Newbie to Kayak ownership

Okay, I’ve finally made the committment to buy a kayak…been thinking about it for a year…renting them regularly to try different types…finally accepted that I’ll have to actually part with my money. I’m 5’3" and 120#. how do I know what dimensions are best for my size? I’m not looking to impress my friends, only enjoy the exercise and (mostly) calm waters.

I appreciate the expertise on this site!

Barely enough info
Are you looking for a:

Playboat: Whitewater or surf

Touring: Ocean or long distance

Recreational: Excercise and relaxation on lakes and slow rivers

Are you looking for:

SOT (Sit on Top)

SInK (Sit in Kayak, traditional)

are you willing to pay a premium for lighter weight materials?

Once you answer those questions, go to the product Buyers guide, Select kayak, price range, and function. Then check out product reviews. Many reviewers will give their height and weight as part of their review. Then go to your local outfitter and ask to test paddle the ones that you feel are in your design range and price range.

Dont forget a good PFD (life vest) and a lightweight paddle. you should plan to sink (pardon the pun) some good money in a good lightweight paddle.

You’ll find a wealth of info there, but also, as you go through your select process, go ahead and post more detailed questions.


go to the archieves, type in “smaller paddler” and you’ll find a lot of boats for you to consider.

Find A Trusty Dealer
Check with your friends or acquaintences who paddle and get their recommendations for a good and reputable independent dealer. Then, let that dealer work with you and make recommendations as to the best fit for your size and planned usage. He (or she) should also give you on the water demonstrations of their recommendations.

On the average, the folks at the “big box” stores are super nice and most have good intentions, but, the majority of them do not have direct experience or knowledge of what they are trying to recommend to you. This could result in a bad first kayak experience and sour you on the sport. Most of your independents have considerable experience and knowledge with all of their yaks, paddles, PFDs, and other equipment.

Maybe if you would add your location to your profile data then some other P-Netter could give you a dealer recommendation. i know just who I would send you to in Dallas!


Thanks for the direction
Looking for a recreation and exercise.

Budget will probably constrain me to a used model. (can I get a decent boat this way?)

Already have safety gear.

Will keep posting as more questions come up.


used is a great way to purchase kayaks!

– Last Updated: Mar-24-05 3:40 PM EST –

I for one have made a vow to only buy used kayaks from here on out. I bought my first kayak new (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and my next three have all been used. I have saved a lot of money, the kayaks all have been in great shape, and I have taken little financial risk onto myself if I ended up hating the kayaks. Once you have a clearer picture of what sort of kayak you are looking for, our classified section is a great resource.


– Last Updated: Mar-25-05 12:12 AM EST –, looking for the first Kayak?

Well, let's see, I'm taller and weigh a bit more than you, but I think I've got some good suggestions.

1. Do you really want to make your first kayak THE KAYAK?
2. Have you decided on Plastic/Fiberglass/Wood? Plastic is least expensive and has other good qualities that make it a great choice for a first boat, trust me. Fiberglass is 2 or 3 or 4 times more expensive, but sleeker/better design elements, somewhat lighter per linear ft and generally very good looking. Wood, well, is beautiful and expensive(unless you bult it yourself...average people do successfully build Kayaks with awesome results!), but have Care/Maintenance rituals that MUST be performed.

3. Have you decided on length? 10'-12'/12'-14'/ 16'-18'/18-22'
Shorter boats are easier for those under 5'8" to manueover onto and off of cartops and carry (NOT DRAG) to the water. (I am 5'4" and 155lb athletic woman and know this from experience. I selected my first yak for it's length with this in mind!)
It came be very generally said that shorter yaks are more stable and more quick turning - smaller turning radius, especially if they have a Skeg.
Generally, the longer the yak, the better it tracks - travels straight and the further it glides per paddle stroke.

4. Will you be carrying gear for camping?
If so, pay attention to load limits. They include the weight of the Paddler. Pay attention to storage hatch sizes and the actual space within the yak for your gear. If you can, bring items with you to the store and try to pack your yak of choice.. No, it's not silly! Also, length is not as important a factor in determining load limit/gear storage space as you might think!

5. Will you want to learn skills regarding wet exits and eskimo rolls? Or would just like to allow for only a minimum of water in the boat?
If so, look for a yak with bulkheads! Also, although I'm not real certain how much it factors in for the Rolls, but keep an eye on the Cockpit dimensions and the type of Spray Skirt that can be used with the yak. Some spray skirts aren't really very good for even keeping out a light drizzle! If it isn't tight and sags inward(toward your lap!) you're going to be wet. Be wary! And, by-the-way, a good skirt can prevent painful sunburn on the thighs.

