Hip Hyperflexibility and Kayak Fit

My wife and I are shopping for our first sea kayaks after spending this year taking classes, renting boats, etc.

We’ve narrowed the list down to a few boats that we quite like - the Eddyline Nighthawk, WS Tempest 165/170, Valley Avocet and the P&H Capella. From reading this board, it sounds like these are all good boats that we would enjoy and serve our needs (day trips and 2-4 day outings). We are both backpackers and can easily fit all our gear in 40L of space so the hauling capacities of these boats all seem absolutely enormous from our perspective!

Now then, my wife has some unique needs :slight_smile: around fit in that she has hyperflexibility in her hips. Because of her hyperflexibility, a more splayed out position is very uncomfortable because there is a much different “maximum” point in her hip rotation than what “normal” people have. Anyway, this translates into wanting to be in a more aligned position in the sense of keeping her feet, knees and hips mostly in a line as opposed to splayed out. In order to accomplish this in any of the boats that we tried, this means having her knees close to the center of the cockpit opening (and somewhat upright). This greatly reduces contact with the boat and ease of edging, for example.

Now then, one of the reasons we’d like to get our own boats is that we’d be able to outfit them as we want in order to get a better fit. I guess the problem we’re having is trying to get a sense of what is “close enough” such that we can outfit w/foam, etc. to solve her fit issues.

Any guidance from anyone on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

BTW, she’s demo’d boats that were somewhat narrower or had ocean cockpits but none of them paddled (for her) as nicely as the boats listed above. She’s also tried using a sealline thigh cushion and that does help somewhat to get her legs more upright.

And you are?
Mention your size - height, weight, inseam, foot size.

Forgot to include that info! My wife is 5’6" tall, 135 pounds, fit and strong.

A little more info
"True" inseam 31 inches (from pubic bone to foot - this is a cycling measurement; pants would be say 2 inches shorter). Size 9 women’s shoes.

NDK Explorer LV
I am 5’4" and weigh the same as your wife. This boat is about the only one out there right now in full expedition size that has an extra small keyhole cockpit that would make it fairly easy to pad it out so she was more straight, and still leave good contact.

You may also want to try a Foster Silhouette (made by Seaward). It’s been a while since I sat in one, but as I recall it was a pretty narrow fit that left me more straight forward than most. It’s a more challenging boat but one that most people can grow into.

In case anyone recommends the P&H Vela - I have one. It’s a great small person’s boat, especially if they have backpacker gear, and narrow, but it does leave the legs a little splayed out because of the height of the front deck.

As much as I like the Avocet’s performance, I think you are going to have a difficult time getting that cockpit fitted out the way she needs. The Valley cockpits don’t at all keyhole and are simply too darned wide for me. Valley uses one cockpit for all their boats and just hasn’t gotten it on fitting an average sized woman. They have some lower volume boats coming on line for this coming seasson, but there is no information yet as to whether they will modify the cockpits to properly fit someone in the target size.

Romany, Ellesmere
I would add a Romany to your list. The Avocet is actually a more fluidly responsive and faster boat, but, as mentioned above, the Valley keyhole is awfully wide. A Chatham 16 might also be worth trying.

Has she tried an Ellesmere? Very nice boat and available with ocean cockpit.

sounds like she needs…

– Last Updated: Sep-12-05 8:44 AM EST –

an ocean cockpit with a foam masik. Greenland style kayakers often paddle with their legs straight ahead and rely on the foam masik (a thick foam pad that allows firm contact with the kayak) for bracing. An ocean cockpit more easily facilitates this due to the fact that the masik can have full contact with the deck as opposed to the keyhole which has the deck cut away in a crucial area.

Sit in an Anas Acuta

The boats you’ve listed are all great but they might be too big for your wife.

You should have your wife to sit in an Anas Acuta. In this boat, your legs stick straight out. Its outfitting is quite unique (for a production boat). You might get some ideas about how to foam-out another boat.

Note that, while the Anas Acuta is a great boat, it might be a bit slow.

It might be useful to check out a P&H Vela (a “small person’s boat”). The Romany LV (as suggested) is another boat to try.

If you are anywhere Peeksill, NY, talk to Atlantic Kayak Tours about your “problem”.

