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Hole in the market

Why are there no starter boats for the petite paddler? All the plastic boats seem to be built for someone 140lbs and up. Of course there are fiberglass models petite paddler specific but for someone starting out $4000 is a crazy amount of money to spend on a kayak. Would a plastic boat no longer than 15 feet and 19.5 to 20 inches wide not sell? Has this portion of the market failed before or something? Are there not plenty of paddlers in the 90-125lb range? Do they all just buy a camping boat and pad it out?

And so ends my rant for the day after trying so suggest an inexpensive boat for my petite niece.


  • Dagger Alchemy S
    Great boat for a small beginner (and fun for an advanced paddler too). Very nice price.

    Hatches are terrible, skeg dodgy, but the hull is awesome.
  • They tend to be women
    Who spent years being jammed into guy's boats with padding because it was guys making the boats. Apparently women didn't have any money to buy boats....

    Sexist rant aside, one option is to look around used as well. There are some older models out there that were originally designed for down to kids, often old school WW boats, that are dirt cheap and are fun starter boats for smaller folks. Roll and maneuver very nicely. I picked up one for $150 and it is not leaving - it is a great little boat for crawling around of creeks and dragging over beaver dams, and it is the only boat I have ever been able to reliably hand roll.

    The last part is probably why I won't let her go - at least until I can hand roll something else. :-)
  • Thanks for the suggestion
    The price of an Alchemy is attractive but I was talking about a model designed for a paddler 1/3 less in weight. The closest I have seen (on the net) is a Tahe Solo PE at 12.5 feet and 21.1 inches wide. The dream model would be 15 feet, no more than 20 inches wide and a 10 inch deck. Basically a plastic Pilgrim without the knee bumps. After renting a bunch of the petite paddler boats I built my wife a scaled Yost design so she could have a day boat. We are debating ordering a Pilgrim for her next. However the price is not realistic for my still in school niece that wants to get started. At 5'2 and 110lbs she is at a size that is without a model unless she wants a big camping boat or has money to spend.
  • Perception, Dagger, Necky, P&H ...
    Tribute 14.0 and Expression 14.5 are both smaller persons boats as is the Dagger Alchemy S previously mentioned. Also, Necky Eliza, P&H Delphin 150, North Shore Aspect LV RM.

    There are several polyethylene boats on the market now that have been designed for smaller paddlers. All of these models have at least two hatches and bulkheads and full perimeter deck lines. Most have a skeg, except Tribute and Eliza (rudder).
  • The market does not exist ....
    From a large manufacturers standpoint they would sell so few kayaks in that size it does not make sense to produce a lot of models. There are three or four models you can buy in that size. The market is tending towards large overweight middle age males who want rec boats and that is what gets produced the most.
  • Eliza too big for 110 lb paddler.
    I fit it just fine at 5'6" and 165 lbs.

    CD Suka crimps my thighs, so likely a good fit for small female.

    Only in composite,though, so on the expensive side.
  • Look for a used WS Piccolo
    Discontinued model but some show up on classifieds here and there.

    20.5" beam, about 13' long if I remember correctly, very low foredeck (less than 10" high). Lightweight due to small size, but add float bags to the ends (no bulkheads).

    Fun and easy to paddle. It's a shame they don't bring it back into production, with sturdy bulkheads added, and some decklines.

    You could also build a stitch-and-glue kayak, if the designer is willing to modify the plans/kit for you (ask them). Cost would be about that of a new plastic sea kayak or lower, depending on whether you do kit or plan, and where you live (availability of supplies).
  • Pretty close ...
    in specifications to the Picolo is the Walrus Griffin:

    An updated design by Andy Singer.
  • Weird seat front edges
    Just looking at the sharp points makes me wince. Might snag clothing or skin in a sudden unexpected move. Rest of the boat looks pretty nice.
  • Look around for a used QCC-10x
    If you can go 1" wider.
    It's not plastic, but it is a sweet boat for a slight, light weight paddler.
    I think new they run around three thousand new.

    Unfortunately there is no market for what you are looking for. It took my wife four or five years to talk QCC into making the smaller boat, and she asked for a 19" wide one. Their answer was, it would never sell

    jack L
  • couple more options
    Current Designs Squamish
    length: 15'8"
    width: 23"
    depth: 12.5"
    Some of the depth and width is mitigated by the substantial thigh braces.

    Tsunami SP
    and only 38lbs!

