Sea kayak depth measurements - is there a standard?

I’m looking at various specs of sea kayaks and trying to compare them to the few boats I have paddled.

Is the depth amidships of a kayak typically taken at the rear of the combing, front of the combing, or some average of the two (maybe at the front of the seat?)

Is there a standard for how this measurement is taken, or does it vary by manufacturer? I’m specifically curious because I prefer rolling on to the back deck and am neither particularly tall or particularly flexible.


Pretty much no standard, which is why you will often hear the suggestion to demo/test paddle boats before buying.

That said, at least among the major brands, there are only a few parent companies. And presumably within each company they follow the same measurement standard. As an example, a Dagger, Perception, and Wilderness Systems should use the same measurement process.

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Thanks! Few test paddles here (pandemic, ice, long way from the ocean . . . ), so I am just surfing the internet in the hopes of making a short-list of contenders. I noticed on the Seaward site they list separately the depth and the cockpit depth. The Chilco for example is 14" and 12.25" which could mean front/back but the Guide 17 is listed as 13.5" for both. Current designs, P&H, and Delta kayaks only give one measurement, and Northwest Kayaks and Easy Rider make no mention of depth at all (I paddled an old EasyRider once that easily rode up to my armpits-exaggerating but that boat was large).

The more odd body proportions one has, the more important it is to demo prior to purchase. Especially folks with longer/shorter legs or even longer/shorter torsos.

And, occasionally the deck will vary greatly within a manufacturer models. For example: there is one manufacturer that I love their sea kayaks, however one particular model they make has the deck disproportionately high for even me & my long legs…

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In going out and measuring a couple of Current Designs kayaks, the depth figure that they publish is the distance between the bottom of the kayak and the underside of the deck at the front of the cockpit. This could be somewhat useful for determining leg room in the cockpit. The difficulty is that a more peaked vs a flatter deck, or a deeper V’d hull vs a shallower V or flat bottom, will increase this distance measurement without necessarily telling you if there will be more or less leg room.
Your stated concern is back deck height. If you have depth measurements in the 11 - 14" range, that is the front deck, not the back. Back deck heights will be lower in sea kayaks. The other thing for laying on the back deck is that more distance between your seated position and the coaming behind you also allows easier layback. It’s all really tough stuff to figure without trying kayaks on.

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Thanks for doing that - very helpful info! I paddled a Seaward Chilco for a few days thinking it didn’t really fit, but then moved the seat up a little and fussed with the backband, seat height, and of course pegs until eventually everything was much better, so I hear what you are saying about moving away from the coaming.

Typically the front of the cockpit will be higher than the back. Higher front of cockpit allows for wave deflection over the bow and of course your legs. A low back is preferable for lay back rolling, typical of greenland boats. That being said many “high volume” boats have high backs as well. Some will give you the shoe size. Some plan kits and custom give ratings to small, medium and large paddlers. Most production boats don’t so much. Boats with low paddler weight often have small cockpits. However every manufacturer is a little different. Recommend the test paddle. At least go sit in it before you purchase.

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I did a quick measure at the front of the cockpit of my Seaward Legend, and it appears Seaward does the same. I’ve never paddled a Chilco. I see they describe it as high speed and effortless tracking, which is great when you’re trying to cover some miles. What do you think of it?

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I really like the Chilco - it is indeed very fast, very stable, and tracks like it’s on rails. Being a bit low-profile I found it a bit wet in large choppy waves and when surfing, but still predictable and easy to handle. I am considering getting a second boat with a bit more fullness in the ends and some rocker, just for a bit of variety. The Impex Curritick, Current Designs Prana, and Seaward Guide 17 or Quantum look like they’d be fun. Though, stuck indoors these days anything would be fun!

I’m going into the Store today to receive a shipment of a special order kayak.

I can take foredeck and read of coaming measurements of the 3 P&H Scorpios, Ceti and a Valkyrie if that helps.

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Thanks - Don’t go to any trouble on my account. It would be interesting information for all the manufacturers to offer, but I suppose as others have said one really needs to try a boat in person.

It’s so much fun getting a new kayak and then learning how to get the most out of it.
There was a kayak site at one time that described sea kayaks as dolphins and seals. The dolphins (the Chilco would fit here) are often more fun to paddle when you’re running down waves in open water, looking for that fast glide through the miles. Seals are the sea kayaks that prioritize maneuverability, more effortlessly spinning your kayak in new directions. The seals are often more fun to paddle in low mileage situations where you’re looking to carve around through rough water, or maybe just leisurely paddling twisting paths.
From your list, I’d guess you’re trying to fall more in the middle with your next kayak. I’ve done a demo paddle in a Currituck years ago. I remember liking it, but it’s been a long time. I had figured it leaning towards the dolphin side of things. I own an Impex Hatteras, which I think they’re selling again through Frontenac. A fairly low back deck, plenty of room in the cockpit, and a nice, predictable feel more on the seal side of things. I own a Sisu LV, little sister to the Prana, and it’s a fantastic seal. I’ve paddled a Prana LV a few times for both some distance and surf play. For me, it captures more seal and dolphin characteristics in one kayak than anything I’ve paddled, and I’ve paddled a lot of sea kayaks a lot. It’s a beauty of a ride. Try one if you can.
I wish I could offer some feedback on the Guide 17 and Quantum. Maybe someone else here can.

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