Question about returning to Kayaking

HI All!

Many moons ago, I took kayaking lessons at Lake Union, WA. At that time I learned how to control a sea kayak - how to recover from a roll over, how to stabalize in rough water, etc. I also did a week paddle around the San Juan Islands!

Now I’m 63 and wanting to return to paddling. A neighbor has a Pygmy Goldeneye HI for sale. I like this kayak and took it out for a short paddle. I felt like I was sitting on a block of slippery ice! The feeling would reduce as I paddled forward, but attempts to turn (no rudder) had me feeling very out of balance and rocking. From reviews this is suppose to be a stable boat but I did not feel in control. BTW, I’m 6-ft and 250 lbs. I did have the footpegs adjusted so that my knees were comfortably against the sides, but there wasn’t seat and I was sitting on the bottom.

Could this just be a case of gaining experience with the kayak, or is this the wrong boat for me?

The oldest adage here is Seat time Cures most problems. Is your weight high or low? A lot of men have initial balance issues from a high center of gravity.
I think Pygmys come with a thin Thermorest pad for a seat.

1 Like

Loose hips. Like, they should be loose, not old age in need of replacement loose… hopefully.

Probably more going on there but hard to diagnose with limited info.

Best take a refresher course.

1 Like

Super that you want to return to our wonderful sport! Where are you located and where do you plan to paddle? How long did you paddle the Goldeneye? A couple hours or just a quick paddle?

According to the Pygmy website, the boat is 24" wide and 15’8" long. The Goldeneye shown on the Pygmy site has no bulkheads or deck lines. If your neighbor’s boat also lacks them, were float bags installed in the boat?

BTW, you don’t need a rudder to turn a kayak. A sweep stroke or a bow rudder or just edging will get the boat to turn. Am guessing more seat time in a kayak would be helpful.

1 Like

I’m guessing it’s the wrong boat for you. Try some others.

The Goldeneye’s hull shape looks a lot like my Pygmy Coho except that the Goldeneye is 1 1/2 feet shorter and an inch wider. I find the Coho to be quite stable with me sitting up an inch or so off the floor. So perhaps you do carry your weight up high making a kayak that most people find stable less so for you. Maybe you could try paddling a couple of other kayaks of similar length to get a point of comparison? Also, the cockpit on the Goldeneye looks the same as on my Coho, and it’s quite big. Without some sort of seat pan in there you may be sliding around there causing some loss of stability.

I don’t think you necessarily were in the wrong boat for someone of your size, but it does sound like a combination of your never having learned some kayaking basics before and being in a boat where you are near the top of its intended paddler in terms of height or weight.

I could not find a weight capacity for the Pygmy boats, but at sub-16 ft this is something you should make a phone call to dig out. 24 inches wide is frankly pretty beamy, the usual width for a bigger person’s boat. But the weight capacity needs to be checked.

It does not sound like you ever learned to turn a boat by edging, if you were looking for a rudder to do that. This boat has multi-chines. It makes for a very easy boat to maneuver, but the fact of hard chines is that in order to get a boat to respond you have to have it over far enough to be sitting on a chine. A boat with this hull shape will rock back and forth between the chines, hitting one will stop it.

I am a little confused by your thinking your knees were supposed to be against the sides. In fact for boat control you really want them against the deck, the top, as a focus. But this may go back to your never having learned to edge a boat.

Hard chines feel different than a more rounded hull shape. I have one of each and the one with a single hard chine literally goes over and hits the chine on each side in messy stuff. As long as you understand a boat with good secondary stability will stop there and stay relaxed it is not big deal. But it is something to get used to at first, as you literally whack to each side going thru dimensional stuff.

I assume what you refer to as recovering from a roll over is a wet exit followed by on-water self rescue, along the line of a paddle float rescue or something. Regardless you need to revisit that, there are some newer approaches like a heel hook paddle float version that are faster and kinder to older farts. (I get to say that, am older than you.)

Seat is easily resolved, can place something like a Sweet Cheeks pad in the bottom, and as above the boat may need some outfitting like deck lines.

I don’t know that model, but it looks to me like a traditional sea kayak, though made from some quite wonderful material.

When someone has problems keeping the balance in a sea kayak sitting still on flat water, it is usually an attitude problem rather than a balance problem. We think that we have to do something to keep the kayak stable. The reality is that we don’t have to.

To the contrary, our attempts to stabilize the kayak may very well be the sole cause of the perceived instability, and in extreme cases those attempts will cause us to capsize the kayak.

So if you can convince yourself to relax and let the kayak find its natural resting position instead of trying to “help” the kayak, you will probably find it very stable, also without any forward movement.

