Narrow kayak

Work on lower body “attitude”

– Last Updated: May-04-04 1:57 PM EST –

I went from 26" to 22" beam after a year. The 22" boat felt much, much better to me (plenty stable, not so wallowy/bargey), but we are talking about different boats and different people. I am short (5'2"), which in itself helps stability.

It probably would help to focus first on both psychological factors and on lower/middle body attitude.

If you have not taken any paddling lessons, that will probably help. At the very least, they will teach you how to deal with wet exits and re-entries. Once you have learned those, the psychological bugaboos associated with tipping will be less boisterous.

Also, do you know how to swim? My impression is that the people who are most fearful of tipping turn out to be those who do not know how to swim. If you are uptight, you are more likely to transmit that tenseness to the boat; it's not only a matter of whether the hull is tippy but how you respond to its feel.

An exercise that I enjoy--it makes me feel like the boat is an extension of myself--is to sit in it in shallow water and hand-paddle it: forward stroke, backward stroke, turning including leaned turns substituting hand for paddle blade. Of course, the hand/arm does not give as much oomph as a paddle, but it does more than you might think, especially combined with a lean. For the forward stroke and reverse stroke, I use both sides at once for obvious reasons. I find this exercise analagous to x-c skiing without poles (on flat ground). It focuses your attention on your lower body and its tremendous effect on what happens. Once you have the lower/middle body relaxed and ready, add in the arms and paddle/ski pole.

That’s a funny thing about the Perception boat, I have been paddling narrow boats for several years - mostly CD Caribou and Extreme, which are narrower than the Perception, but when I took a lesson in a Perception, it felt like I had to put more energy into staying upright than into mastering strokes. Maybe it was just an illusion, although others in the lesson reported a similar sensation. Hopefully it will subside with use, but personally I would not want to have my “everyday” boat require that I always have a paddle in the water to stay upright

Accident Prone
When you are accident prone, it does not matterhow wide the kayak is.

No way!
It’s the terrific thing about my hips… don’t take that away from me!

reasons to hang in there
Something must have motivated you to make a kayak update. Faster? More maneuverable or seaworthy? Looking for more challenges/reached the top of the “learning curve” in your wider boats?

Regardless, you’ll get it eventually. Getting to that point may require some lessons, experimentation at finding the limits of balance, etc. As you do so, you will become more familiar with those limits, and how you can use the perceived “tippyness” (which will become responsiveness) to your advantage. You may also appreciate the greater speed for given effort, the greater distances you can cover, or rougher conditions that become manageable.

I had a similar experience when starting out and jumping from a 14’ x 26" to a 17.5’ x 21" kayak. I remember the second thoughts but halfway through the season I had completely changed my mind, with no more than a basics lesson and a lot of playing around.

Best of luck and I bet you get to that point also.

Narrow Kayak
Wow! I am overwhelmed by the responses to my post. I thank each and every one of you for your guidance and for sharing your experiences. After giving it much thought, I will try again. But, I will let the water warm up a little bit as it is still in the mid 40’s now. Too cold for any swimming just yet.

I guess I needed to hear all the feedback and process what was going on. I stopped and thought about how some of my former ski school students must have felt when they first cam to class and flet like Bambi on the frozen pond. They too often felt that they would never get it after having a rough first experiance, but they hung in there and sure einough, they improved and progressed.

So, I will give it a go! I really like the quality of this boat and would hate to give it up. I will keep you posted.

Happy Kayaking to one and all!


Bill, where are you from? Are you in New England? I’m an avid skier and just wondering if I might have crossed paths with you at some point.

Narrow Kayaks
Dancingmouse, I am from Central Maine. We ski predominately at Sunday River as it is less than an hour away. Where do you normally ski? Maybe we have crossed paths along the way.

I Ski Black Mountain
Sunday River is just too darn expensive and too big to track my kids.

I’ll be up at my camp in Andover in the last week of May. Will try to post a get together for touring and white water in the Get Together Forum soon. Lake Richardson, Lake Umbagog, Upper Androscoggin River and lovely Roxbury Pond are all within 30 minutes or less from the camp and beautiful for touring. Androscoggin/Errol Rapids is a great playhole. Androscoggin below Pontook Dam is a straightforward class II that can take 2-4 hours to run, depending on the amount of play.


Paddling location

We paddle mid-coast Maine most of July. You planning any coastal paddling?

drastic change
My change was from a 33" Pamlico, to a 22" touring model. Talk about a wake up call!. These guys are right when they say, time will help. I feel more confident each time I go out.

I’m from NW CT. I ski mostly Mohawk Mt. but get up to VT at least once a year, and usually try for twice. Didn’t get there this year as end of season trip was cut off by a knee sprain (not ski related.) If you have ever seen someone in a Green Mohawk hat (yeah, the hairstyle on the hat), skiing on neon ballet skis, no poles and yodeling, you have crossed paths with Mohawk Mts. “Happy Yodeler.”

Turn over it them
If you turn the boats over on purpose you will get a feel for the point of no return. I suspect you are further away from tipping than you believe. Have your partner stand in chest deep water and catch your hands as you turn over. Get use to the point of no return and learn to brace. You will learn to love the boats and will never want to go back. At least that is what happened to me.