Weight and Balance

A few things going on

– Last Updated: Oct-02-07 2:23 PM EST –

LeeG: "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."

It would be reasonable to start some one out in a wider boat.

It appears that he's a new paddler. A boat that seems overly tippy to a new paddler often appears much less so after a short amount of time.

New kayakers tend have a very unreasonable expectation of how stable a sea kayak should be. One need to get past this stage (in an appropriate boat) before one would be able to pick a boat. People at Floyde's weight does have special issues and care should be taken so they are not discouraged.

It is true that an Explorer will feel like a more advanced boat to him than it would to a lighter person. But the Explorer and Romany do appear to be somewhat unusual in that they are fairly stable but perform like sea kayaks.

The Capella 173 would be a reasonable boat to look at (it's 23 inches wide).

While 19 inches is quite narrow (and will be tippy), there is not always a simple relationship between width and stability.

I'm not exactly a fan of "overly tippy" boats because they require constant attention even when you aren't able to provide it (eg, when you are tired).

Gronseth’s advice
Gronseth’s advice is good but the boat a new kayaker would choose might be too stable for some one with a hour or so’s worth of experience.

Keep trying for the…
… time being.

Its a fact… I’m a big bloke! My girlfriend reassuringly tells me I’m chunky quality… I tend to agree.

Now… at 19 stone (266lbs) I’m heavy… but it is fairly well distributed. For sure my top half is heavy than waist down. But its not all or even mostly belly weight. I have a 53inch chest and 38 inch waist.

I know alot of my problems stem from being a newbie. My hips aren’t relaxing and I’m over correcting movement from the waist down.

On flat water I didn’t have a problem at all really and I was experimenting with a variety of different strokes and turns… but on the sea which was a little choppy I was having a job getting a few strokes in before the tipping from side to side started and the hips/thighs started to burn again from the work out.

I’m not prepaired to give in to a bigger boat yet as the budget and skill involved in making a Stitch and glue is probably beyond me :slight_smile: but I do understand what your saying Lee.

I ride an Yamaha R1 around the Isle of Man and track days on standard suspension… hardly ideal for my weight and there is no way the forks or shocks were designed to give optimal performance for my size… more for Mr( or Mrs) Average.

I have a pilates (gym) ball knocking around the house and have seen a few exercises on this site which may help me a bit… Sitting in front of the TV on the ball with my feet on a stall might be a good one! :slight_smile:

Its great… even though so far I’m useless at this kayaking thing… I can’t wait to get back on the water!!

Cheers again!

Weight distribution

– Last Updated: Oct-02-07 11:14 AM EST –

Weight distribution is important in stability.

Weight at the top makes the boat less stable and weight at the bottom makes the boat more stable.

Thus, boats carrying cargo are more stable.

Keep in mind that the "load" numbers indicated for kayaks are for a "normal" sized paddler and equipment.


"know alot of my problems stem from being a newbie."

-Some- of your problems are related to being new. -Some- of your problems are related to your physique. It is very likely that you'll progress faster in a wider boat. (Note that no one is suggesting you start out in a tub.)

"My hips aren't relaxing and I'm over correcting movement from the waist down."

Learn edged turns on flatwater and use them "constantly". (Edged turns are not exactly for beginners.) That will get you into the habit of keeping your hips loose. Also, make sure you don't slouch or lean back!

"hips/thighs started to burn again from the work out."

It's a physical activity and it takes some time to get into condition for it. You also may be trying too hard!

"I'm not prepaired to give in to a bigger boat yet as the budget"

What LeeG is suggesting is an -appropriate- boat.

A slightly wider boat is more appropriate for your wieght and a narrower boat is more appropriate for someone lighter. The Capella 173 that LeeG is not a kayak for "novices". There's no reason you could not use such a boat for a very long time (ie, you won't "out grow" it).

"even though so far I'm useless at this kayaking thing"

This does not appear to be true!

yep, not a direct correlation

between width and stability. But it’s a beginning. Rocker sure seems to help.

I’ve had 200lb guys start out twitchy in Eclipses and equivalent kayaks but eventually start getting the hang of it after a couple hours,especially after a few wet exits and rescues.

You get to a point in stability where only natural athletes will accomodate to a continual state of instability that requires keeping a blade in the water. It’s reasonable to expect four in six beginners to “get it” and be in a comfort zone for progressive learning with two needing more time or a wider boat.

Once you get into the realm of very heavy/top heavy people and it’s only one or two out of six ‘getting it’ it’s obvious that expecting four out of six to utilize kinesthetic skills in a kayak that they’ve never had in their life is an unreasonable expectation.

I remember two guys the Ch18 were perfect for. One guy, very awkward, stiff and uncoordinated. About 6’5" and 250lbs who could NOT get into any of the regular plastic boats without tipping right over. Another fellow was 320# and 6’5" and although middle aged somewhat overweight farmer type he was a natural athlete with lots of muscle. Neither of these guys could use the regular boats but did great in the stable but hard to turn 24" Ch18.

