What Size Kayak Do I Need?

What size kayak do I need?

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Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned kayaker, you’re bound to buy a kayak for yourself at some point. But, at that time, you’ll be caught off-guard if you’re not prepared for the salesperson to ask you the size you’re looking for.

Buying a kayak not only involves choosing the right kind but also the correct size.

The kayak’s size is quite important to the whole experience and its performance. Therefore, anyone with a height over 5’8″ is bound to know that not every size fits everyone.

In fact, if kayaking is more than just a hobby for you, you will know that a particular size might not be ideal for you in every situation. That is how much of a difference a kayak’s size can make.

So, do you want to buy a kayak for yourself? Are you looking for guidance on how to choose the right size? Fortunately, you’re in the right place.

This article will help you determine the different size-related factors to make the right kayak buying decision. So, without taking much of your time, let’s size up the questions of sizes!

Performance Factors That Influence the Kayak Size You Will Need

Believe it or not – there is more than one factor influencing the kayak size you should buy. And no, not all of them are related to your height.

The size of a kayak can significantly influence the experience you will have on the water.

We were not joking about a kayak’s size being one of the most important factors to consider before buying. So are you curious why a kayak’s size is so important? Great, because we are excited to tell you!

Your Expertise Level: Do You Amaze or Get Amazed?

Whether you have just started kayaking or are a seasoned expert makes a considerable difference in the size you need. Likewise, a kayak’s length-to-width ratio has quite an impact on its performance.

If a kayak has an extended hull, it will be swift and need some serious expertise to maintain the balance.

Kayaks with short hulls and bigger cockpits are more stable compared to their counterparts.

Therefore, you must choose your kayak’s size wisely in this regard. If you are an expert using a wide kayak, you will hardly have any fun. On the flip side, if you are an amateur using a long kayak, you can get stuck in potentially fatal situations.

Type of Water You’ll Kayak On: Do You Like Calm or Waves?

Every water body has varying properties and hurls different challenges on the kayaker. For example, although you can find harsh waves in an ocean, you will likely find a lot of traffic on lakes. As a result, tackling both situations requires a different type of kayak.

You will want to use a longer kayak in the ocean, while a shorter kayak will be more suitable for swift lakes.

The main reason behind this is that longer kayaks tend to provide better stability. Therefore, if you are tackling waves, you don’t want a kayak that drifts quickly. However, you should prefer one that can drift at even the slightest paddle from your end in swift streams.

The Adventure You Prefer: Are You an Adrenaline Junkie or a Lover of the Calm?

Factors that influence the type and size of the kayak you’ll want to buy include the speed, water bodies, and activities you prefer while kayaking.

In fact, your preferred adventure also influences the kind of safety equipment and other handy materials you will need. However, that is a conversation for another time.

If you like to go fishing, the most important thing to influence your buying decision will be the space and capacity of the kayak. After all, you will have to carry several items such as fishing anchors, bait, fishing rods, and special paddles, to say the least. Moreover, you will need extra space to place all the fish you catch!

If you enjoy navigating rapids, though, you cannot fathom using a bulky kayak. Instead, you will need a kayak that moves quickly and follows your every stroke.

The Legroom You Need: Are You Tall or Short?

Obviously, when looking for a kayak, you will want to purchase one you are comfortable in.

Naturally, it would be best if you didn’t buy a kayak that is difficult to get in or out of, let alone paddle and navigate.

In fact, the more legroom you have in your kayak, the better your performance and experience will be. This is because your kayak’s legroom determines how free and stable you are likely to feel in your kayak.

If you sit too snugly inside a kayak, you won’t be able to paddle fast, resulting in your kayak moving at a slow rate. Therefore, if you want good control over your kayak, we suggest you get one that has ample legroom.

Dimensional Factors That Influence the Kayak Size You Will Need

While buying a kayak for yourself, you should know how to measure a kayak and what constitutes kayak sizes. Other factors such as weight, kayak cockpit size, volume, and weight capacity also affect the kayak size you will need.

