Weight and Balance

Hi… I’ve been searching the net for a kayaking forum in the hope of getting some advice.

I’ve recently started Sea Kayaking, before this I had only ever been out on sit on top kayaks which I found pretty stable.

I recently went out in an NDK Explorer which I had real trouble being stable in.

To get an idea, I’m 6’3 and around 19 stone… I felt confortable enough in the kayak although thighs were a little tight.

I was hoping someone could advise on my situation. Being the weight and size I am will I be at a disadvantge?

Looking at smaller people in kayaks their movements don’t transfer so much where as my movements even quite small bring the cronic wobbles on… and then I get wet! :slight_smile:

Is it really just a case of practice practice practice?

Thanks for any help or advice.


At your size, boats designated as HV (high volume) might be a good bet. Among these are the Explorer HV and the Aquanaut HV (nee Argonaut).

An Explorer is a great first sink sea kayak as it is very forgiving and supportive of skills building. It is also a tremendously capable boat.


– Last Updated: Oct-01-07 9:30 AM EST –

You should expect to feel a little less "stable" as you switch fom something like a wide SOT to a sea kayak. It'll pass surprisingly quickly - you can't and shouldn't decide entirely based on first impressions when you make that switch.

Also, strong stability exists but acts differently in a sea kayak than in the kind of SOT you likely had. Sea kayaks like the Explorer are designed to hold a high level of stability as they rock sideways, so that they will tend to stay upright in waves. If you wobbled around enough, I am sure that you "hit" a point over on the side where the boat had a strong tendency to recover to an upright position. But if you are new to the experience, it is unlikely that you were able to feel that happen well. It's also likely that the Explorer kept you upright better than a lot of other boats would have - it is relatively kind to newbies.

That's the general stuff. As above, at 6'3" you are quite correct that you have more to handle in terms of staying stable than me at 5'4". The HV Explorer has the same hull, but offers a little more room for thighs etc of tall people so that you are less likely to be moving the boat at every sneeze.

Welcome to long boats - you'll have a lot of fun once you get the comfort part down.

Thank you very much for your replies!

Once on the calm waters of the harbour the stability was alot better but I was still having jerky moments… but as you say this is probably down to being new to the boat so any movement is unexpected and something to get used to and work with.

Being big I think some of it is “in my head” as after my first dunking and rapid exist I felt alot more comfortable at being uncomfortable… if you know what I mean :slight_smile:

I friend is going to let try a rockpool kayak that has slightly more room around the knees and might “feel” different… I’m very lucky to have oppertunity to try different boats.

I’ll let you know how I get on…

Pleased I stumbled upon this board!



Big & Tall need wider beam
Check the article on kayak selection at kayakacademy.com. Generally, if you are tall with a lot of weight in upper body (long torso?), you need a wider beam for more stability. The smaller folks have an advantage here, but we usually have more power to push the wider beam.

The kayak academy has a great test you do in calm water. If you can take your hands off the paddle and eat a sandwich or get into your day hatch without much trouble, you have enough stability. If you feel too tippy doing this, you need more initial stability, which usually means a wider beam.

But don’t go too wide or it is a problem in rougher conditions.

What worked for me…
When I went to a twitchy boat I found that I was over correcting for the least little movement and making things worse. What helped was keeping my hips loose and forgetting about what the boat was doing concentrating instead on keeping my torso vertical.

Like a good dance partner, a good boat should follow your lead.

are you sure?
I have seen some pretty hulky Olympic K1s, and they seem to be doing just fine.

I agree with Grayhawk
Stay relaxed. Take a deep breath and relax. Everything will fall in place then.


… that is exactly what I’m doing at the moment I think… Trying to compensate the wobbles/twitches with my hips… kinda tensing one butt cheek/thighs… the coaching lady person out with me said she could see it as well in the way my upper torso was moving.

I guess its just practice… stright lines feel great… as for reaching to the dry hatch and fetching a sandwich… ain’t gonna work for me just yet! :slight_smile:


– Last Updated: Oct-03-07 12:48 PM EST –

A well designed boat wants to not capsize. Being relaxed is the single most important thing in order to stey upright.

John Carmody is fond of saying "I've never seen a boat capsize itself." While not always true in ww, most times if you are relaxed in a sea kayak, it will take care of you.

Next time you see or talk to John
ask him about breaking surf and boats staying upright. “loose hips save flips”… well most of the time… anyway.


– Last Updated: Oct-01-07 4:58 PM EST –

Classic problem: "When I went to a twitchy boat I found that I was over correcting for the least little movement and making things worse."

Classic advice: "What helped was keeping my hips loose and forgetting about what the boat was doing concentrating instead on keeping my torso vertical."

It doesn't take very long to get comfortable (if the boat isn't "extreme").

One thing that is key is an "alert" posture: don't slump and don't lean back.


Given your weight and height, you will have more stability issues than other people in the same boat.

With a little bit more time, the Explorer should be a fairly good choice (even at 260lbs). Not that the Explorer HV will not be any more stable (it just has more room). Still, you might be able to work the HV better (try one).

I suspect that the Rockpool will feel less stable than the Explorer.

Wes Boyd had some useful information but his site appears to have vaporized.

Here's a google cache of it instead:

Not talking about Olympic K1s
Issues paddling Olympic K1s is another kettle of fish.

An exercise to help relax
Relaxing during those smaller rocking motions is the key, but saying relax is a lot easier than doing it. There is a little exercise I like to have people do when paddling a tipper kayak that is new to them.

