Where does LV come from?

It’s been interesting to see the emergence of LV boats from various manufactures. What prompted this post was a random thought about where the volume reduction comes from and the impact of that choice on freebboard and rollability. For example, a cheater rolling boat (an extreme example of LV) will have much of the reduction in volume occuring below the waterline thereby reducing freeboard and enhancing rollability. An example of this approach in a production boat is the Impex OI, which has minimal freeboard for a production glass boat. Contrast this with a boat like the P&H Quest LV, where it seems at least to me that the volume reduction is substantially coming from above the waterline, so the final product feels corky when unloaded much like the standard Quest. To reduce freeboard in the LV Quest, it needs to be loaded, which is not a criticism but rather reflects its design intent as a boat to camp out of. Assuming that any of this makes sense, am wondering if there are LV boats out there in which the freeboard drops substantially by design or if the primary goal of LV is to shrink cockpit size by narrowing the boat and shrinking the deck height w/o substantially altering freeboard. Seems like this would be an important question to answer for folks interested in LV boats primarily to enhance rolling.

LV has become a marketing term
With the increasing demand by smaller paddlers (many being women) to have boats that fit them, LV boats have become very popular. There seems to be three different ways companies come up with LV boats. They chop the deck down a couple inches from an existing hull, scale the boats proportionately, or design a boat from the ground up for a smaller person. Obviously the latter choice results in the most optimal boat for smaller paddlers and the chopper method results in the least. Surprisingly, even scaling down down a boat doesn’t necessarily result in a great boat.

Also, LV doesn’t necessarily make a boat easy to roll. For instance a Betsie Bay is pretty low volume but it isn’t the easiest boat to roll while a much higher volume Feathercraft Wisper and Nordkapp LV are incredible rollers. A low backdeck helps for aft recovery rolls but an extremely low foredeck detracts from forward recovery rolls.

The “LV” movement
IMO, the reason for an “LV” market is twofold: You have the smaller paddlers wanting a better fit, and then you have folks like myself who have come to realize that we don’t need all that storage space but maybe 1% of the time we paddle, if at all.

I have my expedition sized boat (Which is actually on a lot of people’s LV lists), but only one. If I camp while paddling, that’s the boat of choice. But I camp maybe once every other year out of my boats anymore. The rest of the time, I usually paddle a lower volume boat, because they get pushed around by the wind less, weigh less in some cases, and actually perform better, because with me and day gear in it, it’s at the displacement it was designed to perform best at.

Most “expedition” boats are not used at their optimum displacement much, and hence are not performing their best. I occasionally ballast my higher volume boat with spare gear, clothes, etc for paddling in really rough conditions, because it handles better with the added weight.

I would agree, though, that merely chopping down an existing boat won’t improve performance one bit — designing one from the ground-up to be used as a day paddler with a lighter load is the way to go. Of course, chopping an exisiting boat down costs a whole lot less, so there you have it.


Having an LV…
My Explorer LV is one of the earlier designs to accomodate smaller paddlers, which lands in the family of dropping the deck height and reducing the cockpit size to accomodate smaller paddlers (average sized women) without altering the hull. The overall impact of the cockpit fit alone is that I can comfortably control and roll the boat even though the hull volume is officially too large for me. But the Explorer/Romany hull is shamelessly easy to roll anyway.

Given that they didn’t change the hull, I have plenty of freeboard unless loaded up. But the remaining characteristics of the hull are such that it is still easy to manage.

Then there are boats that I’ve been in, like the Rumour, that not only may have lowered decks but are clearly designed as low volume boats. That is, the paddler really needs to be in a lower weight range for the boat to behave. Foster could have as easily called the Rumour a LV as anything else when he first developed it - it is really what manufacturers are doing now when they essentially shrink a hull down to work for a less large paddler.

As to why the LV’s - a huge part of the reason is that women are willing to buy serious boats and are not satisfied with having to paddle surrounded by 6 friggin’ inches of padding. Another is that a lot of guys are looking around for a lower volume boat that’ll put them at the top of the capacity in order to have a boat that’ll be more playful. (And I suspect that WW paddlers have been on top of this kind of thing for a long time.)

