Looking for articles on fit

-- Last Updated: Jul-01-08 12:33 PM EST --

I seem to prefer high volume boats with more leg room where I can keep my knees at a 45 degree angle. I've been told that the more experience I get the tighter a fit I will want, but I'm not sure if that means a tigher fit around the seat / hips or if I'll want less of a leg angle. Can you point me to some reading material?

I don't know enough about this to feel confident about choosing a used boat. I know that two ideal boats would be a Valley Aquanaut HV or P&H Quest in glass. I don't have enough of a garage to buy these boats which is why I'm buying a used composit boat for now.

In an '84 Chinook, I felt snug, but I was able to paddle for 3-4 hours without feeling uncomfortable. The newer Chinook felt like a sardine box. Some boats like the Avocet and Aquanaut in poly are to tight for me to fit into at all. In glass these feel comfy. Other boats like the Tempest in poly are comfortable but feel somewhat cavernous.

Beeg boats

– Last Updated: Jul-01-08 12:47 PM EST –

It's not just about fit but also overall weight assumptions. The volume of your two "ideal" boats is too much for many guys to get a good waterline, let alone an average female.

Unless you are way tall and way heavy for your gender, the Aquanaut HV and Quest are much too big a boat for you. For that matter, so is the regular Aquanaut.

I'd suggest that you try to get into a P&H Capella, if you an avergade sized woman a Capella 161 or the 173 if you are quite tall. That may give you a better sense of comfort along with an appropriate volume.

Also, while many prefer a more upright position for their legs, you can reach an angle where you won't have useful thigh contact for anything like rolling because all that'll be in contact with the boat is your knee. Not a plan for useful boat control unless you have awfully well-padded knees. I am not sure exactly what you mean by a 45 degree angle, but I suspect that at this angle you'd be hard pressed to get your thigh against anything useful in a normally set up boat.

Very generalized

– Last Updated: Jul-01-08 1:10 PM EST –

I'd like to improve my knowledge on the subject so I can make my own informed decission, which is why I'm looking for reading material. I included all of the other info because inevitably people ask, but I think that "averages" won't help much when it comes to purchasing sporting equipment. Its very individualized.

I've paddled the two boats that you say would be too large for me, and I liked them both very much. Granted, I haven't had a chance to paddle them in a surf--so there are naturally things that I won't know until I experience them--but I think I can do okay going with either of these boats. Also, two boats were also recommended by experienced kayakers who know me and who I've paddled with.

When I say I cannot fit into a composit Aquanaut, I am not exagerating in any way. The only thing I want to do when I get into that boat is to get back out again.

boat fit
"I’m not sure if that means a tigher fit around the seat / hips or if I’ll want less of a leg angle."

A well fitting sea kayak should fit like a pair of pants… but not like the ones you see kids wearing where they fall down and you can see their butt crack:)

And not like the pants I wore in the early 70’s that I would lie down and suck the tummy in to be able to zip up.

So - even that says there is a lot of variability.

If you have five points of good contact - butt, thigh’s and feet, then you are probably good to go.

When I first started paddling, my first glass boat was an Argonaut - old name for the Aquanaut HV - my butt was bigger than it is now. As I lost weight, my thigh braces were too close to my knee and it caused undue pressure there - so bad that I could barely walk in the morning… got a smaller boat and no more problem.

So - just be careful of where the thigh braces meet your legs and adjust if necessary.

I don’t remember ever seeing anything in writing as to boat fitting. You are going the right route asking experienced paddlers who can see you in the boat.


A brief article

articles on fit
In Nigel Foster’s video series he speaks about fit and says there should be about a finger’s width of space on either side of your hips to allow them some movement. I think that is pretty good advice. You also want your thighs to have a comfortable fit under the thigh braces. I’m 6’0", 175 lbs and find a very comfortable fit in one of my boats, a Solstice GTS. A very good friend of mine is 5’3", and in great shape (runs marathons). She is also thick and very strong. Her thighs do not fit comfortably under the thigh braces. Now if you throw out a 5’3" female marathoner vs. a 6’ male, people will definitely put suggestions out there that may not work. You get the point.

To figure an appropriate volume, take a look at the P&H website under download brochure at the loading chart. http://www.phseakayaks.com/cms/uploads/brochure07.pdf That will give you the optimal load weight for one of their boats. But beyond that, you simply have to sit in them. I find most boats comfortable to sit in, so I don’t know that there will only be a small selection of boats that you find comfortable. It could be that there will just be a few that definitely feel uncomfortable. If it’s true that the Quest is too high volume, I would suggest the Quest LV rather than a Capella if you found you like the Quest. They behave a little differently. I own a Capella, my friend owns a Quest LV. The Quest LV tracks better and is faster (the speed comparison is based upon my paddling of both boats, not myself vs my friend), and still responds great to leans, and I think the Quests are fantastic boats. I have a lot of fun in my Capella as well, but it is comparatively a little slower, and doesn’t track as well. Depends on what you’re looking for. I like to get in rough water and go for miles, so for an all-arounder for myself I prefer the Quest. The more squirrelly (compared to the Quest) Capella is sometimes my preferred when the order of the day is more playspot oriented. You can do any of it with either, and I believe the Capella is also a good all-arounder. I just lean one direction due to my typical paddles.

More directed to your knee position, in many cases I believe you will find a fish-form hull allows the greater knee angle. A fish-form’s widest point is right in front of you vs Swede-form right behind you vs neutral. If someone paddles Swede-form and switches to fish-form they might hit the sides of the boat in front of them with the paddle due to the extra width and adapted narrower stroke and comment negatively on it because of this. I paddle both and have never to this point ironed out a decided preference. I too find it can be nice to have a wider range of movement available to my legs (I can always straighten my legs, but can only bend them so far.)so I may understand where you’re coming from there.

I can’t really suggest a boat at this point due to never seeing or paddling with you, but good luck and have fun paddling.

The topic of fit is not simple, and there are at least a few kinds of fit questions you want to ask.

  1. Does the cockpit fit comfortably, yet allow me good control of the kayak?
  2. Does the hull volume fit my height, weight, and expected gear?
  3. Does the hull design fit my expected use?
  4. Does the price fit my financial picture?

    Nigel Foster’s video instruction series is a good one, and has a section on fit. He says, and I agree, that you want a fingers width space between your hips and the side of the seat. You should be able to straighten both legs, but still contact the pegs with your heals. When you are on the balls of your feet, you should be able to contact the thigh braces. You may need some padding for that. A lot of the control of a kayak is done with your feet and thighs, and you need to have a secure contact there. Most beginners underestimate the importance of good contact with the kayak, but if the hull is a good match, padding can usually take care of that.

    The seat should feel comfortable with good thigh support and the backband should give low central support - probably lower than feels comfortable at first.

    Re the weight/volume, kayaks are designed for an optimal weight with some margin. If you are too low or too high in the water, the boat will not handle as well, and won’t handle as well in tough conditions. If too much volume, getting back on board in a rescue could be a problem as you might not be able to swim up on the back deck if it is too high.

    As for hull design, you mentioned the Quest. A nice boat, but more designed for hauling gear, where the Capella is more of an all around boat. The Quest would also be perhaps too tippy for a beginner, where the Capella would probably not be. If you were going to be doing a lot of loaded camping, and straight line speed and tracking were very important, the Quest could be good. So first decide what type of kayaking you will be doing. For general purpose and beginning, a boat like the Tempest, Capella, or Aquanaut would be great.

    The beam of the kayak should fit your skill level. You want a boat that feels stable, but lively - a good compromise. Most kayakers initially go for too much stability, and want less as they progress. But that is no reason to start with a boat where you feel uncomfortable.

    On finances, if you have loads of money, go for the new composite boat. If money is an issue, most kayakers go through several boats as they progress and learn what they like. Then, it would be good to get a less expensive or used boat. Some shops will have generous trade in policies, and those are good places to look. Shops where the serious kayakers shop are usually the best places to look. Do a lot of demos and see if there are some local clubs where you can get some good advice. You will be spending a lot on necessary accessories in this sport. Save some money for lessons.

Maybe stand corrrected…
As others have said articles on fit are tough to find on the scale of other topics. Others can do better than me.

That said, a couple of things to consider. One is that the poly boats in some manufacturer’s lines are not exact copies of the same-named glass boats. I forget how it goes with Valley, but they may be one of the ones where the poly Aquanaut can’t be assumed to be exactly the same boat as the glass 'Naut. So you may need to sit in both.

Also, the place that most people find out abut fit is when they start to learn to roll. That more than anything else you can do seems to point out the what and why of those points of contact. Have you started this, or do you plan to this season? It’d answer a lot of your questions - if you are constantly sliding sideways trying to roll a boat up you have a fit issue whatever the books may say.

The last part may be particularly important for you, if you have female normal length legs attached to a torso that is tight in an Aquanaut. You may have to work a little harder to get it all right than the longer-legged guy who fits int he same boat.

Long legged women
In general women have longer legs and shorter torso’s proportionally than men do. This is something I learned when I got into cycling, where leg length has a large impact on bike sizing. I have very long legs even for a woman and a pretty short torso. In a world where sporting equipment is mostly still made with men in mind, this can mess things up.

I am 6’4" at …
… 190, waist 36" or so. And I found the Quest LV a very comfortable fit, ignoring my foot size 15 in that one particular boat that was too short as it was custom built and I was squished against the front bulkhead with my feet, which was too close). I think the regular Quest is even higher volume, and unless you are heavier than me, it will create handling and stability problems especially in windy conditions.

Higher knee position vs. a more straight leg position depends a lot on the space between your knees, the position of your feet (parallel or V-shaped and how much apart) and how your hip bones and soft tissues in the legs deal with this. This is very individual. For me, I can tollerate fairly straight legs comfortably but only if I have good foot room so that my feet are more vertical as opposed to with heels together in a wide V and if my knees are close to each other (narrow key-hole cockpit works well there). On the other hand, if I can bend my knees more in a high cockpit, I can spread my knees farther away from each other (like in a WW boat). But if I have to have my knees wide and my legs straight - this does not work for me at all - get cramps and sore muscles very fast.

Also, under hip support and back support changes a lot how long can you spend in the water, all else being equal. And each boat is different in this.

I think you should first of all aim to get the handling characteristics you are after, thus selecting a hull shape first. E.g. soft chine vs. hard chine, rockered vs. flat, low profile vs. higher volume etc. This will define how the boat handles. Once you figure out what interests you (e.g. straight tracking and speed or playfulness; stability vs. rough water/speed etc.) only then should you look into a class of boats that meet these criteria and look for the one that fits you best. With the right boat it will be worth it some customization to get it just as you want it.

For me, very few boats fit well from the factory. But with some changes to the seat, padding, or foot pegs they can be transformed from a torture device to a very nice fitting boats -:wink:

Wow, great info

– Last Updated: Jul-01-08 3:32 PM EST –

Thanks for taking the time to write all of that. This is very good info. I already have a really good idea of what type of paddling I want to do, at least in the next 3-4 years. I think that's a good period of time for me to get to know about paddling and make new decisions.

I'm a no-nonsense, straight-forward girl and somewhat curious. I want a boat that can take me forward in an efficient manner, getting from point A to point B in a straight line. I have an inclination to learn about the way water moves and what it does to a boat, but not so much playing. I'm not someone who will spend much time sideways. Also, I've been told that some people never learn to roll. I would guess that I will fit squarely into that camp. I'm not atheletic at all and not very flexible by nature.

Are you saying that your 5'3" friend feels tight in your boat?

I'm definately buying used for 2 reasons: 1) The boat that is right for me today will not be right for me in the future, 2) I have a maximum boat lenght of 16.5 imposed on me by a shared garage space. My ideal boat is probably longer than that.

I was going to wait 3 years to buy anything, but I'm frustrated by the fact that I can't paddle when I want and where I want and the cost of rentals. I'm already lamenting over the cost of the accessories, which I'm fast learning can cost darned near as much as the boat.

Eddyline Equinox

I see from your profile that you are a beginner who is into photography and getting away in flat waters. I am also assuming that you are a larger person from the boats you have tried.

One boat to take a look at would be the Eddyline Equinox. It is 14’ long and a nice compromise of handling and tracking. It is quite stable, which would be good for your photography. My wife had one of these for awhile. She has since moved on to more high performance kayaking, but we both found that Equinox a great starting boat with a large cockpit and cockpit opening.

A high volume boat can feel nice and roomy. Then you get it out in the wind and you have to work work work to control it. My advice: Demo boats on a very windy day. Paddle as little boat as is necessary.

how 'bout the Vela?
I know a 5’8" woman who paddles one.

Fit happens
Last year I was a happy 310 pound paddler in an Eddyline NH 17.5 and it fit well. Today I am a happier 235 pound paddler in the same boat. Most of my loss was let’s say from the spray skirt up. The boat still fits nicely and some of the stroke combos that were more challenging in the past for turning now come much easier and the boat is much more responsive with less in it. The deck seems bigger than in the past but in general I still like the boat. Maybe after I hit 200 I sell it and go with something sexy and fast, but I’ll paddle my pick up truck boat for now. Good luck with finding the perfect fit and your best boat.

Paddling a Prijon on Lake Michigan 7/3
I’m doing a fireworks paddle on Thursday. I get to choose between a Seayak, Kodiak or a Touryak. Not sure which one I’ll pick yet, but that’ll be fun. Suposed to have a 15 MPH wind.

point A to point B in straight line
my 5’3" friend felt a little snug, but more than that. The thigh braces come around nicely on that boat for a narrower leg. It’s fine if your leg is narrower than what it will allow, but if it’s just a bit wider, the edge will push into your leg at that point. I honestly would never have guessed it before she sat in it. One of those things that you can’t necessarily tell until you sit in it.

Based on your current paddling interest, I would find the comfortable fit in as close to the maximum length as you can, designed to perform well at the load weight that you determine. Point A to point B straighter line paddlers will attach more importance to tracking. Things like extra surface area above the waterline due to too much volume, and too much rocker in a boat designed more for turning easily and not for speed, will come into play. Try some on and post those that fit on here looking for folks who have paddled them and have experience with other boats as well for comparison’s sake. Length, volume, rocker, width…it’s hard to tell how they all come together without paddling and comparing, so hopefully this will be a great place for some help with that.

One thought - can you store on diagonal?

One boat not mentioned so far is NDK/SUK Romany. It comes in variety of deck heights, cockpit sizes. If foot pegs are a bit too close for comfort, you can take them out and pad front bulkhead for purchase

Just random comments:

Rolling may not be something that you can’t live without for the moment, but what makes a boat work well for rolling also makes it one that can be recovered well with a brace. So don’t disregard those parameters if you are planning more extensive trips in mor challenging water.

But heck - if surf is in your future you really should try to get a roll. I am still at the out of the boat stage myself in surf, probably will have that fixed by the end of the season since I seem to have straightened it out everywhere else including WW. But having been regularly ejected so far in the soup, I can tell you that not having that roll is an extremely limiting factor in what I can safely try and do in surf. It’s just plain not safe out there in the bigger stuff if you are going to be coming out of your boat at every capsize, and surf tends to create a lot of that.

As to proportions, yes women proportionately longer legs. But since the average woman is shorter than the average man the guys usually still end up taking more boat. (I have also been thru the bike fit thing.) And there is the volume thing, which is all about weight which the same size guy has more of because they usually have heavier bones. So, understood that you have been uncomfortable in some of these boats, but as someone said better than me above you also need to consider the issue of pushing around an over-volume boat for your weight in the water. We know of couples who have tried foaming out an overlarge boat for the less weighty woman, and somehow “her” boat always ends up for sale at the end of the season after she has discovered that pushing that much boat around is a drain.

Not to cast any aspersions on the folks you are dealing with locally, but is it being a little confusing. The advice you are getting to look a little smaller is based on some reasonable thought from people with significant time in big water.

Kajak Sport Viking ?
…if you could find one to demo may have a nice feel and good performance characteristics for you at 16’ 3". I haven’t paddled the Viking, but maybe someone here has? You can also look at the reviews on this site where people have listed some other boats that they compared it to that may also fit your criteria that you could try. Try as many as you can. I guess this one came to mind because I remembered seeing one for sale somewhere recently, but I couldn’t find the listing I was thinking of any longer. Just another suggestion of something to look for to try. I can’t call it a recommendation other than being happy with the quality of my Kajak Sport, and figuring it would be one of many I would be excited to demo given your criteria.