Kayak suggestions for petite women

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

  1. Tangler

    Tangler Paddler

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    Old school North American: Nimbus Solander or Nyak?
     
  2. red kite

    red kite Paddler

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    Disclaimer: I'm in no way affiliated with the seller and haven't looked at it myself, but I'm somewhat surprised that it's still listed after more than 3 weeks... (price?): https://comoxvalley.craigslist.org/boa/d/courtenay-wilderness-systems-tempest/6907134536.html


    I'm just short of 5'6" and 125 - 130ish lbs, average / somewhat even proportion between torso and legs, but small-ish hips, and I prefer my kayak fits quite snug. I agree with all the great LV recommendations.

    Tangler, I personally, and with the bias mentioned in the last paragraph, find the classic North American touring boats for "small paddlers" more of a kayak for "somewhat on the smaller side of medium (male) paddler". Most often they still have a relatively high, often peaked fore deck (Solander and Nyaks are classics in that regard) that IMHO are not ideal for a person with a shorter torso.
    Just my humble opinion, of course I know of plenty of women in the 5' to 5'4" range who are perfectly happy in their Solanders, Telkwa Sports, old style Solstice GTS' etc. or even Arluk IVs.
     
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  3. Raj

    Raj Paddler

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    I'm really impressed with the amount of feedback that I've gotten from this forum and wanted again to say thanks to all.

    My partner and I will take a look at what's affordable. Ocean River has some good choices like a Prana LV, and I think that the Tempest 165 @red kite mentioned is worth a look. I think we'd both love to try a Sterling Illusion but as new the price is out of our reach.

    My partner currently paddles a Seaward Cosma thermaform rudder'd kayak which is very light in comparison to my Boreal Design Ellesmere. The Cosma has great stability but is a bit wide overall for her slim frame and the seat is not very comfortable despite plenty of customizations. I'd say hers weighs about 45 lbs while mine seems around 55 lbs, so she is comfortable with the lighter of the two in terms of lifting (as @Redcedar asked). She's always tempted to use (and own!) my Ellesmere so I think a more rigid composite boat is what she's aiming for than her Cosma.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2019
  4. Raj

    Raj Paddler

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  5. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    You'll probably find that the front deck and thigh area of even the LV Prana is quite high (like a lot of Current Design boats). Make sure the footpegs will suit a shorter paddler.
    "Lightweight' and 'Affordable' don't often show up together, unfortunately.
    Be aware that the published weight figures aren't accurate in many cases - some of the 'boat weights' don't include the seat or hatch covers, for example.
    If you are looking for a lightweight boat, you should probably eliminate most of the poly (rotomolded) sea kayaks from your list- I don't think I've ever carried one (or even one end of one) that felt light!.
    If your budget will allow, you could look at the Epic (16X?) and Stellar kayaks as they are lightweight.
    If you can find one, a used QCC might be worth investigating, also.
    The glass Tempest (Pro?) boats handle well, reputedly, but some did have construction problems, and needed 'fixing' even when new.
    A strategy that a lot of people use is to buy a better/easier rack system (Hullivator or Showboat) for the vehicle.

    Going through all the kayak descriptions at KayakAcademy and making a list of their recommendations for smaller paddlers might be worthwhile.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2019
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  6. Peter-CKM

    Peter-CKM Paddler

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    Just a heads up on the WS Tempest 165 (note h0ld for Necky Chatham 16 also) - both are good smaller paddler boats. But one of the desired goals was a boat that could keep the speed up, and neither of these is known as a fast boat.

    The Tempest 170 and 180, and Chatham 17 and 18 are very different boats, so these comments don't hold for them. Not sure they would fit smaller paddlers.
     
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  7. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Thanks for the clarification. The larger Tempests were the ones I was thinking of.
    'Tripping capable' and 'boat for smaller paddler' is an even more difficult combination..
     
  8. Jasper

    Jasper Paddler

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    The Nigel Foster Silhouette is a "smaller persons boat" that can hold a good clip of speed, confidence inspiring in conditions, and carves nice turns if you're willing to put it on its side. A bit prone to perling in the surf though.
     
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  9. rider

    rider Paddler

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    Chatham 16 paddles like a steam roller compared to a slicey boat like an Illusion. I have owned one in poly for a while and found it very capable and neutral handling boat that can easily be packed for a long weekend trip. It also fit me pretty well at 6ft1 and 190 lbs, comfortably snug (except the back deck was a bit lower than i like). Also owned a poly Chatham 17, much less rocker, quicker than the 16 although that's not saying much, a pretty agreeable touring boat with excellent handling. In poly the 16 was heavy but manageable, the 17 heavy but barely manageable. in composite they are much,much lighter.
     
  10. rider

    rider Paddler

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    I owned a Legend, a 'my size' version of that hull...I will attest that it's a fast boat with a lot of gear capacity and will carve turns (for a touring boat). I am not sure about the 'confidence inspiring in conditions'. I owned it fairly briefly and only had it mild-moderate chop but I found it more wiggly than I enjoy in a non-racer(sure, my Necky Phantom was much wigglier than that,but it served a different purpose). Maybe it would suit a more skilled paddler better, but I have talked to a couple ex-owners that share similar opinion...
     
