Small kayaks for small human beings

It is a serious question–why are there not more boats made for small women, small human beings, under 135 lbs and small in stature? Impex Force 3 and CD Rumor are the only ones–P&H Vela maybe (but that is too big for me). Padding bigger boats out to “fit” a small person just does not cut it–sort of like stuffing a pair of hiking boots so they don’t slip and then trying to hike in them . . . I’ve spent a lot of $$$ buying into that theory and it does not work.


– Last Updated: Aug-07-06 4:53 AM EST –

Check out the thread about the Wilderness Systems Piccolo replacement. Tsunami SP. (Small Person).

Assumptions about the market?
I think that a lot of it is that manufacturers don’t think of that as being a real market. Yeah - I know that is aggravating and nuts. But the people making these decisions are by and large guys, and honestly even the most thoughtful of them will always forget about one or another part of the necessary body dimensions. If they remember the weight, they forget about the thigh length. Or they don’t realize the effect of the deck height.

I am healthy average height and weight, and encounter this even guys I regularly paddle with and have heard my rant. At skills practice and just for fun sessions we’ll not infrequently do boat switches, and with the best of them I am still regularly pointed at a boat where the cockpit is quite narrow, and maybe even low enough, but the length leaves me touching air.

The other HUGE problem is the marketing folks at most companies. If a designer does come in with a small keyhole cockpit, often the marketing people will get concerned that too few will fit into it and make it larger. The first year of the Chatham 18 has an unbelievably large cockpit, imposed by other than the designer. Great if you are Wilt Chamberlain, but for the rest of us…

That said, CD is really trying and a couple of others, like WS, are touching into this. And there is always Betsie Bay, and the NDK Explorer LV got it really right with the cockpit though there is conversation out there about the hull capacity. While I might grumble a bit because I am just real good at it, things really are much better than they were several years ago.

BTW, my short boat is a Vela. I padded the area up towards the thigh braces down, a lot, and moved the seat forward, and find it behaves pretty well.

Eddyline Merlin LT
Are you the same person who is selling the Merlin LT? I have been thinking about this model - what did you or did you not like about it? (I’m a small person, too, although I do weight more than 135 pounds!)

Slim pickings
I am 5’2" and 110 lbs. Currently paddling a Necky Elaho Sport. Fits best of anything I have found around here. Have been dreaming of trying an Impex Mystic. Unfortunately none sold in this area.


I have found…
that even the boats that ARE considered suitable for smaller paddlers are still too big for me. (‘m 4’11’)I have a Mystic, Montauk, Nighthawk and a Valkyrie. The only boat that really fits is the Valkyrie. (Betsie Bay) I haven’t had a chance to demo the Rumour, but I hope to at Ladies of the Lake. I saw it, and sat in it at GLSKS, and as far as sizing for me, it seemed like a case of same old, same old. But Sing says it’s the lowest volume production model out there. I’m pinning my hopes on Patrick’s Mermaid. (Onnopaddles)Yes, it does come down to a question of manufactures wanting to sell to the “average” market. Short people seem to be a speciality niche that manufactures give lip service to, but not actual committment. I’d love to have a SOF built just for me, but I can’t afford it. Check out Patrick’s site - the Mermaid looks great.

Try the Betsie Bay Idun–it’s one size smaller than the Valkyrie, and probably better for someone 110 lbs.

another vote for the Idun or…
Get Pete Strand to build you a SOF Qajaq for about a quarter of the cost. He is great to work with and is VERY affordable. Cheri Perry, Alison Sigethy, Dan Segal, and our very own BrazilBrasil have all bought his boats so you know he is legit. :slight_smile:

Oh and don’t use his website form since it doesn’t work very well. I would email him directly at

My 5’ wife is very happy with her WS Tchaika, but the stock footpegs barely worked for her even in the full-aft position.

SOF option:

You could have a machine shop fabricate any parts you couldn’t do yourself.

We are soooo close … but just
ran out of time as the ‘paddle season’ took off and we had to give most of our time to those … and new baby.

Final design is finished and all : 0 we have to do is final fair the plug to make the molds, the make the molds …

Updating info coming on this boat.

I know of two
The Surge and my wife’s new QCC.

It is not listed on their site, but they have sold about three since she got hers, and two of them were from small women who saw her boat last year down in Florida.

She is 5’2" and 122 pounds and absolutely loves the boat.

She had a direct hand in helping with the design of the cockpit dimensions and the rear deck height.

The boat is kevlar, 15’3" long, 43 pounds,21" wide.

