How much cockpit space do you prefer

I am 6’2 and my fighting weight is somewhere in the 195-200 range. After several moves in the kayak fleet I am left with the first real kayak I bought years ago which is a P&H Sirius M. I have always loved this boat even if it’s not the best all around performer. I am in the process of trying to sell the wife’s Eddyline and one of my road bikes to stimulate an appropriate amount of funds to buy another all around/ fast boat (Cetus?).

The more I paddled the Sirius over the years the more I told myself that the cockpit was too small. But is it or am I letting outside influences color my judgement? How important is it for you to be able to pull a knee up while sitting in your boat, or both knees for that matter? My old CD Solstice GTS had a ton of room compared to the Sirius but just did not elicit the feeling I get from the Sirius. Does that compute? It has been on the shelf for several years while I have paddled other boats and spent more time with my cycling but I am feeling a renewed interest in paddling and believe I have someone to help me with some fit issues I have had in the past.

So what is your standard for cockpit fit? What is absolutely imperative for you? Not so interested in what some published standard is but more interested in what your experience and preferences are. I always like to compare what my list of important attributes are as compared with others as it gives me some ideas that can lead to more comfort or better efficiency.

Happy New Year!!!

I like a bend in the knee
I have two kayaks that require a nearly straight leg, because the front of the cockpit is low. In these I need to lift my leg periodically, or I go crazy. Two hours and I need to get out.

My newest kayak allows me to sit with a significant bend in my knee, and the front of the seat pan elevates to provide support underneath my thighs. I find this much more comfortable, and just using normal foot pressure on the ‘wet paddle side’ keeps the blood flow going. I can stay in this boat for hours without the need to wriggle around or exit.

I think it is a personal thing, each person needs something different. I have noticed that others I paddle with also appreciate the bent knee with under thigh support.

my preference
I like close contact in a cockpit, so that and comfort are my primary concerns.

Being able to get in butt-first is a nice perk, but it’s not necessary. Of the three boats I paddle most frequently, none of them allow me to get in butt first, or lift my knees out while seated. It’s no big deal. Much less important than how it feels while paddling/rolling/etc.

I prefer a little room to move.
I have some knee issues and a tailbone issue related to a car accident years ago and I need the ability to shift around during a long day on the water.

Cockpit Opening
I prefer a keyhole style opening. I really like to be able to get in butt-leg-leg. (and get out leg first). I moved the seats back on my Tempests to achieve it. Once I’m in the boat I don’t need much space at all.

If you like the Tempest keep in mind the seat can be moved back several inches.

I like a snug fit – not quite as tight as my whitewater kayak, but zero slop. I can wiggle but not slide.

I also dislike high foredecks, and am willing to trade leg space for a lower deck.

Thigh support?
I just purchased (have not used yet) one of the Seal Line self inflating thigh supports. Sitting in the cockpit in the backyard it feels really good. Just wonder how it will address knee and lower back issues? I hope to splash the boat today if it will quit raining. One of the great things about living on the river is that I can pop it in for a quick paddle while I try to dial in cockpit fit.

I like a long keyhole cockpit. I laid
up a Prijon sized rime on my first kayak. I can just barely lift a knee, in spite of a 4" forward minicell wall. But I rigged the thigh braces and the bulkheads forming the hip braces so that, once in place, I don’t have much wiggle room. I can pull either foot off the thigh brace and extend a leg along the bottom of the boat, which is kind of nice.

Like a “snug” fit, and

– Last Updated: Jan-01-10 8:35 PM EST –

have outfitted each of my three kayaks to achieve that goal.

That said, these old bones need to get out of any of my boats and stretch (+ attend to other bodily functions) every 1/2/3 hours, as needed.

And let's not forget canoes: in the spring, will also be outfitting a recently late fall acquired PBW Rapidfire to achieve more a postive contact with the boat.

Your experiences as regards cockpit/boat fit may, and likely will vary.


very snug
For the past few years one of my boats is an NDK Greenlander with the round cockpit. You need to do stretching exercises before you paddle it, or at least I do, but I much prefer a very snug fit, gives much better boat control.

As I get older though it’s nice to have a looser fitting boat too, one reason I just bought another canoe.

