Good sea kayak for 5' 2" woman?

I have a Necky Elaho for my wife and it seems a bit cumbersome for her to steer. She is somewhat of a beginner.

We are heading to Deer Isle, Me in a month and I’m interested in getting her something that is sea worthy, but better for her size.

She is 5’2" and about 160 lbs. She is pretty muscular and quite strong.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Oh, I don’t plan on putting her in rough seas. We’ll probably stick to the shore and to exploring the bays and coves.

Well, I am about the same size as your wife, but not strong and muscular :(.

My shorter kayaks are easier to steer - Perception Sonoma 13.5 and a Necky Tikani. But I’ve never had a problem in my Artisan Millenium either. Generally, narrower is easier. BTW, an Elaho DS is on my short list.


For starters
Impex Force 3

Impex Montauk

& perhaps

Impex Mystic

Plastic realm:

P&H Capella 160 RM

I’m sure other suggestions will follow.

See you on the water,


Hyde Park, NY

necky elaho?

– Last Updated: Jul-11-07 2:30 PM EST –

It's hard to imagine a Necky elaho being hard to steer, since it's a nimble boat with a lot of rocker. Most people find it hard to track, but easy to turn. This suggests she might need coaching on edge control, strokes, and edged turns. Put on edge, the elaho turns on a dime (well, almost). It's very secure on edge, with serious secondary stability, and tons of fun.

Even though the elaho is a nimble, fun boat, a lower-volume boat might make her happier. Without a lesson, she won't find it easy to make the most appropriate choice for her goals.

(Truth-in-advertising: I had a kevlar elaho for several years, then sold it and bought a BBK valkyrie, which I love much more than the elaho. I'm taller and heavier than your wife (5'6", 130), and find most boats feel like bathtubs to me--I like a low-volume, low foredeck boat)

Here are some boats folks often recommend for smaller folks:

BBK Valkyrie (wonderful, but not many are made, so buying one is a task)
Impex Mystic
CD suka (this sounds like a wonderful boat, but it's a new model, so not the easiest to find for a demo)
CD willow
NDK Romany LV
VCP Avocet
P&H kyle possibly--does anyone know this boat?

Prijon Catalina

how about
ws tempest 165 or necky chatham 16

Necky Eliza

– Last Updated: Jul-11-07 9:02 PM EST –

Don't overlook the Necky Eliza - designed for women and smaller paddlers.

++ edit added after reading review of poly Eliza ++

My recommendation was based on the composite Eliza - one of which I have and love . . .

I've had several smaller paddlers, both men and women, try it and love it!

I know nothing of the poly version and should have said so originally . . .


Nobody mentioned the Necky Eliza or the PH Vela.

necky eliza review
Check out the review of the Necky eliza on this website–

To me, sounds as if there are much better kayaks designed for smaller paddlers who want to advance in their skills. (But I really hate all that cutsie marketing aimed at women–I want good gear sized for smaller frames, not adorable marketing ploys and boats in pink. Someone actually markets earplugs with pink bows on them for women. Blech.)


– Last Updated: Jul-11-07 6:20 PM EST –

The reviewer was 115 lbs. The paddler in question is an inch shorter and 160. The fit might be a bit different...

For a short paddler, beam, deck height, and cockpit/thigh brace length are important. Unfortunately, there's no industry standard for measuring those things, so test-sitting is vital.

Boats for small paddlers

– Last Updated: Jul-11-07 6:54 PM EST –

The Necky Elaho (low volume version) is a great boat for a strong 5'2 160 lb paddler. It is especially easy to turn. A shorter boat may be easier still, but it also may be more difficult to keep on course. (More easily blown pushed off course by wind or waves).

I agree with Tiva that if your wife took a class and learned to turn the boat with torso driven sweep turns, she would be a much happier paddler.

Other great boats for small paddlers include QCC 10X, NC 15, Avocet, Impex Montauk and Mystic, Riot Tourlite 16 and 15.

Deer Isle is a great place to paddle. Enjoy!

Some thoughts on that review
combined with some history. The poly Eliza is a very different boat than the composite. It is targeted toward the beginner to more advanced touring paddlers who like ruddered kayaks. The reviewer is really a petite person, and I think would be too small for the poly version. I know many women her size who love the composite version.

In working with many women paddlers of all levels Necky realized that women still need room in the cockpit area. They may only be 130lbs. or so, but may still as much room in the seat, thigh area as a 150 lb man. The Elaho Sport, and some previous LV versions of other boats were just too tight, and thus did not do well. That was the overwhelming feedback from women, So every kayak is a balance of variables. The poly boat will respond differently to a 140 lb. paddler than a 110

I hear that the composite versions are hard to find, but I think the reviewer would have a very different impression. Both good, but different.

QCC-10 cockpit might be
too small.

My wife was involved with the design and she is only 120 pounds. It is much smaller then the 600.

I can just about wiggle into it and I am 164 pounds.



Elaho easy to “steer"
I thought the Elaho I rented 5 yrs ago was very maneuverable. I’m 5’2” and a bit under 110 lbs.

No offense, but rather than buying another boat and hoping it will be “the one,” maybe taking a couple of lessons before your trip to Maine would be a better initial use of funds. You did say she was a beginner.

I always wondered about marketing a small-market item like a kayak only to one group of paddlers. Seems like Necky would be shooting themselves in the foot to do it, especially if there are smaller men who like it. Limiting your market doesn’t make sense if you have a good product.

But then again, I was in the grocery store a few weeks ago, and saw “Aspirin for women” on the shelf. Same ingredients as regular aspirin, with a pink label to make it seem different. The approach must work — corporations don’t do anything that doesn’t for long.

But you should ignore marketing ploys, and get the best boat for you, whatever that may be.

Necky seat frames
are excellent for fine tuning with Salamander Hip pads. There isn’t another seat that can be fine tuned like the gray Necky Seat. With flat foam inserts the concave seat frame makes perfect curved hip braces.

The marketing problem from a shop stand point is that it requires putting them in for demos since the seat frames are WIDE but it works 10X better than WS seat where the included hip pads don’t fit 80% of the users.

I suggested that friends in the local shop suggest Salamander hip pads for any new Necky like the Eliza or Chatham17 just as they would a pump and paddle float in a regular purchase.

It would help folks like that reviewer if they were in an outfitted cockpit.

I wonder if the paddler in the review could have benefitted by a custom carved seat or having the stock seat raised an inch.

Lessons for sure!
Yes, I have since looked into lessons when we arrive in Stonington, ME. The good folks at Old Quarry are ready to assist us.

Definitely a good idea before tackling the Maine coastal waters.

Thank you all for your advice.

from what I’ve seen is that most folks take about a year before they have half decent technique and many don’t get it for a couple years,speaking as one of those. The ability to control the blade in the aft quarter of the stroke is essential for going straight, the ability to plant the blade cleanly with a rotated torso is necessary to get the most out of a forward stroke. The ability to apply power specifically around the boat with a particular hip angle or brace might take a couple years, which is essential for maneuvering on waves or strong winds.

When I was teaching I saw a lot of people over a two summer period. Most folks learn to swing the blade on either side more effectively but steering was usually a function of paddler harder on one side than changing the location of the power and release.