Probably the most commented on blog post we've written was Rob's contribution on the importance of boat fit. It continues to be read widely & we get emails from parts far-flung asking advice on paddler weight with relevance to boat design & performance.
The blog is reproduced below from Rob's Balanced Boater blog, where it was first posted in September 2009:
If the Boat Fits, Wear It
Imagine walking into a specialist outdoor store looking for walking boots and finding there are only two sizes. Then imagine asking why there are only size 9 and 13 and being told that these sizes fit "most people"(read large males). Finally imagine the helpful store person explaining to your smaller companion with size 5 feet that the size 9 is is perfect for her as long as she is willing to wear enough socks.
I think kayaks and shoes have a lot in common and no amount of closed cell foam and wishful thinking will make a small paddler feel connected in a medium to large boat any more than a dozen pairs of socks will make big shoes fit smaller feet.
A few years ago there really was no choice in Australia for smaller paddlers but to follow the "wear more socks" principle. With very few imports and a small market it made economic sense to build kayaks that suited the male dominated sport: i.e. expedition ready boats that performed adequately for medium to large men when empty. Unfortunately because everyone smaller than this would fit into these larger craft, it was assumed the boats fitted them.
Trying a boat for size:
About 10 years ago with all this in mind and a complete lack of local options my wife, Sharon,
made her own plywood kayak: a ''Baidarka" built from plans that had been scaled down to give her a boat that would provide the same proportional fit as the larger composite craft that I had always found easy to paddle. Her boat control skills improved dramatically and she handled the challenging maiden voyage from Sydney to Jervis Bay in challenging conditions with new found confidence. These days there are options in the low volume market. Her regular kayak is an Impex Force 3 and she has her eye on an Avocet LV to add to the fleet in the future.As sea kayakers have become more aware of the connection between boat fit and performance the number of LV models has steadily grown and new LV paddlers seem to be vindicating this move by learning faster and paddling better than ever before.
A spin off from the "Low Volume Revolution" has been the number of medium sized paddlers who have found these general purpose LV tourers make excellent play-boats. But, if you usually paddle a standard kayak don't expect any offers for a test paddle from the LV crew. They will be too busy ''getting amongst it" and won't happily sit on the beach watching you have all the fun.