Dereck Hutchison, a Brit who is often considered one of the founders of modern sea kayaking, has been quoted as being asked what the perfect length sea kayak was and responding that it was 16 feet. He then went on to say the reason for this is that his garage was 16.5 feet long.
10+ years ago, sea kayaks were pretty much all 16’ or longer. People were taking longer trips up the inside passage or island hopping off o Maine, so they wanted boats that could carry lots of gear and hold decent speed.
More recently “day touring” kayaks have come out. These are shorter boats, often in that 14-16’ range. They have all the safety aspects and such that full size sea kayaks, but are shorter. This makes them easier to store, transport, etc.
Many old school paddlers seem to still have it in their head that everyone still need a long kayak. I find this mindset particularly common inside clubs. Reality is that while there are some differences between a day touring and sea kayak, you need to look at intended use to decide what is best. For many, a day touring is just fine.
You’d want a full touring kayak (16’+) if:
- you are planning to do camping trips more than a night or two out of your kayak
- the people you paddle with go hard and fast, as the longer boat generally can hold a faster speed (but watch out, as high rocker longer boats are still slow - for example the Necky Chatham 16 is 16.5 feet long, but consider a dog when it comes to speed).
You would want a day touring boat if:
- you don’t have room to store the longer boat (sounds like this may be your case)
- want an easier to transport boat (usually lighter, doesn’t overhang off roof as much, etc.)
- you are often paddling narrower channels or creeks- a shorter boat is more maneuverable and needs less channel width to turn around
- you are planning to do some of the more aggressive sides of kayaking, like rock gardening or surfing (maneuverable boats are very useful in this)
My storage area is 15’long, so I no longer own boats longer than that. And I have found I don’t miss them (much). About once a year there may be some trip or longer paddle I would like a longer boat on, but for that it is cheaper for me to just rent or borrow.
Shorter boats that you could consider:
P&H Dephin or Aries (you probably would fit the 150 better than 155) - 15’ or 15.5’
Dagger Alchemy S or L (though I’d lean toward L for your size) - 14’
Dagger Stratos S - 14.5’
Valley Gemini (any version) - 15’
North Shore Aspect - 14’3" for LV, 14’9" for regular
Jackson Journey 14 - 14’
P&H, Valley, and North Shore are not as readily available as Dagger and Jackson.
If you do need speed but want shorter, the Valley Gemini RM or ST may be ones to really look at, if you can find them. I have found that the Geminis hold speed much better than expected for a 15’ long boat. When my girlfriend switched from an Alchemy S to a Gemini RM, her speed increase remarkably. Went from me waiting for her to me having to work to keep up with her. Tracks well, which also means it is not as maneuverable as other 15’ boats.