6. Have you decided on the Yak seat? You say you have a PFD... Take it with you when you hunt for your Yak. Get in and sit down with it on. A lot of uncomfortableness can come from a PFD interferring with the seat! You may want to buy a Yak where the seat can easily be upgraded to somehthing else, as your paddling experience /needs change over time.

8. You have a paddle? Bring it with you! Sit in Yak and try paddling. Depending the design of the deck/combing and the width & length of the front of the cockpit from where you sit, you may run into trouble. Your hands or wrists may rub against the combing/deck! This also something to do with the length of the paddle too.

7. For accessories, wait on them! Most of the stuff sold in most places can be easily improvised on the cheap by yourself! If you would like suggestions on that topic, ask me!

I hope this has helped. If I can think of anything else important, I'll post it later..
Ohh, yeah, in what area do you live? I can suggest some shops, if you're in my neck of the woods.
Happy hunting..

I am
5’2", about 110 lbs and my 15.5’ Dagger Prospect wouldn’t want to be any bigger! But I love my boat. Take deck height into consideration too. Try to find a dealer who will work with you to get you into a boat that fits you. Try to test-paddle it too. That’s how I made the move from rec to touring boat. Good luck finding your new kayak.

Looking for a kayak
I am also new to this forum and just purchase a Current Design’s Storm.

I also live in the Tampa area and spent a great deal of time looking here as well as St. Pete and the web.

There are some good buys on E-Bay but shipping will be a problem unless you are dealing with a web dealer vs. a private seller.

The are alot of good buys on the web from dealers but you really need to decide what and how much you want to spend. Dealers are making room for 2005 models and you can get extremely good deals on left overs, demo or fleet kayaks.

I too thought I would need a used Kayak but shipping costs put me way too high. Then I almost ordered a kayak from a dealer in upstate NY. But all say and done I got a better package deal on a 2005 from a local dealer plus you have someone local to call and support.

The package at a minimum is kayak, PDF, paddle and bilge pump.

I could share all my research with you and forum but I’m not sure if we are allowed to make rec’s on dealers here. If we are permitted the I will post my web findings and who I ended buying from.

Hope this helps…

Good Luck!

I’ve had great success…
with Sweetwater Kayaks in Saint Pete. They are just off the end of Gandy on the left ( traveling West). Great people, great service, and the ladies that work there are very knowledgeable. They can put you into a Kayak you’ll love, they will you “test paddle” anything you want.

Bill Jacksons in Pinellas Park is another Great store that also has all the same qualities as Sweetwater.

I moved from that area 2 years ago, so my knowledge is firsthand. There are some very pretty places to paddle in both Pinellas and Hillsborough, I hope this will help you.


Good Luck

Some previous discussions…

At your size, you’ll want to look at boats designed for a smaller paddler. You’ll be swimming in the cockpit of an “average”-sized boat, which will make it harder to control. A kayak that’s too wide and/or too deep will be uncomfortable to paddle.

Side Benefit of Buying Used
I’ve bought my last three boats used and had a chance to meet and talk with the owners. I’ve got a lot of good advice and pointers from more experienced paddlers who had “outgrown” their boats and made some friends in the process.

on the column to the left (it’s a really good series that takes you through the “choice triangle” -what kind of boat/what kind of paddler/what kind of water -you must consider before making a choice.

As noted in a prior posting here, perform a search here at for “newbie”, “new to kayak”, etc. -you’l see many discussion points covered there that will expand and expound upon those covered here.

ANd even after you narrow the choice triangle down, you’ll still have a bunch of boats will will generally fit the bill.

Really try to get to one of the shops and/or outfitters in the T Bay area -there’s a number of them scattered about where you might be able to give a model or two a try. All the better shops will not only allow this, but will encourage it. The best you might -MIGHT -expect at a big box is to sit in one on the floor. Clearwater Beach, St.Pete, Tampa proper, and adjacent cities still classed as “Tampa” all have kaytaks.

And definitely think used. We have 6 boats, all but one bought used, all (even the new one) bought at significant savings (saving from from $150 to $800 per boat less than new) for used boats that paddle just as well as new ones.

ANd ALSO as noted, you’re not “just” buying a kayak… You also NEED:

A decent start-up paddle (65 used-$125 new);

A PFD that is comfortable enough to be worn all the time (we’re in Florida -gators, sharks, and the WORST of the wildlife, drinking and/or speeding boater, jetskiers, and airboaters; and

Something to tote your boat -a racking system of one sort or another, and perhaps one to take the boat from the car to the put-in & verce-vissa;

And these days, GAS MONEY, L…!

After that there’s different pieces of gear that may/may not be required per your paddling style.

It’s good to see you asking questions, but you need to do some of your own honework yourself: WE won’t paddle YOUR boat, YOU will, so YOU’VE got to get out there and do some work, to, so in the end, you’re better off, and ultimate;y, happier, as you


-Frank in Miami