Whitewater Kayak Advise

-- Last Updated: Oct-01-09 11:09 PM EST --

I'm looking for a river boat that I can move easily myself, so solo canoe or whitewater kayak seem the obvious choices (I'm experienced in sea kayak and tandem canoe).

I'm 6'2" and 230#. How do I sift through all of the whitewater kayak choices on Craigslist to figure out if I'll fit a particular boat?

[edit] Thanks to everyone who chimed in. To answer one of the questions: I would, at this time, be more river running and a little playing but I learned that from the seat of a big canoe. Give me a small, maneuverable, boat and some time I'll be playing more and more. I'm off to a local shop tomorrow to learn more and sit in a few boats.

One place to start is the manufacturer’s websites. They’ll have fit information for current models.

Boatertalk.com has extensive reviews of ww kayaks.

There’s a database at playak.com

What is it you want to do?
Are you looking to get into serious whitewater?

Wanting to run some rapid or play in them?

Looking for a small, lightweight boat for long trips?

I’m about your size and I have a Torrent that I use for just getting into whitewater that works well. The serious guys will scoff at a SOT, but it really is a decent boat to learn the basics on. For a big river that is more flatwater, a lightweight touring boat may be what you are after. You can find 15 footers (and longer) under 50 lbs if you look around. Most surf skis are in the 20 foot range and less than 40lbs.

If you want to get into serious whitewater, you need to look at the type of water to determine the boat you need. Big water with big drops almost requires a creeking boat. A river runner is a good downriver boat and there are a lot of those on the market. Then there are the play boats and freestyle boats for playing on one feature (usually a hole or standing wave).

If you are going on the cheap, find a used WW boat that is beginner friendly and just get out there with a local group of WW guys. They will quickly teach and show you the ropes as far as skills and equipment for your area and the rivers they run.


Thanks ~ I’ll check these out!

Thanks Jim
I live near the lower Skykomish River, WA - Class II+ from Gold Bar down to Monroe. Fairly big river with little maneuvering needed. I’ve solo-paddled it with my 16ft fiberglass canoe. Sounds like river-runner or creek boat might be best unless I get into more difficult water.


– Last Updated: Oct-01-09 11:45 AM EST –

A few that might fit:

Jackson SuperHero, SuperFun, MegaRocker
Liqid Logic Remix 79, XP10
Pyranha Karnali L, Burn L, Fusion, Ammo L, Recoil L
Dagger Mamba 8.5, Creeker 8.5, Approach 10

If there's a fair amount of just "quickwater", and you're more interested in running through it than staying and playing, one of the "hybrids" like the Approach, Fusion, or XP10 might work best for you. Most of the others will be real slugs on flat water.


I would add to the list:
Wavesport Diesel 80.

My Diesel has become my ‘go to’ ww boat. My I3 is more playful, but my Diesel is more forgiving and has some hull speed (for a ww boat).

At your size it is well worth trying a Diesel.

Whitewater Kayak Advise
eddyflower.com has a good database also - I find it easier to navigate.

Have you taken any lessons? If you take them with a commercial outfit you will most likely be in a fairly modern boat. Some clubs may put you in an older boat. The outfitting in the newest boats is generally more comfortable out of the box and also easier to adjust. You can be comfortable in an older boat, but it may take more time to customize for you.

Lessons may also help you to decide what type of boating you may find yourself interested in. Just river running or if you find yourself surfing as much as possible. If you want to surf/play a lot then you might want to look at something that is a river running playboat(jackson superfun, liquidlogic cr250 for example) instead of a riverrunner that is more creekboat oriented (LL Remix, Pyranha Karnali, Jackson Superhere).

Coming from a sea kayak background does require adjustment. You have to edge the boat in the opposite direction to turn, I’ve seen some sea kayakers take longer to learn this than someone who hasn’t paddled before. With a boat with more playboat like features you have to be aware of your weight fore & aft to keep the boat trimmed. With a creakish riverrunner this is less so.

Try as many boats as possible, even in flat water. Many places will also let you demo a boat and apply the demo fee to a purchase.

With big water and considering
your size, a real creeker or a higher volume river runner (in the 70 to 80 gallon range) is probably worth looking at. Some river runners are pretty low volume and that’s not a good thing in big water.

Some of the hybrids are okay, but I’d lean away from them if you are going to be in much Class II+ water. You will need to get a solid brace and I’d recommend getting a decent roll before taking on Class III rapids. If there is a local kayak/canoe club, they should be able to provide or help you find qualified instructors in your area. A few weeks in the pool and you’ll be much more prepared.


I think there is still some confusion

– Last Updated: Oct-01-09 1:58 PM EST –

You say: "Class II+. Fairly big river with little maneuvering needed. I've solo-paddled it with my 16ft fiberglass canoe. Sounds like river-runner or creek boat might be best unless I get into more difficult water."

You seem to already have a sea kayak and a canoe, so to me it does not make sense to go for a "compromize" or "hybrid" boat. I'd say, get a specialized WW boat that would best address your needs (it might end-up a "hybrid" like the ones suggested by others, but that should be still the most suitable boat, not a "do it all" solution for you). Just like with sea kayaks, if you get a "do it all", it usually means it only does one thing very well and is actually poor at the end of the range of things it does...

The question is do you want to go down-river or do you want to stay and play in one spot? Or a mix of the two - e.g. do you want to go downriver with occasional stop to play on waves or in holes or just the opposite: mainly stay and play with a little down'river mixed in?

A "more difficult" downriver run will likely only be made even more difficult if you try to do it in a play boat. The creek/river runners are great for going down big water and make it look easy compared to trying the same in a shoe-box play boat, but at 8+ foot long and round they do not play well (even though they seem to spin in place compared to any sea kayak or a long canoe and are plenty maneuverable).

Once you figure that part out (what you want to do), then the choices will become much easier to make. You are tall and not feather-light, so whatever the choice, you will be looking at the larger if not the largest model in each line-up (especially if you have longer legs or larger feet).

I chose a WaveSport Fuse due to availability and price over the Jackson SuperFun because I pretty much stay in one area of the river and do not move up-down too much, except to get to the right place to play depending on water conditions. It does not make sense for me to have a river or a creek boat since I do not do any real down'river runs in anything big yet (and probably never will). Also I was not convinced I am ready for a full-on play boat like the Jackson SuperStar even if I could sqeeze my legs and feet into one.

Anyway, many boats come in 4 or 5 sizes. I am 2" taller and 40-50lb lighter - for weight I would be in the second to largest size (56 galons for play purposes mainly) but I could not even get in, so for height I had to go to the largest size possible (64 galons). So, even though my boat is "60% play 40% river runner" as one review put it, it feels very comfortable going downriver as it has plenty of volume and is easily a foot or two longer than the same boat in smaller volume - so it paddles much more differently than the half-sized version of the exact same model (faster, more stable, less playful).

Either way, for class II you can't go wrong with a slightly used WW boat, whatever the style. Just make sure you fit well in it. Once you paddle it for a while, you will figure out for yourself what you want and can switch to a different boat if needed easy.

used WW boat

kocho is right…

Used ww boats are plentiful and can be bought very reasonably and often sold for the same as you paid.

Getting to my 2 current ww boats (Pyranha I3 & Wavesport Diesel) I bought and sold 5 ww boats. I sold each for exactly what I paid; actually I sold one for slightly more than I paid, so I threw in a paddle ;-).