5'1, 115 lbs inter/adv day touring/rec?

I’ve read all the posts about smaller paddlers, but they seem to either be focused on wide stable rec kayaks or long sea only kayaks.

I’m looking for something for small to large slow rivers and swamps and lakes for day trips and some gentle near shore ocean. I’d like something under 16’ and fairly narrow. Someting to grow into skillwise.

Am I asking for too much or an impossible combo? Do they make something my size that I could learn to roll and that turns relatively easily and is decent speedwise?

I know I’m picky about fit in all other sports and I’m likely to be rather unhappy if I have a boat that feals like I’m sitting on it rather than being a part of me.

I don’t mind feeling tippy or having trouble keeping a straight line at first because I have a pretty fast learning curve.

Is there a small persons kayak that can handle a twisty louisiana river and cross a decent size lake?

I really appreciate any help y’all can give me. I’m buying a cheap kayak just to get on the water in the meantime and I’m taking lessons and planning on trying as many kayaks as possible.

Thanks in advance.

how twisty is a twisty river? :smiley:
Everything else you wrote seems to favor consideration of the Tampico 135S by Hurricane Aqua Sports - 13’5" 23" wide, 41 lbs. nicely appointed thigh braces, rolls, two dependable hatches, sealed bulkheads fore and aft, good lowbacked seat, adjustable footpegs, deck rigging fore and aft. Quite the pretty finish, too.

Tampicos (the S, the L and the new 140,) are for Class I and II rivers, and coastal waters. Not for any kind of whitewater. As far as big water, there are people I know who take them out on the Great Lakes, but they are very highly skilled, instructor level people. FWIW.

I own an S & it’s a very agile, responsive kayak, fun to edge & turn. Quick for its length.

The fit is excellent for me at 5’3", 115 lbs, 32" inseam and lil feet (size 6). Learned all the basic strokes and safety rescues on this kayak. An enjoyable and confident way to learn, but definitely will not bore you in a few months. Give it a demo!

Feel free to e-mail me about this kayak.

this could be too big but it’s a thought for a fast touring kayak sized for you.



this would be very stable and rollable. My daughter learned to roll it when she was about your size. It’s not particularly maneuverable but is very easy to move at cruising speeds. More important to you is that it can be made very light. I think that factor will be more significant than others,for your size you should be able to find a kayak under 35lbs. A 115lb person paddling a 45lb kayak is like me paddling a 80lb kayak. You shouldn’t have to do it.

Just throwing it out there, since you’re pretty tiny, won’t hurt to try a Carolina 12, touring kayak for kids. looks narrow and quick.

Mystic, by Impex
It is a 14’ boat made more for smaller, lighter paddlers. I personally love my Impex Assateague. They make good quality kayaks.

Some links
In addition to the above suggestion, Impex Mystic, most stable for someone new, there is also the episea which is a little narrower and cheaper because it’s plastic. This boat needs after market thigh braces if you want to really practice edging, sculling and rolling:


This is the newest small paddler boat, Island Newt. At a bit over 18" wide, it is probably the most challenging. However, if you are a fast learner, then you could go into this pretty quickly after learning a roll. My SOFs are 18" wide and they feel very comfortable to me, even in more textured conditions.


eddyline makes a nice boat

– Last Updated: Apr-01-07 6:57 AM EST –

for smaller paddlers and it comes in carbonlite which reduces the weight.
I believe they were equinox models. Paddled with two folks who owned them last season and they were easily able to keep pace with the artic tern and weighed under 45lbs. Eddyling also makes a merlin which has about the same beam width as my AT (23")and is more a full fledged touring kayak.

The new Current Designs Raven might work for you:



My 5’ wife has been very happy with her Wilderness Systems Tchaika – now discontinued, but you might find a used one.

excellent pick, I forgot about that one.

also look at the Falcon 16, not in production any more…but look used anyway

An Anas Acuta,

A Vela

A rumour

Best Wishes

and good luck


Desirable measurements

– Last Updated: Apr-01-07 9:42 AM EST –

IMO - you want a boat with a beam that is distinctly less than 23 inches and a deck height that is no more than 12 inches. In fact at three inches shorter than me you could probably take a 10 inch deck height. I have tried some of the boats listed above and have found that stretching to an apt position is a literal pain at 5'4".

