I have always wanted to get into whitewater kayaking but have never broke down and spent the money to get started. I am finally going to learn and am looking for any advice as to what gear, boat, paddle, etc. would be best for me. I will be sticking to class I-III rivers for now but would like a boat that I can grow into instead of something that I have to turn around and upgrade in a short period of time. Thanks for any help.
dude my best suggestion. buy cheap gear that you can beat up, lose, destroy. and then buy the goods after a season or 2 but buy cheap shit. boatertalk.com is a better site for you if you live east coast. later.
This winter, sign up for roll sessions that keep part of the pool open for non-instructional roll practice. Not only can you try the school's boats; you can take a close look at all the other boats that show up. Plus, you'll meet other beginners, and you might even get to try out different boats if folks will let you. Then purchase a boat later this spring when the swaps start up- you'll have a good idea what fits & is comfortable, and you can probably avoid making a bad purchase.
Also- If I were learning all over again, there's one thing that I would splurge on to make the trial and error process (read: swimming) a LOT more tolerable- a dry suit.
Craigslist man. I bought a functional but ugly setup last year about this time that included a boat, paddle, splashtop, helmet(s), pfd plus some other goodies for ~$450. I have replaced a lot of the stuff already but it got my foot in the door for a reasonable price and if I hadn't liked it or picked it up I wouldn't be out much if any money if I ended up reselling it.
Other then that find something that is easy to roll. Your going to end up with 2-3 kayaks in a year or two anyway and that isn't a bad thing as long as you arn't wasting money buying new boats.