paddler to boat size relationship?

-- Last Updated: Apr-23-06 12:02 AM EST --

a couple of people over on my 'build a wooden boat' thread have mentioned i should make sure my boat "fits." so, i'd best get to that...

i know i could just confess my height and weight and someone--everyone?--would tell me what size boat i "need."

but, where's the learning in that?

how does one determine what size boat they should have?

i'm thinking 16 or 17 foot for my sea kayak...the one i'm going to build *grin*

Length is not everything…
It’s if you fit comfortable in the cockpit. a little larger is better than too tight as you can pad it down to fit you…

Determine from experience
You should be able to get in the right range of sizes based upon your paddling experiences, especially if you have demo’d or rented a variety of sea kayaks. The catch is if you are either very large or very small, in which case you probably haven’t tried many that actually kindasorta fit.

In some cases, the boat designer or kit provider will list suggested paddler weights. For example, Eric Schade does this for his Merganser 16, 17, 17W, and 18.

so basically,
it really is just a matter of “sit/paddle in it and see how it fits” rather than some body weight to boat size ratio.

ok, where’s the complicatedness in that?


– Last Updated: Apr-23-06 1:10 AM EST –

Body weight will help you narrow down the list of boats to look at. Some of the kit manufacturers as well as some of the regular manufacturers will give a recommended range of paddler weights. You don't want to be in something that is designed for someone significantly heavier/lighter than you.

why are you being obtuse?
If you’re asking for recomendations it helps to know your size. Manufacturers give recommended ranges of weights but often times that range is based on calculations and not actually puttng a 100# or 200# paddler in the boat let alone 350# in the boat.


– Last Updated: Apr-23-06 5:24 AM EST –

come in when you increase in skills and you paddle more than just flat water. Besides attributes of tracking vs maneuverability and primary vs secondary stability, you have to figure out whether you want a lower volume day boat vs an expedition boat. With the "right" boat, you should feel the boat to be very responsive to your leans and edging. If you have the right volume (either just you, or you and a load) the boat should sit with minimal windage. It's in wind and textured conditions that you will find a boat too large harder to control and more energy to paddle. You will expend more energy trying to make corrections vs a boat that is more fitted to you and your purpose.

So, the complications are not about plopping yourself in a boat and seeing if it "fits" on the shop floor. Ultimately, "fit" is about how boat responds to your size and skills, whether it has the performance attributes you seek in the conditions, other than flat water/windless days, that you may see yourself to paddling in.


First The Horse, Then The Cart

– Last Updated: Apr-23-06 6:58 PM EST –

I met a guy over the winter who had built a wooden boat... that he didn't like. He'd come to the pool to roll it and do paddle float rescues and he found out he'd built a boat that was way too wide and way too deep. He'd get into other folks' kayaks and didn't want to get back into his bath tub of a boat.

In order for you not to make the mistake this guy did, I'd go paddle some sea kayaks and learn to brace and roll. Find a kayak that you really like, then try to duplicate it in wood... as close as is practical.

She is
5’8" and wears a size 8 dress. I know I met her.

And power to legnth is a factor to consider.

i’m not being obtuse,
or even asking for recommendations.

i’m asking for information so i can learn how to make the decision for myself.

i do plan to test some boats
at the okoume festival in june.

not too many, though, or i’ll just get confused as to which i liked and which i didn’t, and why.

i’m also a simple kinda gal in that when i find something that works for me in my own backyard–so to speak–i don’t need to leave kansas to keep looking.

yes! that is exactly

– Last Updated: Apr-23-06 9:21 AM EST –

how i see myself, lol...

'cept as a size 8 i am way too skinny, can we make it a 10?

truth is, that's kind of stretching me out a bit...but the overall mass would probably be reasonably close. ;-)

Well said
and that’s why, if you work at advancing your skills over time, you’ll probably end up building more than one boat. The second will meet your new desires better than the first and so on. Doesn’t matter whether you build or buy - same phenomenon.

small, medium and large
one manufacturers small is someone elses medium, one manufacturers recomendation of paddler weight range 100lbs-200lbs is numerically derived and says NOTHING about what that kayak will be like in the water. Just trying to be helpful as you seem to be dancing around the topic. The Pygmy Arctic tern17 is perfect if you’re 200lbs,if you’re 150 it’s a bit big, the Merganser 17 is a very good fit if you’re 175lbs and a bit snug if you’re 200lbs. etc. etc.

So if you’re asking opinions you’ll have to ask other people what THEY’RE size and weight is otherwise it’s kind of random.

a 16’ or 17’ kayak sounds good

and “windage” would be…
how much of the boat/paddler combo the wind has access to for pushing about?

how much “freeboard” or hull above waterline that gets affected by wind. Then you end up weatherhelming, be it getting turned upwind (weathercocking) or turned downwind (leecocking). All boats will weatherhelm at a certain point, some worse than others. Where you “trim” or sit relative to the balance point makes a difference. But, if the boat has too much volume, you will be affected by weatherhelming much sooner, e.g. 15 knots instead of say 25 knots. That means you work harder at correction strokes in lesser winds than would a boat trimmed and sized correctly for the type of paddling you do.


common mistake
folks would spend big bucks for a superlight 17’ carbon or kevlar kayak because they want a light boat for lifting or they’re not big people. And they end up getting blown down wind more easily.

I was teaching a sea kayaking class
A woman had finished building a Chesapeake 16 and wanted to use it for the classes and rolling instruction. I suggested she stick with the plastic boats for learning rescues but to bring it around for rolling instruction. When she brought it around for rolling instruction it wasn’t fitted out with any thigh/hip bracing and to be quite honest was too big/deep for her torso to learn well. Perception Shadow to the rescue.

Why build?
Some people build because they’re good with their hands so they can duplicate a commercial boat for cheap. Many others think they can but actually not. Thye ended up building something for cheap but not as good as the (probably used) commercial kayak they could have gotten for the same money.

Majority of happy boat builders build because they wanted that “custom fit” they can never find in a commercial boat build for the “average” paddler. To do that, you’ll have to had paddled quite a few differet ones to know what you DON’T like so you can build something you LIKE.

Even for many of those builders, they ended up building more than one preciously because they found out something else that could be improved once they “custom build” one hits the water.