Each dimension makes a difference in what your ride style and comfort will be like. Moreover, it also affects the maneuverability and technique of the kayak.

If you want to find the right-sized kayak yourself, you will have to understand the following factors.

Kayak Length: Long or Short?

A kayak’s length determines how well it can perform on different water bodies. Therefore, the length is the primary factor to consider regarding size while buying a kayak for yourself.

Kayaks come in a wide variety of lengths ranging from six feet to even sixteen feet.

The average recreational kayak is about ten inches long. However, you can choose one according to the performance you will need. In general, the longer the kayak, the faster it will be on the water.

However, this speed also comes with substantial risk. Therefore, if you want to use your kayak in rapids, you should opt for a shorter one.

Kayak Width: Wide or Narrow?

As is the case with kayak lengths, you will also find a wide variety in kayak width.

Most kayaks are within the range of 28 inches to 34.5 inches. The narrower a kayak, the faster it will be. However, the wider the kayak, the more stable it will be. Therefore, you should choose one according to the kind of adventure you like to go on.

Most sit inside kayaks tend to be wider because of the space the cockpit takes. However, since most comfortable kayaks have cockpits, you can rest assured that comfort will also come with stability and security.

However, that will cost you considerable speed. Since sit-on top kayaks do not have cockpits, they are more suitable for a wide range of users.

Kayak Volume

If you’re unsure whether choosing the kayak through length and width is the right thing to do, you can also consider the kayak’s volume.

Think of the volume as the total space the boat will take on water. Therefore, most kayaks with high volumes tend to have ample space onboard.

If you’re wondering why someone would want to judge a kayak by its estimated volume and not the actual size, you’re not the only one. Unfortunately, many people tend to make the mistake of not considering the kayak’s overall volume.

Many seasoned kayakers consider a kayak’s volume because high-volume kayaks tend to work great for beginners. This is because they’re slower, more stable, and easier to move around.


You want a snug fit, but not so tight that it impedes your ability to quickly get in and out of the vessel. This is important in emergencies. You also don’t want too much legroom as this gives you less control over the vessel. The ideal length is somewhere in between. You won’t be able to maneuver it quite as easily. You need to be somewhere between the length and length of your kayak. It’s important not to oversize the kayak in emergencies.

Cockpit Size

As explained earlier, the more space you have in a kayak, the better you will be able to navigate it in the water bodies. Therefore, choosing your kayak according to the size of the cockpit and how well you fit in is the obvious thing to do.

Each kayak style and model come with a different cockpit. As a result, the best way to choose the right kayak size for yourself in this regard is to sit inside the kayak and see if you feel comfortable.

It would be ideal if you didn’t have to squeeze yourself to get inside the cockpit. However, at the same time, that area shouldn’t be wide enough to put you at risk of getting knocked off by a huge wave.

Furthermore, you can also consider whether you want to buy a solo or a tandem kayak when looking at cockpit size.

Carry the Kayak Weight

Believe it or not, a kayak’s weight makes a massive difference in how well it will work for you. After all, you will have to carry your kayak from place to place time and again. And while you transport and carry your kayak, its weight will have quite an impact on how well you can do it.

On average, most kayaks weigh between 35 to 70 pounds. If you think you will be more comfortable with a lighter kayak, you can consider buying a small yet wide one. Whatever kayak you buy, keep in mind that you will have to carry the boat to your vehicle and water yourself.

Therefore, the weight might also end up influencing how much you wish to go kayaking in the first place. For example, if your kayak is too heavy, you might not want to go kayaking too often since the task will seem like too much of a hassle.

Reasons Beyond the Water – Storage and Transportation

While the place where you store your kayak and how you transport it might not seem relevant reasons to consider, ignoring them could be a huge mistake.

It isn’t like you’re going to be on a river or ocean at all times. Therefore, you will have to store your kayak somewhere. You will also need to transport it from one place to another.

So if you don’t have the storage and transportation means for a longboat, you should try to avoid getting one.

