I’m a cyclist and in cycling sizing yourself to the correct frame dimensions is very important. Now becoming new to Kayaking I am wondering just how the size of Kayak is determined by an individual, to be safe and comfortable to paddle. For example if I want to get a Jackson Journey, 15 foot ocean Kayak, will the 15 footer have like two or three cockpit sizes to chose from? or would I have to buy a smaller boat all together if I feel to small in the Journey?

I’m 5’ 6" in height(I think) and right now 180 pounds(mostly in my gut from drinking too much soda and junk) I’m in reasonable shape, can do 50 miles on my bike without feeling whipped.

the sport Conduit I’m looking at measures 18 inches across the cockpit opening, 38 inches back to front. I measured my torso and it’s at just under 17 inches across.

I often have bought boats without
sitting in them first, but with kayaks that is risky. Have you been able to sit in it?

I’ve had to pass up a number of ww kayaks because getting my long and crooked legs, followed by my wide pelvis, into the boats just was not working.

Cockpit is sized to the boat volume

– Last Updated: Apr-16-14 11:33 PM EST –

No - a given boat has a hull design that assumes a given paddler weight and size range and has a cockpit intended to match all of that. Sizing up or down is done by changing the whole boat - so a boat for a smaller person is often a bit shorter and has a shallower deck than for a large person. You see it in different models of many popular boats - for example there are several Tsunamis, I think there are at least two Zephyrs, etc.

The starting point is the intended size of paddler to get the hull to its waterline. Too deep and the boat may be past its stability point, too shallow and you are bobbing around in the wind with less easy ability to control the boat than someone who is sinking the boat to its best waterline.

The cockpits are designed around the paddler in mind when they did the hull. Granted there have been misses here and there. But for boats that have performance needs, like full out sea kayaks, the cockpit should allow the paddler to comfortably hit the three points needed for good control.

They are thigh braces, butt and feet (can be foot pegs or bracing against the forward bulkhead). That configuration has to work. So a 5 ft 3.5 inch tall person like me needs a shallower deck and a shorter run forward to get under the thigh braces than our 6 ft 4 inch friend. His thighs are longer, he probably needs a wider seat than me and he needs more deck height for those long legs to get in and out as well as a longer setting for the footpegs. And a long enough boat so that it is still wide and tall enough to accommodate a much bigger shoe size than me. I am swimming in a boat that is well suited for him and would hit no good contact, and he probably couldn't get one leg into my 15 ft 8 inch long 21 inch (or around that) wide Vela.

That said, KayakSport did offer two cockpit sizes at one point, may still, but we are talking major expedition boats. These boats are way bigger than most people would want to bother with for a day on the water. I think their shortest boat is nearly 19 feet long.

Anyway, this is why people say you have to sit in a boat. Even with a lot of time in boats you can sit in one and find the cockpit configuration just is not what you expected. I wanted to love the Caribou at one point when they were new, and it looked like a match from all the descriptions. But it took about 20 minutes trying a friend's Caribou the boat to realize that its cockpit and my proportions were never going to be happy together. Same with a few other boats that were supposedly perfect for me.

When you are new, it is easier to make a mistake than to get it right unless you get some lessons that focus on the more advanced skills, so you really understand the purpose of the fit.

Thanks… When I sat in the Conduit I was able to fit the seat so I was upright, and adjusted the foot pegs so my legs had a slight bend(as said from videos) and comfortable. My thighs weren’t really in great contact with the thigh pads(I’m not even sure if they are thigh pads in it, just some cockpit combing in the front I guess) the actual opening of the cockpit where my hips have to enter and exit, gives me about an inch and a half on both sides of my hips. The boat doesn’t feel ‘snug’ but it felt like I could control it fairly with my hip movement and it felt like I was tall enough while sitting, to paddle without hitting my hands on the gunwhales. On the site it says room for larger paddlers with the Conduit, so I got worried that being a smaller guy(I think) at 5’ 6" the boat would be too big cockpit wise. I really didn’t feel like I was swimming in in it, but I also felt I had some room to wiggle. I also felt like I could easily lean and get it on edge and was almost doing so while flat on the rug. I kinda got the idea how to use my hips to move the boat.

