Starting out, some questions...

Greetings, another guy new to the site.

Recently, my wife and I decided that one of the many activities we will be taking up this summer would be kayaking. I think the idea was spurred on while visiting a friend who also kayaks a bit, but more because we’re looking to be very active this summer and this became one of the things we started talking more seriously about, so I started looking for information on how we could get started.

Let me start out with myself - I’m 6’0, come in at 250 and give or take some change. The purpose of this for me is to A: lose weight because I want to be more healthy, B: because of my career choice, which I’ll spare the details on, and C: I want to get out of the house more.

Some other details about myself is that I do have back pains which I believe are a combination of my work and being overweight, so I was wondering how much of an issue this would become if I were to start kayaking. Obviously we wouldn’t be able to start out being on the water all day, in fact, I was told we’d probably only be able to do 30 minutes at a time starting out, but not sure until we try for ourselves.

So in my searching, I’ve done the outdoorplay “What kayak is for you in 4 steps” thing and these were the results I got:

Half Day

Catalyst 13.0

Tribute 12.0

Axis 10.5

Pungo 120

All Day

Pungo 140

Carolina 14.0

Tsunami 12.5

Looksha 12

Now before I go dumping $1600 into a couple kayaks and accessories, I wanted to get you guys’ professional opinions on what you’d think would work best for us based on the obviously limited amount of information I have to give you. I did the same searches for my wife who is also tall coming in at 5’10 and weighing in at a weight of about I’d say 140 and got the same results for her.

We’re mainly going to be on still water lakes or very slow moving rivers, but mainly lakes simply because there aren’t a whole lot of rivers around here that you could really do some kayaking in without having to drive a couple hours. But it’s all good because my understanding is that lakes are a bit more of an exercise to kayak in because all the movement is based on what you do rather than a current.

Anyways, I thank you in advance and hope to hear some opinions on this soon. :slight_smile:

It would be worth the trip
To go down to Blue Mountain Outfitters, they are having a 2 day demo event where you can try dozens of different kayaks for free. Check out their website for more details.

those kayaks seem a little small
I tend towards the bigger(longer) is better. A 12-13 ft boat will get you around, but if you decide to do any camping, you will probably want a bigger boat.

They are also faster. Check out QCC Kayaks. Their 500x and 400x might be something you are interested in.

Well made boats.

I too would suggest a longer boat
for you. The Wilderness Tsunami 145, Necky Looksha 14 or something similar.

starting out
I also live a half day’s drive from a paddling centre but I would never consider buying a kayak without testing a big variety. If possible plan a weekend trip and test as many boats as you can because a kayak is not something you can buy by reading the specs. I also have back problems and had to try a few to find one that did not cause my back to ache.

Whether you spend $800 or $3000 it is a waste of money if the boats you buy are uncomfortable and you do not enjoy them.

Couples consideration

– Last Updated: Apr-17-10 11:30 AM EST –

You guys will be paddling together, so one of the primary things I'd suggest you think about is being able to rescue each other should there be a capsize. Now, at your relative size you could probably get your wife back into her boat on the water with a pretty broad mix of boats.

But if the above is correct your wife is a weed. And it will require a rather well-outfitted boat for her to be able to get you back into your boat on the water, even with training and practice. You have indicated that you need to do this for exercise and are overweight - so swimming a long distance back to shore is not likely a practical idea for you even with a PFD. So you need to be able to both give and be the recipient of an on-water rescue.

For your wife, the same features that will help her to rescue you will make it easier to get back into her own boat if upper body strength is an issue.

I'd suggest you get boats with the following two things - most of the boats you list lack this:
Two sealed bulkheads, one for and one aft, or at least a generous amount of space to anchor flotation bags.
Perimeter rigging, static line all around that the paddler in the water can grab to helpo pull themselves back in.

A decent number of the boats you list lack these features, and the Pungos come off the list.

Your alternative is to stay near shore. But frankly, I doubt you'll want to do that. A nice day, a soft breeze...

You can get your price down by looking around used. But this kind of basic safety consideration is why you are being advised to make an effort to get a session or two of training, even if it means a long drive. You guys have a real advantage if you will be paddling together, but you do need to learn some basics to gain that advantage.

As to where to go, I have to admit that central PA seems less well covered than western PA. I found same as above:
Blue Mountain Outfitters

Or maybe you guys should consider a weekend mini-vacation to the Pittsburgh area to take a couple of kayaking lessons and explore whatever the city has to offer...

Blue Mountain
Thanks for the reply. Will be checking them out for sure and making the trip down there for the demo days.

Did you find that you needed to replace the seat in what you bought since you have back pain? What I’ve learned about pretty much everything is that stock items on things like this are usually lower end to help keep prices down. This may or may not be the case for kayaking, but in other things, there are usually other “upgrade” options either by the company who manufactures the product or by third parties that are much better.

Thanks for the post. It’s given me more to consider as well.

