Narrow Kayak for Beginner? (small lady)

Would it be better to start a beginner on a 28" wide kayak like a Pelican Pursuit 80 to get a feel for it or go straight to the 21" good handling boat? My wife is very petite, a hair under 5 feet and 95 lbs. I have read many positive reviews of the Tsunami SP and it sounds great other than the 21" width. She has only paddled the kids SOT’s and likes the high initial stability. I don’t want to put her off by getting a boat that is too tippy to start with (she does not want to get wet). Buy the cheap one to use for a month or put the money into the good one straight away?

Better boat
Buy the better boat so she fits in the cockpit and if she finds it too initially tippy then tie a paddle float to either side like training wheels.

Take a look at the QCC-10X

– Last Updated: Aug-09-11 9:44 PM EST –

It is 21" wide and an awesome boat for someone her size.
The best thing about buying one, is if it is too tippy for her, and she doesn't like it, she can return it in the first month for a full refund

Jack L


– Last Updated: Aug-09-11 8:27 PM EST –

What are her kayaking goals?

The Tsunami SP is a great boat for a small paddler who wants to develop paddling skills suitable for rougher water. That involves getting wet. If she just wants to mosey along on flat water and stay dry she MIGHT be happier with a wider boat.

The problem with small paddlers and wide kayaks is that the width forces a small person to use a very inefficient stroke. Add the extra drag of the wider boat, and she's going to have even more trouble keeping up with other folks if that's important. Smaller people do need smaller boats to be comfortable and efficient.

A 28" boat is going to be huge for her. It's a beginner boat for people twice her size.

You might consider something like the Perception Acadia Scout, which is a "beginner boat" for people her size.

Most people find that "tippy" boats feel much more stable with some time on the water. Good instruction can shorten the learning curve.

It'll also be important to get a paddle that fits. A standard adult paddle will be huge and awkward for her.

My wife is 5'0", and likes her narrow boat. She's faster in it than she was in a bigger boat. But she likes getting wet and wanted to roll, and not everybody does.

What is your budget?
See what you think of this:

It’s a water sport…
…and she should expect to get wet no matter if she’s on a wide or narrow boat. And 21 inches is the way to go… unless she just wants to drift around and go with the flow.

We don’t have any goals really because we are just getting started. We bought the kids a couple of Pelican Solos and she really liked using them. Kayaking seems like a great sport for the whole family and we thought we would try. We would like to follow the kids around the lake shore and do some trips together, maybe a paddle down the Peace river (very slow) and I would like to fish from mine. We live a long way from any kayak stores so this website has been an amazing resource and I have relied on the advice to learn a little. She initially wanted a sit on top but all the reading I did here said to pick a boat that fit the paddler. That she would quickly tire of the limited performance the bath tub style. What I don’t know is if the narrow width is too tippy to start with for a beginner. When I say she doesn’t want to get wet I should clarify she does not like being cold. If we buy a boat with good performance and she dumps it regularly for the first while she won’t be happy. I hadn’t considered outriggers or floats of any kind, thats an excellent idea. As for a budget I am pretty flexible since I don’t think these things wear out very quickly. I’d just like to get her the right one that she really likes. Where I live there are lots of great places to use a kayak, just no where to buy one. Oh I eliminated and of the composite or glass boats like the CD Raven because kids like to play bumper boats. I do like the sound of the Delta 10, just wish it was a little smaller.

for the suggestion but I don’t want to go bigger than 12 feet because we will mostly be with the kids and turning in circles.

Check West Coast Paddler…
…board for some good info, and boats for sale in BC. Good BC info source…and you might find a used small-volume boat that’d suit your wife’s needs…

Re the 21" beam - tippy is a relative term. Some kayaks are ‘skittish’ when at rest - kinda twitchy - but become far more stable when in motion. Others can feel a little unstable moving in calm water, but come into their own when things roughen up.

A 28" beam should be rock-steady stable, but it’ll also be a bear for a smaller paddler to handle - slow, awkward, and maybe a handful if the wind comes up. My wife’s first boat, a Cape Horn 15, is a great entry level sea kayak - and she loved it - until she got her narrower, faster, more-fun-to-handle VOLKSKAYAK, with at least two inches less beam. If your wife can adjust to the narrower, smaller kayak, she’ll be a better and happier paddler for it. I’d be inclined to look for a low-volume boat that fits her well - getting the seat really low, and good solid contact with the hips and knees, can make a BIG difference.

Narrow? Yes.
Narrow is relative. The Tsunami sp is a fine boat and she will not find it unstable. She is small enough that the width of the boat will be equivalent to a wider boat for bigger folks. Also look at crossover boats like the Dagger Alchemy, which compromises to favor the sea kayak end of things. The Liquid Logic Remix XP9 might work as well but emphasizes the whitewater end of things. If she wants maneuverability go with a crossover boat that is shorter. If she wants to easily paddle straight, go with one that is longer. All will be very stable at her size.

The key here seems to be…
chasing the kids. How old are they? Can you keep up with them in a few years?

If your wife has a good sense of balance, she will learn the balance part quickly. Paddling a good efficient boat just makes it so much more fun, and she’ll be able to easily keep up with kids as long as they’re still paddling Pelicans.

Some of the boats mentioned by others are good choices, I’ll add one, the Northshore Fuego.

some reviews here…


If she stays dry…

– Last Updated: Aug-09-11 11:04 PM EST –

does that mean that you can't get her (and you) to some place to learn rescues? (which practice usually starts by falling out of the boat and getting wet)

If being cold is the issue, spend the money on the right clothes for her to end up in the water and not be chilled. That one seems to have a simple solution. One partner of two paddlers being unwilling to get wet is a problem, especially if you are both responsible for kids.

