Stuck Deciding between a Rec and Touring/Sea Yak

I’ve wanted to get a sit-in plastic kayak for a long time now, but am stuck on whether I should go with a good recreational kayak (like the WS Pungo 120) or a touring/sea boat. (Opinions on the Tsunami 140?)

Local dealer had a lot of Wilderness Systems, Perception and Old Town.

I plan to use the boat in the waters of Long Island—Nissequogue River, Smithtown Bay, Stony Brook Harbor, Flax Pond, around Long and Short Beach in Smithtown and West Meadow Beach in Setauket.

I’m torn because part of me wants to relax in my boat and enjoy some food/drinks, maybe drop a fishing line or read a book/take pictures/watch birds. But I also don’t want to feel like I’m paddling a barge, face lots of resistance when I encounter a current or wind or choppy water. I want to be able to go relatively fast so I can explore more.

Which route should I go? What considerations should I keep in mind? Any boat recs that are easy to try and buy on Long Island?

So far I rented and liked a Pungo 140, but would like to rent a touring/sea boat. Which boat should I ask for to get a good sense of the differences? (Pref from the mentioned brands)

(I’m 5’8”,135lbs, male early 30s, slim and fairly fit swimmer if that affects the choices)

Go with at least a 14 footer.


The Dagger Stratos 14L or S depending on your size would be a good option as well. Comes with a skeg if it that matters to you at all. I agree with Kevburg, go at least 14 feet.

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It would be helpful in offering suggestions to know your height and weight pand even fitness kevel, Kayaks aren’t one size fits all. Personally, having paddled iquite a bit along the north coast of Long Island Sound, I would not take a 12 foot boat out there, nor a boat with as large a cockpit as a Pungo, which, though one of the nicer boats in the rec category, can’t support a competent spray skirt. You’ve got tides, currents, winds, waves and deep water to consider in that environment. A 14’ boat with a standard cockpit (under 36” long”) will be safer and still perfectly fine for relaxed fishing and bird watching. One of my earliest paddling mentirs taught and guided spin casting from a kayak out of Norwalk Harbor on Long Island Sound and local rivers like the Housatonic using a 16’ sea kayak. Worked fine on lakes and smaller rivers as well.

one major drawback with shorter kayaks on water with a lot of fetch (area across which winds and waves can build) and shifting currents is that they usually have to be wider to provide the necessary displacement volume to support the paddler. This tends to make them slower and more vulnerable to being pushed off course. It can prove really difficult to nake progress getting back to shore as conditions shift. Also, not being able to have a sprayskirt that won’t implode if waves dump water on it makes you vulnerable to being swamped and/or capsizing.

Long Island is a great location for kayaking. I think you will appreciate buying a boat that won’t limit your safe enjoyment of all it offers. Having more info about your metrics will help with advice.


I have run small twisty rivers in my sea kayak, and done relaxed lily dipping. I have done lots of point and shoot photography, and some fishing from it too. My kayak is a British style hard chine sea kayak with rocker in the hull, and 21.5" wide by 17’4" long. its weight is 52 pounds. It’ is capable of handing rough open water. I use tandem or solo canoes for much of my paddling and fishing, but not on big water.

The Tsunami is 25.5" wide by 14 feet, and weights 53 pounds. I think it would feel stable, and be a reasonable choice for what you want to do.

If you really think you want the capability of a touring kayak you might consider a WS Tempest 165. It is 21.5" wide by 16’ 6"long and weights 55 pounds. If you could demo that would let you know how it feels.

You might want to watch for used boats on Craigslist, or face book to save money by buying used.
All my boats I bought used. I understand used boats right now are more scarce than in the past.

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Not a Pungo for open water off of LI. There are preserves you can go into and be lazy, tracking winding waterways. Even pick a beat WW boat and all you have to solve is making it go to straight. And killing the bugs fast enough.

Or get a proper fishing SOT.

I’m kind of what they call a Cooper Kayaker and I paddle a canoe, but I read some and am pretty familiar with rec-kayaks. In reading your post I think the first question I would ask where are your skill levels at being in a kayak with a spray skirt and rolling over and being able to recover. If your skills are not that good are you willing to put in the time to learn those skills. Bottom line is both types of boats at some point you will go over. In the rec-boat the best course of action is to have floatation in whatever boat you get and have swimming abilities to get you and the boat back to land and then start over. In a proper sea kayak with the proper skills I think you will be able to right yourself and keep going. There is skills you will need though.

