Size matters

Hi I’m Susan and new to this site. I’m 52 and 5’2 lol . My daughter has purchased an inflatable Kayak it’s fun for her and I but I’m wanting to purchase a real one for only me. I have kayaked in the ocean in Maine and owned a pelican canoe as a teen. I now live in eastern Ky and plan to be on the lakes just enjoying the time and taking photos. My question is what size do I need? I don’t plan on fishing and want a sit inside so I can enjoy the seasons. I drive a Nissan Altima so it has to be light and I like to go fast. That Hawaii Five 0 song plays in my head . Sorry I have a weird sense of humor. Should I buy new ? Or
Used and how long and what exactly is the difference does it matter on a lake?

Here’s a good explanation of the different types of kayaks. The site has lots of good info on the sport

Weight will matter more then size if you are putting in on the car and in the lake by yourself. Look for a kayak that is made of kelvar and/or carbon fiber. There are many surfskis that weigh very little and are very fast as are there sea kayaks but the lighter they are the more you pay. Wesley at surfski racing has boats listed for sale on his site and will professionally ship on to you.
Have fun looking.

Look at Hurricane and Eddyline kayaks. They are thermoformed , light weight boats.
As to what difference length makes, length equals speed. I never recommend that someone get a boat less than 12’ in length. Even if speed isn’t your thing, you probably don’t want to waste your paddling time going nowhere.

Another option you should also consider is a folding kayak. A good folder is as light as an inflatable but has the capability of a hardshell kayak. I have two by Pakboat that are suitable for a smaller person, a 12’ Puffin and a 13’ 6" Quest 135 (the latter is particularly good for smaller people). Though Pakboat has phased out the 135 model they still make it in a 15’ version, the Quest 150. They also have a demo 135 on sale right now on their site for $909, which is what you would pay for a decent hardshell. But the Quest 135 is only 28 pounds, half the weight of a plastic kayak that size.

Even if you don’t want to break it down to store or for travel, you can leave a folding kayak set up all season – I do that with mine unless I am going to travel with them (I just took my 22 pound Puffin in a rolling duffel bag with me on the airlines to England for two weeks.) Pakboats are easy to assemble and durable. My Puffin is nearly 15 years old and I have taken folders everywhere from the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and the Great Lakes to narrow local creeks and quiet ponds.

Having a kayak so light that you an lift it onto your car with one hand is really a plus. And they are very comfortable and easy to paddle.

Here are photos of the Quest 135 (yellow, I call her “Chiquita”)

) and the Puffin (red on the roof rack).

Some might want to tread the OP
You might want to consider a pack canoe like the Placid Boatworks Rapidfire. At 23 lbs in one layup it’s 15 feet long and speedy
Now as to size. Smaller paddlers need to understand the importance of skin friction. Longer is faster if you are a very strong paddler with good technique. But boats often come in sizes to allow for less skin friction for smaller non race conditioned paddlers

Yeah, OP needs a boat stable enough for photographing from. Surf skis for that? hmmmmmm.

You say you want a real kayak and a fast kayak, but it must be light. There is such a boat and the cost is very reasonable. Go to nckayaks and look at the 15’-8" models. Then give them a call and talk to Doug Searls (1-888-441-8582 toll free); he will answer all your questions.

Be sure to look at all the in stock boats and click on the “view more” bar to see what these boats really look like. These are top of the line, super sea kayaks and they are all built right here in the USA.

Actually, the lightest kayaks for their length are skin-on-frames (wood skeleton with nylon ballistic cloth skin coated with two part urethane). This 18’ skin-on-frame of mine only weighs 31 pounds. Very fast reproduction of a Greenland Inuit hunting kayak. These are mostly home made and sometimes come up for sale on the classified listings here. There are books with instructions to build them, and also places that make them to order. There are some builders whom you can pay to be in a class that supervises you in constructing your own.

Yes size dose matter. To set things up we use canoes and own four solos of different length and design along with three tandems. Susan222 my wife is your size and can not paddle the 16’1” Jensen solo. She dose not have enough weight to “sink” the canoe to optimal depth. The Mohawk 14’ will work for her but is still a little to buoyant for her. The Wildfire (14 foot)works ok but still has more skin friction than is good for her. The Wildfire is the same length as the Mohawk but is narrower hus having less skin friction. A Flashfire is just right for her. It is basically the same design as a Wildfire shrunk proportionally to 13 foot.

So how dose this help you. Well it tells you you are correct to think about size when buying a kayak. Even though a longer boat could be faster you most likely do not have the ability to over come the skin friction and the weight to sink it to were the designer intended the hull design to work. Also often a hull design that is unstable for a larger person (I am 220lbs 6’1”) is very stable for a smaller person (wife 5’2” 106lbs). She stands with ease in the Wildfire while I find standing while polling in it almost impossible.

Another consideration is the size of the cockpit and if you are going to use a spray skirt. You are going to wish to get to the camera with ease if it is to be stored below decks. If the camera is to be stored above deck you need to make sure there is ample space and connections for it and what else you will be carrying on the deck. (extra paddle, ditch kit, water bottle, bilge pump, etc). From your post you wish to use the kayak more than just the summer season so think about being able to fit inside the cockpit opening while wearing weather appropriate clothing and assessing the camera. I have come to prefer a DLSR with a 28mm to 300mm lens for tacking pictures while paddling. (more on that below). This is not a small camera but dose a very good job.

Just start out out with the basics. Kayak, good car rack, decent paddle, cheep spare paddle. The rest of the items will come in time. Do not be overwhelmed. If you do not have a way of test paddling new then buying used is wise choice as you should be able to buy and sell with out losing much money and thus finding a good kayak for you. Just be choosy when buy used look at the bottom. Too many people drag their boats. You want no deep scratches, few scratches, no dents, wholes, repairers, or the bottom not following the manufactures lines.

By the way a Wallmart poly kayak while not what I would advise to buy will run circles around an inflatable Kayak on a lake. I have trouble calling a pelican canoe a real canoe. Sorry. Do not count your experience in it against canoes please.

Now to the camera. The reason why you pulled me into this thread. Dry boxes are great at protecting your equipment but are also great at scaring off wildlife. Yep when you pop those latches off your subject goes. So I with advice from other experienced paddle photographers have come up with a system that has worked very well for me. A dry bag for the camera equipment and a lightweight small hikers dry bag inside of it just for the camera. Dry bags are noiseless compared to dry boxes.

As for my camera choice we use a Sony DLSR SLT A55. Steady shot is in the body and not the lens like on Cannon and Nikon. This way you can use the older inexpensive lens from the Minolta A-mount. For the lens a Tamron A-Mount 28mm-300mm gives great range at a great price when bought used. We also carry a 2x teleconverter that puts us up to 600mm focal length. This also can be bought a great price used. Why am I concerned about price in my camera. Well we are on water and playing in it. Waters the natural enemy of cameras. While many will think my lens over kill it is not. A cell phone camera works good until you try to get that long distance shot or the very wide angle. Tried a pocket camera next. A little better but that owl was just a well defined brown blob. The wadding bird on top of the manatee was way to far away to be seen clearly. A polarizing filter can be used on a DLSR lens. This helps you take pictures through clear water. We use this at the many spring runs around our home area. Yes if you are truly into photography a DLSR is what works.