Hull shape


I’ve been paddling for a while–rivers, lakes–and am now looking to get into sea kayaking. I was looking at some current design boats and have questions on hull designs. Acually, some of the terms used.

The Sirocco shows: Swede Form Shallow “V” Medium chine British

The Storm shows: Fish Form Shallow “V” Soft Chine

Pacific NW

And the Rumor shows: Swede Form British Shallow Arch/“V” Hard Chine

I know about hull form basics…it determines tracking and manuverability, but some of these styles I’m not familiar with.

Feel free to email

they really don’t help much to tell you what works since those descriptions are of a static non-moving measurement and you’re not really sure if the determination is from the waterplane shape or gross above the waterline measurments.

I feel that
much of the terminology used is for marketing. Your background will help you to get a kayak that suits your needs. Even though some kayaks will look similar they may react much differently to conditions. Paddle before you buy and make sure it fits your needs.

Waterline is a good point. While the overall shape will generally resound from the top to the waterline, what you get at the waterline (and whether you have the correct weight to hit it rather than be above or under it) is huge. Unless I load some poundage in my boats, though it takes very little to sink the Vela a bit compared to what it takes to get the LV to its “performance” waterline, what I am actually getting in length, width etc is quite different from the measurements taken at the ideal depth of the boat in the water.

Swede form is often thought to be a little faster - I don’t have a clue about the physics of it. And hard chined boats have a different, usually more active response in waves than softer chined boats. But the academic details don’t matter for the boat you buy. Do you fit it well to get good contact, do you feel comfortable in it, are the design weight and size assumptions correct for you, does it turn well enough, go fast enough and haul enough to fit your basic needs? That’s the first stop - whether it is fish or swede or whatever. I think that one of my boats is swede and one is fish, but the reason I got each is that they fit me well and do the other stuff I want.

Chine, shallow V, fish/swedeform
These hull descriptors all determine how a boat will “feel” and “handle” on the water in various conditions. They are quite meaningless until you experience for yourself how they affect your paddling experience.

BOTTOM LINE…Go paddle the various designs (if possible) and buy what you like.

Thanks everyone
I have a Perception Carolina–a nice poly boat that I take on rivers, lakes and the ocean. It’s time to add to my fleet. Anyone care to comment on what your favorite boat is for day and multi-day (a weeks worth of gear) trips? I hear you about trying them on for size…and the use of ‘marketing’ terms…

How tall, weight?
Size is a more important factor in highly capable sea kayaks than in rec/transition boats because of the expected conditions in which they will be used. Your size, weight and height, will matter as well as some sense of your paddling skills and where you want to paddle. Re the latter stuff, do you now or want to pick up rolling, sculling etc., are you likely to get into surf or big open water conditions, etc.?

I am a …
I’m a Swedish Fish kind of guy, however I like gummi worms too. Seriously, lets not neglect above the waterline also. I am talking about windage here. I like a combination of Greenland and British style boats above the waterline. Any boat is a compromise.

Fast but can’t turn.

Playful, but won’t paddle straight.

Stable but won’t roll.

Fits, but can’t pack a sack lunch.

Lots of storage but you watch the turtles whiz by.

That is why many have more than one boat. All that being said, my main ride is an Impex Assateague. It is reasonabbly fast, playful, stable and has a fair about of storage. If I were to only have one boat, this is my choice for a big guy over 200 pounds.

YOU need to prioritize you paddling environment, narrow you choices to boats fitting your top priorities and then demo the top boats on your list. Lots of help on this board. Nothing like actual owners to provide input. Better than salesman and magazine ads.

Paddle ON.


I’m with Bernie on the Swedish fish
But I prefer red only. My priorities are speed and rough water handling and my current favorite boat is the CD Extreme. I also have a Tempest 170 which is a bit easier to manuever but not as fast as the Extreme.

E-mail me directly
I’ll respond with my phone number and I’ll explain much to you that I don’t want to type here (too long). As others have said, terms are just terms, but they refer to attributes that very definitely can be felt. Every sport has it’s terminology, but if you understand in general what these various “things” do, you can begin to get a sense for how a hull will paddle based on what you see.