Different Types of Kayaks and Their Sizes – What Options You Have

When buying a new kayak for yourself, you will come across various options to choose from. This section explains the most popular kayak types’ to know the size you should buy according to your purpose. Kayaks come in different types, shapes, and sizes, each designed for optimal performance in specific environments. Kayaks are a bit like golf clubs, which, I know, sounds like a weird comparison – but hear me out: You’d use a driver for off-the-tee distance. And if you’re trying to get out of a bunker, you’d go with a sand wedge. The same goes for kayaks:  Each type of kayak comes in different shapes, shapes and sizes.

Recreational Kayaks

Most of the recreational kayaks you’ll find in the market will be of the sit inside kayak variety. These kayaks are wide, long, and have ample storage space.

Sit-in kayaks have a larger opening that makes it slightly easier to enter and exit compared to the compact seating of a touring kayak. Most recreational kayaks are short in length, most reach a maximum of 10 feet long. They aren’t built for speed, however, they do provide the stability needed for a leisurely trip and are ideal for short trips through calm waters. Sit-on-top kayaks prioritize stability and ease of use over efficiency, speed, and storage.

The majority of recreational kayaks are about 10 feet long. However, you can find shorter variants as well. If you end up looking for sit-in kayaks, you can even come across kayaks that are 13 to 14 feet long.

Fishing Kayaks

Anglers often use fishing kayaks because of their vast storage space. In addition, these kayaks offer higher stability due to their wide design.

Most fishing kayaks are about 10 to 14 feet long and 42 inches wide. A fishing kayak is designed for maximum stability and serves as rock-solid fishing platforms. These kayaks can also handle more weight than some other recreational kayak varieties. Anglers are usually longer than recreational kayaks and measure between 10 to 14 feet in length. They typically have a 30- to 42-inch beam and larger than average, measuring 10 to 16 feet long. If you are buying a kayak specifically for fishing, we recommend you look for one that will be able to carry your gear and provide you with the mobility you need.

Touring Kayaks

Professionals or expert kayakers mostly use a touring kayak. These kayaks are used to travel long distances and tend to be quite long and narrow. However, they are built for speed and are ideal for adventurous souls.

Most touring kayaks are 12 to 20 feet long. However, they are only 18 to 24 inches wide.

Personal Size Recommendations for Kayakers

By now, you’ve learned the different factors that influence the size of the kayak you should use. We know how a kayak’s dimensions, your usage, and other factors come together to determine the right kayak size.

However, what we do not know is what size of a kayak is ideal for specific people.

Therefore, in this section, we will explore kayaks for people of different shapes and sizes.

Kayak Size Suitable for Tall People

If your height is over 5’10”, you might not fit in some of the commonly found kayaks out there.

As a tall person, you will have longer limbs and bodies and a different center of gravity.  Therefore, any tall person should prefer using a high-volume kayak about 12 to 14 feet long. The reason for this is simple – the larger the kayak volume, the more space and stability you are likely to have.

Moreover, most tall people tend to weigh more than short people for obvious reasons. As a result, a high-volume kayak is expected to have a higher weight capacity as well.

Kayak Size Suitable for Short People

As a person with a lower center of gravity, you should go for a low-volume kayak.

First of all, a low-volume kayak would be ideal for anyone under the height of 5’10” as they do not need as much leg space as a taller person. Moreover, a low-volume kayak will also be less deep, allowing you to paddle without any problem.

Kayak Size Suitable for Kids

It is evident that kids will need a kayak that is short yet stable. Therefore, kids should always use beginner kayaks that are no less than six to eight feet long. However, to ensure that the kayak does not go too fast for kids to handle, these kayaks should also be at least 15 to 120 inches wide.

Summing Up

When choosing the right kayak size for you, there is no hard and fast rule. No one can say that there is one specific kayak suitable for a group of people.

In fact, a multitude of factors come together to determine the right kayak size for each user. Therefore, choosing one is often a matter of hit and trial.

We recommend you choose the kayak you like according to your personal requirements and style. As long as you’re comfortable and performing well, the kayak you’re using is the right size for you!

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