Kayak Design -- about the basics
The impact of dimensions and shapes on performance and fit.
A well-designed touring kayak can work well in a wide variety of situations. Slight changes in dimensions and shapes will make similar models favor different performance characteristics, paddlers of different stature, and paddling comfort. A basic understanding of design aspects and their impact, will help you choose the best kayak for your needs.
A longer waterline results in a smoother transition and a faster boat. In moving through the water, the hull must separate the water at the bow, allowing it to return to the stern as smoothly as possible. A shorter waterline results in a less streamlined passage through the water, but the hull will be more maneuverable.
Given two kayaks of the same width, a longer kayak will have a bigger "footprint" on the water. Besides more efficiency, a longer kayak will have more stability and load carrying capacity.
Width is a key component of good fit. Given the same length, a wide kayak will be more stable than a narrow one. Conversely, a narrow craft is usually faster than a wide one, but will compromise some stability. A wider kayak will provide more stability for both heavier paddlers and tall paddlers with a higher center of gravity. A wider kayak will also enable a paddler to splay their legs out more (creating a very stable tripod effect). How much of this is needed will depend on a paddler's stature and their paddling experience.
This is another key component of fit. A deeper hull will be roomier for paddlers with larger legs, and increases load carrying ability. It also improves secondary stability by having more volume to help support a paddler while the kayak is on edge. A shallower hull will be less effected by wind, but will carry less, and may be too shallow to comfortably fit some paddlers.
The degree of curvature in the hull from the bow to the stern along the keel line defines the amount of rocker in a kayak. Longer kayaks usually have more rocker to help support the weight of the paddler when the kayak is halfway between wave crests. This improves the ability to maneuver the kayak, especially in rough water. While more rocker increases maneuverability, it also reduces the amount of waterline in the water, creating a less efficient hull. A kayak with little or no rocker will track very well, but can be more difficult to maneuver. We carefully control rocker to deliver the right combination of maneuverability, speed and seaworthiness appropriate for each kayak's purpose.
The cross section determines the initial feel of the kayak. A round hull is extremely fast but very unstable while a flat hull is initially stable but significantly slower. We've chosen the most appropriate shapes for the ideal combination of tracking, speed, agility and seaworthiness for the kayaks intended use.
"V" hulls: Many of our kayaks have a "V" hull with slightly flared sides. The "V" shape gives structural rigidity to the hull, improves tracking, has a lively feel and delivers very comfortable stability. Our "V" bottom hulls include the Kestrel and Solstice families, the Whistler, Pachena DX, Breeze, Oracle GTS and Squamish.
Shallow arch hulls: Some of our designs have a shallow arch bottom. These have slightly better initial stability. Our kayaks that have this include the Gulfstream, Rumour, and Stratus 18.
Combinations: Some hulls are fairly complex and have different shapes blended carefully together. The Rumour, for example, has a shallow arch in the middle that transitions to a "V" towards the stern.
A feature of the cross section, this is the transition area where the bottom of the hull meets the side of the hull.
Soft Chine: This is typically found on kayaks 23" or more wide. Their width
and volume designed into the sides gives them excellent secondary (or final) stability. The majority of kayaks that we
build have a soft chine.
Hard Chine: A hard chine kayak has a well defined edge where the hull bottom meets the sides. This increases the initial stability. Wider kayaks seldom need a hard chine, so most touring kayaks that have this feature are narrower, typically 22" or less. Our Caribou, Suka, Rumour, and Raven all have hard chines.
There are a variety of cockpit styles used. Their dimensions and shapes are tailored to the purpose of each kayak, and the comfort of the paddler from the first-timer, to the expert.
Open Cockpit: The Kestrel OC's feature our largest open cockpits. These are very easy to get in and out of, and give a feeling of being almost completely free from the boat. Open cockpits have enough space to put a cooler or gear between your legs for easy access.
Recreational Cockpit: These are long enough so you can easily stand on the floor in front of the seat and simply sit down. They are un-restrictive and many new paddlers appreciate their roominess and versatility. Our Kestrels have 37" or longer recreational cockpits.
Keyhole Cockpit: A keyhole cockpit blends the openness of a recreational cockpit and the integrated thigh braces of a touring cockpit. The result is an easy to enter and exit cockpit that offers performance, fit, and solid connectivity to the kayak.
Touring Cockpit: Typical touring cockpits are somewhat small to help resist imploding of the spray skirt if hit by a very large wave in extremely rough water. They usually include built-in thigh braces on the cockpit rim to maximize control when edging and rolling. Most of our kayaks are designed for touring so they have this type of cockpit. They range from 29" to 35" long, depending on the model.
Ocean Cockpit: These are much smaller than a touring cockpit. In some cases these are nearly round, giving a very snug fit. To get into this cockpit you slide in with both legs simultaneously. These cockpits are so small that thigh braces are irrelevant Ð your thighs brace against the inside of the deck. These are a trademark of the most true-to-form Greenland style kayaks. Ocean cockpits are very resistant to rough water and weather conditions. The drawback is that they limit some paddler's ability to get into the kayak, and make some people nervous about the ease of a wet exit.
Swede Form vs. Fish Form
Current Designs kayaks range from Swede form (widest behind the cockpit) to fish form (more body forward of the cockpit).
Swede Form has a cleaner, longer, and more slender entry, giving efficient touring speeds and maneuverability. In shorter lengths, as in our Kestrel series, these kayaks are very responsive and track well. Longer kayaks with this feature have amazing acceleration. Because of the narrow bow, some kayaks might punch through a steep wave, rather than ride over it.
Fish Form kayaks may have a slightly blunter entry but will have a more slender exit through the water. The bows typically have more flare and are usually more buoyant than others. In our shorter kayaks, such as the Breeze and Whistler, this enables them to be excellent surf zone kayaks. Longer kayaks benefit from this feature in large following seas.
A good "fit" improves performance and comfort.
When choosing a kayak, a common phrase you'll hear is "you don't sit in a kayak, you wear it." Like your favorite pair of jeans, a kayak that fits right will provide you with the comfort and control you desire.
We list maximum load weights for each of our models, but don't publish recommended paddler sizes due to differences in physical proportions and paddling experience, The best way to find a kayak that's the right size for you is to get in and try it.