Which kayak is right?

-- Last Updated: Apr-17-11 10:31 PM EST --

I just went kayaking for my first time today...It was awesome! I had to rent a kayak for $25 and I know that I will be going at least once a week so it would be in my best interset to purchase one. I rented an Old Town Otter Plus and it was a great little boat it just doesn't have a whole lot of "features." So I'm trying to do some research on kayaks before I purchase anything. I'm 5'6 and 115 lbs and I will mostly be going on rivers with small rapids/rocks. Price isn't a criteria. I don't know how far I paddle but my trip today was 2 1/2 - 3 hours. I may start doing camping trips though so I may paddle longer. I've been looking at the Perception Acadia 11.5, Perception Prodigy 12.0 and the Perception Carolina 12.0 and Old Town Otter Plus. I also looked at Wilderness kayaks but I didn't see anything that jumped out at me. Any advice would be great! Thanks

Don’t be in too big a rush
Take your time before you buy. If you can, try renting and demo’ing a variety of boats – even take some classes first – so you’ll know for sure what you really want. The money spent on rentals will be money well spent if it builds your knowledge base. However, if you are just renting the same boat over and over, it won’t be as helpful.

Go used, see if you have a club around you that has folks turning around boats right now. The boats you mention are fine for their purpose, but they are rec boats and easily outgrown.

Where are you?

I live in northwest Georgia. I don’t plan on doing long 10-20 mile trips. Just 2-5 hour floats on rivers with small rapids and I just want a sturdy easy to maneuver kayak that has a little speed.

With location

– Last Updated: Apr-18-11 7:47 AM EST –

There are a lot of ways to outgrow a boat, and what most people new to paddling do not understand is that it is not just about how fast the boat can go or how much it can haul. If you want to do things like rolling or stopping to play in those little rapids, you will have an easier and more fun time doing so with a boat that is tuned for that kind of activity. The hull design and huge cockpit size of the rec boats you mention above make that difficult, especially if you are coming in on the smaller side.

The boats you are looking at will be way big for you in terms of depth, and you'll be unlikely to have decent contact for this fun stuff. It's just not what they are about.

This is where the rec/WW hybrids do a good job. They are better tuned to mixed conditions, are fast enough and have a skeg to help with tracking for the flats, but will make if fun to try and learn the wet stuff.

I just spent time trying to find demo (used) boats for sale in that area via the internet, figured I might spot someone with hybrids. I came up empty. But I suspect I could do better if I were on the ground there and got on the phone.

It would probably be worth making two calls right off. One would be to the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, asking if they have ideas for a good source of used boats. The other would be the the Atlanta Whitewater Club, to ask about opportunities to learn the fun stuff like rolling. They should be starting outside fairly soon now around you - it looks like they run a good program of winter classes in a pool.

No rolling!
I definitely don’t want to roll. I just want something that goes well on rivers that is light and tracks well.

Have fun

– Last Updated: Apr-18-11 9:15 AM EST –

Some people think everyone who starts out wants to make a career out of paddling...buying expensive boats and taking lessons on special skills. Never sounds like much fun but to me but each his own I guess.

Buy the boat that you like and just go out and have fun and enjoy being on the water. A demo day is a great way to test drive many different boats. Google for a local paddle shop in your area and tap into their knowledge. Some shops allow test drives any day if they are near water.

p.s. Perception and Wilderness systems are different brands of the same parent company. At the bottom of every page you'll see icons that link between all their brands.

You didn’t say your price range…
but I completely agree with mceb’s post.

You might also want to think of getting a kayak with a rudder, since you want a straight tracking boat.

Learn to paddle witout the rudder, but when a strong quartering wind comes up, you’ll be glad you have it.

I know some one who has the Prodigy and likes it very much, and he is a casual paddler like yourself.

The older original Carolinas were a great boat, if you can find a used one

jack L

You may change your mind about that down the road if you are going thru even smaller rapids. But the size issue is still there for you at 115 pounds. The average paddler boats are designed for is 50 or so pounds heavier than you, which means that you’ll be bobbing around more on top of the water than having the hull sunk in it. This will affect your tracking.

It’d be worth your time to try out some boats for smaller paddlers, and see if you like the handling better. They’d also be lighter weight to handle.

