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I am in the market for a kayak and am wondering what type of kayak or what features I should look at given my requirements. Here's the details you'll probably need to help me out:

  • I'm 6'1" and 215 lbs
  • I have very little paddling experience
  • I would like to use it for both flat water fishing as well as river kayaking in nothing more than class 1 and 2 rapids.
  • If it exists, I would also like a kayak that could handle all that as well as some small swell paddling on the ocean

I realize one size doesn't always fit all, but I'm hoping to get some direction on this.

4

The type of boat you're describing here is called a crossover kayak. Some models include the Pyranha Fusion, the Dagger Katana, the Jackson Karma RG and the Liquidlogic Stinger XP. For models with different sizes: at your size you will be looking at the largest version in most lineups. You'll fit in those no problem.

By definition the boats are compromises, and pretty big compromises. No crossover is going to give you the same fast gentle touring a good flatwater boat does, and if they get close they won't be the greatest on whitewater. On top of that you should not go out on whitewater alone. The boats can handle class 2 rapids, and some of the newer more whitewater inspired ones will do class 3 and 4 as well, it's just not really a solo hobby. And the same goes for sea paddling. If you're going to do fishing and would like to try whitewater ones or twice I'd get a fishing kayak and find a club you can join on the whitewater a few times. They'll have a boat you can borrow or rent. But if you really want to do both, especially if you want to do both on the same trip, crossovers might be worth getting into.

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A kayak that can handle rocky class 2 rapids can handle inshore waters in benign conditions, or surf a little. Whether it's good for fishing is another matter; for that I'm used to seeing sit-on-top boats. These are also good for a little summer coastal paddling, and I've seen them on easy whitewater but don't fancy it myself (because I'm used to being able to roll and take part in rescues).

I'd be more worried about the paddler. With minimal experience even class 2 can be risky, and judging sea conditions in all but the most sheltered waters is a skill in its own right. Getting some practice with a coach or experienced paddler of the right type would be well worth it and also allow you to try out boat types.

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Firstly I have to say that I disapprove of an inexperienced kayaker considering running any rapids alone. Get out and walk round.

However, given that and your intent to fish, I suggest looking at the sit-on-top style kayaks. Many of them are primarily designed for fishing and hence have mountings for fishing rods and other related equipment.

Speaking as someone who once did a slalom competition in a pool boat, pretty much any boat can handle light rapids or a bit of surf, but you want something with a reasonable rocker (curve in the hull front to back) or a very long boat, a tourer or sea kayak, that ignores such considerations by shear size. You will find the shorter boat easier to handle though.

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