Size DOES matter ;-O
Couldn’t resist…I am a 5’9" and about 160 pound male. I AM looking at doing coastal stuff, so rolling, bracing, sculling (?), etc would apply. I paddled PWS this past summer and the Great Lakes the year before. Have been thinking of doing a trip up to Maine next year, paddle for a few days/a week along the coast, camping along the way. Probably the longest trip would be two weeks. Speed is important, but must be able to carry gear and handle well in big waves. I plan on taking an Open Water ACA course this summer–in the Charleston, SC area.

Maine Coastal paddling

– Last Updated: Feb-05-06 1:15 PM EST –

NDK Explorer, Valley Aquanaut, Valley Nordkapp, etc... are common choices among dedicated paddlers on the Maine Caost.

IMHO, the Explorer is the most forgiving, the Aquanaut the most fluid, and the Nordkapp the most...

I couldn't camp for a couple of weeks out of any boat smaller than the above, but if shorter boat works, then Valley Avocet and NDK Romany are great coastal boats.

As far as hull shape/form - paddle boats see what feels right. Don't get hung up in design terms. Unless you are a kayak builder or designer, knowing what the various terms mean and their possible iimpact on performance onbly serves to partially explain, after you've demoed it, why a certain hull feels the way it does to you. Otherwise it is simply a way to think about boats when one can't be in them ;-)

honestly whether you are carrying 50-75lbs 5% of the time or 50% of the time. At 160lbs and 5’9" you can fit into most smaller boats with a comfortable capacity to carry 50more lbs. The WS Tempest165 or Chatham 16 are good examples with the Tempest more efficient and the Chatham more stable. Current Designs Caribou would be another interesting choice for a faster hull. Price wise I’d hunt around for a Caribou.

in a nutshell
swedeform is faster. fish handles better. HA!

you mention plastic and composite boats.

At 5’9" and 160 lb

– Last Updated: Feb-05-06 9:55 PM EST –

We spend two, these days three weeks on the Maine coast each summer. If you plan to do a longer camping trip, likely island to island because that's where the camping spots are, two things right up front. First, make sure you learn navigation, including being able to plot a course off a chart. The darned fog up there can roll in so fast that you don't have time to get in close to land to get a sighting if you are making any kind of crossing. GPS helps, but learn paper as a backup (and make sure the boat has a compass, either mounted or strap-on).

Also join the Maine Island Trail Association (they have a website) so that you can use the private islands on which they have sites. They put out a guidebook each year, usually mid to late May, that is very helpful.

That said - as indicated above at 5'9" and 160 pounds there are a decent choice of boats out there for you. You should have the leg length to get into most boats for medium sized paddlers and still get decent contact on the thigh braces, while at that weight you'll have about 20 pounds spare headroom for packing weight in a lot of these boats since they often assume a 180 # paddler.

Not going to get into exact boats - you'll get plenty of suggestions - but a lot of the off-balance moves like rolling etc are easier in a boat with lower decks because there is just a little less boat to get moved around. As mentioned above, this kind of profile also reduces windage, which you'll appreciate on a day with higher winds.

No matter
What type of boat, be it a canoe or sit in , or sit on top, nobody can tell you how any boat might suit you .

All the tech. data any one can come up with doesn’t help. Just look at the boats folks are paddling in the places that you want to paddle,

then demo a few of those models in the various sizes because your weight will have a major effect on the performance of the model that you choose. Demo Demo Demo !

Agree rickers
Figure out the category of kayak that meets your needs, then paddle a bunch of em. The best boats are the ones with the best athletes in them. No boat can make a goob fast or good.

Paddle em!
You’re not going to learn much about the handling of a boat from marketing literature, since individual characteristics mean almost nothing by themselves and everything is relative in boat design (“stable” or “maneuverable” or “soft chined” or “fast” compared to what?). The length and beam are probably the most useful measurements, but everything else is suspect. For every person that tells you that X characteristic makes a boat do Y, there’s a design that will contradict that assertion. A boat is the sum of it’s characteristics; it’s not defined by one or two.

RE: Budget
I want a Cadillac for the price of a VW–which these days is a bit more pricey than the ‘peoples wagon’. Honestly, I would be willing to part with $1500 more or less.