Why r my hands hitting the side of boat?

I’ve kayaked in a number of different size boats in different locations and I’ve never encountered this problem.

I bought a 10’ Manatee from L.L. Bean. They gave me a 230 cm paddle. I took it out on the lake and kept hitting my hands on the sides of the boat. Something I have never done even once, so I don’t think it could be something I’m doing wrong.

I asked to exchange it with the 240 cm in case that helps but they were adament that it was me and not the size of the paddle, yet if it were me why didn’t I ever hit the sides of a boat before?

I checked my hand positioning about 15x on the lake and could not for the life of me figure it out. The boat is 23.5" wide and I’ve kayaked on this size boat before without hitting the sides.


It’s the boat width
It’s unlikely, unless you are a very large person, that going from a 230-240cm will make any difference. The 230cm is wide enough for you to be able to properly position your hands.

Even though you’ve used other boats this wide, it’s where the width is that matters. I’m new and only been in a few 'yaks, but the narrowest one I’ve paddled in is also the one where I was banging my thumbs.

I don’t know where you got this boat or what their return policy is, but if the 240cm doesn’t fix it for you with your arms/hands in the proper position and using proper technique, I’d be trying to return/exchange the boat.

The Manatee is 29.5" wide, not 23.5"
The cockpit is 23.5" wide.


If the other boats you’ve been paddling were narrower, that could be why you’re hitting your hands on the sides of the boat.

The boat may also be deeper than the other boats you’ve paddled.

I hope you get it figured out.

Yes, that’s the one
but I’ve paddled in that exact boat – manatee 10’…

once before without hitting once, but I don’t know what length paddle I used. But the man told me he doubts it was any larger than 230 cm.

The longer boats I tried were a bit narrower, but when I looked them up on the internet – one was the manatee 12’ and the others were 14’ boats including the tsunami, and although the look much narrower, the specs only show a few inches narrower.

This is so strange. I hope it was a fluke.

Its you and 230
is way too long. Try a 210 and proper technique

Can’t agree with this -
230 is pretty standard for a boat as wide as the Manatee in my experience.

“A few inches” in width…
…makes a huge difference in paddle clearance. The paddle length probably won’t have any significant effect, since your hands are going to be in the same position on the shaft no matter how long it is. A 10cm (4") difference in length won’t affect your paddling angle enough to help the situation significantly.

Bicep curls
For whatever reason, perhaps your seated position, you are retracting your hand by doing bicep curls. This pulls your hands directly back to the sides of your body and the deck of the kayak is in the way. Try turning from the belly button turning your shoulders forward to reach for the catch rather than extending your arm. Once the paddle is on the water put a bit of pressure on the same side footpeg and you will have no choice but to unwind your body. As this rotation happens your hand/paddle should track away from parallel with the kayak even if you are still contracting biceps on the stroke.

Best I can offer without a video clip of you paddling.

Hope the $0.02 helps.

See you on the water,


The River Connection, Inc.

Hyde Park, NY



Most of the time a bending elbow, contracting bicep is the problem

Very wide and deep kayak

– Last Updated: Aug-18-13 8:37 AM EST –

Check this chart for correct paddle length: http://bendingbranches.com/find-your-size

Apparently the LL Bean Manatee is a rebranded Perception Prodigy. http://www.perceptionkayaks.com/product/index/products/recreational/prodigy/prodigy_10/

The deck height is 15.25", which is pretty extreme. Unless you have a long torso it could be hard to clear the sides of the kayak. Since you're a female I'm guessing you don't have a long torso. So very wide and very deep kayak + short or medium torso = this is not going to be easy to paddle. Try a longer paddle, but also think about whether this is the right kayak for you.

and you your experience?

– Last Updated: Aug-18-13 9:14 AM EST –

Mine, numerous tours with 20-40 mile ocean crossings, lately finished the all Japan Sea Kayak Marathon 22 miles in 3:50 in a folding kayak.

shorter paddle
I agree that even the 230 may be too long. The problem with too long of a paddle, especially for a novice, is that it encourages bad paddling technique, which usually consists of sitting with your body locked in the forward position and windmilling the paddle blades into the water with bent elbows at a low angle (and, as you’ve found, banging your hands on the gunwales). A properly sized paddle (shorter than what you have now) is one that will require you to twist your torso to reach the blades into the water as you draw the paddle towards your hip. Besides being extremely wide (the Manatee is only 3" narrower than the canoe we often use!), it has a fairly deep hull. You don’t mention your height but I would guess you are sitting fairly deep inside the boat.

I would not be surprised if you were given a 240 cm paddle if you had rented similar boats previously. I have seen low end rental liveries in tourism areas that stock ONLY 240 cm paddles in a “one size fits all” attempt to shuffle people out onto the water with minimal fitting or instruction.

I was out last weekend with several of my kayaks taking family members on an outing. The “fleet” included my widest kayak, a 28" wide 12’ folding model with a deeper hull than I usually use (close to the dimensions of yours). The paddler I had set up in that one wanted to try my narrow (21") low volume touring kayak so we switched boats. I am a short waisted 5’ 5" and was using a 213 cm Greenland style paddle but didn’t hit the kayak sides because I was rotating to paddle and using a high angle of water entry with it.

I think some good technique instruction with a paddle that is a better size for you would correct that knuckle-banging problem.

Depth of boat
I have just finished a 12 day Lake Superior tour in Ontario. I was using a Mad River Monarch. Its a sea canoe with a kayak like (though some five feet long!) cockpit. It looks like a kayak but its fifteen inches deep. It has three seat heights. I never used the high position on Lake Superior but have with a double blade at home. No knuckle banging.

Middle position. No knuckle banging.

Lowest ( two inches off the floor). Much knuckle banging and associated cuss words.

So seat height and depth of boat could have something to do with the dilemma.

Wow -

– Last Updated: Aug-18-13 8:45 PM EST –

I can't hold a candle to you in the experience department. I've only been paddling for 42 years and mostly canoes in places like the arctic. But, I did play a recreational kayak paddler in a 30 inch wide boat on TV once! :-)

Check out the bending branches paddle size calculator in the post following. Look - I'm a big fan of shorter paddles too - but the reality is that 230 is pretty standard for these ultra wide boats and average sized recreational paddlers.

Here is the kayak paddle size chart from another paddle manufacturer. http://aquabound.com/kayak-paddle-sizing-guide

Higher seat may help

for Lilly dipping …

– Last Updated: Aug-18-13 10:56 PM EST –

agree ... get a shorter paddle and get some instruction on forward stroke technique.

that white water boats are wide and white water paddles in use are typically short (194, for example). The difference? High angle stroke and good technique. A long paddle (240) encourages bad technique and risks injury. Get lessons from a competent instructor.

It could
I experimented with a higher seat to solve a similar problem. 1/2" higher made a noticeable improvement to clearing the sides with the paddle, but it also caused noticeable instability in rough conditions.

Thank you for your suggestions
I thought I was rotating enough but will try to rotate more and change the angle of my paddling.

Who knows, maybe this paddle was longer than I was used to and caused me to paddle differently, whereas a shorter paddle would have made me twist more/ have a higher angle.

BTW, I am a short female, 5’2" in high with a 29" torso.

Calculations are off and the companies
have been making paddles for years. 230 used to be standard. Racers and whitewater kayakers use much shorter paddles. Overly long paddles encourage poor technique and although initially easier, leave users prone to wrist and shoulder injuries. I use a 210cm or shorter paddle even in a 33in wide Klepper. Much less fatiguing.