Hard chines or soft chines

What in your opinion is better yaks with a hard chine or one with a soft chine? FishHawk

Better for what?
I’ve paddled boats I liked and boats I didn’t like in each style.

My answer is…

The one that fits you
Seriously, this comes up once in a while, but it’s not wildly different from asking whether the best kayak is 16 or 18 ft long. The hull is a package of a lot of characteristics including chining, rocker, wetted surface at its ideal load… the chining is only part of it.

I like neutral colors for the foredeck

what is the best handling yak?
I phrased the ? incorrectly and should have asked what yak handles confused and rough seas better hard chine or soft chine ? Hope this helps in your response. Thank FishHawk

It depends where you paddle
The rule is: “Hard water-Soft chines, Soft water-Hard chines”. If you only have one boat and it has hard chines, you might consider mounting a portable water softener on the bow.

I’ll put a vote in vote soft chine. lot’s of varibles as mentioned but we have several boats…it’s the one with hard chines that we have the most trouble handling in rough water…we will be selling it.

I know person who loves it, but for us it’s a no go.

My experience

– Last Updated: Nov-30-09 12:06 PM EST –

I own both and find this:

Soft chines have a more gradual transition in the area of stability. They can be more predictable on edge for turns and other manuvers. I have noticed a slight difference with rolling but nothing of concern.

Hard chines can be less gradual in stability but will feel more solid on edge. You have to be more attentive to that "point of no return" feeling. Chines will also aid in edge turns since each chine becomes more like a keel as the shape of the boat changes below the water line.

In rough confused seas I'm definately more relaxed in my soft chined kayak. The rounded areas soften the affects from broaching waves and provide a smoother ride. As you get hit with broaching waves the hard chined kayak with flat surfaces will be more affected and the kayak will feel like it's being kicked around harder.

Both designs have their purpose so I suggest test paddling to see what you prefer.


It’s not that simple
As others have said, hull design is a complex subject and chine type is just one of the many aspects of it. Moreover, “hard chine” and “soft chine” don’t mean much, since the actual shape, length, sweep and angle of the chines can vary greatly from one boat to another. I’ve owned multiple boats of both types and have paddled many others. Some of each type were great in conditions and some weren’t, but it had little to do with the chine shape, it was about the overall package.

While it’s possible to compare two BOATS in their rough water handling pretty definitively (at least for a given paddler), it’s not possible to do that with chine shape alone. Essentially, you’re asking the wrong question. What you should be asking is: What boats are good for a paddler of my size and skill level (specify both) in these conditions (specify the conditions you expect)? That should get you some useful answers.

Hulls are complex.
Rocker, volume and volume distribution probably have more to do with handling than many other factors.

Among the kayaks in our persona task force are an array of chine profiles, yet I don’t think ‘hard or soft’ chine is the most important aspect of any of their behaviors in lumpy seas.

Hard / soft
Outside of Greenland replicas, how many hard chine boats are there? Not many. There are some flat bottom soft/hard chine boats and the NDK boats are a lot like that. But not many kayak designers are designing hard chine boats that are not trying to go after the Greenland market. I have both and I like soft chine in almost all the various boats I try. I feel like I have a more predictable secondary. It’s like shoes - some just feel right no matter what anyone else thinks. I would never say one is better. I paddle with HC paddlers who are good paddlers and love their boats.

Soft and Hard

– Last Updated: Nov-30-09 8:58 PM EST –

I agree with the comment that chine is only one of several factors and that the total package is what needs to be looked at and experienced.

I've always been a fan of soft chine boats -- and then I met the Point 65 Whisky, which is hard chine and is designed for surf and rough water. Some quotes on the Whisky from a Canoe & Kayak article at:

I have enjoyed both, but soft chine has
been better for me in most boats. I did not like my Q boat, but thought the Greenlander pro was fine. My skin boat is also a very nice paddler. My Nordkapp and my Aquanaut are my favorites. Is it because of the chine only? I doubt it. Bill

This is not a hard question to answer
The question is simply each of our personal opinions as to which type of boat we would prefer in rough and confused seas.

It’s not hard to answer this kind of soft question. It doesn’t call for an analysis of hull design or of all boats; it just calls for a personal forced choice of one boat.

Step 1. Imagine that you must pick one kayak to make a long crossing through rough and confused seas with your newborn infant and your lifetime savings in cash balanced on your spray skirt (or some other forced boat choice scenario).

Step 2. Pick your one boat.

Step 3. Look at the chines of THAT boat and report whether they are hard or soft.

My answer: soft.

Are we talking edges or chine profile?
Big difference… Some so called soft chined kayaks have a very full chine profile whereas a Baidarka has multriple hard edges and a soft chine profile.

Building materials in ancient craft dictated a lot of how the hull was shaped. Pretty hard to have a soft edge on a skin and frame kayak…

Ever see a hard edge on a race kayak or surf ski?? Why?

As others have stated it’s the overall shape that matters in these displacement hulled craft.

Common misconception: Hard edges grab a wave face…NO, they in fact will make a boat looser and more playful on a wave face. A rounder edge will grab water and stick more…not as loose.

Look at a surf board edge… Look at a windsurf board edge… Look at the stern edge of a planning power boat…

Complex stuff not easily understood by the mass market especially in the face of so much marketing bullshit.

In rough water…
I sure like the feel of my Caribou (hard chine) vs any of the soft chined boats I’ve owned/borrowed…

(P&H Bahiya, Sirius, Quests, Capellas, Quest LV, Squall, Gulfstream, bunches of others)

P&H Bahiya is hard chined

You’re right!!
I forgot! (Late day at work!)

Complex for sure
That’s why I post by experience only. Everyone is different in that they may get different results. I like the hard chine but need more experience in textured water to feel comfortable. My Point Bennett is much different that my Outer Island below the water line. I will be building a skin on frame Baidarka soon so that will be something in between.

Hey, variety is the spice of life.