Rec-boats are intended for safer water, closer to shore, calm days, eating lunch, fishing, reading books etc.

I don’t have the skill set for an ocean kayak adventure and although I have Lake Erie close by that would be perfect for one we stay in smaller lakes and rivers. If I was younger and in better shape I’m sure I would give the big water a go.

What you get to test paddle will deprnd on what your dealer is willing to put in the water. If they are not taking your size into account when fitting you into appropriate boats they are a less than expert outfitter. Wilderness Systems has a wide range of model fits depending on your body metrics. Depending on whether you are built more like a jockey, a baskeball player or a linebacker will determine which is your optimal model. Unfortunately most rental kayaks attempt the “one size fits all” simplicity by having models like the Tsunami 140 which is OK for a paddler between 5’ 5” and 6’ and proportionally 140 to 200 pounds and for moderate cobpnditions. If you are at either extreme or beyond that range you’d be better fit in other models.

You mentioned two basic applications of use. Which comes first? I’d buy nothing less that 14’ in either case. Personally I’d go more towards touring hull but that’s my thing.

That said I have a 13’ Hobie Quest and 15’ Ocean Trident for sale they are like new.

I saw a Current Designs Vision for 275 with a small crack in the side. I could have fixed in 1.5 hours for few bucks but I just missed it.

What’s your budget? Do you want new?
How fast do you want one?
What’s available at the dealers?

Some places may let you rent then take off purchase price if you buy new off them.

You have

Empire kayak
Dingy Shop
Peconic Paddler
River Connection.

That may do both things you want or a Vision 15 R

Chopra, two very different boats. I’d pick the 140 Pungo over the 120, unless weight or transporting is an issue. A 14 ft boat will twist through 3 ft marsh rivulets with ease. I own two140 Pungon duralites, and my niece has the roto mold plastic models in 120 and 140. I also have roto molded Tsunamis in 125, 140, 145 and 175. Based on your physical description, the 140 Tsunami is in your weight class. Another option in your weight class, but only If you consider a longer boat, is the Tempest. It shares the same inherent stability of other WS design, but it’s a fast playful boat suited for your environment. Might try it just for fun and comparison, if available for test drive. I’m in another weight class but there are several knowledgeable Tempest drivers on the forum who can help if you ask for details.

A kayak is a specialty tool, most noted for efficiency. In general, wider boats are more stable, but harder to paddle; longer boats have speed and wave handling. Paradoxically, features you admire as a novice become a hinderance as you progress. I have a quiver full of boats and each was superceded by a more specialized model. You have to not only list desired traits, but must rank them in order of preference. It may do one thing well, but will suffer for other purposes.

A distinguishing characteristic of the Wilderness System line is stability, due to its hard multi-chine hull shape, as well as a roomy comfortable cockpit and seat. In practice, the difference in speed or stability between the Pungo and Tsunami family is incrementally indistinguishable (with clarification if you seek further details). Be careful of comments about stability. Try it yourself, because some forum members have the balance of a tight rope walker and don’t realize it, while I’m more the new-born colt.

You presented several specific parameters that you desire. The reality is that some of the feature you want cannot be combine in the same boat. Other activities are unrealistic I regularly spend between four to six hours in a 145 Tsunami (my weight class). I once spent 7.5 hours without getting out, and as long as 8.5 with one break, but any kayak is the last place “I” would go to read a book. The Pungo has spaciousness for freedom of movement. This make it more suitable for fishing with open access to gear. Easy to enter/exit, but as wind levels increase, the open cockpit becomes vulnerable to waves over 18 inched. The Tsunami has the same comfortable seat, but also thigh braces when used in conjunction with the seat and foot pegs provide three points to lock in and become a part of the boat. Shifting your body helps to turn and control the boat in rough conditions of waves up to 30 or 36 inches. It inspires confidence when you would be fearful or capsized in the Pungo. You can fish in it, but it is not a fishing boat. If you do capsize the Pungo, there are no deck ropes to hold on. The boat will fill with water and recovery nearly impossible without preferably two other boats . On the other hand, the Tsunami has a sealed bulkheads with air pockets in the front and stern, for flotation, as well as deck ropes.