Put the kayak in some really shallow water (less than 1 ft deep) so you can brace against the bottom if you need it. Extend your paddle out to one side and very slowly lean out to that side. Keep the paddle blade above the water. The kayak should tilt fairly easily at first and then start to resist. Mentally make a note of this point. Eventually you lean enough that you need to brace off the bottom to stop from turning over. Repeat this a couple of times until you can stop just before you have to brace. Repeat this whole procedure on the other side. In case you are wondering, tilting a kayak by leaning is something you never want to actually do, but this is the start of this exercise.

Now you want to repeat this drill by edging the kayak. Edging is tiltling the kayak while keeping your head and shoulders. You tilt the kayak by lowering one knee while raising the other knee. At the same time you keep your head centered by bending at the waist/hip toward the raised knee. You can even tilt your head toward the high side to keep it centered. Find the tilt angle where you have to brace. Note: for some high secondary stability kayaks you may find that you never get to the brace point without leaning to the low side. Then try edging just short of this point and then relaxing the high knee and feel how the kayak rights itself. Repeat on each side. It helps to have someone stand in front and make sure you keep yourself centered.

Finally have someone rock the kayak back and forth while you try to keep your head centered by adjusting your knees and bending toward the high side. Start with slow rocking and then speed up as if it was a wave passing under you. This should help you get the feel of “loose hips”.

It sounds complicated, but it really only takes about 5 minutes. It teaches you about the limits of that particular kayak, gives you confidence that the kayak will try to right itself without your help, and lets you feel what people call “loose hips”.

Hope this helps.


From George Gronseth
I hope I am not violating George’s copyright at the Kayak Academy. To get the whole article on buying the right kayak, click on Tips, and then the buying guide. Here is part of what he has to say:

“Of course it also certainly is possible for a kayak to be too tippy for you. Unfortunately there are too many interactions between the paddler and the kayak that affect how stable a kayak feels to the person in it (such as seat height and the shape of the paddler’s behind) to strictly rely on computer generated graphs of stability to compare kayaks the way a sailor might for larger boats. Generally the more kayaking you’ve done, the better your balance and the less stability you’ll need. On the other hand, the taller you are and the more weight you have up high, i.e. big muscles in your shoulders and arms, the higher your center of gravity, and the higher your center of gravity, the less stable any kayak will feel. So in general, shorter paddlers can handle a less stable kayak (narrower) than taller paddlers.”

“My experience with students is that they do not learn faster by being in a kayak that is too tippy for them, if anything, it tends to make them tense and so retards their ability to learn. But excessively stable kayaks can also slow your learning. For touring, as opposed to racing or kayak surfing, I generally prefer a kayak that is stable enough in calm water to allow me to relax, eat a sandwich, check my chart, take photos, look through binoculars, etc., but ideally no more stable than that. The key phrase here was “in calm water”. I don’t seek a kayak to be stable in rough water because then I’ll be using my paddle for stability, and you already read what a kayak’s stability tries to do to you in waves. So you want to find a kayak that is just stable enough to make you feel relaxed in calm water – no more, no less.”

19 stone? that was a new one for me.
266 lbs. Learn something new every day.

you and the paddle become one
If the blade is 7ft long, then please think of your boat as having the potential of 7 ft wide stability. Only better because a flat bottom boat gets hammered by waves but kayaks are wonderfully designed to nestle down among the waves

Lots of …
of advice… thanks very much everyone for taking the time.

I’ve always “talked” stones but should use lbs i guess as eevrything seems to measure in lbs or kilo’s…

I’m out again on Sunday so will spend that time in shore… getting used to leaning over and finding where the “point of no return” is…

I was amazed during last weeks session how sore and tired my hips and thighs were whilst paddling in a mildly lumpy sea and then this totally disappeared once on the flat water of the harbour. So I’m obvisouly not very relaxed in the lumpy stuff :slight_smile:

I’ve booked in for a few pool sessions soon which covers rolling, exists and strokes… it all helps! :slight_smile:

Thanks again guys… really appreciate the advice.

nothing wrong with a wider kayak

– Last Updated: Oct-02-07 9:57 AM EST –

You might be happier in the big 173Capella. It makes no sense that a big person should accomodate to a kayak that is comfortable for a 180lb person any more than the 180lb person should be comfortable in a 18" wide skin boat fine for a short 120lb person.

People keep saying "oh, you'll get comfortable in it" but I don't think those same people are trading in their 22" wide boats for 19" wide boats for general paddling.

Big people are on one end of the bell curve for size, it makes no sense to compound that by going further out on the curve for a comfortable range of stability.

A 5'2" 140lb woman can be more stable in a 22" wide kayak than needed to encourage bracing skills but it won't prevent experiencing choppy conditions. Put a 270# guy in a 23" wide boat and he might be too tippy to ENJOY developing skills in choppy conditions let alone stay upright in them.

Find a boat you're comfortable in. I was teaching sea kayaking for five years and made a s&g kayak that was 18'x24" for very big guys. There was no way 275#+paddlers were comfortable in regular high volume boats if they were twitching all over the place and the "average" sized person could get comfortable in 20min or after the first rescue practice. The distribution of people with natural skills is the same for big or small people. Untill I made the big boat I had more than a few people say "you know,,I can't do this" and bail out on the class. Once I made that boat It didn't happen. It's not a very good design but it's a clue that people in the upper end of the weight scale need big boats.

"I generally prefer a kayak that is stable enough in calm water to allow me to relax, eat a sandwich, check my chart, take photos, look through binoculars, etc., but ideally no more stable than that. The key phrase here was “in calm water”."

I’ve seen some short women that were too stable to learn bracing in 22" wide kayaks but I"ve seen a lot more big people that were too tippy to progress in BASIC skills development in flat water let alone advance those BASIC skills in choppy water.