Kayak suggestions for big guys

I’m looking at buying a kayak this spring and would like some advice on which kayak to buy. My skill level is beginner to novice. The kayak will mainly be used on flat rivers and lakes for day trips, but a couple of overnights are possible. I would like to have a dry storage area. The problem I’m running into is my size. I’m currently 6’2", and 275 pounds, so I need a kayak that has a relatively large weight capacity. Also, preferably an easy in/out since I just had a knee replacement about 6 months ago. I know it’s a large task, but some advise would be appreciated. I’ve looked at the Dirigo 120, but saw the max weight was 325-350. Is that good enough?

I fit that description

– Last Updated: Mar-11-14 7:25 PM EST –

SOT with a dry bag? For really easy on an off maybe have a look at a Tarpon 160. Not sure how big you want to go or how cavernous you want the cockpit to be. Search here for "big guy boats" and you'll find lots of threads with plenty of suggestions. I find it helps to find out what your local dealer carries before looking too much. Talk to them and read up on what they offer. In the sea kayak range look for models rated with a 350lb max load. You might prefer models rated lower, say 325lbs it comes down to preference and long term goals. If you have the option to rent a few make sure you take advantage of it. If renting is not an option watch the used market so you don't take such a beating when you upgrade. I enjoyed my beginner boat for one season before upgrading.

I should add that I prefer boats over 15.5 feet so our preferences might not match.

Big guy boat…
Big guy boats…I am 310# with 2new knees. I was looking for first boat also, with same uses as yours. I found Hurricane Sport Exp-140. Boat has 375# cap and 2dry hatches for hauling gear. Xxl cockpit size also, for easy in/out. Boat weight is 51#. Check it out and also demo as many boats as possible. Good luck.

Big Guys and Short Kayaks

– Last Updated: Mar-11-14 8:16 PM EST –

This seems to be an awfully common topic. One thing I know is that Old Town is notorious for applying extremely generous weight ratings to their canoes ("ridiculous" would actually be more accurate than "generous"). I bet they do the same with their kayaks. Another thing I know is that my 12-foot rowboat is rated for roughly 300 pounds but I wouldn't dream of putting such a load in the thing. It would be kind of a pig with that much weight on board. It's a few inches wider at the waterline than the Dirigo 120, though with a bit of a narrower taper toward each end, so overall dimensions probably balance out to some extent (meaning I expect the two boats to be reasonably similar in draft for a given load). Finally, every time I see a big guy, roughly 230 pounds or more in a short kayak (and yes, 12 feet IS short), the boat looks like that famous Civil-War ship, the Monitor. Check out pictures of that boat). That's my take on big guys in short kayaks - seldom a good idea. For a sit-inside boat, I bet something like the Tsunami 145 would be far better, but I'll leave such advice to those with more knowledge of the various models. But when it comes to buoyancy and dimensions, across-the-board generalizations will be generally true, so you can be sure that a 12-foot kayak will sink awfully low and paddle very sluggishly for you. Some people are okay with that, and if you are one of them,that's fine. You should at least be aware ahead of time that a boat with more "practical" capacity (which is not always the same as what the specs say) will perform far better for someone of your size. But again, some people do paddle boats that are too small for them, at least in practical terms, yet are happy.

Are you opposed to Inflatables?
I have use both inflatables and hard shell kayaks for years on Class I-II rivers and on lakes and truly love the inflatables a LOT.

There are a lot of different styles out there with quality craft under $300.00.


Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll look into it. The plan is to drop a little weight now that my knees squared away and I can work out again, but I’m always going to be a large guy.

There’s a new boat that catches my eye this year for big guys by Wilderness Systems called the Focus 155. It has a large cockpit with a high deck that should make entry and exit easy. The reviews also say it likes to go straight, that’s code for hard to turn. For just starting out that’s not a bad thing unless your rivers are tight. As a bigger guy it’s going to sit lower in the water helping with stablity. I’ve not paddled this boat so really shouldn’t be suggesting it but I really like the Tempest 170. The Focus is advertised as more stable than a tempest which I found very stable, just really tough to get in and out of. The idea of a short, efficient, stable boat for big guys is appealing. I’m hoping to try one soon. Have fun shopping.

I have a tsunami 145
5’11" 250# I have a little room to spare in my 145. I’ve had more than 50 lbs of gear in it and had no problems. Entry is relatively easy IF you know how to get in a kayak. If you don’t have much experience with a SIT it may seem tight at first, but there is a proper way to do it and you should have no problem even with the knee surgery.

I also have an older Tsunami 170. I’m sure it would fit you. I love my 170 but it’s best at being in the gulf taking waves over the deck. Would not be my go to for a relaxing Saturday run down the local creek maneuvering in, out, through, or over log jams.

I also have several canoes which are my real preference, unless I’m going to be part of a group who are in kayaks. If it’s me and the wife on an over ight camping trip I’ll take a canoe solo and she paddles a kayak.

The best advantage to a SOT, in my opinion, is easy of hauling. Tie a rope to the bow and to your rear bumper and drag it behind. Who cares, it’s a SOT. The weight limit on a SOT is what it takes to float, subtract 100 lbs and that is the max limit to keep from soaking your butt in a puddle all day.

