Paddling notes 2, selecting your first kayak

There are probably many guides on how to select and buy a Kayak, so I will throw mine out there to mingle with the others. I’ve had my first kayak for a little over one month so I will be talking as a first time buyer to those of you that will find yourself in the same boat soon, no real pun intended.

A bit of my history first, well I did have a kayak a bunch a years ago, it was a white water boat, and it was a give-away. So when I gave it away I didn’t loose much money on the transactions. Two reasons so get rid of it: I didn’t like white-water, and it didn’t fit, or should I say I didn’t fit in it.  Since then I have not had a boat, but dreamed of having a decent sea kayak for years.

So that brings me up to the present. I have taken some group tours in the past couple years, always in tandem boats, so I have a little experience paddling, very little. I was looking for a single.

My first stop was at a local kayak shop that carries many brands. The salesperson was quite helpful asking and answering questions. So I settled on one and if the funds were available at the time I probably would have taken it home with me. But the funds were not available and I was going on a long trip well away from water and would be spending all my free time Geocaching. So I put off the purchase for a couple weeks.

After I returned I went back to the shop and rented one of the same model for a short paddle, probably all of 1/2 hour. I came back and almost took it home with me. The next week we took a 3-hour Rescue/Safety class, again in a different boat. I spent more time falling in the water and getting back into the boat than paddling, but I did get to see how that boat handled differently from the one I’d demo’d. Then before I had time to purchase jy ‘first choice’ a friend told me about a paddle with a group at a park that rented kayaks.

Ok, I thought the small expense of renting a boat wouldn’t break the budget. Wow, that outfit had many to choose from, Ocean Kayak – sit on top, Old Town, Necky to name a few. The attendant that brought one out took a lucky guess and selected one for me. He made the perfect choice.

Once I had spent ten minutes in the water and had gotten used to the boat I really began to like it. The river water was slightly choppy but we headed into some marsh lands. Ok, the boat isn’t the easiest to turn around in tight spots – it isn’t a white-water boat. But it became more comfortable as the day wore on.

Three days later I was the proud owner of that model. So as to not say that is the best I won’t say which one it was. But it suites me.

So what are my recommendations?

  • If possible buy from a shop that has very paddlers for sails persons and will let you take your choices out for a lengthy paddle. Sitting in a boat in the grass in front of the store will only tell you if you can fit, not if you are comfortable.
  • Try out more than one model. If you can rent on for a whole morning or afternoon, do so. Or if you have friends that are willing, try theirs. You may find some friends that have more than one boat and will be glad to go with you.
  • Don’t fall for the first one you try, but you may come back to it.

I’ve had it out a number of times now, and am beginning to feel right at home. Oh, I might have felt the same way about the one I looked at first, but now I’m really glad I didn’t rush into the purchase.

As usual, any comments are welcome.


About Mike

I'm an avid bicyclist, that also enjoys Kayaking, Nature Photography, Cross Country Skiing and Geocaching. There's nothing more boring than sitting indoors in "good" weather.
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2 Responses to Paddling notes 2, selecting your first kayak

  1. runwolf says:

    I have had my boat about a month. And while I didn’t get to test it, I did sit in lots and lots and lots of boats, read lots and lots and lots of views and basically decided the boat I wanted was to expensive. I was about to buy a different boat, when the sales dude told me the boat I wanted was on sale. And so I bought it and I’ve never been happier.

  2. ka8b says:

    I’ve seen bike shops that let a prospective buyer take a bike and ride it around a parking lot, it’s nothing like riding a bike on “Real World Roads”. One shop near me has some roads nearby about 1-1/2 miles long that are more “Real World” than many riders may seen in normal riding. It starts with a steady hill climb of about 1/4 mile then down hill on a curvy road followed by a steep uphill into a left-hand turn and more up and down to finish at the shop. Just thinking about that route tires me out. But it did give me a real workout on a few bicycles before I bought one. I never would have known how the bikes I looked at felt in high-speed turns or low-speed turns while climbing with a parking lot ride.

    That’s why I suggested some extended paddling in prospective kayaks. It’s hard for a beginner to get the feel of a boat while on dry-land. But sitting in a boat many times on grass (or a parking lot) can help give you the feel of the boat, and it’s comfort., and yes it can give you that feeling without the fear of making a mistake and having to be rescued.

    Comfort is paramount! If you don’t like the feel of the boat, too loose, or too tight. Foot pegs not adjustable to the right position. Seat back too high, or too low, or not adjustable to a comfortable position, it won’t make much difference if the boat is the fastest or most responsive if you don’t feel “At One” with the boat. It’s a personal feel.

    I tried some other boats that I hadn’t mentioned and was totally uncomfortable in them, I knew right away that I would be unhappy with either them; One was a maintenance issue, others were size.

    Ok back to my original suggestion. Try as many as you can, paddling if you can, but dry-land try-outs for comfort are a good substitute. Then make a good choice even if it means you move up or down a price-range. Buy the best you can afford, then don’t look at another boat till you are ready to upgrade. There will always be better boats available, but they are not always affordable or practical. I’m happy with mine and will not look at another (“better”) boat for a few years – till I can afford and need a better one. I once knew a salesperson for a large computer company that would tell her prospective clients “Buy what is available today, the best you can afford. Don’t wait till next year for the next ‘better computer’ to come along. It’ll be too expensive and by then there will be another ‘better’ system on the horizon. It’s a never ending cycle.” Good advise on any large purchase, Computer Systems, Kayaks or Bicycles.

    Happy paddling

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