Used River Kayak

I own a couple of sea kayaks and that is 99% of my boat time. But several friends also do small twisty relatively slow midwestern rivers. So I would like to buy a used rotomold beater (rec boat?) to do a half dozen river trips each year. Something 12ish feet long with reasnable rocker to turn tight corners and at least one hatch. Big enough cockpit to get in and out easily for someone 6’ 3" and 190 lbs. I am starting to watch local listings for kayaks but would appreciate a few models to keep my eyes open for. Suggestions.

Thanks, David

Twisty Rivers, 190 pounds

– Last Updated: Apr-20-12 4:43 PM EST –

I've been royally flamed in the past for suggesting that kayaks don't "need" to be shorter than 7 feet to do mild whitewater, so I'll probably ruffle some feathers again right now. It seems to me that someone of your size wanting to paddle twisty rivers ought to do well in a 14-foot boat, expecially if it has a bit of rocker. My reasoning is the same as the other times I've made people mad regarding this topic. Solo canoe paddlers don't need ultra-short boats just to make sharp turns or rapidly pivot in-place. They just need a boat that isn't designed for straight-line cruising. At 190 pounds, the average 12-foot kayak is going to be a lot more sluggish than the average 14-footer, and I doubt any other advantages will make up for that. It'll work, but compared to the right 14-foot (or thereabouts) boat, it will not only be slower, but will scrape bottom sooner in the shallows (unless it's a wide tub), and if it's an average rec boat it probably will not turn any better either.

That said, there's a mindset among lots of kayakers that only a very short boat will work if you need to do much turning. I don't understand it, especially since I've watched plenty of people manuever perfectly well in mid-length boats (in rapids too), yet I have it on good authority that no real "expert" would advise such a thing. Still, I think something longer might do the trick. Then again, I know one P-netter who moves along at a good clip in an old Perception Dancer, and they are kind of short (without being an awkward tub either, but the cockpit would be smaller than you want).

At your size…
you might be comfortable with something like an older Dagger Blackwater in the shorter size, perhaps a Cypress at closer to 13 ft if you can find one. They weren’t made for a long time but were surprisingly capable little guys. They’d like come used and cheap. But at your height you might find that you need to move closer to 14 ft for a comfortable all day sit.

I am about the same size as you. Just about any 10 footer will do fine. If you want to get a bit sportier, look at the crossovers like the Rogue/ Allwater from Jackson or the Remix XP or Dagger Approach.

second the remix
I have a buddy who has been trying to do such “small twisty rivers” in a rec boat and having trouble controlling it as well as capsizing and swamping it in faster sections (Class I and II). So I found him a used older Remix and he finds it perfect for those purposes.

I’ve done twisty shallow streams here in PA in my 15’ Easky LV – works pretty well but I find myself wishing it was a couple feet shorter sometimes so I think you are on track with the 12’ length. 9 and 10 foot “creekers” used to be easy to find cheap around here when everybody seemed to be moving into the smaller squirt and surfing boats, but now the longer ww kayaks seem to be having a resurgence and they are scarcer. But if you watch Craigslist religiously you can usually get a bargain eventually. Picked up a Dagger RPM last month for $275 – something like that would work for you too.

Nice to see
someone admit that sea kayaks are not the pinnacle of kayak design. It’s far more important to match the boat to the conditions paddled most often. Rec. boats are a poor choice for open water but they’re hard to beat on narrow rivers without challenging rapids. I picked up a used Prijon 12 footer and It’s become my favorite kayak for river travel.

I must have been “out to lunch” when
you got flamed. Kayaks under 7 feet long are mostly twitchy and boring for easy whitewater, except perhaps when one comes to an unexpected playspot.

Boats designed for serious whitewater are going to be slower, and many will skid to easily for folks to manage them on twisty flatwater. But one can learn. I have an old 12’ 6" Noah Magma that is as fast as most 14’ rec boats, and much more agile.

If the original poster were never going to get on the “big” Vermillion or any similar whitewater, I would urge him to get a good 12-14’ rec design from LL, Necky, etc.

But the minute even easy whitewater is on the list, then pure rec designs don’t really cut it. The Remix XPs, and Pyranha’s entry are, in my opinion, the best of the crossovers. I haven’t seen enough of the Jackson entry to judge. The Dagger Approach is ok.

I wouldn’t bother with used Dancers, Pirouettes, Corsicas, much less shorter, more modern planing whitewater boats.

