Touring Sea Kayak for Petite Woman

-- Last Updated: May-17-09 11:18 PM EST --

Goldilocks is 5'4" and 117# and is looking for an expedition/touring sea kayak - something fast and sexy. Current boat is a Plastic Valley Avocet which is fun and playful.



Avocet LV

– Last Updated: May-18-09 12:36 AM EST –

As you already like the Avocet, at your size the Avocet LV (composite) is certainly worth trying. Also a P&H Vela and Current Designs (Nigel Foster) Rumour.

i’m not much help
First off, I really know nothing of women’s kayaks but…

Some of the women I kayak with in my circle of kayakers have a Necky Eliza…some in plastic and some in composite. I know that its made so the cockpit is snugger for women.

And that’s all I know.

Off the top of my head

– Last Updated: May-18-09 8:16 AM EST –

I'm 5'4", tho' 18 pounds heavier.

Valley Avocet LV
Necky Eliza (note, no day hatch)
P&H Capella 161, older boat for small paddlers is the Vela
Supposedly the TideRace Excite S, not been in one so I can't provide details. Also no day hatch.
Impex Mystic
A couple of the newer Current Designs boats, if they ring your bells
Smaller Dagger Alchemy, note that it's a very turny boat not about tracking fast and straight. New boat, day hatch and even a compass mount.
Impex Force 3, or for smaller size the older Mystic
NDK Romany, either size may work. Explorer LV for larger boat, note that the volume is the same as the volume for the guys. This is more of a small-cockpit than a low volume boat.
Foster Silhouette, made by Seaward. Sized right, takes more attention than oats like the Romany.
Later add - Zephyr 15, but maybe too small and tall. Need to sit in one - maneuvers nice but I thought the composite version had a fairly tall deck.

I'm sure I forgot a bunch. Will add as I remember.

CD Suka
Current Designs has a nice (IMO) scaled down greenland style boat the Suka.

I have no affiliation with CD, but I almost bought the larger version, the Caribou.

P&H Vela should fit you fine, looks great and is still produced. North Shore Shoreline, too.

What constitutes “sexy” ?
when it comes to a kayak?



Same Problem
I am having the same problem (5’2", 115 lbs)…I am also looking for a boat to fit me. I found that the Suka is a great boat. Loved it. I’m tending to go toward that one…but…I would also like to paddle the Avocet LV as well. However, I can’t seem to find one to try. Everyone has the Avocet but not the LV. I did not like the Eliza very much. Just didn’t feel right. I am also considering building my one boat…now all I need is time and space(logistically speaking).

Just make sure that you don’t settle on something that doesn’t realy work for you. I did, now I’m stuck with it until I can sell it so I can buy a boat that really does work for me.

Good Luck in your search…BTW…if you do find one you like, I would really like to hear your opinion.


Impex Mystic
I know a few petite ladies that are very happy with the fit and perfromance of this boat.

The Impex Mystic is a very fine small sea kayak. Over some time it has been maybe the most capable sea kayak of its scale.

The Necky Eliza (in composite) is a very nice boat. I played in one on Friday. It seems notably higher volume than an Avocet LV which is a rolling boat carrying my weight (no freeboard). For small women I’m tempted to suggest finding am Impex Mystic, Valley Avocet LV, and P&H Vela to demo.

Any boat that I’m in.

boats I have tried

– Last Updated: May-18-09 5:35 PM EST –

I'm close to you in size 5'3" 117 lbs.

I paddle a North Shore Shoreline Fuego. Which is
no longer made, too bad, as it is the lowest volume Brit style medium chine boat I could find. Just under 16 ft and 20" beam. It's rockered so as to be agile but the waterline length makes it easier for a small paddler to get up and get her moving. Modified ocean cockpit. Some come w. thigh braces, others don't. I built mine. the slightly bigger version, the Shoreline is still made. Over here we can only get her in roto. Valley took over North Shore and the new North Shores are vacuum bagged and look luscious.

Short flatwater demos. Just quick takes. As for dayhatches, frankly I don't rank cars by cupholders nor boats by dayhatches.

Avocet LV - great, well mannered, truly sized for us.Valley build and finish topnotch. Light to
lift. Edges so nicely, rocksolid braces.
Efficient, average speed for me. A+ for looks. A great first seakayak or a playful companion to a larger expedition horse.

Rumour - good, no thigh braces, less contact for me. Quick off the mark. Not as quick sustained
pace (allowing for my motor). Ocean cockpit,Really low back deck, a rolling platform. I do not like the raised rubber hatches - all 3 of them. Makes the boat look clunkier than it should since it is otherwise a petite craft.

