If you’re on the taller or bigger side and love to kayak, then at some point you’ve been there.
You’re trying to squeeze into a boat that was made for someone much smaller than you and all you want is to know what the best kayaks for big and tall paddlers are.
You don’t have to worry about finding a sturdy kayak anymore.
No matter your body type, in this article we’ll cover the best kayak for big guys and the best kayak for tall guys.
Best Kayaks for Big and Tall Guys
Best Sit-On-Top: Malibu Kayaks X-13 Fish and Dive
There’s no better place to start than with this big boat that can handle ocean swells.
The X-13 Fish and Dive has the load capacity and ruggedness to handle anything you throw at it.
Large storage areas including a couple that are watertight give you plenty of room for your fishing gear or even dive tanks. Smaller seating areas allow smaller humans to come along.
While many sit-on-top boats struggle to track and turn in choppy conditions, the X-13 excels, cutting effortlessly through most wind and mid-sized waves.
- Rod holders included in the design
- Almost 14-feet long
- Fantastic stability
Best Fishing: Vibe Sea Ghost 130
A big, beefy kayak, the Sea Ghost 130 from Vibe has a sit-on-top design that gives you a lot of room to move around.
Add in the 550-pound load capacity and this is a boat that can handle you and your fishing/camping gear with little trouble.
It is on the heavy side, checking in at 75 pounds but the easy-grip handles simplify tandem carries.
On the water, the Sea Ghost 130 feels sturdy underneath with impressive maneuverability that allows it to squeeze into areas other kayaks can’t go.
But the main calling card is the boat’s customization. Several strategically placed gear tracks allow you to outfit the kayak to your precise specifications and a handy central console allows you to install a fishfinder or GPS.
- One of the heaviest solo fishing kayaks
- Customization opportunities galore
- Stable and responsive
- Tons of storage space for multi-day outings
Best Budget: Sun Dolphin Bali SS 12
The Bali SS 12 from Sun Dolphin won’t knock your socks off. But at this price point, you’re not going to find any kayaks that do that.
Instead what you get is a reliable and stable kayak that’s durable, responsive, and versatile in one affordable package.
I was impressed with how well it tracked and the extra accessories that make your time on the water more enjoyable.
The adjustable foot pegs are a must for bigger paddlers and there’s a watertight storage hatch for your more sensitive gear.
While the stability is pretty good, this is partially because you sit lower in the seat which can make it tougher to get out of. They could have made the seat bottom more comfortable too. It’s definitely worth buying a foam pad to give you a little more cushion.
- No scupper holds can lead to a wet seat
- Wide base (30-inches) for great stability
- One of the most price-efficient kayaks out there
Best Inflatable: Sea Eagle 370 Pro
If you’re looking for a cheap inflatable kayak that requires almost no storage space, look no further than the 370 Pro from Sea Eagle.
It’s big for an inflatable, measuring twelve and a half feet long with a mammoth load capacity of 650 pounds. Depending on your size, there’s room for either two or three people.
It doesn’t handle rough water as well as some of its newer contemporaries, but the three independent air chambers and 34-inch beam make it stable and durable for its price tag.
At its best on calm lakes or low key rivers, the design includes a pair of skegs to improve tracking should mild wind or waves crop up.
- One of the bigger inflatable kayaks with a huge load capacity
- Not suited for whitewater or dynamic ocean environments
- One of the top reviewed inflatable kayaks
Best Sit-In: Wilderness Systems Pungo 125
With a huge cockpit that measures 57-inches long, Wilderness Systems has developed a kayak with long-legged and big paddlers in mind.
The Pungo 125 also has an extra six inches of legroom and the seat adjusts easily for maximum comfort.
Add in the removable console in front of the seat along with the thigh pads and you couldn’t ask for a more accommodating boat.
There’s plenty of storage space with bow and stern hatches and bungee cord webbing while the 425-pound load capacity should allow for some weekend getaways.
It’s a little narrower than some kayaks on this list at 29-inches, but it should still be more than stable for most paddlers.
- The central console has molds for a drink holder, fishing tackle, or a camera
- Foot and knee braces allow for a custom fit
- Solid stability and tracking
Best Touring: Old Town Loon 126
Built with a ton of storage space, the Old Town Loon 126 has room for a paddler of any size and their gear.
If you want you can also use the space for a small second person or even your canine companion if you want the company.
Like the Pungo 125, there’s a removable “work deck” to provide more room when you’re getting in and out of the boat or if you require more storage space. They’ve even included a USB charging port!
The seat is really comfortable which is invaluable on longer trips and the easy to adjust the seat back allows you to shift in mid-paddle if you need to.
It’s at its best on calm water, though I’d feel comfortable taking it out on the ocean as long as the weather forecast is promising.
