Where to start looking for a boat.

I have paddled for years and have owned some very nice composite boats(and still have one) but here is my answer for beginners unsure of what to get.

  1. Nothing under 12’ unless you plan on never paddling over a mile and are in no hurry to get there. (does not apply to creek boating).
  2. Attend a paddle day and paddle as many boats as you can.
  3. This is where I get blasted. Go to Academy Sporting goods and check out their selection. You can get just about any style rec boat at a good price. I just came from Academy and was very impressed with some of their boats.
  4. Buy the best paddle you can afford.You can get some nice ones for around $125.

The first kayak usually isn’t a long-term keeper, so better to start paddling than to dither forever and ever about the perfect boat. Buy something inexpensive and get going.

Regarding trying boats at paddling get-togethers: ALWAYS ask the owner first before getting into the boat, unless they have clearly stated that anybody can try it. This is especially so if the boat is sitting on land rather than tied in the water. Some people don’t know how to get in properly and they can damage a boat that is on rocks or uneven hardpack. Even if you see someone else get into that boat, ask the owner first, because maybe the person you saw actually fits the boat and got the permission already but YOU don’t meet either criterion. There is also the possibility that someone tries to stick his legs inside a small cockpit, cannot do so, loses his balance, and lands hard on the deck. CRUNCH.

A good start

– Last Updated: Jul-24-12 8:44 PM EST –

But be careful of absolutes.
For example, in #1, there is no reason that you cannot go more than a mile at a fair speed in a shorter canoe, such as a Hornbeck. Sure, it was not designed for distance travel, but such boats do offer other advantages (such as excelling at remote pond-hopping), and should not be excluded from those activities that they may not be perfect at doing. I paddled and carried a 10.5 foot Hornbeck on a 185 mile trip across the Adirondacks in a single trip. Lots of big lakes were much longer than a mile, plus 62 miles of carries. I actually averaged 26 miles per day. The boat did very well for that particular combination of water and terrain, and I would not have ever wanted to do that trip in any other single boat.

#2 is also a good idea. Just beware that some very excellent boat makers choose to not participate in "paddle days" events. Let's just say they have their very good reasons for not getting into that single-vendor operated mix. Be sure to seek them out too, or you might miss out on a boat that you would really rather have.

#3 I have no idea what Academy Sporting Goods is. It must be a regional vendor.

#4 Absolutely true. A good paddle can make a poor boat tolerable, for a while (until you discover something better). But a poor paddle can sour you on paddling completely, regardless of how good the boat may be.

Now String,
#1 I once paddled a 9.5 ft Perception Swifty upstream on the Ocklawaha from Eureka West to Gore’s Landing and back—a total of approximately 18 miles. I’m not saying I have good sense…once was enough.

I frequently paddle my 11.5 ft Phoenix 120 12 miles, 6 miles up the Wekiva and Little Wekiva Rivers and back down. Four miles downstream from Katie’s Landing and two miles up Blackwater, and back, another 12 mile trip.

So paddling more than a mile is certainly realistic in a boat less than 12 ft long. Probably not for you, since you are twice my size. And maybe not for anyone wanting to keep up with much longer boars. Which I don’t.

Your other points are right on.

I think you and I might be of like mind on this one. I once paddled a Prijon Twister (10’ SOT with no keel line) with two guys paddling 19’ sea kayaks, for two laps around a reservoir. Total miles: 15. Never again. While keeping up with them wasn’t that hard, distance felt like twice the actual miles, compared with what paddling my 16.5’ footer would’ve felt like.

Also, sometimes I do laps around a pond using a Side Kick WW kayak (6’7"). Usually 3 or 4 laps of 1.5 miles each in that boat. No surprise that I can do those laps faster in my sea kayak (and I do more laps then), but the distance is perfectly doable in a shorty. Just not the best tool for the job. Each lap feels like more…work. It’s good training for making a WW boat track straight, though.

There is no question that if you are
looking for exercise, a short,wide boat will give it to you.Sissy, you are correct that I can’t relate very well to the normal sized world. The other day a little boy looked at me and asked “Are you a giant?”

I like short boats only when I am by myself. Once i tried to keep pace with friends in 14 foot boats while I was in a fat 10 foot boat. It absolutely wore me out!

Also good boats are available at Dick’s sporting goods which we have locally instead of Academy. For paddles you are better off going to a paddling shop. For life vests that are comfortable it would be worth a day of driving to get them from a real paddling shop.

You can order floats bags, tow lines, and paddle floats online from paddle shops but I’d drive to get the life vest.

What does the Dicks around you carry? We went to the one around us about two weeks ago and they had piles upon piles of Swifty 9.5 and some 10 footer I’ve never even heard of.

Other than that there was absolutely nothing. Terribly disappointing…

But holy crap you could have bought 100 Swifty’s and not even dented their inventory…

another factor is…
What and where are you most likely going to be paddling. My buddy bought a tandem Ocean Kayak that never gets wet because he can’t find a partner to go out in it with him. He should have bought a solo. Same goes for canoes too unless you want to start with a Wenonah Solo Plus or a 3 seater Malecite…

String, did you say