Just thinking out loud on a hot tuesday in the NE…
Are smaller paddlers limited to length if one still wants a good handling boat? All of the kayaks that I see advertised for the smaller paddlers are pretty much up to 16’ in length. Are there any longer kayaks that are geared towards the smaller paddler with smaller weight recommendations?
What if one wanted to do some crazy expedition where space is needed, would a small paddler have to give up handling for size? Custom?
Just thinking out loud on a hot tuesday in the NE…
There’s always the option to pad out the cockpit or otherwise customize it. If you’re going to be carrying a load that’s appropriate for the boat, “normal” sized boats should work fine for expeditions. I met a petite woman who had spent a couple of months touring and camping on the coast of Italy in a NDK Romany Explorer.
Small Paddlers Intending Overnights
can use Impex Montauk - 16', (dare I say it...) Romany LV (a Brit Boat)- 16', Tempest165, and the slightly longer Valley Anas Acuta/Pintail - 17'2" (rocker mitigates longer waterline length).
If you carry a really heavy load (lazy boy chair, air conditioner, kitchen stove, etc.), or are a real serious "gearhead" (proud to carry enough to outfit you and two other buddies in case of an emergency on the same trip), or want more length/less rocker for more speed and have the "motor" for it, you can look at the Impex Currituck, Valley Aquanaut, Boreal Ellesmere, Explorer LV.
Generally, if you want a slightly longer boat than your 14' Mystic and want to carry some gear, the first mentioned boats are your better bets.
Bigger boats for smaller paddlers
Current Designs Andromeda or Solstice GTS.
The P&H Sirius, which is an outstanding boat that I don’t own comes in three sizes.
My wife has the “medium” sized one. She’s 5’5" and her boat is 17’ long.
It edges, turns, handles waves and rolls as well as any boat I’ve ever seen.
I have an avocet.
It has more storage capacity than the pintail if that is to your liking. When I was looking for a sink, I liked the specs on the CD slipstream. I sometimes paddle with a small woman who used to lead paddling tours, and she paddles a seward ascente.
Can tell you how to customize an 18 footer QCC to fit I think.
smaller paddler/longer boat
Some good boats have been posted. You do not say how small you are but keep in mind you cut out space when you go from the explorer to the explorer lv. A kayak that has not been put up yet, that you might want to try if you are looking for a longer boat than ones like the pintail, avocet, anas, would be the nigel foster silhoutte. 17’10" x 20.5".
You don’t say your size…
…but my wife is 5’-2’ and 122 pounds and has outfitted her QCC 600, (16’-9") to suit herself and handles it just fine.
She has paddled a 16’-9" Shadow (with no modifications) for the past seven years.
Small paddler, long boat
I’m also small. I paddle a Necky Tahsis, 18 feet, lots of storage, nice tight little cockpit. Handles beautifully.
Speaking Of Plastic…
well, really “polycarbonate”… Probably should throw in the Eddyline Nighthawk 16. I think that is a pretty nice boat for a small paddler with a load.
Sorry, faux pas.
I’m a sliver under 5’5" and 130lbs. I am an avid backpacker that has some nice light gear and I figure a weekend out would require around 30-35lbs comfortably, with moderate water.
I’ve sat in a P&H Vela before and it was very comfy, but have not demoed it in the water. I currently own an Impex Mystic which is great. But now that I am headed out into open oceans and stuff, I know the longer kayak will suit it better. I am headed up to Maine to visit a kayaking friend in July and we’ll be touring around Stonington, the Warren Islands, and probably from Lamoyne park out onto Mount Desert Island in Acadia.
Just outfit the cockpit to your liking.
Night Hawk 16 Storage
As much as I like my Night Hawk, I couldn’t fit a decent cart below deck. I don’t do more than day trips and I’m not a camper, but based upon this experience, I don’t think there’s a lot of space down there. Otherwise, as a small paddler, I agree.
I Don’t Know…
Lou, the Nighthawk has as much storage as my Montauk. Just playing around with stuffing, I think I can put a weeks worth of gear into the hatches – think backpacker and not packrat style. The caveate is how much water for those places that have no potable water.
