Should a beginner start with a rec?

I’ve had the “paddle bug” for a while now. Tried to get Wifey into canoes but she never got the hang of that pesky balance thing. So I’m now trying out Kayaks (for me solo) and have many many questions.

I’m going to be on primarily flat water. The Chattahoochee river (in Atlanta) is the biggest scariest thing available to me. I tried (and really liked) the Pungo 120. But should I be trying a “touring” yak. Or should I start with a rec and just "add to the fleet later (when Wifey isn’t looking at the bank account)?

And just for the record, I too am an old fart. I can swim, 6 ft 190.

It depends…
What do you want it to do? Gonna fish? Gonna do long tours? Camping? Talk to a local dealer about what is available and try 'em out. Go to a kayak/canoe place not something like Dicks.


Welcome to Kayaking!
I started out in the same way. My wife stopped canoing with me, so I went to kayaking. Lovin it for the last 4 years. :slight_smile:

I am a big guy, a bit bigger than you, and I would guess you should start with sort of an advnced Rec Kayak since you have canoe experience. At your weight, I might think you would be better with the next size longer kayak, like 14’??

An overloaded kayak is not as safe as one less loaded, and a longer kayak would be a little faster, therefore easier to paddle. If you are going onto any “bigger water”, you will also be safer with flotation at EACH end of the kayak. I think you should either have bulkheads front and back to give flotation chambers, or buy air bags to stuff in the front and back of the kayak. This will assist a lot if you get dumped, while learning.

I started kayaking with a rec kayak. I got the Old Town Adventure XL-139. It is a rec kayak, with more Sea kayak style. it is 13’-9" long, by 28" wide. it also has front and rear bulkheads and nice hatches for dry storage and flotation. I had a lot of fun with mine for a season, and the next season I moved up to a composite kayak

You really need to test paddle several kayaks before you buy. They all handle differently in their own way. it is hard to know what you might like or want in a kayak, until you paddle many of them to find out what you actually do like.

If you start cheap, and paddle for a while, and also test paddle as many as you can, you will then be able to determine what YOU actually want in a kayak. THEN you can move up into your “dream kayak”.

I had to go thru 1 poly kayak, and now I am in my 3rd composite kayak before I found “just what I was looking for”. I can’t tell you how many I test paddled along the way.

Sorry to be rambling on so long, but to people who have been kayaking for a long time, this question is about like walking into a car dealer, and asking Him what color car You should buy. So much is just personal opinion. Learn what is out there, and you will then learn what you like.

I am now satisfied with my Impex Assateague. I have learned I don’t like rudders, but I like a Skeg. I have learned that a kayak with lower initial stability is better in rough water, the secondary stability is important for leaning and turning. I could go on, but I have rambled enough!

HAPPY PADDLING!!! :slight_smile:

Really Depneds On
how and where you want to use them.

I elongated my rental/test and spent over a year trying out various boats. We live on the coast and I was interested in eventually getting out in the ocean and larger bays and rivers in the area. With that said, I concentrated my “looking” at touring boats and sea kayaks.

I started this season out buying to composit sea kayaks which was more of a leap than anyone would suggest. I am now learning my way up to the boats that I bought. So far, am having fun and am happy with my selection.


no “should"
My first kayak – which I still have – was a 22” beam touring boat. I knew I wanted to go play on the Great Lakes ASAP, so a rec boat would have made no sense. I did take several classes, rented, and demoed a bunch of boats before I finally bought one.

As the other folks said, it all depends on your goals and your vision of “kayaking”. There’s nothing wrong with the Pungo if it does what you want. If you don’t like/need the big cockpit, something like a Necky Manitou or CD Kestrel might be worth trying.

Do try every boat you can borrow, rent, or demo. Everyone’s different. At a recent demo day I kept trading boats with the same person and we had exactly opposite opinions about what we liked.

I like snug cockpits and boats that are easy to lean, but will be the first admit that that’s not ideal for a lazy day of fishing – except that I can easily roll to cool off!

Try different paddles, too. A decent paddle makes a huge difference.

Before you start with a rec yak…
why not demo or rent a few of the longer ones and see how you do in them.

If you can get in one and paddle away and feel comfortable, then bypass the shorter fatter yaks and start with a longer one.

On the other hand if you demo some of the longer touring yaks and they intimidate you than by all means start with a rec one.



Thanks for the replies
I’ve only been to one demo but plan on many many more. I really don’t fish. I’m thinking more flat water and a few slow rivers. I have a pretty informative dealer (dont know if I can mention the name) in my area that hosted the demo. I’m just looking for some quiet time on the water. I’ve heard that yaks and canoes are like potato chips, you always want more than just one.

No, more like kids or dogs
You might end up with more than you planned!

I just sold my first sea kayak but am scratching my head, looking at my two others plus one WW SOT, wondering how the heck I ended up with THREE kayaks. At the same time, I am thinking about building a Yost SOF and looking for a used Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro.

I also have 5 bicycles, but in my defense I must say that I bought them from 1979 to 2000 and used to race road bikes so “had to” have a spare at that time. Which of course I could not bear to sell due to sentimental reasons.

Anybody want to buy a 1995 Klein Fervor?

I just saw an Alan
aluminum bike locked up outside a theater in DC…lots of bikes from the 80’s around there.

Demo the Necky Manitou
I’m 58, 6’1", 180 lbs.

