14-foot vs. 16-foot Kayak

I am considering buying a kayak within the next couple of months or so. I want a sea kayak that has a rudder that I can also use every now and then in a lake. I am looking at the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 140 and 160, but there is a $500 difference between those two and I do not want to spend more money if it will not benefit me in any way.

Also if anyone has any suggestions on another kayak I should look at, feel free! Thank you!

On a lake
with flat water the 2 ft difference will make absolutely no difference. The only possible factor I could conceive would be camping.

If the engine (you) is capable the longer boat will be faster than the shorter one.

If the engine isn’t, you’ll likely find the shorter boat is easier to paddle at a slower pace than the longer one.

Bill H.

It depends on your size
If you are a heavy weight get the longer boat.

If you are a light weight get the shorter one

Jack L

First things first

– Last Updated: Jun-19-16 9:28 AM EST –

Your first priority if possible should be to try out as many different boats as you can. I think you will find that you cannot just look at a boat and accurately tell how you will like actually paddling it.

I would offer that the longer boat will usually turn out to be more satisfying. I have boats ranging from 12' to 19'-2". If I could have only one, it would be the nineteen footer without hesitation. Of course the length isn't the only factor, but it is if everything else is equal--which of course it never is.

As is often mentioned--try before you buy. And don't get hung up on a rudder.

2 boats
I have 14 1/2 ft and 17 ft Current Designs boats with rudders. I only use the rudder to reduce weather cocking in strong winds, or when using my sail. If I could only have one, it would be the 17. I take either boat many places, but when I am going miles from shore on the great lakes, I always take the 17.

I’ll throw in…
…just a slightly differing opinion.

First off, it probably depends on your weight. If you are over about 200lbs then the 17’ will probably be a better choice. If you are under that then the 14’ boat has some advantages, and not just in cost.

Certainly with the shorter boat you’ll lose a little speed. But it won’t be a lot so how important is that to you? The shorter boat will be more maneuverable and this will more than offset the longer boat’s rudder. In fact, the rudder - as stated previously - is really only used to counteract where a wind blowing from the side pushes you off course. How often are you likely to be paddling on a really windy day? In the meantime you have the complexity of the rudder to deal with. You have to remember to lower it and raise it, there are parts that can break and unless it has one of the newer SmartTrak systems installed (with a two piece rest where just your toes control the rudder), with the rudder deployed you don’t want to be pressing unevenly on the footrests or you’ll be changing course.

The longer boat is also almost 10lbs heavier, and more difficult to transport and store.

Give some thought to your intended use. For smaller and calmer waters the smaller boat will be just fine. If you really plan to tackle waves, wind and overnighters then the bigger boat will be a better choice.

Oh, and there’s also a compromise. WS also makes a Tsunami 145, at the same price as the 140.

Finally, the best advice anyone here has given you is to find a specialist paddle shop (not a big box retailer) where you can try out these - and other - boats before you buy.

Good advice Tom.


– Last Updated: Jun-19-16 10:00 PM EST –

Thank you for all the suggestions. I think I am going to go and try out some different kayaks within the next couple of weeks. I do want a rudder because I plan on paddling in some choppy weather in the ocean. I am also not that experienced but I have gone on a few week long kayaking trips in the ocean and am really interested in getting more into kayaking. What are some good brands of kayaks other than just Wilderness Systems that are still high quality but maybe not quite as expensive? As still not being that experienced of a kayaker, I plan on using it often but not more than 3 or 4 times a month and $1200 is a lot to put into a kayak right now. Any suggestions?

I am also about 180-200lbs and 6' tall if that makes any difference in opinions.

buy a
used one for bang for the buck. 1200 you can buy many nice composite kayaks

Get the longer boat

Jack L

Yes, the longer boat will be better for you if you intend to use it on the ocean.

The best value you’ll get is in a used boat. Search your local Craigslists and look here on the classifieds. Good boats go quickly so be prepared to move on one.

A rudder is still not the only option. I’m guessing that most experienced paddlers here probably prefer a skeg equipped boat.

Look for brands like Perception, Jackson, Necky, Current Designs, etc. Read through the buyer’s guide and reviews of touring kayaks on this website.

My 2 Cents
A skeg is stupid simple to use. Consider a skeg rather than a rudder.

On flat water a long boat is sweet. In rough water the shorter boat is sweeter I think. It’s easier to correct when wind and waves push you around. Less space for storage, though, so better for day trips vs overnighters.

Used is the way to go if you’re on a budget. I picked up a like-new Alchemy for half price some years back. Definitely getting my money’s worth out of it.

One final thought. If you’re playing out in the ocean consider learning to brace and roll. Practice self rescues 'til you’re good at it.

rudders vs. skegs
My wife’s boat has a rudder, mine a skeg … both 17’ and around 22" beam. People will likely always debate rudders vs. skegs.

Expedition kayakers, such as Paul Caffyn, like rudders for long stretches with a side wind. They can crank the rudder a bit and then use their usual symmetric forward stroke. However, with a skeg, corrective strokes would need to be continually applied over a long, consistently windy stretch. The asymmetric stroke becomes more tiring and less efficient during a lengthy bout with a side wind. Caffyn circumnavigated Australia, among other adventures. He actually made some long distance speed comparisons of skeg vs. rudder. The rudder was faster because of the stroke symmetry.

I am not an expedition paddler and prefer the simpler skeg use. My Ellesmere has a skeg lowering dial that lets me easily calibrate skeg depth. With a skeg you must rely on corrective strokes on occasion, which I see as a good thing. It is too easy for a beginner to totally rely on a rudder and fail to develop corrective strokes - not good if the rudder breaks.

If a beginner gets a ruddered kayak, it would be smart to wean yourself from the rudder as much as possible.

145 vs 140
Huge difference in the fit of those two 14 foot Tsunamis. The 145 is a bigger paddler’s boat (over 200 pounds). For most people of medium build, up to 5’ 10 and up to 200 pounds, the 140 will be a much better fit.

sliding foot pegs

– Last Updated: Jun-20-16 11:50 AM EST –

The Wilderness Systems Tsunami use what called sliding foot pegs. I hate those,, were other brand boats use gas peddle design, much better idea. If you want a rudder get one that uses gas peddle control for rudder. Tsunami's I call the suv of kayaks, they don't do anything real good but can do just about anything. I had a plastic 140 a while back, no rudder. I could do rough water ok and I could roll it no problem. kind of a boring boat to me. I know many who have them and love them. All 140 or 145 or the smaller ones never even seen the bigger one.

I would get a different brand if you want a rudder as I hate those sliding pegs. But hey that's just me. Iam 5'8" 170 pounds and the 140 I was quite loose in it even with 1/2 inch of padding. Great loaner boat as I could put just about anyone in it and they were fine.

gas pedal design rudder
If you purchase a kayak with a rudder driven by the sliding foot pegs, it isn’t that hard to install the gas pedal design. Even I, with my limited skills, did that for my wife’s kayak As I recall, I used the Sealect Designs model.

What are some recommendations for the gas pedal style rudder kayaks and the skeg kayaks? I think I’m gonna go for a longer boat as well at about 16’.

Current Designs
Look at the Squall GT model with a rudder…


and the Sirocco with a skeg…


Wilderness Systems
Go test drive a Tempest on a breezy day. Keep in mind you can move the seat back to make entering and exiting easier.

To work a skeg: Raise or lower it enough so the boat stays straight.

Rule of thumb:

Paddling into the wind = skeg up

Cross wind = skeg halfway down

Tailwind = skeg all the way down