What type of kayak to learn on?

I took a short (3 hour) kayaking class today and I am curious what is typically used for learning? I’m about 6’, 210lb. They had me in a Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 and to be honest it scared the heck out of me. I found it difficult to get into, confining once in and very wobbly. (Wobbly is my subjective perception of the kayak, it’s obviously a good boat but I’m not sure it was the right one for me…)

Given that my goals right now are really just to do flatwater kayaking, I’m thinking of trying again with a different kayak, maybe something like a WS Pungo 140. The instructor suggested a Tsunami 165, but I’m guessing that is closer to the Tempest than it is to the Pungo.

Any thoughts and advice appreciated.

tippy and such…
While some other boat may be better and it’s worth testing, I’d bet if you could use something like that same Tempest just two or three more days sometime very soon you’re view would change a lot. You may not need such a boat, but boats that feel a bit tippy at first can be a lot of fun and take a lot less time in the saddle than most think to feel at ease in mostly calm water.

WS Zephyr
I rented a Zephyr once and walked away thinking it would make a good beginner boat. Very easy to get in and out of and very stable.

Scroll down half a page
to “Kayak I Can Learn With, Yet Grow With?” and there is a wealth of comments on this very topic. I have a 170 and felt the same about it at first but you would get used to it eventually, or try some of the other recommended boats for more immediate gratification, depending on what you want to do.

Me personally, I have three different yaks I paddle regularly including the tempest 170 and tsunami 145 and a rec boat plus the canoes

You’ll get used to the Tempest 170, and if you ever get into sea kayaking, it’d be a great boat. There’s a lot of different models in this catagory, so try a bunch of them. The more seat time you have the more stable they’ll feel.

The Tsunami 165 will feel much much more stable that the Tempest. I used to use Tsunamis for guiding out of. They’re really stable.

Where will you be paddling ?

– Last Updated: Jul-23-11 8:01 PM EST –

The kayaks you mentioned are great starting places. But ...where will you be paddling? How long, what do you want to do?

Lakes, River, Protected Bay, Open Coastline ... there are lots of options, if you don't like feeling confined in a Sit in Kayak look at some Sit on top Kayaks ... check out lots of options.




Advice at www.sit-on-topkayaking.com

interesting chocie
Tempest 170 was an interesting choice for a 3 hour beginner class. Not one I would have done.

I do teach beginner classes from time to time. We have a half day intro to kayaking class, which is very basic (types of kayaks, forward strokes, sweep strokes, etc.). Usually lay a bunch of different types of kayaks out on a beach (white water, touring, sit on top, rec, etc.), for people to check out. But most people are on sit on tops for the paddle portion of the class.

For the sea kayak specific classes, we generally use more day-touring type kayaks for the first classes. 12-14 feet long and 24-26" wide. Looksha 14, Alchemy, some of the Eddyline boats, etc. I look for boats that fit Seals 1.7 or 2.2 skirts, so the students can more easily fall out, yet skirts still can be of some use.

Only if someone already has experience would we use more touring type boats (which often have Seals 1.2 or 1.4 skirt sizes), like the Tempest.

For the second and third day classes, we do move to the touring kayaks for everyone.

That all said, what the others said about it being a short learning curve to get over the tippy feeling of a touring kayak is very true.

T170 isn’t terribly wobbly

– Last Updated: Jul-23-11 8:52 PM EST –

You are, and that is normal for a new paddler. It passes quickly. And if you really want to paddle, especially alone, you need to fall out of a boat and learn to get back in early on anyway. A capsize is not a bad thing, and it doesn't need to be any big deal.

Go and be willing to capsize - you'll be a lot more secure a lot faster. We spent some time this afternoon helping a guy capsize with some support and have fun doing it. He was going to pass on paddling tomorrow because of concerns about wet exiting, but ended up parking the boat on his beach so he can go right out.

