Newbie Kayaker Question

I have a friend who wants to buy a kayak for lake and slow river paddling and also wants to join a club to get introduced to the sport. She knows I’m an experienced canoer who owns 2 whitewater and 2 tripping canoes…so she’s asked me for advice…but I don’t know diddly about yaks and I have an adversion to affiliation so I’m clueless about paddling clubs in this area.

My friend lives in the Charolette/Concord area in North Carolina. She’s in her 50s and seems to have average fitness. She wants to keep it under $1K and doesn’t want a SOT. Any suggestions on a decent entry level boat? And also, please advise on any paddling clubs in the area.

Thanks in advance P-netters

Is an

“adversion to affiliation” good or bad?

We’re a pretty harmless group but great on specific and general advice.

Really you should look around in your/her area and see what is available at the outfitters first. Unless you want to tell her about a great kayak that she can’t see or test paddle.

Paddlin’ on


Agree with GK

– Last Updated: Aug-18-08 3:23 PM EST –

That's one for history...

I don't see where you can advise her well, nor can someone here thru you. And if she is a friend you'd probably not like being in the middle of a decision she will later rue.

Her best best is to do as GK says, rent some boats, go to demo's, maybe take a couple of lessons so that she can connect the dots on what does and doesn't work for her in a boat. Then look for one at end of season sale prices, in September/October. Has she tried any of this or is she just waiting for a word from you?
I suggest your friend go to and search kayaking groups within a certain radius of her zipcode.

To learn more about kayaking I went on there and found 2 kayaking groups near me that have members of all skill levels.

You mean…
Sometimes not for a person 50 but I guess that depends on the group. Don’t think about it in Atlanta.

Paddlin’ on


Speaking as Big Meat in Atlanta
I think you are underestimating our joyful acceptance. Why, I can accept a 50 year old woman more joyfully than most of the idiot dogs running loose around the hwy 40 boat ramp.

You mean Hwy 41 - Paces Mill
and I see your point.

Paddlin’ on


A real suggestion: Go to the buyer’s

– Last Updated: Aug-18-08 8:50 PM EST –

Guide here and input $1K to see what is available. Most beginners start with a recreational kayak no longer than 12'.There are many of them.I like WS Pungos, Loons are apparently good boats.
Go to a good outfitter and sit in a few boats.

Wilderness Systems Pamlico 100

– Last Updated: Aug-18-08 8:58 PM EST –

I got one for my wife. I'll tell ya, it's like a Cadillac! Extremely comfortable, stable, light, and loaded with nicities like padded gunwhales, a fine seat, a cup holder, great carry handles, and a bungee on the deck.

The lightness not only makes it easy to load/unload, but makes it extremely responsive to input, and with a less-than-athletic person in the cockpit, they'll feel the paddling very rewarding.

The extremely open cockpit keeps your legs cool, won't make you feel trapped, and is extremely comfortable. The traditional 'boat' design hull is very stable and has a great effective hull area (meaning it might be just 10' long, but feels like it has a greater hull area than my 11' Perception Montour (dagger).

Compared to my Montour/Dagger, it does not have the same hull speed, but for the recreational kayaker/paddler, it is more than adequate. The Pamlico tracks very well! You won't waste a bunch of energy getting it across a wide lake, but you'll find it equally maneuverable in tight spaces.

This boat pretty much does it all. I'd be very reluctant to take it out on water with big swells due to the openness of the cockpit, but otherwise is very good for most everyone just looking to do a little bit of everything.

The price can't be beat either.

Does that mean
I’m a beginner?

Shit, I thought I was at least an intermediate.

Paddlin’ on


IMHO anything less than 12’ is a
waste of money, but that’s just me.

You are going to get a different kayak suggested with every post.

I think it is great that you want to help your friend…

From past experiences I’ve found it best to help them by educating them on basic knowledge so that they can make an informed decision for themselves.

Everyone’s tastes and expectations are different. I doubt that you would find the “perfect boat” for your friend if you built them yourself as a business…

Perhaps try purchasing several issues of kayaking magazines for her to read and remaining ready to answer questions is the best tactic…

Best of Luck,


Tell your friend to check Great Outdoor Provision Co.; they have a store in Charlotte and other cities in NC. They carry a wide variety of kayaks and their staff is knowledgeable. On Sept. 4 in Raleigh, they are having a kayak demo at Lake Crabtree near Research Triangle Park. That would be a 2-3 hour drive, but worth her while. If not, the Charlotte store might have some demos planned.

BTW, my wife and I are in our 50s and recently got our first kayaks from Provision Co. My wife got a WS Pungo 120, which she really likes for its stability and ease of paddling. I got a Necky Manitou 13, which my wife has paddled and likes very much as well. The Pungo is a little more forgiving and has a deck for storing and carrying stuff; the Manitou is faster and more fun to paddle.

Adversion to Affiliation
Please don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some nice times tagging along with a paddling club or two and their experience and know-how was welcomed as was the friendship. Did have a couple of unpleasant experiences with some whitewater groups near Boston…their approach to running a river was a little too regimented for me. I guess after serving 28 years in the Air Force, marching lock-step from drop to drop, eddy to eddy, down the river took the fun out of it for me. Anyway, thanks for the advice.

And there you have it…
a winning suggestion from tarwheel…

A demo event in your area…

Nice, tarwheel.

ditto to
the advice above Re:trying a bunch of different kayaks–you might even suggest to your friend she can do this at least in part by taking a beginning kayakers course–3-5 hour to two hour lessons at either the local Y or a local paddling outfit—not very expensive, learn some useful skills and she will get a chance to actually try some boats—outfitters love doing these classes so they can intro people to the sport and sell them stuff. Before she signs up she should specify that she doesn’t have her own boat and wants to use one of theirs.

Another option in NC…
Great Outdoors is indeed a good place to check out a variety of kayaks. ANother good option, though, is Get:Outdoors in Greensboro - see

They’re a very large Wilderness Systems dealer and also have demos and events on weekends. The Pamlico has already been suggested. I believe the Tsunami is another boat that warrants consideration as a first boat.



Size & weight

– Last Updated: Aug-19-08 1:04 PM EST –

Hers will affect the choice of the "right" kayak.

Females are typically shorter and lighter than males. Even at the same weight they usually have shorter arms and torsos and a lower center of gravity. This means that they'll be more comfortable in a boat that has a narrower beam and lower deck than one designed for the "average male".

Many manufacturers are now making boats proportioned for women and/or small paddlers. I'd suggest she pay particular attention to those models.

Boat weight is also an issue. Anything much over 40 pounds can become difficult to maneuver on land for many women.

Depending on her size, a couple of models that might work would be the Perception Tribute or the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 135.

Paddles also come in a range of sizes -- blade area and shaft diameter as well as length -- to suit different paddler sizes and strengths.

Her first purchase should be a comfortable PFD.

I'd agree with the suggestions for a beginning class--It'll help give her skills and confidence to be a safer paddler and make a better decision.

There's no substitute for paddling a lot of boats.