Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What's the best beginner boat?

We’ve been fielding a lot of questions regarding this topic recently on the Boatertalk skills development page. The short answer to this question is the Jackson Fun; the long answer is, well, longer. Because everyone is different, a great beginner boat for one person may be a horrible beginner boat for another. This is the dilemma we face every morning as we outfit our novice kayakers in their boats. Here’s a few suggestions, remembering of course that there is no substitute for paddling the boat before you buy it. (We have free demos of all these boats at our Outfitter’s Store)

Best Beginner River Runner: Dagger Mamba
If this boat was a car it would be the: Ford Taurus
You’ll probably like this boat if: you’re a bigger person, you want to focus mostly on river-running, you want a boat that’s easy to roll
You probably won’t like this boat if: you want to get into playboating, you’re a fast learner, you want a responsive/sporty boat

The Mamba is a comfortable boat that floats the paddler high on the water and has ample volume, thus making it more forgiving than some of the other boats. We instructors like the fact that it gives the novice paddler some room for error – a novice’s shaky edges do not automatically transfer into time spent upside down. Thanks to a more rounded chine, this boat is also a little easier to roll than some other river-runners, for example the Liquid Logic Hoss/Little Joe. It’s a great boat for those that want to bomb down the river in comfort in a fast boat that’s easy to paddle.

Will you outgrow this boat? Yes, if you think you want to get into playboating. No, if you think you want to get into big water runs or easy creeking.

Best Do-Everything Beginner Boat: Jackson Fun Series
If this boat was a car it would be the: Subaru Outback XT
You’ll probably like this boat if: you’re a smaller person, you’re a fast learner, you want to get into playboating, you want a boat that’s easy to roll.
You probably won’t like this boat if: you’re a bigger person, you want a more forgiving boat, you’re still nervous about flipping in whitewater

The Funs are a jack-of-all-trades boat. They’re sporty river-runners, yet still somewhat forgiving. You get the feel of a playboat without the hard chines of a true playboat. These boats are lightweight, comfortable, surf well, can do bowstalls and cartwheels, and are very easy to roll. This is the perfect boat for the beginner that eventually has his/her eyes set on playing their way down the Ocoee.

Will you outgrow this boat? Yes, if you want to do more advanced playboating moves. (You’ll want to get another boat all together if you’re going creeking) No, if you think class 4 will be your river-running limit and basic surfing and cartwheels are your playboating limit.

Easiest Boat to Roll: Jackson Fun Series
Regardless of your size, flexibility, or strength of hip snap, the Jackson Fun boats are the easiest to roll. The Funs are great boats for the C-to-C roll because as the paddler arches out to the second position the boat already starts to come up before a hip snap is even initiated. Paddlers that learn a sweep roll will have an easy time of rolling when they commit to leaning back a bit in the boat. Bigger people that may have a difficult time rolling other boats will find that they can sink the stern down of the Funs and do a “wheelie” up. It may not be the best boat to take down the river for the bigger person, but its certainly the easiest to learn to roll in.

Review of the 2 Fun
by Emery Tillman
"The Jackson 2Fun is a great boat. It fits nice and snug, and has the stability you need. The boat is very easy to roll. Doing your handroll is a little difficult so you need to come up on the back of the boat. It comes in many colors and is very easy to match gear to. The 2Fun edges nicely and makes catching eddies a breeze". Emery is 13 and one of our paddling school regulars. She has been paddling for about a year on the Tuck, the Nantahala, and the Chattooga.

Honorable Mention: Pyranha Ammo
If this boat were a car it would be: Honda CRV
You'll probably like this boat if: you want a stable river runner that's more maneuverable than the Mamba, you're a smaller/medium sized person
You probably won't like this boat if: you're having a tough time rolling, you're a bigger person

We've had a lot of success with beginners in this boat. They like the fact that it has a lot of volume and is stable, yet still very maneuverable. Probably not the easiest boat to roll, but definitely not the hardest either. Check out our review of this boat here.

Will you outgrow this boat? Yes, if you want to do more playboating than just surfing. No, if you want to get into easy creeking and have a reliable river runner.

For more info on these boats including specs, click here. Check out our reviews of the 2008 boats here.
Photos courtesy of NOC Photos: Learn To Kayak 4-day Course


Anonymous said...

Great summary of some good boats! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Great article, thanks. The comment about a larger paddler not liking a Jackson Fun Series, would that even be true of a Super Fun? Reading the specs, they seem to be designed for big paddlers. And if not the Superfun, what similar playboat/river runner would you recommend for a 6'2", 230# paddler?

Wayner said...

Actually, the SuperFun is a very good boat for larger paddlers that are aggressive and looking for an exciting design. It will also serve "fuller figured" paddlers well in helping develop more playboating moves...plus it's comfortable and easy to roll!

Anonymous said...

I am 6'6" 320 lbs. and i am learning to kayak. I live near the Ocoee river. My goal is to be able to go down the river someday. My problem is that i cant find a kayak that would fit me and still have the ability of a playboat/river runner.

Herm said...

You're going to have a tough time finding a river-running playboat at your size. You might be better off learning in a creek boat (LL Jefe Grande, Jackson MegaRocker) and then buying a true playboat (Rad, Jackson Super Fun) when you're ready to step up. There's plenty of play for a creeker on the ocoee as well.