paddler weight to maximum ratio??

is there a rule of thumb on the ratio of paddler weight to max capacity on the kayak? For instance, should you not exceed 50% of the max capacity, 75% etc?

First we would have to find an agreed
upon way to define the maximum. Then there would be a lot of decisions to make about what performance characteristics to try and preserve by staying well below that maximum.

My little Necky Looksha Sport is pretty heavily loaded at my current weight (225#) but still handles OK in most water. However it has lost some of its ability to play in surf and around rocks. It would behave better if it were more up-on-the-water.

WW kayaks can be similar. At their maximum manufacturer-fantasized load, they don’t plane or spin as well, though they may track better.

Anyway, you may not be able to get an objective answer for whatever boat you’re contemplating, but if you plan to carry overnight gear or want sharper handling, stay away from the supposed maximum capacity.

that’s what I was affraid of. I’ve never been able to truly figure out max capacity on kayaks. Depending on where you look it seems to change.

rough number
I know there’s no hard number to rely on, but what i have most often heard, and has seemed to work out fairly well for me so far is try to be around 70% of the max weight. If you go lower, you’ll be too light and just bob around and get blown by the wind. Too high and the boat won’t perform well. There are also exceptions to this as you guys already said, there’s no hard number for the max weight, so it’s all with a grain of salt.

Best Terminology I’ve Seen
That’s the most descriptive terminology I’ve seen: the “maximum manufacturer-fantasized load”. Of course, some manufacturer’s have a much more vivid imagination when it comes to load capacity than others.

Depends on your loading expectations
Manufacturers’ stated maximums or ideal loads are supposedly based on how the boat is intended to perform. Some give a range of weight load with a ‘sweet spot’ indicated.

In general I want no more than a couple of inches or so of freeboard when the boat is loaded (including me) for its intended use. For my day boats that is me with a fairly full day hatch and minimal gear in main hatches. For the boat I use for camping, that is with full compartments including water, tent, food, sleeping bag etc…

It’s really the "design displacement"
That would be the gauge to look for as the weight the thing would handle best. Unfortunately, not often published or known.

For some WW kayaks (see Jackson web site for instance), they list the optimum load for river running or for river playing.

One data point
This site lists a recommended range for the kayaks that they sell.

For my instance/boat, the manufacturer lists a max capacity of 300 lbs, they list a max load of 290 lbs, with a paddler weight range of 150 to 225. At 205 plus some gear, I work well in the boat, but think the rear deck would be mostly awash at the max load.

Jackson is a better source than most,
but lots of ww kayak makers still are real optimistic about the maximum paddler that can be accomodated.

manufacturers vary
I like manufacturers that give more data. For canoes, Bell gives a suggested load range, the 6" freeboard load, and the loads for a range of waterline depths. Hemlock give a suggested efficient range and a maximum. Old Town just gives a maximum – would you put 1,100 pounds in a Penobscot 16?