As you progress, the comfortable seat proves to be a hinderance. I’ve been an advocate of the WS high back seat, but after a week as a forum member, the shortcoming are becoming apparent without anyone actually telling me what I “need”. I can explain if you’re curious. The high seat also makes it nearly impossible to reenter if you come out. An option is a boat with a back band, or if you lose favor with the high seat, WS offers a retrofit backband with instructions on line. I believe the Tsunami is the most versatile, safest, and most stable, ALL aspects considered; however, if you do roll it, the WS boats don’t have the quality traits or more sophisticated boats. I can’t roll a boat, so MY option is a more stable boat used within its design parameters, or watch TV. Happy to answer specific questions.


The decision should all be based around safety. Below is a chart based on the ACA skill levels, and it in it talks about what type of boat is appropriate for each condition. Note that recreational class kayaks (Pungo) should be limited to class I conditions.

This is based on most recreational class kayaks not being able to be gotten back into and drained in deep water. Also assumed that you have the skills, knowledge, and gear to get back in, which some can figure out through watching videos but for most is best found by taking an intro to sea kayaking class.

Not all rec kayaks are created equal. One of the limiting factors when they made that chart was flotation. I believe the Pungo 140 does have front and rear bulkheads (most rec boats don’t), but they aren’t that large so don’t provide a huge amount of flotation. But it might be possible to do a deep water recovery, and if so, then you could take that boat into say class II conditions (the big cockpit and lack of being able to use a good sealing skirt would still limit you from class III or beyond). Once you have a feel for the rescues, what you may want to do is rent a Pungo 140 and flip it over in a safe space (close to shore) and see if you can get back in. If lack of flotation is making it hard or impossible, that would make me say you want to lean toward a sea kayak.

Sea kayaks come in a variety of forms, and some are more recreational than others. Given what you want to do, I’d stick to one that is a bit shorter (14-15’) and a bit wider (24"+). Tsunami, Dagger Stratos 14.5L (Dagger is made by same company as Wilderness Systems, so your dealer should be able to get), Dagger Alchemy 14L (available used only), Jackson Journey 14 (used only), or the like. One challenge you may have on rentals, though, is many shops won’t rent sea kayaks unless someone has taken the Intro to Sea Kayaking class and successfully completed the paddlefloat rescue. So you might need to take that class before renting. Lots of other benefits to that class and I usually recommend taking one before buying your first boat, as the information provided should help guide you on what boat to get.

This all said, I do fish from my Dagger Stratos. I even bring crab traps out through small (1-2’) surf breaks. Not as easy as a fishing sit on top, but doable. Here is a picture of my catch in my prior Alchemy:


At your size and weight and fitness level, you’d probably find that a Tempest 165 works well.

That kayak allows doing all of the things you listed. But wait to do the fishing till after you are used to doing all the other things first. In other words, you can grow your skills in it. I bet you’d get bored by a rec kayak pretty quickly. That’s what happened to me.

Another different option is to try an Epic V5, a wide, short surf ski.

OK, your choice of padding area is where I use to go. I had and loved my pungo 120, original model, in those waters and Smithtown Bay until I moved and donated it to a nephew. I saw it last week and wish I still had it when compared to what I have now. Do go to one of the shops mentioned in another post and try before you buy, I went to the Dingy Shop on a display weekend. Be careful of Porpoise Channel and the mouth of the Nessequogue River at tide changes. I was told that the Pungo is almost as fast as some sea kayaks. For stability you may consider a sit on top but know two things, 1 you will get wet and 2 they are heavy! And that is my two cents.
Ray Thies

Hmm, now that I’ve seen the metrics you added that puts another spin on your choices. You’re closer to my size than that of some of the guys offering you advice. Personally, at 5’ 5" and 150 pounds I have found I don’t care for the loose fit and width of the Tsunami 140 (one of my best friends has one and I’ve switched off with her on outings as well as rented them on occasion on vacations.) Your trim “runner’s build” is what lower volume kayaks are designed for. I hope you can get a chance to test a range of kayak models, maybe at an instruction clinic or a dealer demo day, at some point before considering your purchase decision so you can actually feel what the performance differences are between wider and narrower, longer or shorter, and deeper vs shallower hulls.