You may want to try and resolve that one before buying a boat for her, even if it means a few expenditures for good wet wear or at least semi-dry wear, and maybe some lessons in rescues. If she does learn that a capsize is no big deal it'll make the aptly sized boat easier for her to be comfortable with.

our kids
Our kids are 7 and 9, our little guy is currently just splashing around and following his sister. Our daughter is ready to start exploring and always asks how far she can go and we pick a landmark. We are 37 and reasonable fit, it would be a proud day for us if we could not keep up.

My wife and I sat down and read through the responses and discussed goals together. Where as I was focused on learning to be a good paddler and the performance side of things she said she justs wants to get out and have fun with no interest in learning roll. If not for the wind here and the colder weather I think a SOT would fit her needs well. That got us looking at the Delta 10 again. Made in Canada, a catamaran hull which I think would not matter so much having a light paddler? And with the 27" width should be extremely stable for her. I like that the website below lists ideal weights for paddlers and she is a little low, but close. Opinions?

learning rescues will be a must, we are new to kayaking not the outdoors. Maybe a better description is a fair weather paddler and if there is less chance of her getting cold and wet she’ll come out more. Sorry if I was unclear.

Here is a suggestion
a Perception Tribute 12 It is an in between tippy and super wide. I put many people who were beginners in it this past weekend at a regatta and it was well liked as it wasn’t a wide tub but gave them some confidence. It may just be a good choice for her. I like it myself for a lighter weight easier to carry boat - yet I paddle a 21 1/2" boat mostly. (considering on buying one)

Focus on Your Goals
A lot of the sea kayakers here (and I admit, I’m one of them) try to get people into better performing boats. And that’s not a bad thing. But focus on what’s best for you. If you goal is to have boats to float around with the kids, then having a boat that’s less tippy when in motion isn’t going to help you because there will be a lot of time spent not really “moving.” Nevertheless, get a good quality boat that’s more on the narrow side so it has capability for skill growth. The kids can grow into it and your wife can upgrade later. For now, focus on what fits your needs and, by all means, take some classes (even if it means getting a baby sitter for the weekend and traveling somewhere). Both of you being comfortable and knowledgeable about rescues and sometimes getting wet will be safer for your kids and make it less likely that her anxiety or your anxiety will transfer to the kids.

“Tippy” doesn’t mean what you think

– Last Updated: Aug-10-11 12:16 AM EST –

Its important to understand that the "tippiness" that people feel anxious about in narrower kayaks doesn't mean that the paddler is going to be capsizing in it regularly.

Narrower boats with their more vee'd hulls just FEEL wiggly at first (I prefer "wiggly" to "tippy"). They are not like the old round hulled whitewater kayaks that would roll over easily. It takes a little messing around in them to realize that you can lean over quite a ways in one of them and they DON'T go over -- in fact most touring kayaks will rest quite comfortably on one side. In fact you lean them to turn. That's what is called secondary stability. In fact, many wider boats that may feel more solid on flat water can actually capsize more readily if hit broadside by a strong wave or large power boat wake whereas a narrower boat with good secondary you can just brace on its side and ride up and over the wave.

In 10 years of regular kayaking in a mix of waters including the ocean and Great Lakes, using touring boats from 19 1/2" to 24", I have only ever capsized unintentionally 3 times, once from being caught by unexpected waves out in conditions I doubt your family would ever encounter and twice from goofing around and overextending myself beyond the cockpit.

When I have WANTED to capsize, to practice re-entry or rolling, I have had to make a conscious effort to roll the boat under. This is harder for a shorter person (particularly females) to do because we have less leverage above the waterline and have a lower center of gravity in most cases A 20" wide kayak scaled to someone her size is going to have the same geometry as a 25" one scaled a 6' 200 lb guy.

Just because a boat feels a bit looser when you first sit in it doesn't mean it is inherently unstable and will easily capsize. I doubt, based on what conditions you are planning to paddle, that she would be capsizing the narrower kayak at all.

It's like going from a cruiser bike with training wheels to a 10 speed when you were a kid. Sure it felt a little twitchy at first to lean into turns, but did you regularly fall off of it? I'm guessing no.

Another important factor in a person enjoying a kayak is the ability for them to carry and load it themselves. I'm sure you would like to think you will always be there to handle the boat for her, but that does inherently limit her usage of it. Wider boats are heavier and SOT's are heavier and more awkward for shorter folks to manhandle.

Narrower boats are just much nicer to paddle, IMHO. A shorter person has to really reach to paddle a wide boat and it can be tiring. I like being able to glide along with minimal effort and a comfortable low angle stroke without banging my knuckles on too-wide gunwales. And I appreciate being able to easily rest my paddle flat on the water beside me like a pontoon when I am just drifting. My 21" wide low profile touring kayak is perfect geometry for me in that way. And with a spray skirt and paddle jacket on I stay pretty cozy and dry most of the time in placid waters.

That looks like a nice option.
Reasonable weight and price.

Thank you all for the responses and suggestions, this place is amazing. The perception tribute was actually on the short list of smaller paddler’s models I was looking at. I was just reading about the catamaran type hull used on the Delta SOT model that they based the 10 on and the pictures look great for stability. See page 3 for capacity.

After reading about the 12.5 it sounds like the 10 should track and glide even with a light weight user.

Nice description
Nice description of stability Willowleaf, thank you.