Cockpit size

I currently padddle a Perception Sonoma 13.5 which has a 22" beam and a cockpit that’s 33x19. It’s my first and only kayak and I’m very comfortable in it.

One of the boats that I thought might be a good next boat was the Montauk. I found someone nearby who had one for sale so I visited today to take a look. Before taking it to the water, we set it on the floor so I could try sitting in it.

What an eye-opener! The boat has the same beam as the Sonoma but it felt very tight and was much more difficult to get into and out of. Now, I’m far from petite, but at 5’9" and 165 pounds I’m not the size of a wooly mammoth either. Silly me, I had assumed that if I was comfortable in the Sonoma, I’d be fine with another 22" beam kayak.

Now that I’ve had that disappointing experience, I’ve spent some time today researching cockpit sizes on the internet and I see that many of them are 16"x30" just like the Montauk. I was thinking of trying out a Fathom but today I learned that it has a 16.5"x31.5" cockpit and I don’t know if that will be any better than the Montauk.

Does this mean that I’ll be paddling the Sonoma for the rest of my life? And how are all those big burly men getting their long legs and large feet into and out of their kayaks?

No necessarily
You may change later on but the larger cockpit is spoiler for many.

Paddlin’ on


No, that’s not all there is to it
You are not doomed to a life of paddling kayaks with large cockpits.

You can get into a kayak different ways. You may just need to learn another way to enter and exit one with a smaller cockpit than what you’re used to.

Also, the outfitting can make even a large-cockpit kayak feel snug. This is often something you can modify to fit you better.

It so depends…
You have height and overall size on me, so my comfort zone isn’t likely to match up to yours. But the cockpit size you mention isn’t all that unusual, and I can pull my legs out of one considerably smaller while sitting in the boat (Explorer LV).

I don’t know how you are getting in and out of the boats, but once you move to the 22" wide sea kayaks most people find that it’s a one leg at a time operation.

Those cockpits are functional - if you are in the soup or trying to roll you want your contact with the boat to be right there right now, not something for which you have to reach a big distance. But that may not be something that you need in a boat. In that case, the tighter cockpits that go with the 22" sea kayaks may not provide you with any particular benefit.

There is a trade-off
you have to consider. In order to learn some of the kayaking techniques like edging and rolling you need to have a tighter fitting cockpit. If you plan on progressing to paddling bigger water you will appreciate the control the tighter fit gives you. It’s not so much that you can not paddle in bigger water with a large cockpit, it is that you have less ability to do some maneuvers that let you move in directions other than those the current or waves are trying to take you.

Since women tend to have wider hips than men of the same size it may be that you will have trouble fitting in kayaks that even larger men can use. I like to have as tight a fit as possible and still be able to do a wet exit without feeling trapped.

Consider where you will be doing most of your paddling. If you are mostly on rivers where you will get out often to portage rapids or logs or walk the boat through shallows the larger cockpit might be worth its weight in gold. If you paddle larger lakes and bays where it is just one entry and one exit per trip then you might appreciate the extra controll a tight fit gives you when things get rough.

There is no right or wrong (unless it is so tight you can not wet exit). It is just which type of fit you get the most benefit from.


entry, exit
I’m 6’3’’ with a 28’’ keyhole opening.

My legs can’t fit in after sitting down, so no plop in starts for me. I have to go in legs first with a paddle brace or paddle outrigger from the back combing.

If you remove the back brace you should be able to plop into a 30’’ opening.

Doing a paddle brace isn’t an issue for me, but may be a deal breaker for a lot of people, bc the plop in method is convenient.

You sure it’s the cockpit and not the seat?

Kayak manufactures have the tendancy to put skinny narrow seats into some pretty wide boats.

Try the boat again and see if it’s the seat…

never buy or not buy,a boat because of the seat…it’s like buying a house because a couch that comes with the house fits…buy the boat You like because of the way it paddles …rip out the seat and replace it with something better if it’s a poor fit or not comfy enough…

Best wishes


I am 205 and 5’10’ and
my Fathom, while it took a little getting used to, is now second nature to climb in. I learned on a fat and flat Heritage 9.5. The cockpit is HUGE, maybe 22 by 40 inches. Then I tried to climb into that skinny Fathom with the teeny cockpit. At first couple tries, I thought I made a terrible and expensive mistake. But a couple of technique adjustments and I find it no problem whatsoever.

Not sure of the model you spoke of nor how you were set up that day, but one thing I found is to be certain the backstrap or seat back is let all the way loose while entering or exiting. Give yourself maximum advantage. After you are in, you can reach back and tug the seat or strap adjustments to cinch it up.

I usually put one foot in the middle, the other on the lake floor. Then scoot my butt down quickly while letting the leg in the boat slide forward. That leaves me with one leg over the side when my weight is firmly in the seat. A little paddle brace while I swing the other leg up, bend it tightly against my prominent belly and scoot my foot down the keyhole.

Once in, I am very comfortable. I don’t really feel restricted in any way.

However, I try to avoid getting in and out in front of witnesses. I look so graceful and pretty paddling that Fathom around. It’s a shame to ruin the illusion for someone watching the fluid gliding beauty of that vessel with it’s highly skilled commander perfectly executing various strokes and then come in and just pour myself out on the beach like a wounded whale trying to free myself from a sluice pipe. :wink:

cockpit opening is just one factor

– Last Updated: Aug-08-08 12:45 PM EST –

The cockpit size is just one factor to consider. It is the easiest to look at, though, as measurements are generally available.