Celia is right
I always fall back on the comment that boats don’t capsize but people capsize boats. Think about the boat on the water with no one in it. It will not capsize. It will just bounce around and ride with the water. Now put yourself in the boat. Let it do its thing without interference. Relax and let your hips go with the flow, like riding a horse. You will not capsize in reasonable circumstances.

I’m in a similar circumstance as the OP
Hey RJ, I’m in the same boat as you (pardon the pun).

I too am a beginner who’s trying to learn, and I’m trying to dope out which kayak I eventually want to buy. I’m starting to wonder if that kayak is the same one I should learn in, though.

This is 'cuz I think it would be pretty annoying and maybe even a little dangerous to learn in what would be an extremely tippy boat for a newbie. Yes, you would probably adapt fairly quickly to an advanced boat, but not everyone reports having that experience… different ppl adapt at different rates.

And if you’re trying to learn, IMHO the last thing you want to do is be learning the skills AND the boat as the same time (I wonder if some of the very experienced folks forget what it’s like to be a newbie). =[

While these might be good reasons to shy away from a full-on 17-foot-plus touring boat for now (but not forever), I think recreational kayaks also have a lot of problems too.

Many of those lack sufficient flotation (both front and rear bulkheads, and not enough length/volume), plus they have ginormous cockpits that would seem to be tough to get a secure seal with a sprayskirt with. Also they’re uber-wide and pretty tall, and thus harder to roll.

Finally, they’re a bit slow. =[

So, I’m thinking a ‘day touring’ boat might be the best for you… a nice compromise between a recreational kayak designed for ppl who are never going to take up the sport seriously, and the advanced expedition boats, which demand some skills.

I recently rented a Necky Looksha 14-footer (24.5" wide), and I really liked it, except for the (to me) overly narrow (16.5") cockpit. Made it difficult to get my 235 lb bulk in and out of the boat, but it wasn’t a deal-breaker.

It felt very slightly tippy to me, but far from bad. And the day-tourer felt pretty fast compared to the rec boats I’d tried previously (such as the Santee 116… 11.5 feet long and 28" wide, aka a bit of a barge).

The rudder and reasonable length of the Necky day-tourer made turning quite easy (I think the big expedition boats have to be edged to turn quick), though I think in the future I’d prefer a non-rudder boat, so that I learn to turn well with the paddle and/or edging alone, rather than relying on the rudder like some sort of crutch.

Plus, I’m finding I really don’t love those non-fixed foot pegs that rudders force on you… you can’t really brace against them well, plus you’re kinda worrying about keeping your feet even with each other so as not to ‘accidental-steer’. =[

I think a day-tourer with a slightly larger cockpit than the Looksha would be the perfect boat for me learn in, and may work for you as well.

And then once you’ve learned some skills, the expedition boats and all their great capabilities come into play, and the fears of tippiness and capsizing go away. Life is good. =]

Just my newb opinion.

Man u ain’t bought one yet?

– Last Updated: Jul-24-11 9:19 AM EST –

I thought the Necky was too cramped also. Try the Tsunami 145, you'll like. No skeg but that's what edging is for. And watch Craigs list for a 170 (they have a skeg), because you are probably overestimating the learning curve, I probably scared you off with my first post.
Kayaks are like girlfriends, it's OK to have more than one.

i dont forget
I am thirty years younger than most on here. So I still remember and still consider myself as someone who is learning. I did the same thing you are talking about. I wondered if the boat would be too much.

Kayaks, at first, always look really long and really skinny, the cockpit also feels really small. But very quickly you will want a longer boat, a narrower boat, and a tighter fit. If you don’t then you should canoe. Which is awesome as well.

I bought a starter boat that was 10ft long. Then quickly got into tandem paddling. Then I wanted a fast solo I could camp out of comfortably. Then I started on canoes, now I need a barn. If I could do it all over again I would have started in something in the 14 to 16ft range made out of plastic. That way I could use it on about any waterway without serious ww. That way I could find out what I really want to do and not waste the first purchase. The catch to this is that you are commiting more upfront but saving later. Same goes for the paddle. First paddle $80, then $120, now $400. Could have saved $200.

