Boats for smaller paddlers

I went kayaking with a friend last weekend. She is a very small person, 5’1 & less than 100lbs. She now has a Carolina 13.5 and can swim laps in the cockpit. She would like a better fitting boat. I would like to get a list of boats for her to demo. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated.

Ice, still working on it but right on
target for her + she will be able to drop you. Mermaid boat.

My wife used to have the same …
problem, but her new 15’-3" QCC fits her like a glove.

She helped in the design of it, and the cockpit size along with the lower decks was one of the things that she had direct input in.

If your friend doesn’t mind paying the big bucks for a high end kayak, my guess is she would be very happy with it.

Unfortunately the market is geared toward the “larger” built population.



Barely larger than her
I’m 5’2" and under 110 lbs.

I own and use two sea kayaks, one of which is available commercially. It’s a Tempest 165, and it is my favorite kayak of all tried. Mine is plastic but there is also a composite version.

Demo it with various amounts of shimming in the hip pad packets (they’re adjustable), and make sure they supply the screwdriver so you can adjust the thigh braces.

The angle of the leg supports is also quickly adjustable, a useful feature.

You won’t be able to demo it this way, but if buying, remove the seat cover and add 1/2" or maybe even 3/4" minicell foam. Glue the foam in and then glue the seat cover back on. This suggestion might not apply if she has a deep butt (sorry, that’s the only way to describe it) and doesn’t need the extra height.

The T165 might not be the right boat for her, but I think it should definitely be on the “demo” or “rent” list.

my spouse
She’s small too and she paddles a Tempest 165 and loves it. Before that she had a Romany 16 and found it a bit to big.

I would also recommend

NDK Romany LV

Impex Mystic

Impex Montauk

Valley Pintail

Annacutas (sp)

Good luck


If you don’t have to have a rudder…
There’s the Current Designs Slipstream and Rumour

Prijon Catalina

– Last Updated: May-28-06 4:31 AM EST –

Demoing one will be the issue in central IL. They are sweet and appropriately sized for her and Wildwasser in CO will ship it out to you/her if ordered. Magoo_NS owns one, and many nice Pnet reviews. This would be a definite graduation up from the dowdy Carolina as the Catalina is a seaworthy performance kayak. Have her check it out. See you Monday at Peoria unless it rains.

Same problem…
I’m 4’11", and it is difficult to find boats that fit. I have an Impex Mystic and Montauk, (of the two, the Montauk is my favorite) an Eddyline Nighthawk, (I like it and use it a lot, but it really is a little too big for me)and a Betsie Bay Valkyrie (best fit!) I agree with the other suggestions, too - a Slipstream, Catalina, possibly CD Solstice. The Rumour would probably be an excellent fit, and I’m really looking forward to demoing it. I’m sure Patrick’s boat - the Mermaid - would be perfect! Impex has a new series out, and the Force, Catagory 3, might be a good choice. Impex has great quality control! Smaller paddlers STILL don’t have a lot of choices - although it’s better than it used to be!

Thanks for your help
I will show Sue your comments and she can begin her looking at them.

Consider also P&H Vela or Northshore Shoreline. Both nice Brit style boats.

funny thing
the Rumor foredeck is kind of high, I saw a 5’1" woman get in it and the thigh bracing isn’t a good fit.

a friend got one,it looks like the best thing going

P&H Vela

– Last Updated: May-29-06 10:50 AM EST –

I'm 5'4", 135 pounds, have one as my day boat. The thigh braces will have to be padded down a bit for her - the fore deck is a little high - and the seat moved to its forward position. This may not be quite enough for her leg length, though I have mine padded pretty tightly.

You should have her get into one, move the seat (allen wrench - it's easy) and really reach around in there to see how things would fit out. The issue with the Vela may be storage capacity if she wants to camp as well. She will learn to paddle in it though. The boat's light on primary and a little quirky. It may feel little too daunting for her coming from the Carolina.

Also the Betsy Bay boat for small people - Inuk is it? May work.

I'd give a strong nod to Explorer LV for the cockpit fit - it's basically an ocean cockpit with a fairly aggressive keyhole in front. But she is underweight for the hull. Paddlers live with it fine, myself included for day trips, but it is something to keep in mind. The Mystic may be a little long in the cockpit for the reach to the thigh braces, but as I recall it is quite low. A lot of people really like that boat, and Impex is easier to lay your hands on than the Brit boats other than P&H.

But my best suggestion - at three inches shorter than me I'd really suggest looking at an ocean cockpit. If the deck is high enough, I can sit and slide my legs at least one at a time into an ocean cockpit. Though it'll make most guys crazy, I'll bet she could do that in many ocean cockpits. That means that she'd have a wet re-entry option, usually the biggest reason for people to avoid them, and it'll be her best bet for good contact.

I have the CD Slipstream
and I’m really happy with it. I’m 5’5 and 108 lbs. The cockpit was still roomy for me (I added foam hip braces), but aside from that I’m really happy with the performance of the boat for my size. I’ve yet to find the need to use the skeg, even in a beam or quartering sea. It’s easy to roll and edges well. The initial stability is low, so the kayak will feel tippy at first. I’ve had no issue with it’s performance in rough or confused seas. I have no problem keeping up with the “boys”.

This boat is definitely a day tripper. The skeg assembly takes up most of the room in the rear hatch. I have used it for multi-day trips, but my other half has a Capella 169 and he was able to take most of the food and my sleeping bag!


Wilderness Systems Tchaika – My 5’ wife has one and is very happy with it. It’s the first boat she’s had that fits properly.

At her weight, if she’s not looking for a sea kayak, the Carolina 12.0 might be an option. It’d need float bags, and many people replace the seat.

Impex Force 3
You’ve opened a can of worms. Need to put some more parameters in to help filter the answers. If you simply want the best sea kayak for a smaller person get an Impex Force 3 in Carbon/Kevlar. My wife won’t let anyone (unless they ask really nicely) into hers. I only fit the Force 4 or 5. Hence, smaller framed paddlers kayak.

See you on the water,


Force 3 size
While it is a long range touring boator fast A to B day boat, the 3 is sized very nicely for a smaller paddler. The cockpit height is only 10" and that is less than an Anas Acuta. The thigh braces are lower and extend farther backward to fit short paddlers. Overall the hull is smaller. Still, it is a full bore touring boat and if you want a playful day boat the only FG one I know that is truly sized for smaller paddlers is the NF Rumor. Maybe Vela too. While it is true there are some “LV” versions around, they tend to have smaller cockpits and lower decks on the same hull and that is a compromise situation at best.

There are just not many boats out there for people under 5’4" and 130#. You can make bigger boats fit, but it really isn’t a good solution to the problem; just one that mostly works. My wife tried many boats before finding the Force 3 and Rumor were “just right” for her size at 5’ 1" and 120#. She could paddle the others, but with those she can dance. Big difference.

Thanks for the details
The above description is the first time I’ve seen a good description of how they handled the thigh pads on the Force 3. I just checked the Impex web site, and even there they con’t include the info about having moved the thigh braces further back to catch a shorter leg.

The 10 inch measurement is the interior distance under the deck? The web site cites a higher one but doesn’t indicate whether it is measured from the top or the bottonm of the coaming.

Dreadfully useful information for a smaller paddlers - can’t see why they’d be shy about it…