P&H Volan vs Stellar S14 G2

The last few years am getting quite strong and have gotten to the point where I think I am maxing out on shorter touring kayaks. We found a smattering of boats secondhand through the years from a Wilderness Northstar which is fast and stable but obnoxiously heavy to a pair of Tsunami 120/125’s. Just before the coronacraziness I got a lightly used Stellar S12. Am comfortable with all these boats but I feel for the most part I am faster than these boats are.

I train and exercise a LOT, including TRX, core and steel mace workouts, can paddle 3-4 hours without being sore (did that yesterday) and have been paddling for ~16 years. I got lessons and plenty of seat time unfortunately I just don’t feel that stable or secure in boats that are fast enough for my strength and endurance abilities. Could it be that I am 6’5" and 190lbs is being too tall for narrow thus efficient boats?

I am this close to pulling the trigger on a Stellar S14 G2 that I tried over the weekend it is quite responsive and slightly tippy but even in some wind and waves I can deal with that, it’s 24.5" wide so not that wide but not too narrow. The wife and I might take advantage of these selling conditions to offload an old boat or two but there was another boat that caught my interest.

Anyone know anything about the P&H Volan? How does it compare to the G2 Stellar S14? It’s a little longer thus faster but the 23" width gives me pause. I have paddled a couple boats that narrow but I end up having to paddle at a faster cadence and have to watch my every move constantly worrying about flipping the damn thing which takes the fun away. I know the hull shape also dictates a lot; how is the Volan, anyone ever try one?

The Volan is a very different boat than the Stellar. Be careful of making assumptions on speed based solely on overall length - the Stellar is most definitely the faster boat of the two for several reasons. The length that matters is waterline length, not overall length, and the hull’s shape will influence speed as well. While the Volan isn’t as much of a playboat as the P&H Delphin, it has more rocker than the Stellar - the Volan is meant to be maneuverable while the Stellar is meant more to go in a straight line.

Besides that, I think you should probably be looking at something longer than 14’ unless you have a storage constraint. Honestly 14’ isn’t all that much different from the 12’ you are used to. If you really want to cover distance a 17’-18’ kayak is where you will end up eventually - why not just start there?

There is another thread going right now (that I think you just replied to) about sea kayaks for bigger guys. There are options out there for people your size, and I would strongly recommend getting some formal instruction as well.

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The issue with “longer” boats is they are all skinny therefore tippy. I did see that post and wrote on it. My handicap is that I am very tall. Been working on balance and lots of things but it’s kind of a glass ceiling at this point. I think the skinner boats are so tippy that at a certain point having to concentrate that much makes paddling less fun. That is why I was curious about the Volan and its blend of stability/speed.

I did try the Stellar S16 (G1) maybe ~3 years ago and I couldn’t get in it without flipping it. It was so nervous and tippy I knew I’d never be able to paddle it or make meaningful forward motion without flipping it again so immediately got out. I am a better paddler now but not that much better. That boat was 21 inches wide, yikes!

You do gain stability with length as well - so even though a longer boat might be narrower, it’s not automatically more tippy.

The Stellar S16 is not a big person’s kayak - it fit me perfectly and I’m 5’7", 150 lb. IMO you’re too big for the S14 as well. You need to find kayaks scaled for someone your size. Surprised the Wilderness Systems Tsunami 165 or 175 hasn’t come up in the other thread. The 175 in particular is a huge boat with lots of stability and waterline length. It’s a bit of an aircraft carrier to turn but is pretty quick in a straight line. CD Solstice Titan is also a big, straight tracking kayak.

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I was pretty happy with the Tsunami 125/120’s except they are very heavy and painful to keep on my shoulder. The S12 was such an improvement!!!

No wonder why I liked the new S14 then and disliked the other boats. I never thought of myself as a “big” person, just a “long” one. I might just pick that one up then while it’s still available as there isn’t much else and sell one of our Tsunamis. I am seeing ~10 year old boats go for close to the price people paid for them back in the day so if ever there was a time to sell it would be now.

At your height, your center of gravity is high - so you don’t need to weigh much to be “tippy”.

Put a Current Designs Gulfstream on you list of used kayaks to look for. It (and the Poly Sirocco) were designed as kayaks for bigger folks. The two that I’ve seen seem also to take good care of their occupants.

I wonder a bit if your strength training has made your core strong but less flexible. Ideally, your lower body moves with the hull while your upper body stays vertical. That would be especially important if a lot of your height is in your torso.

I am not super “massive” or strong like “big”, still pretty thin at 190lbs. I am in my mid 40’s and weigh the same as I did in my 20’s… but my wedding suit no longer fits because it’s too big! Obviously always healthy but in better shape now that I have more time to work out than back then.

Flexibility and balance were always terrible. I have been working on both the last ~1 year as 2-3 years ago I (re)started weights but plateaued. It’s helped immensely for biking and paddling but not to the degree that I thought for balance. That was always a challenge. Indeed when the water gets rough I start sitting straight up and put my legs on the footpegs closer together to where my knees touch. That helps I have never actually “tipped” even in heavy seas although it starts to become more effort to stay upright at that point. You have to concentrate and be careful of your every move.

