Kayak suggestions for petite women

Discussion in 'General Paddling Discussions' started by Raj, Jun 28, 2019.

  1. Raj

    Raj Paddler

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    Hi there. I'd like people's input on a sea kayak for a narrow stature woman 5'6" tall and 120 lbs with intermediate paddling skills. Most sea kayaks seem to be made for men with the boats themselves on the heavier side. It would be used for multiday trips of about a week in length to areas like the Broken Group and would need to carry enough gear and water for that time. Any other info needed, please let me know. Thanks.
     
  2. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Raj-
    I agree with your assessment that most boats are designed with larger (taller and more 'stocky') paddlers in mind.
    It's not the weight of the kayak that matters, it's where the seat, thigh pads and footpegs are located and the deck height that are the major factors, IMO.
    After doing a search for 'kayaks for smaller paddlers' on the internet, which models have made it on to your list?
    You could also contact dealers (BlueDog for NDK/SKUK boats, Ocean River, Coast Outdoors, Western Canoe&Kayak) for info. KayakAcademy has excellent descriptions of boats on their website.
    With more specific questions, you'll get more useful answers.
    Also, if you are looking for something used/cheap/good quality/light/rugged, you may need to wait for a while. :)
     
  3. Alana

    Alana Wave Seeker

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    Hello Raj,

    I am 5'7"/ 110 lbs, so I'm really close in size to the paddler you mention.

    My current touring boat is a Sterling Illusion, cut down (by Sterling) to be lower volume. It's a fantastic boat that is fast, edge happy, and incredibly manoeuvrable for a 17' boat. Since it is a lower volume boat with slicy ends, you can't bring the kitchen sink–however if you are used to backpacking it's loads of space. I just came back from a week long trip from Port Hardy to God's Pocket to Winter Harbour and everything fit. The three of us were packing to be individually self sufficient, so I had my own tent/stove/food/etc. Once you get a 'system' that works for you, it's really not too bad.

    I used to own a Valley Avocet LV a number of years ago, and I REALLY loved it. I used it on the occasional week long trips, but the boat was clearly overloaded and didn't handle well. It's best suited for day/weekend/play. I sold it after I purchased a P&H Delphin 150 for surfing/rockhopping. I regret selling it, but I couldn't justify owning three sea kayaks while living in a 600 sqft townhouse...

    My Delphin 150 Surf Spec is great for playing in rough water or in the rocks, but it's quite slow on flat water–hence the Illusion.

    SKUK Pilgrim & Pilgrim Expedition – I've personally only had experience paddling the Pilgrim, but I would put it in the same category as my Avocet LV. Super fun day/weekend/play boat that fits small paddlers really well, but it would be pushing it to load it for multiple week long trips. The Pilgrim Expedition looks like a great touring boat, but I haven't paddled one yet.

    Current Designs recently released a bunch of new fun looking boats, some of which are suited to smaller paddlers such as the Karla LV (again day/weekend boat) and the Prana LV (more touring orientated). I haven't paddled any of them yet, but I want to.

    P&H Cetus LV – I've only every briefly paddled one, but it's a long, straighter keeled (compared to the boats I normally paddle...) boat that was pretty decent.

    P&H Scorpio LV – Again, I only had a brief test paddle, but it seemed like a good plastic option for a small person touring boat. I rented one for a friend (who is smaller than me) for a short trip and she really enjoyed it.

    Valley Etain – Haven't paddled on yet, but the 17'1" model could be worth a look. There is also plastic version that is 17'5".

    I could go on if needed... ;)
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2019
  4. nootka

    nootka Paddler

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    I have a short Pilgrim & the Pilgrim Expedition.
    If I could have only one kayak, it would be the Pilgrim Expedition
    -it is 50cm wide - very important - you don't want a short fat kayak - I am reluctant to buy anything wider than 50cm
    -both Pilgrims roll well - I can do a front to front hand roll in the short Pilgrim
    -With careful packing I can go for a 2 week trip in the PilgrimX
    -the short Pilgrim is better than the PilgrimX for Surge Narrows surfing
    I am 5'8 and 62 kilos
     
  5. Tangler

    Tangler Paddler

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    Mariner Elan?, if you can find one...
     
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  6. Raj

    Raj Paddler

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    Wow, I really appreciate the helpful comments. Those suggestions are great to add to my list of potentials and of those they are all composite boats as it seems theraform may be slower due to a less rigid construction. To answer @JohnAbercrombie, the older kayaks I've been considering so far are based on other reviews and feedback online are:
    • Boreal Designs Epsilon T100 or C100 (rudder; 16' 4" length; 22.5" wide)
    • Current Designs Cypress (skeg; 16' 9" length; 22.00" wide)
    • Valley Sea - Avocet LV Composite (skeg, 15' 11" length; 20.5" wide)
    I'd like to stick to a longer (~17 ft) boat as my impression is they will keep up speed better and be more stable.
     
