Novice Paddler Looking To Start

Hi everyone,

Pretty new to paddling and looking to purchase my first kayak, but struggling where to start. I’m looking for advice on a good first yak. Looking for something to use mostly on calm lakes and rivers but could handle some chop if the wind picks up but nothing too crazy. Not looking to do any whitewater, but want something that I don’t have to replace in 3-5 years because I’ve outgrown it. Must track well, don’t wanna go with anything that requires constant corrective steering, but also don’t need anything too long (can’t see me doing multiple day trips with it, just a few hours here and there, probably a day trip at the most). I’ve been looking at a wilderness systems pungo (105 or 120 not sure what I need here), a dagger Axis (10.5 or 12 but again not sure), old town loon (106 or 120), and a perception 11.5. Any guidance for a novice looking to get started, or any personal reviews on any of these boats would be great. I am a smaller-framed woman, 5’4 and 150 lbs if that helps.

It sounds like you have some exposure to recreational style kayaks and that is what is shaping your search. I would strongly recommend you try a touring length (13’-15’) kayak appropriate for your build so you can compare the ride. The Touring you’d be hard pressed to outgrow but if the recreational ride is what you are after then you know that the longer boat does not provide you the benefit you seek. Aside from that get something with fore/aft floatation in the way of bulkheaded hatches.

See you on the water,
Marshall Seddon
The River Connection, Inc.
9 W. Market St.
Hyde Park, NY. 12538
845-229-0595 main
845-242-4731 mobile


It would be helpful to know (roughly) where in the world you are, and the specific bodies of water that you intend to paddle… Recommendations will be more relevant.

I think what’s making me nervous about touring length is storage, and portability, with storage being the bigger issue. However, you raise a good point and I’ll look into this thank you for your advise.

I’m located in Saskatchewan, Canada, but we will be travelling the western part of Canada frequently. It will get most of it’s use on the lakes in the northern part of Saskatchewan.

I think you have some good prospects. I’m a Pungo owner but I’ve been around the Daggers and they are good boats. And made in the same factory just down the street from me. Unless they’ve been moved.
We typically recommend the longest boat you can handle in and out of the water . WE being people who have paddled a lot.
A good , comfortable recreational kayak is a great place to start. My first one is still in the family after 30 years. I use and take care of my boats, eh!
I wouldn’t buy anything under 12’.

A lot of it depends more on where you get enjoyment in physical activities. If you jump in a kayak and love the feeling of active muscles, and increased heart rate and breathing make you feel alive, that’s going to lend itself to a type of kayak on calm lakes and rivers. Some paddle fast surf skis on calm lakes and rivers, and love the glide and speed and the workout that goes along with it.
Feeling those same sensations in your muscles, and an increased heart rate and breathing might be something you equate with work and effort. Sensible to you might be stepping back a notch at that point so that it doesn’t feel like work and effort. Some paddle recreational kayaks and lily-dip about on the same calm lakes and rivers, and love that it’s just a relaxing day on the water.
I think these inclinations have a lot more to do with proper kayak selection than the actual bodies of water. 3 different people may swear by 3 very different kayaks on the very same body of water.
The kayaks you’ve listed are not something to grow into. They are all beginner-oriented. They may be something you grow out of if you really take to kayaking, but they may not. This is just to help you understand what they are, not to determine whether or not they are right for you.
The only thing that you fit in a kayak is leg length, hips, butt, and thighs. So a 260 pounder with skinny hips, butt, and legs may fit fine into anything I have, but a 200 pounder with wide hips and a thick butt and thighs might not squeeze in comfortably. Height and weight often don’t hold much meaning, and big shoulders/chest/belly have little effect on fit in the cockpit. If smaller-framed means slender hips and thighs, then you want a smaller fitting kayak. If you have slender shoulders but wider in the hips, just make sure you have room to comfortably fit. Don’t let 260 lb narrow-hipped, bigger-belly skinny legs convince you that the cockpit is “Way Too Big? You’ll be Swimming in that thing! It’s like a bathtub!” just because they’re heavier in weight and that’s how they feel they fit. A wider seat, more room under the thigh braces, in a lower overall volume kayak might be what the lighter person needs.
Kayak length most of the time has nothing to do with storage. If you end up with a well-conditioned forward stroke, length means higher efficient speed. It doesn’t take much to max out the efficiency of a 14 foot kayak. But 14’ is often enough to meet the desires of many paddlers. It’s probably about the shortest length where you will find something narrow enough for smaller-framed hips at 150 lbs to still offer some forward paddling efficiency at easy-going speeds, and allow yourself good contact and control of the kayak as you / if you advance. And 14’ is still pretty easy to maneuver, even for beginners.
Good luck!


I would try and get in a few different boats and try them out if at all possible, you might find that you end up really enjoying something you didn’t expect. I’d say its mostly driven by what you want to do and your budget. Ill offer my experience and you can draw conclusions:

Ive had the same 9.5 Ft Rec kayak for the last 15 years, I store it indoors and mostly use it on small ponds, lakes and rivers local to me. Its great for fishing, bobbing around, a little bit of relaxed fun and a nice paddle every once in a while. I still use it all the time. Last season a buddy of mine got into sea kayaking for fitness (I live close to the ocean) and let me try out his 18ft stellar. I was hooked instantly. I thought it would a big hard to use boat but oh man was I wrong. We started paddling regularly and I ended up using his second kayak, an old town 14.5 which was nice but coming from the slender stellar it was hard to go back to a roto-molded boat. I ended up snagging a second hand CD Solstice mid-season last summer and absolutely love it.

If you are looking at some of the nicer plastic boats I would seriously consider a second hand glass boat if you can find one locally. They can be repaired, in my experience are a bit lighter, and just generally well made.

