What is the right kayak for me

I haven’t reached S yet, but N is pretty big,

Yeah, I agree. But maybe there is a more complicated equation that takes into account the touring bike that hasn’t been ridden in several years (and the new gravel bike can fill that slot), as well as the really nice road bike that is fast and awesome, but has been ridden exactly once per year since the even nicer endurance-geometry bike came on the scene (somehow combined with age (mine), and the zero percent chance I’ll ever do another triathlon). And the desire for more toy $$!

I understand the “s” variable. Actually, every time I get a new bike, it isn’t too terribly long before Hubby decides he needs one, often ever so slightly better than mine. And I ride way more than he does these days. Fortunately, he doesn’t even try to keep up with me in the ski department. And kayaks, well, if I get a better boat, he does need to be able to keep up.

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As long as the significant other is able to increase their n at a rate approaching yours, then s is unobtainable.

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Of course upgrading bikes is completely acceptable. I don’t have the problem of S anymore so I can buy and sell to my hearts content satisfying my ever growing stable of boats, bikes and skis. I did part with my classics because 95% of my skiing was on racing skate skis. It’s so much more fun of a form and physically challenges me more than my classic skis ever did.

Yo need at least two boats. 12± for rivers and streams, maybe shorter depending. 16+ for open water.

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What you may want to do is start a little research from scratch. I would suggest reading an article available online on different types/categories of kayaks. Go to California Kayaker Magazine - South West's source for paddlesports information and open the PDF for issue #10 spring 2013 (yudu link no longer works). There is an article on the basics of different types of kayaks - recreational class, touring/sea kayak, sit on top, surf ski, white water, etc. Gives basic where they are design to be used, pros and cons.

The Tsunami you’ve used is a touring kayak. A little bit more on the recreational design, but not a recreational class kayak (so doesn’t have the limitations that a rec kayak would have as talked about in the article).

A surf ski would be like using a carbon, hard tail on a cross country race course - takes some skills to make it go fast safely. A sea kayak would be like using a full suspension bike with a bit more upright seated position - much more comfortable for the masses, but not as fast.

I think people are hung u on you saying you race. If you want to do racing in kayaks also, then a surf ski or a sea kayak which draws from surf ski designs (so long and skinny) would be good to work to, if not get right away. if you are just wanting to get out and paddle and enjoy being out there, a kayak like the Tsunami (or Stratos as mentioned by others) might be the way to do.

Being you are early on, I would recommend taking a day-long intro to sea kayak class before buying. I think you will learn a lot about what boat you may want as part of that class, along with strokes and rescues.


Edge a Solstice it turns quite nicely. On waves turn it on top of the wave less hull in the water at the ends.

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I was just on a small inland lake - no waves, no wind. I’m not all that experienced, and had never been in an actual sea kayak before. So my experience that day just left me thinking it was the wrong venue for that particular boat. But Dad has always said it needed the rudder for turning. It wants to go straight, which I assume is good for open water. I also assume not all versions/years of the Solstice behave the same, but I also know I don’t have the sea kayak skills to know. My point was just about getting a kayak to match its intended use. I would never take that particular boat on a narrow, windy river. I would love to try it on Lake Superior.

Rudders are generally designed to allow a boat to go straight faster, not so much as a device to use steer the boat. A proper turn stroke, like a sweep stroke, will turn a boat much faster than one can turn with a rudder. That said, just because it wasn’t what it was designed for and isn’t the most efficient way doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done - many folks do use rudders for their primary steering and it works fine most of the time.

Rudders were designed for cases like when a wind comes from the side. With a side wind, a kayak will generally try to turn into the wind (called weather cocking). To paddle straight without a rudder does require turning strokes on one side, which are not as efficient at moving you forward, so having to do these strokes would make you use more energy and go at slower speed. A rudder (or skeg) is designed to help offset weather cocking, so the paddler can focus on moving forward at higher speeds with less energy. This is why people doing very long trips and people with racing kayaks generally do use rudders - they want the added efficiency they can get from focusing on going forward.

An exception to all this is that double (and triple) kayaks with rudders generally do use the rudder for steering, as getting the two paddlers to work together to make turns is hard.

Other exceptions are kayak sailing, pedal powered or motorized kayaks, and boats used for fishing/photography, where using a paddle for steering control may not be desirable.

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IF you go with a surf ski, try to buy a used plastic one (lower price, better able to withstand newbie errors that would damage a composite ski). I can only think of three off the top of my head, Epic V7, Epic V5, and Nelo 510. They even come with a hatch, unlike most skis.

