whitewater vs touring

Im getting ready to actually purchase my first kayak, after borrowing and renting for too long. However, as a financial commitment, im having trouble deciding. I will spend most of my time kayaking on lakes and slow rivers, however i will be making weekend trips every few weeks or so to do more (light)whitewater kayaking with my friend. Is there anyway i could get a kayak that would preform well in one area and at least still be enjoyable in another?

Light whitewater?
What do you mean by light white water? Less than class 2 water can be maneuvered by many boats. Class 2 and above is best with a boat designed for such use.

Any ww boat can be paddled on a lake. It could be frustrating as ww boats are designed to be very maneuverable and hull speed is thought of quite differently.

There are some boats designed as crossovers which can be easily used up to class 2 ww and not be too demanding for flat water paddling.

It’s an addiction - you’ll see…
First buy the boat that will do the best job for the kind of paddling you will do the most … touring flatwater. Buy a used boat and save money.

You can pick up a used whitewater boat later. They can be had for $300

Boats are not like spouses you can buy/trade give away and borrow quite easily. Most kayakers have at least two boats.

Yes, there are some crossover boats …
take a look at the Pyranha Master TG. It’s mostly like a WW boat, but has a skeg to help it track on flatwater. There are others as well.


If by “light white water” you mean…
less than class II then just about any plastic kayak will from 10 to 17 feet long will fit the bill.

Something 17 feet and under should work.

I have had a 17 foot plastic kayak for ten years that I use in off shore ocean paddling as well as mild white water.

I wouldn’t go the route where you get a short WW kayak and then use it in the ocean.

It would be way to slow.



Used or…
Second the used, for both boats, except one thing to note. The whitewaer (WW) boats intended for smaller sized people can require more quickness to purchase than those for average sized guys - the classics like the Pyranha Inazone 220 and 222 usually sell within 24-48 hours of an ad being posted. “Smaller sized people” in most boats mean what used to be a statistically average sized female, 5’4" and 120-140 pounds. (Don’t know what is average now.)

While a touring boat with too much volume can function OK for lake paddling, extra volume can make life extremely difficult in class 2 WW. So it is important to be clear about what level WW is intended.

The crossover boats, including he Dagger Approach, are nice within their cohort. They will handily do class 1 WW as well as lakes etc. However, I have paddled next to newbies trying one out and they are struggling to keep up with their friends trying out something like a 14 ft touring boat. If you plan to paddle in any group, this will be a problem.

This is the time of year that outfitters and schols are selling off their demo and schooling boats at sale, as are stores like EMS, so scoring a “touring boat”, meaning the ones in a 12-14 ft length, should be quite doable. Craig’s list is not a bad source for used WW, as well as just checking around your own area. If you post your size and an idea of what rivers are around you, people may be better able to recommend something that’d work for you in whitewater.


…what she said.

What Eric said, plus
If you’re on the smaller side, the Dagger Approach is too big for you, and top speed is about 3 mph with hefty paddling. Any of the whitewater kayaks are hopelessly inadequate to keep up with your friends on white water. The Master TG is slower than the Dagger Approach.

If you can handle the weight I’d look at some of the plastic touring boats like the Carolina 14 or Prijon 14, Necky Zoar Sport and so forth. They have enough rocker to help you out in moderate white water.

For rec kayaks the Pamilico series works pretty good on rivers. The Heritage Featherlight 14 is another option.

Just to compare, I’ve used my P&H Capella 173 and my Enlighted T16 kayaks in moderate whitewater up to Class II just fine, as long as you get your line set up and don’t have to change directions abruptly. So don’t be put off thinking a touring kayak isn’t useful in moderate whitewater.

If you’re spending more than 85% of your time on flat water I’d recommend a touring kayak and as Eric said, get a good beater ww kayak for learning ww paddling.

Just to be a contrarian
I used to have a Perception Corona. Now it is called an Eclipse 15 or thereabouts. I paddles it on class II WW and had a lot of fun. It reminded me of “old school” boats from the '70s - not a planing hull, eddies out via strong lean into the eddy etc.

Just my 2 cents.


The “truth” is …
that you will be safer, have more fun, and have an easier time in WW if you have a real WW boat, even an old one. Even the flat sections can be fun. You don’t have to speed through them. Enjoy the river and the environment you are in. And a decent used WW boat can be had for around $250 or less. Pay no attention to those who say “you can make it through the rapids if you are careful with a touring boat.” You are not out there to make it through. You are out there to have fun and enjoy nature while keeping yourself safe.

Bucket of fun
No contest that in the right hands a boat that is less tuned to WW can function in class 2. My advice was based on this person being a newbie, where it might matter more to have a boat that makes it easier, and so increase the fun factor in learning. Our experience has been that the planing hull boats just cooperate so well in WW that it makes the whole thing more relaxed and comfortable.

Nothing fancy but
I still have my first boat, now a “beater”, a rotomolded Perception Acadia 12.5 footer. I paddled the hell out of that boat on all kinds of rivers, lakes, streams, whatever, in flatwater and also up to Class II ww, including Cattaraugus Creek, Pine Creek and the Middle Youghiogheny. It was reasonably priced for a newbie to begin with (I think $460 on sale at EMS). Used ones are cheaper. However if you are a really small paddler, it will seem enormous to you (big cockpit, you’ll need a good sprayskirt). I also have friends here with old 11 ft. rotomolded Perception Sierras, who use them for the same local Class I-II ww (creeks).

I know an instructor from the area who uses his old Acadia to play in some of the Class I-II local creeks here, too.

Just my 2 cents. I surely got my money’s worth out of that boat.