I also understand the Conduit is a slightly longer rec boat, so the cockpit is most likely a one size fits all type.

I just don’t want to be sliding around or always having to position myself after every few paddle strokes and from what I have researched, if you want to do some serious paddling and all day stuff…make sure the boat is snug at the contact points…just like you said. Makes sense.


If I remember right

– Last Updated: Apr-17-14 2:17 AM EST –

The Conduit doesn't have an actual separate adjustable thigh brace like on a more expensive yak, just an area on the underside of the combing where you can make contact that I think perception refers to as the thigh brace. If you take the foot pegs in a notch that will raise your thighs for better contact. If you do feel loose in the seat you can glue some foam on the inside if you wish for a snugger fit but don't do that right away (assuming of course you get off the Internet and go paddling at some point) as you may not find it necessary and after several hours you may appreciate a little wiggle room.
The contact points are immensely more important if you're white watering, playing in surf or waves, or trying to edge the boat to compensate for cocking due to wind or running seas. Some people paddle all summer and never edge their boat.
This is one of those things you are going to figure out what YOU need while you are enjoying what you got.

We Can Talk
I’m also a biker / sea kayaker. I made the same observation as you a long time back. A bicycle has a seat that can very easily be moved up and down and forward and backward.

Dear boat makers… please make kayak seats just as easy to adjust.

Until then you have to sit in boats and see how they feel. You can adjust or pad out some seats or have a good shop do it for you.

Fit versus wiggle room
As folks are saying below, you can add padding. But there is a point where you are trying to fit into a boat that was just not made with you in mind. At that point you need to think about doable versus a better fitting boat.

You want to be able to drop your legs and relax them along the bottom, and you want to be able to shift your hip a bit to alter your weight off center. But you also want those thigh braces to be just a quick motion upward to grab them if you need, not a contorting reach. You never want to sacrifice your basic form for a forward stroke to get into a more controlling position.

At 5 ft 6" you are a smaller paddler. Average for paddler means average guy - more like 5 ft 10 inches and 180 pounds. So if you are accustomed to fit and performance in bikes, I suspect that a kayak intended for a larger paddler will be a purchase that you soon regret. Like I said, you will be starting off with pretty good balance from the biking.

Think of it this way

– Last Updated: Apr-17-14 9:10 AM EST –

The boat you choose is the bike frame. How you set footpegs or pad it out or mess with the seat is the distance to the pedals and the position of your upper body seat to handlebars.

As you know from biking, there are good options on customizing things like handlebar stem length and seat position if you are starting out with the right frame. But if you are starting with a poorly sized frame for your body, everything you try to do for a fit will be an awkward Rube Goldberg. It might work but it will never be comfortable like if you had started with the correct frame.

The niche filled by boats like the Conduit is for people who are NOT interested in gaining skills for more challenging paddling, like in waves. They manage that niche very well. Since the paddling is likely to be in easy flat water, they are not designed for the kind of boat control that you want in waves.

To be fair, Perception is very clear about this. Here is a clip from their own web site about the Conduit 13 - "A great boat for touring lazy rivers or doing some exploration on smaller lakes." Notice that they do NOT mention waves, large lakes or any water with salt content.

But my sense is that you are not likely to be such a paddler.

Jackson Journey

– Last Updated: Apr-17-14 9:38 AM EST –

I bought a demo Journey 14 late last fall. Have only paddled it a few times in this long cold New England spring (frost last two nights) and so I can't yet give extensive observations.

My observations at this time is the 14 Journey fits me fine at 6' 1" and 210 lbs. It has ample room for my size 13 feet. Your size and weight would leave me to speculate that the Journey 13.5 would be a better fit. Try both.

