whitewater, inflatable newbie

I live in NE Iowa. We have some good class 2-3 runs and holes within an hour or so drive, and for the long weekend I can get to Wolf R in Wis and up to Duluth area. I have paddled New River Gorge, Cache La Poudre and the Royal Gorge section of the Arkansas, all via raft. We have TONS of slow moving rivers and creeks close by. My wife and I want to get into the sport, but are on a limited budget. I have checked out inflatables, which seem to be the most feasible option at this point, including Sevylor Tahiti Self Bailing, Sea Eagle 330 and Airhead by Kwik Tek Performance Kayaks. What do you all think is the best way to get into the sport? Should I look at canoes? HELP!!!

"get into the sport?"
Depends what you mean by that. If you mean learning to WW kayak, then forget the inflatables. Take lessons, borrow and rent equipment, and eventually buy used WW boats. The Wolf is a great river and you can take lessons from Bear Paw. Their instruction is excellent. You can start running section II of the wolf, and then section III. Eventually you can pay a substantial fee and run section IV, which is a challenging but very fun section. There are several other rivers in the vicinity that are very good. Don’t stick a toe into the water. Jump in. And welcome aboard.

I’m not sure that any of the three
options you list is suitable for rivers like the Arkansas in CO. Check out the Aire Force or possibly some of the Innova boats.

I second

– Last Updated: Mar-25-07 10:52 PM EST –

the Air Force & Innova Recommendation above. Spending more for a quality boat is worth it. For loads of IK (inflatable kayak) info, check out www.theboatpeople.com.

Also, if you are serious about the whitewater, look at the clasified adds here and/or ebay. It seems like there are a ton of used plastic WW boats out there that can be had for a few hundred bucks.

Whatever you decide to do, classes and test paddles are a good idea before you buy. I have also done the New River via raft, and wouldn't dream of trying that in a solo boat without some professional direction first. Respect the river.

wow, let’s backstep
ok, sorry for the confusion. I have rafted the Poudre, New River and Arkansas, but would NEVER dream, nor really want to solo these rivers. I am purely speaking for class I-III rivers in Iowa, which are all very short sections, to my knowledge. We’d only get out ever weekend at very most. That being said, does it change your opinions on the Airhead, Sevylor or Sea Eagle. Remember, about 90% of my paddling will (by geography) be flat water rivers, with sections of rapids. Thanks!

I think you would be disappointed
in any of those inflatables. If you had one for each of your wife and yourself, and you only want to float down easy rivers, then they would probably be alright.

If I was too short of money to do otherwise (and I have been and did), though, I’d buy a used Grumman 17’ aluminum canoe–should be about $300, depending on condition. It would get you down the flatwater without any problem and even some minor rapids. It will be extremely durable, and if you want to get serious about paddling, then you will be able to sell it for about what you paid for it.

It was the first boat my wife and I got (we’ve now got 10!), and we still keep it to lend out to friends on easy river trips. You can have a lifetime of fun with it–as opposed to a summer of headaches with an inexpensive inflatable.

Didn’t intend to scare you.
Inflatables can be great, safe boats, as well as being easy to transport and portage. Of the three companies you mentioned, all have high end and low end models. Seriously look at spending a little more and getting the high end, which typically have thicker hull materials. Even just floating, their is a lot of things that can poke holes in the hulls - I think you would be a little frustrated with the sport if you have to do field repairs every other time down the river. Also look at the type of valves, and the width and method of welding/glueing the seams (again, see theboatpeople). These things can add up to the difference between a few years and a few decades in the life of the boat.

If you can find place to demo the inflatables, by all means, take advantage. I have found very few places in my area to even look at them, let alone test paddle.