Small Kayak on Flatwater

-- Last Updated: Sep-29-13 5:03 PM EST --

I have not yet kayaked but soon I will go rent to try it. I am wondering about buying a short freestyle kayak by Pyranha to take on the calm ocean (Long Island Sound) or the Connecticut River which is also calm. I want something I can easily carry and fit inside my small car. Would the kayak move really slowly and would it be boring? Or could I move at an okay pace if I paddled hard and learn some flatwater tricks?

LIS is not calm
Neither is the CT River. Both look calm and both deceive.

And you are looking at a whitewater kayak that won’t do much for you on flat water. Going straight is not what it was meant for.

Get a longer kayak and get a kayak trailer or roof rack system. A mininum of 14 is needed out on the Sound though I did use a Aquaterra Keowee for two years on the shoreline by Old Saybrook. And got a bit dopeslapped too. Then I got a real sea kayak that was far safer.

If you buy that kayak, make sure you can roll. Out on Long Island Sound you will need it.

Second - not LI Sound without skills
As in self-rescue on water - something that will work in addition to trying to roll and WW boats just aren’t good candidates for that, bracing, handling winds and waves and knowing ocean weather.

Best to check in with a responsible outfitter to get started. You should have some decent choices within a 90 minute drive. What quadrant of CT are you in, so folks here can recommend someone?

At the risk of piling on, I have to say that the Sound and the CT River are busy, often scary bodies of water, with sometimes dicey currents and many macho types in large, fast boats. So, I’ll ditto the advice to look up outfitters, maybe go on a couple of tours, etc.

Two good candidates:

The Small Boat Shop in Norwalk:

Collinsville Canoe & Kayak:


– Last Updated: Sep-29-13 6:08 PM EST –

Milford, CT. I have a two door honda civic and I want something that I can easily carry myself. I don't really like the looks of long kayaks. I am more interested in like Pyranha Fusion at the biggest. How would that do? I hear it's suppose to be more versatile than the freestyle kayaks.

Kayaks are for work, not looks

– Last Updated: Sep-29-13 6:16 PM EST –

If you are going to choose a kayak by how it looks, buy the one you think looks pretty and mount it as a lawn ornament. You can even put flowers in it.

Kayaks are designed for a purpose, and failing to deal with the match of kayak design to purpose can be fatal. If you only like whitewater boats, then drive north and learn to do whitewater.

As to handling a boat - I am over 60 years old, 5'3.5" tall and can put a 17'6" 60 pound sea kayak on the roof of our cars, using a cart and rollers. My guess is that you are a good bit younger - I am sure you could find it in you to handle a longer boat.

It’s not really that. I don’t have place to store a larger boat. I actually live in a city and my folks are down by the beach. We both live in condos and there’s just not that kind of storage space. Perhaps I will take your advice on going north, I just thought it would be nice to be able to take it out when I’m down here as well.

Small kayak ?
Paddling a short kayak on flat water is a lot like paddling an inner-tube. Each stoke tend to try to turn the kayak. Longer kayaks are designed to tend to go in a straight line.

This is obviously a gross over-simplification, but Celia is right. Carefully consider what waters you intend to paddle, and then take a look at the types of kayaks that experienced paddlers use there.

If you don’t do this, you will either end up purchasing another (proper) kayak or giving up on the sport completely.

The likes of Fusion are OK

– Last Updated: Sep-30-13 12:37 PM EST –

As long as they have a drop down skeg. You will need to add flotation bags and secure them - most whitewater boats will be unsuitable for a self rescue in open water without them.

it will be slow, but no worse than a short recreational kayak. Perfectly fine if you are not in a hurry. Migt be boring though. I would not want to paddle anything made for WW and shorter than that without a skeg on open flat water. I lent my short WW boat to a novice and they hated it - the thing just does not have speed and tracks poorly (both of these are less of an issue with skegged longer versions like the Fusion).

make sure you understand the risks - even a short time in cold water will incapacitate and kill you very fast. Consider the proper watertight clothing and layers and don't become a "statistic"!


– Last Updated: Sep-29-13 7:00 PM EST –

Cool info about skegs! I think she mentioned a 14 foot minimum for LIS above though. Is that a law?

The Dagger Approach 9.0 with skeg looks pretty nice

The Fusion is a great boat
and in my opinion superior to the Dagger as a crossover kayak.

Having said that, I use my Fusion as a surf/rock garden boat with very little open water padding. When there is any distance to be covered the Fusion stays in the garage.

I would urge you to spend some time at a reputable kayak shop and talk with them. This forum is an excellent place to do research and get information, but area paddle shops may be your best source for advice.

If it’s truly flatwater and small, yeah
I’ve used my WW generalist-river kayak (6’7" long) in a WW playpark, which is along the lines of what it is meant for. I’ve also paddled it about 8 miles at Lake Powell on a calm day, plus laps around a small pond, and (ta dah) the ocean. BUT…

This last has consisted only of fairly short outings, no more than 5 miles round trip, and only on days with low to moderate wind. I also make sure to pick days and times when tidal flow is weak, which is something that you will NOT learn how to figure in a whitewater lesson. Then there’s the fact that I have more than 10 years experience paddling sea kayaks, and the WW boat came along in the last half of that.

