Seeking Kayak Recommendation

I’m looking for a kayak primarily for flatwater use (lake or protected coastal, occasional strong winds) that could also be serviceable for casual group outings down class I or II rivers (maybe with an occasional class III thrown in but not seeking those out). One possibility considered is CD Kestrel 120 reviewed on this site.

Two main questions: 1. is it possible to get good flatwater performance, passable class II performance, and won’t-get-me-killed-or-ruin-the-boat class III performance in the same kayak? 2. will casual river use ruin a kevlar/composite boat (i.e. should I stick with plastic).

Other details: day use only. 5’9"/160 lb. Intermediate to advanced skill level (not expert). Looking for traditional kayak only (not SOT – too hard to carry and too cold – or inflatable – too wide), preferably 40 lbs or less.

Thanks for any help!!

One suggestion

– Last Updated: Aug-04-09 1:15 AM EST –

I love the looks of the WSBS Delta, but haven't tried it myself - looks like it might match your specs. Might be worth a call to the builder re: the durability issue.

If you check the reviews here on p-net, note that the first review is NOT of this boat, but the second is, and it sounds good.

There are several fairly short poly boats on the market now, 10 - 12’ range, that can do both rivers open water to a point. They are not great for long distance use in open water because they are so short and aren’t also great WW boats. They will do both but are a master of neither. They tend to look like a cross between a long WW boat and have a skeg so they’ll hold a course better than a WW boat will.

The Kestal would be truely awful in serious white water.

Bill H.

This question comes up pretty frequently for both kayaks and canoes. Since this forum is primarily flatwater and open water oriented, a primarily flat water cruising design that has some mariginal whitewater capability is the usual recommendation.

Any boat that is intended to be used for both flatwater and whitewater up to and including Class III is going to involve some major compromises. The question is which are you more willing to compromise: the flatwater or whitewater performance?

The answer probably depends on what type of Class III water you anticipate running. A drop-pool river with a single Class III rapid that could be easily portaged would be pretty forgiving of a boat with limited WW capabilities, but on other Class III water you might get flayed alive.

Any WW boat can be paddled on flatwater, of course. How painful it would be depends on your tolerance level. Paddling a WW boat on a lake might not be as much fun as paddling a Sea Kayak, but it isn’t going to get you into trouble. Any kayak you paddle on Class III should be able to be outfitted to roll confidently, in my opinion.

One compromise design that I think has real capability for any level of whitewater is the Pyranha Fusion. It is a 10’ 2" long. 26" wide 81.5 gallon boat with a retractable skeg and a watertight storage compartment. I have only paddled it on flatwater, but am confident from speaking to experienced paddlers who have had it on whitewater that it is capable on Class III or harder water. It would be a good day touring boat for easy rivers and protected open water as well.

Buy 2 used kayaks
One for lake/coastal duty and the other for river duty…


– Last Updated: Aug-04-09 2:27 PM EST –

Well, there's the Dagger Approach, Liquid Logic Remix XP, Jackson All-Water, Pyranha Fusion. All designed to get you through class III whitewater while having reasonable flatwater performance for a 9-10' kayak. They won't be fast on flat water, and won't play much in the moving stuff, but might be a reasonable choice if your paddles combine rapids and flats.

The Pyranha Speeder is a redesign of a downriver racer. It'll go straight through a lot of whitewater if you have the skill and be decent on the flats.

Almost any plastic kayak should be able to run through class I & II if it's not too tight. If you can do it in a 16' open canoe, you can probably do it in a 16' touring kayak if you know what you're doing. The big risk with a longer boat is getting sideways, getting pinned, and then having the boat fold because it wasn't designed for those loads.

Class III is a different story, and requires a boat designed with whitewater in mind.

If I had to buy one kayak for mostly flatwater use and occasional river runs, I'd look at the Speeder, or one of the more maneuverable plastic touring boats like the Dagger Alchemy.

“Good” flatwater performance and Cl3
If by good you mean keeping up with others in quite tracky, meant to eat up distance flatwater boats (sea kayaks or canoes), nothing that does class 3 decently will manage that. Second the two boats idea. And you aren’t going to be able to pick the really “right” boat as in a long term hold right now anyway, until you have more seat time.

A plastic river tunner
or one of the several crossover kayaks will marginally do all those things. It will not track well on flatwater and it will not be a ton of fun on WW after a couple of runs. Many folks are looking for the jack-of-all-trades boat and find that it is indeed the master-of-none.

I also recommend setting your mind to needing two boats. One for whitewater and one for flatwater. If you go used, you can find a decent WW boat in the $300 to $500 range and you can probably find a good flatwater boat in the $500 to $800 range. You may change your mind about the particular boats later, and you’ll be able to recoup most of the money pretty easily on the used boats.


your message…?
hi, I’m in the same boat! (situation) Have you got any suggestions yet? I’m looking for a Kayak to use on the lake and do not know much about them. I’m wondering how long would be best to use on the lake. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Thanks, bone

Thanks everyone
Leaning strongly toward the 2-boat idea.

It really deepnds on your goals
and the distances you want to paddle. for anything under 5 miles or so, just about any boat will work out on the lake. For longer trips like 10 to 15 miles, you may want a nicer boat.

For small paddlers I like 12 to 15 footers no wider than maybe 25 inches. Medium and larger paddlers probably want to go with 14 to 17 footers. Longer and skinnier can be faster if you have the muscle to handle the boat. If you can, try a few boats and get something that seems a little challenging at first. Boats that feel rock solid will always feel that way, boats that feel slightly tippy will become rock solid after a couple of paddles.