Proper Fit On A Kayak

I keep hearing that you don’t sit in a kayak…you wear it. To find a kayak that fits you properly is there a rule of thumb to go by to find the right cockpit width? For example, measure the width of your hips and add X amount for clearance on each side? I’d really prefer to try a kayak out before buying one but there isn’t a large selection of kayak dealers in my area, (at least not the models I’m looking at,) and very few oppertunities to actually sit inside of the ones that are available since most are hanging up and I don’t want to bother the sales people until I actually have the cash in my hands to buy one.

Kayaks are not pre-sized to hip width.
You should look for one where the thigh hooks and the foot braces fall nicely into place, with adjustment, and then add padding to the sides of the seat so your hips are properly supported.

kinda like hiking boots
Best to try 'em on but I realize you’ve got strategic limitations. One way to check on basic model fit is to look up the reviews in the Kayak Magazines (just Google the make and model and various reviews will come up) or here on Many (like in “Sea Kayaker”) will note the heights and weights of the testers and have their commentary on fit. I found that helpful in narrowing down models I wanted to look at. The higher end manufacturers generally have recommendations on body size for models too.

And don’t be shy about asking to try on boats even if you aren’t in a position to buy. I worked for years in the outfitter business and we expect that – recreational equipment is costly and user specific. and it is certainly not unusual for shoppers to “kick tires” with something as major as a kayak. In fact, I would say fewer than 25% of my customers bought their boats the first time they came in and tried them out. But most bought one in the end, whether from me or from somewhere else. I never minded helping people try out and select gear even if they told me flat out they were not ready to buy yet – it’s an ongoing process and I always enjoyed educating people new to an activity about what they should be looking for and making sure they felt comfortable with their eventual purchase so they would really get out and enjoy the sport.

This may not be true in a Big Box or general sporting good store – try a kayak specific outfitter if you can find one and you will learn more about proper fitting and get some good background on models, even if you nd up buying from a discounter (or used) eventually. Or look for a local kayaking regatta where you can test paddle models and borrow other people’s boats for try-outs. Most kayakers are happy to let you try their boats for a spin.

Happy hunting!

I noticed that you are a beginner
and like most of us, if you get hooked on kayaking, your first boat won’t be your last.

Why not give your statistics, (height and weight) here, and your price range, and the basic kind of kayak that you want, (length, material, upswept bow, or plumb bow).

Then paddlers can chime in on what boat they have, and if they would get the same if they were to buy another boat.

you can get some idea from them, and then take a look at the boats on the mfg’s web sites.

If it is impossible to try before you buy, this could be the way to go

jack L

It won’t be long. At first, it’s 80%
boat and 20% paddler but in no time at all it will be 80% paddler and 20% boat.

not enough demo yaks
My husband and I ran into the same problem when we were in the market for our first yaks.

If your area has any kind of a “true outfitter” (not retail store) pick their brains on suggestions. The true outfitter will have no problems getting their yaks down to sit in or even work with an supplier to get int a demo for you to paddle.

I’m 5’6" and weight 135 lbs. My 10’ rec kayak has a 28" beam and it just feels really wide. I’m looking for something that will handle big wind and 3’ swells if I happen to get caught out in it unexpectedly. I was leaning towards a light touring kayak but I’m still undecided.

test paddle, test paddle
I test paddled many kayaks. My wife took a class. The equipment was supplied by the outfitter for the class. I also went on trips sponsored by a local outfitter, small fee. No big deal, we would meet at the paddle put in, paddle 3 or 4 hours, the kayak rental was easy and painless, the knowledge gained priceless. Check meet up, or Google for local paddle clubs, friendly people and ussually will have useful life experience to help out and sometimes will lend or let you test their kayaks out. Good luck, John

Check out the QCC -400s at
15’3" and 24’ wide, or the QCC-10x at 15’3" and 21" wide.

You can get the stats on line.

They are expensive, but worth every penny.

They have a life time guarantee, and you have thirty days to send it back if you are not happy with the way it handles, and they pay the shipping.

It would be quite a transition from your 28" wide yak so I would advise trying out any old narrower boat near you to get the feel of the narrower one.

Jack L

Attend a symposium - if possible
To answer the initial question, I am a 5’3" female, “about” 135 pounds and have an Impex Montauk. I added some padding for a little tighter fit in the hips but, in general, a good boat. It was during a test paddle in 2-3 foot waves (mostly 2) when I decided this was the boat for me. My suggestion in the process would be to attend a kayak symposium, even if you have to do some travel and make it a vacation trip. Not only will you be likely to have the opportunity to test paddle several boats, you can pick the brains of other participants about their boats and you can get some instruction that will ease the transition from 10 foot rec boat (I started with a Perception Swifty) and 16 foot touring/sea kayak.

Completely Unprofessional Opinion
When I went to one of Turner & Cheri’s rolling classes (very cool, go to one if you can, they squeezed me into a skinny boat then packed me in so tight that the boat felt like an appendage. It made a big difference.

Good Luck…Lou