Avocet for Small Paddler

I am a 5’2” 105 lb female having a terrible time finding a kayak that suits me and my budget.

I have tried just about every kayak that is recommended for my size from the Necky Eliza to the Romany LV. The best fitting boat so far was the Impex Force 3. Although it fit like someone had designed it for my build, it was too much boat for me on the water. The Mystic was a good fit, but too little of a boat for me as I would like to do multi day camping trips

The only boats I have not tried are the Current Design Rumour, the Capella, and the Vela, all of which are above what I had budgeted.

The problem seems to be very narrow hips and a short torso.

At this time I really wanted to be in the $2000.00 or under range. I have been watching want ads & eBay for used boats, but am losing patience waiting.

To all the sales people’s surprise, the Valley Avocet seems to be the best answer.

Although I do not have much hip contact, the moveable thigh braces seem to do the trick. My elbows clear the cockpit, and she seems to be a delightful boat to paddle.

Does anyone my size have experience with this boat?



I do
I rented one. It worked reasonably well but the fit on my Tempest 165 is better, even though I think it has a slightly taller deck. The Avocet had 1/2" wider beam than the T165.

I did add 1/2" minicell foam under the seat top of my T165. I too am 5’2" and under 110 lbs. It already came with movable thigh braces and adjustable hip pads. I loaded this boat with 2 wks of camping gear and used it on a freshwater trip that actually ended up being only 9 days instead of 14. But the room is there, at least if you don’t need to carry many gallons of water.

You need to demo that Avocet, not just sit in it.

did you see the p net ads?
There are a few that might interest you. Not sure where you’re located. Listed currently are an impex montauk, a capella 16.3 and a few others.

Did you ever try the Anas Acuta? A few there also.

wow, that was a fast response!!!

I rented the T165 for a weekend. The fit was not quite right, the angle that my legs were put into caused my left leg to go numb. I had really hoped that the tempest would work, becuase of the storage space.

I did demo the Avocet yesterday in quite a chop, and was surprised at how well I could still move that boat around. It seemd easier to me than the Tempest in which I had a hard time fighting the same kind of wind.

Neither are “quite right” but so far the avocet is the closet answer for my budget.

I am just having a hard time pulling the trigger on a $1600 boat that is not “quite right”.

Thanks so much,


My take
I’m 2 inches taller than you and heavier - 135 pounds - and admit that the Avocet fit is getting better for me with the newer thigh braces. I also find it a nice handle in chop, though many find that its tracking isn’t the best.

But… the boat feels like it could stand to be an inch narrower on each side for me, and I am wondering how that would feel for you on long trips. One of the things that I have found as improve my forward stroke is that I do better in my Vela with a bit of a narrower beam than my other boat. At 5’2", you may have to do a bodacious amount of rotation to be able to paddle the Avocet on multi-day trips without hurting your shoulders. Over a long trip, and inch of diff in width could mean a lot more in comfort for paddling.

It doesn’t appear to me that you have looked at what you could do with a boat by padding it out, by which you can easily change the cockpit fit so that the leg angle is comfortable. It’s a real easy fix - some cut up minicell and DAP Weldwood contact cement does it. You can have a cockpit fitted to a really luxurious state in half an hour. And at 5’2", you will need to pad out just about any boat to get it really right.

I think you need to revisit these boats you’ve tried and take into consideration how it would feel if you padded down those thigh braces, and padded in the sides by the hip a bit, so you aren’t working so hard to maintain contact. What you describe sounds like that’s what you were doing in the Tempest.

second that
I have narrow hips, and have never been content with the stock padding of any kayak.

Spoken like someone…
… who actually paddles rather than dinking around!

Relation between beam and stroke mechanics is undeniable. Too much boat AND limited mechanics to deal with it. Possibly the saddest thing about putting smaller folks in industry standard beam kayaks (unless they just want to float around and only care about primary stability on flat water - then anything will work).