  7. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Definitely look at the Prana LV. I have a friend with a 'standard' Prana and the deck height and footpeg position conform to the description in the Kayak Academy web page:
    Rough Fit Guide:

    The Prana is best suited for paddlers 5' 11" to 6' 5", 180-230 lbs
    The Prana LV is best suited for paddlers 5' 6" to 5' 11", 130-180 lbs

    I agree.
    Again, from the KayakAcademy specs:
    Etain.JPG

    I think that getting a boat that's 'too big' is a common mistake. Packing for trips 'backpacking style' isn't a big price to pay for having a boat that handles well on day paddles and when taking courses/clinics. (Not getting blown around by the wind when unloaded...)
    And the "longer is faster" idea is usually wrong unless you can paddle faster than the average cruising pace of 3.5-4 knots, IMO. It's a trade-off with wetted surface and drag. In my 13' long Mariner Coaster, I can keep up with my friends on day paddles. So 17' or so would be my max length recommendation for a general purpose boat.
     
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  8. Alana

    Alana Wave Seeker

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    I completely agree. I also find that when someone is in a boat that actually fits them, their boat handling skills progress much faster, and they have so much more control.
     
  9. designer

    designer Paddler

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    The EddieLine Fathom LV might be a good fit too. "LV" stands for Low Volume; the size is slightly smaller than the regular Fathom. I highly recommend you sit in the boat - in the water if you can - before you buy. Necky made a "woman's boat" called the Eliza. It didn't fit Joy - who is about your size.

    I heard someone ask, "What's a good boat?" and was answered that these days they are all "good boats" - they just fit differently. Like two garments of the same size, made by two manufacturers, will fit differently.

    There is additional bl0cking/foam that can be added. But you want to get the best fit first. You might need to compromise because "small size" and "carry gear" can sometimes conflict - unless it's a Mariner Express. :)
     
  10. Raj

    Raj Paddler

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    Thanks to all again. This gives me a lot of info to work with and now it's a matter of finding one that fits the budget as well as the body.
     
  11. Redcedar

    Redcedar Paddler

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    Will you be lifting the kayak at any time alone ? Will you be loading the kayak onto a roof rack alone ? What weight are you able to lift comfortably after a long time paddling ? Any back problems ?

    A 30 lb kayak is a pleasure to deal with compared with the 50 to 60 lb kayaks most people use and is often a deal breaker if a smaller paddler wants to go alone
     
  12. rider

    rider Paddler

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    Hey, just a bit of input from what i have observed... a faster boat for you would probably be something designed for maximum efficiency at cruising speed, which does not necessarily mean a very long boat(wetted surface comes into play). Things like rocker and bow shape may play a much bigger role than length. Longer boats have a higher theoretical hull speed, but unless you are a very high output paddler/racer, that rarely comes into play while touring.
    Stability is mostly a result of width and hull shape, length doesn't really factor in...
    About specific models, I would only add the Necky Eliza to the already great list of boats to try, I have a friend about your size who has one and likes it. They come in plastic with rudder and fiberglass with a skeg, both come up used often . Just watch out with used fiberglass models, the rubber hatch covers have a limited lifespan and cost about $100 a piece. ( Valley lids are all prone to dry rot that starts on inside, used by Valley,Necky and maybe others..). Kajak Sport hatches used on NDK boats are much more durable.
     
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  13. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Good point - I agree. The Valley 'foamed rubber' lids are usually deteriorated on the used boats I see.
    I've been told that part of the problem may be styrene out-gassing from new hulls affecting the rubber, but I've seen 'replacement' lids (on a quite old boat) that were also rotten.
    And, like deck lines, it's a safety issue that can't be ignored.
    The SeaLect 'Performance' lids fit the Valley rims and last longer.
    Duckworks in Pt Townsend have shipped promptly to me in Canada.
    https://www.duckworks.com/product-p/k746189-parent.htm
    Even though the SeaLect lids are cheaper than Valley, it's a considerable expense and definitely something to notice when negotiating with a seller.
     
  14. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    There was an Elan on Seattle Craigslist not long ago. They turn up occasionally if you look regularly and are ready to act quickly. Not many with front bulkheads, though.

    A Mariner Coaster would be ideal in many ways, although again, you’d be hard pressed to find one with a front bulkhead. Coasters come up for sale a little more often than Elans. I would not hesitate to recommend a Coaster to anyone under 6’ and 200lb.
     
