I am full of contradictions even to myself. I love to stay indoors in the air-conditioned comfort of my home but then will go out riding my motorcycle, wearing leathers, even in summer heat, or cruising on the waters of NY or FL when I have the opportunity to go boating. I also love to fly, and one of my favorite places to fly over is a beach, and the majestic ocean waves rolling on to shore.
Even though swimming was required for me at Aitchison College, Lahore, as a boarding school student, I somehow managed to not properly learn how to swim. So, one of the sad facts of my five decades alive is that my boating and flying over water come with an inherent risk of drowning. Mind you, I am not a total non-swimmer. I can swim but never learned proper breathing. So, I can go one deep breath's worth of distance. But, this year, God Willing, I am planning to fix that shortcoming in my personal life skills.
One of the activities that has long been on my list, despite my proclivity and preference for things with keys, engines and fuel doing all the work -- which would explain my sailboat sitting unused in storage for 10 years -- I do want to go kayaking, both on the Great South Bay in New York, and Tampa Bay in Florida. As I embarked on my greater effort to finally learn swimming, I also was intrigued by the many choices available in buying a kayak.
I consider myself a well-informed consumer, and started doing research. But, then, I decided to reach out to a dear old friend from Long Island who has now moved to the South, Jeff Sievers, formerly of Long Island Advance (where he was when we first met in 1995) and Brookhaven Memorial Hospital (on the board of which he recommend my being on and I am still there 10+ years later). Jeff has been into boating, riding, playing guitar, and now more so, kayaking.
He sent me some very good advice in several emails, and I had an idea. Generally this blog is about my personal opinions, but, the great advice Jeff shared was worth putting into a blog post. So, without further ado, here are his thoughts….
Getting Started In Kayaking And A Buying Guide Opinion - by Jeff Sievers
Several friends who are contemplating the purchase of a kayak for fitness and to enjoy local waterways have asked me for some advice.
First of all beginners should understand the basic types of kayak. Traditionally these are referred to as: Recreational, White Water and Sea Kayaks. Recreational refers to kayaks intended for casual users on lakes or calm flat rivers. White Water refers to kayaks used on swift flowing rivers with rapids and rocks. Sea kayaks are long and narrow and used for long distance trips on open water.
Recently kayaks have been divided more often into a different type of grouping: either “sit in” or “sit on top.” A new entry, the Stand Up Board is also becoming popular with both beginners and long time users.
None of these should be confused with canoes, which while always popular, have some strong negatives. They are usually long and heavy, hard to steer and are easily moved by wind and currents. More about canoes later.
Sit in kayaks are common, and widely available, especially those sold at a discount by big box retailers. However, unless you are already an expert or especially interested in navigating small creeks and white water rivers, I strongly recommend getting a Sit on Top. These kayaks can be used for recreational use, are fine for use in the ocean and on flat water and can be used in less challenging white water conditions. Sit on Tops have built in floatation and scupper holes to allow water to flow right through.
I really like the Deuce Coup by Liquid Logic. It perfectly suits the needs of most beginners and intermediate kayakers. It converts from a tandem to a single easily, has a built in deployable skeg and is perfect for both surf and calm water. It's a great recreational boat. Very safe, lots of fun for one or two. It is rare to find a tandem that can double as a single. That is the only good one that I know of.
A good skeg or rudder is worth the price, comes standard with many models and can be added as an accessory on others.
Most Liquid Logic kayaks are designed for high end white water use, shooting rocky rapids and that sort of thing, that's how the company got started so the hulls, including the hull on their recreational boats like this one, are built for extreme use. They will take a beating.There are some great You Tube videos on this boat on the site and on the You Tube channel. They also make a similar coupe as a single seater. Native Watercraft is a sister brand and their hulls are just as well made. Don't buy one of the cheap ones like a Pelican from the big box stores, you will regret it.
Remember, buy a sit-on-top not a sit inside. Much better for your use. Also its like having a big life preserver with you all of the time.
In addition to Liquid Logic, I have a Manta Ray 12 from Native Watercraft. it's a great all around single person boat. You might prefer their Versa Board for your individual use I'm thinking of getting one. My wife is is partial to their Mariner model and is thinking of getting one of those. If I were buying the Manta Ray now after learning a bit more I would go for the Manta Ray 14 for about $60 more.
Some companies sell sectional kayaks which come apart into two or three pieces for storage, these are expensive and more importantly unsafe.
Your main concern regardless of price is stability. Any sit on top from Native Water Craft or Liquid Logic will be about as stable a boat as you can get and will last a lifetime and will offer great bang for the buck.
Don't buy any single user boat that is less than 11 feet long. A longer boat is much easer to steer and surprisingly easier to handle both on and out of the water so long as it is not too heavy. Cheaper boats tend to be heavy, even if they are cheaply made.
Don't buy a canoe, even if what you see is cheaper and heavily promoted.
One more thing… The scupper holes built into good sit-on-tops like those from Native Watercraft add lots of strength and stability despite what uninformed kid salespeople say.
