Narrow kayak

My wife and I just replaced our kayaks with a couple of new ones that are significantly narrower than our previous boats. They are a Perception Eclipse 14.5 and a Shadow 14.0. Both boats are roughly 22" wide. We dropped down from boats that were 28" and 26.5" wide respectively. I must say, I was very intimidated and felt very unstable. When the boat was in motion, it wasn’t so bad. We both had many hours out in our previous boats so we were not total greenhorns. It was our first time out in these boats, and it was a very calm, low to no current river. Shame on us for not testing them out before purchasing, but ice out was just a couple of weeks ago here. I am just concerned that I will never adjust to the tippyness of this boat. Is there any hope or should I just concede that I need a boat with more primary stability? Thanks for any and all feedback, even if you want to poke fun at me!

There is Hope
I recall that my first experience with a 22" boat was quite un-nerving, but as my skills progressed, I became more comfortable, and I now own a 22" boat. My only concern is that cold water. It may take some time to get used to it, which I did while the water was warm and a dump wasn’t dangerous.


Don’t despair!
Hang in there - you’ll get used to it.

I’ll never forget the first time I paddled a wildwater C-1, or a high kneel sprint, or a USCA OC-1, or, for that matter, even my first trips in my standard class OC-1 and my recently acquired Arctic Hawk (21" or so). Any of these boats can eventually feel like second nature to you. I’m already contemplating a narrower Greenland style kayak for my future, and I’ve only had the Hawk three or four weeks now.

Remember the first time you got on a bike without training wheels? I do - I figured there was no way in the world it was even possible to ride the confounded thing. I got past that, and even ended up racing on the things back in my younger days.

Stick with your boats. Do it in safe (warmish) conditions to start with. You’ll eventually wonder what the problem was.

I’ve never been uneasy in a
"narrower" kayak-guess I must be a natural!

You will adjust…
Neither of the boats you have chosen is particularly tender (tippy)for touring boats. Twenty-two inches is probably the most common beam for touring kayaks.

You will get used to the boats and be amazed in a relatively short time that you ever felt insecure in them.

Most touring boats have higher secondary than primary stability. They will feel more stable while moving foward and in water that is not perfectly flat.

Most, myself included, who now paddle boats that are 22 or less inches wide once paddled rec kayaks that were much beamier. We all had some adjustment time.

Practice your braces and do not be afraid to get wet. All paddlers have been ‘swimmers.’ It is good to practice wet exit and re-entries. Someday, you may master an Eskimo roll and then capsizing is not an issue.

In the meantime enjoy your new kayaks and the greater latitude and distance they provide beyond that of your previous boats.


– Last Updated: May-03-04 8:09 PM EST –

those boats actually are kind of tippy, the Eclipse14/Corona much moreso than the Shadow14/Sole. Beam measurments mean nothing compared to hull shape. The Eclipse14/Corona has a quick shift in stability with waves off the stern. I find that solid thigh/hip bracing is essential to controlling a rolly poly boat. It's a fairly rounded hull with a short waterline so the transition in waterline beam is quick.
You may find bracing useful, I found Derek Hutchinsons video inspiring.
I find a loose grip and relaxed hips most liberating. When your torso is able to rotate freely then your wrist joints can be in a neutral postion most of the time with a change in blade angle occuring from a change in elbow/forearm position. A tight grip tends to force your wrists into bearing pressure from poor angles,,,or missing the brace and WHOOPS.
Play with sweeping your blade in a big sloppy forward stroke so the blade skims a bit on the surface,,do the same with a reverse sweep with the back of the blade skimming the surface a bit. I find a relaxed sculling brace most liberating.
The aft deck on the Eclipse/Corona is a bit high which makes rescues especially fun in choppy water. Practice makes perfect!
If it makes you feel better I've taken people back to the dock to get into another kayak as they couldn't get comfortable in the Corona/Eclipse14.


language is imortant
many resist and try to find another way when the imperative is used. creative spirits want information and cringe under directives. lee bow current: lifter

I think you’ll get used to it
As someone who recently purchased a kayak that’s narrower than the boats I’d previously paddled and with less primary stability, I think you’ll get used to it.

