Short, Skinny Kayak?


I’m new to kayaking, and generally just rent sit-on-tops. When I went to try out some sit-ins, I was surprised to find that the one I enjoyed the most was a very long skinny kayak. (Stitch and Glue Night Heron) It’s certainly not because of the hull speed, I’m not that strong or that fast of a paddler. Instead it was the combination of a boat that felt like it was part of my body, instantly, and was easy to move around despite being so long, and the fact that, being so narrow, I could paddle it easily without bashing my knuckles. It might be my history of aggressive skating and motorcycle racing, but I just don’t see the added stability of the wider kayaks as a benefit. It makes it feel like I have to fight it when I want to move around in the waves, whereas the skinnier ones just move with me, like the difference between a harley, which will stay up whether you want it to or not, and a sport bike which dives into the turns… ok, well, it’s a horrible analogy, but it’s the best I’ve got at the moment.

So, I was wondering. I see lots of short, fat kayaks, that are incredibly stable, and incredibly slow, and lots of long fast kayaks, that approach surf-ski’s in design.

I’ve read a bit on the “long boat myth” etc etc, and think a 15’ boat would be more than adequate for my paddling (and a lot easier to deal with logistically) has anyone seen plans/offsets for a 15’ish boat that’s skinny?

Is this a bad idea? Would a skinny boat that short not have enough buoyancy/displacement?

(ps, to me, skinny means < 21" across… ish… heavy on the “-ish”)

Thanks. :slight_smile:

– James

I’d love to try a Night Heron, but my
feets too big.

High Deck Version
i know CLC has a High Deck version that accommodates up to a size 13.

– James

Mine are size 14-15. Why did you call
the NH “short”?

I didn’t think I did.
I certainly wouldn’t call the night heron a short boat. at 18’ long, it’s rather big by my way of thinking. what I like about it is that it is narrow, and felt very comfortable. I’d like to find a boat like that, but in the < 15’ range, but no one seems to make them, and trying to design a boat before even building my first one seems a little presumptuous, even for my not-so-humble self. :wink:

– James

Very narrow, short boat would
probably be unstable. I owned a Coaster which was 13.5 feet overall and had a beam of 23.5 inches which was plenty stable but then, the Coaster was a real sea kayak not a rec boat. Most boats in the 13-14 foot range are at least 25 inches wide and most of that is amidships for max stability and it makes for a lousy handling kayak.

I Wanna Try One o’ These:

sea kayak vs rec boat?
What is the difference between a real sea kayak and a rec boat, if, in this case, they’re both relatively short and relatively wide?

Sorry, still learning here.


– James

Depends how heavy you are
If you are over may be something like 160lb I think you either need to go over 15ft or wider than 21" or so - otherwise the kayak will ride too deep. if you’re lighter, you can go by with a shorter boat that is also quite narrow.

Also, the overall width is one thing but for the feel of a kayak being “skinny”, it is the width where you paddle enters the water that matters more. The Perception Sonoma 13.5 I’ve been paddling until recently is narower at the foot/paddle enty area than most sea kayaks, except racing ones like the Epic 18x or Rapier 18. While that kayak was just under 22" wide, where my paddle entered (I’m long arm-ed) was around 3" narower than the similarly wide Tempest 170, hence the boat felt much more slender than it actually was. Because the boat had enough volume otherwise (full ends) it rode fine on the water and had very good speed for its length. And because it was so short and relatively skinny it was exceedingly easy to paddle at moderate speeds of up to about 4.5-4.7 mph (and rather hard above that).

I’ve paddled the CD Rumor, which is somehting like 19" wide and is probably just over 16 feet - it sank too deep with my 190lb (at the time) and did not feel as fast as I think it would be for someone lighter.

The NH is a nice boat - I’ve only paddled the HV version and thought it had way too tall and big cockpit where my knees were and forward of there. Probably the Greenland version is better but I much preferred the fit of the Petrel, which felt livelier too (being shorter). That’s 19" wide if I recall and a pretty good boat for rough water and rolling. But the NH clearly had a better turn of speed and still a nice feel to it for maneuvering too. Might want to check the Petrel too - a little shorter thogh not all the way to 15 feet…

Me too -:wink:
But, P&H has got to get rid of that front center hatch or at least make it optional. It kills my shins and I can’t put my legs together in their boats because of it.

Man, why you gotta…
go and suggest a strip built kayak.