Another observation is that the Journey is somewhat on the looser tracking side of the spectrum. More maneuverable (my preference) but requiring somewhat better paddling skills at first. Buy one outfitted with rudder to help you while developing your paddling skills. A paddle down a class 1-2 last weekend (no rudder use) was a joy!

As expected, it is slower than longer sea kayaks (speed is mostly a ratio of length and width). It is fast enough to keep up with most groups and quite stable. The 60 lb weight is at the max for an old guy like me and I wish it was lighter. J rack dented the bottom (heat from full sun mostly removed them). I've mounted saddles onto my rack for next trip and expect this will solve problem.


I guess I’m a smaller paddler(glad to know, wasn’t sure) so up in Saranac Lake someone has a Current Designs ‘Breeze’ for sale I think it’s a 14 footer, for 550.00 and says it’s great for the smaller paddler.

From the pics the cockpit looks way shorter than on the Conduit.

I see Current Designs is a good make and this boat sold for 1,000 originally, so…I guess I’ll start there, sit in it and make sure I have good contact at he three points and feel overall comfortable in it.

I would like to get a better fitting boat, because I do pan to learn beyond the basics eventually. I’m one of those types that isn’t satisfied with merely the basics. I want to be able to move this boat for all it’s worth, then relax and sit dead in the water, sipping a Coke, lol.

So yeah…the Conduit is tempting and price is right, but if I put away my impulse buying and wait a little longer and save a bit more money…I can get a boat that will last me for a coupe years.

One thing I do know, from reading a lot, is that I do want a longer, touring/sea boat, because camping on lake islands and al day paddle fest, appeals to me, plus rec machines tend to be boring as far as doing the advanced maneuvers.

I want to go see that Breeze, but the Condiut is still a possibility. I compared its construction to an old Necky play boat and it seems like the same old plastic. The Necky had the better seat for sure and anodized aluminum thigh braces and hardware, but for the money the Conduit doesn’t seem that bad at all. I can always add my own perimeter rigging and whatever is seen on better rigs. But the Hull itself seems tough and not distorted(I did a lot of measuring) People at Dicks probably thought I was nuts, lol.


– Last Updated: Apr-17-14 12:19 PM EST –

By the time you start putting holes in a big box store boat to add perimeter rigging, you are probably spending money on the wrong boat.

Also, the fit and width has a LOT to do with making a boat better for rolling. If you want the sea kayak and more performance down the road, you will find that at least starting to learn a roll is part of the process. Or you will be doing a heck of a lot of swimming every time you miss a brace - a totally non-controversial need for bigger water.

A 26 inch wide boat meant for flat water just does not have a hull or cockpit configuration or much of anything else intended to make that easy to do. Certainly not a boat to try and learn to roll in.

Again, even Perception does not claim this is what the boat is about. They are telling the truth.

Unfortunately people get a boat that they don't capsize in within the first few minutes and then decide it'll do everything they need or want, despite having been informed of the boat's limitations beforehand. We don't expect a family sedan to be a race car, or a city bike hybrid to do well in a road race. But somehow people think that as long as a boat doesn't capsize the first time they are in it, it'll do everything they want down the road. If you had said you were interested in a fishing platform for quiet rivers and creeks, yoiu could get just about anything. But that is not what you are saying - and you risk making a several hundred dollar mistake if you don't take a bit more time to learn more and get advice from outfitters. Yes, many here will say that they still have those first boats and they are great to have around for friends. But that is a luxury you can afford after you have a boat for yourself, and for that you can always go to an end of season sale and pick up a used Keowee cheap.

No cockpit options, in general
The only case I can think of in which a boat model had different cockpits were a few that could be obtained with either a keyhole cockpit or an ocean cockpit. Example: older Valley Pintails.