If you want a single person fishing (and all purpose) kayak, seriously look at the Manta Ray 14, (a really good length). The professional fishing guides around here in Alabama swear by them. They come with or without fishing packages. For a single, 14 foot is a good length. I think it's actually 14' 7" .
Because it has a deep keel, I didn't get the rudder, and find it very stable but I am on a lake. The rudder is really helpful in windy conditions on big water. Search the You Tube videos. Or check on their website. Native Watercraft specializes in kayak fishing. Check out their Slayer model, it's built more for casting, but I can stand in mine, that's about as stable as you need.
If you want a double, for fun with your girlfriend(s) :-) the Deuce Coup can't be beat. Because of the drop down skeg it's both very stable, and tracks well and with the skeg up, turns on a pivot.
Also check out those videos… I can send you some links or check out the Native Watercraft forums hosted by Go With The Flow and linked from their home page.
I have experience with Hobie and Ocean as well as several small custom brands that sell for 2 and 3X the cost of my Manta Ray and if I were heading out on the ocean or bay or swift river, I would choose the Manta Ray hands down for safety and comfort, even over the Slayer or Mariner.
Fishing kayak seats are intended for all day comfort for big guys and the ones on my Manta Ray can't be beat, I wish I had them in my house.
Another thought, some sales people might direct you to a hybrid kayak called the Ultimate. It's a great boat but not well suited to Long Island waters. Same for brands like Black Water, Black Foot and the NuCanoe.
Some dealers might push the Wilderness Systems brand. They are about the same price as a similar Native Watercraft but don't have the same "build", attention to detail or features, in my view. I was out in one last week with a friend and while he likes it, I could clearly see where they cut corners.
Jackson is another good brand but more expensive. The brand Malibu is similar and gets a lot of good comments in sport forums but I have no experience with them.
Remember canoes, hybrids and sit in kayaks have little or no built in floatation. No good in rough water.
Get a good PFD and there's no need to spend too much on a paddle, a good one should run between $50 and 100 more than that and you are paying big bucks to shave off an oz or 2 of weight. It's not worth it.
OK seats can be an add-on on many brands. That's true for the very expensive brands and the cheap no-name brands. But in the range you want to be in, (I paid $979 for my Manta Ray and $929 for the Deuce Coup) seats, rigging and watertight hatches should be factory installed. Mine were. You want that stuff factory installed if at all possible because you don't want to be drilling holes in your new boat for the hardware. And you certainly don't want some kid that was working at the mall food court last week doing it.
That's also another reason why I wouldn't buy from a big box store like Dick's Sporting Goods, or Sports Authority.
Quality hatches are quite watertight. Aftermarket cut outs and installation of covers and rigging hardware are not worth it.
My Native Watercraft has rod storage built in under the seating position with access through the main hatch. I keep an emergency paddle in there.
Fishing packages usually have factory cut holes with rod holders. You can also add clamp-on accessories such as rod holders and motor mount. A small 1 lb. anchor is worth it. You don't need anything bigger than 1-2 lbs. no matter what the sales guys say and why carry the weight? I use a 8oz fishing sinker.
A wide brimmed hat makes more sense than a sun shade or umbrella.
Small battery operated motors such as trolling motors are available. But I don't think the trade off in weight and bulk is worth it.
I have a small round roll up sail that works great, takes up no space and can take you far and fast in just a whisper of wind. it feels really fast since you are so close to the water. (Wind Paddle sails on Amazon.com or at the wind paddle website). It's also useful to wave if you need to signal another boat for help.
Here are a couple of bits of advice. Always wear a PDF. Get one in a bright color.
Keep hydrated. Wear a hat and sunglasses. Wear short fingered gloves until your hands toughen up.
Tie everything down, including water bottles and sunglasses. Get a paddle leash and use it.
Practice getting back on the boat in shallow water. The trick is to hold on, let your legs float to the surface and then pull yourself up and across the boat. If your legs are under you, it's much tougher to climb back in.
Practice using the paddle held horizontally like a tight rope walker to add stability when getting in and out or when hit by a wave.
Use the taco shell type paddle holders that come with better boats, to rest.
Carry a whistle. Get a waterproof bag or case for your phone.
Carry about 15 feet of nylon cord with you for emergency tie ups and towing.
A 6- foot thin pole can be used to hold you in place in shallow water by poking it through a scupper hole into the sand or mud, you can put a small brightly colored pennant on the top of the pole to add visibility. You can store it in the rod storage area.
Buy a high visibility colored boat, you want to be seen. My boats are mango and lime green.
I like the built in stern wheel on my boats for moving it/them to and from the launch point. Few boats have that feature and for those a small dolly is a good idea.
There you have them, Jeff's opinions. Clearly, the above words are Jeff's opinions, and are shared by him with me, and by me with you, in the interest of opinion sharing. These are not to be construed as formal advise or recommendations for anyone. Use your own discretion. Do your own deeper research. Make your own decisions. Alternate thoughts, opinions and good advice from other knowledgable kayakers are most welcome. Above all, have fun, but be SAFE!
See you out there on the water.