Newbie kayak advice

Looking at buying a kayak this spring. I live in Michigan, and will be doing mostly small inland lakes and streams/rivers. I may occasionally bring it out to Lake Michigan. Recommendations? Probably looking to keep it under $500, but may be willing to go higher.

Any prior skill, knowledge, demo, etc ?

– Last Updated: Feb-09-13 4:38 PM EST –

Background info always needed to ascertain good advice

How much do you plan to spend on Paddle and PFD ?

Look for something used!
I would probably look for something in the 14 foot range. Decent for rivers and large enough for small and big lakes.

Best advice is go to a Kayak store and test a bunch out. After you pick what you like then start looking for the best price. There are a lot of kayaks that are similar to each other(meaning some you pay for the name and some you don’t). You should be able to pick up something that works for $500.00 without paddle and PFD. I know that in Missouri the Alpine shop has certain days where you can go to a local lake and test out a lot of kayaks.

Quiet Water Symposium
I see that you are in Michigan. Stop by the Quiet Water Symposium March 2nd. There will be several vendors there to talk with as well as lots of knowledgeable people. the symposium is at the Pavilion on the MSU campus.

Once you’ve had some seat time…
…you might want to consider a used kayak. Five hundred bucks isn’t much to work with (and whatever your first kayak is, it will be the wrong one :). It’s easy to sink $500 into just your paddle and PFD (okay, so ‘sink’ was probably a poor word choice). You really don’t want to go too cheap on your gear. It’s the stuff that keeps you from feeding the fish (along with a good skill set).

And someone (well me in this case) will surely suggest you sign up for a kayak intro class. You will learn bunches.

It depends on how serious you get into kayaking. I go with one group from the outdoor meetup group which is an online meetup group and most are casual kayakers that go on creeks and small lakes. Most are in plastic kayaks of about 14 foot in length. If that’s your intended type of kayaking then a used 14 footer would work ok. Assuming your of average size. Come spring time look at Craigslist for used kayaks. Should be able to pick one up for about 400 to 600. Get one that has sealed front and rear compartments so it cant sink if tipped over. Take at least a beginner kayak safety class if possible.

I don’t believe a rank beginner can really tell if one kayak is better or not as they just don’t have any experience to draw any real conclusions other than if they fit inside it. If you get more serious about kayaking you will need to buy another kayak anyway. At that point you will have some basic skills to really know what to look for while paddling. Just don’t buy one of those kayaks that have zero floatation that sink if tipped over. Dont forget you need a paddle and PFD which sometimes sellers on craigslist include.

You might want to contact the WMCKA. They have winter pool sessions which include basic instruction. Picking up basic skills will put you in a much better position to make a good decsion on a kayak.

I agree
with Byron. No matter what you buy, it won’t be your last purchase assuming you don’t decide kayaking isn’t for you. “Canoecopia” show in Madison WI March 8-10. Tons of boats with manufacturers reps to talk to.

It’s like buying a car, you really don’t know if you’re going to like it until you put some miles on it.

Look at other discussions

look for a used deal
with so little to spend you will be much better off finding someone selling everything because they are getting out of the sport than trying to stretch 500.

Since you said get into, I’m assuming you have zero skills. It would be incredibly helpful to take a basics class. Learn to self rescue, basic strokes and maneuvering BEFORE you buy a boat. You will get a much better idea of what type of boat to look for and can probably get a lot of good advice from your instructor or leads on used gear.

Beginner frendly. Maneuverable. 14 feet. You can camp out of it for a weekend. Made in two sizes to accommodate paddlers of different weights. You’d have to try for a used one, as retail new is $1100 to $1300, I believe. The Alchemy is not the barge that some plastic boats are.

I know, Dick’s is not the best place to get a kayak, but they have a nice crossover rec/touring kayak for $550 when not on sale, the Perception Sport Conduit 13. Not for ocean, large lakes with large waves/surf conditions, but seems what you are looking for.

Lake Michigan is large and tricky
Whatever someone says they will do to limit their paddling, having a body of water like that at hand tends to put someone on it. More boat and more careful time selecting one is prudent advice for this case.

You have a few months,…
To figure this out. Keep in mind even if you get advise at kayak shops from “the experts”, and paddle some boats at demos, you’ll most likely disire a different yak in a year or so. I out grew my very stable 1st kayak in 3 months, and I had no use for it since I don’t paddle rivers, so I sold it here on P-net. It might fit your budget better to find a used boat in the 12-14 ft. range for rivers and small lakes and when you have some experience look into a longer yak more suited for big water. Just my 2 cents


Just my 2cents
I would start out with a recreational kayak. They are generally wider & more stable for beginners. As others have already said, “make sure that it has some sort of floatation built in.” (I.E. foam blocks, sealed hatches, floatation bags.)

I started out with a Kiwi Lobo recreational kayak, which did everything (including short trips on Lake Michigan & Lake Superior) but did not excell at anything. After a few years, I decided to upgrade to a Jackson Rogue.

What part of Michigan are you from?

I like how you put that, so true

2nd Rival’s suggestion

– Last Updated: Feb-22-13 10:05 AM EST –

Try and make that symposium. Also watch demo days for Riverside Kayak (wyandotte), Sun and Snow (ann arbor) and any others you can find. Talk to people at the symposium, look around, and get some seat time at demos if possible.

Byron is also correct IMO: if you enjoy it you'll be buying another. Best to get your first boat used. It's like a car, you don't know all the factors that might influence your purchase if you don't know they exist.

article in California Kayaker Magazine
There is an article in the just published issue of California Kayaker Magazine on boat choice. Breaks down the differences between recreational boats and white water boats and touring boats and sit on tops and such. My be good to read to get you pointed toward what category of boat is right for you, if you haven’t settled on one yet.

Can be read online for free at The article I am referring to starts at page 6 of the Spring 2013 issue.