I’m looking at skin on frame because of a combination of cost, and being terrified of woodworking. (and wanting to get on the water sometime in the next 6 months if at all possible)

It is a beautiful boat, but the combination of $1200 for a kit, and then the time to complete a strip built kayak… yikes. Sounds like an excellent project for after I’ve already got at least 1 boat I can actually use to get in the water and blow off steam without renting a sit-on-top though.

Thanks :wink:

– James

Long Skinny Kayak
Though it is 18’, you might want to take a look at the new Epic V8. I have a V10, and I think if the V8 had been available at the time I would have opted for it.

I say this assuming that your interest is not in a super stable platform for fishing, photography, whatever. There is a bit of a learning curve with the Epics, but they sure are fun.

Good luck…Mike

PS: I have a Harley and a Ducati, and I like the analogy.

also, my numbers
For what it’s worth, I fluctuate between about 145 and 150 lbs, 5’10" and a size 10 shoe. So I should fit in most kayaks without any problems.

Look at Yost designs - I know he’s got shorter/more narrow boats and it’s a non-traditional skin-on-frame build that’s easy to do (seriously easy - I’ve done it… twice!).

Which would you suggest?

I just learned how to operate my saw trying to make a sea rider. Because of the learning curve, I’ve decided to start over, but I’m not sure if the sea-rider is the best one to start with. Which ones did you do?


– James

yes! try it
The Delphin is awesome. Maybe not a good boat if you’ll only have one boat, but if you do a lot of surfing or playing in rocks and rough water, this boat is really fun. I’m waiting for my mandatory inter-boat-purchase waiting period to expire so I can pick one of these up.

Sea Kayak v Rec Boat
The visible features that make a sea kayak, or expedition kayak or similar, go to safety and aptness for doing things like recovering from capsizes in potentially rough conditions. That’d be at least two sealed bulkheaded areas, so the boat floats level on the water if upside down, full static line (perimeter rigging) around the edges to be able to hold onto the boat if capsized and a generally smaller cockpit opening that has good contact points for a roll.

A rec kayak is not intended to be out in those conditions so lacks most of that stuff. And the really basic ones tend to be a PITA to perform a self-rescue in, compared to a sea kayak which is equipped to make it easier.

Sea kayaks were also originally intended to support long expeditions, so the full length sea kayaks can run over 17’ feet to have sufficient storage.

Older sea kayak designs often had rudders, newer ones tend to have skegs. Both devices help with tracking and have adherents.

Sea kayaks generally have a hull design that’ll feel more unstable than a rec kayak to a new paddler on flat water. That’s because it takes a different hull design to handle slipping around on waves without capsizing than one that’ll sit quietly on flat water.

There is a group of 12 to 15 ft boats called transitional, or in some manufacturers’ line touring boats, that tend to have some of these features. They tend to be wider than a sea kayak like the P&H Cetus or the NDK Explorer or the Wilderness Systems Tempest, but narrower than a basic rec kayak. They are intended to be more comforting in their stability to a new paddler but still be capable of handling bigger conditions.

There are a handful of older, shorter designs, like the Coaster, that had tremendously capable hulls but may have lacked some features of more current sea kayaks. They are still well-loved designs.

There is a newer batch of designs around 14 to 15 ft that have all the above sea kayak features in a compact package, like the Dagger Alchemy and the P&H Aries and Delphin. But these last are quite new.

Don’t mean to trash rec boats
If it were not for these short, wide boats the kayak industry probably couldn’t exist. To me. a “rec boat” with about 25 or more inches of beam, mostly around the cockpit and likely not much volume in the ends. In all cases, a rec boat’s cockpit is way too big and a sea coming over the bow can implode the sprayskirt and then the paddler has some serious things to consider at that very moment. I like short boats and rec boats are great for easy conditions such as small lakes, estuaries and salt marshes; any place where you won’t encounter the gnarly stuff. But then i would consider a small canoe like Placid Boatwork’s Spitfire which only weighs about half as much as a rec kayak of the same length. Jake

Also cockpit size
In my mind, one of the discriminators between a rec boat and a sea kayak is the size of the cockpit opening, and whether a skirt is considered a regular or only occasional piece of gear. The sea kayak having a small cockpit, obviously, and a skirt usually being worn.

Cape Falcon
By the way, you should take a look at the Cape Falcon F-1 kayak. It would do everything you’re looking for and then some, and is the size you’re looking for. Taking Brian’s class is a great way to learn how to make a SOF - plus your boat is done in a week. I love mine.