As to whether this translates for rolling - IMO it’s still all in the details. My expedition boat with a hull that officially has too much capacity is less fussy to roll than my Vela that is clearly a small person’s boat, and the easiest rolling long boat we have in the basement is actually a plastic dropped skeg Elaho, which is way too big for me in capacity but with those diamond chines it rolls on a breath.

Where did the volume go?
For small person on the market, a lower deck and narrower cockpit will make a pretty positive impression. That’s why many LV boats simply drop the deck height and call it LV. That leaves the boat on the big side volume-wise. But on the other hand, that’s just fine if the smaller paddler wants to camp out of the boat anyway. All in all, it’s got a good target market. The Explorer LV is a good example of that.

That kind of LV doesn’t quite help the “average weight” paddler wanting a playful boat. But I’m under the impression there’re already boats with low enough volume for the average weight paddlers for the most part.

To loss the volume below the water line, that would make the boat playful enough FOR EVEN SMALL PADDLERS. On the other hand, how many smaller paddlers out there that would buy such a truly low volume boat? We’re talking about a very small segment of the market here. Kind of talking about performance machine for female, very much a nitch in a nitch market.

Hey John

– Last Updated: Dec-07-06 5:22 PM EST –

Your timing is perfect. Last night in the pool I braced and rolled a Tempest 170 then a Tempest 165. It's my understanding that the 165 is pretty much a 170 but proportionately smaller. Yes, a lot more boat was above the waterline when I was in the 170 and I felt like I was sitting atop a bobber. The 165 is easier to lean back in, easier to lean sideways in, easier and quicker to roll, and easier to brace. It wasn't just me who observed this. My taller, heavier cohorts both preferred rolling the 165.

In short, I think the 'proportionately scaled down' boat is a great idea. Freeboard AND cockpit volume reduction makes for wonderful handling.

Hi Rex
Me, I have my eye on Bjorn Thomassen’s Black Pearl. Would make the 165 look like a barge . So much time, so little to do…

From This Board, At Least Partly If Not

When I first came on this board, there was no “LV” designation on boats. Some of us smaller paddlers groaned and moaned. And it became more and more. Or at least significantly enough if yo consider the folks here the surface of an iceberg. Several years later, lo and behold… “LV” designations started showing up.

For a fact, the manufacturers monitor this site. Some choose to send in some designated hitters to participate publicly. Others do so backdoor.


Found It

– Last Updated: Dec-07-06 6:40 PM EST –


"Black Pearl is a 100% play and roll kayak."

If you get it, I'd like to try it.

I Like It
Dear kayak manufacturers,

Please design a seat that is easily moved fore and aft by the customer. Bicycle saddles have been easily adjusted fore and aft since dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Done. Mariner.

– Last Updated: Dec-07-06 8:04 PM EST –

Actually my plastic Mystic (which was really made by Pyranha) also has four adjustment slots on the seat to go back and forth. Held in by two knob screws. Not on the water adjustment but adjustable with testing to get the trim one wants. I have trimmed with just me and no gear. Pretty neutral in 15-20 knots.

Unfortunately this plastic mystic is no longer made, at least not with a skeg. Believe it's the Pilot now with a rudder instead (which I do not prefer). Thus, I hang on to my plastic mystic, a fun day/play boat.

Unfortunately, you can't get a mariner either tho' there's some buzz about limited runs. The Elan would fit you. Anticipating your question about "speed", I can only say that Sanjay can really "haul" in that baby. He's got a strong engine in his skinny body.


PS. Some of the newer ww boats also have seat back and forth adjustability as well.

LV = marketing?
It might be a bit academic but I really have trouble with the term “reducing the volume below the waterline”. According to Archimedes, the only way to do that would be to reduce the collected weight of the kayak, paddler and load.

As for the new LVs I agree that simply lowering the deck without altering the hull shape will produce a boat that is still designed to handle well for a full size male and not a light weight paddler. However, it will reduce the windage and give a tighter fitting cockpit which is an improvement for light weight paddlers, but it is still not a kayak designed for small paddlers. I think of it as a kayak designed for full sized men wanting a tighter fit and lower windage.

I have also noticed that the new LV boats are slightly above 300 liters which in my mind isn’t low volume. For my 140 pounds I feel that my Sirius (297 liters) would benefit from less volume on daytrips. But to my knowledge most kayaks with less volume are slower (shorter and beamier). If you know of any britt-style commercially available kayaks with less volume and higher top speed than my old Sirius please let me know. Unfortunately the new LVs don’t seem to hold the answer.

