As the water gets soft and summer approaches, my thoughts turn to my passion - kayaking. In today's market there are so many options it can get very confusing. Let's talk fit. In a perfect world kayaks woud fit like shoes, a different size boat for everybody. The custom boat market is very cost prohibitive and we want to paddle now, not in three months, so use these guidelines.
Recreational kayaks are nice on small bodies of water or tight little streams. They will be from 9 to 12 feet in length and will generally be wider than 26 inches. With a large volume cockpit they are a roomy, comfortable fit for casual use, and very stable. This roomy fit will not give you a high degree of control in rough water.
Transitional kayaks (this is the most popular size) will be from 12 to 15 feet and be much more efficient from point A to point B. They are generally 23 to 26 inches wide. Kayaks in this range are built with enough variety in size that they can be better fit to a paddler's dimensions. Characteristics we look at when fitting a kayak include the paddler's weight, leg length and degree of comfort in the cockpit. There should be good contact between a paddler's feet against the footbraces, knees against the thigh pads and back against the seatback. Too much or too little volume in the cockpit (relative to the paddler's size) will result in a less than perfect fit.
Touring kayaks will be 15 to 18 feet and are set up for travel on bigger bodies of water, sometimes with camping gear. The width will be from 21 to 25 inches. Control of the kayak is of greater importance on big water with big waves, so a good fit (often a little snugger) is essential.
Always sit in the boat you are going to buy to judge whether it fits. Do this with the assistance of our experienced paddlesport staff - they know the proper fit of kayak to the individual. If you have the option to paddle the boats you are looking at, please do so. You will really notice the differences in fit and performance.
Times a wasting! See ya on the water.