- 440-pound load capacity for longer expeditions
- One of the roomiest kayaks for larger paddlers
- Large watertight stern hatch
Best Whitewater: Pyranha Fusion DLX
Finding a good whitewater kayak is challenging for taller, bigger paddlers. Most in this category are narrow sit-inside boats with tight cockpits to allow for better maneuvering around rapids. But Pyranha has managed to meld the best of both worlds.
With a 286-pound load capacity, the Fusion DLX can accommodate most paddlers and their day gear.
The sit-on-top design gives you a little more room to move and adjust, though splashing waves will get you wet.
The seat backrest and thigh straps take the place of a sit-inside’s cockpit and keep you secure.
When you’re not on the whitewater, the boat has a retractable skeg to enhance the boat’s somewhat questionable tracking and gives it the versatility to handle calmer water too.
- Unique sit-on-top design gives you more room for your legs
- Retractable skeg for improved versatility
- 10-feet, six-inches long and 56 pounds
How to Choose the Best Kayak if You’re Big and Tall
Check Your Kayak’s Dimensions
You can look at a kayak’s specifications and read reviews from fellow big/tall paddlers, but there’s no substitution for sitting in your kayak before you buy it.
If possible, visit your perspective model in-store and try it out, bearing in mind that it will be more challenging to get in and out of when you’re on the water.
In most cases the longer a kayak the more legroom you’ll have. This can vary though depending on the design of your boat (sit-inside, sit-on-top, etc). For sit-inside kayaks, check the dimensions of the cockpit opening and make sure that boat has adjustable footpegs and seatback.
Some boats have a higher deck which gives the paddler more room for larger feet. This is especially important if the boat has a rudder that is controlled via foot pedals.
Finally, make sure you know what the boat’s load capacity is. This refers to the total weight that the boat can carry, including the paddler.
If a boat is overloaded it will sit lower in the water which can make the kayak sluggish and less responsive. Stability can also be compromised and can make capsizing much easier.
Consider What You Plan on Doing the Most
Once you know what kayaks will fit, it’s time to determine what sort of paddling you plan on doing.
If most of your trips will be on calm mellow lakes on sunny afternoons, then you can probably save some money by going with a cheaper plastic or inflatable kayak. These are easier to transport and store and come with a lower price tag.
If taking your family or dog is in your plans, make sure that you have room in the kayak for extra passengers and that the material is durable enough to withstand a dog’s nails.
If your paddling includes some more ambitious trips, you’ll probably need a more expensive kayak.
Fishing kayaks in particular are worth the extra money as the higher-end models come with a lot of customization features and rod holders for your fishing poles.
The same can be said for multi-day or “touring” trips. Extra storage space is paramount and a longer keel and narrower design will make for faster, more efficient paddling.
Make sure your touring kayak has a comfortable seat with adjustable foot pedals and maybe thigh braces to make those longer paddle days more tolerable.
Sit-In Vs. Sit-On-Top Kayaks
The two primary kayak design types, there are several differences between the two models.
Sit-in kayaks have a defined “cockpit” that the paddler sits inside that protects their legs and lower torso. This makes them good in wet or cold environments where the cockpit can be enclosed by a spray skirt.
Since you sit inside the boat, your center of gravity is lower which makes sit-in kayaks more stable and allows their design to be narrower, faster, and less likely to be blown off course by wind or waves. This makes them popular choices for longer trips or for those that need a higher-performing boat.
Sit-on-top kayaks give the paddler more room since there’s no defined cockpit which makes them easier to get in and out of. There’s no way to protect you from splashing waves or rain however and to compensate for this, sit-on-top kayaks sit higher in the water to protect you.
This can make them more unstable, so to counteract this sit-on-top boats tend to be wider to maintain stability. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t high performing kayaks out there. Many high-end angling models fit this category and can still move at a decent speed with plenty of storage space. Most recreational and entry-level kayaks fit into this category.
Any experienced big or tall paddler can tell you horror stories about trying to pretzel themselves into a kayak designed to fit someone much smaller than them.
But if you’re going to buy a kayak of your own, there’s no reason not to find one that fits like a glove.
Thanks to its massive size and ability to handle open ocean conditions, the X-13 Fish and Dive from Malibu kayaks is my favorite in this category. The included rod holders and massive storage space allows you to be out as long as you like, and all the room means you can bring a second paddler if you like.
Wilderness Systems Pungo 125 is another competitive model. I love the clever removable deck for added space that makes getting in and out much easier. Add in all the storage space and the narrower design and you’ve got another boat that can be out for several days.
What do you think of our list? What’s the most comfortable kayak you’ve ever paddled? Got any good stories from your last time out on the water? Let us know in the comments below.