What Size Kayak Do I Need? Choosing Optimal Kayak Length

How would I know which type of kayak is perfect for my height and weight? Should I grab a sit-on-top kayak or a sit-inside kayak or am I supposed to make random guesses?

Do these questions come into your mind? If yes then you surely have knocked on the right door.

Seemingly, the length of the kayak predicts how much enjoyment you will be going to have and till when it will last. However, many people misunderstood the fact that body size helps a person to determine the right length to choose which is not the case, still, there are many important key elements that make sure you get the most fun and better experience out on the sea.

what size kayak do i need

As a matter of fact, the kayaks are constructed in several types with different lengths in keeping the purpose, paddling style, and the type of activities you would like to kayak in mind. All these confusions can be cumbersome but once you are done deciding the exact paddling style and activities you want, searching the right size and length that fits the bill might become a bit easier.

Down below we have compiled a handy guide in which you will find each section giving out the exact information you need to know before making a purchase.

What Length Of Kayak Do I need?

kayak length comparison

Did you know that length of the kayak helps determine its on-the-water performance? To put it another way, the length of the kayak predicts how fast or slow your boat will run. Plus your entire kayaking experience depends on this factor.

However, the versions with more extended front and back tend to provide plenty of pace due to having smaller bow waves means the wave generated by the boat’s bow. That being said, the boats become more capable of quickly getting over their bow wave which is commonly known as the boat’s speed.

In spite of having so many surprising advantages, it has one factor that falls to its negative side. The longer kayaks appear to be less maneuverable because they call for extra energy to make them turn and to be larger in size makes them more expensive than shorter kayaks.

In contrast to this, the shorter kayaks have controlled movements, offer precise turns, and are low on speed to maintain agility.


The frame’s width is typically referred to as the hull’s beam. It is the most integral feature that contributes to its stability, which means the wider beam aid you to stand straight without being stumbled while fishing or paddling.

Whereas a hull with a too wider beam seems to be troublesome and can lower its speed. Why so the large area of these boats comes in contact with water which may increase the chances of potential drag.

Unlike large kayaks, the kayaks with narrow beams or short beams offer smooth cruising, are extremely maneuverable, and enable them to withstand a turbulent sea.

What Size Kayak Do I Need For My Height?

Generally, as the kayak’s length increases, you can enjoy more room for yourself and your gear. So if you are a tall person, you can feel more comfortable in a longer kayak, as there is generally more legroom.

However, this is not true every time. Some kayaks come in different volume sizes. This could result in a better indicator of the size you might need for your height. The volume of a kayak usually refers to how much space is inside the cockpit. A low volume, for example, has less space than a medium or high-volume boat.

Check our kayak paddle size guide for a better kayaking experience.


It refers to the total carrying capacity of the boat. However, many people misunderstood the fact that the volume measurement is supposed to give you an accurate idea of how much space is present inside that cockpit. Somewhat, your physique is what actually indicates the available space in the kayak.

These are elaborated below:

VolumeHeight Of PaddlerWeight Of PaddlerPurpose
Low Volume kayak< 5 feet 6 inches<140 lbsDay excursions with a little gear
Medium Volume Kayak5 feet 7 inches- 5 feet 10 inches150 lbs-180 lbsOvernight trips with moderate gear

High Volume Kayak
> 5 feet 10 inches>180 lbsTrips that last more than a day with the essential amount of gear

Low Volume kayaks

Factually, the low-volume kayaks tend to appear long and sleek with minimum space, these boats are great for spending long days on the water. However, these boats are ideal for users under five feet and six inches and weigh around 140 pounds. Low volumes kayaks are perfect for women.

Medium volume kayaks

The medium volume kayak is somehow the weekend warrior, these kayaks are a great option for overnight trips. It fits the bill for paddlers with 5 feet seven inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs between 140 to 180 pounds.