Nigel Foster Silhouette (tx for the correction on that)- surprisingly good: long but easy for me to handle. Thoroughbred handling. thigh braces in the right place and a little beefier than most. Great boat for Greenland skills. Laying back is easy. I had NO trouble moving this boat tho it was the longest I tried. Sexy boat for man or woman.

Necky Eliza in RM - scratch,waddler, big high cockpit But Cate, you knew that ;-) This version is built for a large hipped woman and IMO they overdid it. The sides belly out a lot from the seat.Silly putty string makes spidey webs over the hatches. Composite has diff dimensions and is reputed to be much better. If you can find one.

CD Willow - very beginner friendly, very stable, average speed and not as agile as I would've liked in a shorter boat. Cockpit seemed large, a little loose. Real easygoing boat. Cate, your skills may already be past it.

P&H Capella 161 - for me one of the quickest off the line and easy to paddle for pace. This one surprised me- a pleasure,responsive, stable not boring.P&H build quality shines. Worth a long look in FG or the roto version.

Impex Montauk: very close in design to NS Shoreline. In fact some say the hulls are identical. Medium chines, stable but agile. Great all rounder. Classic British design and easy to find used. Impex build quality. Shows up a bit as an instructors boat as it is easy to turn but responds to a motor.

Impex Cat 3: when I tried this kayak I knew so little. I can't rate it fairly It's longer than I would like at 17 feet, foredeck a little high for me but with a good stroke it kept and maintained a very quick pace. The seat and thigh braces are well made and well placed. Could see this as a expedition boat for a small person. Long waterline, a little more technique needed to turn and edge.

My favorite by more than Rachel Alexandra's Preakness margin is the CD Suka. I heart the Suka.

Currently demoing a kevlar/fg Suka now thru the end of the month thanks to a friendly CD rep who asked me to take her around and show her off.
Yessir, I can do that :D

Whooeeeeee, light,low agile, edges and turns beautifully, tracks very well w. that V hull. Due to bow volume I found it to be a handful in front quartering winds at our weight (35 mph winds the last 2 days, w. gusts higher.)I will experiment w. a little weight up front.

This is not a novice boat but a rewarding one.
Not a boat for someone who wants reassurrance.
CD rightly calls it out for the intermediate or
advanced paddler.

Crazy light to lift at 42 lbs. Mine may be lighter as it has the colored fglass seam that is supposed to reduce weight over the standard H channel. Cockpit fitted perfectly for petite women and some small and gymnastic men. SeaDog pegs are very simple to adjust, stay put, and do not put pressure on the balls of the feet (I wear a size 5 shoe, size 6 bootie)

I've been 10 hours in the boat so far and the seat is perfection. Don't even notice the backband.

The Suka is lean, low and fits like a slinky gown. And that is sexy.

How is the Suka in wind and waves?
FF. How Do u like the Suka in wind and waves? Does the 21" W & hard chines provide enough volume? Does it edge well on wave faces? What else do u like or not like? Is it similar to the Vela?


Back to the future
It’s not surprising that you like the Avocet - what a great boat. If you are ready to splurge, the Avocet in Ultra Kevlar is an amazing boat. It fits a bit snugger than the plastic version and is laughably light and just beautiful in about every way that a kayak can be beautiful. And you already like the basic design.

so far…

– Last Updated: May-19-09 6:24 PM EST –

well, tideplay, the easy stuff first.

Sorry but I have not demo'd the Vela. Would if the opportunity presented itself. Ditto for the Mystic,
which you know well anyway, it's your gf's boat IIRC.

Paddle a 20 inch boat so the Suka at 20.5" true measure (21" catalog) was no different as far as that goes. Went from a 26" to a 20" beam in four months Widths don't bother me. Got that nice small chick COG.

Water moves different under a hard chine boat compared to the medium chines in mine. A little more push. Not unsettling, just different. I never felt the hard chines "trip" me like some say they might do (in the Impex catalog for instance - heh)

35mph winds for about 70% of the time were about enough for me on day 1 and day 2 of the dance. Had to hipcheck back to balance two times, but never had to brace. Did drop my stroke a little bit when it blew hard. I do paddle feathered at 60 right.

So that to me, so far, translates to lively but not wanton in the waves. Because it was just a small adjustment and if I paddled the boat regularly I'd be very used to it.

Compared to my finenosed Fuego it felt like the bow was wider all along its length, aka BIG and sailing on me. There is plenty of volume in the bow- don't see this one pearling. And the stern seemed nicely balanced and there was absolutely no leecocking.

with that bow, at times it was hard to turn upwind and there was a lot of bobbing going on in the windwaves while I paddled beam to the wind. It does not slam down, it kind of alights, only not the same way every time. A real latin dancer LOL.

Finally smartened up my edging and leaned the boat into the wind, and that made it better. I would like to trim the bow a bit and will do that come this Thursday. But again, seat time and better technique might take away that issue.