Bill H.

lots of room here
Can’t stand the cramped uncomfortable confines of a kayak. Bought a canoe and I only paddled my kayak part of one day last year. (QCC700)

Knees centered
My Epic 18X Sport is designed to paddle with knees fully bent and centered, or in the traditional posture pressing against the thigh braces. The center position makes for better performance paddling, but it also allows me to alternately paddle in a different position, which is important because I often do open water crossings of 5 miles or more on the Chesapeake Bay. The cockpit is about 16 X 34 and takes a 1.7 spray skirt.


I have gradually gone from bigger cockpits down to a smaller, low volume boat (chatham 17) I am similar size, 6’2" and around 210lbs. I find as long as i am keeping in fairly good shape and stretching regularly i can squeeze into the cockpit without many problems. Over the past summer though with my work, it seems like everything else has fallen off some. So i have found as i stretch less, the small held in feeling of a small cockpit feels more akward and i have trouble with my feet falling asleep from time to time, so i would probably have been better off with something with a little higher deck and more leg room to be more comfortable. Looking at it this way my next boat will probably go a little in the opposite direction of how i’ve been going so i can have something tight fitting for days when i need it, and something a little bigger when my legs need it.

Ocean cockpit, close fit…
…but not tight. I paddle Greenland style with straight legs, so I pad the foredecks of my boats until my legs are within ~1" of the pads when they’re relaxed and resting on the hull. This allows me ample control and the ability to shift my legs left to right as necessary and still have full control of the boat. When just just cruising, I can relax my legs completely, but instantly engage the pad with a slight flex of the knee. In the hip area, I like enough padding to keep me centered in the boat, but not a tight fit. This style of paddling needs only a minimalist seat which is really little more than a Minicel foam pad on the hull.

Ocean cockpits are obviously not extremely popular, but I find the benefits in control far outweigh the few extra seconds it takes to get in and out of the boat. I figure in a typical day on the water, I spend less than 30 seconds entering and exiting my boat, so I’d rather have the increased control and security for the 99.9% of the time I spend actually paddling. Besides, entering and exiting are simple matter of sliding on or off the aft deck. No big deal.

Does an ocean cockpit make the
layback roll easier?

"leg up"
I’m not sure what you mean by “pulling a leg up”. I paddle with my legs slightly bend. But no, I can’t pull my legs all the way back sitting lotus style. :wink:

I’m reasonably flexible. Still, I like my knees bend enough to be comfortable. My only limitation is my short torso. Too much knee up room would mean I hit the deck with my lower hand when paddling. So that’s a strong motivation for me to keep my stretching routine up to stay flexible. I found the more flexible I’m, the less fatique I have on long paddles. Walking the fine lines balancing painful knuckles against sore lower backs. :smiley:

You’re a lot taller. So you should be able to find a boat with a higher deck to allow for more “knee room”.


– Last Updated: Jan-03-10 12:34 PM EST –

Happy New Year 2 U 2! And Eric, why not fill out a profile so we can see a little more about you? Most of us here have at least some info so others can see what we drive and where we drive it, and this is a safe community; you won't find any stalkers or spammers here at all...

OK, as to fit -I like a boat I can snug into, with my legs bent, thighs contacting the braces or cockpit rim, and feet (balls of feet) comfortably resting on the footpegs with a bit of tension in them. This allows me good 'contact with the boat' at seat, knees/thighs, and feet, and with only low lumbar contact (that may or may not equate to what many would characterize as 'support'). This setup gives me a secure paddling position, and one from which I can execute a power stroke with ease, as well as paddle comfortably for a few hours.

Now I like to stretch out from time to time, so I can reduce the 'mildly compressed spring' tension of bent legs, take my feet off the pegs, and allow them to flop free in the middle of the cockpit along the centerline of the boat, so this setup gives me the best of both worlds of boat command & control and easy, oozy, laid-back paddling. I don't have a particular need to bring my heels close to my butt to raise my knees beyond cockpit height other than entry exit (that's a good thing given the shape my knees are in!), but that will be affected not only by deck height, but cockpit opening.

I'm 6-0, 210 (& climbing this holiday season!), with a 30" inseam, and I happily paddle a Valley Aquanaut; it has a beam of 21.5", and a deck height of 13.5" inside, and while I've not measured the distance between me and the front of the rim when I'm in, I find it still OK for my I/O (less so at 210+# than it was at 200#, LOL!!!).

