Kayaks - How Long?

I’m getting ready to purchase a Kayak, I’m looking at the 2006 Carolina’s. I’m looking for advise on how long, the 14.5 or 16. I’m about 5’8", 200lb. I’m thinking maybe the 16 because of added storage for camping. What is the downside of Lenth?

As a rule of thumb for myself, and dependant on the waters here in Newfoundland, I dont usually recommend anything for sea touring less than sixteen feet. With improvement in edging techniques, maneuverability of the boat will greatly increase

Basically (in the most simplistic of views) the shorter the boat the more maneuverable it is, and the longer the boat, the better the tracking is.

Where do you plan to paddle and what type of paddling do you intend to do?

Daytripping? Weeklong Expeditions? Ponds and Lakes? Great Lakes or Sea? Surfing? Creeks and / or rivers?


There is no downside to length,
except naturally a little more weight to carry.

Get the longer one. It will be faster, and as you say more room for any camping ventures that you go on.



Carolina 14.5 vs. 16

These are very different boats. The Carolina 16 is the old Captiva model. It is a large persons boat. I’m about your size and personally, this would be way too much boat for me, YMMV. I have a much larger friend who has the older Captiva model and adds a 10 lb. rock in one of the hatches to help trim the boat when not loaded with gear. Check out the specs on the Captiva at perception’s web site under discountinued boats - they are almost identical to the Carolina 16. I’m not sure if the 14.5 is right for you either. I have never paddled one, so can’t say for sure. According to the specs on the website the Airelite version of the Carolina 14.5 is longer and has a smaller cockpit than the poly version. I would think the Airelite model would be a better fit for you. Try to test paddle before you buy.



The only “downside” of length is less manueverability. As mentioned, this can be compensated for by learning to lean the boat and using sweep strokes, rudder strokes. You will spend much more time going straight than turning, so go with the length for SPEED.

if i may chime in
i bought my first boat last january…a pungo 140 (140 = 14").

after one season of paddling, i’m already wanting a 16-footer.

but that is easy for me to say because i’ll still have the shorter boat. grin

all in all, if i had a crystal ball i’d have gone for a 12" boat first…for paddling creeks, swamps and marshes, and general knockabout kayaking. (though i can paddle backwards out of a dead-end marsh trail if i have to ;-). )

then i’d pick up a 16" or longer for my sea-boat.

so, if you’re planing to stick with one boat, i’d have to join the “go for length” crowd.

One potential downside to a longer boat is ending up with much more volume than you need. Some model lines get narrower as they get longer, but the Carolina 16 is wider and longer than the 14.5. Be realistic about how much volume you need for the padling you’ll do most of the time.

Other good reasons to get a shorter boat might include weight and transportation/storage issues.

That said, the maneuverability advantage of shorter boats is overstated. Learning to edge a long boat will make much more difference than a couple of feet in length.

Our fleet consists of kayaks ranging from 16 feet to 19 feet. Of them, the Caribou and the Silhouette (18 footers) are the two most maneuverable IF you edge them. My 19 foot Recluse gets rapped for being a very hard tracker, but if you bury her gunwhales in the water, she turns just fine. It doesn’t turn as fast as the others, but fast enough. The payoff is that it doesn’t weathercock, either.

Technique can bring out attributes of a kayak you never knew existed. Watch Nigel Foster’s boat control video sometime & see what a long boat can do when properly handled.


Try as many as possible
Give the Valley Avocet a shot (RM same price range) at 16 feet it is always at the top of the list especially in plastic kayaks. Good luck.


How do you fit in a…
12" or 16" boat? :slight_smile:


The other downside of length is drag.

– Last Updated: Jan-01-06 12:05 PM EST –

No one has mentioned it and it should not play any real importance in the 14.5 foot vis 16 foot choice you presented. But thought it still worth mentioning.

Drag would only come into play at 16 foot if you were a very poor paddler. It does come into play soon after. Drag is also effected by how deep the boat sits in the water. (Main reason canoes are more efficient in the long run than kayaks.)

One paddler cut his 17 footer in half and added two foot in the middle. He was able to set all kinds of records with it, BUT he is also an extreme paddling machine! Others tried to sustain his speeds in his boat and could not do it. Just a little too much drag for them.

A tandem team built a custom 23 foot yak to take the long distance speed record away from the 18 foot canoe that has repeatedly held it. They were younger, stronger, and supposedly had a faster boat by ratio, but just couldn't over come the extra drag of their longer yak (remember depth counts too). Two years later the lead yaker jumped into the shorter canoe and now holds the record.

A little beyond the question you asked, but maybe the question you will have next time as your hobby grows.



won’t matter, if they don’t fit

– Last Updated: Jan-01-06 6:04 PM EST –

I'm assuming that you have sat in both boats and that they're good fits for you (if not, then make sure you get yourself into a shop where you can sit in a number of different makes and models, to find out how they fit relative to everything else).

The cockpit dimensions on the 145 and the 160 aren't that different, so if the 14 is comfortable, chances are the 16 is too (but, again, you won't know for sure until you try). If you're not swimming in the 16, buy it, since you can always slow a boat down, but it's harder to make a shorter boat as efficient as a longer boat.

"(Main reason canoes are more efficient in the long run than kayaks.)"

Fell off the chair on that one.

That IS pretty funny!
Let me guess, it’s based solely on the fact that canoes generally win that “watertribe” race (or whatever it’s called) in Florida. I’ve never seen any hydrodynamic data indicating that a wide, flat boat has lower drag than a narrow, rounded boat. That’s because it isn’t true.

Just the facts please gentlemen …
And the Great Mississippi River Race, and the annual Yukon Race, and … as far as I know anywhere anoes and kayaks compete equally in any long distance race.

Are one of you gentleman going to enter, say the next full length Missisippi Race, or we’ll give ya a break and say the next Yukon race, and show us your kayak entry can beat those canoes?

No one else has done it so far.

Those that really wanted the title switched to canoes! :^)

What is that saying … Put up or something or other.



used kevlar
My 19ft6in west side eft weighs about 30# in kevlar. The 19ft glider is about 50#,also in kevlar. Please consider used light boats especially if you solo. Getting boat to water is the toughest part. People with several boats often paddle the lightest. An advantage to solo canoes is they are lighter and cheaper.

check it out. science is, after all, empirical

So you’re saying
a 14.5 boat will be faster than a 16? Not in any boats I’ve owned or paddled.


– Last Updated: Jan-02-06 5:55 PM EST –

it's a barbie boat. pink even ;-).

seriously, i meant ', not ".

good catch.

I will enter the race

– Last Updated: Jan-02-06 10:08 PM EST –

and kick all those canoodler's butts!

When is it?

If I cut the deck off my kayak, do you think it will go faster???