Wife and I are both pretty strong swimmers (I can swim a good distance so having to get to shore isn’t an issue for me because the lakes we will be on aren’t ginormous like Erie or anything) and she’s got a lot of upper body strength as well as I, though I’m not sure how much upper body strength would help in a situation where I needed a hand getting out of the water as it would seem she would more likely sink than lift. That was also something I was thinking of but didn’t give too much thought about and really can’t consider until I have the opportunity to dump myself in the water and see first hand how much of an issue it will be for me to get back into the kayak on my own.

I did figure that the boats I listed were a bit on the generic side. Not to say that they aren’t good boats, but as you said, they lack the features that I would probably like to have available. Especially with just starting out. A bit of a flag was raised when I did my initial search and came up with the same boats for both myself and my wife when I had a feeling there would be so much difference in what we would need.

I’m going to contact our local lake since the recreation area does rent out motor boats, I believe they might have kayak rentals as well which means there is a high probability that they will have some training as well. Especially being that the lake is extremely popular for families during the summer. Being that it’s so low-key an area, it’s hard to find anything on the web about them.

Rescues Depend On Technique…
…more than raw strength. Knowing how to rig the boats and how to help the re-entering person stabilize their boat are the key. Most introductory courses will cover re-entry techniques - after that, it becomes a matter of practice to make sure you’ve worked out the best way to apply the techniques to your boats and skills.

Take a look at these videos

– Last Updated: Apr-18-10 10:32 AM EST –

Rescues aren't about lifting, but using the flotation of the boat itself to support the rescuee as they re-enter. They also require the ability to dump at least enough water out of the capsized boat to handle it, something which a pro weightlifter could have trouble with in a rec boat where the front was loaded with gallons of water. Let alone the rest of us.

They have to be practiced to work, but a picture says it better than words. I found some clips here of assisted rescues using sea kayaks below. You can see how the folks involved are taking advantage of the front and back flotation, limited cockpit size (hence less water in) and perimeter rigging to help do the rescue.

This first clip shows a basic assisted rescue, with the swimmer entering the cockpit via a "heel hook". My only comment on this approach for you guys is that the heel hook part would be easier for her to get in with you being the rescuer than the other way around. There is more critique in he article about things that could have been done differently.

This is a video of a rescue where they don't flip the capsized boat upright to slide it over the rescuer's deck, something which is more the practice around here these days because it makes the boat easier to slide. But it is a very good view of the traditional entry over the capsized boat and back into the cockpit. It's the one that would likely work if she was rescuing you given the weight diff.

Below is an article (w/o videos) from here on p-net talking about variations.

Kayaking and Weight Loss
I think it’s great that you are making a move to be more active and get outdoors and enjoy physical activity. 100% great idea.

Kayaking for most people however does not burn enough calories to lose weight.

You need to make big changes in your diet so you are consuming fewer calories but eating foods where you won’t feel hungry. I found out I had type 2 diabetes and lost a lot of weight when I changed my eating habits eliminating sweets and soda and eating fruits and nuts for snacks, and much lower carbohydrate and higher protein meals.

The second part of the equation is to find someway to get physical exersize every day. Walking 20 minutes after lunch, hitting the gym on the way home, riding a bike around the block after dinner ect. For burning calories a rowing machine like a Concept2 is great and helps the muscles for kayaking too. (These are expensive new but most gyms have them).

Don’t know the source of your back pain, but if your doctor approves, I would consider joining your local YMCA (family memberships are very cheap) or other local gym and learn to use the weight machines that strengthen you back, abdominal muscles, and give you strength and flexibility for torso rotation.

Getting out on the water is going to improve your mood and general fitness but in PA you need to have a plan to stay active all week, and all year when you are not paddling.

hey sounds great !
Good info from Celia ! Use it , a VERY good fitting pfd is will make your paddling very safe an comfy . No one doubts your ability to swim well , it is just that it does NOT apply that much in this situation . When one “goes swimming” the intention is to swim , when one is kayaking the intention is usually to stay out of the water . Imagine the gentle breeze blowin on the lake nice flat water , that beautiful woman yer with , smiles from ear to ear the sound of a power boat engine in the distance , and your reaching over to the wife for a hug an the next thing ya know is you are upside down inthe lake with a kayak on top of you . If that is the way you go swimming then all is fine if not , rescue practice is needed . Swimming and paddling are 2 different things . We all have to find out what the potential dangers may arise in order to come back safe .

Take a wkend off an go to an outfitter for a basic class , you’ll also be able to make that 1st purchase with a lil more knowledge about what YOU want an find comfortable than someone choosing something for you based on the extensive time of them being with you for almost a full minute .

A good read is "Deep Trouble " -not ment to scare but it lets you see how humans think and how easily they can get into trouble because they "didn’t know " or "that never happened before ".

Be a positive statistic.