The Rumour has no affirmative thigh braces, which presents a problem. You'd have to build out thigh braces or use a masik (sp?) - a sheet of foam which lies over your knees to provide contact and control - for rolling.

A Vela was mentioned above. I have one (P&H). It has a higher front deck than I would ideally like, but it is a narrow cockpit so the thigh brace areas are easily padded down., and the seat can be moved forward an inch or so. (A normal fix in people who fit this boat.) It's overall beam is around 22 inches, but it's width at the waterline is estimated at 19 inches, much closer to what suits someone your size. The boat is very manuverable and would have a decent learning curve for surf - I took mine out at my one serious try so far and found it was easy to catch a chine the wrong way when really surfing a wave.

The tricky bit may be managing manuverability in high quantity. The Rumour is a bit of a tracker, thogh if you get it over on edge it'll apparently surf consistent stuff quite nicely. The Vela is actually a very manuverable little thing, and I believ the Mystic is considered to be as well. Don't know about some of the other boats.

Apparently there was a Newt or two delivered to Sea Kayak Georgia, it may be worth calling them to see if any ended up within reach of you.

Tsunami 120 by Wilderness Systems
Works for your size, weight and ability.


you’ve got a great list here of boats…
…to demo. Like you said, it’s all about finding the one that fits & feels right.

It you can’t find a Tampico to demo, a Perception Sonoma 13.5 would be very similar.

Also, Eddyline makes a “Piccolo” model which is sized for kids & petite adults.

one Newt was delivered to Sea Kayak Georgia. No other container has been ordered, and no other Newt has been schedualed to be sent to the USA. I contacted Island Kayaks awhile ago. They are sort uv looking for people/dealers in the US , but nothing has emerged.

Too Bad…The Newt seems exacly like the missing kayak in the kayak world today.

There are tons of barges produced, but very little for the smaller framed paddler, that wants a boat that really fits their physique.

the manufactures all want small people to just pad out an already too large boat so it sort-uv fits…like selling nothing smaller than a size 12 running shoe and expecting everyone with a smaller foot to “just pad them out”

(Rant over now)

Best Wishes


Wilderness Systems Piccolo
This is a great boat for smaller people and kids. It is basically a scaled down sea kayak. Many small kayaks are short and wide. This one is not that way. Keep an eye out on ebay for one. I have one I could sell but am in Atlanta. You will run off and leave other short boats with the Piccolo. Here is the size.

Piccolo 13’6" x 20.5" 42 lbs polyethylene

If you have any contacts in Atlanta let me know.

I agree that the Impex Mystic would be
good, and I’d look at the Impex Montauk as well. Great boats.

Some good suggestions
have already been made but I will add my $.02 worth. My wife is 5’1" and 105 lbs and had almost no experience when she decided she wanted to get a kayak of her own. Her criteria was pretty simple; she wanted something that she could paddle and not feel like she was holding me back and she wanted something that she could feel secure in. All of our paddling is done on rivers and lakes. I ended up building her a kayak because all of the commercial ones available for us to try were not suitable for her. The boat I choose to build for her was the Osprey 13 and I added a custom Redfish Kayak seat to it. She loves it! If I had gone with a commercial boat for her, I would have bought her a Wilderness System Tempest 16.5. Even though this boat is much longer then the Osprey 13, it has a narrow beam and turns well. I would strongly advise against getting a boat with a beam wider then 22" given your size. Even though a narrow beam is less stable (sometimes), your small size is an advantage when it comes to stability. You have a lower center of gravity and a boat that may be tender (tippy) for someone larger can be very stable for you. At the end of the day, most smaller paddlers will appreciate a boat with a higher cruising speed as opposed to top end speed; so short and narrow is good. This will allow the smaller paddler to keep up with the pack without killing themselves to do so.

Good luck in your search.


Osprey 13
I think if a person builds carefully with 4oz glass and uses float bags,I know, I know they are a maintenance pain, it would be possible to come up with a very light boat. That boat could be made with 3mm ply.