The kayak argument really comes down to where you will be paddling. The ocean and rough inland lakes in the long run requires a boat that can be rolled. So that said, there are boats that I really wouldnt suggest based on their back deck height and over all volume. The cockpit needs to fit you for braceing and quick maneuvers. But if we are talking about wide rivers and reservoirs a roll really isn’t necessary. Self rescue is important so things like deck rigging are. This kind of paddling also doesn’t really require a tight fit. The rec cross over boats like the Tsunamis are great because the cockpits are comfortable.

Of course there are exceptions to what I have said but that is for you to learn.

After five years of serious paddling I settled on a qcc 500 as my main boat because it fits what I want to do and my size. The cockpit is a little big and I could have gone smaller but it is comfortable for very long paddles. It is a tough boat to roll, I cant,but I have never flipped it. And I probably never will.

To sum up. If you really are committed to this paddling thing, don’t worry about the tippy feeling. It will go away very quickly. It is just a matter of relaxing. My unathletic wife got used to her narrow canoe in two trips. If she can do it so can you. Buy a used boat or don’t. If you have the money and want to get exactly what you want then do it. Just remember that very quickly this paddling thing will take hold and you will want another one.

Good luck,

Ryan L.

rjpetit, come back…
You say you want to do only flatwater kayaking – please say a little more about that (ponds, small lakes, non-whitewater but big fast rivers?). Also, where are you – I’m thinking about water and air temps; also what seasons do you hope to paddle. All this will help with advice a bit.

Just FYI, my GF and I started about 4 years ago with Tsunami 140 and Necky Manitou 14; served us well. We go out alone usually, that is, not with folks in faster boats. So, we were well suited to each other. These boats did well (tons of great times!) on lakes and flat water sections of the Snake River here in Wyoming. We now both have longer, skinnier, way more efficient to paddle kayaks. My GF got the bite mostly after paddling her Tsunami while I was in my Eddyline Fathom – she was working harder than me – she tried my Fathom a few times and really liked it – very fortunately for us, a gal in town was selling her Fathom LV (Low Volume – perfect for my GF). Anyway, the time it takes anyone to want to move from a Tsunami-like boat to a skinnier boat will vary all the way from “right away” to “never” depending on all sorts of factors, just for example, how much you really want to take up “the sport,” how much mileage you want to cover, who you are paddling with, etc., etc. I will agree with many other posters – don’t judge the tippy thing based on your one time out. Get out more.

Thanks for all the feedback
Thanks everyone for all the feedback.

The rational side of me agrees with most of the comments that I could possibly get comfortable in the Tempest 170 after more time in the boat. Really, we only had an hour on water due to lightning in the area for the first part of the class.

On the other hand though, given how nervous I was in the Tempest, I think another lesson would be more productive if I were in a boat that helped calm those nerves a bit… I’m gathering from comments here that I’m probably going too far the other way by going to a Pungo and would probably be cheating myself out of learning opportunites. It seems like a good middle ground would be the Tsunami, either the 165 or maybe even the 145. The added perceived stability and somewhat easier entry/exit would (I hope) allow me to relax and learn a little more. I certainly don’t plan on buying a kayak until I know I can get comfortable in one…

As for those who asked where and what I plan on paddling, I don’t honestly know. This class was a chance to start exploring. The only thing I do know is it will be up here in the northeast (I live in Worcester, MA). My thought is that I would stick to ponds/lakes maybe flat slow rivers for at least the near term, but I won’t really know 'til I get a little more time in and see how I feel. The nice thing about being in MA is that there are alot of opportunites in easy driving distance :slight_smile:

Here’s from my end
I’m a beginner also. Bought a rec boat for “flat” water kayaking, basically sloughs and canals on SF Bay. But wanted to try out real sea kayaking and develop some skills, so took a good Sea Kayaking 1 class, which was great.

The boat they put me in, and I’m 6’ and 180 lb., was a Delsyk 430 without skeg or rudder. Poly boat, 14’ long, maybe about 22-23" at beam.

