Here's a challenge,...

I’m looking to buy my first kayak, mainly for fishing. The challenging part is, I’ve been in a wheelchair for 20 years. I have been kayaking before, have decent balance and plenty of upper body strength. I think I prefer the SIKs vs. SOTs, for wieght reasons & the fact that most of the SOTs I’ve seen have a peddle system (worthless to me). I have a couple of SIKs in mind but would love another opinion as to which kayak I should get. I’m 6’ tall, 215 lbs, top-heavy. Thanks!

hey mongo
There are a lot of sit-on-tops besides the Hobie peddle boats. You should seriously consider looking at them. I think you’d find the sot much easier for you to get on board & less chance of entrapment in the event of a capsize.

You’re right about many sik’s being lighter weight but if you’ll let us know what kind of weight you’d be comfortable with & type of water you want to use it in you can count on some good recommendtions of several boats you may want to look into.

A couple questions
First, I am a total amateur and guessing wildly about how to help. PLEASE do not follow my advice without someone present and able to assist you in case you require assistance.

Q1. Can you roll your hips side to side? A large part of controlling a kayak’s stability comes from being able to ‘roll with the punches’. It may be possible to compensate in some manner (outriggers, a quick brace stroke, etc.) - but it is important to know whether you can swing your hips from side to side.

Q2. Can you crunch if your legs are restrained? Much of the ‘strength’ of paddling comes from your stomach and love handle area (is that the obliques?). Again you can probably compensate if necessary, but you’ll wear your shoulders out pretty quickly trying to do it all with what is generally regarded as upper body strength.

If the answer to those questions is “Yes”, I’d think that an SOT with thigh straps would be an appropriate thing for you to try. Cinching down the thigh straps would help you stay balanced because it would give you something for your stomach to use as a resistance point. If you have feeling in your legs, you’ll know if you’ve cinched too tightly - otherwise you’ll need to take additional care not to cut off circulation. Ocean Kayak makes some models that are very forgiving stability-wise. Perhaps a “Fish & Dive” would be good.

This presumes you have legs. If not, then an SIK with some custom outfitting and balancing from a knowledgeable shop may be more appropriate.

My primary suggestion is to try a couple of things out. Work with someone who is creative and knowledgeable about kayak outfitting. Many shops fit that bill. After 20 years, I’m confident that you’re the most knowledgeable person about your own abilities, but if you’re friendly with one, it may be helpful to involve a sports therapist or physical therapist in the design of the outfitting of a kayak.

Good luck. Send us a picture of your first fish from a 'yak.

  • Big D

Great advice so far
I have moderate use of my legs, can feel about half of what is normal. Can crunch my legs up to my chest, and can sort of wiggle my hips side to side. Surprisingly, driving a wheelchair is rather similar. At decent speed I can control my wheelchair using just my hips.

I plan on mostly being in freshwater lakes & rivers, casual cruising & fishing type stuff. Thanks for the advice so far!


Forgot to mention,…
I forgot to mention, the kayak that has my attention so far is the Heritage Featherlite Angler, or the Angler 12 though it’s more expensive. I’d say at maximum I’m ok with lifting 50lbs. I can bench much more than that, but I’m thinking a lot of the maneuvering I’ll have to do with one hand, while balancing a bit with the other.

a few SOTs to look at
Ocean kayak Caper 11 ft 45lbs

Scrambler 51 lbs

Prowler 13 13 ft 54 lbs

Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 10 ft 50 lbs

Cobra explorer 11 ft 40lbs

Navigator 12.5 ft 44 lbs

All these are pretty good fishing platforms. Most would be suitable for lake fishing or small rivers. These are just some I’ve either fished from or know fellows who do. The weights are manufacturers listed & in reallity most are probably slightly heavier then that. Angler edition add-ons will increase those weights as well. I hope you can find someone to work with you and get you outfiited for some enjoyable & safe time on the water. Check out for reviews by anglers of these & many others.

