take advantage of varying weather/water conditions (to see how they perform in varying conditions), but your basic paddling skills will begin to develop as well. As this happens, you'll begin to get a better feel for what the different boats are capable of, and how they might fulfill your concurrently developing dreams of paddling.

When I first started paddling, I got very deeply into it from the very start, and was lucky enough to have every day, all day, to paddle different boats over a three month period. At the end of this intensive paddling period, I learned a great deal about not only many different boats, but about my own developing preferences as well. Looking back, had I gone out right away and purchased one of the boats I fancied after just my first couple weeks of paddling, I know that I would have been disappointed in a very short time. As it happened though, I ended up with a first boat purchase that after eight years, I still love to paddle in everything from quiet wetlands, rivers, and lakes to highly "textured" and relatively extreme coastal/open sea conditions (a CD Caribou).

I do have a second boat now (built an Arctic Hawk from a kit), and I'm planning more building projects as well (SOF boats), so my trusty Caribou is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, but I still do love to paddle it, and so do my friends when they come to visit (or I let them paddle the Hawk and I'll happily paddle the Caribou).

I guess what I'm saying here is that even if you're really excited about getting your own boats as soon as possible, it might just be a good idea to take a bit of time before you make your first decision; at least enough time to realize that the idea of a "beginner's boat" can be a bit misleading, and if you can be patient enough to take your time trying out boats, you may just end up with a first boat that will keep you happy for many years to come. Now *that* is a great value when you consider all that you'll have to invest in to get started anyway. :-)


Excellent Point
That’s an excellent point, when you figure in the enjoyment factor, all the specs, brands, and rehtoric doesn’t mean much. The more feedback I’ve gotten the more I’m realizing that I have a lot to learn. I probly should be looking at a few more classes, and rental days before I go dropping alot of dough on a boat. Thanks!