Am I a Large or Small Paddler?

I’ve noticed from reading these posts that an important factor in choosing a boat has to do with the size of the paddler (I’ll leave skill level for another time). While it’s obvious that someone who is 5’2" and 115 lbs is a small paddler and someone who is 6’2" and 230 lbs is a large paddler, I’m not sure where I fall. I’m 5’7" tall and 215 lbs with most of the extra weight around the abdomen. I have a 29" inseam and wear size 8.5 shoes. So from the waist down, I might be more similar to a small paddler, but from a weight standpoint, would I have to consider the bigger boats?

Anyone have guidance for my post athletic shape?

I’ve noticed that on something like the WS Tsunami the whole number lengths seem to be geared toward smaller paddlers while the boat lengths ending in half-foot increments are made for “larger” paddlers.

Not small
At that weight. About the middle of the pack.

However, the combination of a wider middle and shorter legs will likely leave you finding that you are getting into the same cockpit as some taller folks and moving the footbegs back a bit closer.

Unless a SOT, where it’d be more abotu just weight.

I am similar in stature
I also had trouble when researching sea kayaks. You should try any boat that is slated for medium to large or large paddlers. I am swimming in most boats made for larger paddlers but many of the seats are too narrow in some medium/larger boats. You are going to have to sit in boats to know. The gulfstream and caribou were a little too snug in the seat. If I ripped it out it would probably fit fine. I fit fine in a Tempest 170, Eclipse 17, Elaho HV, Capella 166, Chatham 17 poly. The Sirius was painful. I own a Storm and it is a little on the big side in the cockpit but works fine. I just ordered a Tempest 170. I am 5’ 8" 220

Height consideration
Good concerns. Bigger boats? Not necessarily. Many high volume boats (note: I didn’t say Bgger.)

will have deeper cockpits. You may find this sort of depth to be limiting in the respect that you may have to get a longer paddle, which will play havoc if you turn out to be a naturally high angle paddler, or it will be limiting in learning to use boat lean (heeling) for turning or developing a hip snap to move the boat back under you such as in a brace or a roll. The top of your hip bone should be at or just above the coaming of the cockpit. Luckilly this is easy enough to discern even sitting in the boat on a floor. I go into this detail as it seems from your mentions of WS Tsunamis that you are leaning toward a touring or sea kayak.

If possible, get your last boat first.

See you on the water,


Hyde Park, NY

Cockpit Fit
I’ve found that I also fit just fine in the Tempest cockpit. Though when I spoke to a salesman at a demo day who did not know I had already tried out the Tempest, he told me I was to large for it.

I know that I should probably push my comfort zone some and look again at the Tempest, but since I do most of my paddling on lakes and bays, that might be more boat than someone like me needs. Then again, if I want to expand my options by taking some lessons on sea kayaking, the Tsunami might be limiting.

Use considerations may sort it out a bit
Will you be day paddling with just minimal gear - or loaded with camping gear?

Most kayaks are designed to carry paddler and a good bit of gear. At your height and weight your more like a mid sized paddler with 50 lbs of gear. For day paddling, most should work OK and you can just pick on fit/feel and performance considerations. If camping, you may need something bigger.

At 5’9" x 225 (and dropping) x 30" inseam I seem to fit the majority of what I’ve tried (several dozen by now), even most that are considered “low volume”, and not reasonable performance from most. Biggest limiter for me is I have large thighs which will not fit under the braces on a few of the smaller kayaks, or am squeezed too tight between the forward edges of the seat posts making them uncomfortable and leaving me unable to work legs effectively (in other words, I don’t fit the cockpit regardless of the overall size of the kayak or it’s design displacement).

I do day paddling with minimal gear, so weight has not been an issue (other than it robbing speed/needing more power) except in some very small custom skin boats that I nearly submarine - but I usually can’t get in ones that small anyway, and when I do I don’t go far (demos/roll practice). Once you paddle a custom fit skin on frame a while most all of the commercial offerings seem pretty roomy…

Use Considerations
Thanks for all the helpful replies. While I’d like to think I might go on muli day trips in the future, I mostly use my kayak for exercise and day tripping. So I should not be near the weight limit for most boats. Even if I join a group like California Kayak Friends, I think I would mostly do day trips. Before I go on group paddles though, I want to tune up my engine (and maybe get something faster than my current rec boat).

i am 225# 5’10" with a 28" inseam

– Last Updated: Apr-12-07 11:19 AM EST –

i have a tempest 170 in the basement.....i paddled a t165 but found that it was keeping me from sitting up properly (long story involving arthritis in legs and hips) my boat....i pulled the sliding foot pegs and put in 9" of minicell foam as a it.....sooo comfy.....
note: most of my weight is above the abs are covered by a nice protective layer of fat :) and i have broad shoulders so i can sometimes fit into a smaller cockpit boat (sometimes!)

i agree with Marshall below about your position to the cockpit...if you are not able to bend at the hip to one side it is going to be uncomfortable to try to roll....or to brace properly as well....

Flatpick might beg to differ about the abilities of the tsunami series once you pull out he big bulky backrest and put in a back band like the tempset or others.....i have surfed a tsunami 145 in 6' seas without

the most inportant thing for a person shaped like us is: try the boat on...........i paddled a number of boats (as well as different model years of them-P&H capellas have changed a LOT over the years...) until i found how the tempest series fit me....

i personally always take a grain of salt with anything anyone tells me or i read....there are lot of opinions out there...but only I know how i fit in a boat etc.....especially from a rep of a company-they are there to sell boats....


what they said…and

– Last Updated: Apr-12-07 11:30 AM EST –

yes the Tsuanmis (and many W/S boats for that matter) are sized for paddlers ranging from small to XL.

here's a little chart:(hope the formatting works)


12'.Ts SP.Ts120................Ts125


Ts- Tsunami
Tem- Tempest

fwiw- the Tsunami, when outfitted with a proper backstrap, is quite sea worthy and will take a good paddler into the roughest of conditions with ease.



So are you saying the 16.5’ Tsunami is a medium volume boat?

it actually holds a fair amount of gear and paddler. I’m 180 and fit in it well.


longer, shallower boat?
At your weight but not long torso , you might need overall boat volume, but without deck height, and one way to get both is with a longer boat, which will spread out the volume but can still be shallow in the cockpit . The Impex Force 4 comes to mind. 18 feet long provides volume, its definitely within your weight range , but its got a pretty shallow, low profile deck Quite stable for a 20.75" beam. It’s a good workout, go- fast boat, but turns if put on edge. Of course, try it to see it it fits you.

just be careful
when s t r e t c h i n g out the length as along with additional capacity comes increased wetted surface (friction) additional windage and waterline out and away from the paddler meaning more leverage (good AND bad).

In rough conditions/ wind the shorter boats work better. less to have to care for. :slight_smile:


215 lbs = XL