Recreational Kayak (recommendation??)

I did a quick “search” but didn’t find much that directly pertained to my questions. My first post here and I weclome any input.

Went kayaking down a local creek Saturday and had an absolute ball. Until this past weekend, I have always used a two-man canoe. My two-man canoe has most often been paddled by about 1.25 men. Anyway, I couldn’t believe how much easier and relaxing the one man kayak was. I was able to enjoy the surroundings and relax instead of having to constantly communicate with the fellow paddler in the canoe.

My question: What are some good recreational kayaks out there? I’m going to be looking for a used one, so most online reviews that I’ve found are no good because they all seem to deal with 06 models.

USE: Somewhat varied…

Calm open water.

Light chop open water

Slow to swift calm creeks / rivers. Often with much downed timber, rocks.

Very little to zero white water.


I would like it to maneuverable (shallow spots, downed timber, etc), yet some tracking / speed would be nice too. A relatively large dry storage area is a must. I’m almost 6’2 and 195lbs, so some volume is necessary.

Not looking for anything fancy, just some suggestions. The boat I was in Saturday was a 2004 (checked out the HIN) boat by Old Town. It suited my needs pretty well, but I’d hate to go out and pick one up without doing SOME homework. I mean there could be something else out there that’s 10x better that I just don’t know about. The ones that i’ve come across on the internet that seem to be ABOUT what i’m looking for are as follows:

Pamlico 120

Dirigo 120

Sundance 120

Acadia 11.5

I’ve read all the wonderful and informative reviews here on this site. Thanks to any of you who provided your input.

Any other models you might recommend?



Pungo 120, Tarpon 120.

Maybe a Tsunami 125
Made for the larger paddler. Decent tracking for a short boat and able to be leaned and turned fairly fast.


Cape Horn 15 or 17
I think the 15 is a good beginner boat. You might be a bit heavy for it. A used one should be pretty inexpensive.

what about draft on these things. i’m sure the more narrow boats sit a bit deeper in the water, but how much so. Is it a real concern, or is it negligible?

that tsunami 125 looks like a pretty slick boat. Wilderness desribes it as “nimble kayak for tight, twisty waters” which i like. What about the rudder? Could I get by w/out one. I’m all about simplicity. The less on a boat to break, the better (IMHO).

Haven’t checked out the Cape Horns yet, but I’m about to.

Thanks everyone.

by Old Town.

draft (again…sorry)
REPOST - My last one was put up in the middle of the thread for some reason.

What about draft on these things. i’m sure the more narrow boats sit a bit deeper in the water, but how much so. Is it a real concern, or is it negligible?

that tsunami 125 looks like a pretty slick boat. Wilderness desribes it as “nimble kayak for tight, twisty waters” which i like. What about the rudder? Could I get by w/out one. I’m all about simplicity. The less on a boat to break, the better (IMHO).

Haven’t checked out the Cape Horns yet, but I’m about to.

Just checked them out. Looks a little too tourish.

RE: The Loon…what advantages does it have over the Dirigo.

I’m really liking the Tsunami 125. Just not sure about how necessary the Rudder is.

Thanks everyone (again)

No need for a rudder.

– Last Updated: Jul-10-06 5:32 PM EST –

Bought a Tsunami 125 for my SO. She has had no problems paddling it straight or getting it to go in the desired direction. When I tried it out I found that it was a pretty good compromise on tracking and maneuverability. It also has good secondary and primary stability. You should be able to find a dealer that will let you demo one. They come in a bunch of sizes. Draft is not much more than a rec boat, although that will depend on total load. I don't know how much weight total I had in it but I am about 225# with gear.


Necky Zoar Sport
I just got rid of a Necky Zoar Sport. It might be a bit longer than what you want (14’), but it has a nice stable 25" beam and a roomy, comfortable cockpit and leg/foot room for someone your size. I am 6’2" 225# and was VERY comfortable in this boat in slow rivers and inland lakes and even on Lakes Michigan and Superior. The rudder is there if you need it. It was fairly mobile in smaller creeks too. You might want to check it out. It has plenty of storage with 2 hatches. Nice boat overall.

Tsunami 125 stability

– Last Updated: Jul-10-06 5:45 PM EST –

Let me be brutally honest with everyone here. I'm a complete newbie and don't plan (at least not yet) and getting serious with any facet of kayaking (whit water, touring, etc). I just want something that will do it all (EDIT: "all" as in what i described earlier, and I only need it to do it moderatley well. clearly nothing does everything well, and that would be more perforamce that I need anyway)

I'm also lazy. Last weenend in that Old Town boat I did a lot of the feet up on the foredeck with my fat butt just chillin' in the seat.

That being said...the cockpit (at 36" in length) of the Tsunami is a bit shorter AND the boat is more narrow. QUESTION: will a configuration such as this require constant attention. Is it stable enough for a beginner to relax?

Yall have been very responsive and I really appreciate the info. (waht did people do before the internet!?)


You may also want to check out the Dagger Blackwater. They’ve been around a few years, come in various lengths, and are often available for sale used. Someone suggested the Necky Zoar Sport, which is a neat boat - I demoed one - but may be too long for your narrow little creeks, It has a rudder, except for 2005 models, which have a skeg. My Perception Carolina 13.5 (13’7") can be a real struggle in really tight creeks. If 13 feet is ok, you may want to try the Necky Manitou 13 instead. Sweet boat.

woulnt suggest old town loon
to anyone. They are built like a rock to handle the abuse of being used by newbies and are the main yak used by your local kayak rental outfits. They are very heavy as they are built so tuff. If you dont intend to get serious and like to kick back w/your legs hangin out (maybe slammin a brewski) then maybe you should think of something nice and cheap like a perception swifty. Its also tuff but not the same heavy matl that old town uses on their loons. I picked one up for less than $300 that I use on small creeks, slow & faster rivers and calm lakes. Its not very fast but doesnt sound like you really need speed (that comes w/longer, thinner boats that arent as stable as it sounds like you want. I’m 5’10" @ 190 lbs and have all kinds of room in the swifty.

good luck

I have not had a chance to paddle the Swifty but just checked the specs on it, 9.5 length- 39 lbs. Old Town Loon, 10 foot length- 45 lbs. Doesn’t seem to be much differnce there. I would recommend testing a few models before making any purchase.

