What's the Yak for me?

I’m a 5’8", 125lbs guy (30) with intermediate kayaking skills. (I used to yak a lot but stopped and am returning to the sport.) I want to get a kayak of my own for calm/sheltered waters around Long Island: all parts of the Nissequogue river, some parts of Stony Brook Harbor.

My goal is to enjoy nature, watch birds/wildlife etc through the medium of the kayak, have lunch, read, etc. I’d like to really get up close to nature/wildlife, see/photograph rivers and sheltered bays from new angles.

But I would also appreciate a “fast” boat. I don’t want to have to strain myself to cover a good distance in reasonable time, or when there’s some wind chop in the water.

I don’t want to say I will never fish, camp or explore choppier waters. But I don’t want to buy this kayak based on plans to do those things as I think I would only attempt any of those things 1-2x/year. The roughest waters I will explore will probably be within the Smithtown Bay, and I don’t yet own a fishing rod or tent. Never the South Shore if you are familiar with the area.

Because of my planned activities, I’m thinking a Rec Yak is ideal. Do you agree? Outdoorgearlab seems to really like the WS Aspire 105. I went to a rental and they had a Pungo 140 which I tried. I loved the speed on the 140. However, it looks like they are sold out or discontinued right now (is this temporary?), and I wonder if the Pungo 120 would be more maneuverable (140 was fine but a little less maneuverable/steerable than I had hoped).

Any thoughts on the WS Aspire vs Pungo? Do you have other recommendations or general advice?

Rec boats should not be offshore in bigger water. The areas you are talking about are admittedly relatively sheltered.

But going for a rec boat would tether you to a safe distance from shore. Are you sure you would want to stay there?

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You’re describing two different boats. You want a wider fishing boat and a long slender “race car” boat to sight see (something like a Romney or Cetus). I doubt you’ll find what you want/need in a single boat.

In general? Don’t buy new. Look on Craigslist (or similar). Expect to buy two boats.

You might consider an Old Town Loon 126. Very comfortable seat, supurb glide (fast).

How far from shore would I be tethered, exactly? I’m not 100% sure I’d want to stay sheltered, though I admit I imagine doing a lot if sitting and relaxing, reading, wildlife watching in the yak rather than intense paddling/waves. No rapids for me, for sure. And I also like the idea of a big cockpit because I want to be able to bend my knees to prop up a book and relax. I feel like the tiny opening would make that kind of lounging difficult…

The vast majority of recreational class kayaks can’t be gotten back into in deep water should you flip. So the distance from shore is how far you can swim. Keep in mind, when the water is cold, the distance you can swim shortens greatly.

You may want to consider a sit on top style kayak. A little more wet ride, but easier to get back on in open water (but do learn and practice the process), so not limited to staying close to shore.

Yikes the Romney classic is beautiful But at that price id have to buy used. I need to be able to keep a car to transport it afterall, not sell it to afford the yak! lol.

What kind of boat do you think I should start with first? Can you elaborate more on the advantages and limits of the two kinds of bosts you describe? Will it be hard for me to use binoculars to bird from the racing boat? Or to stop and eat lunch in the boat, put my feet up and relax? I feel like the birding/nature observing prt is essential, whereas speed is secondary for now, provided the boat is not unbearably bargelike/slow. I dont want it to be so slow it discourages me from using it!

You might want to take a look at the Eddyline Sitka ST (or the earlier version called the Samba). It is fairly light, reasonably fast and should be safe for going beyond sheltered waters. It is a fairly narrow boat, so not ideal for fishing, but very good for paddling and exploring.

Aspire versus Pungo? Well, look at the dimensions. They’re both the same 29" wide but the Pungo is 12’ 2" to the Aspire’s 10’ 6". This will make the Pungo a little faster. Both have huge cockpits but the trade off there is comfort versus safety. And given that neither have a sealed bow compartment or safety lines, you’d better be certain you can swim to shore when (not if) you tip it. Having said that, that 29" beam makes them both pretty stable under gentle conditions. Neither of those boats will make you a skilled paddler, they’re not suitable for edging never mind rolling.

If I were you I’d be looking at a boat more in the 13’-15’ range with a beam of around 24", a boat with deck lines and sealed compartments fore and aft. A WS Tsunami 140 might be more like it or a Perception Carolina 14. Longer, narrower boats will feel tippy at first but you’ll quickly get used to it and they will give you much better performance and room to grow your paddling skills.


You have described a recreational kayak in your wants. A Pungo is perfect for birding or kicking back, as is the Loom or several other similar boats.
I have owned kayaks that will put you in the water if you twitch.
I have paddled SOT for years and they are also ideal for your activities. They tend to be heavier than rec sit insides of comparable length. But they won’t fill with water. Look at an RTM Disco.
IMO forget 10’ boats.

You may want to read an article on the different style of boats (rec vs touring vs sit on top vs white water). Published in California Kayaker Magazine. Available online at http://calkayakermag.com/magazine.html. Issue #10.