First Kayak Advice For Someone With Tight Hamstrings

Hi all. So I’m 28 (6’2" and 160lbs) and looking to purchase my first ever kayak. I was in a sit-in kayak once when I was a kid, and although I enjoyed it, getting in and out was difficult for me. Now it would be impossible. I have extremely tight hamstrings (nothing can change that at this point), so I am leaning toward needing a sit-on kayak with a relatively high seat that gives more bend in the knees, such as a few fishing kayaks have. Unfortunately, I believe these also come in as the heaviest type of kayaks. For the application, I’m just looking at some very small lakes, some ponds, and most likely: meandering, very slow rivers. To be clear, I am not planning on fishing, as this will just be a recreational kayak. I’d also like to cap the price at $1300. I’ll have it for a long time, so I think that can get a pretty good mid-range kayak. Any input/personal experience?

I have quickly looked at a few Bonafide fishing kayaks and a couple FeelFree ones as well. That’s my small sample size.

My mom uses a SOT (because she can’t get in or out, mostly out, of a SINK) and her fav is a Hurricane. She also has a WS Tarpon that she really likes but it’s much heavier so she ends up using the Hurricane most of the time.

I’m in the process of getting her a Necky Dolphin, which I/we have no experience w/ but it’s a nice looking yak that we’d use for camping off of.

I don’t use them, so can’t really tell you more.

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Try renting a couple and seeing how you like them. There are a lot of advantages to a sit-in kayak, and it’s quite possible that you could fit into one fine, but you won’t know without trying.

If you can find a sit-in you are comfortable using, then you can make the decision of sit-in versus sit-on based on how you want to use the boat.

On the other hand, if the sit-ins just don’t work for you, you will at least be able to find out what you like and don’t like about the sit-ons you try and make the best buying decision possible.

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Consider opening your search to canoes. You will probably need to look at used for your price range but they are out there.

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Stellar makes some serious SOT that are very light but double your budget.


Suggest you go with a 10 ft sot to save weight that has a frame seat.

First, try before you buy regardless of what recommendations you get here or elsewhere. You cannot/should not buy without taking a test paddle. So go find a reputable kayak shop and make friends. I don’t think you need to be constrained to a SOT.

I am your height, heavier and older. I too have tight hamstrings and, on top of that, am not particularly graceful. An honest self assessment: I look like I’m intoxicated the first few times I get in and out of a sit-in boat. 50% of the issue can be solved with “reps” that is practicing getting in and out until the process becomes smooth. I bet you can make it more graceful by doing some stretching exercises (google “kayak yoga” ** and you’ll find a number of videos that helped me…provided I practice each night.)

** There’s one from Nomad Sea Kayaking…it’s older and there’s a couple of negative comments that do not have anything to do with the stretching routines themselves. I like it because there’s a simple exercise to do: sitting on the floor in the position you’ll be in when you paddle. Just that simple drill will help build core muscle control and get your legs accustomed to being in paddling position. There’s also content on Paddling Magazine and the NRS website.

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I will never suggest a 10’ boat for anyone. Especially someone the OPs size unless they are a pond paddler. For 6’2" , at least 14’.


I’ve always had tight hamstrings, primarily from cycling, which creates long quads and short hammies. What I’ve found is that if you just get a boat and paddle, your body will adapt, as the paddling motion provides a continuous, gentle stretch. Although I started out with a relative high-decked (~13" deep) boat, I can now comfortably paddle low-volume (7.5" deep), Greenland-style boats which require almost completely straight legs. I’m 6’, 170# with long legs and didn’t start paddling until I was 42, so at your age, it shouldn’t be a problem.

As for your price cap, I would look for a good used boat instead of buying new. It’s a better deal for you and better for the environment.


At least 14 ft for a pond boat and meandering slow rivers! Make sure it has at least 2 bulkheads and you know how to roll!

That is a joke right?!

Aha. Appreciate your insight on this, Brian. I have often invited friends to kayak with me using my varying fleet of touring SINKs and gear and a recurring issue has been that some of them report great lower back discomfort and lower body cramping after less than an hour on the water. At times their distress has been so bad we have had to cut outings short.

I’ve been surprised that it has been those friends whom I consider the most fit overall who report the problems. I’ve tried to coach them in good paddling form but have noticed that they can’t seem to sit in the cockpit without slouching against the seat back or asking me to raise a backband or place some sort of support behind them like a rolled up fleece or chunk of pool noodle (which I have been bringing along on group trips in case I have to boost these guys in their cockpits.)

But in retrospect, after reading your explanation, all of the guys who have exhibited these troubles are avid and regular distance cyclists. Short of getting them out more regularly in the boats I guess there is not much I can do to improve their comfort endurance as long as my fleet is mostly low profile Greenland and LV boats?


Kayaking and cycling are my two favorite activities and I can definitely relate. I find that I can minimize the discomfort with five minutes of stretching before riding or launching,…and my muscles are north of 70. I have a sit in.