A friends wife who weighed 95lbs could NOT get a 65lb plastic Shadow up to cruising speed, it was simply too much weight for her muscle mass, with the Pygmy13 she had absolutely no problem cruising at 3mph. The waterline length on the Pygmy/Osprey13 doesn’t become a liability until 4.5mph. Around 3mph the effort to move that boat is very little.

body metrics

– Last Updated: Apr-01-07 3:43 PM EST –

if I could throw in one more thought - it's not just the paddler's height, it's where the height is...

for example, if you at 5'1" have an average torso w. short legs (30" or less for talking purposes) then the challenge will be the cockpit length and the proportional placement of the thigh braces... will they do you any good where the mfgr put them or do you need to build out your own?

Conversely, if your legs are, say, 30" or over but your torso is short, then the depth of the cockpit (as Celia pointed out) is going to be esp. important so you have freedom to rotate your torso & don't feel "lost" in a cockpit that's too big for you.

You'll find that a cockpit measures a bit higher at the front of the coaming than the rear, for reasons of leg clearance. Of course for us small paddlers we can slide under fairly low cockpit coamings. For reference, my two kayaks are 11" and 10" high at the front, and 9" or 8" high at the back). The two higher dimensions are the TampicoS, the other is the Fuego.

Not a trivial detail. In my kayaks I can lean all the way back and touch my head, or all the way forward and kiss the coaming. And hold the positions. I have complete range of movement paddling, entering, exiting, and performing rescues. It will also make rolling easier (I take my first class in two weeks). Small people can have an edge in flexibility and center of gravity - get a kayak that enhances your advantages.

In my brief kayaking time I found it is very easy to adjust footpegs, easy to move the whole sliding mechanism, near impossible to adjust depth of cockpit (you can only raise the seat so much without affecting the pleasure of the ride and the designed stability). Modifying thigh braces is very doable. You need great points of contact there to have a responsive kayak.

Be SURE you can handle your kayak of choice. Lift it to waist height in the shop, then lower it against your thighs and see how far you can carry it. Take it outside and see if you can slide it up on your vehicle (bring an old bath mat if you don't already have racks).

Too heavy gets old fast. You can possibly injure yourself or aggravate old injuries. Plus you want to be independent and go where you want, not just when/where someone can help you.

to add my 2 cents to Roy's rant:

It entirely sucks to be on the extreme edge of size as a smaller paddler. American mfgrs in particular are making most sporting goods bigger for the increasingly bigger American population.
It's anthropometrics and sales, not that they're out to forget us.

Are there kayaks out there for the small person? Of course... Vela (soon to be discontinued). Shenai, Tchaika (long discontinued) Piccolo, discontinued. Pintail, last year was the last it could be ordered, but it is 17'2" anyways and a thundering 49 lbs so she should go off your list. Tempest 165 - over 16 ft and won't meet your criteria....

Yes, Raven is out there as is Rumour, the Impex Cat 3 (which no one has mentioned yet) and Point 65 are out there too, just warm up your wallet. And, strange coincidence, the makers of the Raven, the Rumour, and Cat3 are either British or Canadian.

The new incoming Avocet LV (by another British kayak maker, VCP) sounds good, but it ain't here yet. Might be unveiled in the U.S. up at the GLSK symposium in Grand Marais, Michigan, which is in August. Peter Orton of Valley will tell us as the day grows closer.

Mystic (Impex of Canada, again) is far more available new and used than any of the above. It has a track record from an excellent maker. Plus from what I've read here there are many satisfied users. Hope to paddle one someday!

You can find what you need in a kayak and, although each kayak is in a way a compromise, hopefully you will not need to compromise too much of a good fit and comfort.

Paddles, paddlewear, gloves, skirts in our sizes etc are out there, not plentiful. It will take some searching and your local big box store will not have it. They are geared to Mr. Joe Average, again, that's merchandising, floor space and inventory at work.

Patronize local paddle shops who can order your size and be vigilant for good deals online... sometimes the XS stuff is on sale cuz no one else fits into it ;-)

Good luck, I've been there (and am there)! as a small paddler.

my wife
My wife is 5’2" and 115lbs and has a tempest 165 pro, seams to fit her just fine, how ever is to heavy for her to car top by her self. Which for her is not a problem because she doesn’t paddle alone.

Dennis H