Beginner + nordkapp =?

I am a beginning sea kayaker, with a fair amount of time on the water in sailboats. I got a classic Valley Nordkapp in partial trade for my last boat, and I have been out a couple of times, and its great, but I am kind of scared of it. I haven’t learned to roll yet, I figured I should be able to get back in first, just in case my roll failed. Its tippy, and as I learned in a pool practice, I couldn’t do a cowboy reentry because the cockpit is too short (or my legs too long?) I am 6’ and 190 lbs.

I have gotten advice to get a different boat, maybe something bigger, something with more cockpit. I am torn. I really like my Nordkapp. I know its a bit of a challenging boat.

So, I guess I am looking for some advice on how to proceed. Am I wasting my time with the Nordkapp, or should I try a “beginners boat”? Or just figure this thing out, learn to roll it and find a different reentry technique?

Its a beautiful kayak, and I plan to keep it, at least until I am convinced its a lost cause.

edit: the cockpit is 27x16 inches, I think that’s called the “ocean cockpit”.

What are the dimensions of the cockp;it on your Nordkapp? The ones I have paddled had average sized cockpits. With enough time in the boat, I think that you will find that the Nordkapp is a great boat and very stable.


There has been several Nordkapps. Most are expedition boats and handle better with a load.
Pics of the deck and under stern could help us determine what you have.

Tight cockpit you may have to sit on back deck and slide in. You probably have an ocean cockpit. My friend had an older one and it was round almost. Tight but he was thin and 5-6.

Not sure which Nordkapp you have, but back in the day (mid 1990’s) there were fewer “starter” kayak options and a few of my friends started with a classic Nordkapp (HM and HS) as their very first kayak.

Starting with a Nordkapp isn’t the easiest path, but it can be done with care and if you really love the kayak and want to make it work. A few of my friends could hardly stay upright at first and went on to become very proficient kayakers. Realize your limits at first and paddle conservatively, paddle with others and in less challenging conditions as you gain your balance, experience and judgement.

Ditch the cowboy and learn a reentry and roll with paddlefloat and then a roll. Work on assisted rescues and paddle with people who do the same.

An ocean cockpit is great for control but it isn’t as easy to get into as compared to a keyhole. You basically need to sit on the aft deck, put your hands at the side of the cockpit and slide in with your legs straight (and reverse the procedure to exit).

Get some instruction, stay humble and careful, and enjoy developing your skills! In the end though, a kayak is just a hull / tool. You’re not married to it. Nothing wrong with liking your kayak but to improve quickly be “unfaithful” and paddle all manner of kayaks and switch if you find something you like something better.


If you have an ocean cockpit, a possibility in the really older ones as Grayhawk mentions, it is going to be quite challenging for you to slide back in from the usual paddle float re-entry. You should try the heel hook version, see if it works any better. Wear long pants, you can count on scraping your shins.

Here is a link to someone doing it. FWIW, if you try putting the wrong leg in at first don’t worry, some people like me have the damndest time remembering something that should be easy. Heel Hook Paddle Float Self Rescue - YouTube

As Grayhawk mentions, the Nordkapp handles best under load. There have been newer models that behaved OK without it, but the really traditional Nordies were designed assuming they would be carrying an expedition load. So they actually sit above their best waterline without it.

I know of at least one person who handles a similar problem in their kayak by keeping water bladders in each of the bulkheads of his kayak. Held in place by float bags.

If you happen to have a Nordkapp LV - which I doubt because it is a newer one and I believe they always have a regular cockpit - it is just going to be a handful compared to many other boats and you probably need to nail the roll. Rolls really easily though, in fact the boat can window shade once you have it.

Sea kayaks, like sailing dinghies, are often more stable moving than sitting still. Keep the paddle moving.

If you have any “ocean cockpit” , round, it may always be a problem for those aged long legs.

Gstamer recommended learning a re-enter and roll with paddlefloat. I’d go a step simpler and learn the basic paddlefloat rescue as your back to basics solo recovery.

