Small paddler


I am considered a “smaller paddler”. I weight 125 pounds and am 5’4".

I have tried the Avocet LV and was happy with the “fit” .

Are there any other kayaks that would be recommended for an “advanced beginner”…

I have heard of the Vela… but have been told that it’s not for a beginner??? Is this correct?

Any help would be greatly appreciated


Impex Mystic

I have a Vela
It’s the kayak that I spend most of my time in. It is just fine for a beginner. It is rather skeg dependent in cross winds - you can live without it being down a bit but it gets old fast. Much more use of the skeg there than in my other boat.

Other boats you should look at are the fiberglass Necky Eliza, the P&H Cetus LV and the NDSK Pilgrim. Probably others that I am forgetting.

I am 5’ 3.5", 130-135 pounds at summer weight.

Kevlar Perception Shadow 16.5 or 14.5
if you get a chance to try one. Neither is made anymore, but both fit smaller paddlers.

Both respond quite nicely to edge turns and I find them to be quite playful for me, but I’m quite a bit larger than you at 5’6" and 160 lbs.

The 14.5 was a little tight on my thighs, but the 16.5 fits nicely in the cockpit. Both have less foot room than I prefer with my size 8.5 paddling shoes.

I’ve owned a Shadow 16.5 for about 5 weeks now and have paddled it about twice a week in that time.

If you find a used one at a good price, check it out.

my girlfriend’s list
My girlfriend is kind of looking, and we have a demo day this weekend. She is 5’1" an about 110 pounds. Currently paddles a plastic Chatham 16, which is just too heavy for her to edge.

Here are the ones we hope to try:

  • Tiderace Xplore S
  • Tiderace Xcite S
  • North Shore Atlantic LV
  • North Shore Aspect LV

    She knows the Valley Avocet LV is good for her (composite, not sure about the plastic version). And one of the smaller P&H was good (Capella 161, maybe).

    A west coast local boat, the Sterling Icekap, fit her pretty well also.

Jack L

Impex Force 3

and if you can find one, an Island Kayaks Qaarsut

Same problem
My wife has the same problem. She’s an advanced paddler but having trouble finding something that’s managable. The biggest problem we’re finding is that most modern kayaks classified as low volume are really medium volume. I’m 6’and 190 lbs and can still fit into many MV and LV boats. I prefer a snug fit for good control. Sadly, there are very few manufacturers responding to these needs. The other complaint is that manufacturers seem to think that were all going camping or on expeditions. The extra volume is often a complete waste.

Good luck,


Thank you for your input!

The Vela that I have found is in good condition and comes at a good price.

I paddled both Tidecares (that you mentioned) yesterday. They are awesome.

I also paddled a Wildness Systems 165 Pro… it’s probably my favorite so far.

I have also tried the Avocet LV … thanks!

add Pilgrim
Nigel Denis Pilgrim is an excellent hull. ( )

Other boats to keep in mind

Nigel Foster Rumour - will keep your on your toes.

CD Suka is worth a sit in as well.

Eddyline molds a couple of nice hulls, Fathom LV is probably the best match

Necky Eliza, the composite version, is always mentioned in the small boat lineup. Wasn’t someone claiming that this was a woman-oriented design?

PH Capella 161 is a small boat that doesn’t fit every small person.

PH Vela is another small boat, but not really for a small person. Generally, extreme dependence on the skeg for crosswinds indicates either a bad fit weightwise, trim issues, or a combination of both.

As an owner of an AvocetLV, I think this would work for you well.

I’ve owned a Vela but found that the cockpit fit just didn’t work all that well for me, but then I’ve had this issue pretty consistently with P&H boats. Again, what works for me may not work for someone else. I’d also found the Vela to be fairly skeg dependent.

The NDSKUK (Nigel Dennis)Pilgrim would be my other suggetion as this fit me perfectly. I ended up with an AvocetLV because I wanted something a bit more playful, but I’ve paddled the Pilgrim in some gnarly bits of water and found it to be a wonderful boat.

Given your size, I’m a bit surprised that the TempestPRO165 works for you, as I don’t think it’s particularly considered to be a low volumn kayak for small people. My husband, at 5’9"/150lbs found it to be somewhat big for him and he’s since gone over to an Avocet and a CetusLV. However, again, it’s all in the fit and what makes you comfortable and feeling safe and happy while on the water.

Necky Eliza: built for small paddlers, everyone I know who paddles it likes it. Our club has 2 and they get used a lot. Good all-around kayak: good speed, good stability, good handling. Not exceptional at anything.

Seaward Cosma: similar to the eliza. maybe less initial stability, but easier to edge, and lighter.

Every skilled paddler I know that paddles an Avocet loves it, so if you like it, I don’t think you’ll go wrong with and Avocet.

Rockpool Alaw Bach TCC (see looks like a great boat. Longer than the others, but the cockpit is made for a smaller paddler.

Maelstrom Vital: I demo’d the larger version, the Vaag, and loved it. Very playful, responsive, still with good tracking and speed.

Someone mentioned the small Sterling boat. Ppl I’ve talked to who own Sterling boats love them. Very light. Very responsive and playful, but weaker tracking.

Valley Anas Acuna and Pintail. Slightly different designs than the Avocet.

NC15 (

Good luck!!

