Length of Kayak 12 or 14?

I am a beginner paddler possibly interested in the Wilderness Systems Tsunami series. Thought the duralite version would be good for me since I am a woman and need to get this on my car.

Can’t decide between the 12 foot or 14 foot versions? Looking to kayak on rivers and lakes. I belong to a kayak club and will need to keep up the pace with my fellow paddlers. I am leaning towards the longer version but am concerned about the handling of it. Any advise???

I advise getting the 14.
I think you will be happier with it and go faster than the 12.



You’ll get used to it
If it’s the stability thing, you’ll get used to it very fast. Longer will be a lot easier for you to use with a group, and you may find it to be a more capabale boat when you want to go for skills.

When I started
I thought I wanted a short kayak but the more I tried ones >16 ft the more I liked them and the less I liked shorter ones. Just felt better balanced between tracking and turning.

For lakes , get a 16 footer or better
if you want to keep up. Save the 12 footer for creeks and chillin’.

Just paddled my 12.5 footer
at a club outing with 14, 15, and 16 foot boats. Had no trouble keeping up. In fact I led most of the way, and didn’t break a sweat. And I’m of average fitness. Someone will undoubtedly correct me on this, but I think the “longer equals faster” assertion is technically true, but not real world true. All other things being equal (beam, material) longer boats are heavier boats, and therefore require more muscle to move. Put two equally athletic racers in different length boats, and the longer boat will win, because at all-out speed, longer has a higher max potential speed.

But I don’t think this holds for the effort being put forth in a social club paddle. I think the paddlers of the longer, heavier boats are exerting more energy to move their boats, but their boats aren’t going any faster. (This is assuming equal beams for all boats.)

Am I wrong about this?

Comes Down to the Stroke and Hull
A good, efficient forward stroke will make any boat go faster. I’ve seen shorter boats with a paddler in them with the above kind of stroke outrun someone in a longer boat and a less efficient stroke.

As to longer boats taking more energy to move, the drag coefficients that Sea Kayaker shows in their tests suggest that it’s less about weight and more about friction, or lack thereof. Also, a boat with a longer straight waterline will develop more forward inertia than a shorter one might. So while the shorter boat may take less energy to get to a certain speed, the longer boat may take less energy to maintain it. The hull design folks can argue this ne out - I am not any kind of an ace here. But impedence moving forward has a lot to do with what kind of bow wake the boat sets up and its willingness to travel in a straight line, not sure that sheer weight trumps hull design this way.

weight and hulls and stuff
I am pretty positive the difference of 5-10 lbs won’t matter at all once you’re moving, may make a difference in initial acceleration but thats it.

Longer hulls do have more drag but it’s not all simple and straight forward,theres a bunch of variables. i read that lengths over 17 ft start to give up cruising efficiency for hard-paddling speed,again all depends on hull.

Stay away from Duralite, it’s awful quality stuff as mentioned in a few threads.

I don’t know your fitness level so cant really judge how you’re going to keep up with the club people in either the 12 or the 14. Tsunamis are not a fast boat, i tried the 145 in flat water and didnt think it was any faster than a pungo 140 and noticably slower than 16-17 ft touring kayaks.

Hire or borrow
Try to hire or borrow a couple of different boats and see if you can keep up on club paddles. Longer is faster but a lot depends on the people in the club, how hard they like to paddle and what boats they have.

As a general rule try to pick something similar to what the other club members use. The people in the club should also be able to give an opinion on what they consider more suitable.

What about wetted surface?
A longer boat with the same beam and hull shape woud have more wetted surface, which I assume would also slightly counteract the long boats advantage. This is all academic, of course. I still think that in club paddling situations, the difference between long and short boats seems to be almost meaningless, and long boat advocates often don’t take into account the additional difficulty of cartopping a long, heavy boat.

For a smaller person, a 15-17 foot rotomolded boat (or even fiberglass for that matter) becomes a real challenge to load and unload solo. So going that route for some may mean limited opportunities for solo paddling.

For many recreational paddlers, who are day paddling on small to medium sized lakes and slow moving rivers, and who never intend to paddle in rough conditions, the 12 foot boat is a much better choice for their use than a sixteen footer, when you factor in ease of transport. People who live near large bodies of water (oceans, great lakes) will disagree of course, because a 12 footer in those conditions is most of the time not enough boat.

Blowing smoke here

– Last Updated: May-24-06 8:49 AM EST –

Beware of responses from those who have not paddled nor seen the WS Tsunami being paddled. Those here have a tendency to blow smoke on their beliefs whether based in fact or not. Take a little bit of knowledge and bend it to fit the current question.

Do a search on Flatpick's responses. He covered this previously. You wouldn't go astray listening to him.

For your info:


go for the long one and buy used or demo
Its a long story and I would rather let my stupidity remain in the past for now, but my advice is to go for the longer one.

I’m certain some lighter weight shorter boats are fine boats for the right paddlers, but in my case the boat I selected on my own following research brought many forms of grief.

So I continued the summer using my heavier 12 foot which I still have and don’t plan on parting with.

Late in the year a couple of the really great Michiganders from Pnet guided me into purchasing the same boat in a 14 foot. It should be faster but I can’t honestly say for sure yet. I’m delighted with my previously owned 14 footer though.

