Touring Kayak with High Deck Height

Hello all, been using this site for years as a great resource!

I’m having trouble finding a touring kayak that fits me. Was in love with the Jackson Journey 14, and checked one out today to find I don’t fit in it. Everything is fine except for the deck height (which is listed with the same 16" deck height as my Wilderness Systems Tsunami 145). I can’t get my thighs to fit under the thigh braces… I’m 6’2’ and 290 pounds.

I’m turning away from the Tsunami because I really want something with a rounded chine so I can lean into turns more and begin to paddle with better technique (and even with a rudder the Tsunami is sluggish to turn).

Any suggestions for a touring kayak? I’m really trying to stay around 14-15 feet as I do paddle in smaller rivers with lots of turns. Tried the entire Wilderness Systems line-up. Tried a number of Necky, Jackson, Perception, Liquid Logic, Current Designs, Prijon, Native, etc. kayaks and they couldn’t find anything I fit in (and to be honest I didn’t write down the exact models to tell you what they were).

Any suggestions? …not looking for a canoe or a sit-on-top. Very set on a sit-inside; and a touring style, not recreation boat (already have an Old Town Dirigo 140, Loon 138, and owned a Pungo 140 before). Thanks.

Have you tried a Perception Carolina ?
Jack L

have used Carolina before…

– Last Updated: Sep-21-13 8:46 PM EST –

Yes, my cousin has the Aerilite? version of the Carolina 12'. I fit in that fine, but I don't consider that a touring kayak (we bought my Pungo and the Carolina at the same time, and they were nearly identical to each other). Really need a touring boat that can do lots of miles, hold lots of gear, and still be able to have things like a rudder and cockpit spray skirt for some mild whitewater (done class II in my Tsunami so far and it was great!). just seems like all the "touring" boats are all extremely slim in width, with a very low (for me) deck height. My butt (i.e. the width of the cockpit/seat) fits fine, but can't get my legs under the deck/thigh-braces. Don't know if my Tsunami is a freak or what, but ideally I want that, but a little slimmer, and with a soft chine (if that's the correct term) so I can get it on edge and make it turn better.

Perception Eclipse 17 Airalite?

– Last Updated: Sep-21-13 8:47 PM EST –

Yes, longer than your target length, but you might have to expand your search if you can't find what you want in the shorter length "non-recreational" boats...

I have not paddled it, but people seems to say it has a rather large cockpit.

Or the QCC 500?

Deck height as listed…
in the specs doesn’t tell anything about the overall contour of the deck - as you’ve discovered.

I’m assuming you did indeed try the WS Zephyr 160 with its 17" deck height? Longer than you want but very good hull for river use and the seat is easily moved back 2" for additional foot/thigh space.

Another thing you might consider in some of these boats you’re too tight in is making your own custom foam seat. The first one you make is kinda fiddly but they’re not real hard to do. Rather messy process I might add :slight_smile: The foam seat might allow you to lower your position in the boat which will certainly affect thigh clearance.

I think the Eclipse model is discontinued, but from their 2008 PDF catalog it has the deck height as 13.5" (versus the 16" for my Tsunami).

I tried out (I think, not positive) their Expression and Tribute models and definitely didn’t fit in them (they have same deck height listed). Their Essence 17 model has deck height listed as 16.5" so maybe that’s a possibility if I can find one to test out.

QCC 500 has deck height of 14.5" - Thanks though!

I actually did sit in a Zephyr today. I want to say it was the 16’ model. Didn’t fit in that either (and I swear, I’m really not a huge-huge guy!).

And I just found something too. Look at the side profile of the Zephyr:

Versus the Tsunami:

And look where the thigh braces are. You can see a steeper incline where the Tsunami’s are, thus why I fit in that boat perfectly but the Zephyr, even with a higher listed deck height, I don’t fit in at all…so you’re right, listed deck height isn’t perfect to tell if you’ll fit in a boat.

And no, I’ve never looked into making my own seat. Most of these seem to have a very thin plastic frame (literally sitting on the bottom of the boat) with maybe a .25-.5" foam pad…don’t think that would help me if I built my own. …I was actually thinking if you could heat up the plastic sides of the thigh braces with a heat gun and move them up; I only need an inch and I would fit.

You might…
consider removing the thigh braces altogether and simply adding minicell padding to the thigh brace surface in a thickness appropriate for fit.

it’s not the foam
It’s not the foam; most of these boats don’t have adjustable thickness foam or anything like that, it’s maybe a quarter inch of foam below the plastic of the boat – even if it was removed altogether we’re still talking about inches (2-3") of clearance that these kayaks don’t give me.

Chesapeake Light Craft Chesapeake 18

– Last Updated: Sep-21-13 11:18 PM EST –

I am currently building one and that thing is cavernous.

