I have been wanting a sea kayak to go out on Lake Erie for a long time, and just went out and bought a Tsunami 145, which the salesperson recommended. I am 5'6, 160 lbs. I got out on the lake, and I like the boat a lot, but it just feels a bit too big for me. There is so much cockpit room. It feels like an XXL, when I'm more of a medium. Would I be safe changing it out for a 140 for going out on Lake Erie?
I own a 145 and a 140
And at 5’11 240 lbs the 145 is a relaxed fit for me. You definitely belong in the 140 and it should fit you nicely. My son is slightly larger than you and paddles the 140.
Actually three -
(One) Yes, the boat is too big for you. It doesn't mean that the boat won't float you, but it'll make it harder to work with when it comes to adding on skills for bigger water. Easier is always better there, at least when first learning.
(Two) A correctly fitting boat won't make you any safer if you don't get some bigger water skills, like sea kayaking stuff. You need them for any of the Great Lakes.
(Three) Get to some place that will sell you the right boat and provide guidance on all that you need, rather than a place where the sales person needs to up their quota for the day. Right now you don't really know what you need. It is the job of a good and responsible sales person to help you fill in those gaps.
Where are you roughly? Not looking for details, just enough so that people here can advise on a responsible outfitter within reach.
Re: two things
I did take a week long sea kayaking trip in Prince William Sound in Alaska, with plenty of instruction, so I do have some skill, and I feel pretty confident in the water. I live in Cleveland. The outfitter I went to was called the Backpacker's Shop, in Lorain, and I actually like them a lot, but the salesperson might not have been that knowledgable about sea kayaks. The owner actually tried to steer me towards a smaller boat, but I sat in one, and it felt too cramped, so I thought, and the salesperson agreed, that the 145 would be the best fit.
Fit at first, skills
It is common for a kayak that fits right to feel too small at first. One of the reasons that people often recommend starting with demos and/or lessons, is to get rid of that issue. It takes very little time to get accustomed to the tighter fit. I retract my concerns if the owner was trying to get you into a smaller boat - agree that the person you were working with may not have the best background.
As to skills for the Great Lakes, below is what I regard as being fundamental-don’t-get-on-the-water-without-them skills. If you did get proficient in this stuff when you had that week it is great. But it would have been a pretty unusual class if you walked out soid in all of this. I have seen people advance that fast, but usually in more private instruction where the slower pace of the group was not a factor.
- On water self-rescue, at least two ways. One for flat water (like a paddle float self-rescue), one for waves (Cowboy if you have great balance, or a roll motion, could be wet re-entry and roll up with a paddle float).
- Really good deep brace and/or a start towards a roll. Braces are rarely wonderful until the paddler is able to recover from a capsize without a fuss.
- Being comfortable committing to a deep enough edge for turning in steep waves and higher winds. No point in getting out there if a squall comes up and you can’t get home. And they come up really fast on Lake Erie - like 15 minutes from calm to hell.
If this were Maine in the late spring/ early summer I would add navigation skills because of the fog, but I don’t know if the regional weather systems that form around the Great Lakes have this issue.
Yup, as they said - too big
6’4" at 185lb and I thought the inside fit was too big for me too for day paddling.
That said, if you plan to load it up with 100+lb of gear and supplies and want a very relaxed fit, huge stability, and don’t plan on using it as a skills-learning platform, then it might as well be OK.
WAY TO BIG 4 YOU
I had a 140 and I added 1/2 inch padding and it was still too big. Iam 5’8" 172lbs. The 145 being for larger paddlers is way over size for you. Return it. Assuming you can.
Just talked to the owner. He said that the sales guy was new, and he would take it back, as it's definitely too big for me. So :)
I would only add
…an awareness of the conditions where you plan to paddle, and how quickly they can change. But you have to develop the skills first before you assess this.
It may sound like people are being overprotective but for one, it shouldn’t be too difficult for you to master a wet exist and re-entry. You should learn that regardless of the conditions.