At least you didn’t dump yours on the first trip out! :slight_smile: The first time I took my new boat out, the wind was blowing roughly 30-40 MPH and there was a fair amount of chop. I leaned a bit too far to do a draw stroke, caught a wave and then wasn’t prepared to brace so…over I went. A bit humbling but my buddy and I got a good laugh.

I’m glad you asked that
I’ve been having the same thoughts with my new Carolina. It feels tippy, yet I’ve found it’s really quite stable. My biggest fear right now is that the water here is still very cold so I’ve limited my time out in it to quiet days, calm water and experianced friends along. I know in warmer water and weather it won’t be an issue and I’m sure I’ll get comfortable in it. I plan to learn to roll it as I’ve heard they roll nicely. Beyond that, I have faith that I will grow to have a lot of fun with it. I look at it this way; an awful lot of people paddle these things. It MUST be doable. Good luck.

Great advice
given in most of the posts above IMHO!

The first kayak I ever purchased was a Corona. It is without a doubt the tippiest kayak I have ever paddled, and has very little primary and secondary stability. For our purposes, I define stability as resistance to being leaned.

That said, I really enjoy paddling it. The salesman at the outfitter gave me excellent advice which I will pass on to you! He said “alway keep your paddle in the water. Even when sitting still, keep the blade in the water and hold on to the shaft.”

LeeG is spot on with his relaxed grip and loose hips, and my trademark when paddling my Corona is the relaxed sculling brace whenever I’m not moving forward.

My advice would be to keep the kayak for now, paddle it all you can, and hopefully you’ll adjust to the point that you won’t even notice it. I was at an outfitter last weekend and saw where they had a brand new Corona for sale, marked down to $895, as its been discontinued and replaced by the Eclipse 14.5. As my Corona is getting a bit worn, I thought about buying it, but put the thought quickly out of my mind as my wife would shoot me if bought another kayak.

Good Luck!!


Learning to use it
The “tippyness” lets the boat respond easily to waves, but you’ll have to learn to let the boat move under you while you stay comfortably upright. Here’s a simple exercise that helps get you loosened up when you’re starting out: Sitting in your boat, hold your paddle parallel to the water at shoulder height, elbows down. Using your hips, rock the boat from one side to the other while keeping the paddle parallel to the water. This forces you to bend and edge instead of leaning. Start small and gradually increase the range of motion as you get comfortable – eventually you’ll be putting the seam in the water. If you overbalance, your paddle is already perfectly positioned for a high brace.

I still do this every time I get in my boat, and whenever I start to tense up. Once you learn to relax your hips it’s fun to feel the boat rolling underneath you as waves pass – sort of like the difference between a motorcycle and a car.

You will get it.

– Last Updated: May-04-04 8:27 AM EST –

It's all about keeping the head up, shoulders horizontal, and letting you hips do whateve4r happens.

It's all about having a blade in the water. Every stroke gives a small brace.

Whe I first paddled an explorer, I loved it but though it was too tippy. I said "It will take me a full season to learn to paddle this boat." SO I bought a (fine) slightly wider boat. Three months later I got a good deal on an explorer. After about six hours of lake practice later she became my first choice for most ocean paddling.

I am not a talented kayaker, far from it. So what I can do (with a bit of time and some fun work), you can do. Just give the new boat a chance. Learn where the edge is by staying near the dock, having your hands above it, and (keeping head and shoulders level) tilting the hips but holding your balance. Touch the dock lightly and bring up the lower knee if you lose it Do it on both sides. and get some good instruction, from a pro if budget allows, fron a paddling club if not.

good paddling to you, and let us know either way. My bet is on your total success.

