Touring Kayaks for Whitewater Kayakers

My husband and I are avid, experienced whitewater kayakers and new to the Lake Tahoe area. We’ve been out on the lake in our play boats, but it’s not cutting it - time for some touring kayaks. We’re looking for boats that will be fast, fun and we won’t be bored with. We’re not afraid of tipping, so stability isn’t top priority. We need something in which to cruise around the lake, keep us in shape and pack a few things, maybe even a short overnight trip. We are 5’6", 130 and 6’2" 185. The local shop is trying to talk us in to the Necky Zoar Sport & Zoar Sport LV (GREAT price). But after reading some reviews these seem to be entry level boats. Does anyone have some quick advice for us - either regarding the Necky Zoar, or other boats we should consider?

Thank you!

Tahoe shops
sell mainly entry level type boats. Tahoe Paddle and Oar in Kings Beach sells the Eddyline and Seaward lines. You may want to check the Bay Area Sea Kayakers website,

You can find some killer deals. I paddle Tahoe very frequently and use a Nordkapp, Romany or a Khatsalano. For Necky, I would recommend the Chatham 16. Tahoe does get rough and I have surfed off of Kings Beach. If you are looking to buy new on the cheap, A local Reno shop has Wilderness Systems boats, I think they are the explorer just under 16 ft and less than $600, new. You can email me off line. I am heading to paddle in an hour or so.

I also paddle whitewater, am 5’9", 160lbs, and continue to be happy with my VCP Avocet RM as a touring boat. It’s an easy-turning boat that loves to play in rough water. I’ve paddled the WS Tempest 165 and liked it, and am eager to try the Necky Chatham 16.

Search the archives here for “small paddler” for more ideas for your wife.

As whitewater paddlers you’ll have to get used to using the outside edge for turns. Any touring boat will seem to track well compared to a whitewater boat, but look for weathercocking when you test paddle – a little is normal and should be easy to correct, but a lot is a problem.

Try to demo a few boats – touring boats have distinct personalities just as whitewater boats do. But if you paddle the Elahos and like them that’s all that matters.

then try something like an Isthmus by Knysna, or a ski -they’re tippy enough to be challenging for us flatwater types, but you may find yourselves right at home in them!

There’s a mess of good boats out there -but we don’t know whether if you care to go used vs. new, whether they’ll be immediately available, or you’ll need to drive to get them, or if you can wait to order them…

The Isthmus is a go-fast boat, and it also has storage. Most skis don’t, so THERE’S one trade-off: straight speed vs. utility. Some skis have a little storage, most don’t. They’re all SOTs, so when the leaves turn, you’ll need to be wearing immersion gear -perhaps a little more complete (the bottoms) than you might in a skirted SINK. And if you really want to go gonzo on mostly flat flatwater, try the K-1 and C-1 boats you saw at the Big O last week: the Ks were wide enough to fit a skinny pair of hips, an the Cs? THEY were wide enough to fit a foot and a knee into, and not much more, LOL!

And as for SINKS…? There’s a ton of good, fast, touring (bringing overnight(s) gear along) vs. crusising (out for just the day) boats for your consideration.

The big QCCs, Epics and the like you can tour in. The WS T-Bolts are a favorite fast boat. The Moskito (din’t recall the manufacturer) and several downriver models will present you with fast, and some say, balance-challenging boats to ride.

And there’s the paddling version of the auto-based cubic horsepower part of the equation to consider…

All-in-all, there’s a whole wide world of possibilities out there for you two. Try conducting both AND generic search engine searches for “fast kayaks” and the like, and you’ll come up with a lot in a hurry.

And soon enough (but maybe not QUITE soon enough?), you’ll be flying down the lake as you

Paddle On!

-Frank in Miami

Other Necky’s to try
are the Elaho, Elaho Sport, & Looksha. Depending on how much boat you want. My wife has an Elaho and loves it. It can carry a lot of gear and is still pretty fast. I’m a big boy and needed the Eskia. Both are very well made boats and so far the company and dealer have been GREAT!


Whatever you do…
Get a rudder-free design. Go ahead and get a rudder or skeg if you want but be sure it is safe and fun to paddle without the rudder. If you can afford it, get a composite boat rather than plastic. There are lots of options. I would recommend something about 16 feet long that is known to be a sporty kind of boat. A pintail is a possibility. It is an older design but still a good boat that should be available on the used market. Tryout some Eddyline boats like the Nighthawk 16. I like my Falcon 18 but it is probably to long and big for what you have in mind. Personally I would skip Wilderness Systems. I have seen too many boats that are badly made. The QCC400 is another good choice if you can wait to order.

It’s a long drive, but…
The Bay Area Paddlefest will be happening at the end of this month. See below link:

There will be more sea kayaks then you can shake a stick at. You would get a chance to test drive as many as you want, and the other great thing about it— It’s a lot of fun!

Good luck,


I agree with Dr Disco, experienced WW
paddlers may find a rudder to be a nuisance, especially on shorter boats like the Necky Zoar and my Necky Looksha Sport. (I removed the rudder on mine.) WW paddlers have excellent ability to steer with the paddle, and with the additional advantage of offside lean, may never miss a rudder. I also advise not going for speed unless you are SURE you need every bit of it, because the shorter sea kayaks often handle better, especially if you get in ocean surf.