But even if you can fit inside the cockpit opening, how the boat is outfit will also matter a lot. Seats can be smaller than the cockpit size. And any sort of padding for the thighs or hips would make it even smaller.

this all said - the lesson, which I think you learned here, is that you really can;t get a feel for a boat by the numbers you see on a spec sheet. You need seat time in that boat before you should decide if a boat is good or not.

I am the exact same height and weight
as you, and I can get into just about any small cockpit that exists.

The other thing that makes it difficult for me is the fact that I have bone on bone in one knee (the left one, and can’t bend it).

The secret is a little balance and getting over the fear that you will tip the boat. (because you won’t).

My method: (I’ll explain it from getting in from the right side)

  1. Stand beside the cockpit and facing the bow of the yak.

    2 bend over and put your left hand about half way along the cockpit coming on the side opposite you.
  2. grasp it firmly. Grasp the right side of the coaming the same way with your right hand.
  3. Using your right leg and your hands for balance, pick up you left leg, and slide it into the cockpit. As you are doing it, you keep your right leg as the anchor point firmly on the bottom,(using it to keep your balance) and as you are sliding the leg in, move your butt over the seat


    5 Now comes the balancing act and this part should be done fairly quick.

    6.With your butt still over the seat back, pick up your right leg and slide it into the cockpit while keeping all your weight on your two hands, and then slide your whole butt and the rest of you down onto the seat.

    If you can bend your legs with out much difficulty, forget all of the above, and just straddle the kayak and plop yourself down in the seat with your legs hanging over the side. Then bend them and pull them inside.

    Where there is a will there is a way!



Just plop - not
"… If you can bend your legs with out much difficulty, forget all of the above, and just straddle the kayak and plop yourself down in the seat with your legs hanging over the side. Then bend them and pull them inside…"

I whish I could do this - but in anything smaller than skirt size 1.4 I can’t - too long legs. In my 1.2-sized boat I can only get in legs-first and that can be very tricky in moving water or waves (so I avoid doing it and just use my other boat there).

Another way, in deep water, would be re-entry and roll rather than cowboy or other types of re-entry without a roll (provided there is no other paddler to help stabilize the boat). With the help of a little flotation (paddle float or spare PFD or similar, these are surprisingly easy even if one can’t roll yet without props (but is at least near “half-way” there).

Leg length

How long are your legs?

Your overall height and weight should be OK for the Montauk. That is, if you were a guy, you should really have no problem getting in/out if the Montauk.

Good News!
First, many thanks to all of you for your insight, suggestions and reassurance. It helps to realize that I may just need to change my method for getting in and out of the kayak. And knowing that there is an option to just completely change the seat is very helpful. All of your posts were very much appreciated.

I had a positive experience today that raised my hopes. Someone offered me the chance to try out her QCC600X and I went to visit it today - no paddling opportunity since there are many t-storms in the area today - but we did put it on the ground for a “test sit”. Much to my delight I slipped right in with no trouble at all! The cockpit measurements are 16x30, just like the Montauk, but this was a totally different experience. And once seated, the seat itself was much more comfortable. Another big difference is that there was more room for my feet - my bare feet were a tight fit in the Montauk but the QCC600X accomodated my feet with water shoes quite comfortably! I was smiling when I left there and I hope to be able to paddle it this weekend.

I’m going to visit an outfitter tomorrow afternoon to look into some other kayaks, and I’ll get some paddle time. They have a Montauk so I’ll try it just to see how that one is - you never know… I’ll be trying out both versions of the Eddyline Fathom to begin with and I’ll follow their suggestions about other possibilities.

Thanks again everyone!

P.S. njkayaker - my inseam is 33".

If you liked the QC600X…

– Last Updated: Aug-08-08 9:51 PM EST –

You may be responding to the depth of boat as well as other factors, not surprising given your height. That's not something which I think you were looking at before.

For someone my size, 5'4", that can be more depth of boat than I prefer. But with 5" on me, you are seeing things from a different perspective. Literally.

I think that’s it
Celia, I think you’ve hit on the key - depth. And you’re right - I wasn’t taking that into account. I went to a demo session today and sat in 5 kayaks. Two - the CD Cypress and the Impex Currituck - were comfortable enough but both are longer than I want for my next boat. The Currituck actually felt a little too big. I also tried a Boreal Fjord and a Kajak Viking, and I found both to be too small for me. It’s a combination of tight on my hips, too shallow for my legs, and the thigh braces not hitting the right part of my leg. I didn’t even bother with trying the Montauk or the Fathom LV.

I did try the Eddyline Fathom and it was much better. The foredeck is higher and the seat is raised so I didn’t feel like I was sitting too low. The thigh braces hit in the right spot and there was plenty of room for my feet in water shoes. I took it on the river for about 25 minutes and had some fun with it. That boat edges very nicely!

Tomorrow I’ll paddle the 600X and see how that feels on the water. If I like that too, I’m going to have a tough choice to make. At that point it may come down to material and weight and price…

"Geez you got a big cockpit

– Last Updated: Aug-09-08 10:50 PM EST –

geez you got a big cockpit"...."Why did you say that twice?"

I didn't. See...Cuz of the ecko.

Sorry...for, the P140 crowd