One difficulty in narrowing down choices for you will be resting stability (for fishing) vs moving performance for speed and distance. Kind of a mini-van vs sports car (or beach cruiser vs road bike) dilemma. You might end up like many of us do, having 2 (or more) boats for differing activities and conditions. I started out nearly 20 years ago with a kayak very similar to a Tsunami 140 (14’ 9" and 25" wide) – had some great times with it (including out around the islands in Long Island Sound with my fishing guide buddy) but eventually got tired of how slow it was and how hard I had to work to keep up with friends in sleeker boats.

My instinct is that, being young and athletic, you might be frustrated with the limitations of a rec boat pretty quickly if you really grow to love paddling. Nice thing about being on the lighter side of body mass is that you can relax in a narrower (and therefor faster) boat when you want to just chill. I’ve got a 15’ x 22" wide day touring boat that is still stable enough that I can pull my legs out, let them hang over the sides, loosen my seat back, lean back and chill in calm waters.

I think if you can try a range of models you’ll quickly get the feel for them that will get you “unstuck”. Any decent outfitter will see right away that you’re a candidate for some of the lower volume performance hulls. Might not be what you choose in the end to suit your needs, but you 'll be better prepared to make the choice once you’ve been able to check some out.

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Welcome to kayaking.
I have paddled at least a half-dozen recreational kayaks for several hours each, and the Pungo 12 is the best of the lot. It is easier to paddle, faster and more maneuverable, and has the most comfortable seat. BUT it is also a potential death trap if you are going to be paddling alone where there might be some wind or current-induced chop and you will not be within easy swimming distance of a shore–when wearing your PFD… The bow of the Pungo 12 does not rise well into oncoming chop, and water will sometimes wash over the foredeck into the extended cockpit. You can get a spray skirt for it, but because of the large area has to be covered, when substantial water comes over, the skirt will tend to cave-in and detach from the cockpit coaming. The long skirt can also become entangled in your legs if you make a “wet exist.” In addition, since there is no forward bulkhead in the Pungo 12, once capsized, it will float low in the forward half.
I suggest that you take a kayaking course that goes into areas similar to the ones you want to paddle, preferably with an option to try several different boats and paddles.
Make sure to budget for good gear, which can easily cost as much as the yak.

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Why not look used? Long Island should provide a good selection. I agree with Willowleaf; at your size the Tsunami might feel quite sluggish and you won’t have great body contact. Next to a Pungo it’ll be fast but as you’re young, athletic, and slim you might quickly want to get in something even faster. If you buy used you can usually give the boat a long try, and then if you decide it’s not for you, resell without losing much, or any, money.

Last year I bought the Pungo 120. It was a great boat but weight too much to easily get it up on top of my Jeep Grand Cherokee. I ended up taking it back and picking up Delta 12AR Kayak. Very stable boat and weighed only 44 pounds.

I decided to bite the bullet and get an even lighter Kayak so I bought a Swift Adirondack 12LT in Carbon Fusion that weighed in at 24 lbs.

Is an awesome Kayak I wound highly recommend it. It handles very well in choppy water and is a pretty fast Kayak in windy situations on larger lakes.

Be safe,


Based on willowleaf’s comment. I’m in the 145 Tsunami, but I’ve sat in one that I bought for my daughter rather than a Pungo. The hull/cockpit of the 140 is tighter, but I believe it’s the same seat frame and I’m 230 lbs.

The Tsu 145 is just a slightly higher volume 140 which achieves better displacement and a more optimal water line (for better stability and speed) for larger paddlers as well is for more comfortable cockpit fit. They used to do the same for their Tsu 120 (for smaller paddlers) and the Tsu 125 (for bigger folks) until discontinuing the 120.

Some other manufacturers (like many of the British ones) make this a little clearer by tagging different versions of their kayaks as HV (high volume) or LV (low volume, for lighter weight and smaller paddlers) as part of the model name.

I have a couple of friends who swear that the Perception Carolina 14 is the best overall boat ever made.

They fish out of of them, do day trips and a the occasional overnight trip. Salt or fresh.

They are also very easy to find on the used market, sometimes really cheap. They aren’t too big for a 110 pounder either.