High volume kayaks

Typically these boats are more of beginners and recreational kayaks, with wider beams to give beginners a reassuring feel. The kayaks with low are easier to handle but not-so-staller in choppy water. Paddlers with a heavy size typically around 180 pounds and are taller than 5 feet 10 inches can feel their selves comfortable in high-volume kayaks.

Weight capacity

Each kayak has its own weight capacity or in other words the maximum weight it can hold and stay buoyant. Some of them have large capacity while some of them have small, depending on the volume of a kayak.

However, even if you are willing to use it for only pleasure purposes, still you need some gear to help you out while kayaking. Therefore it is great to check the weight capacity before you plan to buy one.

Types Of Kayaks Based On Size And Dimensions

Inevitably, there are various shapes and sizes of kayaks out in the market depending on one’s need and style. Here are some typical types of kayaks.

Recreational Kayaks

These kayaks are extremely efficient, easy to paddle with increased stability. Recreational kayaks are generally 9 to 12 feet long with a wide beam of measurement of 28 to 34 inches. Recreational kayaks are much appreciated by beginners because of their great maneuverability and lightweight nature. Comes in both versions of sit-on-top and sit-inside kayaks.

Touring And Sea Kayaks

These kayaks are great for use on oceans and bays and are ideal to be used for long routes. Touring Kayaks offers better tracking, more speed, and improves on-water performance. Its hull measures around 12 to 20 feet long whereas beams on these kayaks usually vary between 18 to 28 inches wide.

what size kayak do i need

Also read: Best Inflatable kayaks for ocean and sea use

Fishing Kayaks (what size kayak do I need for fishing)

These kayaks are nearly the same as recreational kayaks in a way, fishing kayaks are designed to provide increased stability and a great fishing platform. For this reason, these fishing kayaks tend to have a wider width normally in between 30 to 42 inches, while longer than average length, measures around 10 to 15 feet long.

Check out our list of best fishing kayaks in 2022.

Factors You Need To Consider

Do not even bother yourself to find the universal fit, because the kayaks do not seem to comply with the one-size-fits-all approach. Rather than have a clear idea based on how and where you want to use it and how much your budget allows you to spend.

Intended Use

The quickest way to know the accurate size of the kayak is where you intend to use it. Whether you want to cruise on lakes or want to set off with whitewater kayaking or you were thinking to hit open water or would you like to use your kayak mostly for fishing?

Once you get done with deciding on what place you would to kayak in, then look for the exact size that resides in that specific category.

When having it all done, pay attention to the following points:

• If you are willing to take your kids with you or maybe another adult then a large tandem kayak with a two-person capacity is a must-have.

• Want to share your kayaking experience with your loving pets if yes then kayaks with spacious decks must be your priority.

Body Type

Did you know that two kayaks of similar size can feel widely different from another therefore always pay attention to comfort when measuring kayak size? Your height and how much legroom you need to adjust in sit-inside kayaks are the most significant factors.

Nonetheless, these factors will not affect that much in the case of sit-on-top kayaks, as long as you keep the kayak’s weight under consideration.

Transportation And Storage

There are certain conditions that need to look at before purchasing one if you do not live nearby the water. Is your car’s roof capable of holding the kayak’s weight? Or will you call for other means of transport?

Also, keep in mind that the larger your kayak is, the harder it will be to lift it up. If you have enough room to keep your kayaks then surely it will not be bothersome at all. Or else, the 14-foot Kayak is will not fit easily.


This might be the most important factor for all of us. Buying the most suitable kayak is not always an option, sometimes you need to stick to your budget but that does not mean you disregard your preferences only to buy what is cheapest. Rather, try to seek the best possible option that goes perfectly for you while staying within the budget.

In the end, there is a brief video that can help you clear the question of “what size kayak do I need?”


Expectantly, you will have a clear idea of what size kayak do I need. Primarily, consider what you will use your kayak for, and where you are willing to paddle it.

However, your height and weight is not the only factor to consider while buying the kayak, always remember to consider the style, length, and, storage. Having these key points in mind will help you choose the best suited for you plus ensure you have a delightful day out on the water.