Kayaks for women?

My wife is 5’ 120#. Are there any boats out there that are at least 16’ and designed for women?

well now…
what specifically would a boat designed for women have for features that a ‘man’ wouldn’t want?

what does sex have to do with boat design?


Kayaks for Women
Check out Current Designs. They have several boats suitable for women. Vaughn Fulton

I don’t know
When we talked about her wanting to get a kayak she said “I’ll probably want one designed for a woman ,right?” I also seemed to remember CD having a few female centric designs.

women/small paddlers

– Last Updated: Jun-23-07 11:49 AM EST –

There are several touring boats designed for small paddlers. There are a few boats marketed specifically to women. They're not necessarily the same.

Women tend to be shorter and lighter than men, with a shorter torso, shorter arms, and wider hips than men. They generally have a lower center of gravity and so will be more stable in a given boat than a typical male.

A smaller-than-average paddler will generally be more comfortable in a boat that's got a narrower beam, a lower deck, a snugger cockpit, and less weight than an "average" kayak.

Sea kayaks for a small paddler might include:
Impex Force 3
VSK Aquanaut LV
VSK Avocet (LV coming soon)
NDK Explorer LV
NDK Romany LV
CD Rumour
CD Suka
P&H Vela
P&H Capella 161
WS Tempest 165

And I'm sure there are more, including surfskis. There are also custom builders who can build to order -- strip boats are expensive, but a custom skin-on-frame can cost less than many production boats.

The Necky Eliza and CD Willow have been marketed to women.


– Last Updated: Jun-23-07 12:19 PM EST –

women specific is a new, cool catagory to market to.

News flash: women and men come in a variety of sizes, NOT specific to gender. To say you are designing a boat for women would mean 'what'?

women have lower center of gravity so they might need less beam....but they have larger hips so they need more beam?????????

women tend to be weaker so they need more effecient hull forms? let's NOT go there!

and what if you are a woman paddle who doesn't FIT in a women specific boat???? howz THAT going to make you feel?

come on folks....smaller boats yes...highly desireable. women specific?....the paddling ladies I know don't want anything 'women specific' just 'smaller' and lots of smaller guys I know want the same thing.

I ran into a fellow at a paddlesport show recently who REALLY wanted a certain 'womens boat' and was very reluctant to buy it cuz of the name and hype. what kind of marketing is this???? he was hoping/wishing they'd change the name! yeah right.


If getting picky
There are features that I would call women-centric. But the whole idea of actually making and marketing sea kayaks specifically to women is so late in coming that the details are still a bit messy.

Stuff I’d mention -

Shorter torso, maybe arm length as well, proportionate to height. No big deal for a 6 footer, but as the size starts getting down to 5 feet or barely over tall, small diff’s in deck height or width around the paddler start mattering more. Even at average height, 5’4", a good forward stroke is easier in the narrower Vela than in the Explorer LV with a barely noticeable diff in width.

Lighter carrying weight - a smaller woman simply lacks the proportionate upper body strength that the same size guy will have

Lower, kinder decks for self-rescue because of the diff in upper body strength (and butt weight being hauled). At some point everyone is out of the boat.

Custom placement of forward bulkhead - not only is there wasted space for many women, the standard placements mean that there is enough water in there so that most women can’t do the lift and drain thing before re-entry used by guys. Every ounce helps.

That’s off the top of my head - I suspect the 5 ft’s out there could add a few.

Probably a good starting point. We won’t be in the market for another season. When she is ready to demo it will be good to have the list narrowed down. Of course, we will probably look to go used so it’s nice to have a list of possibilities in mind when different boats come onto the market.

Is she a new paddler? Some solid instruction with coaching and practice (renting or borrowing various models) could go a long way in helping her determine her needs when the time to buy comes along.

I agree with some of the other posts - marketing specifically and only to women is gimmicky. Getting the proper boat for ones desires and needs is what needs to be considered.

I paddle a prototype womans boat!
Cuz I like the hull and fit, and I’m 210 solid lbs. NOT fat. So I agree with Flatpick on a lot of what he’s saying re: marketing. BUT, there are several considerations to be addressed when designing for a woman. The Eliza design was not an accident. Many women were consulted, as was a physician and ergonomist regarding the differences in the female body. As such you have a smaller, efficient hull that is well balanced, and a cockpit that is wide at the hips, but shorter in length to allow better contact. Also easier to install / remove spray deck. Low aft cockpit for spirited paddling / handling rolling etc. The result is an excellent boat.