I weight 160 lbs. and find that shorter kayaks handle more to my likeing than longer kayaks. The shorter kayaks have a greater percentage of their hull under water which gives better tracking and less weathercocking. I paddled an Artic Tern 14 for a couple years and really loved how well this kayak handled. It spoiled me. I wanted a kayak that would be faster and carry more camping equipment so I built the Night Heron S&G. This boat is fast and carries more camping gear but doesn’t track as well as I would like and has more weathercocking than I wanted. I’m sure this kayak would handle beautifully for a 200 lbs. paddler. I was able to achieve the handleing characteristics I wanted by installed a permanent skeg (1"x18") under the backband area of the hull and found this to increase the tracking, almost eliminate weathercocking and not effect the manuverability at all. It’s hard for lighter kayakers to get speed, handleing and storage space in a single kayak but this low volume kayak with a skeg has worked for me.
Also Consider Design Displacement
All people seem to discuss when talking about the right kayak for their size and weight is making the cockpit fit snugly. Outfitting a kayak with foam is easy and no boat should ever be dismissed simply becasue it felt too sloppy. What is interesting is that high performance paddlers actually seek out looser kayaks for their knee up paddling style. The ultimate being narrow surfskis.
Another issue is a kayaks design displacement (DD). This is the total weight (paddler + kayak + cargo) that the kayak was designed for. What a correct DD does is minimize the amount of wetted surface necessary to create the needed bouyancy.
Here is the problem that many strong lighter paddlers have: There are not many sea kayaks available that are both longer 17 + ft and also designed for lower displacements. As a kayak gets longer its bouyancy naturally increases. To reduce bouyancy the kayak must also get narrower which can reduce stability. The key is find a kayak with a long waterline length and narrow waterline beam but a wider overall beam which can provide secondary stability. Good luck with that. There aren’t many choices out there.
Most sea kayaks are like giant SUV’s designed to carry fat american men and lots of cargo. This is what sells. Just like SUV’s these kayaks are rarely used to their full potential. Therefore, the paddler wastes significantly more energy than is necessary. For example, Wilderness Systems had a great little boat for lighter paddlers called the Sparrow Hawk. They dropped this boat and took on the Ford Explorer of kayaks - The Tempest. I am sure they are selling more Tempests than Sparrow Hawks and most people love them with all their cargo capacity and deck bungee even if they never use it.
Cart in Nighthawk
I can get my large size Paddleboy in the rear hatch of my Nighthawk 16. You have to fold it up just right, but it can be done.
I just got back from a 3-day camping trip on Lake Ozette in the Olympic National Park and had my boat fully loaded. Had lots of food and water left when I got back. Could have stayed out 5 days. I had a crazy-creek type chair on deck, but everything else inside. Cooler, folding stool, tent, rainfly, vestibule, sleeping bag, down pillow, and soft cooler.
My friends couldn’t believe all that stuff came out of that boat when we set up camp!
I just bought 2 tapered nylon drybags that I think will make loading it even better. I’m doing a 5-day skills building tour of the San Juans July 31st. I’ll let you all know how packing for that went.
P.S. I’m a 50 year old female, 5’6" 160 lbs. Not exactly petite, but the Nighthawk is a great fit for several women I know. We love them!
You Really Should Clarify
that by "high performance" you're almost always applying that to racing. Racing is one facet of kayaking. There are others where a snug fit is perferable, e.g. surfing/rock play, long touring/expedition. The "performance" sought is not necessarily all about speed.
I happen to agree a lot of boats being marketed for small paddlers, especially day paddlers, are way over volume.
I padle a kevlar Caribou S and at 5’10"x165# it is a low volume (320 ltrs) boat to me. To my wife at 5’2"x115# it is a high volume boat. She can paddle it but it is really too big for her. I have been looking for a kevlar Sparrow Hawk but they are scarce and shipping can be a problem. Some people just are not willing to ship. I have also been looking at the Vela and Sirius as possibilities but the weights are on the high side for their size. I have to keep the boat at 40# or less because of her back. According to the website the boats are closer to 50#. Meanwhile I have to sell her KS Viking which was advertised at 43# but weighs 51#.