Feedback on Suggestions
Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Here are some comments:

  • She’s tried the Romany and quite liked the handling of the boat - very fun. It would be a good choice as well though suffered from some of the same fit issues.
  • She’s tried the Chatham (and so have I) but for some reason it felt very sluggish to us compared to the other boats above.
  • She’s tried paddling the Anas Acuta for a day and didn’t really like the overall feel of the boat (difficult for her to paddle it straight :slight_smile: or the ocean cockpit though it may be that is what she needs to feel comfortable.
  • She’s done a short test paddle of the Foster Silhouette but didn’t like the feel of that boat as much as the others listed above.

    As for some of the other suggestions:
  • The Ellesmere looks quite interesting though I’m not sure where we could try one of those boats. We are in Seattle and it seems like their dealers (w/demo boats) are mostly on the east coast.
  • The P&H Vela looks like it is worth trying for sure. She’ll have to try that boat out.
  • The foam masik idea looks like a very good one. I’ll do some searching for pix of this. If anyone has any pointers, I’d appreciate it.

    Thanks again for the suggestions and keep those cards and letters coming!

Outfitting (Anas Acuta).

How did the fit of the Anas Acuta work? (While she might not like how the Anas paddles, it’s the outfitting of this boat that made me suggest it.)

It would seem that an ocean cockpit would suit her well. It would seem that an ocean cockpit could be foamed-out like an Anas Acuta.

How about an NDK Greenlander (not the pro) which has an ocean cockpit?

What about an (old) Pintail with an ocean cockit? (This boat might have the same tracking “problems” as the Anas Acuta).

Radical idea: get a used boat she likes and retrofit an ocean cockpit.

If she liked the Romany…
Definately try the Explorer LV. As a stretched version of the Romany hull it’ll have a similar sense of handling but be a bit faster (though compared to the Silhouette the Explorer hull is slower), and better yet the extra small cockpit in the LV will get you a lot closer to the fit she needs. I am sure that smaller sized cockpit will help your fit issues a lot, and the lower deck helps keep legs straighter too.

There is an LV version of the Romany, which may also have an extra small cockpit, but it is so low volume that even camping backpack style camping might not fit into it.

Horizon by Nimbus
My wife and I are fairly new paddlers. We originally purchased a couple of rec. boats and quickly outgrew them. I’m not sure if this helps or not, but another boat you might consider for your wife is the Horizon by Nimbus. My wife does not have the same problem as yours, but my wife is small (5 foot 3 inches and about 115 pounds). As soon as she got in this boat she loved it. She especially liked the fit of the cockpit. As for the boat itself, we don’t even have it yet, but it is on order.

Still more info
Again, thanks for the replies.

Yes, the outfitting of the Anas Acuta was more to her liking in terms of I believe the knee braces (or masik??) in the AA. But she was not wild about the ocean cockpit in general. It may be that she has to go down that path. We’ll see. She may like it better once she has her roll (which I suspect she’ll get quickly in pool sessions this winter as she has very good body awareness).

She sat in a Romany LV and found it forced an even more splayed out position since it couldn’t accomodate her knees being more upright.

She (and I) paddled the Pintail. Cool boat but perhaps a little too responsive for us at this stage of our paddling careers!

She tried the Nimbus Kap Farvel and actually, from a fit standpoint, was probably the most comfortable of any of the boats she was in. Slightly narrower at 21 inches than the others listed above and that may lead to the better position. Unfortunately she wasn’t as wild about the way this boat handled (my recollection - it is all a blur now - was that she felt like she sat too high in the water). In fact when we left the symposium this weekend, she commented that she felt that if she had the fit of the Kap Farvel with the boat feel of the Nighthawk, Tempest, Capella or Avocet we’d be done! She didn’t try the Horizon as we’ve mostly been down the skeg’d boat path. It also looks like it is wider and may exacerbate her problem.

It seems like a boat with a higher front deck, low rear deck, somewhat narrower, perhaps ocean cockpit and/or masik would be the ticket. It is quite likely I suppose that even from the list in my original post, we could make something work. We are going to go to a local dealer tomorrow and mess around with foam as a rough fit to see where we may be at.

Keep those cards and letters coming… Thanks all!