My experience is that it just takes time in the boat. If there’s a way to shortcut the process, I haven’t found it. Posture is critical and leaning forward slightly should be encouraged. Leaning back is always going to create discomfort, but with tight hamstrings, it’s the natural tendency.

It’s also important to note that although cyclists may have specific issues with tight hamstrings, the main culprit is much more simple: sitting in a chair. “Proper” desk ergonomics with legs bent 90 degrees will result in longer quads and shorter hamstrings, too.

I’ve never been into stretching, but it may work for some people as Tom indicated. My understanding is that all stretching really does is increase one’s tolerance to the pain of stretching; it doesn’t actually change the the length of one’s muscles. It also weakens the stretched muscles by ~30% immediately after stretching, which is why there’s more emphasis on post-exercise stretching these days, which also helps to flush the muscles of accumulated toxins.

One thing that I’ve noticed is that if I’m both paddling and riding during a given time period, I tend to get hamstring cramps on the bike occasionally, which is something that never happens when I’m only riding. That may well be specific to me.


For what you want to do, a canoe would be fine and would give you a number of seating positions. While one is ideally supposed to be able to tuck your feet back under a raised seat in a canoe, my bony knees and top of feet have not been able to take this position for long stretches since I passed 60 yrs old. Even with a floor pad and knee pads. If the priority is meandering and not speed, it kind of kills any arguments about ideal form.

Or a pack canoe, where you are sitting on the bottom but can have your knees in whatever position you want. And paddle with a double blade, which for basic propulsion is easier than a canoe paddle.

If you are willing to spend the bucks, you can get canoes that are a joy to carry. I was lazy about this last season, but I have to start bringing out my ultralight again for local small ponds just because it is so cool to be able to lift up 22 pounds of boat over my head. Compared to the 55 pound kayaks.

On the hamstrings… going to be an old woman here and suggest that you are too young to already have acquired a limitation on your activities if you can help it. Consider Yoga, maybe Pilates, something to see if you can get those ligaments moving more freely. You will have plenty of time to experience more limited mobility in 30 years or so from dings and muscle pulls, no reason to get there any sooner than you have to.

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FWIW, I turned 65 this week, so I can certainly empathize.

It’s possible we’re having a conversation with ourselves!

OP, does any of this sound helpful?

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Another option for people with tight hamstrings is a sit-in kayak with a long enough cockpit that they can raise raise knees as high as needed for comfort. The Perception Carolina 12 and Carolina 14 have 39.5" long cockpits and should work for most people up to about 6’4". These yaks have two water-tight bulkheads and a nice adjustable seat–to which a cushion could be added if necessary. Theyare built tough and durable, and they are within your budget if purchased new, and about half that when used. The tradeoffs from havingyour knees up are that you cannot lock the knees under the braces for maximum stability and control, you cannot use a spay skirt, and thus you cannot do a self-rescuing eskimo roll. The Carolinas do, however, allow the option of hooking your knees under the braces when things temporarily get hairy, and keeping them up otherwise.

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Eddyline makes some light SOTs that have a frame seat. My hubby (6’-5”, 36” inseam, tight hamstrings) has a sit-in (Sandpiper 130) that uses that seat, and likes it a lot. It sits up a bit higher, so it’s a better position for him. It also has a very large cockpit opening, so it’s easier for him to get in and out of. He tried a Delta before that, and would end up in a lot of pain before long (I think Delta uses the same seat on most or all of their kayaks). Eddyline boats are more money than what you are targeting, but a used one at that price would be a lot nicer than a lot of the $1300 ones new.

Sit in as many different boats as you can - that will be the only way to know. If getting in and out is a bigger issue than seating position, test that out as well. Primary stability might be critical for you?

I assume rolling is not something you are considering, if getting in and out is not possible and you are only looking at SOTs. In that case, a rec boat like the Eddyline Sandpiper or WS Pungo, with the enormous cockpit, might be something to think about. FYI, we have an old (previous version) Pungo that I have a much harder time getting in and out of than my Eddyline Skylark. It’s 29” wide, and I have short-ish legs. The 26” Skylark is easier for me to get my foot and butt to the center while getting in. Pungo = can’t straddle and can’t gracefully get in from the side. Easiest I’ve tried? My Dad’s 23” wide CD Solstice ST: straddle, sit, pull legs in. If the kayak you tried as a kid was really wide, that may have contributed to your difficulty.

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I’m here, just taking everything in. Thanks to everyone that has contributed.

I will say, mountain biking has been my main sport since I was 6ish. So that may have something to do with it.

I would say getting in and out and seating position are both most important. I’ve had a lower spine herniated disc and some type of (supposedly) rheumatological issue that caused my left knee to not be able to straighten for about 3 weeks. All I’ve really been doing is watching videos of different kayaks on Youtube so far.