Do you know more proficient paddlers in the area who can help? If not, you might try a symposium or lessons, has to be something in your neck of the woods. Once you gain proficiency you can spend more time practicing on your own.
At 5’9", 160lbs, my favorite Tsunami is the 135.
Can I Cut In?
Sorry to threadjack, but I have a question.
In my other thread, I mentioned that I found a really good deal on an older model Merlin XT, and those specs are 15' length, 23" beam, cockpit 31.5"x17".
I was told in that thread that the Merlin was likely too big for me (5'7", 165 pounds). What are you looking for as far as fit? The Tsunami 135 dimensions are 13'6" length, 23" beam (same width), but a bigger cockpit at 18.5'x 35".
Since I'm not that much off from your measurements, I'd think that the Merlin would be a decent fit but maybe I'm way off base?
The thing about kayak fit is that it’s more than just the outer dimensions that decide if it is too big or too small.
The height of the front and rear decks, the location and height of the thigh braces (if there are any), and the amount of volume in the front of the cockpit play key roles in how well each kayak fits.
With the Tsunami, the height of the front deck and the volume of the cockpit are what make it too big. I get paddled a Tsunami 140 when I was first learning about kayaks. I’m 5’6 and about 160lbs and the 140 felt huge to me, there seemed to be way too much space between my thighs and the thigh braces.
2 kayaks with the same outer dimensions can have drastically different fits. In Japan, Water Field Kayaks makes 2 very similar kayaks, the Spartan King and the Spartan Arashi.
Even though they have almost the same outer size and the same size cockpit, the King is huge and the Arashi is fairly good fitting for me.
I wish that there was a way for manufacturers to more accurately describe the size of the cockpit, but as it is the best way to know is just to sit in as many kayaks as you can.
Cockpit measurements aren’t all
A boat for a larger person usually also has a taller deck height, to accommodate the greater distance needed so that the thigh braces will actually land over the thighs. The details of why really need to be experienced by sitting in a boat to tell, as the reply above says. Somewhere between being taller, physically heavier through the lower body, maybe even having road racer (as in bikes) thighs, a person can find that they can fit the same size cockpit in a taller boat that they can't get their legs thru in a boat with a shorter deck height.
That is why many boats targeted for rather different sized paddlers will have cockpit dimensions that are pretty close. The difference in paddler fit is managed by adding deck height, the load capacity by tweaks in the waterline width and length as well.
Very few new paddlers understand how a kayak needs to fit until they actually take some training and realize how the thigh brace and the rest of the seating tripod fit impacts the boat's handling. You really have to be able to dance with the boat in the water, not just sit there, and the only people I have seen who get it right off the rip are people who have had time in really responsive solo canoes. A huge part of managing a kayak is not in the paddle - what most people think - but in the butt and the body. Poor fit makes that more difficult.
Sonnyjane - it won't take you long to find out how this operates once you get to Aqua Adventures. I have never paddled out of there myself, but I know how hard folks like Jen Kleck had to work to get the certs she has. Harder than all but a few individuals of any gender would. But many people have started out with boats that needed some padding to get started.
As to the seemingly bigger cockpit sizes - not exactly. What matters is where the thigh braces land, and they are probably closer in the 135. But - it also has a lower deck than the Merlin XT, so the overall length needs to be longer to make sure legs can be slid in and out.
Many people have started out with boats to which they had to add padding as they acquired some skills. It is a decent accommodation as long as the rest of the boat is right. There just can be a point where the amount of padding gets really silly - and presents a maintenance issue because you keep having to reinforce the gluing.
There are no industry standards for dimensions, so comparing numbers across brands isn’t very helpful.
The maximum length and width of the cockpit opening doesn’t tell you if it’s a big oval or a keyhole with aggressive braces. You can have the same numbers and a huge difference in fit.
The same applies to the “depth” number. The floor to cockpit rim dimension on centerline doesn’t tell you much about how your feet or knees will fit. Deck shapes and hull shapes can be very different and have a big effect on fit.
It’s similar to the way people with the same height and weight can have very different shapes…