-- Last Updated: Mar-31-13 9:17 PM EST --
It would be good if the original poster could come back and join the discussion. In the meantime, my first thought was that he probably needs to work into the whitewater stuff fairly gradually anyway. That's because I don't think a person who'd be asking this exact question is likely to have the skills needed for Class III or even most Class II "right now". With that in mind, I think a moderately maneuverable boat would be a good choice, with the idea that as skills improve it would be good for some of the Class II while still being a reasonable cruiser on the flats. Naturally, avoiding the rougher, more difficult stuff for the time being would be best, both on account of the best type of boat for learning AND the learning process itself. When it comes to paddling whitewater, most of us start out that way (and with not a lot of good whitewater right nearby, I myself am STILL "starting out" that way).
Regarding extreme range of useage for boats, Bill Mason paddled everyplace he went using general-purpose tandem canoes. Naturally a solo paddler in a tandem boat won't be doing the same technical maneuvers as he might in a solo boat, and surely Mason would have enjoyed solo canoes a lot if they'd have been more readily available in his day. Along those same lines, I think people's expectations of what a boat should be able to do in whitewater have greatly increased along with the increased specialization of boat design for that purpose, and thus, a boat that was "good" for whitewater decades ago is now seen as a dog. I think it's worth noting too that really serious whitewater paddlers in their short, high-rocker boats tend to rely heavily on quick turns and spins, as well as offside paddle strokes, while paddlers who are using more general-purpose boats can partly compensate for mediocre turning/spinning ability by being good at back-ferrying and side-slipping, which were standard techniques when such boats were all that was available. Knowing/learning which whitewater techniques are most appropriate for the type of boat being used will be as important to the original poster as choosing which boat in which to get started.
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