I don’t have that issue…
… and most Brit seats are 1/2" - 1" too narrow - but still find some to the boats to fat/deep to really paddle with efficiency. Particualrly since so many are fishform with that bulge right ahead of you.

Something most probably have no issue with or don’t even notice, but once you paddle kayaks that are narrower up front and have the volume around your hips instead of knees it becomes clear. Amazing what an inch here or there does, and not a small part of why certain kayaks are “faster” than others at same length and beam.

Get an avocet, outfit the cockpit
Folks of your size are in an oppressed minority class of paddlers ; most kayaks are built for men or paddlers over 140lbs.

You should consider outfitting your cockpit to fit you. This is a double edged sword: you can’t really test a boat until you do are fitted well to it , but its too involved and personalized a job to do while in the try-out- different- boats mode. But once you do, your boat will work for you so much better. I think a well outfitted plastic (i.e.affordable) Avocet would work well for you, but until you really outfit the cockpit you’ll be a bit limited in really enjoying it. Probably the best you can do is settle on a boat that seems to fit you the best, and then commit to an outfitting job. With enough time, foam and effort a oversized boat can be made to fit you very comfortably, and you can then really get the best out of your boat , even if it has more volume than you would prefer. Outfitting a cockpit involves getting minicell foam, cutting, sanding shaping pieces of minicell , and gluing them in place with contact cement after many fittings. there are some webshot albums and outfitting experts out there that could help you along.


– Last Updated: Feb-26-07 5:28 PM EST –

The Avocet is a day tripping boat.......try the Aquanaut for a tripping boat. I got both ....and PererBr is totally right ...customize the fit with minicell and a better backband...

I am in Florida, too far from the Anas Acutas (which was a decent fit) listed.

I spent about 10 hours paddling the Tempest and despite numerous adjustments something was very wrong (did I mention I have a club foot) Part of the problem is where I had the foot pegs; I could not hold my foot straight.

Perhaps I misjudged it, but the Avocet seemed slightly faster than the tempest.

I really did not want to go 22” wide. I will say that I am built more like a boy with shoulders that are much wider than my hips (my college art student who takes classes in human anatomy says I am a mutant)

Sat in the Aquanaut, never paddled it though. I did not bother, the sales people laughed at me in it.

The last thing I want is a puddle jumper, but again budget and time are pushing me towards the avocet.

Romany LV??
Have you tried a RomanyLV? I’m 4" taller than you, already own an ExplorerLV and a Vela, but my RomanyLV, after it was foamed out professionally, fits me the best of all my boats.

Personally, a Capella 161 may be too big for you and, with all due respect to the poster above, an Aquanaut would be huge.

The Avocet is faster than the Tempest, the Capella and the RomanyLV.


– Last Updated: Feb-26-07 5:46 PM EST –

I certainly wouldn't think of it as a puddle jumper. With good technique you can easily keep pace. A day tripper? Not. If you can pack with efficiency even approaching a backpacker, you'll have room.

Are you considering a poly or composite avocet? They are both common enough that you should be able to find a deal on a used boat.

It would cost you +/-$250 to ship an AA from MI to where you are.

Aquanaut is too big for small paddlers

– Last Updated: Feb-26-07 5:51 PM EST –

I know Valley originally marketed it as a boat for smaller paddlers. However, I'm 6' 175 pounds and feel it is a bit big for me at times. Maybe the LV is better, but I would guess still too much volume for compact folk.

I think Peter Orton mentioned the possibility of an Avocet LV, but that's in the future...

The Vela is a very nice boat. The Rumour also seems successful for smaller paddlers.

The thread on the other board might be useful http://www.paddling.net/message/showThread.html?fid=chat&tid=618566

Romany LV
I was so excited when I heard about the Romany LV I ran to the only dealer around that had one.

I sat in the Romany; the onlookers scratched their heads and took the Avocet off the wall for me. It was unanimous, Avocet was a better fit. The Owner of Sweetwater Kayaks found that to be “curious”.

I wish I could see detailed specs on cockpit heights, ect to find out what small differences seem so huge to me.