Stretch your hamstrings. I don’t think
anyone else has mentioned this, but kayakers benefit from loose hamstrings, and people with back pain problems may benefit also.

wife’s boat

– Last Updated: Apr-19-10 3:30 PM EST –

Even though she's 5'10", her weight puts her in the "smaller paddler" catagory. She'll want a narrower, lower boat than you will. A boat that's too big will be harder for her to handle in wind.

For example, the Tsunmai 135 would probably work better for her than the 140 or 145. In the Perception boats, you might like the Carolina but she'd be happier in a Tribute of the same length(or longer). The length isn't so important -- it's the beam, depth, and overall volume that needs to match the paddler size and weight.

Cockpit fit is also important. It's hard to feel relaxed and conifdent if you're sliding around. She may need to add some padding for a better fit -- lots of kayakers do. Hip pads are probably the place to start if she likes a boat but the cockpit feels too wide.

A decent paddle makes a big difference in paddling comfort. A paddle that's too long makes it harder to paddle straight or efficiently.

Beginners tend to focus on stability, but you'll find that the stability of any kayak magically improves after some time on the water. If you're comfortable in the water you know that water moves, and the best way to be stable is to move with it. The "trick" to stability in a kayak is to relax enough to let the boat move under you instead of fighting to be perfectly upright. You keep your torso roughly over the boat and let your hips roll with the waves.

Some folks with back issues have found that the seating position in a solo canoe is more comfortable for them.

Back and other stuff
Barring you have no true problems other than over weight, lack of exercise and stress contributing to your back problems, you can expect a benefit from paddling correctly as you lose weight.

Remember, the vast majority of posters on this site consists of paddlers with upgraded boats. They all want you to have what they have and upgrade before you even start. I would recommend you get the boat you like the seat in the most and fits you best. It should be a relatively stable starter boat as you say you are just starting. Trying before you buy is nice if possible.

Go sit in some of those boats. Preferrably on the water. Your comfort level starting out will greatly affect the enjoyment and number of times you go to the water. Old Town and Necky have some awesome seats.

As your fitness level increases along with your flexibility and subsequent back pain relief, you may want to look at more performance oriented kayaks. Meanwhile, you get exposure to kayaking on the cheap.

Just my opinions for your consideration.

Central PA
Tussy Mountain Outfitters is located on Spring Creek in Bellefonte Pa. next to the Sunnyside Paddle Park.

“The park has a permanent slalom course to train on and the creek has enough water flow and swift water features all year to provide an ideal park and play spot as well as a perfect place to demo canoes and kayaks. You can stop by and demo canoes and kayaks any time.”

Also, Fat Jimmy’s Outfitters in Bedford, PA. has a very large selection of kayaks.

I have purchased kayaks from both places and they are staffed with knowledgable people who paddle.

Thanks for the videos. Certainly interesting to see how these things are done and gives a better idea of how it actually works.

I have no doubt that my wife will have the ability to do it. She has very good balance and more upper body strength than most women I know. Even then, practice I’m sure will be in order. Lots of intentional dumping in the shallows will ensue.

Kayaking is only one of many things we have lined up for the summer. We’re also biking a lot as well as jogging and getting involved in both Yoga and Tai Chi. So there is quite a bit on the plate for this summer that we’ve worked out.

We’ve already begun a diet change. My problem is mainly in portion quantity as well as kicking the habit of eating things that come in a box and things with a lot of unhealthy ingredients. Luckily, my wife is an excellent cook and we’ve gone to mainly organic foods as well as free range farm meats without steroid injections and such. We also eat out a lot because of work which, while there isn’t a lot we can do about that, we’ve been looking at healthier choices while cutting out all fast food… not that we ate a lot of that anyway.

As far as back pain, I already know the source. I work a very intense labour job. Add the weight in on that factor and you have a great recipe for back aches. Luckily, I’m doing my job less and less these days, got myself a wonderful new Leap Chair for when I’m in my office sitting for 12 hours at a time, and feeling a lot better as the weight comes off. :slight_smile:

Hi! Monkey wrench here

– Last Updated: Apr-20-10 12:51 AM EST –

but why confine your search to kayaks?

You say your back isn't the greatest yet one of the biggest barriers I find is hauling the boat to the put in. The easier that is, the more you will actually use the boat.

I dont know if you live on the water which makes the above point kind of moot (except I do and my neighbors with a bad back and three boats dont put them in much) or have a cart.

Consider a pack canoe. If on a budget and just wanting to get on the water to puddle around try an Old Town Pack. Upscale for performance and speed (though the Pack will give you a workout!) to a Hornbeck pack canoe. Or Vermont Canoe for a Tupper. Or a Placid Boat Works gem.

Why carry a deck when you dont need it? All the above canoes are either made for double blades or accommodate double blades.

17 lbs for a Hornbeck. There is no need to carry more than 35 lbs to the shore unless you need the windage/seaworthiness of a decked boat.