After demoing quite a few boats, I found this to be the one I liked best. I do flatwater, primarily lakes. But I’ve also had it out in Tampa Bay and on the Gulf (near shore of course). In my opinion, Necky’s ads on this boat are very accurate. It’s a rec boat, but has some touring capabilities. Tracking is great and it did remarkably well on the Gulf with 2-3 foot chop and 10-15 mph winds.

Consider an entrty level sea kayak
For example, P&H has just come out with the Easky 15, a rotomolded boat for $899. Or you can pay a little more and get a rudder or skeg. The Easky 13 is also still available. Or the Necky Zoar Sport, just to name another one. I think you will find that boats like these are more fun to paddle than a rec boat (and in some ways easier) and can handle more in terms of paddling conditions. But beware, if you buy a better boat you may indeed get hooked!

I agree with Dr,Disco
I’d definitely look at the entry level sea kayak…something in the 14.5-16’ range. IF you’re going to plunk down $600. (maby less seems everyone is selling entry level rec boats these days)you might as well go a bit more and get something you can grow with (or into…rather than out of)

That said: I’ve enjoyed my 13.5 plastic large cockpit perception america for 5 years and wouldn’t think of parting with it for backwater and creek paddles…'course; that’s me (and right now, with a bum shoulder, I’m not paddling anywhere).

disagree with many of the post
Weight is everything if you plan to car top this kayak and use it in various waters. Many of the boats recommended are pretty heavy to lift over and over again. My first boat was 65 lbs which I thought was nothing until I loaded it a few times. Geez! I’ll take shorter and lighter any day. My Tracer is 44 lbs and that is as heavy as this 55 year old 6 ft 2 in ft guy wants to wrangle. But we use our 11.5 foot Santee XL’s more and more for quiet waters cause they are only 36 lbs.

it’s all about you you want to use it
you can get a light Solander fron west side boat shop that would serve you really well. Kevlar, ultra-light weight; a work of art. YOu can get a plastic tup from walmart which will be very stable and have cup holders. you cna get a boat even higher performance than the solander which you know you will capsize in, but will enable you to do ballet once you master it.

My take is go as high performance as you can stand and go used then get higher performance later. OTOH if you wnat a great light boat and have some $$ check out westside

Different strokes for …
Weight is not everything for lots of paddlers. If you have no one to help you or are slight of build then weight probably matters. But there are lots of ways to deal with weight and loading. I would much rather have a boat that I enjoy paddling and that does what I want but presents a challenge for loading than a less desireable boat that I can toss around.

Why certainly
a pink one with creamy white swirles. You must start out at the bottom and work your way up to yellow over white.

Maybe, maybe not
I’m not a fan of the ‘recreational to start’ concept. I don’t look at recreational kayaks as transition boats. I look at them as generalist tools. Sort of like a heavy claw hammer - you can nail with it, you can pry with it, you can smash stuff with it, etc. It does the job of a dead blow hammer, a drilling hammer, a ripping hammer, etc., just not necessarily as well as any of them.

So, if you’re going to varied waters and will be doing varied activities, a recreation kayak may be a good way to go. It won’t be as good as a kayak designed for the specific circumstance, but it will be suitable for a wider range of activities.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be in one particular type of water mostly, then I would recommend getting a boat most suited to that type of water over getting recreational.

Don’t worry so much about the rank beginner stuff. Take a tour with a decent instructor or a class and in two hours you’ll be handling the boat with reasonable confidence.

  • Big D

Since your new
and don’t have any biases yet, why not try out everything you can get your hands on? See where your interests are. If you get impatient waiting for demo’s and have the budget, go for the Pungo and just be prepared to spend more later as you expand your interests. It’s all good. You may never buy another boat or you may become like some of us and have a fleet before you are done.


I tried several kayaks at
the festival, here in Charleston, April.

It was nice to try several different kinds.

(I don’t claim to know everything about kayaks, so don’t all you old timers beat me up. OK?)

The one I settled on was a Necky Zoar Sport touring poly.

I like the relative security of the two bulkheads (don’t have to worry about floatation bags popping out when capsized) and the length (14’)lends itself better to some self-rescue techniques.

It is a bear to get on top of my mitsubishi montero, but it is do-able and after I get it on the water, I am very happy with it.

Hope to see you on the Chattahoochee sometime.

The Chattahoochee is my home river.
If you are going to paddle the Hooch a lot, especially the peppy section from Powers Island to the hwy 41 take out, I think you should strongly consider a WW kayak.

The reason I say this is that the Hooch is not as easy as rec kayakers try to make it out to be. Many seem never to have learned a serious eddy turn, and appear to have little eye for water hazards. They show up on the river at water levels above 3000 cfs (not at all uncommon in a wet summer) and appear to be unguided missiles.

I know I could get into the better-handling rec kayaks and get them to do much of what I do on the Hooch in my open canoes, my kayaks, and my c-1s. But if I were learning, I would learn faster in a WW kayak.

The one disadvantage to most of today’s available WW kayaks is that they are kind of slow. Their tracking is quite acceptable, and they are easy to correct if they wander. I use only old-school, longer WW kayaks, which are harder to get back on line, but two of mine can keep up with many rec kayaks on flat water. You can choose WW kayaks which have big, easy to enter/exit cockpits, and you don’t have to roll. WW kayaks carry full stern bags, short bow bags, and are easy to swim to the beach and dump. Much easier than rec boats.

Maybe Dr. Disco will see my post and jump in to recommend some reccy WW kayaks. You can also contact Georgia Canoeing Association or Atlanta WW club.

By the way, I’m 62, 6’ 5", 220 pounds.