I figure at a minimum a beginner should be able to rotate around to do basic sweep strokes or place both hands across the centerline for draw strokes. If they’re too tippy to do that comfortably then they can’t develop adequate torso rotation necessary for a range of skills.

define too stable, too tippy
I think too stable is a kayak that fights against a paddler in rough water or inhibits the ability to learning bracing on a lean near the capsize angle.

Too tippy is a kayak that inhibits the beginning paddlers ability to rotate their torso through the widest range that they are physically capable of in order to learn a correct sweep stroke or draw strokes. If a person is too tippy to comfortably rotate their torse they will NOT learn correct steering technqique and rely too much on simply paddling harder on one side. Likewise learning the range of draw strokes is necessary for a range of blade and boat control. If the beginning paddler is capable of 90degrees of torso rotation on land but only rotate 40degrees while in the kayak they will NOT learn blade control in the aft quarter of the kayak.

A little extra width
Also note that a little bit of extra width can often go a long way. LeeG is not talking about “tubs”.

yr the size of my cousin
coincidentally he was a motorcycle mechanic at one the Isle of Man races.

I’m not particularly athletic anymore but the stiffness and soreness in the thighs was something I experienced in my first classes as muscles try to fight against each other when I took basic sea kayaking classes in my early 30’s. I was a lot lighter, more flexible and fit but there were muscles getting sore.

In a private lesson I was teaching a short woman who was too stable in a regular 22" wide plastic boat. I couldn’t get her to lean the boat near the capsize angle until the boat flipped over. The solution was to have her sit on the aft deck behind the cockpit.

It’s something an instructor had me and other folks do in choppy water,with our eyes closed. It was fun,and we did rescues a lot.

Demo a big guy boat

A lot of great advice for you here, but the only real test is to try some different boats. You are sized close to me and you sound a lot like me in approach.

For my first high performance boat, I was sold a tippy boat and told I would grow into it, and was determined that I would. I was not progressing as I hoped, and was lucky enough to paddle one day with a world class paddler who’s advice I could not ignore (Sean Morley, who is featured in the “This Is the Sea” DVD.) Sean told me bluntly that it was not going to happen for me and I needed a more stable boat. He arranged a demo for me, and I knew instantly that he was right.

It is true that you will be more comfortable in tippier boats with time, and that you will grow into tippier boats with time. But one demo in a boat which is designed to carry somebody your size will do more than a thousand opinions. The difference is not subtle at all, and you will recognize it immediately.

There are plenty of boats to try - Valley Aquanaut HV, P&G Capella 173, CD Gulfstream, Impex Assateague, Atlantis Titan, NF Shadow, NDK Explorer HV, etc.

You will be comfy in at least some of these boats, and not expending all your energy keeping them upright, which will allow you to develop your skills. These are not compromise boats, as they are paddled by some fantastic paddlers.

Learning in a boat designed for a much smaller person is like trying to fit into our girl friends shoes.

yep,it’s obvious
a friend is 6’6" at 320lbs. Not fat, he balances in a 26" wide Necky Pinta like I do in a 22" wide kayak. It’s obvious that when he leans without bracing he’s going over.

some people in some boats are simply outside the bell curve for comfort. You can’t learn if you’re constantly outside your comfort zone. Being outside your comfort zone is not the same as being at the other end of the scale where one is totally unchallenged with no opportunity to learn basic skills.

Every time this topic comes up a lot of folks suggest “more seat time” as though being 275lbs is like 250lbs is like being 225lbs is like being 200lbs. One could just as well suggest the 175lb person strap weights on their back and and say to them, “you just need more practice” as you increase the weight.

Nope, at some point the 175lb paddler will say “enough, I can’t paddle in waves this way”.

No amount of seat time will change a stability curve that goes negative right from the beginning. For most experienced paddlers that’s too tippy for non-racing context.

For beginners it makes absolutely no sense. There is no benefit to having a boat so tippy that every stroke has a bracing component when basic skills are being learned.

That works for me!

– Last Updated: Oct-02-07 2:22 PM EST –

Very good description of stable and tippy.

(A new kayaker almost always thinks a sea kayak is "too tippy".)

You have to crawl before you walk

– Last Updated: Oct-02-07 4:03 PM EST –

The Explorer is a very stable boat. You're just not ready yet. About 99.99% of paddlers start on a wider boat and move up as their skills get developed. If you can find a symposium or demo day in your area it would be ideal. Try a bunch of boats and get something wider and more friendly to you.

There's nothing wrong with you or your size. Paddling is a learned skill. It's not as much about balance as much as it is about using the paddle in very subtle ways which every paddler develops after a year or two of paddling. There's really no short cut to that or trick that you are not doing. The goal of paddling is not how narrow a boat you use but how much happiness the sport brings to you. Go for a boat that makes you feel good now and then you can move along with your skills and really enjoy yourself.

Thanks again…
…for all this advice¡K Its certainly eased my mind a bit.

