The Ultimate Newbie Kayak

All you inquisitive newbies listen up. I was where you are, now I paddle regularly (although I wouldn’t qualify as a “paddler”). I too wanted something cheap, light and not very long for throwing in the back of the SUV. I too thought it would be nice to bring a kid/dog/girlfriend out on the lake in my boat. I too bought a rec boat and was quickly in the market for something else.

The kayak by which all other non-whitewater kayaks may be judged is the 14’ Perception Carolina – that’s my idea of the ultimate newbie kayak. Why? It’s not too long, but it’s not too short. It’s not too wide, but it’s not too skinny. It’s not real fast, but it’s not slow. It looks good, tracks well, is stable and not real heavy. It holds a modest amount of camping gear. It’s maneuverable enough for class I or II rivers, but sleek enough to paddle flat water all day. It’s not too expensive and can be easily sold. It’s just a really good place to start.

I looked at 8 pages of kayaks on the Dick’s Sporting Goods web site today and there was not one of them that would get any use in my fleet. They are all built to be cheap and attractive to people who haven’t started paddling yet. Spend your money on a boat that was built for people who actually paddle. If you want to take kids and dogs along, get a canoe.

That’s my thoughts. Are ya feelin’ me?

My two cents

– Last Updated: Jun-07-07 1:44 PM EST –

I have been canoeing (tandem and solo) slow rivers for a couple of years now, and just got my first kayak, the Necky Manitou Sport. I LOVE this boat, it is perfect for me and the rivers I run. Nothing more than a class I rapid anywhere. Very comfortable, very stable, easy to maneuver---just a fun boat. I feel very confident that I could handle bigger, faster water if it presented itself. I just wish there was room for my beagle. (That's when I use my Old Town Pack solo canoe!)

By the way, greetings from Glasgow, Scotland! We are here for a vacation, and we are having the time of our lives! Still, we miss the states and the Salt Fork river in central IL, can't wait to get back to paddling!

Just depends what you want to do with it
I wanted a versatile boat that I could learn the basics and advance to more intermediate kayaking skills. I wanted a boat I could paddle all day (and get somewhere). I wanted a boat that I could pack camping gear in and do weekend trips. I ended up with the Carolina 14.5, so I guess we are in pretty good agreement.

On the other hand, plenty of people would be happy with ~$300 kayaks such as the liquid logic tuxedo, etc.

There is no “ultimate” for everyone
My “newbie” boat was a VCP Avocet. The Carolina was way too wide.

Mine’s a Perception 13.5, and I love it. I was comfortable from the first but didn’t have the oft-cited near-immediate wish to upgrade. I can see myself paddling a sleeker boat now, but I don’t feel held back by the one I’ve got. Which is good, because it will probably be a few years before I can consider upgrading.

I hear you, but…
You think the carolina is the best boat to start in since that is the one you started in.

I happen to think that paddling on a log when I was a kid was the best way to start since it taught me tremendous balance.

I then graduated to a inner tube which only left my butt and feet in the Boston Harbor scum. that is where I first learned how to back paddle.

I never looked back once we built our first raft, and even though it was tippy we found that the guys with the narrower ones went faster and tracked better than the big square ones.( not sure what “tracked” meant in those days)

Needles to say we progressed from there to two tubes with a couple of boards tied between them and low and behold we had close to a kayak. Or maybe a canoe!

We never looked back, and today, I have a long skinny boat just like the original log that I had, only a little prettier.

If only I had thought or had the tools to hollow out that log and put a point on the front and rear.

I guess my point is whatever a person starts in puts them on the water, teaches them the basic skills nd introduces them to this wonderful outdoor water world that we have.



Well, I tried a Carolina and wasn’t thrilled, although they are popular and the newer ones do have a nice seat.

I’ve never owned a Carolina but have paddled them a few times. But if it had been my first boat, I would still use it. I think the airalite version is especially nice. If the only boat I had was a Carolina, I would prolly paddle just as often as I do now and enjoy it as much.

I’m just worn out by all the poor people asking which 9’ x 3’ boat is best for them. Most likely none of them! The high-volume boat makers and sporting goods stores are doing us a disservice by offering all these dazzling cheap, sorry-excuses-for-kayaks and people are wasting their money on them.

“Ultimate” is a silly word - there’s no such thing. I’m just advocating people start with a user-friendly useful boat that was actually built to be paddled by people who paddle.

paddling on a log…
“paddling on a log…was the best way to start”

Whatever gets you on the water and smiling to start is good.

I started with a Dagger Bayou
…which is one of those 9’ boats. I quickly graduated to a whitewater boat. After paddling a ww boat, a 14’ boat on class I/II stuff just seems way too long. I’ve also known folks that run rivers have a 14’ boat sell their 14 footer for a shorter rec kayak. These rivers are mostly flat water rivers with technical class I/II rapids that a long boat is difficult to manuever. Perhaps having a whitewater foundation has biased me toward liking manuverable, shorter boats on rivers.

If I’m going on an overnight trip, I’ll take my 13 foot Riot Stealth. I think it holds more gear than my Necky Elaho and the hatches are bigger so it’s easier getting stuff in and out of it. It is also pretty light weight at 48 pounds. The riot has it’s draw backs. It is hard to get in and out of, which is essential in portaging deadly strainers or just quickly getting out of your boat, it has a funky hull design and it’s very hard to catch eddies. If the river (mostly flatwater) is unknown to me or if I will be running safety, then I’ll paddle my old faithful dagger bayou. My Dagger Bayou is very manuverable and does a great job of catching eddies, which is essential when trying to get newbies down a mild rapid. Paddling a whitewater boat on mostly flatwater can be pretty miserable.

Anyway, I probably put more miles on my Dagger Bayou last year than any other boat I own (which includes a kevlar sea kayak, whitewater boats and a sprint boat).

My point is that newbie boats really depends on what type of rivers or waterways you intend to paddle. For me, my 9’ squatty bayou was a perfect begginer boat and opened up a whole new world of paddling.