|In our August ‘09 issue you’ll find a review of the Journey by Eddyline Kayaks. In the design statement Tom Derrer notes: “The Journey was designed as a response to the increasing demand for smaller, lighter kayaks that combine the performance characteristics of a full-fledged sea kayak with the comfort, stability and roominess of a quality recreational (rec) kayak.” At 15’ 4 1/2” long, the Journey does seem to fall somewhere between a rec boat and a sea kayak. Our main focus has always been on sea kayaks designed for coastal and inland touring, and with kayaks like the Journey now coming on the market we’re beginning to ask: How short can a sea kayak be and still be a sea kayak?
It always makes good sense for a kayaker to paddle a kayak that fits. There are a few different aspects to a good fit between kayak and kayaker. The cockpit and bracing should be appropriately sized to provide good contact and control. The overall length of the kayak should also be a good match for the paddler. There is a common misconception that longer kayaks are faster. They can be, but only if the kayaker can provide the power. Keep in mind that jets are fast because they have jet engines. If you don’t have enough muscle mass, a long kayak can easily wind up being a liability: At average cruising speeds, you may find yourself lagging behind (because of the kayak’s large wetted surface) and in foul weather you may be at the mercy of the wind.
In Greenland, kayaks were proportionally scaled to the paddler. An average kayak would be three times the paddler’s arm span. You may not know the measurement of your arm span, but it is pretty close to your height. I’m a bit over 6 feet tall, with an arm span to match, so my Greenland boats are around 18 feet long. Applying the same proportion to Eddyline’s Journey, a 5-foot-tall paddler would be a good match for it. If we were to figure 5 feet is a reasonable minimum height for an adult of average stature, would it make sense to establish 15 feet as a minimum length for a sea kayak? If so, how do we define kayaks like Mariner’s Coaster? It is only 13 feet long and yet is, according to the manufacturer, “every inch a sea kayak. The Coaster was conceived, planned and executed as a genuine sea cruiser.”
We’d like to hear from you. We don’t really expect to be able to define a sea kayak by dimensions alone, but we would like to know, at the very least, what kind of sea kayaks you would like to see in our reviews. You can email me at email@example.com (put “sea kayak size” in the subject line) or log on to our online forum.