Kayaks for giants (Questions)

I am a complete newbie to kayaking, although I have 50+ years of boating experience.

I am 6’6" tall and weigh 270 pounds.

I’ve “tried on” a variety of SOT kayaks and so far the Ocean Kayak Prowler 13 seems to be the best fit. I also like the Current Designs Altura but it’s way out of my price range!

My questions:

  • It seems to me that a Sit-in would be more stable, given my fairly high center of gravity, but with my long legs, I don’t think I can fit. Are there any Sit-ins with LOTS of legroom, at a price under $800?
  • For a newbie, is the SOT design safer or more stable? Living i South Florida, I don’t mind getting wet!
  • From what I’ve read, it looks like the total capacity of the kayak should be about 1 1/2 times the weight of the paddler. Is this a good rule of thumb? For me that says I should look for a boat with 400 lbs. capacity or more.
  • What about material? The Hurricane Phoenix series (Lexan) looks pretty in the showroom, but I’m afraid of scratching it easily on sandy beaches or worse (coral). Can anyone who owns one comment on this?

    I know that’s a lot of questions - as I said I’m a complete newbie!

    Thanks in advance for the help.


Big and Little sized people both have
looking to do in order to find a suitable kayak. One of the qualities of a “sit-inside” kayak that you will need to consider will be how well your feet fit inside. I have tried to fit 6’4" people with size 13/14 feet into a boat and was hard pressed.

If you are considering any Everglades paddling, the Lexan may not be a good material.

Sorry, but I don’t have any boat suggestions.

Sit-on-tops are generally more popular in warm/warm-water areas. Your perception of stability will probably change with more time on the water.

For sit-insides in your price range, the Wilderness Systems Pungo 140 and Old Town Loon 138 seem to be popular with large folks.

a few choices
but at $800 you’re going to be looking at some funny combos of kayaks.

The most important thing is the conditions you’re paddling in. If it’s gentle conditions under with waves under 1’ or so I’d strongly suggest trying out a Wilderness Systems Pamlico 145. It’s a small double rec. kayak with huge rec. cockpit. The reason it would work well is that the hull has a low wetted area for it’s displacement so it would be relatively effortless paddling for easy speeds. The hull is good enough to make the seating work for your needs, adding thigh straps, etc. It’s a small double made for 350lbs of paddler weight. Bascially a small canoe that you’d sit on the bottom of, with the forward seat moved out of the way and the aft seat moved forward.

The issue is conditions and need for self-rescue. If it’s a rec. kayak then you’re looking at some kind of SOT for rough water. Big cockpit rec. kayaks are pretty useless for self-rescue in rough water.

You should also check out a Manitou14 if you’re considering rough water for a big paddler. It might feel tippy for you but it’s closer to a big cockpit, good handling boat.

As far as “sea kayaks” the two that come off the top of my head are Neckys discontinued Pinta, but it’s a composite boat that you probably won’t find used for anything less than $1500 totally used and a bit rare.

The other option is a epoxy/ply boat made from plans or kit. That could be done for under $1000 and 3months of weekends and 4 evenings a week. The CLC Chesapeake 18 is huge, could have an extra big cockpit coaming added, the only drawback is that it’s kind of an unresponsive kayak for waves. Pygmys QCxl is a more maneuverable kayak but I think you’d have to make your own big coaming if 33" long isn’t big enough.

Not a good place for info…
Go to www.sit-on-topkayaking.com forums for informed discussion of what will work for you. At 270 lbs there are a few SOTs that will work fine. You probably want to look at at 15 or 16 ft boat. You can even weigh more than the suggested weight range in some designs so the best thing to do is get a list of kayaks that will work and go check them out. In Florida I would stick with a sit on top. I paddle both Sinks and SOTs and for warm waters the SOT is the way to go, especially when you are starting out.

the fit
I’m not as tall, but heavier. The kayak’s weight rating will be important to you, but ratings are not standardized…so its all “try before you buy”. I’m usually looking at weight+50 for gear+50 for extra. That puts me in the 400 pound range, too, and it really limits the models that I want to look at.

Second, my knees are no longer so great, so I like a very large cockpit and treat the mount/dismount much like a SOT. You probably have long legs and would want a great-large cockpit if you choose a Sit Inside.

Third, deck height on Sit Insides may rule out most of them for you. For comfort, you will want to be able to place your foot completely vertical.

Fourth, legs again. SOTs may not have a long-enough molded footwell for your legs. Sit Insides may not place the foot rail far enough forward for you.

Fifth, performance. By the time you filter through all the “eliminators” above, you’ll only have a few choices. Center of Gravity won’t be a player and you will largely be down to “Do I want This SOT or This Sit Inside?”

That last question is a tough one. I’m thinking that I like one of each.

might try
a Mad River Synergy 14. It’s a different breed, sorta half sit in/ half SOT built for BIG folks. i have one and it’s majorly FUN!

Is there any ‘demo days’ around you or a dealer that let’s you try some different models?


Big guys do have fewer choices.
I tried a bunch of boats. I’m 6’ 3" and 245 pounds. Settled on a Pungo 140. I can get into it and out of it with my bad knees. It has good initial stability and tracks pretty well.