Some people can learn these things by watching youtube videos and the like, but I think you would be an excellent candidate to take one of the day long intro to sea kayaking classes, if there are any available in your area.

That said, my local club has a pretty good resource list of skills articles/videos at


If you’re dedicated to improvement you can learn with the above advice and become proficient quickly.

If you’re more casual or luke warm to learning new skills, the Nordie will be a handful for a while and a more forgiving boat may make you happier.

Waterline makes a big difference. Try adding some weight as others recommend

Thanks (everybody) for the encouragement. I will try using some ballast, and will try to get more hours on the water. I like to think I have a “growth mindset”, but it is usually offset by laziness.

I too am a member of BASK (Bay Area Sea Kayakers). I joined so I could do some classes and meetups. It was at their pool practice where I found out how hard it is to scoot my butt up the afterdeck and plunk it into that little (27") cockpit.

Another thing I learned that evening is Don’t Eat Before Practice. I am usually pretty immune to seasickness, but pulling up and landing on my belly on the deck, scooting along it and falling back into the pool for half an hour was NOT what my stomach likes. I also learned that my PFD sucked, so I have now fixed that, too.

I guess I better go back to the pool next week. Writing this stuff down makes me realize how much I learned in just that one hour.


Nordkapps in their stock form are challenging boats because they’re designed to be paddled loaded, as previously mentioned. The seat sits quite a way off the hull, which is designed to provide more leverage for maneuvering a loaded boat. However, it makes it much less stable when unloaded. The single biggest improvement I made in my old Nordkapp was cutting out the high-mounted stock fiberglass seat and replacing it with a foam seat placed directly on the hull. I left enough of he cheek plates in place to provide a mount for the back band.

In terms of stability, it was a night-and-day transformation. The boat went from being twitchy and occasionally catching me off-guard, requiring a brace to stay upright, to being downright comfortable and pleasurable to paddle. The only downside was that it effectively raises the aft deck, making layback rolls more difficult. Depending on the year and model of your boat, that may be less of an issue, as the aft deck height varies somewhat.


That really sounds like a good way to go, if your seat is of that type. You can rather easily find instructions for making the minicell foam seat.

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I can’t even get my finger under the seat, so I dont think that’s my problem. Good idea to check it though. Thanks.

Slightly off topic but is there anyplace to buy an ocean cockpit sprayskirt for these old Nordkapp’s without special ordering?

REED probably has it standard (though you should ask them), but they are in UK, so you would have to order from there (unless ‘Kayakwaveology’ would order it for you).
In 2010 I bought a REED ‘Aquatherm Spray Deck’ for a Tahe ‘Greenland’ (ocean cockpit)
Notes I had from the order:
(specs on the cockpit: 50x40 cm (19.7x15.7’’)).
(similar size to Vally Anus Acuda ocean cockpit)
don’t know why I had the comment about the AA (maybe they told me that), but, if the Nordkapp’s OC is similar dimensions, you won’t have to special order (though it would just be a matter of giving them the cockpit dimensions)

If it is a ocean cockpit on your Nordkapp it is the same size as the Anas Acuta. Some early {before 1998, the jubilee} Nordkapps came with a little larger {not keyhole} slalom cockpit.

That’s interesting, but not surprising; there have been a lot of variations of the Nordkapp.

Given that the seat height isn’t an issue, it’s probably just a matter of getting used to your boat. It’s still not what I would consider a “beginner’s kayak” and it’s not going to feel very stable to a beginning paddler. However, the more time you spend in it, the faster you’ll “grow into” it.

Buying an easier boat to master would be largely a waste of money, as you won’t need it for long unless there’s someone else in your family that might want it or you need a stable platform for activities like fishing. My Nordkapp was my second boat and I pretty much stopped using my first boat after I bought the Nordkapp.


I’d contact Brooks for an ocean cockpit sprayskirt