Used whitewater boats for small / light beginner ww paddler?

hi everyone

i have been flatwater / seakayaking for a number of years, so not a total newbie to kayaks, but just starting out with whitewater. i have read (somewhere?) that especially with whitewater kayaks it is important to get a boat that fits rights, and i am wondering if anyone could point me towards any boats that might be a good fit & that i ideally could find used? i am fairly small / light and using the metric system: 169cm, ca. 55kg. i think that should be 5’7’’ and 121 pounds respectively?
the zet veloc ZET Kayaks has been suggested to me as fairly affordable entry point, but i think i would prefer to start with a used boat while i am still making up my mind whether ww is for me. i came across a good deal (i think - 200€) on an eskimo topolino, which appears to be a classic so cannot be all bad? but so far i have not been able to find info on the suggested paddler weight for this boat. does the volume of a boat generally translate to how heavy the paddler should be? more volume = more weight? sorry if these are stupid queries…

i understand there also are differences re the type of boat and what they are intended for, but just starting out i cannot really say what it is am looking for? sorry. :slight_smile: i am currently taking my first babysteps on grade ii and plan on a proper outing this may on grade iii. would like to go beyond that if i survive (and enjoy the process).

many thanks in advance!

Open boater, so I can’t help you on your kayak choice, but I can encourage you to move forward with whitewater. I did a series of class III step-up trips last spring with a couple of sea kayakers who were interested in moving into whitewater - they picked it up real quick. Having a good brace and being comfortable with boat lean gets you started in a good place. Good luck.

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From your post I suspect you are in Europe or UK? Paddlers here are not likely to be familiar with a lot of the boats you may have available. I have seen an Eskimo Topo (these are very old kayaks I believe) at a shop for boat hire In Norway, and as I remember it was a high volume creeker. Probably quite large for you. (it helps to have a well fitting boat to roll easily and control your edges in whitewater.) Keep asking people in your area who are experienced paddlers. Some of the experienced women paddlers here can suggest boats that will fit you, depending on if they are available where you live.

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yes, europe, germany. and thanks for pointing out that this does matter regarding available boats. this did not even occur to me :slight_smile:
and yes, if any female paddlers have suggestions for smaller boats - i would love to hear them. also nevermind whether i should be able to find one second hand. any suggestions are welcome. atm i feel just a bit overwhelmed with all the options of what feels like an entirely new sport.

edit: youtube algorithm just played me this Shaun Baker and friends 1980's classic Welsh waterfall kayaking - YouTube featuring a topo. and yes, i think it is likely too big for me too

First, buying used is the way to go for a new boater (or boater new to a type of venue). Having said that, there a broadly three categories of ww boats: playboats, river runners and creekers (there is also “squirt boat” which very specialized form of playboats is of no concern to you as a ww novice.)

You want to start with a river runner that fits you. This should have enough, volume and length (and stability) to allow you learn the basics of white water boat manuevers e.g. peeling in and out of eddies, ferrying, picking lines through rapids, etc. in a class II run. If this boat is slightly lower in volume, you may be able to do some basic “play” moves that involve diving the stern or bow in a current (or eddy) line. If the boat is relatively higher volume, it’ll be harder to “play” but will allow the extra buoyancy (stability and forgiveness) to move up to a higher class II/III.

If you get interested in “playing”, you’ll move up (down?) to a playboat. These tend to be lower volume (and weight) to allow for easier ability to dive the ends and/or do flips/loops. In past, playboats were longer, around 7’-8’, with very low volume slicey ends. These days, playboats tend to be much shorter, around 5.5’-6.5’, with bulb like middle around the cockpit and short slicey ends. The ends and sometimes the chines (sidewalls) are sharper and facilitate certain play manuevers. But, for a beginner, these features will trip you and result in a lot of unintentional squirts, enders and capsizes. So, have your bracing and “combat roll” developed and ready (I learn this the hard way by buying a low volume playboat as my first ww boat.)

Or, as you advance, you may want to run higher class waters, III-IV, where the rapids are much pushier and foam is much more aerated and provide less floatation for the boat. Here a creeker (with higher volume, less edgy) type of ww boat will provide that type of added buoyancy and stability that can be helpful. But, on a lower class run, like a class II, the creeker will not allow you to do much “play”. The creeker will float high like a cork and just “run” mundanely down the little rapids.