Hey Kudzu
and maybe flatpick can comment but I thought the original tempest was the 165 and that the marketing people then built higher volume boats in the 170 and 180 to accommodate the larger paddler market?

Kinda the reverse of what is being discussed in this thread?


T165, T170, Same Time
big one came later. No smaller one 'cause they they think 165 is “small” enough (it’s the bell curve of marketing).


Oh boy…

– Last Updated: Dec-08-06 7:20 AM EST –

W/o going into the implications above, the CD Rumour and the Impex Force 3 are newer release boats designed in volume around the population of average sized women. Both are in any respect high performance sea kayaks, and the Rumour takes a really aggressive paddler to be comfortable with it. At least these two manufacturers feel there is a reason to reach for that market.
(And the NDK Romany LV, long out there, is definately fine for a smaller person in volume as well as fit.)

Right now
Your best choices in true LV boats would be to build your own from plans. Guillemot, Laughing Loon, and several others offer true LV designs.

Of the commercially built composites, I liked the Impex Force 3, the Foster Silhouette (We have one), and Betsie Bay (Of which we also have one). All three are faster than the Sirius, and the Force 3 is more forgiving of mistakes. The Impex Outer Island is a nice compromise between being able to carry gear, and having a low profile as well.

I’m sure there are other good choices out there, too.


Movable seat
If the boat is balanced (neutral) then simply shifting your upper body slightly fore or aft is enough to trim.


LV sizing
I think many posts have this covered already but i’ll give my 2 penny’s worth.

Yes good LV’s are ones where volume has been taken out in areas other that just deck hight.

Our own LV Nordkapp has 6 inches scaled out of the length of the hull as well as an inch out of the hight. This means the hull “sits” right in the water i.e. where its chines interact with the surface when edging with less load in the kayak than the full size requires.

LV’s that are the same hull with volume take out of the gunnel or deck can not work as well for the lighter paddler, fact, because the hull is reacting with the water in the way it was intended. you will get the benifit of a better fit but not better performance

Yeah but…

– Last Updated: Dec-08-06 11:25 AM EST –

If you hadn't been a little critical...

I've tried the Nordkapp LV, and it is a really neat boat. But it would take some significant padding to give me at 5'4" a comfortable fit in the cockpit because the opening is still full size and the deck is still on the tall side. The volume being optimized for a smaller paddler is of limited value if the cockpit fit doesn't work well. My Explorer LV, because of the cockpit fit and the grace that the boat is very forgiving, is a much more comfortable boat to handle and sit in all day than one that has me reaching further for contact. I know - my first boat wasn't way off the mark but still required some reaching to brace, so I had a real good comparison.

And that's often the most important thing the boat has to do - if it handles safely while I am out there, that's fine. Yeah, it isn't as spritely for me as for a bigger person. But it does what it needs to do, including rocks and tidal race work, and I don't have a sore back at the end of the day.

The Rumour, albeit in serious need of thigh braces and still a bit long for a shorter than average woman, did amend the cockpit size. The Force 3 also has appropriate changes - they ran the realtively aggressive thigh braces further back and I think the seat is a bit narrower than the Force 4, though I am less sure of that.

And I am a fan of your boat, the Vela. You got it pretty right there. So I had to pad down the thigh braces some, but all the boats had higher decks then so it was not comparatively way tall.

It continues to confound me that there is no movement apparent from Valley to match the cockpit sizes to a smaller paddler in the LV versions. Yes there is an ocean cockpit alternative. But very few of the 45 yr old plus folks who are very present on this board and in training sessions I've been at will be able to easily limbo their way into an ocean cockpit wearing insulation and a drysuit during a surf lanch.

I completely agree with the statements about a good LV boat meaning that it has to be LV in all respects. But that includes the cockpit and bracing points.

Good suggestions
Thanks for you suggestions. I agree that my best option would be to build my own (a Bjorn Thomasson Njord is on my most wanted list), but it’s not really an option as long as I live in an one room appartment. :slight_smile:

Unfortunately Impex kayaks or Betsie Bay are not available arround here, but I will certainly try the Silhouette whenever I get the chance. Although the pricetag is a bit intimidating.