Cockpit fit

If this topic is already discussed somewhere, please point me to it. I cannot find the right keywords to find it …

Do all 14’+ kayaks block your legs from being able to fold your knees?

I have a 14’ Perception Carolina I bought without sitting in, and later I found that when I’m sitting on the seat, I cannot bring my knees up to my chest because the front edge of the cockpit blocks my knees. So, I have to lift myself up and out of the cockpit, bend my legs, then lower myself back onto the seat. Then, when my knees are up, I cannot straighten my legs out without again lifting myself off the seat and over the seatback, straightening my knees, and lowering myself back down. I thought this kayak must have a small cockpit, so I went and tried out a 14’ Perception Monterey yesterday and it also blocks my legs. The Monterey’s owner thinks that all kayaks are like that so you have better control of the boat. However, my 12’ Dagger Blackwater and my Ascend FS10 have plenty of space to bring my knees to my chest.

So I am dying to know, is this a characteristic of all kayaks 14’ and longer?

I would generally say that is the difference between a rec boat and a touring or sea kayak. Yes, it is mostly about fit and engagement for control of boat. Also allows for spray skirt to help prevent water loading in rougher conditions or event of capsize.


It all depends on the boat. I have a Necky Manitou and I can bend my knees easily. I’m not tall- 5’7".


It depends on the boat. Longer cockpits seem to be more common now than they were decades ago. Its much easier to sit your butt down first when getting in. I can sit butt first in my Epix 18x and had no problem finding a spray skirt. Whitewater boats tend to have smaller cockpits.


Most 14’ kayaks aren’t rec boats, and an awful lot of 12’ boats are. Recreational boats have bigger cockpit openings. If you are shopping around, you can look up the cockpit dimensions online, to zero in on which boats might work for you in that way.

I think the 14’ Eddyline Equinox has the same cockpit opening as my 12’ Skylark, which is basically a rec boat. I’ve never tried pulling my knees up to my chest in it, so I can’t tell you if it would work. The opening is not nearly as roomy as the Eddyline Sandpiper, or a WS Pungo, but it might work. My 14’-3” Sitka LT would definitely not work for you.


It is a common characteristic of all kayaks intended to be taken into more significant water.
It is not optional to be able to control the boat using edging in that case.

The other two boats you mention are the most basic of rec boats that should not be in those conditions to start with. So ability to control them properly, or keep water out using a skirt, is not crucial.

I am short so usually can pull my legs out of my boats. But if l am stiff, at times l am going onto my back deck.

My question goes to why you got a 14 ft boat if you are not aware of this. That often goes with wanting to go into more significant conditions. Is that why you got this boat?


Yes , how often do you need to do that?

Thank you all, your posts are very helpful and you answered my question great. I do a lot of paddling on a small river and small lakes near my home, and my Dagger Blackwater 11.5 is amazing for it. I can lift the skeg to spin on a dime, or drop it for the longer reaches between interesting spots. However, it plows a bit going through the water and now I also go on some larger, albeit still flat, lakes, so I picked up the Carolina for those. It does well going distances, but it isn’t much fun for exploring the shoreline.

Now I want to do all day / multi day paddles on the 104 mile Huron River trail near my home, so I want a 14-footer for efficiency and cargo, but I’m still in the exploring mindset and I’m not going on waves, so I guess I’m looking for a long adventure boat more than a touring boat. It feels very unnatural to not be able to stretch my knees from time to time. I’ll figure out what cockpit length I need and start from there.

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It’s a combination of length and height of a cockpit combing opening that makes it easier to lift legs out. Also really front combing opening to face of seat where your back is resting.

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The sea kayaks (not talking about rec boats) I am aware of seem to have 3 different cockpit openings:
• ocean cockpit – not that easy to get into or out of
• keyhole cockpit – easier, wide variety of sizes
• slalom cockpit – kind of in between the first two
Keyhole cockpits are very common nowadays and the easiest for getting in/out. Of course, it depends on your relative size compared to the cockpit opening. As a small person, I can easily bring my knees up to get into my kayaks, all with keyhole cockpits. I can plop my butt on the seat and then bring in my legs. Nevertheless, some of my keyholes are easier than others. If I were younger and more limber, I might bravely venture into rougher waters and choose a kayak with an ocean cockpit to enhance kayak control and lessen the chance of a spray skirt implosion.

My guess is that you would be able to find a sea kayak with a more useful cockpit opening. The danger would be to pick a kayak that fit that way, but was a ‘barge’. Your fit in the boat goes beyond just getting in/out of the boat. My kayaks range between 15’ 8” and 17’ 3”.

Beginning kayakers need to be aware that a tight cockpit can kill you. If it is hard to get into it will hard to get out of if you capsize. Beginners don’t know how to roll, so there is no escape.

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Sounds like you’ll not need sea kayak capabilities with this boat, but want something that paddles efficiently and relatively fast in the rec/touring category. I agree with JHC that the Eddyline Equinox is worth a look. The cockpit is somewhere between those on many wide open rec boats and the smaller ones on most sea kayaks. Unless you’re really long-legged, I think you’ll be able to raise your knees.
As always, try first!