A couple of options…
I hadn’t captured that your wife was looking for a combination of striaght forward direction and elevated knees. Aside from true racing kayaks, which don’t turn, this could be a tough ticket to fill in any production boat. You should try the Vela, because it does have exactly the confuguration you name, (narrow, high front deck, low rear deck), but it may be too low a volume for your needs. And she may still feel her legs are out to the side a bit even at its narrower beam.

Honestly - I suspect your best bet would be to find someone who makes boats from designs of existing ones, but can customise the deck and cockpit for what you need. There is a guy in Maine who is doing this, makes stitch and glue or wooodstrip boats along existing hull designs, but can customize the heck out of fittings etc. I bet you could find someone who does that up in your part of the country.

You also can get into some interesting designs this way. In addition to boats like the Anas Acuta that really lend themselves to this way of making, you could look at some of the Nick Shade designs which are specifically intended to be up as wood boats.

Minicell pseudo ocean cockpit
Some of the Greenland paddlers using glass boats with keyhole cockpits, wedge their legs in using a large piece of minicell foam that fits under the foredeck and thigh braces creating an ocean cockpit type fit. You might experiment with that. Be very aware that this might create serious issues with a wet exit, depending on how tight the fit is you might need to release the spray skirt then pull out the minicell before you can slide out of the cockpit. The paddler I’ve seen using this technique has a bomb proof roll.


Ocean cockpit

– Last Updated: Sep-13-05 12:43 PM EST –

As far as I can tell, the only problem with an ocean cockpit is getting into it (and out of it on shore). It looks like people can learn to deal with it.

There's no problem wet exiting an ocean cockpit. (It would make sense to practice it a few times).

What about the ocean cockit doesn't your wife like?

Definitely, try the Vela. The volume is a bit low but it should be big enough for trips (with a bit of care).

It kind of looks like she wants a short keyhole cockpit. A short keyhole cockpit would be easier to outfit kind of like an Anas Acuta. Bring a tape measure and note the lengths (back to front) of the cockpits.

Also, it kind of looks like it the sides of the boat that needs to be filled in.

Playing with foam is a good idea.

Keep us informed as to the result and progress.

Lots of ideas
Thanks for all of the ideas. It sounds like “playing with foam” is in our future.

In a side conversation, someone pointed out that it may turn out that simply having a more central place for her to brace her feet during forward paddling (the 80%+ case) will put her in the position she wants and is enough pain alleviation such that she can use a more splayed position during the 20%- of the time she is actually having to brace, etc. It is not the case that anytime in this splayed position is problemmatic for her - simply that a day in the splayed out position is a problem. So, this may be the simplest solution.

Regarding ocean cockpits and her dislike of them, I think this is only a mild dislike. Part of her dislike of the ocean cockpits is simply that she is a bit of a cowboy re-entry savant (like 10-15 seconds) and this makes it a little harder :slight_smile: She hasn’t tried to learn to roll yet though that is on her agenda for this winter and I’m sure she will quickly get it.

I really appreciate the responses and I’ll post what the eventual solution is…

Bracing on bulkhead

Some people get custom boats with the forward bulkhead is positioned so they can put their feet against it (eliminating the need for the foot braces). (This does make the boat harder to sell.)

No reason you can’t pad out the bulkhead.

Loose the foot pegs!
The pegs are very likely the root of the problem (cockpit issues being secondary - and easy to pad out - regardless of keyhole/ocean).

Your last post made me smack myself for not thinking of this and mentioning it sooner.

She should use a solid foam foot surface. She can then place her feet however she wants and be able to change at any time.

There is absolutely no reason to be limited to the splayed position foot pegs create unless you absolutely have to have a rudder - or it’s rental!

Many makers will custom place the bulkhead. Have it a few inches more forward than needed and pad out the rest of the way. Adding a 15 degree angle is also very comfortable (a Bnystrom tip).

This should let her have the hull she wants AND comfort.

I could not believe how much this simple modification improved my paddling experience. You really don’t realize just how limiting pegs are until you get rid of them. It can fix a host of problems from feet to knees, to hips to back.

YES - loose the foot pegs!
If concerned about resale, you can buy a boat with rails and pegs and remove them and foam the bulkhead.

If you don’t wish to permanently fill the holes from the screws that held the rails, you can install screws and cap nuts with nylon or neoprene washers.