Newbie paddler looking to buy kayak

-- Last Updated: Apr-23-14 5:04 PM EST --

Hi there,

I don’t currently own a kayak but I’ve been in them and had an Old Town recreational kayak on loan for a couple of years which I used in several lakes. Unfortuately, I don't remember the model or length. It seemed easy to maneuver. I've been canoeing for years and loved how much easier it was as a single paddler in the kayak...also a heck of a lot easier to load on my car by myself than the canoe! No one gave me any kind of tutorial so I have no idea what could have made things better or worse. I just kind of went with it (as I usually do!)

I no longer have the loaner so I’m now in the market to purchase my own kayak and I’ll be heading out to the Adirondack Paddlefest next month to try some out. So that I can make my experience there an efficient one, I wanted to ask advice on where I should be aiming as far as finding my first kayak. I’ll still be using it mostly for lake outtings but I’d like to try out calmer rivers too. I had no problems climbing in or out so I think I’ll still be looking for the recreational variety. There's so much out there, I really just don't know where to start. And I don't really know what a reasonable price range would be for "my first kayak" either.

If you have any suggestions or need more information from me to make suggestions, please reply back.

Thank you so much for anyone willing to chime in!

Almost forgot to mention - I am 5'3" and weighing in at 120 pounds.

Need more info:
For starters; what is your price range?

Keeping in mind that kayaks range from the el cheapo at $300 to a high end one at $4500

Jack L

There’s a tendency …
… to pick a first boat that is wider and shorter than optimal. At your height you will probably want something with both a low cockpit and rear deck. This will improve your ability to re-enter and, possibly later, consider learning to roll.

If you plan on playing in rocky rivers, a poly boat would be better for playing bumper cars with stones.

They will likely have a Current Designs Willow for demo. Give one a shot Ditto the Wilderness Systems Zephyr 155.

Have a great time at the paddle event.

You are close to my size
You are a small paddler. 10 pounds lighter (as long as I keep at the exercise classes) and half an inch shorter than me. So honestly, all rec boats will be damned barges on you.

I strongly suggest that you look for a boat in the touring/transitional range, 12 to 14 ft in length, made for a small paddler. There is one in the Wilderness Systems Tsunami line, I forget the number, Current Designs has a couple and you should find others.

You will find a narrower boat in this length still quite manageable to turn, but a real joy to paddle compared to what you have been using. Once you try a out one of these, I doubt you will want to go back to a wide rec boat. Don’t worry about the narrowness - you are a smaller person and will find that you balance fine in a skinnier boat. The combination will work.

And loading is not an issue. At that length you can slide it up on top of the car so you are never really carrying all of the weight. It is actually easier to load a somewhat longer boat that you can slide up than a 10 footer that is too short for that.

Tsunami SP
I think the Wilderness System kayak she was mentioning is the Tsunami SP. I guess SP stands for Small Paddler.

mag article
There are a few terms being thrown about - rec, touring, etc. Might be good to take a look at an article in California Kayaker Magazine on types of kayaks to see what these terms mean, and what those boats are meant to be sued for. can be read online for free at issue #10 starting on page 6 is the article.

Price range
I’m not positive about my price range. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable paying more than $1,000 for my first kayak. On one hand, it would be great to find something for $500 but I’m afraid if I have too low an expectation, I’ll wind up with something I’m not happy with, which would be a waste of money too.

There’s a tendency …
Thank you for this advice!!

You are close to my size
Thank you Celia. I’ll spend some time trying out some touring/transitionals at the PaddleFest and make note of the ones you mentioned. I’m very grateful for what you’ve shared here, especially given your experience as an SP!