Tell me about Kayaking and fat chicks

I have a date on Saturday afternoon with a new guy I met. (Thank you to the plentyoffish dopers.) We’re to go kayaking. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, but with my weight being what it is, I’m a bit concerned. Is there a weight limit for kayaks? Anything special I should know before I get out on a lake in a kayak?

I can tell you a whole lot more about fat chicks than I can tell you about kayaks, but from a cursory Google search:

From this page:

Q. What is the weight limit?
A.There is no weight limit, we have successfully accommodated people of 400 Lbs.

And from this one:
Otter (9’ 6") (sit in) - (225lb. weight limit)
One person Kayak

Loon (13’ 8") (sit in) - (300 lb. weight limit)
One person Kayak

Tandem (13’ 8") (sit in) - (400 lb. weight limit)

Hula (8’ 7") (single) - (225 lb. weight limit)
One person Kayak

Moku (11’ 7") (single)(310 lb. weight limit)
One person Kayak

Festiva (12’ 7") (Tandem)-(450 lb. weight limit) Rates are Per Person

Last summer we were hanging out at a friend’s place on a lake, and there were kayaks to borrow. I’m under all the weight limits that Santo listed, but I’ve got a lot of junk in the trunk. I found one of the kayaks a lot easier to get my butt into than the other, and the one that was tight was uncomfortable to sit in. SO the size of the opening is something else to consider.

(The kayaking was fun! Mr. S and I would definitely like to get a couple of kayaks someday.)

My 9.5’ Perception single person kayak has a limit of 350 lbs.

One thing to keep in mind, is to slightly bend your legs so that your knees are touching either side of the kayak. This distributes your weight a little more evenly and helps you keep balance. (I don’t know if this is standard protocol but it works for me especially when I’m on the river which is fairly turbulent)

Wear a life vest and have fun!

Santo Rugger mentions ‘sit in’. Basically, you have ‘sit inside’ kayaks and ‘sit on top’ kayaks. Sit-insides are what most people think of when they think of a kayak – there’s a hole, and you sit inside. A sit-on-top is open. From what I’ve seen sit-on-tops are very popular rentals, especially the Ocean Kayak ‘Scrambler’ or ‘Frenzy’. Sit-on-tops have scupper holes and are self draining. But that means you might be sitting in a puddle of water.

My kayak is an Ocean Kayak ‘Drifter’ (a sit-on-top). This is like twelve and a half feet long and very wide. (First one, so I wanted something stable.) For such a big boat it’s very easy to paddle and quite fast.

Don’t worry too much about wearing yourself out. Kayaks move very easily in the water. Once you get into the rhythm you can go for hours. And there’s no rule that says you can’t drift, have lunch, dive off for a swim (if you’re on a sit-on-top).

I don’t have much to add, but if this is your first time in a kayak and you have a choice, the sit-on-top type described by Johnny L.A. is definitely easier to get in and out of and feels (and is) more stable than a traditional kayak. (The downside–and the reason I don’t like them–is that you sit higher and basically have no ability to lean, but that also makes them much easier for beginners to use.) It is also somewhat safer; should you roll over (unlikely on a lake, unless someone strafes past you with a ski boat) you’re not going to have to extract yourself from the cockpit; you’ll just fall off and bob in the water. (You’re going to be wearing a PFD, right? Make sure it is adjusted to be very snug, so you can’t slip out of it in the water.)

As far as effort, it’s basically an issue of being as much work as you care to make it. Here is a summary with short videos of strokes and braces, but for casual kayaking in protected waters (i.e. not out in surf, >4’ waves, or strong current) you only need the first five, if that. The basic trick of forward and reverse strokes is to keep your hand spacing even and correct (if you hold the paddle up above your head, making the top of a “T”, your forearms should be vertical), and that you are using your torso to paddle rather than your arms; that is, your arms should remain slightly bent in front of you and you shouldn’t be pulling in with the arms; you should just dip one arm down and the other up and turn at the torso to get the stroke, and then bring high arm down and the low arm up and reverse your torso twist. The center of the paddle should be more or less in line with your torso midline during the whole movement. It sounds harder than it really is, but it does take a bit of attention to develop the psychomotor skill to do this automatically, but if you do this your arms shouldn’t get (too) tired.

A few other notes: since you haven’t had training and practice, you shouldn’t be using a sea skirt or going in conditions where a sea skirt is necessary. (A sea skirt seals a cockpit boat against waves, or water intrusion when doing surf entries or intentional rolls; they’re not used on a sit-on-top boat at all.) Don’t bother feathering the paddle (i.e. adjusting the blades so they’re not parallel); this is only done in performance kayaking and is of questionable value even there. If you’re not comfortable in the water, or with the idea of trying to heave yourself back up on the kayak, stay close enough to shore that you can get to water shallow enough to stand in. (A kayak will only draft about 3-6" depending on design, so you can get very, very shallow.) Wear sandals or shoes that drain easily–you’re probably going to get your feet wet when launching even if you don’t tilt–and clothes that protect you from the Sun, preferably synthetics that don’t absorb water. A hat or cap is a good idea, as is a fleece outer layer just in case the wind picks up; even on a warm day you can get surprisingly cold in a strong breeze, because there is nothing to break up the wind. I’d also stop by a sporting goods store like REI and pick up a storm whistle (very loud plastic whistle) and a small dryback (vinyl or sealed ripstop bag with a watertight rolling seal) for anything you want to keep dry). Make sure all hatches (in a sit-inside kayak) are properly sealed or float bags are in place for positive flotation (yet another reason to go with a sit-on-top if possible). If there is a rudder, leave it in the flipped-up direction; you won’t need it for what you’re doing, and it’s just something to get snagged or break.