And don’t underestimate class 2 rapids, if that’s what you are calling small. They can put you in a difficult spot pretty quick if you capsize in them with a boat that has a big cockpit. You can easily be stuck on the shore watching your boat being pinned in some place you can’t get it out of.

I’ve heard good things about the 12ft. Carolina. Or even the Old Town Camden if you don’t mind a wider boat. They’re both rec kayaks but have enough options on them that they can make pretty decent touring boats.

The Carolina has more storage and rigging so that comes in handy for camping trips. I think the Carolina has molded in mount areas for a rudder system too if you want to add that later on if you feel like it.

My Advice
Get a used one if you can and get a good life vest and get out as soon as you can. I really liked my first kayak and wrote about it here:


You don’t have to have the perfect boat or even a very good boat to have a great time and start learning skills for more fun trips.

Pamlico 100
I’ve done a little more research and I’ve found the Wilderness Pamlico 100. It’s smaller and has all the features I’m looking for. I read the reviews and it seems good. I’m going to demo some boats at a local kayak store on a large creek before I make any decisions Thanks for all of your advice. I hope I can find the perfect little boat for me!

you are tiny
Get something narrower as well as a little longer. If going used or you really do like paddling spending a tad more up front is probably better. Tsunami series from wilderness systems in a 12.5 might be right. I think the make a 12.5. My wife is your size and the wider boats are hard to paddle because she just bangs the sides. Good luck.

Ryan L.

Tsunami 135
Actually the Tsunami 135 is perfect for small paddlers. It’s lower volume allows more control without loosing speed or stability. I have a friend that paddles one on the lower Hudson so it’s good in the bumpy stuff too.


my wife
My Wife is about your size. We paddled the other day fir about 3 hours doing 6 miles of river. She was in a Jackson Daytripper It is a very open boat-huge cockpit. She looks like she is sitting in a bathtub in it, but she likes paddling it. I think this summer we will start looking at the used market for a boat for her. many companies make boats for smaller people. I believe Emotion has the Bliss but I have not seen or paddled one.

A crossover boat should not be ruled out till you do a test paddle. We had a Jackson Allwater 10 at the shop and it was a great all around boat. I believe the companies that make the crossover boats normally make 2 sizes. The Liquid Logic remix is popular.

There is a picture of my wife in the Jackson Daytripper on my blog


Hey Math,
Go do that demo, and if you can, get the boat that speaks to you. It may not be the perfect boat for the rest of your life, but it’s what will get you out on the water.

Don’t forget to set aside some cash for a decent paddle. I’d rather have a slow boat with a light paddle than a fast boat with a heavy paddle, but I’m not twenty anymore. Your milage may vary.

As your interest and experience grows, you may find you want another boat, most of us do.

Then the fleet starts…


North Atlanta
I live in Alpharetta and kayak the Chattahoochee and on the Georgia coast regularly. We have a Necky Zoar Sport and a Carolina 12. When I got the Carolina for my girlfriend I wanted a Tsunami 12 but sometimes you can find great prices on a Carolina. I find the Carolina is more stable for a novice paddler but the Tsunami would probably grow with you as your skills improve. You should attend the on the water demo next weekend at Azalea Park in Roswell. It’s put on by “Go With the Flow” which is a fine dealer. It’s $5 and you can try out many of the top lines. They’re great and will work with you even if you don’t buy their boats. When you demo a number of kayaks and get some pointers it will really help you choose the right one.

Which kayak is right? The kind that’s a canoe!!

Kayaks are the vw bug of paddlecraft…novelty chick boats. Get yourself a good canoe, you’ll enjoy it a ton more.

Your weight puts you solidly in the “smaller paddler” category. Most kayaks are designed for heavier people. A boat that’s too big will be harder to paddle, especially in wind and waves.

For example, the Tribute 12 would be a much better fit for you than the Carolina 12.

Demo April 30-May 1
"Go with the Flow" in Roswell, Georgia is having a demo the above dates. I have been a couple times and they usually have a good selection of boats. Check out their web site at gowiththeflow.com. I am in no way asscociated with them. I am just passing this along in case you are looking for a demo.

We live in North Georgia and Tennessee. We don’t mind you trying out ours either. We have two boats that would fit you if you would like to try a higher performance boat. Just let me know.