My wife, on the other hand, likes a big, commodious cockpit, which her Hurricane Tracer amply provides. It gives her a lot of room inside to feel comfortable in. Furthermore, I have added a solid minicell footwell-filling footbrace that fits over the fully extended footpegs. This gives her a platform that she can use with her feet straight ahead of her, as well as with her feet about where her feet would have been on the footpegs. Her boat has a beam of 22.8", and a deck height of 14.5", quite high, but fine for reducing her quasi cockpit claustrophobia.

Here are some dimensions for some boats:

Serenity Series...Beams-24
.....................Deck-Serenity-14 S-Sport-13

Force Series......Beams 20.5/20.75
....................Decks F3-10.5 F3HV-11.5 F4-12.5 F5-18

Outer Island.........Beam-21.5 Deck-10
Currituck............Beam-21.5 Deck-13

HURRICANE Tracer.....Beam-22.8 Deck-14.5
PERCEPTION Eclipse...Beam-22.4 Deck-14.5
VALLEY Aquanaut......Beam-21.5 Deck-13.5

I used to paddle the Eclipse (it's now our loaner SINK), and while I could find ways to wedge myself in OK, I had to bring the rudder/footpegs in so my legs were really bent -it is a big ole barrel of a boat. Yhe Aquanaut works a lot better. I find Sally's boat too loose. In the Impex OI, I felt, with my thick thighs, that I was in some sort of compressomatic Cuban sandwich/panninni press, an couldn't wait to get out after padling a couple-three miles; I couldn't even fit into the Force 3. The Fo4 was OK, a bit tight, but the F5 was too loose.

Best bet is to go with what works for you, adapt yor style to the boat, and as you progress, consider trading to one that may fit your emerging paddling style/position (or adapt current boat with new seat, braces, etc., if you really like the boat).

Hope this all helps you get a boat you're comfortable in to, happily, comfortably, and efficiently


-Frank in Miami

More great responses
I have spent quite a bit of time over the holiday weekend trying to get myself dialed back into the Sirius cockpit after not paddling it for years. I loaned it to a buddy who paddled it for a year or so and made some cockpit modifications which was cool with me. He used to rep. a wheelchair dry flotation pad ( which is an amazing product, sorry I cannot tell you exactly which model it is as it is not marked. He removed the fiberglass seat and used the pad with an NSI backband that I had in the boat. I also have one of the pads and love to use it in my SOT and would like to make it work in the Sirius. It REALLLLY helps some sciatica issues I experience. Cannot use it WITH the seat as it places me too high in the cockpit. Plus the stock seat is just too damn narrow which is a damn shame as the shape is pretty comfortable but it folds me up and inverts my hip which aggravates the sciatica. And WITHOUT the seat I don’t have enough to grip for bracing and such. I found this guy, ONNO PADDLES, ( toward the bottom of the page) online that seems to make a pretty cool custom composite seat that interests me as it would be cool to have a seat that would accomodate the use of the pad, I also have been looking at some of the foam seats but they seem to be quite the pain to fabricate and the prefab models don’t offer me much.

So, there is some more info regarding my cockpit modification journey. What do guys think. BTW, I have made my profile available FWIW.

Same here
Snug, but not tight. Room for a bike water bottle behind me and a small drybag between legs (if I want).

I don’t like the sitting-in-a-barrel feeling of big, deep cockpits. They have their advantages; I could put a Pelican 1300 box in front of the foot pegs in a CD Squall, for example–without having to remove my legs from the boat. But they don’t feel so hot for actually paddling, or for rolling and sculling.

I like a little more loose fit
I’m around 6’3" and weigh about 275. Therefore, not many kayaks give me any kind of a fit, much less a loose one! However, my Eddyline Nighthawk 175 fills the bill well. Most people would likely find that boat has enough cockpit room for another person or two. I usually paddle on Ches Bay and generally spend around 3 hours in the boat at a stretch, so I like to be able to change position or wiggle around a bit and the high foredeck helps to move your legs a bit. I still have good enough fit for a decent roll; the Eddyline thigh braces help there I think. I like more energetic conditions and paddling in big waves has never left me with a feeling of no control even with a looser fit.