Suggestions for a new kayak

This is my first post on but I’ve been reading the forums for about 2 years now. I’m in the market for a new kayak, preferably under $450. I kayak with my father and we have only paddled on flat water until this past Summer. Dad has always been afraid of going down rivers and streams for fear of capsizing. To make a long story short, we went on vacation to Pigeon Forge last year and I talked him into renting kayaks to take down the Little Pigeon River (small river with only class I and II rapids). We both loved it so now this Summer we’re looking into running some small rivers with nothing over class III. For some background, I bought 2 cheapo inflatables 2 years ago (Intex Challenger K1’s) and last year I bought a cheap hard body (Waterquest Aruba 10 for $160). What I don’t like about the Aruba is that it is slow, doesn’t track well, and has a huge cockpit opening that I’m sure will take on water in a decent stream. I know if I could find a spray skirt for this boat it would keep the water out but I really don’t want to invest in one since I’m not that happy with the boat. I’m more satisfied with my $60 inflatables than I am with my Aruba. So, I’ve been researching and reading reviews trying to find a kayak that would be a decent performer in both flat water and slow moving rivers. From what I’ve read, I believe that my best options for under $450 would be either the Dagger Zydeco 9 or the Perception Sport Swifty 9.5. The only kayak stores/dealers within an hour of me are Dick’s Sporting Goods, Cabela’s, Gander Mountain, and Dunham’s Sporting Goods so I have never saw a Dagger, Wilderness, or other “premium”(?) brand in person. I’ve been scouring Craigslist looking for some decent deals and have found the Swifty and some 6’-7’ whitewater kayaks but it’s slim pickin’s around here. So, based on my paddling desires (a “hybrid” yak that is decent at narrow slow rivers and decent on flat water for less than $450), do you guys believe that the Swifty or Dagger Zydeco would satisfy me or is there a big difference between say the $300 Swifty and the $750 Dagger Axis to justify the extra price? Thanks for your help!

You don’t mention…

– Last Updated: Mar-21-13 2:34 PM EST –

...either your size or your father's dimensions. But that's not such a big deal with the kayaks you are mentioning.

I noticed that both the Dagger and the Perception are even shorter than your Aruba while being about as wide. Based on that data, I'm thinking that they would be slow and track rather poorly.

Also it does not appear that either has built in floatation fore or aft. Even in situations of casual usage, you really do need floatation in both ends of your boat as well as perimeter lines.

The Dagger Axis looks like a big step up but appears to only have floatation in the rear, which is still a bunch better than none.

Hopefully someone with more experience with these boats can provide you with better information.


Oh, and BTW, I'm sure that you and dad are using properly fitting PFD's? :)


And a PS: It's important that your dad gets used to capsizing and knows how to get back in his boat. This is a water sport and everyone is going to flip sooner or later. The first time I capsized was on flat water when I was just messing around. Now I think I'm doing wrong if I don't capsize:)

If you are on a tight budget …
Go used … and if you are planning on class III, get some whitewater boats . Find some some whitewater paddlers in your area. Try the whitewater forum on Boatertalk - lots of boats there on gear swap.

Get some instruction on river safety, rolling etc.

Im 5’11" and 180lbs. The reviews on both the Swifty and the Zydeco seem to indicate that they track well for their size. I’m trying to stick with something under 11’ as my outbuilding dimensions are 11’x 8’. And yes we both have good proper life vests. Thanks for your reply.

…gotcha on the length issue now. Perhaps you have a garage where you can hang/store a longer boat? Good luck with your hunt.

Marketing hype

– Last Updated: Mar-21-13 3:43 PM EST –

Never read a brochure that claims a kayak,
tracks for beans and is slow.
They ALL laser track and rocket away :-(

Beware the media hype :

Ohio Kayak dealers - call, ask lots of questions

You are not ready to do class III
And in class 3 the Axis is safe, at least as far as its features, and the Swifty is not. Right now neither of the paddlers involved are safe.

Stick with 2 or lower. Get boats with flotation.


– Last Updated: Mar-21-13 4:32 PM EST –

I started kayaking 10+ years ago just bumping down small streams in the typical rental kayaks -- Old Town Loons and Otters which are similar kayaks to a Swifty.

I own a Dagger Axis 12 and it is a big difference between them. While they both list widths about the same the Axis 10.5 is going to be a foot longer, you have different designed hulls, and the Axis weighs a fair amount more -- probably due to the different quality/thickness of the plastic. The cockpit on the Axis, while still on the large side, is lot smaller then the Swifty boat -- you can at least get a spray skirt that fits and won't implode from a bit of water over it. You also have a much more comfortable seat -- I can spend 8 hours out in my Axis without getting sore. The Swifty you are going to want to take some seat cushions and something to lift up your legs. You want to have cockpit that you can brace your thighs/knees against and that is hard to do with a cockpit that is over-sized. The addition of the skeg helps a ton with tracking.

If there aren't any better places then big box stores and if you really need to keep the cost down you are a bit stuck. I see Swiftys for sale used all the time -- at least don't buy them new, but they really seem more meant for a mellow 1-2 hour paddle, where you don't really care much where you are going, on a small lake that you can walk to shore if you tip. You will not rescue on the water in a Swifty.

find an intro whitewater class
Running class III and being afraid of flipping don’t go together.

A weekend long class will get you some basics and may keep you off the evening news. Companies that teach are also good sources for used gear.

Good quality inflatable
or old school ww boats can be had used and cheap

not sure about what kind of boat
you should get but i can help with learning some moving water, class II, class III skills. The first weekend in June on the “upper” new river located near Beckley Wv which is less than two hours away from Proctorville. WVWA is sponsoring a whitewater beginners clinic.


we even supply boats you can try out

I own two swifty’s
Love them. Paddle slow moving creeks and near shore on larger bodies. Lots of fun. Picture on my desktop is my wife sitting in one with her feet resting against the forward lip of the cockpit. Put my 70 yr old 220# lb dad in one to try for his first time paddling a kayak. He liked it.

I would not whitewater where I couldn’t wade ashore and drag it up on a sandbar to empty out. It’s not a whitewater boat. If you found a skirt it would collapse from the weight of water on top. It’s not going to roll, but on the other hand I think it would be pretty hard to accidentaly flip in the first place.

Tracks like it’s on rails if you know how to paddle straight. Wonders all over if you don’t.

Our first kayaks were Perception…
Keowees, which is the same boat as the Swifty, but they changed the name several times over the years.

The biggest difference is the plastic on the older ones is thicker.

We live in the NC mountains and use them in class I-II rivers, (with a skirt) all the time and have a ball in them.

jack L

I realize that…
I guess i should have worded that a little different, I didnt mean to imply that I was ready for class III. I should have stated that I’m looking for a kayak capable of class III so that it’s ready when I’m ready.

Thanks man
That sounds great, I’ll definitely check into it. Maybe I can talk my wife into a nice long weekend up there.

I found a Swifty for sale locally and I talked the guy down to $175. I think I’ll go ahead and grab it for now at that price as i should be able to get my money back out of it when i find something better. I’ve been watching for something used on BoaterTalk, KeelHaulers, and WVWA so I should find something good soon.

Price for a used Swifty IMO $100
I would not assume that you can get $175 back out of a Swifty - I know people who pick them up for about $100 regularly.

A proper WW boat will tend to hold its value better - a well respected model with scratches aplenty can still get a couple of hundred.