Safe cockpit size?

Is 32.5" X 18"a large enough opening to wet exit easily as a beginner. Also considering a boat with 35"X19" and one with 35.75"X 20" opening but don’t like these boats nearly as well.I weigh 200 and and am 5’11" in height.I have only had experience with SOT and inflatable duckies.Been dumped plenty of times on rivers and in the ocean surf but anxious about entrapment in traditional kayak.

Can you find some lessons?
This is really hard to answer on line, not because the cockpit size is an issue but because you are going into this with some apparent anxiety that can only be resolved by wet exit practice with a person standing by.

When someone is comfortable with a wet exit, they can squeeze their way out of ridiculously small cockpits. If anxiety is a real problem, there may not be a cockpit big enough when you add in a neoprene deck skirt that has to be physically pulled.

Short answer
All of them are “safe” cockpit sizes. If you can demo them them take them out and see how you feel performing a wet exit. A note of fiscal caution, as your comfort level grows you may find that a smaller cockpit is also fine and could be a minor inconvenience once you find the boat you want.

If you can get in it without a shoehorn you can definitely get out of it.

good thing
About a wet exit is that you are lubricated. And you have gravity on your side.

Ryan L.

I second the lessons
I applaud that you admit you are anxious. Most adults cannot admit to that even though they are. They really want to appear “cool”. Yet when asked to do a wet exit; perhaps before a trip many just cant bring themselves to roll the boat upside down.

Those cockpits are huge. Start with any of them with an instructor. As you do more and more exits you will relax more and find that you can get out of increasingly smaller holes.

Relaxing and pushing the boat off like a pair of pants upside down is key. Stiffening up is your enemy.

However, most likely when you go over you will just fall out. As a matter of fact I usually find it hard to stay in.

You will feel more confident after mastering this skill. I think its becoming more and more a requirement on kayak tours. In Belize last year on a tour that was not for the particularly experienced we were taught self rescues and wet exits and were required to pass a test before venturing out in the kayak.

If its not a requirement on many tours, I applaud Island Expeditions for requiring so.

wet exit
Thanks for input.Unfortunately due to the local high School pool closing due to education budget cuts there are no longer kayaking instructions locally available.I like the analogy of pushing down a pair of pants to wet exit. Seems intuitive.

I think a real, rational concern regarding entrapment has to do with footwear. I won’t wear anything on my feet with straps or laces.

The keyhole cockpit is nice for easy boat entrance and exit but like the others have said, you’ll exit an ocean cockpit just fine.

Yes, but your best bet is to do what I
did when I got into my first yak with the same fear that you have.

Find a friend or someone who has a boat with a cockpit similar to the one you want.

Then get in it in about four feet of water with your friend standing in the water next to you with instructions to upright you if you can’t do a wet exit.

Tip yourself over and you will get your answer which I am sure will be “yes”

Then after that do it again, but in a nice and controlled maner, and your fear will be gone forever

good luck!

jack L

Best idea…
It appears that you are within a reasonable driving range of Lake Powell, yes?

I couldn’t find lessons or similar on the internet, but I did find a few listings for outfitters who do kayak tours on Lake Powell. The guides for those trips are likely certed to some level. I suggest you call up the tour outfits and ask if they have guides that would be willing to spend some private time with you to practice wet exits, including adding the skirt, and give you some in-person sense of how you want to fit in a kayak for your goals.

Someone mentioned this below but maybe it should be highlighted - it is not unlikely that if you choose a boat based on cockpit looseness now, you’ll be looking for one with a different fit by season’s end. This is the kind of thing you get used to fairly quickly in a kayak, and while you don’t need a jean type fit for control you do want something that doesn’t cause a back ache trying to hit the control surfaces. Too big a cockpit can cause that because of all the contortions.

The northern Grand Canyon is also an option, but I suspect that it’ll be easier to find kayak folks that work Lake Powell than sort thru the rafting outfits in the GC.

Just to note that the cockpit size
dimensions are not the only relevant ones to getting in and out. Cockpit tilt can make a big differency. Most modern cockpits are tilted so the front is higher than the back, so that you can “shoot” your legs in and out. In whitewater kayaks, the front foam wall can reduce ease of entry and exit, especially if you’re caught against a rock wall or bank so that you have to twist your legs to get out.

Back in the 70s and 80s, cockpits were usually short and often had very little tilt. Really tall people like me (6’ 5") could not get into most kayaks. I bought a demo Noah and fiberglassed a large Prijon style keyhole cockpit rim onto it (about 36" long) and even with a front wall, it is my easiest boat to get into and out of.

In open water, if you can get into a boat, you can wet exit similarly. In some whitewater situations, getting pushed against the bank or rocks or logs may mean that the way you got in is not the way you need to get out. That means that extra wiggle room is a good idea.

Closest lesson are at lake Mead out of Bolder NV. On the other end of the Colorado from where we live. Kayak Lake Mead offers a full days lesson for beginners which covers basic padding skills and strokes,wet exit, self rescue, and t-rescue(what ever that is)safety considerations and knowing your limits. Might be $140.00 well spent?

Very well spent
Worth going for it, even if you have to find a cheap hotel room for overnight.

That first lesson is probably the best $140 you’ll spend in your early years of paddling.

Further Comment
I failed to mention this before - you get far more out of going thru a good day of work up front than you will realize for a while. Any anxiety issue that you go forward with will hold you back, and any early start on resolving it will help.

I am not promising that one day will knock out all the issues and leave you whistling happily under the boat - it took more than that for me. But the sooner you start acclimating to falling over in the water, the sooner it’ll feel like no big deal and so not impede learning skills.