My paddling companion said it looked like I was riding a bit high in the boat - he could see all of the Current Designs lettering. The seat is NOT high, I checked that out once ashore. At bottom it's 3/4" high at MOST and more like 1/2".

He thought the boat needed about 20 lbs more. Hope not. I will go into permanent exile if I were to weigh 135-140 lbs before gear.

I have NO idea how the women lighter than me would do in wind, they may really be set a-bobbin', but I am glad not to be any lighter than I am.

Didn't surf the boat on real waves. No opportunities, we had fairly high wooded shorelines on most of the lake and the swimming beaches are offlimits to kayakers by now. yeah, i know, you really wanted to know that '-)

The hard chines make it EASY to edge - in flatwater or the small but rapid lake waves. I did some little bit of side surfing and the boat holds that big edge.

So I guess what I did not like is performance in a quartering wind on the foredeck. I had to kind of steel myself for that and deal w. more bobbing. My Fuego is very rockered and bobs, but it is more of a pattern. The Suka does a little more dancing to her own rhythm and I had to pay attention.

I do feel I am sitting up higher than in my Fuego and I do not like that. But that started receding once the winds stopped. And again, more seat time...

What else did I like?

Bomber tribuckled hatch covers - the way they fasten they ain't goin' nowhere. They are latched into the topside of the kayak so you can see right away if something's amiss there.

All the outfitting is just what I wanted, and no other clutter, and melted away from my thoughts while I paddled. I could and did sit for hours in the Suka.

The bulkheads are neatly finished and do not "give" when pushed. The whole vacuum bagged finish is flawless, even at the drill holes for the pad eyes.

There is enough space betw. the seat and rear bulkhead for a hydration pack. But not so wide I could not lay back.

The pump stows partly under the seat and never interferes w. my leg.

There is a logical place for a compass between the coaming nose and the bow hatch, where it is most appreciated by me (moderately nearsighted).

There is no day hatch. I must be one of the few who does not need one. Would rather have more straight shot room for packing.

the skeg control is smooth as silk. The skeg itself is not undersized like some newer intros by another mfgr, and is not that thin flexy plastic that a diff mfgr is using on their composites. I like the heft of this one and it really puts the boat on rails.

This boat does not handle tamely, but is not a sulking lil bitch waitin' to buck you off. I so enjoyed the mix of dead on tracking and agile manoeuvring, the incredible fit, the absolute lightness.

Much like the Caribou, this style of boat is low
and pleasingly shaped. She has a very swooped shearline that imprints itself in your memory. She is gorgeous. About a dozen people including bystanders and fishermen have already complimented her. But nobody else so far has fit in her. Maybe that's an antitheft perk ;-)

I will be taking her for 3 days of classes this weekend and doing everything I legally can in her. When I get back I want to do a dry run packing her, tho if I can pack the Fuego for 5 days or so then the Suka will surely accomodate that and a bit more because she is 7 inches longer, a little higher in the front deck, and the ends are a bit fuller.

So I will have more to report. I am a novice kayaker, & make no pretense to paddling on your level. Hope some of this was useful.

Email me direct if you like.

The Avocet LV is

– Last Updated: May-18-09 5:07 PM EST –

a very pretty boat and a perfect lady
on the water. Peter Orton kept his promise made two years ago to do a real small paddler's boat w. Valley quality. Valley did more than put a smaller deck on the same hull and cockpit. Kudos!

I'm guessing given the Avocet's reputation as a fine student boat at many schools that the LV is easier to handle, more forgiving, more reassuring.

If I were starting out w. my first seakayak and if
I had not come across the NS Fuego, the Avocet LV and
the Capella 161 would make for a hard choice based on what I have actually tried.

These days those who need or who just enjoy a true
low volume seakayak have a lot more choices. A good thing it is.

Edit: since Cate already has an Avocet,somethin'
a little different than the Avocet LV would make a nice change. Change can shake us out of old routines and teach us a few things...

From her blog I make the wild guess that she likes variety and a challenge....

I’ve never had a touring sea kayak…

…I have a couple of white water kayaks that have taken better lines than I would have if I’d stay in them, but neither of my sea kayaks have ever gone on tour.

Nigel Foster designed the Silhouette
…NDK (Nigel Dennis Kayaks) makes the RomanyLV.

Just so the Nigels don’t get confused…

sea kayaks…on tour.
like the one lost to the paddler off Georgia which ended up off the coast of France?

Very helpful!!!
Quite helpful. Sounds like they found that mddle ground between tripping over too hard a chine and having the advantage of holding your edge on a wave face. I hope you find a way to get the bow to turn

How are the thigh braces placed both width and front to back.