    Or if you do go composite:
    CD Raven
    Almost spot on to your requested width and depth specs, and it only weighs 26 lbs!
  • Alchemy S...
    -- Last Updated: Mar-24-13 5:51 PM EST --

    I just got my Alchemy S. I'm 5'9", around 136 lbs. It's hard for me to see this as a "small person's boat." It feels pretty generous! And, it seems like a lot of hull width, for a small person to be pushing around.

    I like the handling, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

    WRT the skeg, I was surprised by it's dodginess. I expected it to be the same as a WS skeg. Now, maybe it _is_ the same, as I have not seen a Tempest skeg, since the skegs were redesigned several years ago.

    I did improve the skeg, a bit. The big, round pivot point sits in squared off notches. Get some thin, flexible plastic sheet, like on a school notebook / report cover. Cut 2 squares to the notch width. Dog-ear one corner on each, and use needle-nose pliers, to slide 'em in between the pivot circle, and the skeg box. It eliminates a lot of wobble, and it seems they will stay in place, since there's a lip. And, I also used some self-stick fuzzy Velcro part, to put on either side of the skeg box against the blade, about half way -- an old trick used on the Tempests.

    The other dodgy feature is the hip pads... again, where I had expected them to be variations on the better-made WS pads.

  • Just saw a CD Raven on Craigslist
    on the east coast of Florida. A plastic or composite Impex Mystic would work well too. Just got a used glass Mystic in Titusville, Fl. There's a Widerness Systems Tschaika in Sarasota (Economy Tackle) as well.
  • No Market
    I understand there not being a market for a boat as small as the one I built my wife. She's 4'11 and 90lbs so her selection is even smaller. It does surprise me though that there is not a market for the 110lb'ers since there are so many of them. I suppose if the Piccolo got discontinued there may not be. I've been casually keeping an eye out for one for a while now. We already have 2 Tsunami SP's in our fleet and if they were a little longer and had a decent thigh brace they'd be fine. At 21 inches they are very stable. My wife and daughter stand in them and paddle them like paddle boards but they are the on the petite side of petite.

    The main reason I posted this was to draw attention to the fact that there is a hole in the market. Yes there are shorter boats available but nothing in that 14.5-15 foot range. A "real" sea kayak size. Hopefully I don't draw too much fire for the "real" comment.
  • Raven
    The raven would be a great boat if it were 14.5-15 feet long. I considered buying one for my wife when we were starting out.
  • Eddyline
    I love my Eddyline Samba! I am 5.6, and 105 pounds. I ran the Adirondack Canoe Classic with it and my only major problem...the carries...she is 43 pounds! I think she is $2300 for it, new...A major plus, my son and husband can not "barrow" her!
  • Disagree on the Squamish
    I am a bigger than the OPer's niece and it feels like a wide lard barge on me.

    Tsunami SP is worth a look.

    CD Suka mentioned above, worth a look too if composite. Or some of the Betsy Bay boats if you can find one used and inexpensive, really tuned for women.
  • Current Designs Suka for very small

    I'm 5'6 and 165 and this boat's thigh braces squished my thighs. I could barely get in or out of that thing.

    I fit quite nicely in the Necky Eliza composite and the CD Willow.
  • Try this............
    Engelhart products............Episea.
  • Yes, Eddyline Samba
    I haven't paddled it myself (not petite), but I have the Samba's big brother and love it---same hull shape. Is it out of your price range? Even if it's out of your range try to demo one to get a sense of how beautifully a well-designed hull in thermoformed plastic paddles---like a dream. Try it with a light carbon paddle and you'll be in heaven.
  • Starter or price?
    .Some good suggestions have been made already.

    Venture Kayaks Islay LV - will fit up through medium frame paddlers well. $1300

    P&H Scorpio LV - at $1900, a three layer plastic shorter version of a Cetus LV

    Your hole is at least getting shallower.

    See you on the water,
    The River Connection, Inc.
    Hyde Park, NY
  • More like a pinhole
    There is not enough volume for manufacturers to invest in a new mold ( ~20-30K USD ). As to the recommended boats - note that if someone is specifying paddler weight from 100lb to 220lb, they are involved in BS marketing. Also note that expedition class boats are meant to be paddled loaded.