Call Phil at QCC and taslk to him about it.



What about the hull capacity?
Do you mean volume? Just curious what the buzz is.

Looks pretty spacious compared to my Sirius.


I tend to agree with a lot of your stuff, but wish to add some thoughts. There are quite a few small kayaks out there that are great for women and small paddlers, and there WILL be more. For example my wife paddles a 31 lb. 15 ft. Carbon, cored, infused, prototype with two Valley Ovals and surf boat outfitting (simple) with carbon thigh hooks foam seat etc. The boat was designed specifically for women, and it is super tough. That product should see the market soon, and it’s a dream to paddle. I think you will see manufacturers address specialty markets more and more as long big boats are pretty saturated.

Before we get on marketing people we need to look at where the cash is. These professionals listen to their dealers, focus groups, reps., etc., and the OVERWHEALMING demand of recent years has been bigger fitting boats and recreational kayaks. While most of us here like a different type of boat, we ARE the minority. So, if you are in the business you have to look at what the majority of consumers are asking for, and if you do well at that you can perhaps play around with niche / cool stuff that you might break even on?? Add up all the favorite boats from the favorite manufacturers here and you’ll have a number that’s about 1/3’d the sales of a Rec. boat! That’s an educated guess.

Our very own BrazilBrasil?


What I meant…
Since the Explorer LV is exactly the same hull as the full size - all the changes were above the shear line - the hull still has a design capacity for an average to large size paddler weight. So when the paddler (like me) that fits thru the cockpit goes to edge the boat hard or do some other control manuvers, they are lifting a rather large hull in terms of resistence.

That said, the control I have in the LV with the lowered deck and extra small cockpit is so good, and the hull itself is so friendly to things like rolling and sculling, that I’ve never noticed an issue with this in any real paddling situation. The only time I noticed an issue with getting tired out from it was when I was working for the 3 star and had to spend extensive time in pretty flat water holding it on an artificial edge. My thighs were definately noticing the work.

I did notice that I could get closer to doing some stuff without relying on anything from the paddle with my husband’s Romany (Elite layup) than with my LV when I recently had them back to back in flat water doing skills stuff. So the volume does impact some stuff. But again, nothing has ever shown up as a problem in real conditions that was due to the boat. That’s always been the paddler.

Sounds cool

– Last Updated: Aug-08-06 11:51 AM EST –

The prototype sounds very interesting - especially if they corrected Valley's oval shape with something that'll work as thigh braces. That's one thing I really don't understand with Valley - they really do seem opposed to a real thigh brace. The ocean cockpit as alternative just is awfully tight for wet re-entries, even for limber me.

Dumb question since I really haven't quite figured who is who - what company?

I agree that companies have to sell boats, and that if they can't there'll be nothing for us to buy. And that a ton of people are out there in rec/touring boats by necessity or choice, and there are some very respectable boats in that bunch.

I think the thing that makes it most frustrating for many, especially a woman who is shorter than average height, is the number of times a boat is advertised or promoted as a boat for small paddlers but it isn't. The Capella 161 was P&H's effort at this for example, and I am told that the missed the mark and the 160 is the solution (I haven't had a chance to get into anything smaller than the 163, which I could roll etc but is way too big.) I am luckily at least exactly average, but I'd have a heck of a time being less so.

All that said - yeah, there aren't exactly hard numbers on how many of "us" there are (smaller/leaner women paddlers). But there is the chicken and egg thing - if women get into a typical boat and find out they can barely made it do anything, how much will they be encouraged to go further? We know someone who just built a wooden boat sized better for his wife than the plastic boat that she had, and so far she is enjoying paddling a lot more than she did before. And it seems that women-only classes even for more robust skills fill up pretty well.

The boat was designed
totally for women. Physicians, Ergo folk etc., all women. No compromises. Whether production models will be as light who knows? Light = $$. Not at liberty to say anymore. Impex Mystic is a great small boat, and Foster has a light option as well. As you mention, the NDK Romay LV is also an option, albeit a bit heavy.

not a problem for me
I am a female, 4’ 11" and I paddle a perception sundance 9.5. The cockpit is large and the seat and foot pegs adjust perfectly for my size.

You will always need to make adjustments to any kayak for your own needs and comfort, regardless of your size.

Impex Force 3
17’ x 20" x 10.5" deck height. Large cockpit but with quite competitive (right adj.? not sure) thigh braces. Small person performance sea kayak. Too bad I don’t fit into it at 6’. Oh well that’s why theres the Force 4.

See you on the water,