Why would a guy be scared to paddle a womans boat? That’s the interesting thing here! So yeah, marketing plays a roll and that I guess is a strategic decision which in Necky’s case seems to be paying off! The composite Eliza is an especially superb little boat. Several Necky reps. paddle that boat!

Several non-specific boats are excellent for women as well…Impex Mystic comes to mind, as does the Vela, Fosters Rumour, Romany LV etc.

One thing to keep in mind about LV versions is that often the hull has not been modified, rather the deck simply lowered. This does nothing to change the design displacement of said hull! It simply makes for a snugger fit. What this means is that a hull that was not ideal for a smaller paddlers weight, is still not ideal. When designing for smaller folk, the entire kayak needs to be designed around their weight, strength, typical shape range, etc.

We’re both beginners
I just bought a used necky elaho, and am headed to the Great Lakes Sea kayak symposium for some training. She is living in Alaska right now, but is taking a one week sea kayaking course where they start in a pool, go out on a local river, and then head down to (I believe) Prince William Sound for four days. We’ll both probably do the Inland Sea symposium in Washburn, WI next year to get geared up for the season, then keep our eyes out for a new boat. I figure we can hit several demos along the way and possibly GLSKS to look for boats. We’ll definitely be trying anything out before buying and getting some instruction.

small paddlers
Celia makes some great points. I’m 5ft tall and found that it will take some work to find a kayak to fit. Like Celia said, try more narrow kayaks. Since I’m short and carry less weight in my shoulders, my 19in wide kayak feels to me much like what I guess a 21-22in wide kayak would feel to many guys. Also be careful with length. I know that some of the longer kayaks are supposed to be faster and more efficient but if you’re not big or strong enough to take adavantage of it, its pointless. I tried a Force 3 and while it was an okay fit, for my strength it was too much kayak to push through the water and as a result felt really slow. To me the most important aspect is a good fitting cockpit. I’ve been in some smaller boats where the cockpit is too long and I can’t make good contact to brace against it. I wouldn’t worry about weight that much. My boat is really light and on days when I’m in a stubborn mood, being able to carry it on my own is great but on other days I’d gladly welcome some help. If you find a heavy kayak that is great for you in every other way you can always find ways to work around the weight.


we can meet up at the GLSKS in July and compare notes! lucypaddler (my wife) and I will both be there instructing!!!

see ya soon!


Yeah and, I wonder??
Knowing what went into the Eliza design i can attest to the fact that the two Eliza models were designed around the needs of women up to about 150 lbs. Clearly people of both sexes come in varying forms, but there are some physiological differences, and these boats address those very well. The fact that they would be super for some smaller men doesn’t detract from that.

I’m not a marketing guy, and I may have made another decision, but one might say that it took some courage for the company to make that call and target directly the consumer for which the product was designed?? I guess it’s a balance of directing your efforts at the cost of alienating some. From what I hear, they can’t build the boats fast enough, so maybe the marketing folk are smart?

A strong case could be made either way. I suspect while some women may not want a targeted-to-them product, a lot of others will take a second look due to the message.

I can say that in the case of these boats that message is not a gimmick. They are not re-makes, or taken lightly tossed out there products. I applaud Necky for addressing this part of the market. However ya slice it, it’s two cool new kayaks for consumers to consider in a market quite full of excellent choices…some of which your husband has been involved with! Good day.

Yeah, It’s Sticky
The same sort of issue used to come up with bike frames. Manufacturers were building frames with longer seat tubes and shorter top tubes and calling them ‘women’s frames’. Lots and lots of long legged men fit those frames. I’m one.


– Last Updated: Jun-23-07 3:26 PM EST –

but like the other folks said the skill and intended use makes a bigger difference.

Maybe one where you can’t leave the seat up.

What’s the difference?
They’re Pink???

If you don’t mind a tad shorter
you might want to take a look at the “Baby QCC”

It has a smaller cockpit, lower front and rear decks and of course a lot less volume than the QCC 600 or 700, but yet is still only 21" wide.

My wife who is 5’-2" had a 600 and it just had too much volume for her.

She loves the little one. ( She might be partial since she had some input on it’s design), but she definately knows it is for a smaller paddler.