Good luck and happy paddling

A Good Comparison…

– Last Updated: May-24-06 9:30 AM EST –

I have both an Arctic Tern 14 (34lbs.)and an Arctic Tern 17’ (44lbs.), they have very similar hull shapes and both have a 23” beam with the form being fairly neutral.

I am 180lbs and these are my observations comparing both boats. The 14 accelerates faster and is easier to paddle up to about 4.2 mph. especially for a smaller person. I’ve had smaller motors switch from the 17 to the 14 and comment “Now that’s a fast boat”.

The 17 due to it’s length has a more gradual increase in beam (pointier bow) and is faster in conditions and also has a higher top speed but requires more effort to paddle at most club speeds.

I think this bares out the most popular beliefs and having two similar hulls I thought I would chime in.. GH


– Last Updated: May-24-06 1:33 PM EST –

I think the "dirty" secret about length is that, in general, it contributes more to tracking than speed in the world of "normal" sea kayaks. (Keep in mind that I am talking about similar hull shapes.)

There is a correlation of -top- speed to length but not many paddlers can paddle at those speeds for very long.

What people should be looking for (generally) is efficiency: that is, the effort it takes to paddle a "normal" speed (eg 3-4 mph). A smaller boat will have less "wetted surface" (water is sticky) but you lose tracking. A boat that doesn't track very well will require more effort (and skill) to go in a straight line. So, there is a trade off here.

A boat that is very long (eg 18ft) tracks well but you lose some manueverability (and manueverability is fun). The longer boat has a higher top speed but takes more effort to paddle at a normal speed due to the increased wetted surface.

In my opinion, the biggest advantage of a really short boat is getting it on and off your car and carrying it. Still, people can manage to load a longer boat pretty well because they can put it up in stages. Eg, lift one end and place it on the bar. Then, lift the other end up onto the rack.

I don't think you'd see much difference in loading between the 12 and 14 foot lengths.

What do the other club paddlers, who are about your size, use?

If most of the trips are on open water, 8+ miles in length, and not "floating with the current" type, I'd suggest going with the longer boat.

Loading/Unloading Considerations . . .
. . . are important.

I tried various boats of different lengths and weights and settled on the Manitou (45 lbs)and just under 13 feet. At 60 years old and having the intent to do a lot of solo paddling, being able to handle getting the boat on and off the car was an important consideration.

So far, after two years, I’m very pleased with my choice. In most instances, I’m able to keep up with other paddlers having longer boats without too much effort. I liked some of the longer (and heavier) boats that I demoed before buying the Manitou, but had a lot of trouble with the loading/unloading.

I suggest not only demoeing various boats, but actually trying to load/unload them by yourself before buying. Most outfitters will permit this and, in fact, will give you tips on the easiest techniques.

Loading boats

– Last Updated: May-24-06 11:25 AM EST –

If we are talking about loading boats on a car (not a tall SUV), it may be that a longer boat is easier to load. With a longer boat, you can keep one end on the ground and load it in two steps.

A short (lighter) boat is easier to carry.

If the trips are short and liesurely, then keeping up is not much of an issue (the boat doesn't really matter much).

New prijon
Try the new Cruiser by Prijon. It’s 14’1" and weighs 44 lbs. Tried it at a demo- very stable and tracks well.

Social club paddles
Your right enough. The thing is that “social club” type paddles occur at speeds requiring such a low level of effort that it doesn’t matter. If a short boat does have any advantage in such uses it is very slight (and when you factor in that shorter almost always means beamier - none at all - or even a penalty - but again so slight as to not matter).

The only penalty I find paddling my 18 & 20 footers at those speeds is that I can’t maintain any decent stroke mechanics. I can, but good catches and rotation are just pantomime without any resistance against which to apply the power.

Paddling for any length of time slow paces puts more of a hurting on me that getting into a groove and moving along at a better pace. A little more resistance helps keep the abs and back in play and everything moving. Better circulation and less chance to get stiff and sore. Paddlers have “sweet spots” for touring speed even more than kayaks.

Get over 3.5 mph for any time/distance and some length begins to be a nice asset. Over 4 even more. Around 4.5 -5 mph sustained where I generally cruise around - shorter boats start being a real pain. My longer hulls could cruise most efficiently a little above this - but the motor is the issue.

Basically though, I just prefer kayaks that aren’t corky feeling. Longer hulls bridge across small chop and give a smoother and more stable feel to me - for the sort of paddling I like to do.

Long does NOT = heavy

– Last Updated: May-24-06 11:47 AM EST –

Weight has to do with materials. Small folks - buy composites and be happier/healthier (your vehicles too). Same bot in same materials in a longer version may add a bit, but not enough to use as selection criteria.

Longer boats are also NOT harder to load solo. If you load from center - balance is the same. If you load from the ends - longer gives you easier leverage and more options on loading angles. The only penalty can be when carrying in wind.

Given the same beam, hull shape
and materials. You live on the ocean, where a long composite makes the most sense. She wants to paddle lakes and rivers, and is concerned about weight. Since she’s looking at rotomold and duralite, I’m guessing composites are out of her price range. So if she’s choosing between a 12 and 14 foot rotomold, the answer is not so clear cut. The extra weight for loading and unloading can make a big difference for a small person, and the difference in hull speed on flatwater social paddles (her intended use) is barely measurable.