A paddler too large for my Carolina

A few weeks ago, I had a surprising experience with my Perception Carolina 13.5. Surprising to me, anyway. I’ve put a whole lot of people in this boat for their first paddling experience and nothing like this ever happened before. I have an acquaintence who has paddled short, fat recreational kayaks for a couple of years. His paddling experience is limited to goofing around a couple of times every summer. He’s kind of a big guy, maybe not terribly coordinated. He’s about 6 foot, maybe 225 pounds or so. I invited him to try out my boat, as his were in use.

He was wobbly and wiggly in the extreme. He could barely, barely stay upright. He dipped the gunnels almost every time he tried to take a stroke. He was quivering and shaking and just could not keep the boat under control. I’d never seen anything like it. I’m afraid I’ve traumatized the guy for life. I know my boat isn’t ideal for larger people, but had no idea this might happen. Was it just his fear telegraphing itself to his control of the boat? Or can this be expected when someone is really too big for a kayak?


I have a guess or two.
Maybe the problem was from a combination of soft chines and awkwardness. He’s not too big for a 13.5’ boat. I’m 6’ 2" and 235 and very comfortable in my Pungo 140. I’ve paddled smaller boats with ease. And I’m a newbie at paddling.

Just a Rookie

– Last Updated: Aug-29-07 9:04 AM EST –

That needs more paddling time....but weren't we all at first?
I'll never forget paddling my first boat across an open basin when the currents and winds shifted.
I tensed up and just kept thinking that people were watching from the boat ramp 1/2 mile away, my phone was on board along with camera and 2 rods... I had no clue of re-entry and a couple waves splashing into my lap didn't help.
I'd planned a little grocery trip before the paddle and remember my hands still shaking while handing the cashier $$...half hour later.

Too small of a boat
The Carolina 13.5 was designed for a small paddler. I would say the ideal weight range for the paddler is 100-150lbs. While bigger folks fit, the hull design will not react the same to a heavier paddler and it will be incredibly unstable.

The Pungo 140 on the other hand was designed to accommodate the 300lbs paddler. The stability curve is much different.

Overall dimensions of a boat mean nothing. Hull design means everything.

Too small
I have a Carolina 13.5, which is great for me. My center of gravity is in just the right place. My husband, on the other hand, tried it once and won’t go near it again. I don’t know what year yours is, but mine is a 2004 model, and its certificate of origin claims it to be 22.75 inches wide. I know they “remodeled” them the following year, and the width for those boats is about 24.5 inches. This guy sounds like he belongs in a Pungo or something similar to start.

I put my 280# brother in my Perception America (14’?) and he was fine. Some hulls are built for it, some aren’t.

The 14.5 Carolina would probably solve
his issues, we ususallly point smaller men and average women into the 13.5 in our shop. I thought at 185lbs and 6’1" I was a bit big for the 13.5, just sitting in one in the shop.

Looks like Perception has dropped
the 14.5.

Normal problem!
“Was it just his fear telegraphing itself to his control of the boat? Or can this be expected when someone is really too big for a kayak?”

I watched two friends of mine get into my sea kayak. Both were way too heavy for the suggested weight. Both wobbled all over the place - totally crazy, totally unstable, wobbling. They could not wait to get to shore. Note that if you are way too light for a boat, you can experience the same problem. The water line changes and so does stability with either way too light or way too heavy paddlers in boats.

Soft Chines???
Soft or hard chines have nothing to do with stability, or much else for that matter.

The only thing a hard chine will do hydrodynamically different compared to a similar shaped soft chined hull is create more drag when the water flow is not parallel with the chine.

The best design reason to put hard chines in a kayak is to structurally stiffen the panel.

However, there may be some compelling marketing reasons to put hard chines in boats. Those who have bought hard chined composite sea kayaks can tell you what those marketing reasons are.

Kind of a narrow minded statement to say the only reason for hard chines is to stiffen the panel. I like my hard chine boat better than my rounded hulls for the type of paddling I do.

Yep, I’m in that weight class and have
a Perception America 13.5. I had numerous boats before this and they did not work out. It seems like us very big people are limited to the rec kayak class until we drop 100 pounds.

Soft chines do matter.
A hard chine creates a greater initial stability than a soft chine or a round bottom. Before settling on the Pungos I bought, I tried several kayaks, including a Santee Hurricane. Almost round bottomed. And almost rolls in comparison with a boat with a hard chine.

Opposite problem
I never had a boat flip more folks on the first try than my WS Cape Hatteras (They don’t make it anymore). A fella from WS told me the reason is that there is very little initail stability in this boat with less than a 250 pound load. Luckly I weigh that all by myself so with 25 to 50 pounds of beer, snacks and saftey gear along I was always very stable.