Stretching things a bit, the LV (lower-volume) versions of some NDK kayaks had smaller keyholes than the standard versions, but in that case the deck was also lowered even though the hulls were the same size.

There might be some other exceptions but as a rule, you can’t mix and match. It’s not like bike components, because those are simply bolted in/on the frame–unlike cockpits and coamings.

It sounds like you might benefit from just renting different kayaks for a while before buying one. Get an idea of not only what you will absolutely fit in, but what you are comfortable in and can edge. A huge cockpit and beam will feel comfortable at first, but you might have a hard time edging it. And edging ability is critical for kayaking anything other than the easiest, calmest conditions, or for maneuvering in tight areas.

kayak fit
Absolutely fit your kayak to your body size. Pygmy Kayaks web site does a good job of talking about different cockpit sizes and boats sizes.

You can try the fit on dry land, but the best test is a wet exit. Make sure you have someone one hand in case you have trouble getting out of a squeezy cockpit.

Many years ago my brother and I were offered the use of 2 sea kayaks, but they were made for really small adults. It would have been dangerous to try to paddle in those boats.

kayak fit
Absolutely fit your kayak to your body size. Pygmy Kayaks web site does a good job of talking about different cockpit sizes and boats sizes.

You can try the fit on dry land, but the best test is a wet exit. Make sure you have someone one hand in case you have trouble getting out of a squeezy cockpit.

Many years ago my brother and I were offered the use of 2 sea kayaks, but they were made for really small adults. It would have been dangerous to try to paddle in those boats.

another model
I think I was the one who first directed you from YA to this forum, so I’ll weigh in with another suggestion. I’ve owned 10 kayaks and rented or borrowed a half dozen others – I’m your height but 35 lbs lighter (though being female my hip size may be similar to yours). My ex boyfriend weighs 180 though he is 2 inches taller than you. He has owned 5 kayaks. Both of us have the same favorite for fit and performance: my Venture Easky 15LV (the LV means “low volume”). He bought a standard Easky 15 but still has a slight preference for my LV.

Great seat position and thigh braces, nice performing boat and reasonably priced. Only drawback is that Venture has discontinued making it and replaced it with their Islay model. But you might find one used or still in stock at dealers. Lake George Kayak had some Easky’s in their rental stable and may still. And you might want to try the Islay – I have not tried one yet so I can’t comment on it. Venture is the plastic boat line of highly respected P & H, a top end British sea kayaking manufacturer and their designs are quite nice.


– Last Updated: Apr-19-14 8:25 PM EST –

Thanks for the suggestion on the Islay from P&H!

I can't believe it, but I actually found a dealer that sells those here in NY(Clayton)Thanks to that sites dealer locater, that is like 20 minutes away! I'm surely going to go check them out and ask that outfitter what I have to do. I decided to do this right and be happier with my purchase and if I have to pay more then so be it. I'd rather have the boat that I can handle nicely.


P.S. I'm not the one you referred to this forum.


– Last Updated: Apr-21-14 10:56 AM EST –

You're near Clayton? Small world. One of my best friends is from there, his family still lives in the town and I've visited with him. And one of my best kayaking buddies is in Kingston, across the river. You've got great kayaking resources up there. Get in touch with the Cataraqui Canoe and Kayak Club in Kingston -- they do all kinds of paddling outings in the Thousand Islands area. I joined them a few years back (took the ferry with my folding kayak from Clayton to Wolf island where my Canadian friend picked me up) for a leisurely tour on the Rideau Canal between Kingston and Ottawa. Great group and they have some excellent instructors (my friend there was the Canadian National Champion in whitewater many moons ago). Check out their website.

There is also an outstanding kayak dealer, Frontenac Outfitters, near Frontenac Provincial park up there. Check the import tax requirements with customs if you buy a boat up there. Bought a canoe many years ago near Toronto but since we used it on the trip it was classified as "used" and we owed no duty on it when we declared it. Don't know the requirements now.