The V7 and 510 are both 17’ long; the V5 is 14’ long, IIRC. I demo’ed V5, V7, and Nelo 520 (similar to but not identical to 510 dimensions—and much lighter and much more expensive).

The V7 and V5 are really nice but both felt too wide and deep for me. However, they would fit a bigger person than me, and if you want to do shallow-river paddling, you can get a flip-up over-stern rudder like what ruddered sea kayaks have. Surf skis have the rudder forward of the stern and they do NOT flip up or retract. I don’t know if 510 offers that choice.

It’s not clear what traits you most want. Many of us start off wanting something versatile, because we are too new to know what kind of paddling we will prefer after a year or more.

Lake Superior? Maybe with months of training.


I took my 18 ft Tahsis 144 miles up a narrow winding river. It’s not the ideal boat but it worked. Probably the biggest issue I had was getting my perimeter lines snagged on strainers. Luckily I was paddling with a friend who could get me loose the few times that happened.

Not meaning any disrespect here, and maybe I’m not entirely comprehending what you’re saying (possible, it’s been a long day), but if you’re correct in this, it would be the first time in the history of anything in water or air where a rudder was not a device used for steering. That’s what it’s doing when you use the rudder to correct for wind or current, you’re steering.

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It’s one of those “you’re both right” discussions. Rudders do correct for wind/current on a straight course. They also allow the boat to turn. If they weren’t meant for turning then why do rudders turn a lot and not just a little as would be needed in wind correction. I can literally paddle my boat in a circle if I crank the rudder. I personally don’t like using the rudder anymore than I have to because I enjoy making corrections with the paddle vs the rudder and rudders do negatively effect efficiency by about 5-6 percent. I do use it though in situations where it’s the best tool for the job.

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Well, yes! And near shore only. Guess I wasn’t clear. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

My bad on wording. Rudders are used for steering on most vessels. In something like sailboat, it is needed, as you can’t adjust what direction you get propulsion from. But an outboard motored boat wouldn’t have a rudder at all, as they adjust the propulsion direction.

In the case of kayaks, because we can adjust the direction of our propulsion based on the stroke used, a rudder is not required. As a matter of fact, rudders on kayaks are recent developments - the historic predecessors of our current kayaks did not use rudders.

On kayaks with rudders, they can be used to steer you left or right or even make a full 180 in a large circle, but that is not the most efficient way to use them. A more efficient way to use them is as a way to maintain a straight direction (offsetting natural turning like weather cocking) so you can go long distances or fast (or use less energy when going shorter distances or not as fast).

Interesting, at the beginning of the pandemic I was watching a fair amount of maritime related youtube videos. One I was watching was Tim B at Sea, a channel of a tub boat captain (at first in NYC, now in Puerto Rico). Learned a lot about what it is like for tugs. One of the things that showed up was that they use rudders similar to us - as an adjustment. His tugs have 2 propellers that are fixed direction, and 1 or 2 rudders. When they need to make a major turn (whether tug alone or tug with barge), they are doing it by running one prop forward and the other backwards. Not too different than us doing forward sweep on one side and back sweep on the other. They aren’t setting the rudder hard over and making a large circle as their way of making the turn. But if making minor adjustments to direction, then he uses the rudder.

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I enjoy watching the tugs ‘escort’ the freighters up the St Johns (Jaxport) as I paddle the river.
There are some places on the river where the width is quite narrow and the shipping channel takes most of it.
When passing a huge freighter - typically, little wake.
Some of the tugs (especially when alone - on their return trip) produce a monster wake.

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Predecessor’s didn’t have carbon fiber paddles or fiberglass. Things change for the better at times. No skegs either.

In addition to open water I like exploring rivers and streams to the end of navigation. I have an 18’ Necky Arluk 1.9 that has no rocker. Except for the rare occasion where I come to a turn that is too sharp and narrow, I have little problem with narrow winding streams. I will be a bit slower than a short boat, but with edging and different paddle strokes I still get there. . The only hassle is sometimes I have to paddle backwards for a considerable distance to get back to a place that is wide enough to turn the boat around. I don’t use the rudder in these types of creeks and streams. A lot of times they are too shallow or have underwater obstructions. These streams are generally tidal or are not particularly fast flowing with strainers.

They only time that I use the rudder with this boat is when on open water with a strong stern quartering wind and traveling long distances. To not use a rudder or skeg for most boats in these conditions is tiring, slow, and inefficient.

Thanks to all of you who have offered ideas and suggestions. All great ones and places for me to start. My last bike race of the year is Saturday. After that, I will dive into kayak research.