More than anything I think I was concerned with my ability compared to the rest of the beginners group who all seemed to be stable within a few minutes… and me being the biggest of the group wondering if I was going to be at a bit of a disadvantage.

I¡¦m getting lots of good feed back and advice from the instructor I have been out with but like someone on here said, unless you weigh 266 lbs (19 stoneƒº) or strap a weight jacket on you can only really talk about the theory of being a heavy paddler¡K having that theory backed up by a heavy paddler gives the extra confidence boost that things get better and easier and that there are adjustments that can be made to suit a heavy paddler.

Having spent the first session getting wet I¡¦m no longer worried about capsizing as I shot out like a bullet once under and managed to get back in ok with the aid of another kayak along side me¡K (although there was a point that she thought she was getting wet too! ƒº).

I¡¦m soooo looking forward to the weekend… I will definitely keep you updated as to my progress¡K



– Last Updated: Oct-03-07 11:01 AM EST –

You are a little bit at a "disadvantage" but nothing that should keep you from kayaking.

Most people starting out have a problem with capsizing and getting wet. Heck, even people with a fair amount of time in the boat have this problem.

Treating capsizing and getting wet as normal is very useful in learning and pushing your limits.

The only issue is if you spend "too much" time being upside down, since that would take time away from the other stuff you are trying to learn.

As promised…
… an update.

Wen out for another session yesterday.

The conditions were alot calmer although a chop did appear when leaving the day.

It was a group of about 8 the majority of which were intermediate paddlers and 2 instructors.

Again everyone took to it like… Kayakers to water and the only troublesome ones were me and another larger than average bloke. This kind of settled me as I had the benefit of watching someone who was having the same issues as me.

On calm water I was feeling very good. Paddling well slow and fast and turning with a stern rudder stroke and and feeling comfortable pulling into a lean as turning.

Heading out into the choppy bits felt ok but the twitchyness started to command my concentration and I pretty much pinpointed the moment I was back to over compensating and looking at the boat not the horizon/surroundings.

Still, I was ok and paddled forward and into a cove where it was calm. Saw a lovely old entrance to a tin mine in the rock.

I found paddling back to the bay harder with the tide coming in and the waevs/chop coming from behind… Once in the bay it was fine again.

Someone pointed out while paddling behind me that they thought I was too big for the boat as my top half, chest to neck, was visibly wider than the boat… would that be an issue?!

Once in shore I collared an instructor and he showed me the hip snap. Hanging onto the front of his boat and dunking one side and coming back up… kinda gotta there but the pool sessions will improve that…

All in all it was a great day and left feeling pretty positive.

I’m in the same boat
as you are, so to speak. I’m 6’ 3" and weigh 270 lbs. I have a 34" inseam, and a 52" chest, so most of my weight is in my chest, shoulders and back. I recently bought a used Current Designs Sirocco. I’ve seen it described in many ways, such as “it likes to dance upon the waves,” and such. I too am relatively new to the sport, but have tried over a dozen boats before making my choice. The reviews in this forum helped me a lot. Others who have used my boat felt very stable in it, but they were all shorter than 5’ 7" and less than 150 lbs. That makes all the difference in the world. I feel better in the boat every time I get in it, although I need a few minutes to “settle down” and resist over-compensating. If I relax and go with the boat, it’s fantastic secondary stability make it lots of fun, but NEVER boring!

nice one…
… I’ll check that out. Thanks Chap! :slight_smile:

Current Designs Gulfstream
and the Scriocco feel like 14’ long boats regarding manueverability, the GS isn’t quite as v’d and feels more stable through a range of motion than the Scirocco. You really should check out the Gulfstream or the big P&H Capella.

This is analogous to bicycles. There is no way in the world you can put a 250lb rider on 20mm tires and not expect some pinch flats, even with 120psi. What works for 150lb riders is NOT the same as what works for 225lb riders. All the anecdotal evidence in the world doesn’t negate physics. So the BIG rider should be on 28mm tires trading a theoretical gain in weight/resistance for durability and comfort.

The physics are pretty clear, a taller, heavier paddler will generate a stability curve in a 21" wide kayak that is UNACCEPTABLE to the average paddler let alone a beginning paddler.

If a 260lb paddler should get comfortable in a 21" wide sea kayak then a 175lb paddler SHOULD have no problem in a 19" wide kayak. Funny thing, most average sized paddlers aren’t in 19" wide sea kayaks. Go figure.

Very reasonable progress!
Very reasonable progress!

What, no star? L
Side note, I actually saw a BCU one star patch on eBay once! I should have bought it…

Hey Floyd, FWIW - I’m 225 right now - middle aged desk jockey - and all my kayaks are narrower than my shoulders. As long as nothing’s really off (things mentioned in other posts) seat time will take care of most issues.

If you want a shortcut - learn to roll. Even working on it (and other recoveries) has the side benefit of making you harder to capsize and having better boat control/feel/stability.