  11. Jasper

    Jasper Paddler

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    I'm about the same size as you and would NOT call the Legend our size! Try a Shadow (same hull but in our size) some time, I suspect you'd be a lot happier.
    I guess "confidence inspiring" is a subjective term and admit that they don't have strong primary stability. However in conditions it is secondary stability that counts and these boats have tons of it.
    My girlfriend and I sometimes dare each other not to brace in 5' clapotis and just letting our boats find their way with loose hips and always come away impressed at how far they can go over and recover again. It is usually the flexibility of my spine and not the boat that is the limiting factor.
     
  12. Tangler

    Tangler Paddler

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    The Mariner Elan in Tahoe is still for sale. $1200US...
    On Craigslist.
     
  13. Raj

    Raj Paddler

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    Alana, I wanted to say thanks again for your boat recommendations. It's been challenging to find just the right balance of fit, manueverability, capacity and speed but after a veritable ton of reseach and some testing out, the top choices my partner and I have are in order are:

    Sterling Illusion (if our money tree only grew real money)
    Valley Sea Etain 17-1 (hard to come by in these parts)
    Wilderness Systems Tempest 165 Pro
    Valley Sea Avocet LV

    The last two are her most realistic choices and fortunately we'll get a chance to check them both out. If you're ever selling your Illusion, please let us know! :p
     
  14. AM

    AM Paddler

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  15. designer

    designer Paddler

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    If you get to try one, look at EddieLine Fathom LV. Joy is about your size and she really likes hers. It doesn't have major storage - it is LV after all - but she could put in clothes, shelter, food, water for one person.
     
  16. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    Lots of good info on this thread. My input isn't so much about a particular make or model of kayak; it's about how manufacturers design a particular boat and then "scale" it up or down in size to fit a wider range of body sizes.

    In theory, it's seems logical that you could take a certain design and make it larger or smaller to fit more people. In practice, scaling a boat up or down can result in a boat that doesn't handle like the original at all. This happens in both WW boats and sea kayaks. Jackson's Karma M had a lot of fans when it was Jackson's new creek boat, but the Karma S was much maligned. And my old Necky Looksha IV tracked very well loaded or empty, but my GF's Looksha IV S spun offline the minute she stopped paddling, regardless of the load or any other variable (wind direction/speed, seat placement, etc.) In general, I have found that the "original" size of a particular design is the one that works best. It's the sizes that have been scaled up or down that don't quite live up to the original.

    My point is that every boat is different (even different sizes of the same design), just as every paddler is different. It's definitely a good idea to start with a trusted source of info like Kayak Academy, as they can help you narrow your search down to a handful of choices. But in the end, you have to try them out to know which one feels and paddles best for you. Even just hopping into a bunch of boats at a shop can be extremely helpful in terms of finding a boat that fits your body.

    Finally, I love buying used boats because I can try them out for as long as I want in all kinds of conditions. If I fall in love with the boat, great! If not, I can usually sell it for the same amount of money that I originally paid. Not so with a new boat! Everyone always wants the latest design, but sometimes the original model was the best.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2019
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  17. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Good point! Alex Matthews explained that idea to me a few years ago. For example, reducing the beam and the volume at the middle may mean that the ends don't get out of the water as readily when the boat is edged.
    My wife preferred the 'classic' Romany to the Pilgrim, perhaps because of that reason.
    I'm with you on that! :)
    I'd rather be paddling and trying out boats than agonizing about finding the 'perfect' boat. And, I wouldn't like to watch the rain in November and think that I've missed a spring/summer/fall of paddling.
     
  18. designer

    designer Paddler

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    However, sometimes the LV designation means a change above the waterline has been made. If the kayak has the same "footprint" in the water, I'd think it would behave pretty much the same as one where the deck design allowed more space for the kayaker. Sure, there would be some difference in the wind and gear might be distributed a little bit differently, but I can't imagine it would make that much difference - again, given the same hull in the water.

    But I found it very important to try out the boats. Once I was going to buy a used Aluk IV in Kevlar. I was a strong pup back then and it felt like I could hold that Aluk with one arm. But I just couldn't fit in it. Same with a friend of mine - a slightly built woman - who tried the Necky Eliza (a boat designed for a smaller frame). She didn't feel good in it at all. They were not bad boats - just the wrong fit.

    Now her son, after hearing of our adventures, thinks he wants to "get into" kayaking. Instead of borrowing one of my boats (I'm 5'5" and he's 6'4"), I'm going to suggest he take a comprehensive class - even if he has to go to Seattle to do it. It would give him an opportunity to try out different boats and talk to knowledgeable people about what he'd need for his goals.
     
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  19. AM

    AM Paddler

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    On this subject, it’s worth watching the first 5 minutes of this video by Brian Schulz of Cape Falcon Kayaks, in which he describes how the Mariner Coaster, which was the original design basis of his own F1, was the product of some “extremely tight shaping variables”. What that meant, as Schulz discovered, was that the Coaster could not be scaled up or down without losing essential elements of performance.

     
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  20. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Moral: When you have a perfect boat, don't change anything!
    :)
     
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