As others have stated I would not go shorter than 12ft, rec kayaks are fun but they are tubs, and when i get back in little old 9.5 after paddling the solstice for a while it feels like i can fit at least another whole person in there with me!


Hi fello Canuck. I just upgraded my Pelican from the big C store and now have a Dagger Axis 10.5. Haven’t had a chance to use it yet…Everything is still frozen here, just north of Toronto. I wanted a kayak that was still short enough to handle winding rivers but that had a skeg to keep it tracking while on small lakes. I did try a Old Town Sorrento with skeg, a few years ago and it handled nice. A cousin has an older Pungo and loves it, but I tried it and found that it tracks well without a skeg but is a pain to manoeuvre since it wants to go straight. I stayed with a plastic type since we do go over logs, rocks and pull up on shore. Wouldn’t want to scratch up a more expensive boat. Don’t expect your first boat to be your last. The Dagger gets decent reviews and I’ve watched various YouTube videos. Try that and the reviews here to help you decide. Higher demand this year might make it harder to get one and Covid has cancelled many of the water tests. Also check out the Riots. It was a tossup for me, but the Dagger won. Good luck with your search.

You will outgrow anything under 12 feet, especially if you want something that will track better. Which from the sounds of it is one of your goals.

Also I am your size and only 15 pounds lighter. The Pungo and the Loon will be barges on you in terms of comfortable reach to the water as your get better at palling.

What are your storage options? Even the fanciest kayaks can winter out under the snow, one or two of mine have done so for years. Loading and moving a kayak is just a matter of tools - carts, things to help car top. These all exist.

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I use a Riot 12 (West coast of Scotland) which is just under 12’ and wider for better stability and made in Canada I believe. I take off for between 8-10 weeks at a time. It handles heavy weather and big swells…or is it me that does? Take care.

I suspect you are taller and heavier than the OPer. As someone her size I can assure you that a 28 inch wide boat would become a real handling problem for me in difficult conditions. And in easier ones it would be near impossible for me to have a good stroke.

My husband and I started out in similar boats, it took us less than one season to discover they were the wrong idea.

I’d be looking at boats like the 14-foot Venture Islay LV, or the Eddyline Sitka ST.


You’re not that far from my place. Hudson is thawed. Come by to try the P&H Virgo LV. Way fun!

See you on the water,
The River Connection, Inc.
9 W. Market St.
Hyde Park, NY. 12538
845-229-0595 main
845-242-4731 mobile
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Thanks, Marshall, but don’t tempt me, I have a boat!

‘A’ boat? As in ‘1’ boat? Unacceptable! We cannot accept the risk of having members with only a single boat. If our spouses were to find out that some people only have one boat that could seriously undermine the cause. Better go see Marshall soon and correct this. :rofl:



High_Desertt you beat me to it and phrased it much better!

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Thanks for the literal laugh-out-loud! Spouse and I actually have 3 boats between us, so I guess I have 1.5 boats. Does that count?

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I’m your height and weight, and at 70 one of my parameters is weight of the boat for handling it. You may be surprised to learn that longer kayaks can actually be the same or even less weight than longer ones because they can be narrower and still provide enough displacement to float at the proper depth.

You will be best served by a boat scaled to your body size. One issue you will have with your size is that shorter kayaks made wider and deeper to provide displacement volume for the “one size fits all” marketing of a lot of recreational style kayaks (so they can accommodate a 220 pound guy) will leave you swimming in the cockpit (therefore having poor control) and banging your knuckles on too high and wide gunwales as you paddle. Several people have suggested that you look at LV (low volume) kayaks which I would also highly recommend. They have lower decks and tend to be narrower.

Determine the maximum storage space you have so that doesn’t limit your choices. As Celia points out, you will outgrow anything 12’ or less rapidly especially if you like to paddle the windy lakes of Western Canada. And longer kayaks are much easier for us shorter folk to hoist onto the car roof - all about leverage.

Another option is folding kayaks if you have limited storage space. You can leave them set up during the season if you have the space and don’t want to set up each time. Super light too and when you travel they can be stashed in the trunk of the car or brought inside your lodging. Pakboat makes a couple of models – the Quest 150 and Puffin Saco. I have older models of each one.

I also use a 15’ Venture Easky LV (no longer sold in the US but since it is a UK marque they may still market it in Canada). It’s similar to the Islay LV that was suggested but a bit lighter. Either one would eventually allow you to try coastal paddling or longer trips. The big plus of longer boats is better tracking and easier speed (since they tend to be narrower).

Another Canadian here with my 2 cents…
you’re on the right track with those kayaks, not a bad one there really, but each has their own specialty for sure. First off… I started kayaking 3 years ago, and am already on my 3rd kayak, so believe me, getting into a good one right off the hop really helps. I quickly grew in this hobby and went from a 10’ to 12’ to now a 14.5’. When reading what you want to do, the 3 boats you mentioned are rec kayaks. The pungo is purely rec, as it has such a large cockpit opening, I don’t thing anyone makes a skirt for it, so forget any open water.

Last spring when deciding between my final two choices, I had it down to the Dagger Stratos 14.5 and Wilderness Systems Tsunami. After sitting in both back to back, the Dagger won as it was far more comfortable to me, and the skeg was more appealing than the rudder system.

Keep in mind, the longer the kayak, the better the tracking and more storage (as you mentioned was important to you). I river run in mine all the time, nothing more than class 1 so far, but often take it out for 4-5 hrs, 25km+ paddles, some open water, tracks like a dream, awesome kayak.

The Stratos does come in both a 12’ and 14.5’, as well as a Small and Large option for sizing.
Playful boat with a white water history - it’s a great “swiss army knife” of kayaks. Love it 10 fold over my 12’ current designs kestrel, as it tracks better and has dual bulkheads.

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