Next step is not sitting still, and perhaps not on completely flat water. Here you may start doing things, which throws you a little off balance, or waves are doing those things to you. Again, in a normal sea kayak, it is mostly a question of relaxing your lower body and letting the kayak do what it wants to do. It will usually find its balance without much trouble.

If you absolutely want/need to help the kayak keeping its balance, you should mainly use your paddle and your head:

  • Support yourself to your paddle rather than trying to find support in the kayak.

  • Try to keep your head over the centre of the kayak.

For me, this mental process took 1-2 months when I first came to kayaking. I capsized 7 times during my beginner’s lessons in a harbour with completely flat water, paddling a very stable sea kayak. As soon as the mental part of kayak balance “clicked”, I became very confident, and two years later, I became an instructor myself.

For others it comes instantly. For other others, it takes years. But I would not use it as a reason for giving up on a kayak I have only tried once.

1 Like

Pygmy designs are performance kayaks. They have relatively narrow beam. I built a Pygmy Coho and the hull was constructed out of 8 panels making for an arched hull with less initial stability but great secondary stability.

You need to paddle more and get comfortable on the water, then learn your strokes a little better and practice bracing. The PNW has cold water, plenty of boat traffic and lots of tidal rips and rough weather. Paddle all the of the different boats you can and find one you are comfortable in. I would pass on the Goldeneye. I really like Eddyline fiberglass kayaks made up in Anacortes.

Test paddle at least 2 more kayaks. That will tell you if its YOU or the boat.

The Coho is a 23" beam in a boat 17’6". The boat the OPer tried is 24" beam in a boat 15’8" long.

24" inches width is on the beamy side for that short length. My Vela is that length and has 19.5" width at the waterline. Also a smaller person’s boat, but the width is proportional for a fairly forgiving sea kayak.

If the OPer has never learned to edge, any boat with hard chines is going to feel shaky. Even having some edging, I had to consciously decide to trust my hard chined Vela at first.

I agree that the Coho is more of a performance boat than some, but I don’t see that the OPer has the basics of kayaking or the seat time to decide against the Goldeneye HI right now. They need more time in other boats and IMO some work on basic skills.

1 Like

Thanks everyone for the great comments. I’ve decided to pass on the Goldeneye - not because of the stability because I was confident I could adapt to that with practice. It was the cockpit opening that decided it. I definitely had issues getting out of the kayak - the knees just don’t bend like they used to!

I’ve done a bit more research and like the looks of the Eddyline Sandpiper. These are also sold near Port Townsend so I can give one a test paddle before pulling the trigger.

Just recognize that the Sandpiper(s) are recreational kayaks. At 28 inches wide with a 48 inch long cockpit, they’re best for protected, flat water.

1 Like

Yup. Any expeditions I take will be via my Tashiba-31 sailboat. Looking for a kayak for short day paddles.

Short day paddles where? If it is in an area of heavy tide action the Sandpiper isn’t it. You live in an area of a lot of “interesting” kayaking.

I’m heading up the Inside passage next year - god willing. I want a kayak that will handle well for short daytrips around islands and in bays. I also need one that will fit will on the deck of my 31-ft boat

Ok. I don’t think the Sandpiper is it. Too difficult to anticipate all those conditions. And as Wolf said, it is a boat with limits.

Have you looked at the folders?

I have to agree with Celia: the Inside Passage is no place for a pond and stream boat like the Sandpiper. Cockpit is too large for a spray skirt and you would be in cold Pacific water with tides. And a wide boat like that is not what you want for efficiently crossing between islands with strong currents.

For hauling on a sailboat you would be better off with a folding sea kayak. In your neck of the woods there are often used Feathercrafts that come up for sale (they used to be made in Vancouver, BC). A Big Kahuna would suit your size (the “Big” is because they expanded the cockpit a bit for larger paddlers), or a Pakboat brand XT-15 or XT-17. You might fit the Pakboat Quest 150 but I am not sure of the weight range on that model. The folding kayaks fan site,, sometimes has deals on these and other models in their classifieds. Another advantage of folders is that they can be boxed up and mailed so it is possible to have them shipped if you find one some distance away. Folders are great in rough water, and being light and compact are great for travel. Good enough for commando troops!

Thanks for the info. According to Eddyline, there is a spray skirt for the Sandpiper line. In any case I’m not sure I would be going between islands with it - thats what the big boats for! I’m intrigued by the folding boats and look forward to reviewing the link you sent.

An available spray skirt is not necessarily a usable spray skirt.

If you paddle in conditions, the spray skirt must be able to handle a wave dumping on it. The spray skirts for larger cockpit openings usually can’t.

If you want a compact boat, take a look at Dagger Stratos. This is a very seaworthy boat, often used for surfing.