Second the Prijon
Either 12’ Prijon Capri or the Combi are a great choice for small, fast, twisty rivers. I find the Prijon Calabria pretty darn good also even at 14’ 5"

Perception Carolina 14.5
I’ve been running twisty, class I&II and a light III in the Carolina 14.5 here in the upper mid-west for 5-6 years. Because of the storage hatches both bow and stern, I’ve also taken them on longer river trips; upper Missouri in Montana 6 days and upper Mississippi 4 days. They are responsive and easy to turn, you can roll one with some difficulty. And I can keep up with other guys no problem. I like doing rivers so the Carolina’s get the most use. But for big water; it’s the Tahe 3 for Lake Superior and I’m considering adding a Remix this year for more serious white water trips.

I wouldn’t try eddy hopping they aren’t that nimble. but a straight blast right through it “canoes run’em all the time” type run, their fun.

The kayaks other posters mentioned would work just as well. Get one and bounce off some rocks; class I&II style.

"at least one hatch"
That is going to be problematic and limit your choices among older boats. You would fit into a Dagger Animas and it would work just fine for what you have in mind. You can also get them cheaply. But it has no hatch, just a stern with lots of room. So you could go with float bags that are also waterproof storage. Get two, one for each side, and you can carry a lot of gear.

prijon calabria will do the deal

Yukon expedition?

A Pungo 120 will work.
You can get the old style at Dick’s .

A lot of boats would work
It sounds like you are looking for something relatively inexpensive. I agree that for Illinois streams you are not going to require a very short boat.

Certainly a Dagger Blackwater in a 10.5 - 12’ length would work if you are lucky enough to find one. A crossover boat like the Pyranha Fusion, Liquid Logic Remix XP10, or the Jackson Rogue, or Dagger Approach 10 would also do fine. These are somewhat newer designs though, and you may have less success finding them, or they might command too high a price for you if you do.

There are some whitewater kayaks back from the late 1980s and early 1990s that have hull speed comparable to or exceeding that of the crossover designs, but they won’t have a hatch. Some were mentioned such as the Dagger Animas, Perception Pirouette, and Perception Dancer (or Dancer XP) and they would all handle your weight fine, if you didn’t find the cockpit too restrictive. A couple others are the Dagger Response and Dagger AQII.

And you could also make an even larger boat like a Pungo 120, Pungo 140, or Carolina 14 work on the type of water you are looking at.

hull shape, not length
I went on a trip with 20 others in a twisty swampy of a river. I had the longest kayak at 16’. Only a couple of tandem canoes were that long.

Half way through the trip, a couple of people paddle up to me and said they were initially worried that I couldn’t negociate the tight space, but after observing me from behind, they realize I could turn just as tightly as those in much shorter boats. They complemented about my manuvering skill. :o) At which point I told them my boat has a lot of rocker, so it’ll turn on a dime! :smiley:

My boat (Avocet) would be too small for you, which is unfortunate because it comes in plstic. Still, you can look for any plastic sea kayaks with a lot of rockers (hint, if they’re good for “play”, they’re likely have a lot of rocker).

Alternatively, have you thought about a sit-on-top?

Zephy15.5 or 16.0 - whichever fits best. Lots of rocker. No problem turning. Even mild (class 1) whitewater is fine.

Don’t get a Pungo for rivers!
Especially the older style sold at Dick’s. Tandem canoes loaded with people and gear float in less water than a single old style Pungo. The deep v of the Pungo will catch on every shallow bar and rock. Get the slower but more river friendly Pamlico or any other boat that has a shallower draft than the Pungo. Even a Cape Horn 15 draws less water than an older Pungo.

When I had my Pungo I weighed over 250; your results may vary…

Will work?
Yeah, lots of boats will “work”. The Pungo is not at the top of the list. It is slower than the older, longer WW boats and is not as flexible. Given the circumstances described by the initial poster there are many boats that are cheaper and handle better than the Pungo.

another option
I’ll throw the Dagger Crossover into the ring. 12’-6", one rear hatch, removable skeg (screw on or screw off.) Its faster and easier to paddle, and easier to get in and out of, than my old Perception Mirage (although not as maneuverable). I think Dagger made it as their 1st (?) crossover boat-hence the name. Could be just about right for your needs. I found mine as a demo for about $250 a couple of years ago, gathering dust in a padling shop basement. (I’m 6"-2" about 205, it has plenty of room for me.)

I second on the remix xp
Sounds you are a bit like me. I have a 17" sea kayak for my ocean paddles. There are plenty of excellent river paddles and crusing a 17’ was like piloting the Titanic in narrow/shallow rivers. I bought a used (3 years old, moderately scratched up, but sound for $350) Liquid Logic Remix XP 10 (I am 6’4") so you might want to look at the XP 9. Basically it a longer whitewater boat with a skeg. It tracks straight on flat water, but will run up to light cat IV rapids, plus it has one hatch.