I would definitely think I have princess in the pea syndrome if it not for the confirmation of the onlookers.

know just how you feel

– Last Updated: Feb-26-07 5:57 PM EST –

5'3" 115 lbs here. With a short torso & relatively long arms and legs, 35" hips.

Just isn't much out there especially if you want room for overnights while being able to paddle w. some speed and efficiency.

FWIW, the best seat pans for us could be 15-16" across, a cockpit about 20-22" wide (narrower is great but often found on a very low volume kayak)and cockpit heights 8.5" up to 11.5".
Just a framework, not rigid guidelines.

Minicell can be your salvation. It comes in sheets 1/8" 1/4" and 1/2" widths. Check out a store online called Foam for You. You can easily raise the seat slightly (like an inch max, or it might adversely affect the kayak's balance), use a pad like HotSeat to give you more grip & 3/4" more elevation, make the seat narrower for your hips, and pad out the thigh braces so you don't have to raise your thighs as much to make good contact.

Don't shy from customizing. Just about every kayaker who's really into it does - it's a tribal experience ;-)

DO avoid the highback seats (OEM or aftermarket). They just get in the way of leaning back for bracing and rolling, esp. with a short torso.

I don't really have a model to suggest to you. All the ones I could suggest are mentioned.

I've seen an Avocet and paddled with the woman who owns it (a kayak shop owner, advanced paddler) says it's a great kayak but not for very petite paddlers. A paddling friend of mine has a wife just about your size and he asked about it for his wife, she talked him out of it.

But YOUR opinion when you give it some water time is what matters. If you like it and you can see how to pad it out, then it can truly be for you. It should be easier to find a used Valley Avocet than, say, a CAT 3 or a Rumour.

So what did I wind up with?
Had to go back in time to buy a British low volume kayak that isn't even made anymore! If you ever get a chance to demo a North Shore Fuego, it's got really nice dimensions for small paddlers. So naturally they stopped building it!

My review in pnet which gives all the dimensions. It was $1200 used w. a first class skirt & backband, and just immaculate. Listed on pnet in November and I had to fly it in from SF in early December. I'd paddled a very well loved one long ago on vacation in England but never forgot it.

So I bought this one without a demo. I took a risk, but I thought an educated one. Never for one minute regretted it.

Don't give up and don't compromise. If you've done your research and the demo is pleasing, pull the trigger. They come few and far between.

another stupid idea
If you have the time, you could get a kit, build one yourself, and have a fit you would never get from an off the rack boat.

Impex Cat 3
With out a doubt, the Force Cat 3 was the most perfectly fitting boat I have ever sat in!! I took it to the water, and really struggled with it. Too much length for me? I could not turn it at all.

There is a dealer on the other side of Florida that has a Rumour.

The Price tag . . . . .$2,800.00, $1,200 more than the RM Avocet.

shipping costs: that Anas Acuta
In December I used Forward Air to ship a 16 ft kayak from SF to Detroit Metro… $124 including insurance. Forward Air goes by volume not by weight. The rate would go up since the Anas Acuta is 14 inches longer, but it’s fewer miles in the air. It took two days. They are open Saturdays.

Forward Air is a cuss word for some but they delivered two kayaks for me last year. Flawlessly.

Cardboard stiffeners on the cockpit, A couple layers of bubble wrap, wide tape mummification, leave the toggles out —> good to go.

Why not demo an AA in Florida and see what you think? The AA in Michigan is $995 starting bid on eBay (same kayak, same owner).

You could also use a freight forwarder KAS who specializes in canoes and kayaks. Don’t know about rates but it would be less work for the seller I think, which would work in your favor.

Avocet Only Day Boat?
What constitutes a day and touring boat is for everyone to decide for their personal reasons, but just in terms of numbers it is worth considering the Avocet has more volume than a Nordcapp LV. SK in its review thought the LV could be used for week long trips BTW. In fact the Avocet has more volume than the Force 3 which is specifically designed as a touring boat for small paddlers. Its a bigger boat than one might think.