Starter Kayaks

Hello All.

I know that a abundance of “which Kayak should I get?” posts exist here (I am going through them all), but I would like to share what I’m looking for, and get some specific feedback.

I live in the Knoxville, TN area, and am about to begin attending college for web design and programming. I spend 8 hours plus a day sitting in front of a computer, and it’s quite draining. I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and photography, and have always had a large interest in Kayaking, so I wanted to bring all of that together and pick up a hobby to get me away from my “office”, and out having a good time. Not only does Kayaking provide all of this, but it will also provide a way to meet some new people, which can be difficult for someone such as myself.

We have several beautiful lakes in the area, and all are decently calm, I do not plan on getting into any whitewater kayaking at this time. Personally I am of average build, around 6’, 160lb. I’m looking for a Kayak that will move at decent speed when needed, with simple cargo space to hold my camera, phone, and perhaps some fishing gear. Locally, I have access to Dick’s, Gander Mountain, and Bass Pro Shop. While these are not ideal, I can not afford high shipping costs. I’m looking to stay in the $200-300 price range. Another consideration is my compact Volvo S40, which has decent space with the seats laid down. I may be able to swing a roof mount (poor Volvo doesn’t like Drills though).

So, suggestions? I can provide links to some of the boats I’m looking at from the retailers above, or if you know of a retailer that would provide free shipping on a better Kayak please do include it.

I appreciate it,


craigslist or classifieds
I’d look at either the classifieds here or craigslist for a used boat. The big box stores don’t know much if anything about what they sell and most of what they sell isn’t worth owning.

I’d recommend at least 12’ long, older can be much better than new specially when you’re first starting out.

Bill H.

Retail is not the place to buy a kayak if you want to do any serious paddling.

Work with an “outfitter” who specializes in kayaking. They can get in “used or demo” kayaks from their suppliers at reasonable cost.

Local fishermen around here are buying sit on top kayaks mostly from Ocean Kayak.

I purchased my kayak from a “river outfitter” at paddling season’s end for half the price of a new kayak.

I think you should get a $200-300 kayak
from Dick’s, Gander Mountain, or Bass Pro Shop. Sure, not many people from here will want to associate with you because we’re all kayak snobs–love a good long fiberglass boat with a beautiful line–but for your purposes (photography) it sounds ideal. If you want it to go fast, paddle harder! :wink: Re meeting people, I haven’t met many people through kayaking. Okay, some. But if you want to meet people, I’d recommend a different sport. On the other hand, if you want to meet birds …

Welcome to the sport!

(PS: I hear Knoxville is a good place to kayak/under water from time to time.)

boats …

– Last Updated: Jun-19-10 12:01 PM EST – aware that some boats Dicks sells ( pelicans and others ) usually are shallow hull depth boats. make sure you have room for your feet to be upright and not splayed out. 2nd ..I know there a kayak shop in knoxville , and there's a shop on Rt. 321 just outside of Maryville towards Townsend direction. Scan the local Craigslist for used boats. U can try Kijiji too but chances are slim. If you are going to do photo stuff ..sounds like you need to stick with "recreational" sized cockpits.

Sources for used boats

– Last Updated: Jun-19-10 9:08 AM EST –

Granted you are surrounded by an emphasis in WW, but I suspect that you can find a used flat water boat around and maybe paddle too if you do a little closer job of looking around home.
Chota Canoe Club, Knoxville TN ( - Possible source of used boats.
Blue Ridge Mountain Sports ( - Decent array of sit on tops, which means that it'd be worth checking out the local newspaper ads etc for people who might be selling a boat they got from these guys. Or even garage sales.

Foam blocks and straps to carry it. This isn't slick looking, but for the immediate purpose it'll work.

It is surprising how often people looking for their first boat don't notice local outfitters and clubs. There must be something about the size of the letters on those store signs. :-)

While you are looking on Craigs list …
Don’t rule an older old school whitewater boat, or something like an RPM or a Necky Jive. 8’ to 9’ . You can find these for ~ 250 -300 used, and many come with paddle, PFD, and skirt. They are small enough to throw in your car and if you are going to be paddling small lakes there is no big reason for speed, they will also give you the ability to paddle streams and creeks, and where you live you will soon discover you want a boat that can handle streams and creeks much better than a boxstore POS, very easy to learn to roll, and you will develop real paddling skills.

I have many kayaks but I like to use my old Jive for exploring caves and rock gardens along the seacoast here.

I constantly find great deals (with PFD & paddle included). Try it out before you buy.

Thanks everyone for your advice! I had taken a moment to check out the local shops and CHOTA, and plan on joining the latter. I shopped around to see what some of the better deals were, and finally chose a Vertex Flex 8ft Kayak. I did purchase it at Dicks, for $200, there was a $80 discount. I did take quite a bit of the kayaking area’s staff’s time, and they all kayaked/canoed themselves, and provided me with a excellent base of information.

