Confused about sizing

I am just under 5ft and weigh 124lbs. I’m looking for my first kayak and getting confused about sizing. While looking at options online I see descriptions that recommend a certain kayak for small, medium, or large sized paddlers but the cockpit size doesn’t seem to vary more than an inch or two.

Other than making sure I can reach the foot pegs, what do I need to look for in regards to sizing when trying out kayaks at demos?

cockpit sizing not as important

– Last Updated: Apr-28-15 9:30 PM EST –

First, what category of kayak are you looking for? You said cockpit, so not SOT. But are you looking for sea/touring kayak? Recreational kayak? White water kayak? Let us know the category and we can likely point you to a few to consider based on what others of similar size have liked.

In all of those except recreational, you want a boat that fits (or can have padding added) to allow you to have good contact around your butt, at your knees under the knee brace, and with your feet. It should be comfortable to sit in for long periods, but also has everything in close enough that you can lock your legs place in such that moving your hips edges the boat.

Recreational/light touring
I’m looking at recreational. I’m not planning any sea kayaking or whitewater at this time. That would be way beyond my skill level as I’m a beginner. Mostly lakes, creeks, rivers, etc. I would like to kayak Pictured Rocks in the UP, but I’ll rent something for that when I’m ready.

New kid on the water…
Not sure what your budget is, but Eddyline has introduced a sweet new recreational performance kayak, fully outfitted. It would fit you well.

Thermoformed and all of 35 pounds.

Beautiful, high quality boats.

Boat size and weight
I saw some recreational kayaks this weekend which reminded me that some boats should be avoided by small people. Those boats were as wide as battleships.

There are some nice boats in the touring category which are narrower and lighter than rec kayaks, but without being narrow enough to scare a beginner. I can’t name as many models as others here can. The advantages of a boat which is not a total barge, and which has a weight which is not all out of proportion to the length are two things you will really appreciate.


– Last Updated: Apr-29-15 3:22 AM EST –

By size, kayak makers mean volume. To have an ideal placement in a kayak it needs to displace a certian amount of water to put you and the boat in optimal balance with the water surface. If a boat is too large inside for your weight, it will sit too high in the water and will also be difficult for you to paddle because you may have to reach over a deep and wide cockpit. A larger person in a low volume (LV) kayak will sit too low in the water and the boat will tend to be slow and unstable. As with Goldilocks and the Three Bears, there is a "just right" for everyone.

You are at the low end if the adult kayak range and will find yourself having a much better time in a lower volume kayak. At your height, narrower will be better too. Quicker and easier to paddle without banging your knuckles on the gunwales (sides). And another bonus is that narrower lower volume boats are lighter and easier to transport.

I think a 12' or 13' LV boat between 22" and 24" wide would feel best and be a verasatile kight touring boat. If you have ambitions to paddle in the great lakes you will develop better skills in a light touring or higher end "rec" kayak than the usual "one size fits most" 10' x 30" common rec boats. You need narrow at your height and a short boat has to be wider to provide volume for displacement.

Once we know more about your budgets I can suggest models to consider. My first thought was a Venture Islay 14LV. Where do you live? That may limit your choices for demo a bit.

Your best bet is to try as many out
as you can.

Get to demo days if possible, or rent them from outfitters

Also try to find a buyers guide and then look through and see what appeals to you and your budget, and then when you have some boats in mind, get back here and ask about them and people that own them can critique them for you.

It is too hard for anyone here to suggest something for you with out knowing your skills and budget

jack L

My wife…
…is exactly your size and she really likes her Current Designs Vision 130.

It’s a 13’ long, 24" wide “transitional” boat, made from fiberglass and kevlar and weighs a little under 40lb.

A step up
If recommend a one performance level above where you think you are at so as to let you have more fun growing into the kayak as a paddler.

From your parameters I’d pull a North Shore Aspect LV and a Venture Kayaks Islay 14 LV for the test paddle if you walked into my showroom with the stated parameters.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY

Very helpful
Thank you everyone for your replies. I’m going to take a look at the boats suggested above.

I live in Louisville, Ky. There are several outfitters within a couple hours away that will be offering demos soon. My budget is around $1000 for the kayak alone. I still have get a rack for transport and everything else I’ll need to have. I’m hoping the budget won’t limit me too much.

One of the kayaks that I’ll be trying is the WS Tsunami 12. Not sure if it is considered low volume or not.

From a slightly taller person
Maybe four inches on you, but I am within several pounds of your weight.

No one said this above - kayaks were traditionally sized around the average GUY paddler - 5’8-10" and 180 pounds. Women entered the sport more and the manufacturers started developing language around a population where the statistical average is 4 to 8 inches shorter, weighs less and usually built with shorter proportions in torso and arm length.

