Looking for a Kayak for Oversized Gal

So after our trip along the Siltcos Trail we have been talking about getting a couple of kayaks and enjoying a new hobby. Chris thinks we can do this closer to home as there are “tons of rivers” close by – like the Willamette and Clackamas rivers.

I’m not so sure – the Willamete is a HUGE river and I’m a beginner. Did you SEE me struggle to get out of that boat? We went on a little tiny creek with water so shallow the boat scraped the bottom a couple times…I don’t feel ready for a real river, even it it is peaceful and slow. Not only am I looking for a kayak that can manage my weight – I’m watching ‘how-to’ videos and looking at some places around town that offer lessons. (Although, I really don’t know if I want to climb in and out of a kayak in front of a whole ‘class’ of people – nor do I think they would want to wait while I tried to do it.)

Size Matters

The first thing I discovered is that size (weight) does matter when buying a kayak. I really got lucky with the rental last weekend. Most of the places around here will rent to people up to 200 pounds…and that’s because the kayaks they have are cute little toys.

Just to review. Last time I stepped on the scale I was 330#. It’s been between 300-330 for 10+ years now, in spite of numerous diet and exercise plans. While removing a limb or two would get me into the right weight range, if we are going kayaking THIS year – I need to fine a bigger boat!

It’s Not Going to be Cheap

All those cheap kayaks you see at Walmart & Amazon and the other box stores? Most of them have a max capacity of 275, maybe 300. And the 300 capacity models are not the cheap ones, the prices are getting up there in the $500-1000 range by that point.

Chris is happy to see my interest in getting outside and doing something active (and he was on the Crew team when he was in college – so rowing anything is right up his alley). $1000? Let’s just go for it! It’s his money, but I’m still suffering from the sticker shock. After about a week of looking at reviews and comparing specs, I expect to spend around $1000 for a kayak.

Sit-in Kayaks for Bigger People

So here is a list of the kayaks I’m looking at and the specs that seem most relevant to me. I’ve watched a ton of videos that say ride-on is the way to go for bigger folks like myself and so we are going to rent one next weekend and try it out. My gut tells me that I don’t want to ride on the boat. I liked being IN the boat. Yes, getting out was hard, but that’s 5 minutes out of my day that I don’t want you to catch on video – it’s the hours on the water that I really care about. I added a few ride-on models and even tried out one to see if the experience would change my mind.

ManufacturerModelEst. PriceLengthWidthCockpitWeightCapacity
Wilderness SystemsPungo 125$999150”29”22.5”53425
Wilderness SystemsAspire 105$849126″29″23.5″48400
Current DesignsSolara 135$999162″28″20″64400
Wilderness SystemsTsunami 175$1729210″24″20″68400
FeelFreeAdvetura 140$879168″26″17.75″65395
EddylineSandpiper 130$1629156″28″22″49390
PelicanArgo 100$469144”29”24.5”48375
PerceptionPescador 12$585146”27.5”ride-on57375
DaggerAxis 12.0$979144″27.5″21″55350
PerceptionJoyRide 12$759146”27.5”23”54350
Wilderness SystemsTsunami 145$1,349174″25.5”20″56350
Wilderness SystemsTsunami 165$1729198”29”19.25″66350
Wilderness SystemsTarpon 120$999144″30″ride-on63350
FeelFreeAdventura 125$769150″26″18″55350
FeelFreeAdventura 110$699130″27″18″50330
Wilderness SystemsTempest 170$1679204″22″18″57325
DaggerAxis 10.0$879126″28.5″21″50300
Old Town Canoe & KayakSorrento 126 SK$899213″29″20.5″45300
Wilderness SystemsTsunami 120$1149153″26″20″51300
Jackson KayakZen 3.0$1399107″27.5″21.5″50280

My top choice right now is the Wilderness Systems Aspire over the Wilderness Systems Pungo because it has an extra inch in the cockpit, is a couple pounds lighter, a bit shorter and also has a skeg. It looks like it would be the most versatile and at $1000 I’d like a boat that will grow with me whether that means running some whitewater or crossing a larger lake.

The Dagger Axis 12.0 seems like a good choice too, except that the max capacity is uncomfortably close to what my actual weight.

Cockpit Size

In addition to the max capacity, it seems like the cockpit size is really important to someone with a large butt like mine. I ran around the house with a tape measure, measuring the deck chairs, and other things that I sit on or in to try to figure out that a “good” cockpit number looked like. I’m pretty comfortable in a 22” chair, so that’s the number that I’m looking for. Beyond that, I could squeeze past something a bit tighter, so I’m thinking that 20” might be do-able.

We rented the Wilderness System Tarpon 120 (ride-on, for me) and the Tsunami 125 (sit-in, for BF) from REI for our second trip out. The Tsunami is listed as a 20” cockpit, but when I put the tape measure up to the opening it looks like 16” to me! Now I don’t know if any of those numbers is even a little bit useful without actually trying the kayak on for size.

Unfortunately, I may be reading that number wrong. I was thinking it was the width of the opening – but it may actually be the widest point inside the kayak. There may be no way of checking if your hips will fit into the kayak except to try one in person.

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