Waterline to paddler's weight ratio?

-- Last Updated: Nov-23-09 11:11 AM EST --

You often hear small paddlers talk about the limited number of kayaks to properly fit their body size. Is this also true for large paddlers (220 lbs.+) looking for small day-play boats?

My absolutely unscientific study says that when a paddler puts the waterline above the bottom of the written brand or model name of the boat that is often on the side of the hull by the cockpit on many kayaks, then that paddler isn't going to find it a playful boat. My present hypothesis is that if the waterline is below the brand/model name word that equals playful, If it is halfway up the bran/model name word that equals a generic feeling and if it is above the brand/model name word then forget it.

1. Does my guesstimation of how a boat is going to perform based upon those unscientific visual cues about the waterline give a reasonably accurate indication of how well that boat is going to work as a day-play boat for that paddler's weight?

2. 17' or less playful-day boats for heavier paddlers?

Read this link about boat hull design.
Here is the eye opening read about boat hull design. It was writen about canoes but the same rules are true to kayaks or any boat hull design. http://www.greenval.com/jwinters.html

This is the link to his Book “Desining Canoes and Kayaks.” http://www.greenval.com/Shape_of_the_Canoe.html

You’ll become the “GO-TO” guy in your circle of friends when they are picking out their next boat once they find out what you’ve learned.

Answer to question 1 is no.

– Last Updated: Nov-23-09 2:05 PM EST –

"1. Does my guesstimation of how a boat is going to perform based upon those unscientific visual cues about the waterline give a reasonably accurate indication of how well that boat is going to work as a day-play boat for that paddler's weight?"

No. My Romany and Nordkapp LV have about the same free board when I'm padling each. They perform very differently. My Aquanaut has more free board than either and is less playful.

Question #2
I weigh a bit over 200 and own a WS Zephyr 16.0. I find it a lot of fun to practice new paddle strokes in. Don’t have a lot of rougher water experience yet, but it feels very reassuring to me in small surf and mild swell.

I did a test paddle for a couple hours Saturday in a Dagger Alchemy L and it was way fun. It made my bow rudder stroke look like I knew what I was doing, and was easily turned 360 degrees with 4 sweep strokes. It rolled as easily for me as the Zephyr does.

The quesstimation

– Last Updated: Nov-23-09 6:12 PM EST –

Revolves around the idea of where the freeboard cut off point is for truly viable use as a day-play boat for a single boat, not from boat to boat comparison. Obviously there is a preferred paddler weight to a particular hull and I was just throwing out there a simplified (possibly to simplified) way to visually make that calculation.

where the freeboard cut off point is…
The same boat will certainly perform differently with different amounts of hull in the water. Different boats are designed to performs best with different amounts of free board.

Commercial manufactured boats
I would agree on specialty boats like low volume Greenlanders with a heavy emphasis on things like rolling etc, as part of their key design philosophy, but I think that is less true when you are looking at the large majority of boats manufactured for the consumer market including the Brit boats. For instance what little time I have spent in boats like an Avocet or Romany, I would have to say I have found some much larger more “expedition” like boats more playful and when I look at how deep I sink the Romany or Avocet, it is hard for me not to see that fact alone as to why I’m not finding them “playful”. For me there seems to be a correlation on where that waterline is, but I will say that there are other paddlers that aren’t particularly light who find those shorter boats to be better day-play boats for them.

You’re on to something
Yes, if you sink a given hull (Romany) for example, too far, you will negate the playfulness on edge because you can’t free the ends on edge and you’ll pile water on the aft deck when turning on an outside edge / lean. So, a bigger boat that floats your load better will indeed be more responsive. A heavily laden kayak isn’t necessarily unsafe, rather loses this playfulness but may gain stability. Pretty simple stuff here…

Obviously paddling them

– Last Updated: Nov-24-09 12:02 AM EST –

Is the best way to figure this out, but often one only get to try boats in more sedate conditions so I only posted this to see if my simple and generic guesstimation system is a quick indicator as to what one might expect from a boat in bigger conditions if they can only test paddle it in sedate ones,

To your point
most coastal play boats are not super narrow. Adding beam and some rocker makes them more playful on edge. How full the chine profile is is also a key and how far that profile extends fore and aft and it’s shape are all factors.

I really like the composite Eliza and find it a super balance of play and surfability etc, but I’m too heavy for it with any gear load. It’s OK empty. It was not designed for someone my weight.

Bottom Line is your intuition is right in a broad sense. Where water falls on logo’s??

Commercial boat manufacturers

– Last Updated: Nov-24-09 7:12 AM EST –

I wish manufactures would show accurate stats for optimum paddlers weight and body size. Those that do offer something along that avenue usually show an extraordinary range from the high to low weights to the point where I think they aren't of much use. I'm sure that is more driven by marketing and desire not to loose a potential sale because one might be really a tad over or under in weight or body size for that boats true design. Those numbers would be a piece of cake for them to supply as I'm sure the designers know where their boat is best going to perform based upon displacement weight. Some use little charts that say Small, Medium and Large. So what is "Small" or "Large"?

I look at something like Nick Schade's site as something that is much better at really isolating the proper fit and hull shape to a particular paddler.


You have to wonder how much ranting and raving we all do on this board about this hull or that isn't driven at all by the hull and its' design, but by whether someone was the right or wrong displacement for the hull they were speaking about. I think some of the most accurate threads I've read were those by small paddlers who basically were saying "I can't find a boat that fits me" because they were right, there was next to none on the market for them to try. Right now as I entertain the idea of a smaller boat for day-play stuff, I'm not sure what there is out there for the 225 lb.+ paddler. Boats like the Explorer, Cetus, Aquanaut have always fit me well and paddled like people told me they would, but when I try smaller hulls like the Avocet they seem to perform less for me then the larger boats and when I look where the boat sits in the water with me in them there has been to date a correlation to my simplified and generic guesstimation formula for what I found from those hulls.

You’re right on
I agree with what you are saying and absolutely the designers know what’s best. BUT, you have to understand that at least with some of the bigger manufacturers the “business” guru’s (who BTW have failed miserably)do not want to limit sales on (to their credit) subjective review.

You are astute enough to see how your weight takes playfulness out of an Avocet which is a highly playful kayak. The next guy would just slam it in a review. But the next guy at 240 would love how it sits in the water!

So, while I would give a scale of handling to a customer based on load, I can see why some don’t go there but let the customer make the call. It’s almost impossible to overload any kayak you can physically squeeze into, so it becomes a matter of taste. I sure paddled a Romany for some years sunk to the seam, and I enjoyed it.

Your formua works for you and is logical enough in that the lower the hull sits the less playful it will be. Simple as that.

would second the zepher 16
I picked one up this spring , I weigh 210 and find it very fun and easy to work on rolling and bracing with, turns very well just by putting it on edge and the factory outfitting is comfortable yet can be adjusted to give u great connection with the boat for a wide variety of paddlers . only complaint is i wish the skeg was a little more effective .