If you are going to try this kind of thing in a boat not designed for more open conditions, you’d better pick your days very carefully. These short turny boats are pretty slow and they are a grunt to make go forward when it’s blowing even moderately hard, or when pushing out over waves.

Since it sounds like you have NO kayaking background, the above advice holds true a hundredfold. Better than just renting, take some lessons that involve paddling a boat like what you want to buy. Without proper technique, you’ll be hard-pressed to go in a straight line even when there is zero wind. It takes a while before you can make them go where you want.

So if you persist in buying a boat for looks and small size to fit in your car/apt., first spend a lot of sessions practicing in bona fide flat water, like ponds and protected sections of flat rivers.

If storage size is the problem, consider getting a folding kayak rather than a rigid one.

thanks again everyone
yeah I am going to rent/lesson next weekend. hopefully it will be on LIS (Idk where my friend goes for this but they know a place) and hopefully they will have good insight into whether a pyranha fusion is suitable for me to buy next year (after renting a few times).

Fusion would work.

– Last Updated: Sep-29-13 10:09 PM EST –

A ten foot kayak with a skeg is fine for ocean and big river paddling. You are not going to win any races paddling it and I would be very careful about going out in offshore wind conditions until you learn what you are doing. Learn how to wet exit, re-enter, and roll before you paddle alone. Make sure you have a wetsuit or dry suit for the water temperature you will be paddling in.

I often paddle 8' and 9' boats for coastal paddles and playing in rock gardens on the exposed pacific coast. I like having a small boat I can throw in my car and just go get on the water. The fact is a solid whitewater boat feels a lot safer to me in huge surf than a seakayak, a seakayak is much better for paddling against strong currents or in heavy wind, but whitewater boats are very seaworthy and very forgiving.

Take a paddling class and a rolling class.

some suggested reading
California Kayaker Magazine had a few articles that may be of interest. All can be read for free online at:

Issue 10, starting on page 6 is an article on different types of boats and what they are good at (and not good at). Others seem to have covered a bit of why not to use a white water boat for what you have in mind in other responses, but let me say again that white water boats have serious rescue considerations when you aren’t on a river.

Issue 9 (also page 6) had an article on kayaking and small living places, talking about some of the options and there pros and cons.

OK - storage the issue…
Consider a folder - a boat that can be broken down to a frame and a skin and stored that way. It will get you closer to the features of a longer boat that matter on bigger water, but is much easier to store.

As mentioned in other replies, staying within easy swimming distance of shore can reduce the risks you face and so lower the bar on boat features you should consider. But getting time in with a good outfitter to understand why would be worth your time. It is cheaper dollars than getting into a boat you may not like later.

Not law, just speed and safety limits
Shorter boats are usually slower than longer. More importantly, often, short boats under about 13-14 feet lack proper flotation (front and rear dry compartments), thus making them unsafe for rescue situations - they take on too much water if you flip and could either sinc or be too hard to empty. Even with air bladders in lieu of dry compartments you might run into issues (the air bladders need to be well secured or they could just float away, plus they never displace all the water like a dry compartment does). Boats with one dry compartment (usually in the rear) are better than none, but still pretty dangerous if you flip. The fusion will keep you upright better than most but the space forward of your feet is I think too small to effectively out an air bag there for flotation, so you rely only on the rear compartment.

Most 14’ and over are long enough to be speedy enough and have enough length for front and rear dry areas (dry is a relative term - you will likely get a bit of water in there, just enough to get things inside wet, but most of the air will be trapped and serve as flotation in case you flip).

A sit on top is also a great option - easier to self rescue and nicer in the warm parts of the year.

Venture Flex
If you like the idea of the Pyranha Fusion, you should also look into the Venture Flex. They are made by the same company (Pyranha, Venture, P&H are all related). The Fusion is a crossover boat geared more towards whitewater, and the Flex is a crossover boat geared more towards touring. They have different hull shapes- the Flex should cut through chop better (look at the bow shapes), track straighter (especially with skeg down), and go faster in flat water compared to the Fusion- so if you’re not doing whitewater or surf/rock garden, it would probably be a better choice.

A Flex was my first boat, and I was able to learn to edge, roll, etc. in it because it had proper thigh braces. It has a rear bulkhead, but you should add a front float bag. I have since upgraded to a better-fitting boat, but kept the Flex for guest use.

Good review:

Beware the bay
Having lived in Huntington Station, Long Island

and in Stratford, Connecticut I would highly advise

you not to under-estimate that large body of water.

Looks like a forgiving boat
for a beginner.

(Menai straits are bit more demanding than where you will be paddling)

and here’s a beginner getting some surf experience … he seems to live.

Be sure to check out how many people who post advice actually paddle in coastal waters.