Was curious if anyone tried or had paddled the Volan though.

I don’t think your knees should touch. They should be splayed outward to get control of the hull and your thighs locked in. Best money you could spend is on a few lessons. Only thing somewhat close together when I paddle is my heels .

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I got lessons, this is what several different instructors told me to gain balance. This is what surfskiers do, keep legs closer together and on top of that was told by none other than Wesley Echols about this trick as well. The pedals in surfski are much closer together but you can do it in a kayak by keeping your feet at the inner edges. It’s not a huge difference but it works. Not to say you should do it all the time, but it helps when it gets rough and you start feeling the boat is getting to the limit of your ability to control it.

In a sea kayak if your knees are together your thighs won’t be locked on the combing. Ski yes I see knee’s together all the time.

I do not keep my thighs locked into thigh braces. Unless, of course, I have some kayak design where the fit forces the issue. I find this interferes with stroke mechanics on a level I find frustrating, even navigating rough water that is pushing the boat around. For someone who says “flexibility and balance were always terrible”, and just based upon the discussion of how different kayaks have felt to CA139, my bet is that if thighs are locked in, and a kayak does a natural slight tilt to the left, the right knee would strongly engage to hold the body from tipping over the the left. This is a natural engrained reaction. Most capsizes I see, the person is engaging their right leg against the top of the boat to tip them over to the left, or engaging their left leg against the top of the boat to tip them over to the right. At the same time, if they were to simply relax that leg, and drop it down to the bottom of the hull, they wouldn’t have tipped over. In other words, you watch them pull the hull upside down trying to brace against the top of the boat.
Things have to become pretty rough before you’re required to engage your left leg against the top of the boat to keep from tipping to the left. Why would it be counterintuitive to engage your left leg against the top of the boat to keep from tipping to the left. CA139, try sitting at a desk or table where there is a minimal clearance between the tops of your legs and the bottom of the table or desk. Drop a pencil or pen or book a little distance out on your left. Now lean to the left and pick the item up off of the floor. I bet you don’t give the slightest thought towards engaging your right knee against the solid desk or table to stabilize yourself. It’s engrained muscle memory. In a kayak, you’re sitting in a boat with a solid deck. Your right knee will want to brace against that solid deck to stabilize you from tipping over to the left. We’re not used to sitting on something solid that can spin 360 degrees. We’re land mammals. It’s not natural.
This is what you’re up against in terms of reprogramming your balance when in a kayak, or any boat. I don’t know if being stiffer and more unbalanced in general makes the transition tougher, but for anyone, stupid-repetitive boat-balance practice can eat up the learning curve in a hurry. As you’re probably aware, if you’re thinking about capsizing and balance at all while you paddle, you will feel like you’re working harder, and you will be overall, but your speed will decrease. Attacking the forward stroke hoping balance will come is one way to go, and probably most common. I think it would be worth a try for you to attack balance straight away, and I think you’ll see more leaps and bounds forward with your forward stroke proficiency using that approach.
I haven’t been in the Volan, but it’s very likely to fall into the fairly stable sea kayak category, which seems may be outside of your abilities at the moment. I would put you in something with really high secondary stability, as it makes learning boat balance more forgiving. You’ll have a split second to realize you are pulling your boat over on top of yourself, and have that moment to react by relaxing your leg that’s pulling you over.
But you’re right, it doesn’t take much to max out the speed of shorter boats. You’ve gotten lessons and lots of seat time, so my best suggestion is trying an approach that you haven’t focused on before, as it seems apparent you haven’t had that boat balance epiphany yet.

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I appreciate the advice BUT your really nice post is not really relevant because I am 6’5" and my knees and thighs are well above the cockpit. I have never been able to “lock” my knees on any cockpit save a Wilderness Tsunami. Any cockpit smaller than that and my knees are well above it not touching it no matter how far I keep the foot pedals. Yes many kayaks have knee braces or spots to lock your knees, my knees just don’t get there or even touch the rim, ever. So the “pulling with the knee” is physically impossible for me given my size and location of body parts. Also I’ve never actually tipped the boat, ever. Just looking for one that isn’t a lot of work and constant concentration to keep upright, that you can “let go” and enjoy the scenery in all but the flattest of water.

Wow. I am also 6’5" and my knees go under the thigh braces in all of my boats or I remove the thigh braces. Or I get a different boat.

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Get a Current Designs Solstice GT or HV. Doesn’t matter if used or new you can move the pedals forward. Current Designs will do that if you order it. I know someone your height who did that on a CD Nomad.

Yeah, Solstice Titan was waaay too big on me so I passed on it and got the CD Isle. But I think Volan will be coming out in a HV. And the Virgo already has an HV. And the Delphin definitely fits (and of course the Aries). High end you could get a Romany Excel.

Next up in development is the Volan LV. HV will be quite awhile. Virgo HV’s arrive today at my place.

Regular Solstice would fit move the pedals.