  15. drahcir

    drahcir Paddler

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    As I recall, the Mariner Elan on Craigslist was actually listed from the Lake Tahoe area. It seems to show up on Seattle's list now and then.
     
  16. Peter-CKM

    Peter-CKM Paddler

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    Thermoformed is about as rigid as composite, so won't really be any slower. It is a touch heavier (in general) than composite, which may be more of a concern for a smaller paddler. If there was a thermoformed boat that fit you, I wouldn't automatically discount it.

    Rotomolded plastic is less rigid and even heavier. Truthfully, the speed difference on less rigid isn't something I think anyone except a finely tuned racer would notice. But that weight penalty off water you definitely will notice.

    Waterline length mostly impacts hull speed, which is the maximum speed you can hold before it takes a huge jump in power to get above. The longer the water line the higher the hull speed. Moving from a 16' boat to an 18' boot maybe raises the hull speed by a half knot.

    But hull speed is a sprinting speed, not a cruising speed. At cruising speeds, waterline length has little to no effect on drag. So waterline length really isn't that important for cruising speed. And this is good, as the boat length doesn't always match the waterline length. A highly rockered boat curves up at the end, so has a shorter waterline length. The Avocet LV you mentioned has a decent amount of rocker, so its waterline length is quite a bit less than its ~16' length.

    Instead it is whetted surface and how much your boat has to split the water are the primary drivers of cruising speed. Keeping it simple, a narrower boat would be faster than a wider boat. And the more surface area of water hitting hull (whetted surface), the more drag.

    A boat floats based on how much water it displaces All things equal, a lighter person on a fixed length boat could use a boat that is less wide. So you at 120 lbs in a 17' boat could take a boat that is almost half as wide (mathematically) than I can at 220 lbs. That narrower boat would in theory have less drag than mine (if you could find boats that had same design but just different widths to match our weights). But, that narrower boat would be markedly less stable than mine.

    Many longer, expedition boats with a smaller paddler will paddle better with extra gear be added as ballast. If you do a majority of paddling on longer trips, having the added ballast is fine. But note that adding ballast also pushes the boat down further, increasing your whetted surface slowing you down some (though a small amount).

    But if you are like most of us and 90+% of your trips are day trips, you may want to stick to a smaller boat that doesn't require ballast and just learn to pack lighter. This may give you the best tradeoff between packing capacity, speed, and balance.

    Confuse you yet? Guess the long story is don't get set on any certain specification (like wanting 17' long) as that may not match what you really want (speed with capacity and decent balance). Everything is a trade off. You really need to just try boats and see what works for you.

    Some thoughts on specific boats:

    The Avocet LV composite is known as a good smaller person boat, but is know more as playful than speedy. Side note- plastic version of Avocet LV doesn't have the same feel and isn't as well regarded as a smaller person boat.

    If you see a Valley Gemini, you might want to consider. They are known as good smaller person boats that are low rocker and hold more speed than expected out of a 15' boat. ST model would best match your needs, but RM and SP could also work for you. My 5'1" 110 lb girlfriend loves her RM.
     
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  17. BigandSmall

    BigandSmall Paddler

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    Hi, lots of great advice in this thread. I'll add a couple to the list that out house with multiple small paddlers have had good luck with. The Zephyr 155 still paddles well with paddlers around 100lbs. It's sitting too high if you're just looking at waterline though. RM still available new but only used as composite now. They used to stock them in their rental fleet in Comox. If you'd consider RM my wife loves her Avocet RM and is actually quite quick in it. Funny thing was she had rented the LV version twice and wasn't sold on it. Again only available used now, Cowichan bay kayaks used to have one in their rental fleet. the disclaimer here is that I can't say how it would paddle speed wise loaded up. Another one on our list to try is the thermoformed Boreal Designs Storm 15. I've seen multiple dimensions listed for it but it was the 20.5" width that initially caught our attention. Sealegs in Ladysmith was showing one in their rental line the last time I looked. Have fun renting and make sure you try those Pilgrims suggested above.
     
  18. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    There were not many Elans produced - I think the total was around 75 boats.
    I've put bulkheads and hatches in four of them.

    They are excellent boats - the Express hull but a bit narrower and with a lower deck.
    But the rarity means that it's unlikely anybody will find one easily, though I'm sure there are more than a few that are sitting unused and unappreciated. :(
    Let me know if one turns up! :)
     
  19. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    I heard recently that the 'plastic' (rotomolded RM) Zephyrs were discontinued. I didn't contact a dealer to confirm this, but it seems to already have generated a bit more interest in used Zephyrs locally.
     
  20. stagger

    stagger Paddler

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    I will, next time. I thought about emailing you when I saw the last one... but I assumed you’d be happier without the temptation!