-- Last Updated: Jan-29-14 2:29 PM EST --
I'm of the opinion that if a person doesn't have loads of experience, demo paddles are of little value except in figuring out if the person fits in the boat reasonably well. From my own experience when much more of a beginner, the true capabilities of any boat were way beyond my comprehension anyway, let alone my ability to take advantage of them. I think a lot of experienced paddlers truly have forgotten what it's like to not know much.
My advice to any beginner or semi-beginner, as is the case here, is to get a boat that is generally recognized as a good choice for their particular goals, and then as long as the person fits it, they can GRADUALLY figure out whether it's as good a choice as they hoped. I say "gradually" because there is no other way. Even the part about how well they fit the boat can't be totally figured out in a brief test paddle, and sitting in the boat on dry land is a pretty-good second option, especially for a person who has at least some paddling experience.
Taking this to a related idea, the OP is considering a boat that's very nicely priced right now. One has to weigh that against the likelihood of finding a similar deal later on when spring arrives, AND the likelihood that there will be any chance of test paddling that boat. Usually with used boats, there's no good way to arrange a test paddle anyway, since the boat is in the seller's garage and they are anxious to send it off with the first person who shows up with cash in hand. Most sellers do NOT want to waste their own time helping a potential buyer with all their questions and doubts.
Kayak & Canoe Outriggers
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