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You need to learn basics of pushing yourself out of a cockpit upside down. You nearly fall out. Panic kills so get a lesson or two. Easier to get out than in with a tad of experience and training.


Lessons! Learn a bunch of skills, develop them which in turn with modify your comfort level and expectations regarding boat fit. It’s commonly said that you should “wear your boat” in order to be able to control it with your hips and knees. As such, you shouldn’t be slopping around in the cockpit.

By the same token, many people prefer to be able to get their legs out without squirming onto the back deck. I’m 6ft 2 and long-legged. I WANT to be able to put my a$$ in the seat then lift my legs into the boat. To accomplish that I have a large keyhole cockpit (meaning the front coaming is further away from my chest than in a regular keyhole cockpit) boat and, as such, the cockpit is a little bigger side-to-side than I really need. That’s where foam padding comes in, to fill some of those gaps so my hips and knees can do what they have to.

WANT is the operative word. I can get in and out of a boat with a smaller cockpit, it’s just clumsy for me. Practice makes perfect. I make a point of getting in and out of the boat in various ways to build muscle memory and reduce the clumsy factor. I also try to stretch and do squats to improve my flexibility and grace.

One last suggestion. Don’t ever buy a boat (or car, or bike etc) without sitting AND paddling it. It’s worth the extra time to get to know the boat before buying it.

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@RiverWay always sit in the boat before you try it. I have an orange 12’ x 21" wide SP Tsunsmi that is every bit a sea kayak by design and features that I bought for a 14 year old grand daughter. Although she fit, she preferred a 14’ 0" x 24" Tsunami that she handles well and feels more comfortable in while paddling. The 12’ 9" x 26" Tsunsmi is also feartured and designed as a sea sea kayak. I’ve used it on 21.5 mile trip in open water. I also made the same trip in a 14’ x 28" Pungo rec boat. The problem is neither will handle more extreme conditions like the 14’ 6" x 24.5" and the 17’ 6" x 24" Tsunamis will.

As waves peak, the shorter boats teter on a wave peak and plunge headling into the base of the next wave, with the wave washing over the deck. The Pungo is wide and stable, but it pounds in waves and there’s a risk of floundering with an open cockpit The 17 foot Tsunami bridges waves better and has around 28 inches more deck to break the waves.

They’re all the same design, but the SP is a junior boat, and at my current weight of 230 lbs, I overload the 14’ 0" x 24" kayak. I fit all the other boats fine. However, I just bought a used 14’ 6" Tsunsmi with rudder, I tried it but found the same problem you had, even though it was identical to my rudderless boat. My point is that I fit but overload a 14 ft boat, while fitting a 12’ 9" x 26" boat which is stable due to the width, even though I overload it as well.

The irony is that my legs fit the 14’ 6" x 24.5" model without rudder and have room to spare, while I can’t get my legs under the thigh pads in the same model with the rudder. The moveable rudder pegs need additional room to operate the.rudder compared to a fixed foot peg.

To make the story longer, I considered two fix options when I bought it. The person I bought it for has shorter legs. The other option was to move the seat bracket back to the next hole and drill an additional hole - that turned out to be a disaster because it compromised the balance. I plan to move the seat to the original position and scrap the rudder because I don’t need it on that length boat; however, the 17.5 Tsunami occasionally needs the rudder mostly in cross currents.

The message is don’t take anything for granted. Test the boat you plan to buy.

Please try speaking from experience, of which you apparently have limited. A cockpit that someone can get into is generally fine to slide out, gravity works upside down just fine. The Carolina is a decent sized cockpit, too small for many in fact if control is needed because of the size of the paddler.

Should anyone practice both exiting and reentering a kayak? Yes. But the idea that a capsize equates to getting stuck in the boat is foolish.


Spray skirt is something that may complicate a wet exit for a newbie. So you need to get lessons or practice with a friend or two in calm water they can stand in. Then practice with the loop tucked inside because that mistake people make. You need to release skirt from the side. Panic only reduces your ability to think in any situation. Practice reduces panic and makes you comfortable.


Hard to paddle all boats before you buy them.


Hard to paddle all boats before you buy them.

Yes, maybe. Depends on how much effort you are willing to put into researching and hunting down the model you want.

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@PaddleDog52 I do agree with that. I wanted to try a 15.5 Delta, but they sold the allocated stock within weeks before I could get to the shop. I made plans to get there around delivery time in mid-Apr this year, but they advised they wouldn’t have any demo boats. Done deal, no Delta 15.5 in my future. I’d travel four hours and decline rather than buy it and be stuck with a $2,400 boat I won’t use. I have a few of them.

That’s why I make it a point to share my boats and paddles. I’ve actually made long term friends because they showed an interest or apptitude for kayaking. Over time, I felt that I was the benefactor, because verybody brings a different set of skills to the game.