USS Kitty Hawk


– Last Updated: May-11-08 11:27 PM EST –

You should google 'big guy kayaks', as well as coming here -there's probably more attention been paid to big guys than small guys & women when it comes to double-bladed paddling machines.

In addition to the P-13, try the P-15 -, the longer, faster big brother of the OK Prowler lineup.

You should also take a look at the WS Tarpon 160. This is a serious, and seriously big, boat for big guys, among others. It, like the P-15, has good (for SOT) handling characteristics, is relatively fast, and will more than adequately support you.

Don't worry about the Hurricane Phoenix, either. Basically, the big Phoenix is a Tarpon 160, almost literally, a knock-off. Hurricane took a T-160, made some mods, molded it, and it became the Phoenix 160. The Trylon hull is good, too. We're from Miami, paddle up & down the coast, the Keys, and the Glades & SW coast, so we run into the same sort of stuff you're worried about. Sally paddles a Hurricane Tracer, and while it exhibits its "experience", it doesn't scratch as easily as PE, and keeps its fiberglass-like shine quite well -indeed, some folks may mistake these boats for glass boats. Trylon is tough stuff, and we recommend it.

The other advantage of the Phoenix is that it's lighter than its opposite number in plastic -a handy thing to know when you tote the boat, or transport it atop your vehicle.

If you want to go with a SINK, look for HV models -high-volume ones. But here, you'll abso-DANM-lutely have to demo them. As a newbie, you probably don't have the 'seat feel' for some of the sit-inside boats, and they'll perhaps (probably?) feel twitchy and wobbly to you. That's usual and quite the norm. As a big guy, you'll especially need to understand, first, just getting in & out of cockpit boats, and then feeling OK if not SOT-confident in them. You'll need to check out whether your big guy legs will fit, and if your big guy feet will fit, too!

But there ARE boats out there for you that you can be happy in as you, big guy and all,


-Frank in Miami.

2nd the Tarpon 160.While not quite
your size, I paddle one as does Swedge , who is somewhere between us in size. A great SOT.

Also, I rented and paddled a Native Watercraft Manta Ray when I was in the Keys 2 months ago. It is heavy and honestly looks like a barge , but IS NOT! It sits high out of the water and yet the wind has little effect on it.It is the driest SOT I ever paddled. In the Tarpon,I am guaranteed a wet butt, but not in the Manta Ray.One caveat. The leg slots were too short with my 34" inseam legs, so I removed the footbraces and had too much room. The Tarpon has longer leg slots.


Thanks everyone :smiley:
Thank you all for the very helpful replies! I’ll be looking over all you’ve said, and hope to be paddling next week!


Please let us know what you choose.

– Last Updated: May-11-08 10:49 PM EST –

We giants like feedback.

SOT is a good choice
and I think you’d like the Manta Ray 14 by Heritage.


Big Guy SOT
I’m 6’5" x 250 agree the OK Prowler 15 is one of your best options. Great learning tool with the added benefit…you won’t out grow it, it will always have a place in your fleet. You may ultimately move to a sit inside, but for general cruising, storage/weight capacity, fishing/photography and ease of use, the Prowler 15 is tough to beat. If you ultimately decide speed/distance are priorities, you will want to move to a true sea kayak, but you can have a lot of fun, and tackle most camping trips in great comfort and have a tremendous fishing craft once you get there.

Ocean Kayaks
I agree that the prowler 15 is a very good choice for your size. I’m 6’1" 280 and have a Big Yak which works well for me. I guess it depends on what you want to use it for. I tend to run slow small twisting narrow rivers which a longer kayak always seems to have problems with. I also use it to play around in the surf along the ocean. Great fun running the waves like a surf board but seated. It’s very stable and in fact I’ve stood in it and paddled and fished from it. it says up to I think 350 but we’ve had closer to 450 pounds in it and it still managed to run fine. One other thing you need to concider too is the paddle length. This is also gonna creat a argument as to which length is best for larger paddlers. But again the length is based on your paddling style high or low angle and width of boat. I use a 220cm with the big yak even though they suggested a 230 or one saleman said I should probable go with a 240. But I like the shorter one for the narrow paddling I do. It’s really better for digging deep when I’m running the waves too. But again you have to decide what’s best for your style.

Finally Bought One!
We just came back from Kayak Jeff with two kayaks on top of the car! I got an Emotions Grand Slam - it was love at first paddle! The legroom is fantastic. I can adjust the footrests 1 notch shorter than maximum and it’s perfect. According to Jeff this has the most legroom of any the boats I was considering, and with 400# capacity it has over 100# reserve.

My wife got a Hurricane Phoenix 120 which she loves. Now we just need to practice, and get scheduled for Jeff’s intro course.

Erica, the woman at Jeff’s new Pompano Beach store was incredibly helpful, spending several hours with us as I tried the Grand Slam and helping with the roof rack, selecting paddles and gear.

BTW, Jeff is having a sale through Sunday, if you’re in the South Florida area. 10% off on kayaks, and 15% on accessories.

Thanks for all the help and encouragement!