I have a Shiva S for creeking/multiday trips and I love it. It is super easy to roll, forgiving, and with the amount of rocker the boat has it still tracks well. It is on the heavy side but the plastic is tough and will last you a while especially on class 2/3 where there is not a lot of mank. The outfitting took me a little while to get used to because its seat feels more like you are sitting on a stool, compared to my previous Jackson which felt more like a couch.
That's the one I'm looking at. The only time I have been under 200 in the last 5 years was after 2 months on the Appalachian trail I got down to 185 or so.... Upped my food intake and leveled out again. So I don't think I will see any dramatic weight change.
I think you're on the right track with the Large. I'm a mere 140 (before gear) and have been paddling a Medium for years now. The M feels perfect for my weight and I bet I'd want to go up if I was 30 lbs heavier.
Don't sweat it, I bought a Shiva M for $500 and it was used less than 5 times. I had a Burn L for my first boat and it was awesome (paid $500 for it too). Only problem was after 3 seasons I had to put some welds on the Burn. I'm 6'1" 195 lbs for reference. The LL Flying Squirrel and Stomper would be kinda similar. LL Remix is also an amazing first boat. My buddy had an old LL Jefe and loves it, esp with the BA outfitting. If you haven't already, try Boatertalk.com. They usually have a pretty good used boat selection.
The Dagger Mamba is a great first boat. The outfitting is easy to adjust and comfortable. It is a pretty common boat, stable, easy to roll. Great for learning and progressing with (there are people going pretty big in them). Not sure if other kayaks schools use them but I know Sundance Kayak School uses them a bunch.
That sucks about the shiva Leprechaun. Someone got an awesome deal!
I still think you should be considering a more dynamic river running boat like the Pyrahna Burn or a similar style boat like the Jackson Zen or Karma. Other good river runners to start out with are the Wavesport Diesel, Liquid Logic Remix, or Dagger Mamba.
Read online reviews about these boats and review the specs. It's best to get what you really need vs. what is cheapest and closest. It might cost a little more if you can't find a used boat but would be well worth the investment if your planning to paddle long term.
A Karma has come up fairly close... May take the plunge... Was focusing on price but trying to remind myself my other kayaks have brought me many years of enjoyment for that initial investment... buy once cry once I guess!
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