I find ww is great way to develop more advanced skills for seakayakers. The rapids demand and help you hone your edge control, bracing, rolling and paddling technique in way that constant paddling on flatwater cannot. But, I am biased since I have come to prefer textured water venues that engage me physically and mentally in the moment.

Good luck in getting your first ww boat.


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thanks a lot for the thorough explanation of different boats & their features.

if it is a river runner you suggest, a contemporary one that seems to be popular is f.ex. the dagger rewind (according to me quickly googling this) Rewind MD | Dagger Kayaks | USA & Canada which also comes in different sizes, so thats helpful and could be an option i suppose.

i agree that buying used is the way to go for me, i just asked to disregard that part of the question b/c it just overcomplicates it - in theory it should be possible to find any boat second hand. but having some suggestions for particular boats just makes the search for a used one much easier, especially when it comes to older boats. so if anyone can think of any particular boats (/ riverrunners) that would suit a smaller sized paddler - many thanks!

So, that boat has a very slicey low volume stern. If you go with a lower volume version, it really is more of a “playboat.” That low volume stern can be used to slice and dive into a current line to initiate playmoves. For a newbie, that stern can lead to tripping and capsizing if one doesn’t have good edge awareness and control. But, if the same newbie moves up into the higher volume model, the slicey stern is higher up and out of the water. Thus, less prone to inadvertant tripping.

Here is a ww boat from the same company (Dagger) that I would consider to be squarely in the river running category. Note the less edgey lines and relatively higher volume around the cockpit area: Dagger Mamba 7.6, 8.1 and 8.6


thank you, ok. so with the rewind a larger volume boat would actually be preferable for a (whitewater) beginner if i understand correctly. or would that defeat the purpose of that particular boat? maybe just not a good fit for a beginner. that is good info in any case, as it changes the whole sizing / weight question somewhat. i will have a look at the mamba, it seems a popular one too, so maybe not so hard to find one second hand. thanks again

So, a higher volume Rewind would be more “forgiving” for a novice ww paddler. But, that slicey stern is designed for a purpose. So, my 2nd ww boat, which I still have, is a Dagger Ultrafuge.

It has very low volume ends that are intended to do this:

If you have the interest (and the skills) to do this intentionally, it’s great fun. If are just getting into white water paddling, it is not so much fun but will provide combat roll practice.

My first ww boat was a Perception Shock, which essentially was an even smaller, lower volume design, similar to the Ultrafuge. I got it because it was available used, at a low price, and was targeted towards a small paddler like me (I am 5’3" and was 135 lbs then). But, the first time I went out with it, I was constantly tripping over the eddy lines, stern squirting, and even submerging the whole kayak (call “mysterious moves”) unintentionally in pour over features. I got rid of that boat and got into the larger Ultrafuge. For me, the Ultrafuge was initially a very challenging boat but I “grew” into it skills wise. Would I recommend this type of boat for a novice… It depends on the inclination, skills and personality type of the novice.

Several years later, I picked a Riot Booster, which was less slicey and edgy for the same volume.

It was a more stable, “no surprises”, type of river running boat that I took when I went out with novices in case I needed to assist in the event of a capsize.


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i just have to see that i try as many different boats as i reasonably can. while i am sure it is more demanding in ww conditions, i do know how to roll so dont feel too worried about capsizing a lot. i would like to find a boat that while manageable by a beginner is maybe not too forgiving if that makes sense? maybe it doesnt. i just assume that the occasional punishment would eventually reward me with a better technique and feel for whats going on in the long run. but clearly there are boats that just dont make sense for me at the point i am at.

ps - that video is making me dizzy



Interesting thread making me want to try whitewater. :flushed:

Don’t know if older Dagger boats show up in mainland Europe (several of the Brit paddling club members I joined for outings when I traveled from the US to Yorkshire UK 6 years ago had Dagger whitewater models) but if they do, the 9’ standard model Dagger RPM is a good all around beginner to moderate skills boat for mid sized women.

i owned one for a little while (I am female and was 5’ 5" and about 140 pounds at the time with longer than is usually proportional legs for my height.) It fit me well but because I have sort of skewed hip rotation (that makes my knees and feet turn out, like a ballerina or a duck) I had trouble fitting my lower half in without my legs getting cramps and going numb after a while in the boat, so I sold it.