You don’t say how long you plan to be out, so the above might be a bit of overkill; if it’s just tooling about for half an hour, you can show up in shorts and a t-shirt and be fine, I guess; I just tend toward being overprepared.

As far as the weight issue, except for high performance kayaks it shouldn’t be a limit; most kayaks will accept >250lbs. The bigger problem with sit-inside kayaks as Scarlett67 is actually fitting inside them; the fit can be tight (in fact, it should be as tight as reasonably possible), and you then have to be able to reach in and adjust the foot braces. This generally isn’t a problem with sit-on-tops.

Have fun, and good luck.


Uh, Stranger… “not much to add?” :dubious:

Why do I have the feeling we’ll never hear from phall again?


Criminy! That took forever to read! My coworker kept talking to me, and I had to send off a file. :wink:

Excellent description of how to paddle! :cool:

I’ll disagree about feathering the blades though. When I started baddling about five years ago I started with feathered blades. It just seemed natural at the time.

Well, it started out that way. But then, doesn’t it always?

I started out feathering the blades, too, and adjusting my grip to accommodate. Later, I realized that it was forcing me to rotate my wrists. When I went to a completely unfeathered paddle (and a corrected stroke) I found that it worked just fine that way. Most paddlers who do use feathered blades then to have a wide variety of rationales for that paddle configuration; that it takes less movement, or you get less wind resistance, or they do it for some kind of advantage in sculling draws or bracing, or something. It all seems pretty specious to me, and I’ve never noticed any of them showing a real advantage. I’m not dogmatically against feathering the paddle–as long as it isn’t hurting you, go with what works–but I just don’t find it to be necessary. Greenland style paddles–preferred by a lot of experienced blue water paddlers–are almost never feathered, or when they are, the feathering angle is slight, 15°-20°. Anyway, this is probably not an issue for the o.p.; if the paddle is adjustable, she can play with it if she likes, but it’s just as easy to leave it unfeathered and learn forward and rear strokes that way.


Hi, my company sells kayaks.

Just confirming what others have said:

*Sit-on-tops are easier to get in and out of, and safer if you fall off as you can’t get stuck in the cockpit. The only drawback is the extra few inches you have to dip the paddle, since you’re higher off the water. If they’re an option, ask for thigh straps as they’ll help stabilise your centre of gravity on a sit on top. Thigh straps hook on along the side of the deck and give your legs something to lean against.

*Always wear a PFD.

*Weight will **not ** be an issue.

With a lake, tides and currents won’t be a problem, good choice for a first timer. Try to keep out of the wind, as it can push the kayak (espcially a sit on top) about a bit.

Have a great date!

I’m a fat chick, and I’ve been kayaking once before, at one of the Channel Islands. Everything they’ve said is completely true. I’ll only add a couple of notes:

  • wear a hat and the damn sunscreen.

  • bring ibuprofen. (Yes, your muscles will get a bit sore.)

I don’t know from kayaking, but I’ve been on athletic-type first dates and, as a formerly fat chick, I’m somewhat athletic but nothing like some of these men. Make sure you’re comfortable asking him to slow down or take a break if you need it! There’s nothing like injuring yourself b/c you’re too proud or self-conscious to request a time-out.

I did some river kayaking in an inflatable kayak as a fat chick awfully close to one of those upper weight limits, and had the greatest time–plus half the super-fit athletes were afraid to to try so I got the kayak to myself a bunch while those weenies stayed in the raft. :wink:

I successfully navigated a couple baby-rapids that seemed enormous and I felt like a champ when I finally climbed out. It was one of the first really cool athletic-type things I’d ever gotten to try, in a small way changed my life.

Have fun!

Jeez, louise. I was hoping not to tip the thing over and dump myself in the lake…

Feathering? Great, now I’ll get in the kayak, forget everything I’ve read, but remember something about feathering and be looking for birds.

I did have a phone call last night from the gentleman (he’s calling me nightly now :dubious: ) and he stated that he wasn’t aware of a weight limit on his kayaks (but wisely didn’t ask what my weight was), and confirmed that he had a PFD for me. Now…if I can only get the PFD to fit over my boobs, and my ass to fit into the kayak, this should work.

And, no, there will not be pics to follow.

They are both fun to ride and you shouldn’t care what your friends say about either one? :smiley:


I’m sure you’ll be fine.

The one thing I’ll add is that kayak paddling is all about rotating your torso, not moving your arms. You should try as much as possible to use a full body twist to paddle, not just flail your arms.

Trust me, your arms will thank me tomorrow.

A somewhat related question–are there any hints you can give to “the overly endowed” on finding comfortable PFDs? I’ll even settle for uncomfortable as long as I can actually get it on.

Keep tryin’ 'em on until you find one. I know, it’s almost worse than buying jeans.

There are women specific PFDs; I’m really partial to this one, but it’s pretty expensive. I can’t say if it’ll fit you, but it fits me better than anything else I’ve tried (40I bra size). It’s got lots of places to adjust it for a pretty custom fit. If you’re a strong swimmer and/or have a lot of natural buoyancy, look for a “low profile” cut, it’ll take some bulk off the top (but they also tend to be in the less buoyant range).

This one looks great, and the reviews mention “cups”, but I haven’t tried it on.