But it is still an imprecise science, so sometimes small that you see on a web site is going fit a guy about halfway between the above two sizes. Not you. You are a small woman, so add a notch lower that you need to go. Think extra small.

The aspect of fit that you need, in addition to the obvious of reaching foot pedals, is that you have to be clear enough of the cockpit area in height and width to be able to get the paddle into the water without having to use a ridiculously long one because the boat is so wide or hitting your knuckles every other stroke because the cockpit is so tall around you. It is frustrating to see women struggling to paddle comfortably because they are in a boat that looks like it up and swallowed them. There is one other measure, but frankly if you get the height and width part right that will work out.

You are really too small for the basic adult sized super-basic rec kayaks. But that is not a problem, because as others have said above that is likely not what you want either. To get a sense of the sport for things like trips to Picture Rocks. you will want something that is a bit more boat so you can learn in it. Rec boats aren’t designed to be about learning paddling skills for trips on the Great Lakes. They are about muddling around slowly on quiet flat ponds.

You have been given some good suggestions above - good to read that you will be following up on them.

Tsunami 120

– Last Updated: Apr-29-15 11:30 AM EST –

The Tsu 120 is not really low volume and it is a little wide (nearly 26") for you. The Tsunami 135 at 23" is more designed for smaller paddlers and would be a better choice. But for the same price you could likely get an Islay LV, which would be more versatile and fun to paddle. Personally, though they are popular, I find the smaller Tsunami's kind of sluggish compared to others in the size range. And they can be heavy. Notice that though the 135 model is 1 1/2 feet longer than the 120 it is two pounds lighter.

I fact, with a Venture Islay 14 LV (or, if you could find one, the recently discontinued Venture Easky 15LV) you could take it on the Great Lakes once you have the skills for open water. I have an Easky LV (I'm 5' 5" but short upper body and arms, and 145 lbs) and love it for everything from local streams and ponds to the ocean and Great Lakes. Very comfortable and easy to paddle boat that is stable in all conditions. Fits smaller people well -- my 5' 1", 125 lb friend loves to borrow it.

Too bad you are not closer to Florida:

in luck

– Last Updated: Apr-29-15 11:47 AM EST –

You are in luck, as I see River City Kayak in Louisville is a Venture dealer (though they look to be primarily a whitewater vendor). I hope they have the Islay for you to test.

Another possible model would be the Jackson Journey 13.5 (another smaller person light touring kayak) which might be present in your market since the Jackson factory is located in the state.

other thoughts
First, if you go for a rec kayak, you will be swimming in the boat (no secure contact anywhere). Those boats are not made to do anything besides flat water paddling where you are close to shore. Nothing wrong with that, if that is the paddling you want to do. That is not great lakes paddling, so you would need to rent (or better yet, take a guided tour, as rec boat experience doesn’t really educate you on how to paddle in big lake conditions).

My girlfriend is an inch taller and a few pounds lighter than you. Here is her experience on boats she owned (been a challenge, to say the least):

  • Necky Chatham 16 - worked pretty well, but too heavy for her to edge.
  • Dagger Alchemy 14.0S - cockpit opening was rather large for her, so interfered with her learning to roll. If you want something a bit more rec boatish (larger cockpit opening), but still capable, this may be worth looking at.
  • Valley Gemini - this is her current boat and she loves it. Not cheap at some $1800.

    Boat she has tested and loved:
  • Valley Avocet LV composite (there is a plastic version, but that fits different than the composite version)
  • Sterling IceKap (what we’d buy if we won the lotto - awesome boat, but rather pricey).

Hurricane Sojourn 126?
See what you think:

The interior dimensions of the cockpit are 16.5" x 34," which should fit you well. The depth at the front of the cockpit is about 12" (one inch lower than the Sojourn 135). The Sojourn 126 is intended for smaller people.

The price is about $1250—much better value than you would get for a $1000 rotomolded kayak. Worth the extra $250.

Much appreciated.
Again, thank you for all of your input. I very much appreciate it.

I’m going to check out all the suggestions in my price range. I’m really interested in the Islay. Unfortunately, River City Kayak never did relocate and the owner recently announced that he is moving to Florida. I will be in the Fort Myers area in June so if that listing is still up then I’ll check it out.


– Last Updated: Apr-30-15 5:55 PM EST –

My wife is 5'0", so we've had some experience with boats that didn't fit.......

As other folks have said, a boat with too much volume for your weight will be hard to control if the wind and waves pick up. A boat that's too wide and/or too deep will force you to use an uncomfortable and inefficient paddle stroke. A cockpit that's too big makes it harder to use your body to help control and maneuver the kayak.

At your size and weight, you don't need a wide boat for stability.

In addition to the boats mentioned, the Perception Tribute 12 might be worth a look.

My wife ended up with a WS Tchaika(discontinued), which delights her every time she takes it out.

If you like to build things, there are several options, such as these: