Looking to "be one with the kayak". Fit, comfort, and kayak advice

Hello. I’m looking for advice on which kayak would be best suited for me. Thanks in advance!

I’m a newer paddler but experienced athlete in the world of endurance long-distance running. I bought myself and my wife some rec kayaks a few months ago - a Perception Swifty 9.5 DLX and very quickly fell in love with paddling and that I wanted to get out there and do longer days. I figured it would be wise to get a rec/touring style and went for an Eddyline Skylark (12ft).

I live in Phoenix, Arizona so there aren’t any dealers around to try one out. From the reviews, I was confident it would be a great choice. Super amped, I did a special order at REI and picked it up. I’ve now done a 50k overnight camping trip in Lake Powell with it, among many other shorter/medium-length day trips. I live about a mile from a 4-mile town lake so I can get in and paddle whenever I please. It’s pretty easy to get in a lot of hours in because of that.

My issue is that I can’t seem to get a good fit in it. I’m a male - 5’8", 125lb, small build/hips, lean. Essentially a long-distance runner build. I tend to get low back pain pretty soon into a session, particularly the left side. I’ve had it worked on (massage) and been working on stretches to help. The boat doesn’t really seem to “fit” me or feel like I’m part of the boat. I have a good deal of room in the hips and don’t have much of a place use to brace my legs to help take the pressure off my back. I have a decent core from running so maybe I’m missing something. I’ve adjusted the footpegs, back rest(up and down, relaxed and straight), and my posture in many different ways and still haven’t gotten something working.

I freakin’ love paddling and realized since doing this longer paddle at Lake Powell that I really want to be striving to do longer tours when I can. Now, I’m thinking… shoot. I probably should have gotten something different but I wouldn’t have known.

Given this information, does anyone have any advice on something that would help me achieve that feeling that the kayak is part of me, and additionally the back issues (probably related?). I saw a Delta 15 ft, at my local REI the other week, which must have been a special order someone bailed on. I’m starting to drool over it but I do realize just buying something isn’t always the answer so I don’t want you to think I’m in it for gear lust.

That’s a lot of information, I apologize. I hope I included enough to help. Thanks so much my fellow paddlers!

The first boat that came to mind was a used QCC 600, they are out there and great for your size.
I have also seen smaller people do well in an Epic 18.or even a Epic 16
It’s fun to go fast.

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General fit, particularly hips: One can purchase closed mini-cell foam in kits intended to help the kayak fit e.g. from nrs.com. They even have an instructional video to check out, before you buy.

Back pain #1: Some people get relief by putting something under the legs just fore the seat. This worked for my wife. There is a product maybe called something like kayak thigh cushion. But you can just stuff something in a dry bag or two, just to try it out.

Back pain #2: In my case, I have a compromised lower back. Many back bands in kayaks just don’t work for me. In that case I must reconfigure or replace the back band with some diy attempt. As a counter example, I have a P&H Cetus whose seat and back support work fine out of the box.

I would check a couple of articles in back issues of California Kayaker Magazine (can be read online at http://calkayakermag.com/magazine.html). Specifically the article on different boat types in issue 10 so you can understand the different types of kayaks. The kayaks @grayhawk mentioned are mostly surf skis. Given your athletic background, surf skis may be what you’d want, but they also are not necessarily the best when it comes to finding comfortable seated positions and for doing things like kayak camping.

And also the article on outfitting your boats - seats in issue 4. This talks about some options for the back pain #1 option which @rsevenic mentions.

The more expensive kayaks generally do come with better seats. Better as in more adjustable, and padding in good places.

For a boat to fit you, you will want a low volume boat sea kayak. Rec style boats won’t do that. You’ll need narrow and low deck.

Great suggestions - thanks for the links.

It sounds like it’s either modifying with the above or something that is more suited to a paddler of my size.

Thanks for the link!

I realize now that have an adjustable seat (forward/back) in more expensive models, and having structures that support your knees/hips would likely help out a lot. That’s in addition to stretching. It looks like Delta Kayaks and Eddyline, as I’m sure others would as well.

The Skylark seems like a nice boat. Have you checked to see if the seat has adjustments for the part of the seat that is right under the thighs? Most better recreational/touring kayak seats have this. I find that if I adjust this periodically during a paddle BEFORE I start having pain it can ward off pain.

If you do decide to buy another kayak, you need to test it out first before plunking down the cash because you know you have a potential problem. Rentals are a good way to do this if you have an outfitter in your area that utlizes boats that interest you. Outfitters used to have occasional demo days on the lake but most of those have stopped during Covid-fest.

Did you buy your Eddyline from REI? If so and it has been less than a year, you can still return it under their satisfaction guarantee. It would be a win-win if you were able to take the previously returned Delta off their hands.

The Skylark is a rec boat and does not have a sliding seat. I can understand soleandpaddle’s issue, as a used Skylark was my second kayak and judging from his body description, the cockpit is too large to fit him well. It was too large for me (5’4" 115#) but I didn’t realize how a kayak should fit until I moved into a 22" wide kayak where I had good contact with my hips, thighs and knees.

Also, back rests are a PITA. Not comfortable and get in the way of a re-entry. A backband is a much better option.

@soleandpaddle. Not a thing wrong with lusting for good gear that fits well. I went through three kayaks the first year I started paddling. Then two more after that. See if you can demo that Delta. :slightly_smiling_face:

I did buy it at REI, yep. But man… I’d feel like a pretty big turd if I returned a boat that I have a good deal of hours in. I’ll drop by and see if that Delta is still there, talk to a rep and see what they say about my situation. That might make me feel better.

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Hey, thanks! Glad to know that I’m not the only one. It sounds like you know exactly where I’m coming from. Exactly, I didn’t realize either and now I’m here… ha. It’s hard because you come to a series of realizations and then people think you’re crazy. I’ll check in at REI and see what I can do. We have some decent lakes here in Arizona, but not dealers to test on the water, unfortunately. I’ll see what I can do.

Curious… may I ask what your kayaks you referred to that you went through?

If you find a boat that’s a close fit you can “foam it out” and make it fit perfect.

If you are open to getting a new boat, you should definitely check out the Eddyline Sitka ST. It is a low volume and fairly narrow boat that is 13’9" long. My wife paddles one and loves it. I find the cockpit too snug and I am 5’7", but 160 lbs. It has adjustable foot pegs and a seat that slides forward and back quite a bit. It also has fixed thigh braces (to which you can adjust by moving the seat) and hip pads that again were a bit narrow for me, but might fit you well. I ended up with the Eddyline Sitka LT which is the middle size Sitka.

We upgraded from 12’ Oru folding kayaks and were amazed by how much faster, smoother and more comfortable the Eddylines are. They also have highly adjustable seat backs, so that might help you as well.

Good luck.


Hi, soleandpaddle, welcome to the forums!

I don’t know what will work for you, but I do suggest that your back pain is a separate issue from the extra space/lack of “fit” issue. A snug fit is important in a sea kayak not because it helps with back pain but because it helps you control the boat better in rough seas.

Some of the best-fitting sea kayaks are the worst for low-back support because they are designed to make “rolling” the kayak easy. “Rolling” is what many good kayakers do to get a capsized kayak back upright without ever leaving the seat. A technique that began with the Inuit, who kayaked in seas so cold it was a death sentence to exit the kayak in the water.

I have such a kayak (a Current Designs Caribou), which I love but which can cause low back pain if I spend too much time in it. I also have a Hobie Revolution 13 pedal kayak with the adjustable-lumbar-support beach-chair seat. No back pain there. Not one bit. Of course, the high back makes paddling it with the paddle feel clumsy - the seat back interferes with the torso rotation needed for strong, efficient paddling. But the seat is perfect for pedaling.

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The ones he mentioned are kayaks


I was looking at the Sitka ST, it looked like it checked a lot of boxes. I like that it’s 14 ft, I don’t think my wife would he happy with anything bigger than 15 ft on her Forester. Plus, I think anything over would be too heavy for comfort for me to carry and unwieldy, but I could be wrong!

Thanks for the input on the LT as well.

Thanks! I appreciate the information and your input.

First was a Necky 10’’ rec boat. Fat, slow and boring.

Six weeks later the used Skylark. I needed a boat with two sealed bulkheads for my ACA Ll 1 class. Learned the paddle float re-entry with the Skylark. Only contact I had with that boat was with the foot pegs. It’s now happily paddled by a relative who is much heavier and fits it well.

Local outfitter had an Eddyline Samba (now called Sitka ST) on display that I had been looking at. 14’ and 22" beam. I sat in it inside the display room and discovered what it’s like to “wear” a boat. Later they brought it down to the harbor and told me to go paddle and have fun (no time limit). I bought that boat and still have it.

Samba was followed by an Eddyline Fathom LV from the same outfitter. Another great fit; length and width more appropriate for the Great Lakes. While the advice is always to purchased used, used LV boats are not common in my area so to move forward, I had no choice but to buy new.

Last boat purchase was serendipity. A CD Prana LV in kevlar that had been a demo boat. I didn’t need another kayak but after paddling it, couldn’t pass by. Adding hip pads and building up the thigh braces improved the fit.

Your local REI certainly should allow you to sit inside any of their boats in the store. That will give you a fair idea of fit. And if your Skylark has no scratches on the hull or deck, you should be able to give it a good bath and polish so it looks like new in case you want to try to return it or use it as a trade-in.

Are you anywhere near Lake Mead or White HIlls, AZ?

One thing I forgot to add: what I didn’t like about the Samba was the seat back. Removed it and installed a back band.

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We carry 2 kayaks on our 2014 Forester, one is 17’ long and the other is 17’ 9". They weigh just under 50 pounds apiece ( scored used kevlar and used kevlar/carbon). The Forester carries them easily with bow and stern ropes in addition to securing them at the J Bars with straps. I turn 80 this year and am relatively puny, but leverage is the key to getting kayaks on the car rack.

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I had a similar journey, starting with a way-too-large kayak (Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145) and thinking, hey, this is fun, and wouldn’t it be even more fun if I didn’t feel like I was sitting in a bathtub? Then I got a much better boat (Venture Easky 15 LV), and then a better one still, (Valley Avocet RM), largely thanks to reading this board. Finally I passed the Avocet on to my spouse, who is larger than I, and got another still, so now I have a pretty great kayak, an Impex Montauk, though I still might like to shave an inch off its width. If you search here for threads on kayaks for smaller paddlers you’ll get some lists of good boats. Once you have a list of boats suitable for lighter folks, you can keep a good eye on the used market in your area and be ready to pounce.

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