Mats Bengtsson kayaking and kayak techniques

Choose kayak for tall people

Mats Bengtsson mib over the years

Choose kayak for tall people

Choosing a kayak for tall people contains the same main kayak selection choices as for people who are not tall. But then, the added difficulty comes from the length if you are tall, and based on the length, sometimes also from the added weight that also is usual when you are tall. I have described my diffculties to choose a kayak since I am tall (190 centimeters). Here is a condensed list of the special factors to consider when you are tall and choosing a kayak:

  • Does the feet fit inside kayak? when designing a kayak, foot size is one of the main design factors. This desides the minimum height over the front part of the kayak. I have changed from paddling shoes to thin neoprene moccasins to reduce my foot size inside the kayak. So an advice if you are tall and looking för a kayak is to not try it only with your socks on, unless that is the way you plan to paddle.
  • Is the length of the kayak enough for your legs? Once again, remember that a shoe with a sole will add to your length, so do not try the kayak without wearing the kind of shoes you plan to use when paddling.
  • Are the foot rest stable where they are placed? Movable foot rests normally have a number of steps in which they can be adjusted forward. Then comes sometimes the last movement of the foot rest, to the end of the support for the foot rest. This might work as a possible foot rest placement. But it could also be a weaker spot than the normal foot rest positions. And it could be a long step forward of the next adjustable foot rest position. In the first case, you risk the foot rest will break since it is not designed to be where it is. In the second case, you risk that fine tuning the foot rest to a tighter position will be impossible due to the tuning step being very large. If you know you normally never do such tuning, then it is no problem.
  • Will your length force you to sit too far back in the kayak? Even if your legs fit inside the kayak, if this is achieved by you sitting too far back on the seat, you may get posterior pain while paddling, due to the seat being ment to sit further forward in. Thus, if the inside of kayak is not long enough, be carefult to test it with the back rest tuned to really suit you during paddling.
  • Are you too tall for the kayak to have a good balance? this is a multi question. Your length from seat and up, as well as your weight might be outside the good range of the kayak, making it lie too low in the water, which could affect its manouvering ability, or to make it to instable. But also, if there is not enough room for the legs in front, you might be forced to fit your long legs by moving the seat backwards. this could lead to you having a kayak where the weight is distributed too far back compared to what the kayak is designed for.
  • Can you bend your knees comfortably? If you are forced to sit with too straight legs for a long time, you might get uncomfortable after a longer paddling. And might have very little room to losen up your leg by moving it.
  • Can you alternate enough between straight legs and knees bent onto knee supports? This assumes you want knee supports (I do). If you do, but you are forced to sit with rather straight legs to fit in the kayak due to restrictions in knee placement, then this is an important factor to evaluate. If you want to do manouvers based on taking or releasing knee support (edging and rolling is typical, but depending on your stile, even straight forward paddling migh be one), and you can not make a good difference between straight and bent leg, then your paddling will become restricted.
  • SKUK Romany surf kayak with the adaptation made to fit tall people by adding space for knees in the hull visibleHas the adaptation of the kayak for tall people led to a kayak you do not like? This one is hard to figure out without testing in water and waves. Sometimes a kayak is designed straight up for tall people. Sometimes there are a number of kayak model variations, where the version for tall people is both wider, longer and higher. This might make it behave differently to the midsize model, so a well designed midsize version is no guarantee for it being a good upsized version. Sometimes the adjustments made for tall people are more subtle, like the upper part of the hull being changed to accomodate the knees, and most of the rest of the kayak being the same, which is very muich the case for the SKUK Romany surf seen to the left (look at the red sides just beneath the yellow cockpit rim and the extension made for the knees is visible). But a question will be if a kayak only changed in that way will handle the added weight and momentum from the taller kayaker? For the SKUK Romany surf, not only was the adaptation made for the additional length of the kayaker, but also was the surfing improved through a changed hull.


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