    Your options -

    used composite boat, I would add Nigel Foster Rumour to the mix. Betsy Bay Idun is a niche boat, worth thinking about. Nigel Dennis Pilgrim, Valley Avocet LV might fit the bill, but I don't know anyone if the sub 100lb group paddling one. My friends, she is ~100lb x 5ft, picked up a used Rumour from here on P.net for 650USD, so deals can be had.

    build your own - typical choices are strip built, stitch and glue, skin on frame. There are plans available for purchase, you can come up with your own designs. If I were interested in getting a boat that actually fits me, I would contact someone like Nick Schade and ask him to scale one of his designs down. Also, take a look at this http://www.rollordrown.com/kayak/index.html - there are free plans, Duane would, probably, be happy to work with you. Skin on frame construction allows infinite custom designs, there are workshops that teach people how to build them, Brian Shultz of http://www.capefalconkayak.com/ is on the West Coast.

  • Tried the Venture LV
    Last summer, way too big on my wife. As for the Scorpio LV we are picking one up in a few days for an occasional big camping boat for my wife and for friends to use.
  • Episea
    Is the right size, just missing bulkheads and deck lines. I've looked at a few times, not sure how to get one in Canada. They don't answer email when I tried last year.
  • Tchaika
    -- Last Updated: Mar-25-13 11:00 AM EST --

    A used WS Tchaika would work if you can find one. My 5'0" wife loves hers. It does need a bow float bag because it only has a stern bulkhead. Adding a forward bulkhead wouldn't be hard if you were OK with just an inspection port instead of a full hatch.

    Used Impex Mystic?

    The other option is to build. The easiest options would probably be a stitch & glue kit or a Yost-style skin-on-frame.

  • That was a standard volume
    The Venture Islay LV only hit US shores two weeks ago.

    See you on the water,
    The River Connection, Inc.
    Hyde Park, NY
  • damn
    the truth hurts.
  • Avocet LV
    I believe Alison Sigethy paddles that when she is not full greenland, at least she was when I saw her at the last Downeast Symposium. Alison is tall but is a weed, and fond of tight fits. I spent a day in that boat myself, and would put it strongly on the list for a sub-120 lb paddler. At 130-135 I felt that this boat could actually take less than me and still get a good waterline. Cockpit fit/ thigh length always needs to be confirmed by an in-person sit-in of course. The only reason I didn't go for the boat was that I already had one which I felt fit the bill as well. But if I didn't have a smaller person's boat that I had grown comfy with, I'd have been looking to buy the Avocet LV.

    I hadn't mentioned it because OPer is asking for a cheaper option. But I'd put this boat on the list if fiberglass was within the target price.
  • Thank you all for the suggestions
    Last summer my wife and I drove a few thousand kilometers and rented: Pilgrim, Avocet LV, Ice Cap, Reval Mini, Tempest 165 and a Venture LV. We also tried to find a Rumour and a Mystic without success. In the end I built her a skin boat. I scaled down a Yost Sea Rider to fit. Her boat is 18 inches wide and 15'9 long. Building is a realistic option for the truly petite. I am debating investing the time into a scaled stripper (Siskiwit LV) or buying a Pilgrim.

    My original post was lamenting the fact that you or I can drive down to the local dealer and buy a Tempest as a starter boat for $16-1800. For the truly petite they can either buy a big camping boat with more volume than they need or lay out a large amount of cash for a composite boat. Apparently there is not a market for an inexpensive plastic model and thats too bad.

    If I ever find some of the models suggested above we'll have to try them. I may also have to consider building my niece a Yost Sea Pup.
  • You're right
    It was a Easky LV, not an Islay at MEC in Victoria last summer. Sorry about that.
  • I am with you
    Part of the problem is that people have been convinced that they need a kayak that can carry two weeks' of expedition gear in order to do day paddles. I see medium to large capacity sea kayaks on the water (and on cartops leaving kayak shops) all summer long, but very few of them are carrying anything but the paddler.
  • Picollo resurrection?
    I had a long talk with Steve Scherer (Flatpick) at Paddlesports in NJ this past weekend and I said to him at one point that I thought it a shame that the Picollo isn't made anymore. I have one for my grand kids and looked long and hard to find it. Steve agreed as did his wife Cindy. I hope they pass that along to the powers that be at Wilderness Systems.
  • Tchaika
    The old WS Tchaika could be a good option if you can find one. My 5'0" wife loves hers.
  • 90 -110 pound Sea kayaker
    OK I have to admit that I have never seen one, but I've seen a few small white water paddlers. I think they get bigger with age, so that once they are in their 40's and beginnning to be interested in sea paddling they usually weigh more.

    The Valley Gemini just came out in Poly. I also think the smaller WS Tsunami 120 might work well.

