The Right Kayak for the Right Job

T.J. Kitt shares his knowledge about kayaking and other paddle sports at his Camillus Kayak Shop.

T.J. Kitt will never forget his first kayak.

Years ago, a salesperson showed Kitt two boats that were within his limited budget. He chose the wrong one.

“I was furious,” Kitt says. “I had that boat for three months before I had to get rid of it and get one more appropriate for me. I was so mad at the guy that sold it to me that I opened a store.”

Kitt shares his knowledge about kayaking and other paddle sports at his Camillus Kayak Shop, 24 Genesee St., Camillus. Kitt, a former touring-class kayak champion, owns the shop with his wife, Kathy.

“I don’t let my customers make the same mistakes I made,” Kitt says.

Kayaking is a water sport that is easy to learn and enjoy with the proper instruction and equipment. A typical novice paddler becomes an experienced paddler after the first year, Kitt says.

“Kayaking is great for anybody,” he says. “We have customers well into their 80s.”

The cost of kayaks vary based on their materials and the features they offer. Kayaks can cost as little as $300 or as much as $4,500 for a carbon fiber boat. Although kayaks are available for less than $500 from many big box stores – such as Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and L.L. Bean – most paddlers’ skills exceed the performance level of the boat they purchased in just a few weeks. Kitt recommends starter kayaks in the $699 to $999 range.

“Rather than constantly upgrading your kayak, buying a boat in this price range could save you hundreds in the long run,” Kitt says.

Kitt outlined a few basics for those new to kayaking.


“The most important things are length, width and weight,” Kitt says. “You have to get the right boat for the right job. The main difference is distance. You have to determine how far you want to paddle. A longer boat goes farther with less effort.”

Kitt suggests 12- to 14-foot boats for beginners or recreational paddlers. If you are planning to be more than an occasional paddler, he recommends, for the average woman: a 15- to 17-foot kayak that is about 23 inches wide; for the average man, a 16- to 18-foot boat about 24 inches wide.

But Kitt says an individual’s height, weight and types of water conditions should also factor in when choosing the best boat.

“Make sure you sit in the boat before you buy one,” Kitt says. “Think of it like a pair of shoes: too loose, and it’s hard to function; too tight, and it’s uncomfortable.”


Besides having the appropriate boat, a person will need a paddle, life vest and a whistle (which is required by law). Of course, you’ll also need a means of transporting your boat to water.

M.F. Piraino is a Syracuse-based free-lance writer. Email her with comments or story ideas at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @mfpiraino.

[fbcomments url="" width="100%" count="on"]
To Top