Do lighter paddler's have an advantage?

The real advantage
is that lighter paddlers can often get the heavier paddlers to move their boat around for them.

That’s my experience anyway :wink:


I am ideal rowing size. Guess I better
get the BHC set up by spring.

That’s partially correct
the amusing part was the comparison with chin ups.

Paddling doesn’t require one to overcome their own body weight. On a 24 hour rec paddle the youngest and most physically fit fell out first.

We could argue this for days. It makes good points but has no definite or one answer.

Depends on how the weight is

Oh, yeah? :wink:
If we smaller paddlers routinely carry our own kayaks or at least carry one end of the kayak, we get stronger than a bigger person does in the same situation.

Our boats weigh a higher percentage of our body size (and we have shorter “levers”), so we are, um, training harder.

I got ticked off by an over-6-ft guy deriding me for not being able to singlehandedly lift my 61-lb Squall onto the top of a 4WD truck. In addition to the obvious height disadvantage, all my kayaks have weighed more than half what I do. I bet this same guy can’t rooftop the same proportion himself, which would be a kayak weighing at least 100 lbs.

You should have asked him to spell
kayak backwards, and then laughed at his expression.

Leanness vs. weight
Lean people aren’t necessarily light, because muscle weighs more than fat (by volume).

But the only sports I know of where added fat (not too much) is not a disadvantage are swimming and other submersion sports. OTOH, the penalty for higher bodyfat % has to be less for kayaking than for bicycling, hiking, or running. All these sports require good power-to-weight ratios.

Small and light do have one advantage: darned near any sea kayak feels stable.

On a more serious note
There is way too much focus on speed in these forums and in the sport itself. If you are out to enjoy yourself, learn to paddle correctly and efficiently. You should experiment and see how fast you can move your boat, but you probably won’t be paddling pell-mell 95% of the time.

The owner is also trying to sell boats. When a fat guy walks in, I bet he tells him how great the exercise is he’ll get from paddling. When the short girl walks in he tells her that she will blaze through the water because she’s so light and has a lower center of gravity…

I’m 55 lbs heavier than you, and probably not as athletic, but I’m pretty sure the guy wouldn’t have told me that I’m too heavy and sent me on my way.

Having said that, you will probably be comfortable in a wide variety of boats. You might even find that you rattle around a bit in the boats made for the larger folks.


Some folks like to go slow. Some folks like to go fast.

Some folks also like to get as far away from the put-in as they can in the time they have to participate in this activity. That would be me, for one. Boat selection is certainly part of that equation.


Interesting points,

i have zero experience with kayaking as my focus has been mtnbiking and 24hr racing.

I’ve had a burning desire to yak for about 3yrs and finally bought a boat.

My purchase would indicate that speed is not my goal “pungo duralite 120”.It is the adventure that i seek.

I will continue to bike and pound the TotalGym but have already planned some week long camping trips on the Greenbriar river(WV)and Shenandaoh river(VA)for this spring and really look foward to some beautiful scenery while kayaking.

Paddling is not rock climbing
Lean, light people with strong arms and shoulders tend to be great rock climbers. If they try to use their same assets for paddling they will quickly be left behind.

People who are heavy for their height tend to have larger torsos. Since torso muscles are the primary souce of power if paddling correctly, an argument could be made that stockier people may have a physical advantage.

Stockier paddlers may also have an advantage because their centers of gravity are lower.

No Argument There
I just said what I did based on the fact that only a tiny percentage of the “larger” people that I see, including most larger paddlers, have extra body mass that is not mostly due to fat. This is America, you know. I still think you are right about bigger, muscular people.

If you read between the lines in Scott
Shipley’s slalom kayaking manual, “Every Crushing Stroke,” you’ll see that he considered himself to be at a bit of a disadvantage because his height and weight were above average for slalom kayakers. He adapted his style to use wider, sometimes more conservative lines than lighter competitors like Fox and Fixx. He tried to make up for it by achieving a bit more speed and consistency on those wider lines.

While single scullers in rowing are often relative giants, there are no examples of really big guys dominating whtewater slalom. Even in C-1 which is really a power or “grunt” event, there have been no top-level giants.

Now we’re getting to the real matter

– Last Updated: Dec-08-07 2:36 PM EST –

The Inuit had this all figured out; they built the boat to the paddler's proportions. When you walk into a kayak shop they want to fit you into the boat they would like to sell. When the salesman says, "you will be light in this boat so you'll go faster," it's the wrong kayak for you.

A long waterline for instance puts a smaller weaker (potentially anyway) paddler at a disadvantage. Same goes for a bigger paddler in a kayak submerged below the intended waterline. Both paddlers will experience deficiencies in handling not to mention speed.

Do you rock climb?
I was getting into it starting with indoor wall climbing and ordinary shoes, when a bike accident resulted in my wrist cartilage being torn in 3 places. No more climbing for me.

Anyway, rock climbing uses a LOT of torso and leg power. It’s not just arms (sounds a bit like popular perceptions about paddling). Also, good climbers are very lean, sinewy. I bet they and ballet dancers make good candidates for sea kayaking because they have overall fitness, power (including short sprint-like bursts), endurance, flexibility, and superb balance.

That’s what you think now, heh heh
You don’t know what you will end up wanting to do, kayak-wise. Not yet.

I wanted to just do casual day trips. I still enjoy those but have found great delight (among other things) on long camping trips, which means the kayak’s requirements have changed.

I sucked at rock climbing
I got into rock climbing enough to buy the shoes and harness. My rock climbing friends had lean tall bodies with skinny legs and they could fly up things I just did not have the strength to do. One guy was 6’-4" and weighed 180 lbs. I was 5’-9" and 200+ pounds. We were equally fit, but he had a huge advantage rock climbing.

The advantage reversed when we were mountain biking. I always seemed to be faster, climbed hills significantly better, and could carry my momentum through rock gardens much better.

Certain body types have their advantages. I would think the barrel-chested guy would have an advantage paddling if he learns to use the power of his torso. Oscar Chalupsky is an excellent example. Oscar excels in rough water because of his skill surfing. However, his weight will also help him paddling against the waves as he is able to maintain more momentum.

Click on this link to see recent pics of Oscar and some of the other top ocean paddlers in the world. Do I see beer bellies and double chins?

Building to Proportions
I still say we aren’t far off, what with computer aided design and robotics and all…

A customer answers some questions about what he wants to do with the boat… provides some body weight and measurement info…


the computers and robots build a perfect custom fit boat. You know it’s just a matter of time before it happens.

Greg Barton
For the record, Greg Barton is:

Height: 5’11"

Weight: 175 lbs

So, if you’re 5’11" and 175 lbs. You should be pretty fast.