Not that big a fan of whitewater anyway, though I used to have fun tandem canoeing class 2 and 3.

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oh yeah it does! and a bunch of those, best price i am seeing atm 270€. that sounds great! thanks a lot, i will closer into it!

i came across this video Beginner's Guide to Buying Used Whitewater Kayaks - YouTube which seems full of excellent advice for anyone also interested in buying used. as far as i can tell at least. this video puts an emphasis on boats for beginners, but he also did one on boats for advanced paddlers. i dont know how to embed videos so here is the link to the other one Advanced Used Boat Buying for Whitewater Paddlers - YouTube

just a small update / question:

i came across a used pyranha ammo (€450, looks like it is in good condition) in my hometown. proximity is a factor since i dont have a car. does anyone have experience with this boat? there is not much info i can find on it, there are a couple of reviews here Playak and here The River Gypsies: private kayak instruction, learn to kayak, creeking clinics, whitewater instruction. and here NOC Paddling School Blog: Review of Pyranha Ammo that are mostly positive but i believe also dated from around the time the boat was released. makes me a bit skeptical there is not much info to be found within the last 10 years and i am wondering how well the boat has aged. as far as i understand it, the ammo is a hybrid riverrunner / playboat, so master of none, but that could be good for a beginner too (this beginner is likely not mastering anything anytime soon)? also rivers around here are mostly flatwater and proper ww will involve longer drives, so a slightly more playful boat could be … more fun for the flatter stuff? but i dont need to buy a boat right now so could wait around until a dagger mamba or sth similarly “acclaimed” for a beginner becomes available closer to where i am.

Looking at the bottom of the Ammo, it definitely will be more forgiving given how that planing hull bottom meets a more gradual angled sidewall. This minimizes sharp edges at the waterline that can lead to tripping on squirrelly current lines. Also, one of the reviewers was a 120 lb paddler who talks about running class III-IV creeks with this boat, it implies to me that this boat would have more volume than a playboat targeted for a 120 paddler. This would make the boat harder to “play” or do "tricks’ with on flatwater and class II features. Ammo bottom will definitely surf and allow for spins. It would a good boat to get you through that first season of running class II. As you get better and more experience, it looks to have enough volume (and forgiveness with its hull configuration) to get you up to taking on class IIIs.

GIven that you have a roll, if you see yourself playing around on flatwater or mild moving water more, the Ammo will not be the most conducive boat design for playing around like below:


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I’d check out a small pyranha machno. Get it in hot red/cherry pink meld.

All kidding aside, I think a solid choice, brit company, ww boats, a top seller river runner, in available sizing.

In terms of handling- predictable and not edgy, I found sitting up was important, Easiest boat I’ve ever rolled. Should be hitting the used market about now since it was released a few years ago.

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Weird but interesting. My impression is you need to be very flexible and in good shape.

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that should be pretty close to what i weigh myself, i think. but i need to buy a scale, it has been almost a decade since i stood on one. but the sizing of the boat is part of what attracts me to it.
the video does look fun, but i am looking at the playboat side of this more of as an extra to tip my toe (all of me) into, good surfing is attractive, but learning tricks not a priority for me atm. mostly i am interested in getting down rivers in one piece - while having some fun doing it. i like that this boat is being described as ‘nimble’ and should turn easily. though there was also someone on youtube saying it “paddled like a pig”. whatever that means. i am practicing on very gentle grade ii at the moment, the next logical step up in my region is grade iii- iv, where i plan on heading this summer.

yes i heard good things about the machno. i am not seeing one available atm, but as i said i am not pressed to buy anything immediately - i would like to, but just trying to make up my mind whether waiting is wiser. i have also been told to look out for: dagger mamba, dagger axiom (even though it is a half slice), jackson antix (another halfslice i believe), wavesport diesel.

are you referring to the ammo? flexible and in good shape… hm. i dont know what to make of this. could you elaborate?