Kayaks for women( or smaller builds)?

I was looking for some recommendations of kayaks to try for a 5’5" 130 lbs person. I’m lookin for poly in the $800-900 range. I tried a Wilderness-Capelookout 135 and hated it. I tried a Zoar Low Volume and liked it. I will mostly use the kayak in the coastal waters near Santa Cruz, Ca and some lakes. I would like I should try a few more kayaks and would love some recommendations.

Thanks, Julie

My wife is 5’4" and about 120 lb
and she paddles a glass Perception Shadow. The same boat is available in plastic and I believe is now called the Shadow 16.

She likes her boat a lot.

paddles out your way. She paddles an avocet or a Shearwater. Maybe you can try her boat. Also, she posted looking for paddling partners in the other forum.

Do a search on “small paddlers” or low volume boats. You see the the the “usual suspects” of boats being suggested.


squamish from current design
I’m 5’nothing and weigh about 125, I’ve owned the squamish from current design and it’s great, I now have a tempest 165 that I’m still trying to handle but a little practice and I’ll be good to go.

The squamish is a great beginner and advance kayak, although it’ll cost a little more than what your asking, it’s a recommendation that I’ll vouch for.

total cost would be 995.00 not including tax

how about the sonoma 13.5?
This is the boat by perception and it’s made of “Airalite”. It’s designed for women and smaller paddlers. It’s what a paddle and I really enjoy it even though I’m a guy!

Sonoma, Carolina, Eclipse, sundance
All by perception. Impex Mystic is a lovely boat, very stable and stylish fiberglass. Check out Current Designs website. They have a nice line of boats for smaller paddlers. Good luck.

I’m your size
I am 5 ft 4 inches, 135 (more like 137 some days). I work out so the weight is pretty evenly distributed - in sum what fits me likely fits you.

The summary is that there isn’t a lot out there for us. Kayak manufacturers now are being as dim as the road bike makers were 18 years ago, and missing out on a huge chance to make money off of 50% of the population.

That said, I can suggest a few boats I’ve tried that should give you a decent waterline and fit. Not all are full touring length - couldn’t tell if that was important. I suspect you could get the following used at the price you mention if you poked around.

Current Designs (CD) Slipstream, 16’, if you don’t need a lot of storage volume and can handle a pretty active hull. Fine on secondary stability and it’s a very nice feeling boat. Available composite and maybe plastic now.

CD has lots of dealers

CD Squall - Old fashioned North American tried and true plastic touring boat that’ll get you thru anything, the smaller cousin to the Storm. 16 ft 7 inches. Lots of volume for the size because of the high deck, needs hip blocks but the rest of the fit is pretty decent especially the thigh braces. They actually hit my thighs rather than my knees.

Been paddling mine for 3 years, only leaving it because I should be moving to a composite (whenever it arrives).

Squall is available in plastic only, and the downside is the dratted rudder. You never need to drop it in this boat and it just sits there needing you to make sure you don’t hit all those pretty kevlar boats with it.

EddyLine Nighthawk, 16 ft. This comes in a cabon-based layup that is very light and easy to handle. V shaped hull so it’s active, but the secondary is fine and the 16 ft length should be a good fit for you. (Forget the Merlin LV - near as I can tell it doesn’t fit anyone quite right.)

Valley Avocet, 16 ft (I think), available in composite or plastic. It fit me fine, is more playful than some of these others but tracks OK. You’d find it an enjoyable boat.

Check out the Necky Chatham if you can find one to try - though used will be tough. Necky is way backed up on meeting orders for these boats.

Also, the P&H Sirius (16 ft) is worth a look if you can find one. It is probably not available around you new let alone used - dealers are few and far between for P&H. But it was a very sweet feeling boat. Secondary stability seemed fine, though when I tried it I wasn’t able to spend long enough in it to figure out for sure exactly where its balance point was.

Good luck - Celia

Ditto on the Nighthawk 16

See if you can find a Nighthawk 16 to demo. I’m 5’6" and 25 lbs heavier than you, JulieP, but not very wide in the hips for my weight. The Nighthawk fit me really well without any modification. It will cost a little more than you have budgeted, but if you can get a dealer’s demo, I’d definitely recommend that you try it. I love mine! It’s sporty, maneuverable, handles wonderfully in rough conditions, and carries enough cargo for weekend camping trips and light touring.


smaller kayak
Have you tried the new kayak made from Necky this year. It is called the Manitou and it is a recreational/touring kayak. It is definetely in your price range. It is a large cockpit but I am 5’2" tall and weigh 135 lbs. It is a great tracking boat and keeps up with my other kayaks. I also own an Eddyline Nighthawk 16 which fits me like a glove. Contrary to what was said about the Merlin LT, this is a great fitting boat for my partner who weighs 100 lbs. and is my same height. The Eddylines are expensive but well worth the dollars as they will last longer than your regular plastic boats. Go out their and demo, you can always customize your cockpit!

What are your goals in the boat?
I ask because if you’re going to grow in paddling, I’d recommend the Tempest 165. Roto boat is not much more than what you’re currently considering but it’s a much superior boat.

My wife has ordered a Tempest 165 and will be selling her Romany 16 when the Tempest arrives.


I love my Hurricane Tampico
I am 5’7" and 125 lbs and love the Tampico - 13.5’ - because I can easily handle it myself and can get it on my SUV without any roller system (only 38 lbs). It is a fun boat and tracks well without a skeg. It is made of Trylon and looks like fiberglass. It doesn’t have the storage of the longer boats but does have front and rear bulkheads. I can easily keep up with my friend’s Perception Shadow. At $1000, I feel it is a great boat.

Sorry, I have been out of town…
You are welcome to try my avocet if you like. I paddle a plastic avocet and a fiberglass sheartwater (18 ft SOT) The shearwater isn’t being made anymore, but the avocet is a great boat for our waters. I am about your size.

Email me if you are interested. I am hoping to paddle most Monday mornings, Thursday afternoons and I am also down at the harbor most Tuesday mornings rowing.

Wilderness Systems Piccalo
I believe that you won’t beat this boat for a day touring boat. You can also get one for under $400 if you are patient.

Another vote for the Tampico
by Hurricane Aquasports. I’m 5’ 3" and 105 lbs, so I can really sympathize with all the small paddlers out there looking for touring kayaks! The Tampico is a great little inland lake or shoreline boat, and the prices have come down below $1,000 on a few websites. If you plan to do some big water or extended trips, the Tampico is not a good boat - the bow tends to plow in waves bigger than 1.5 feet and as Companera stated, there isn’t a great deal of space in the hatches, but for day or overnight trips on calmer water, or for some surfing fun, it’s a nice little boat. w.d.

I believe there’s a used one for sale
on the CKF website (Central and Southern Ca.)

P&H Vela
16’ designed specifically for smaller paddlers, you would have to look for a used one, as they are only available in composites.

Agree on the Squamish, try Whistler too
I’m 5’6", 150 pounds, and my wife is 5’2", 140 pounds - we just did some demo paddling on Saturday… we started out thinking we wanted a Perception Carolina 13.5, but then we tried the Current Designs Whistler and Squamish. I really like both boats - the Squamish was a lot more playful, but we decided to get the Whistler as she felt more comfortable in it, and we’ll also have others using the boat at our camp. The Whistler is a little more stable for someone new to a kayak, so it made it a good choice for us. However, if it were just me, I definitely would have gone with the Squamish!