Do lighter paddler's have an advantage?

Regarding speed and how efficient one may be.

I ask this because the owner of the shop kept saying that i should adapt well to this new hobby given my body type.

I’m 6.0 160lbs with powerful arms and shoulders.

Simply put,

Would you consider kayaking simular to mtnbiking where a leaner body would aid in over-all better effiency.

I’m just waiting for the ice to melt.

I’m not sure
Fitness is always key but I think technique is huge in sea kayaking. I’ve paddled with many people less fit than I who could run rings around me in a kayak.

Yes … but
What’s your goal.

Most people paddle for an array of goals the bottom line is always happiness.

Light and strong is a good combination for speed.

weight vs efficiency
Paddling is not exactly like peddling in that you do not need to lift your own weight over hills, but less weight does mean you don’t displace as much water, so you do not need to move as much water out of the way as you move the boat through the water.

However, for people in similar shape, the heavier one may have more muscle mass resulting in more power. I believe in rowing that the “heavyweight” rowers are generally the fastest. Their greater power overcomes the increase in drag.

short answer is yes
if all other things are equal. Add 70 lbs of gear in your boat and you will notice negative effects on speed vs. effort

have fun,


I would say “no.“
No offense intended.

The general rule of thumb in rowing is that a rower’s effectiveness can be estimated by:


So for two equally fit people, the greater power of the larger athlete isn’t quite offset by the increased drag.

Hence, the fastest rowing shells are powered by men around 6’4” to 6’8” and 200 to 230 lbs.

I would expect paddling results to be similar.

In rowing shells, big and tall helps
in part because a tall rower doesn’t have to fold his legs and hips quite as much for the same degree of reach. In kayaking and canoeing, however, big and tall people like me tend to have an inferior power to weight ratio to medium sized people. I don’t think you’ll ever see big, tall people predominating in flatwater kayak racing, or in whitewater slalom either.

Check heights on KI and surf ski racers

– Last Updated: Dec-07-07 12:05 PM EST –

I know squat about K1 other than they match boats to paddlers by weight, but I'm betting good surf skiers average around 6'1"/180 and are obviously quite fit/lean/strong.

My standard answer: "It depends"
generally engine weight is good - dead weight is bad - but this is assuming whatever the weight happens to be brings the total displacement near the design displacement.

At 6’/160 - adding 20lbs of muscle would alter the power to weight ratio for the good - adding 20lbs of fat would obviously hurt it - but we’re talking a couple tenths of a knot either way (at same technique/skill level - but change one thing and everything changes…).

Absolutely not

– Last Updated: Dec-07-07 1:55 PM EST –

A good salesperson will tell you what you want to hear.

Being athletic helps a person adapt to other athletic events. Being athletic also helps in reducing body fat.

Just go out and enjoy paddling and don't be upset if some older and/or heavier person passes you.

Unfortunately your competitive question has no real answer. Guess you'll have to wait till the ice melts to find out. Looks like the mtn bike & kayak are going to be hanging together for a while.

Simply put - Yes


At the Greenland championships it is usually the larger/stronger paddlers who win the portage, sprint/short-distance races and sometimes the long-distance races. However, the smaller, more flexible kayakers always win the ropes and rolling events (and often the long-distance races). This interplay between body types is one of the things that makes the Greenland comps so interesting. You can win the overall competition without winning any one single event.

Greg Stamer

ask Oscar Chalupsky…
He’s one big dude and he can move a boat pretty well. :slight_smile:

Do lighter paddler’s have an advantage?
Yes. Less fat to lug around.


Heavier is Better in Rough Stuff
Assuming similar fitness levels, technique, and the proper kayak for the paddler’s weight, a heavier paddler will be at an advantage in all conditions. A heavier paddler will have more power and be able to distribute it over a longer kayak that is also relatively narrower.

Put that large powerful paddler and his longer narrower boat into rougher water and his advantage increases more. Not only will the longer boat be more seaworthy, but the heavier overall displacement translates into more momentum. Momentum allows the heavier paddler to maintain his speed through the bumps better.

You don’t see many heavy weight paddlers in K1’s because the kayak’s length is restricted. A heavier paddler is not able to spread his weight over a longer waterline length. If they removed the length restriction from the K1 class you would soon see all the medals going to larger paddlers in longer boats. Weight classes then might make sense.

The Average “Heavy” Paddler

– Last Updated: Dec-07-07 5:58 PM EST –

I wonder what percentage of heavy paddlers have a similar ratio of strength to body mass as small paddlers (for example, how many big people do you know who can do 25 or 30 chin-ups like the average small person can (I'm talking males, here)). I'd say that the "average" heavy paddler is at a measurable disadvantage commpared to the "average" smaller paddler, because most larger people are hauling around a lot of non-contributing weight relative to whatever extra strength they might have, sort of like when you throw a bunch of camping gear in your boat and you notice the loss of speed. In any physical activity I have experience with that requires you to move your own body under your own power, the "average" larger person can't keep up with the "average" smaller person. I'm not disputing the argument you make, which makes sense, only suggesting that not many bigger folks actually fit the situation you describe. In short, what you say could well be true for trained athletes, but not for the rest of us. In any case, us average folks probably need not worry about this either way. It's not like we push ourselves to our limits on our excursions and worry about such things as why it took us ten minutes longer to do a particular day trip than it did the last time.

That’s way under the 6’ 5" and 205#
average one often sees in college rowing eights. In single sculling, champions have often been around 6’ and 185, but there have been very successful scullers at 6’ 5" and 215.

The question is:

Would you consider kayaking simular to mtnbiking where a leaner body would aid in over-all better effiency?

I read that as % body fat, not overall weight. If two 400 pound sumo wrestlers are going at it and one is 50% fat and one is 20% fat… my money is on the 20% guy.

Single a better comparison than 8s! NM