how to trimm a kayak

does anyone have experience in trimming a kayak . I have a epic 18x and used mostly for racing,im at 215lbs and was told after last race that my kayak was making a big wake because it was not level when paddling. I hade weight in the front in efforts to keep nose down. I try to bring my seat forward but have no room for my knees, do I cut the opening there a big difference in speed from being trimmed vs not trimmed

Several ways to trim

– Last Updated: Oct-16-15 9:59 AM EST –

The question is how many are suitable for racing. Things I do to trim my boats for paddling may add weight that you do not want when racing. You'd have to check with folks who have a need for speed to sort out that part.

You can move the seat. Though if you are setting up a bow wake it seems to me the seat should go back, not forward, in my mind that means the bow is digging too much into the water. But I wsan't there so maybe I am not understanding well.

Put in weight before or behind the seat. The easiest thing to do is to load up some plastic bottles of water where needed along the keel in the bulkheaded compartments, then inflate a float bag to hold them still. Where depends on the boat. In my two main day boats I actually weight opposite ends from each other with gear to improve their behavior, very different hull shapes. But the result is a boat that handles level and with reduced impacts from windage.

I don't know that this has any direct effect on boat speed. But if you can set up the boat so there is less bow wake and it is less impacted by the wind, seems to me that should result in a faster boat.

Out of trim

– Last Updated: Oct-16-15 11:53 AM EST –

Your boat being out of trim, (bow heavy or stearn heavy) does have an effect on your speed and also has a huge effect on how your boat handles and tracks. Not sure how much gear you have in your boat, if you are raceing probably not much but move what ever you have around to level your boat up. Have someone step back and look at how your boat is sitting in the water and reposition your gear untill you look good, or, use a small torpedo level inside your boat, if you can find a flat place.

When your boat is at rest it should sit just a little bow down because as you get under way and get up to speed your bow will rise up, you need to allow for that as you position your gear.

Don't forget about your water. When I am racing that is the heaviest item I have in my boat, sometimes as much as 2 gallons (if its hot and I am going all day). Water weighs a little more than 8 pounds per gallon, there's your ballast. Moving your water in front or behind you makes a big difference. Remember though your water supply will slowly be diminished as you paddle.

Imho adding extra weight just to trim your boat is never acceptible. Find a way to use what you already have to carry.

Experiment with moving your seat if you like. Keep in mind you don't have to move it very much to make a difference. If you move your seat forward you also have to move your foot pegs, then you'll have room for your knees.

John R

I see a new hull in your future

I agree.
I would never add weight to get a kayak trim if I was racing.

It will just slow you down.

Not sure what kayak you have, but when I bought my first QCC, they took all my measurements as well as my weight and measurements from crotch to my feet and the seat was placed accordingly.

Jack L

Didn’t mean adding extra weight
The gear I was talking about is the stuff I already have in my boat for a day paddle, I just choose how to load it to affect the boat’s behavior. Usually includes a liter of water inside a bulkhead.

What I did not know was how well that would apply to the racing situation. For ex, maybe all the water has to be in a reachable area within the cockpit. That could change whether it has the same effect as my being able to put it nearer the stern or the bow. Or maybe in general for racing you simply are not carrying enough stuff to effect the trim as much as what I carry.

Though if the OPer is right at the top of the weight recommendations for that boat as suggested by Datakoll, it wouldn’t take much to shift the balance one way or another.

It sounds that your too light in the bow / too heavy in the stearn. Yes you are slower without the boat trimmed properly. How much slower? would depend on each boats hull design.

If you can’t move your seat forward as you have said, your only options that I think you have are :

1- add weight towards the bow, the farther forward you place weight ,the less weight required. I dislike adding weight.

2-make room , rework cockpit to allow you to move forward. Will be more difficult to sell boat after making this modification.

3- different boat.


– Last Updated: Oct-20-15 7:42 PM EST –

In order to move your water farther away towards the bow, put it in a igloo jug or bladder then put a long hose through the spout, place jug where it needs to be. Drink from the hose like a straw. Hose end can even be clipped to your pfd, instant hands free access to your water. With this method you will tend to drink more water, a good thing.


18X trim
Brent Reitz has an interesting article on kayak trim at

Your trim will change depending on what kind of racing you are doing and what kind of load you are carrying. The stern will “squat” at speed, so the kayak won’t be perfectly level.

For example a short sprint with no gear will probably need a different trim than a multi-day race at a much slower speed, with a full load of camping gear.

With an unladen 18X I have the seat almost all the way back (two notches remaining). FWIW, the local Epic rep told me that Barton does the same. That said, I weigh 175 lbs, and this will vary depending on your weight and other factors. There is a trade-off. With the seat far back you can perform a big rotation/leg-drive but should you need to brace in rough conditions, you may have trouble getting your knees under the deck. If you move the seat too far forward you can brace easier, but leg drive is affected. Depending on your weight you may also need to move the seat fore and aft to experiment with trim. All adjustments are a compromise.

Often I’ll just load the boat as needed per the race, paddle at race pace and have someone on shore or in another kayak comment on the trim, adjust, and repeat.

For an expedition it’s often more a matter of getting all the gear in, with the heaviest items closest to the cockpit so handling is not adversely affected. You can load bow heavy or stern heavy to deal with different weather conditions, but conditions often change, so I usually prefer neutral trim.

Greg Stamer