You may also check out the Impex Assateague, Impex Serenity sport, Wilderness Systems Tempest 180, or an Easy Rider Eskimo 18-6. All of those kayaks are designed for big guys. I don't know of any touring boats under 17 ft that a 6'2" 290lb paddler will fit in.

If you decide to order the CLC Chesapeake 18 kit be sure to get the optional larger cockpit opening because the standard size cockpit opening is pretty small for a boat designed for 200+ lb paddlers.

Look for a used

– Last Updated: Sep-21-13 11:28 PM EST –

Necky Pinta, Necky Swallow, Pacific Water Sports Sea Otter and others.
QCC 400 andMariner Max may also fit the bill

Eddyline Fathom
A little longer than your request, but your dimensions probably require a bigger boat. Lots of front deck volume, 16.5 ft long, great for touring and hauling.

I was thinkiing of the older 14 foot
plastic one.

I didn’t realize they don’t make it any more.


that doesnt make a lot of sense.
The tsunamis and zephyrs are about as cavernous as they come. You must just have incredibly thick thighs or something. There are a few boats that have taller decks for knees up paddling, but not really what you are looking for. Ever think canoe?

Ryan L.

Deck Height and other measurements
Manufacturers often measure heights and widths differently. Some measure between the bottom and the top of the cockpit rim, some measure up to the underside of the deck.

Similarly, some measure cockpit widths and especially length on the outside of the cockpit, which is much bigger than when measured on the inside as others do it.

Some kayaks have huge deck heights because they have a sharp V bottom and a peaked deck in the center, but they can still be low on the sides. Imagine a rhomboid - they measure the diagonals but your thighs need to fit in the corners. So, kayaks with lower measured deck height but which are more squarish in shape will have more room for you inside.

And yes, the Airalite 17 is discontinued but there is one on Craigslist, so they can be found. I have not paddled that, it looks very nice, but seems to have little rocker, so not sure if it is maneuverable - you wanted that, so it might not be the right boat for you of indeed it is a good tracking boat.

Did we mention that? Some of their models have rather spacious cockpits and come in shorter lengths too. Never paddled one and only sat in one a long time ago so I don’t remember much. They seem to have plenty of volume too, so suitable for a heavier paddler. REI used to carry them, not sure if they still do…

Totally wrong kayak for the OPs size. He would never fit in the Fathom and the Journey’s thigh braces are probably too low for him. Maybe the Denali, though—cockpit 14.5"

The Delta 15.5 Expedition would be perfect for the OP (it can carry a whopping 375 lbs) except for one thing: the standard Delta cockpit is 18" x 32.5", which is sort of a mismatch with the kayak’s carrying capacity. The 18" width might fit him, but 32.5" is short for a guy his size.

Deltas must be made for Canadians, who are smaller than Americans. Americans have been gaining weight so quickly that I guess Delta hasn’t been able to keep up. A 35" cockpit would fit the OP much better.

This is a drawback of Deltas (also QCC and Lincoln) and I hope they will come out with an 18x35 cockpit in a few models. I bet it would increase their sales a lot. Eddyline seems to be adapting to the growing size of Americans with the Denali.

Unfortunately a thermoformed kayak that fits a larger person is also a heavier kayak—over 50 lbs.

One thing that has changed is that people who are overweight are doing more outdoor activities than they used to. So the industry needs to adapt to them.

bought a new beast…

– Last Updated: Oct-18-13 3:13 PM EST – against my better judgement I went back to the kayak dealership today and sat in every boat I didn't have time to check out yesterday. Only touring boat I actually fit in was a used/demo (although I couldn't find a scratch on it) 2011 Current Designs Storm GT with rudder. I'm still going to adjust the thigh braces a bit (they drop down maybe 2-3" so there's room to bring them up so I'm more comfortable – it's still tight in there!) The cockpit length is also excellent; I don't have to lift my butt out of the seat to have my knees clear the front of the deck which is nice.

The test paddle of the 17' long beast was decent. I know they say boats of this length won't turn very well, but since it's bow sits up so high there's really only maybe 10" extra length in the water compared to my Tsunami 145, but the difference in turning was drastic (even with the rudder) – it is very hard to turn (or maybe I just have to get used to it).

It is a lot faster though, which is nice. Got up to (I'm guessing) my regular ~4mph speed a lot faster than the Tsunami for sure. Stability was pretty wobbly for me; but I kinda wanted a soft chined boat that teaches me better balance (and reviews say when it's loaded with gear it's a lot more stable). All in all, this might be the boat I negate to use in the ocean and larger/wider rivers only, but that's OK. For the small rivers near me where speed doesn't matter I'll stick to the Tsunami.

Thanks for all your help; it's appreciated.

For turning
If you haven’t already learned to bow rudder your boat in one fashion, or another, you might find that any boat can be turned more efficiently with that technique and even more so if you edge it properly.

Just curious–did you try the CD Sirocco?