11-13 footers
While your request doesn’t indicate a specific boat, or even a specific type of boat, there are a few boats that stand out as being suitable for your needs. What your request suggests to me, is that you’re looking for a boat between 11-13 feet. That’s a sweet spot size range for a lot of slow river boats that can also handle open water. At that size, you can get some decent tracking and speed, while still being manuverable enough for winding rivers.

For me, in this slot, after trying a lot of things, the one that I keep taking out again, and again, as a versitile contender is the:

  • Hurricane Aqua Sports Santee XL (now 116) - It’s 11.5’ long, and has fore and aft bulkheads, (something almost unheard of in a rec boat) Due to the type of slick vacuum formed plastic it’s made out of, it slips through the water as if it were a longer boat. This boat is super stable, but can be leaned up and manuevered with practice. I really like mine.

    Some other serious contenders:

    *Pungo 120 - 2 of the best river rats I know, swear by their Pungos. These guys aren’t WW thrillseekers, and aren’t endurance seakayakers, they’re fishermen who are out on waters up to class II+, several times a week, who know where the smallmouth bass fishing holes are, and who want a boat that can be easily paddled on lakes and streams.

    *Pamlico 120 - This boat set the standard for a “do it all” rec boat, and really isn’t a bad option, even today, when there are more choices. With both this and the Pungo, I’d strongly suggest the 12’ versions over the 10 footers.

    *Necky Manitou 13 – If you want a rec boat that feels more like a seakayak, this is one way to go. I sort of regret not diving in and purchasing one of these. It’s on the long side for streams and some rivers, but it’s so comfortable, and is unlikely to cause one to wish they’d gotten something else in a year or two. (Unless you’re me, in which case you’ve gotten used to switching out boats as if they were pants or something.) I’ve demoed one of these often enough that I’m surprised they haven’t started charging me rent on the thing.

    If you paddle somewhere that’s temperate enough for wet ride sit on tops, (SOTs), to be an option, two that I like are the:

    *Ocean Kayak Scrambler XT - Discontinued, but you might luck out, like I did, and find one cheap. The scupper drain holes are in some really dumb places on this boat, (like right beside your butt). However, you pretty much get used to being wet with a SOT, and when it’s warm outside, that can be a good thing. Believe it or not, I can just about keep up with some seakayaker friends on this diminutive floating barge. And I never really worry about rivers when on this thing, since there’s not much chance of getting pinned by this floating chair that is a SOT.

    *WS Tarpon 120 - In some areas, it seems like this is the defacto fishing and goofing about kayak. It’s got a LOT going for it. Like all SOTs, there’s no skirt, or floatation bags to buy, and you can step off, or swim off at any time, without needing roll skills, etc.

    The other option, which some have mentioned, is to get a solo canoe. Or, to adapt your existing tandem for solo usage. I’m in the process of doing both of those things.

Necky Manitou
Check out the Manitou. I normally use it on lakes, but have used it near shore in Tampa Bay and the Gulf (2-3 foot chop). Have had it over two years now and no regrets.

Pungo 140 or 120
These are very forgiving boats for folks who are out doing their own thing. You can pull up in a patch of lilies and chill out with your lunch, camera, or even doze off a bit.

The 140 seems to be quicker but both are responsive.

Make sure you get a good paddle - that was the best advise I was given last year. A good paddle has made a lot of difference to my paddling times. Don’t forget to take your old one along just in case.

Cockpit is large enough.
I usually refer to my size as Double extra short and fat and I was able to assume the position you used. Butt in seat and feet and legs out in the Tsunami 125. The Tsunami series is very tame. The best advice anyone can offer though is to demo a couple boats and see if they fit your style. Do some research on basic hull design and that will also help you choose something that will fit you expectations.


Necky Manitou
I’d vote for one of the shorter necky models. I have a necky gannet for creeking and it’s great for that. It has a skeg to help with tracking on open water. You don’t want a rudder–that will only get in the way of maneuverability on creeks. The gannet isn’t made any more, but I think the zoar is similar. The manitou is a step up in size and tracking for open water, but less maneuverable. Whatever you choose, make sure you try it before you buy it, since each person responds to a boat differently.

Dagger Zydeco
If you’re interested, please see our “products review” for Dagger Zydeco. Since then, have had ours in St. George Sound (saltwater off the coast of panhandle Florida), more lakes and rivers in TN and NC with same fantastic results. Eventually, we plan to purchase a couple of top of the line sea kayaks for longer trips and different types of adventures, but at the present time the Z’s are still doing everything we ask.

Current Designs Kestrel 120
I have one that I use as a twisty river boat but I also take it out on flat water. It’s a nice boat and tracks well. I have the HV model as my intent was for visitors to our cabin to be able to use it as it is very stable and can fit a larger person. It is a little big for me but still paddles very nice. It’s no speedboat (well, compared to my Squall) but it has decent speed for a short rec boat. CD has the regular version which is narrower than the HV and they also have a 14’ Kestrel. I don’t know how easy this boat would be to find used, though.