Sterling Ice Kap
Whoops! Nobody mentioned the Sterling… I must have been dreaming.

Sterling Ice Kap

Have you paddled the Vela?
It’s not a real common boat, actually it never has been, so people aren’t all that familiar with it. Re fit, the foredeck is a bit taller than some of the other small paddlers boats, but there are some well-respected coaches who argue that it is a better boat for good pedaling and torso rotation than some of the lower decked boats. My other boat is a very low deck so I am not going to get into that, but it’s been mentioned to me by coaches with good regard for their forward stroke training.

I have had average sized paddlers try to get into it. It is physically possible for some to get in - but the question of getting out again comes up a lot. And this is paddlers who are used to tight boats.

The Vela isn’t significantly skinnier than some of the other sea kayaks out there on overall width, but at 19" its waterline width is considerably skinnier than some of the more level-sided boats. I do hit the waterline, as should the OPer. At a length of 15’8" it is a very compact 16’ boat.

As to the skeg thing - this boat takes being trimmed heavier in the stern. But even with that, if you take a good look one you’ll see that the bow is relatively dug in and the stern falls away. There are some pretty neat things that you get out what they did with this hull. However they managed it, the Vela is quicker to accelerate than most in its grouping, tracks straight backwards easily and turns on a dime.

Stability is great. I’ve had her in tidal races and chaotic haystacks that I couldn’t see over and the boat was just fine.

All that said, there are boats that are more work to keep from weather cocking and this is just one of them. I do all the usual things first - edge, sit over into the bilge and alter the stroke on each side. But when it is time to haul home and I am tired the skeg often goes down on this boat. It’s one of those unfortunate habits of mere mortals.

I have it already several years, tested lots of other boats but I’m always happy to be back in it. I’m of your size and it fits perfectly. I love the higher foredeck, and it can be trimmed quite well with the skeg.

All tours on are made with it.

The only bad thing is - if you want to go out for a week there’s not much space…

yes I did
I am 5.9x155, my comments regarding PH boats are based on my impressions.

Kayak fit is very subjective, but even PH recommends ~160lb weight as “ideal” for Vela. A whole bunch of lighter kayakers were forced into it because there was nothing else available.

Again - wrong kayak trim is the first indication that something is out of fit. Yes, you can add weight here and there, lower the seat, add ballast, but why spend extra energy carrying extra weight in your boat when there are better fitting hulls from get-an-go?


– Last Updated: May-23-11 12:06 PM EST –

I am not going to get deeply into the fit argument. As I indicated above, someone who earns lots of bucks in forward stroke class advised that I take out the bit of padding in my Vela to get the full height available for a good stroke. They disagree with deck height on many of the newer boats for smaller paddlers, and that influence can be seen in the Capella 161. As you say, fit is subjective and it is not something that plays to a perfect answer in the online world.

Agreed that the Vela was in its time one of a few. As to the weight, by the time I add in day gear (including water on the ocean) I've made another 15 pounds easy in the day hatch. So the diff between the stated 160 wt and the OPer's (or mine) gets reduced if the assumptions on load are similar. I get the water line without adding anything other than I normally paddle with.

I also have some skepticism when I read the manufacturer's statements. Until paddlers put some miles into these boats, it's very hard to tell. We have seen huge misses re the original DS Elaho and the original Cetus, based on time in both of them and owning one, where the stated weight was too little.

There have been fewer misses in the reverse direction, partly because boats for smaller paddlers are altogether a newer thing, but if I had time in all the boats out there I suspect I could find some.

As to the weather cocking and how much of that is the boat's tendency, all I can say is that my other boat is an Explorer LV which is way too big a volume for me in the hull. So it is never trimmed ideally, if that means hitting the waterline. But the skeg almost never comes down on that boat. But it is a loose bow boat, and the Vela is a tight bow. The Vela is where I spend most of my time because it is just a very easy boat to paddle. I've tried some of the others - the Avocet LV etc - and I don't find the same spriteliness.

I also have no shame about using a skeg when I am dog tired after a 5 or 6 hour day on the water and just want to g-e-t h-o-m-e. I know there are purists who disagree.

Question mark on Anas and Pintail
I’ve paddled the Anas, a friend has one. To me it felt just too deep and unwieldy even with the ocean cockpit. Similar feeling with the Pintail.

Both of these boats are terribly responsive, the Pintail so much it may not be nice to wish on a new paddlers. The under regarded Aquanaut LV, while still on the big side, may be a closer choice for an all around boat.

But I believe that Valley has a new small sea kayak out too, similar to boats like the Delphin and the Aries in P&H and the Alchemy line in Dagger. These may be very much worth a look as long as straight forward speed is not the top priority.

I’ve been through the same ritual
I’m just under 5’3", 105 lbs. Other kayaks that will fit small paddlers very well, based on my experience:

  • NDK Pilgrim or Pilgrim Expedition (I own one of the latter)
  • NDK Romany LV

    Both of the above have small keyhole cockpits.

    More roomy but still very good:

  • WS Tempest 165 (the included stock adjustable outfitting will make it a nice fit)
  • P&H Capella 161 (but definitely add some padding for hips and maybe under the thigh braces)–the boat handles well but the cockpit is big

    I have not paddled one, but the Valley Anas Acuta might also be a good candidate.