You need to go at least sit in some boats. I studied specs for a long time and made my list of choices. Went to the dealer and scratched most the options within 5 seconds of trying to sit in them. If you got big feet there are a lot of kayaks not meant for you, regardless of your weight.

smsnyder, I do want you to get one
with a big kayak that allows easy exit, even if current or wind have pinned you against the bank and tipped you.

I sometimes use ww kayaks, and when I have gotten pushed and tipped against the bank so that rolling has not been possible, having the kayak tipped that way has made it a big strain on my old knees, threading my legs out of the boat. If one of my knee joints was artificial, I’d probably be checking my replacement warranty afterward.

I think the sort of water you’re planning to conquer is consistent with your newbie status and joint issues.

Biggest that I know of:
…is the Current Designs Solstice GT Titan.


The Delta 18 is rather large I’d bet.


We need to know more.
There are plenty of boats that are made for big guys, but you need to think about how much money you want to spend. In my opinion, there is no reason why a beginner needs to start out in something less than a sea kayak, if that in any way fits into your plans. How important is performance to you? You might think that all you want to do is get out on the water and piddle around. Don’t be surprised if you quickly decide that performance becomes important.

I would suggest that you first spend a little time surfing around the net to get an idea of what is out there. Take a look at some of these–cdkayaks.com, eddyline kayaks.com, P&H kayaks, Valley kayaks, nckayaks.com, Necky kayaks, Tiderace kayaks…that should get you started. Then you need to find a real kayak store and if possible, try a few boats on.

The Wilderness Tempest has been mentioned; I would add to the list, the Current Designs Sirocco, infinity and Isle.

Current Design Cockpit
While Current Design has a number of kayak with a high weight limit they tend to have very narrow cockpits, which can make them either impossible or way too tight for someone who is larger – it is really not a sure thing.

The width of my hips hasn’t changed over my adult life – I wouldn’t fit in the Titan when I was really fit and had only 10% body fat.

Wat about a…
canoo? Bit more skill needed but seems like a canoo wood soot yer better!


It really depends on the kayak how it handles weight. My first rec kayak was a Dagger Blackwater 10.5 when I loaded it close to the weight limit it was not trim (level in the water) was a bit sluggish (but was never a speedy kayak) – still I didn’t have any problems kayaking it in mellow ponds or down lazy rivers. My LiquidLogic Remix XP10 handles great even at its weight limit on class 1-3 white water and moving water but very slow on flat water (which is more the kayak design). I have seen guys much larger and heavier than myself (also more skilled) have no problems in the XP10.

Generally as you approach the max weight it will suffer in performance but it is not going to sink just from you sitting in it. If you are taking it on a mellow pond or lazy river it will not matter much but as you increase the risk – faster water, open water, ocean, etc, it will matter more and not a great idea.

It sounds like you want to do more rec kayaking – you probably don’t want to consider anything smaller than a 12 footer but would be better off in the 14-15 foot range. The problem is the 12 footers tend to have larger cockpits, are wider, and can handle more weight. As you move up many get very narrow and you may find the fit too tight. There will be less choices for you as they get longer.

There are a number of great SOTs for big guys and they can hold a good amout of weight and gear. The Tarpon is really popular. The Ride might be another option due to the seat – it will be slower but the seat comfort might be better for you.

In the sit-ins I am a big fan of the Dagger Axis 12 (I own one and good overall but still I would like something longer for flat water).

In the 14 foot range you have the really huge cockpits of the Pungo 140 and Hurricane Expedition 140 Sport. It would be better to get a smaller cockpit if you can but both of those would be good kayaks for what you want to do – they fit everyone as long as you like having a huge cockpit.

You can also try out the Dagger Alchemy 14L, WS Tsunami 145 and Perception Carolina 14 which have smaller cockpits but you are pushing the weight limit a bit.

Just sitting in them in the store will give you a bit of an idea what size cockpits and deck heights work for you.

Same problem with Delta
32.5" cockpit will be too small for the OP, especially if his knees have limited range of motion.

Price range?
If price is no object check the Eddyline Denali.


The 14.5" depth at the front of the cockpit should allow you to get your knee out easily.


– Last Updated: Mar-12-14 11:09 PM EST –

One of my kayaks is an Emotion AdvantEdge -12.5 for length. It has a good size cockpit and has some nice features. Would be a good starting out kayak and they are reasonable in price.

CD Solara 135


– Last Updated: Mar-13-14 11:00 AM EST –

If the budget doesn't have a ceiling then the Valley Etain 177.

A Venture Islay has worked well for linebacker builds.

I'll have to let you know of the Venture Jura once they get here. The new Skudder System on it should be interesting.

See you on the water,
The River Connection, Inc.
Hyde Park, NY

Big Guy Boat
I was a big guy; at nearly 280 on a 5’10 frame, I qualify. I too went through the “big guy boat search” looking for a cockpit that I could get into and out of with out struggling. I bought a Wilderness Systems Tempest 180 Pro and love it. http://www.wildernesssystems.com/product/index/products/expedition/sea_kayak_tempest/tempest_180pro_seakayak/

I use it on lakes, flat rivers and occasionally Monterey Bay when it’s calm, and multi-day camping. The boat has good maneuverability. It was my first boat so it works for beginners and it will work for much more advanced paddlers. IT JUST SO HAPPENS I recently lost 80 pounds and the boat is now to big. I am in the SF Bay area and would sell the boat to finance something smaller. $1700 with skirt.