The top heavy kayaker!

So, I’m very new here, and this is my first post. I’m Scott, from NW Indiana, and I own a sit on fishing kayak. So…here’s my post…(the rest of the story if you will. )
About 2 years ago I bought my first kayak, like many I chose to go to Dicks, for a few reasons. So, I purchase a decent beginner sit IN kayak. I was happy with it, until I wasn’t. I swamped it a time or two, and had trouble rescuing myself out of the water. So I decided that a sit on may be a better choice (here’s the important part) I way about 280. The sit in was great, it was stable, it paddled and tracked well, and all but the upside down part, I loved it. So I purchased my sit ON, and found it a little tougher to enjoy. When you’re heavy, you have to worry about where your center of gravity is. Sit in, center of gravity is low = stability. Sit on, center of gravity is high = less stable, easier to tip. So what tips do you have for folks that aren’t 160 and can paddle like a duck ? What’s the easiest way in/out, how to make things more stable, and how to feel comfortable, and relax. All conversation is much appreciated.

More info needed. Sot and Sink make and model? Frame seat, clip-on, other? Boat weight capacity? Type of water: lakes, rivers, rapids?

1 Like

The sit in you got from Dick’s probably had a capacity that was not up to your weight. Any time you have a kayak that is not designed for your weight, you will sink it too much and it gets very unstable. The folks who sell boats at Dick’s are often not the best guides that way.

A sit inside kayak that was designed for your weight would NOT be so unstable.

And as you discovered the hard way, rec boats are simply not designed to support self-rescue on the water. You typically will need to drag them to shore. It is longer and skinnier sea kayaks that are properly designed to do that.

It is possible that your sit on top has a similar issue - did you get it at Dick’s or some place that really does a good job in fishing kayaks? Or are you spooked now from a poor first experience.

Do you paddle just in quiet areas, nothing offshore or salty, and/or not way out in big lakes like the Great Lakes? If touring or camping or anything with waves is not in your paddling environment, there should be something in the Pungo line that would do for you. Rec boats are not my specialty so others here would better know which one.

But you may have to spend more money than at Dick’s…

There are many opinions on how far below the stated weight capacity you should be, e.g. 25%, 30% or even 50%, but the point is that you shouldn’t be anywhere near the stated capacity. The stated capacity is simply the “laboratory” number that says the boat will float. It isn’t the number that the kayak will paddle well and be the most stable.

I do know some canoe manufacturers do provide an optimum weight capacity for paddling performance. I’m sure there are kayak manufacturers that do the same, I just don’t know which ones.

Since I noted that you said your sit in kayak (SINK) was stable, I will add my one cent.

It will be difficult for you the re-enter a kayak in the water because of your weight (I am overweight also) however there are some videos on youtube demonstrating ways to achieve this.

Here is one: How to get back on your kayak (Larger Person Version)

I do not know which SINK you have, but it is likely that it would benefit from additional floatation. This is not to support you while you are in it, rather it keeps a capsized kayak from taking on so much water that it cannot be righted and re-entered (even by thinner folks). There are several threads on this site that discuss ways to add floatation.

Here are some:

There are many others.

Even if you still cannot re-enter the kayak while on the water, the additional floatation will make it much easier to move the kayak back to shore.

Good luck and keep trying.

Hmm. Just to clarify, my assumption when someone swamps a boat is it happened because it went off balance and was unstable. That is what I have seen anyway. So for the first part, was that sit inside rated for your weight?

Or did it swamp because you need a boat that can handle waves?

Mskeyspirate, what sit in model did you swamp and what were the circumstances/conditions. Two good points made above. One is load capacity (max capacity is theoretically the load that sinks the boat). As mentioned - lots of methods. A good discussion would actually be a post on the best formula. I use 66% for sake of showing a relationship. I was 265 lbs in a 145 Tsunamis, 25.5" wide 350 max capacity (350 X. 66 = 231 lbs). Safe load is theoretically 231 lbs. I overloaded the boat and drove it thousands of miles. I could handle waves and conditions and felt comfortable and stable. I’m not suggesting to use that formula, but I’m down to 230 lbs. This year, the boat handles like an entire different boat. I can now handle higher waves and the boat stays dry. The take away is that I know I can carry 30 extra lbs of gear and be back to the bad old days.

A boat has to displace water to float you. That requires more depth, width and or length. A 9 ft boat has to be 30 inches wide to have a 300 lbs max capacity. If you look at a Dagger 14.5 Stratos. 24.5" wide. It has a 300 lbs capacity. A 140 Pungo is 28" wide and has a 350 lb capacity. Very different boat, very different use, but shows comparison. I put a 3" neoprene bulkhead in mine, but inflation bags work as well. Unfortunately, I think the 140 has been discontinued. I lovevthe boat fkrvthe conditions it was designed to handle. I stepped up to the sea kayak design because it gives so much more control…

Ok it has been asked a few times what boats are we talking about so I wont ask again but hope you let us know.

Where I live rec-kayaks are what we mostly see and there is a wide variety of quality range in them. We also see a lot of SOT mostly for fishing and almost all of them with larger folks have added DIY pontoons. People build them using pool noodles and crab pot floats and others and doing a google search will show you many ways it has been done. The slight CG height change over a rec-kayak makes a big difference. We have a Dicks rec-kayak an Old Town trip 10 it has a rear sealed bulkhead that adds floatation and I added a play ball in the nose and then a yoga ball blew up in place under the bow deck and it makes the Trip10 into a nicely floated boat when overturned and one that can be swam in easily after being righted. It can also be reentered in deep water if another boater is there for assistance.

I chose the third type boat I see around here and converted a tandem canoe into a solo 14’7”. I also added floatation both bow and stern. IMO a canoe set up as suck is the best of the three for a larger person, although a rec-boat like the Trip10 with added floatation is a close second and being a lot lighter and shorter make transporting it much easier.

Why not wait for the OP to post additional info. All of the comments are interesting but they might not be relevant to the actual issues.


Load limits from a company like Current Designs are what the kayak hull can have as a capacity and perform properly.