After my wide, flat and stable 9.5’ Emotion Glide rec boat, I wasn’t certain how I’d adjust to a narrower true touring boat. Well, I needn’t have been concerned!

Gotta tell ya that this Delsyk I took to almost immediately. It had good initial stability (getting in) and great secondary stability. No problem getting in or out, even with self-rescue on the water. You could lean way over without truly tipping over. It was reasonably fast, very easy to paddle, tracked well yet turned well. It had fore and aft compartments that were well sealed (double sealed actually) for flotation and gear. It had all the deck lines you would want. It even had an adjustable seat that was very good. And they do come with skegs or rudders if you want.

If I had the bucks, I’d have bought one right there.

Now the purists here may tell you that a 14’ boat isn’t a true sea kayak. Bullshit! I saw guys the same day surfing in boats that size and config, as well as the usual surf specific kayaks. The 16’-18’ expedition kayaks were not that noticeably longer, nor did the one guy using one report that it was any better to use than the Delsyk 14’ boat. The instructor was clear that he thought a lot of this particular boat for all but expeditions.

So you try a lot and you find out what fits YOU, not the other guys.

My Emotion Glide is about perfect for my regular use on canals. Nothing missing here (I did get one extra float bag) for lakes, calmer rivers, canals, sloughs. It’s a great boat for me because it’s light enough to hand carry back home if necessary (which I ended up doing 3 times when my DIY kayak cart kept breaking down) at about 35 pounds. And one thing it didn’t break was the bank!

The Delsyk is more like 42-45 pounds, but still portable enough. And I really liked it!

See if you can find something like that one to learn on.

Then rent for a while …
… before you buy anything. Wait until you know what you want to do, where you like to paddle. If I was going to be paddling ponds small lakes, I’d be looking at something different than if I liked rivers and streams. Or ocean.

Getting in and out of the boat is the most likely time to flip one: your waist is your center of gravity, and it’s over the deck. Once your butt is in the seat, the center of gravity is a few inches off the floor, where it’s supposed to be. A kayak is very stable when you are seated, very unstable when your butt is above the the deck.

You mention being nervous. In the T. Nervousness = that tippy feeling. Relax. Go with the motion of the boat.

Loose hips is another one you’ll hear often. Let the boat move under you, roll with your hips, and keep your torso vertical.

Don’t worry about the boat being level at all times. If you do, you’ll be twitching constantly. That makes kayaking as fun as walking a tight rope. (Unless that’s your thing.) A real touring boat, like the T, can be at rest with the deck at an angle. It can be at rest on edge. Relax, and see where the boat rests.

The T has great secondary stability, and is designed to be able to sit on its edge. As you edge it, it will push back at you, with greater resistance, until you go too far. Unless you are way to heavy for the boat, or it is way over loaded, you as a beginner will have to push real hard to get to that point where you go past the secondary.

That is, as long as you roll with your hips and keep your torso vertical. If you don’t keep your hips loose and torso vertical, you’ll shift too much weight off center and roll the boat.

Find a nice shallow sandy area, just deep enough to float the boat, but where you can catch yourself but putting your had on the sand. Try edging the boat by raising one knee, rolling with your hips, and keeping your torso vertical. You are likely to be amazed at how hard you have to work to edge the boat, and how far it can go, and that pushing through the secondary is not easy.

you don’t have a beginners mind

I like the idea
Seems like a good idea to play with edging the boat to get a better feel for the boundaries. I’ve actually been toying with the idea of making my next class a private one so I could do some things to make myself more comfortable in the kayak without derailing the agenda of a group class.

I guess they is beginners and they is BEGINNERS.

Tsunami 165
The only similarity between a Tempest 170 and Tsunami 165 is the length. Otherwise they’re entirely different-feeling boats.

This year we got Tsunamis, and I’ve been putting our greenest beginners in the Tsunami 160 and 165. (lighter people in the 160, heavier folks in the 165.) I think for your size and purposes the 165 is definitely worth trying.