Good deal

– Last Updated: Feb-22-05 4:39 PM EST –

Recreational kayaking of the sort you'd be doing fishing in moderate to slow rivers and moderate lakes (which is exactly the sort of kayaking I mostly do) will require nothing more than that. Gross motor control (tighten vs. relax) in your thighs is enough to be able to use thigh straps in a Sit-On-Top kayak. Being able to relax your hips enough to be able to swivel your hips and keep your chest level is all that's required to control your boat with moderate to low waves - like those thrown up be a motor boat wake. Being able to crunch and twist your upper body as a single unit will allow you to have good paddle technique.

Here's the thing. Think worst case. If you only have moderate control of your hips, you're not going to be doing any rolls. Don't fret, they're not necessary for the kind of paddling you want to do. But it does mean that you'll need to be able to do a smooth "wet exit" in case you swamp.

With a Sit-On-Top (SOT), a wet exit means nothing more than falling off. Entrapment just isn't a problem with SOT's.

Entrapment is a real risk with a Sit-in-Kayak. Now recreation boats like the Heritage Featherlite have HUGE cockpits that make wet exits really easy, as in mostly you just fall out of those too. But there's still a bit of a process to follow IF you get flipped while still in the boat. Here's what is required for a smooth wet exit. (1) Bend at the waist so that your chest is close to the deck. (2) If you're using a skirt, grab the grab handle and pop the seal, (3) put your hands on either side of the combing (the lip that runs around the cockpit) and push, (4) at the same time pull your legs up and out. It's easy, but does take a bit of coordination. If you think you can do it, attend a pool session with someone who can spot you and provide assistance if you run into trouble. If you can do a wet exit, what you described as your abilities would allow you to paddle either a SinK or a SOT.

Then all you've got to do is pick from between the gazillion wonderful boats available. The Heritage Featherlite has quite a few fans. I've never paddled one myself. Considering your particular situation, I cannot recommend strongly enough buying your first boat at a real deal paddle shop with folks who know their outfitting very well. If you don't know of any in your area, check out the "Trips/Outfitters", "Paddling Schools", and "Dealers" section of this web site as a starting point.

- Big D

Check out this site

– Last Updated: Feb-22-05 11:48 PM EST –

Sounds like the above posts have you covered well. If you are interested in a trip, check out this organization.

This is a MN based organization that provides trips all over the world to people with different types of disabilities. I have seen them on the trail. It seems like a good outfit. I believe they have kayak trips. Might be neat to check out. They probably have and know the right equipment and techniques.

Best of luck.

Swifty 9.5 has a Swifty 9.5 for under $400, it looks quite similar to the Featherlite Angler, minus the fishing gear. How would the two compare? Living on SSI limits the amount of money I can put into anything, I shop Ebay a lot,… lol…

I started out fishing from a swifty and it is suitable for slow rivers & calm lakes. I’m not familiar with the Heritage boat so I can’t make a comparison. The swifty does have a large cockpit & may work for you. I still would encourage you to look at some SOT’s not only because of your disability but to me they are just better to fish from in general. Easier access to your gear & much easier to deal with if you capsize. Getting back on board or getting a sik full of water to the hill will be difficult. Most SOT’s do seen to be a bit more expensive but if you are patient you can find a deal on a used one. Many kayaking sites & boards have a classified section with boats for sale. Look at an Emotion Charger there fairly inexpensive SOT. Not sure that it would be the best fishing yak but it is an affordable entry level boat. Leaves you some change for a good PFD, paddle & other gear. Good luck in your search & keep us posted. I’d be interested to know how this goes for you. My son has a friend that has similiar disabilty that wants to try kayaking. I hope this summer to be able to help him accomplish it. I may have to call on Big-D he certainly has made some good points and seems to have a way of explaining how your body & boat all works together.

Keep it coming!
Yes, Big D does seem to know his ‘bodyworks’! My biggest limitation is in rotating my actual hip in the socket, and holding too much weight on my lower back. I was born with spinabifida, so I’m very comfortable with how my body moves.

I’m not so worried about tipping over and having to swim to shore or something, I swim like a fish. I think my main concerns are that I find a kayak light enough that I can load onto my car independently. I’ve been reading here and there that some kayaks can get a ‘sag’ right where the seat mounts to the hull, due to the weight of the paddler. I’m at 215lbs right now, though I don’t intend on staying there, lol.