    When you consider at least $30,000 for mold cost and additional cost for design and developement work, I cannot see how it would make sense to build ploy boats this small.
  • check these
    Novus Composites (NC) builds some of the finest sea kayaks on the market. They are all American made and their 15'-8" models are very light, fast, stable and extremely comfortable. These are boats that one will never outgrow in any way. They are a lifetime boat and the price for brand new built to order is often competitive with poly boats. Take a look at nckayaks.com
  • It isn't just the weight
    Someone who is 90 to 110 pounds to start with is also highly likely to be small in height, leg length, torso and arm length. So hitting a good fit for thighs, or a good reach to the water, does not get better as someone ages up and gains weight. What makes a boat fit well moves a lot less with even 20 more pounds than with an extra inch or two in these length dimensions.

    I would guess that you have seen plenty of relatively short-torsoed women seeming to barely clear a sea kayak, even if they are not skinny as well.
  • absolutely
    I'll say it again: most small to average-size people I see on the water are in kayaks that are too big for them.
  • Yep
    I had one for my daughters
  • Options
    Two Types
    My girlfriend is 4' 10" and 100 lbs and she fit like a glove in the Tsumani SP. The issue with that was nobody else but her would have fit into it, so I could never bring anyone else with me. We ended up buying two Perception Expression 14.5's and she was just as comfortable in that as well. I fit very nicely also and I'm 5' 8" 220lbs. Granted they are not really a start price but they did fit her.
  • Tchaika - notice about inseam length
    -- Last Updated: Mar-26-13 4:10 PM EST --

    My wife has the Tchaika - it is a great boat, even better with a few small modifications!

    Had to change the high back seat to a seat pad and back band so she could do rolls. Added retractable toggles, perimeter lines for safety...and get rid of those 2 cleats in front of the cockpit...

    A note about inseam length - the wife is 5' and cannot reach the foot brace/pegs and have good thigh/knee contact with the boat. A quick fix that seems to be holding up is "bolting on" a small chunk of 2x4 to each of the pegs - giving about another 1.5" - a better fix would be moving the foot braces back about 3", but that would involved drilling the hull, filling holes, etc....

  • Tsunami SP
    -- Last Updated: Mar-26-13 6:01 PM EST --

    I work for an outfitter that does tours for kids and families, and we have had great success putting small-framed people (i.e., mostly pre-teens and teens) in the Tsunami SP. Ahh but I see you already have a couple!

    Some of the older kids (along with slim, smallish adults) with a little experience will paddle the poly Avocets and do well. I have seen a few of these for sale used recently in the $1000+/- range.

    A good friend has a Tchaika...it is a nice boat but has only 1 bulkhead...I paddled it one of my first times out EVER and did just fine...and it felt like a "real" boat, not a plastic tub.

    I happen to have an Alchemy S...in fact it's for sale ;-) but I think it most likely would be too big. It's not a tight-fitting boat but I have plenty of contact at 5'7" and 133 lbs.

  • boreal boats
    I ran into similar issues last fall while searching for a boat. I'm 5'8", 115lbs. After a ton of research and some test paddling I went with the Boreal Design Baffin p1. It's 16'6' long and 21.5"wide. They also make the Epsilon in a p1, which I believe has similar dimensions. I was looking for a longer touring boat so didn't look at the WS Tsunami SP, but with how petite she is it might be worth checking out.
  • kyak size
    People carry things when they paddle like dogs, lunch, clothes, etc. The market for a small boats with no dunnage is to small to worry about.
  • Wrong
    I have a smaller person's sea kayak, sub 16 ft, and have spent a day here and there in ones for smaller paddlers than my boat.

    I am leaving aside the the dog because there should never be a dog in a closed cockpit craft to start with, which is what this conversation has focused on.

    My standard kit for a long day paddle is up to two spare changes of clothing including a spare dry or semi-dry suit, lunch plus snacks, two dry bags of medical stuff, two spare water bladders, spare gloves, head cover, emergency tarp plus bivy, a variety of rescue stuff including VHF, GPS, lights and more that I am forgetting. What I load up includes the basics to be stuck somewhere overnight, and I still have room to add the tent, poles, sleeping bag, a couple of pots for overnights on purpose.

    There is absolutely no need for a small person to be put into a big boat for carrying gear unless you start to talk extended trips that only a small percentage of paddlers ever undertake, or you have impractical demands like big stoves or chairs that won't break down.
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