I have not gotten it out on the water yet, but I expect it to perform decently well. Most of the reviews were solid, and all in all, it’s a low budget rec boat that will allow me to get my feet wet and experience level greater. Once I can assess if Kayaking is something I’d like to get into heavily, I will sell it and begin looking at more expensive whitewater based models.

I do not plan on getting a Skirt for simple touring, but should I invest in a small water pump or one of the sponges that absorb a high amount of water?

don’t forget you’ll be needing a paddle, a PFD, and a way to tote your boat.

Get a decent paddle -not one of those slab-sided heavy 3/4-piece aluminum & thick plastic ones -it really makes a difference in your ability to more easily and efficiently paddle; a good one really does make it easier.

A good, sturdy roof rack is the best way to carry your happy new acquisition, but there are decent and less costly temporary heavy-duty foam block systems that are secure, if you set them up properly, and use all the ties-downs recommended.

But one place where you really shouldn’t skimp is in the PFD department -a good one will float you, and be nice and comfortable, fit fairly snugly, and be able to be worn while paddling with no chafing. The idea is to get one that’s good enough so that you’ll actually wear it… a good thing indeed.

Have fun as you unwind and decompress as you


-Frank in Miami

standard flat-water safety gear
include a paddle float and bilge pump.

The paddle float is used for a paddle float rescue, something you may not even be able to do in such a small boat. The pump is used to pump out your boat once you’ve gotten back in–again, your boat may hold too much water for that to make sense. You may have to rely on just staying close to shore and dumping out your boat if you go over. Dressing for immersion and having a good life jacket are two of the most important things you can do to survive if you take an unexpected swim. Enjoy your new boat!

Indeed, I’m heading out today to nab a roof rack, paddle, and PFD. The one thing that may have to wait a week or two is the bilge pump. I’ve seen people suggest a gallon milk jug as a very temporary fix, so I suppose I can go that route.


– Last Updated: Jun-21-10 8:01 AM EST –

.........go to the local $ store and buy a cheapo sponge, they come in handy for the inevitable little puddles of water and mud you will get inside the boat. i would not buy a big $$ pump just yet. Go paddling for awhile then decide if you really need a pump. the paddle leashes can save a lost paddle but they can be inconveint to use and kinda bothersome at times. by the the end of the season , you will have a better idea of what u really need and don't need.

A milk jug is a perfectly adequate bailer.

I’d say that with a rec boat, a paddle float is not going to do you any good unless you also buy airbags for the boat. These would be very important additions if you paddle more than a few hundred feet from shore. Without those, treat your boat as you would a pool toy - don’t paddle it beyond where you’d be comfortable swimming.

Agree with Nate
Try practicing actually getting water our of a rec boat with a pump - your arm will fall off before you ever empty the thing. Even with float bags (something you should consider for this boat), it’ll still be long and awful.

Milk jug will be a lot less physical strain and work as well.

Float Bag
This boat actually came with a float bag, which was one of the reasons I chose it.

The boat isn’t shaped well for speed, so I worry about keeping up on some of the local groups longer treks, but I will reserve my judgment until I get out on the water, and have had a good amount of paddling practice.

Do yourself a favor…
Yeah, you’ll be working some to stay with people in long, skinny plumb bow kayaks in a group paddle. But our local group separates into faster and slower groups - if Chotas does the same you can always stay with the slower folks. New paddlers often confuse racing with good paddling. The slower folks in our pack are often the best paddlers, because they are taking the time to practice turns and other control maneuvers along the way.

The favor I mentioned though - get some help, skills session by the club, formal lesson or whatever - on a proper forward stroke right away. You will be working to keep that boat up, and if you are sufficiently competitive about it you can easily do a real job on your joints by paddling both hard and incorrectly.

For those of you who don’t know
The Vertex Flex 8 ft Kayak is the one in the video posted by Willi about rec boats being coffins. There is a second video on Youtube reviewing the boat.

Flex Vertex (Emotion Comet)
The Flex Vertex which my son has, is the exact same kayak as the Emotion Comet. Both are made in North Tonawanda NY at Confer Plastics. Confer also makes the Comet 110 AKA Coleman Hooligan 110 (which is what I have) Either one a decent beginner boat. And any kayak or canoe can be a floating coffin if you don’t know what you’re doing. so the video does a huge disservice to anyone wanting to try the sport. My son liked his boat until he got over 5 foot tall and added some weight. He tried his brothers Perception Sport and liked it much better. If you’re a beginner, get your boat, and go get some instruction on what to have on board and things you need to know if you get into a situation.