Give it some time and
stay closer to shore until the water warms up.

I started with 25" beams, then a 24", then a 23", and now paddle a 21.5" wide kayak. Like another poster said, the hull design probably affects ‘tippiness’ as much or more than anything. My boat is a WS T165 which is really pretty stable. I’m fairly tall at 6’2" so I found it less stable in the primary arena than a paddler who is 5’8" would realise in the same boat. Lowering your seat will improve stability but I’d wait until you are more in tune with the boat before considering any mods such as this.

The narrow boats are always going to require more attention entering and exiting but the trade-off of improved rough water handling, edgability (is that a word?!), etc., are definitely worth the difference in primary stability.

As mentioned, keep the hips loose and watch your posture. Lighten up a bit on your stroke for a while and ‘feel’ the relationship between your blade, your boat, and the water.

During day trips, get in and out a lot. Explore, stretch the legs,… and practice getting under way again.

A good exercise for WARM water or shallow colder water is to sit astride your boat on the rear deck just aft of the cockpit. Let your feet relax in the cockpit and try paddling… carefully! Yep, you’re gonna tip over once or twice. But, you’re also going to feel the importance of posture and the benefit of careful slow paddle strokes.

I bet you will become comfortable with your boats in the very near future… and then we’ll all have to listen to your diatribe with regard to the obvious superiority of 22" kayaks. :slight_smile:

Pleasant waters.


28" to 21"

– Last Updated: May-04-04 1:35 AM EST –

I went fro a 28" SOT to a 21" SINK a year ago. The differnce was a bit extreme. Light chop and smallish wakes were nreve racking first paddle. The difference between now and then is HUGE. I can sit with paddle up in much bigger wakes and chops and just bob in it now. Waves even easier and more fun. The more active the water the more the narrower hull becomes and advantage.

I still have much to learn - but didn't take all that much to feel OK. Only one thing required - seat time! Stay with it.

Thing to keep in mind: Stay loose and trust the boat!!! Tensing up intensifies the sensation of instability and decreases your reaction time and ability to move and flow with the boat.

I have an 18" ski now. Haven't had it out much yet - and can barely keep it upright at all. Short runs, calm water, lots of remounts - but man how it makes that 21" sea kayak seem rock steady!!!

That’s a bit of a jump

– Last Updated: May-03-04 11:45 PM EST –

My progression was: 28" - 23.5 - 21.75 - 20 - 19", the 19" boat feels just right. These are all hard-chined boats and have good stability characteristics though.

You'll get used to it and learn to enjoy the "freedom" of a narrower boat. IMO, the more boat your in the more it feels like you're in a boat (does that sound right?)

Again - Stay Loose and let the boat do it's thing. They only capsize with paddlers in them.

Work on that technique!

I would not paddle any…
kayak or canoe that I felt uneasy in.

That is an accident waiting to happen.

With that said; why not paddle your older kayaks until the water gets nice and warm. Then switch to the new ones, and just play around in water that is not over your head and see if after some time in them you can adjust.

If you can’t, I suggest you get rid of them and try some others out until you find ones that you are comfortable in.



Or short, with a very low CG!!! L

Yep, you must hve no fear of
discomfort or embarrasment with regards to going over. Warm water, and/or right gear, and ability to smoothly remount good rescues and or nearby spot for it are important with a challenging new boat

Unlike Jack, I usually buy boats that I am a bit beneath but whose cockpit and maneuverability and other handling characteristics are desirable for me. Then I work till my skills grow into them. Different approaches, both common within paddling circles.

Narrower boat?
Been there. My money is on you folks getting used to those boats. Every time out will be a little better 'til they are totally easy to relax in. But, as others have warned, stay in warm sheltered waters, preferably near shore 'til you’re more comfortable in them. Good luck.

We should put a sandbag on the ladies shoulders and put them in 3" narrower boats so they can feel what a guy’s higher CG is like!