About the SOTs, one concern I have is that they are so open to the elements, and slightly heavier in most cases. Do they provide a drier ride? what about drifting in the wind? Please keep the advice coming, I’m finding it invaluable!



You’re making me blush
I didn’t answer anything that most other paddlers could have answered. Thanks for the complements, though.

The Swifty is a nice little boat. It’s short, easy to maneuver, tracks well, pretty light. A buddy of mine has two of them and let me borrow one. It’s a pretty decent boat. I was about 260# when I paddled it and was tail-dragging a bit. At 215# you’d have no trouble at all. It’s well-suited for fishing. It’d be pretty easy to outfit with rod holders, etc.

  • Big D

I may have found it!
I may have found the right boat for me, of course, I’ll still be looking for a place to try a few out before committing. The Breeze by Aquafusion looks like it will do exactly what I want it to do, but I do have 2 more questions so far. On the base model it appears the hatch area is there, it just needs to be cut open, is there a way to do that yourself? Also, should I opt for the skeg?



Ocean Kayak Caper
Take a serious look at the Ocean Kayak Caper. It is very stable and tracks great and has decent speed for 11’. It is safe because it is a sit-on-top, easy to get back on if you fall off. It has plenty of open room making it nice to fish from. It is very light at 45lbs. Another feature I like on the Caper is it had pads underneath the side handle so you rest your knuckles on the pad when carrying the kayak.

As far as carrying the kayak, I plan on getting one of those 2 wheel trailers for the back end, and rigging a rope from my wheelchair pushbars to the handle on the front of the kayak.

About the Caper, I just can’t see the attraction for SOT kayaks. It looks like even small waves will splash all over my legs & gear. I also have a problem with righting myself after leaning left or right too far, so without the slight support offered by the sides of a SIK cockpit I can see myself flopping right out of it. They kind of look like pool toys honestly. True, I’m a complete beginner, but it’s just the opinion I’ve gotten from the pictures I’ve seen of them in use.


The real advantage of an SOT
Isn’t the NOT flipping. Believe me, it takes a LOT to swamp a recreational kayak, but the ease of getting back on after a swamping. With a SinK, you’d better be ready for being in the water for a while and having a hand operated bilge pump handy.

Stuff gets wet in any boat. I use both an SOT and a SinK. If you want something to stay dry, dry bag it or put it in a waterproof box. I strap Plano “waterproof” tackle boxes to my front deck and still get water in them.

  • Big D

A good sprayskirt will keep me pretty dry, won’t it? What exactly is a ‘swamping’? I can understand a few cups of water in the bottom of the yak, but why would there be more than that?

Spray skirt will help a lot
A ‘swamping’ just means you flip over without meaning to. Very, very unusual in the type of paddling you want to do. Nevertheless, I prefer to plan for such situations.

  • Big D

After looking at the reviews on, I’m sorta rethinking it’s potential. I think if I choose a SOT, it might be a Caper or Drifter. Ultimately I’ll try out a few when I get settled (might be moving to Arkansas).

you can’t go wrong with Ocean Kayak

– Last Updated: Mar-02-05 1:30 PM EST –

Glad to hear you are seriously considering the Caper. is another great source of info. Most guys that do surf launches into the ocean use SOT's because they can take the waves coming over the top without get swamped because the SOT'S are self draining. I'm not sure what kind of waters you will be paddling but you can still get swamped from powerboater wakes on a calm lake.

If you are going to be on fast moving rivers then the Caper is a great kayak because you can turn on a dime in the Caper. I would also consider the Prowler 13 and 15. They are faster then the Caper and the Drifter and still provide a stable platform for fishing. But the Prowler 13 and 15 may not navigate as well in fast moving water as the Caper.

If you have a problem with righting yourself after leaning then you should look into a good quality SOT Seat or Backrest along with Thigh Braces. Surf To Summit company makes both of these products. Check out their website.

Good luck and let us know what you get. By the way I have an Ocean Kayak Caper and the Prowler 15 and I paddle in the Cheseapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and local lakes. I used to have a Wilderness System Tarpon 120 (nice kayak also) but sold it to get the faster Prowler 15 for the big water.