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can fat people kayak

Most of us are pretty aware of some of the stigmas that surround being on the bigger size. People often assume this means that we live a sedentary lifestyle or that we aren’t capable of doing the same activities as lighter people who are in a little better shape.

This stigma couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Can fat people kayak?

The answer is a resounding yes, fat people can kayak. Bigger guys and plus-sized gals of all shapes and sizes can get out on the water with the right equipment. Not only is kayaking a fun, enjoyable activity that people of all sizes can enjoy, but it also has lots of benefits. 

So, let’s look at this question a little deeper and talk about some of the things you’ll need to go kayaking as a bigger person. I’ll also give you a few tips I’ve picked up this past year or two since I’ve gotten into the sport.

Can Fat People Kayak?

Yes! Fat guys and plus-sized women absolutely can kayak. Kayaking is something you absolutely should do if you’re bigger, too!

I’ve found that being comfortable while kayaking really comes down to having enough room in the ‘yak (a little terminology for you). I like enough room to freely move my elbows around, which is the reason I generally go with a sit-on-top style.

While sit-on kayaks don’t offer the same stability as the kind you sit inside of, they do give you that extra room. Plus, between us, I’m not really ready to hit the rapids yet anyway. The bigger kayaks support more weight and they’re perfect for taking out on the lake and to some of my favorite fishing spots.

Can a 300-Pound Person Kayak?

Yes, a man or woman who weighs 300 pounds, 400 pounds, and even more than that can kayak! If you weigh more than 300 pounds, however, you might have a hard time finding a recreational kayak that will work for you.

Recreational kayaks are designed to handle a little more turbulence than those designed for recreational kayaking or fishing. Generally, kayaks designed for larger people are able to handle Class I or Class II rapids with no problem.

These smaller rapids are best for beginners and novices, which is great if you’re starting out, too. Class III rapids are also doable if you would consider yourself intermediate level and are able to control your ‘yak in strong currents.

By contrast, someone who is more experienced and seeking the exhilarating side of kayaking might want to handle Class IV, Class V, or even Class VI rapids. Classes IV and V often involve steep drops and turbulent waves, as well as current that might change direction. Class VI exploration is something usually only attempted by teams of experts because of the danger.

Is There a Weigh Limit for Kayaking?

The weight limit for kayaking really comes down to the model of kayak that you choose. While the average recreational kayak has a weight limit that might top out around 250-300 pounds, there are many kayaks built bigger and more stable. This extra weight capacity is great for when you’re a little bigger or for people who are bringing along lots of gear on their outing.

That being said, if you plan on renting a kayak for an outing rather than buying your own, it’s a good idea to call ahead before any type of outdoor excursion. The last thing you want to do is add stress to what should be a fun, relaxing outing by not having what you need when you show up. Be sure they have kayaks with higher weight limits and find out if you can reserve one if they do.

What Happens When You’re Too Big for a Kayak

Being over the weight limit for a specific kayak model does not mean that your kayak will sink as soon as you get into it. When you are too heavy for the kayak, however, it doesn’t sit on top of the water as it should. As the kayak sinks below the ideal water level, it becomes hard to maneuver. There’s also a greater risk of capsizing, as well as you, your gear, and anyone you’ve brought along with falling into the water.

What a Manufacturer’s Weight Limit Means

To get the most of your kayaking experience, it’s necessary to start with a kayak that meets your needs. Many people assume that as long as they come in under the maximum weight limit, then the kayak will stay afloat. However, just because a kayak has a weight capacity of 350 pounds, however, it doesn’t really mean that a 350-pound person should use the ‘yak.

Basically, the maximum recommended weight limit describes how much weight the kayak can handle before it starts to sink in the water. Even if it stays afloat, however, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to work the best that it can. A kayak that is at it’s maximum capacity is going to be heavy in the water. It will sit lower than it’s supposed to and be difficult to steer.

What are the Benefits of Kayaking for Bigger Folks?

Kayaking has tons of benefits that anyone can enjoy, whether you’re plus-sized or not. To start with, kayaking is great for building up flexibility. Fat people can be flexible, especially with the side-to-side movements you’ll do while paddling a kayak. Even if you aren’t especially flexible now, your body will get used to the movements over time and your flexibility will increase.

Whether you’re paddling aggressively through rapids or gently across a lake, pulling the kayak through the water helps build lean muscle. It’s also a great way to burn calories and build lean muscles.

Kayaking also has lots of benefits for your stress levels. Being outdoors in nature greatly reduces stress and improves mental health. Furthermore, sunshine helps your body process Vitamin D, which is important for the production of hormones that affect your mood. If you’ve been feeling especially blue, getting out in a kayak might be just what you need for your mood to bounce back again.

Finally, there are social benefits of kayaking, too. If you go out with family, friends, or even your kids or dog, it’s a great way to bond and spend time together. For people that go out alone in the ‘yak, there’s the major benefit of having some time to relax. You might even find other people that enjoy the sport and make friends along the way.

What to Look for in a Kayak for Big Guys and Plus-Sized Gals

Kayaks for bigger people need to have higher weight limits, which you’re more likely to find in a touring or fishing kayak. You’re also more likely to find a higher weight limit in an inflatable kayak than a hard-shell one.

What Type of Kayak do Fat People Need?

Kayaking isn’t a one-size-fits-all activity. Recreational kayaks are generally designed smaller, better able to handle rapids when you’re going downriver. Their smaller size also means they are designed lightweight and it also gives them a smaller weight limit. Even though the average recreational kayak is constructed a little smaller, there are many other kayaks that big guys and plus-sized women will find roomier and with higher weight limits.

Fat people should consider a fishing kayak or touring kayak for getting out on the water. Tandem kayaks are another great option! Fishing or touring kayaks generally have wider hulls, so there’s more room for gear. Plus, recreational kayaking and relaxing kayaking are really two different sports.

These two bigger styles of kayak are better for a more relaxing style of kayaking. They’re also designed to hold more weight for bringing along gear, whether for fishing or a 2-3 day kayaking excursion.

I prefer fishing kayaks because many of them have a sit-on-top design, rather than a sit-inside design. This is my personal go-to, since I do enjoy fishing and there’s no reason you can’t use it if you aren’t fishing either.

For people who need a little more space or a higher weight capacity, a tandem could be an option. As you look at tandem kayaks, be sure to choose one that has a seat you can reposition toward the middle of the ‘yak. This ensures it stays evenly balanced and that the kayak will be easier to maneuver through the water.

Consider an Inflatable Kayak

Bigger men and women may also have better luck going with an inflatable kayak than a hard-shell one. I’ll be honest, I was super skeptical about something that I had to fill with air supporting me while I was out on the water- especially when I was out there with all my fishing gear. When you think about it though, an inflatable kayak makes sense.

Inflatable kayaks support more weight because they are made of lighter materials. This means more material can be used without adding to the overall weight of the kayak too much. With a hard-shell kayak made from thick fiberglass, wood, or other materials, adding more length or width also significantly increases the weight and negatively affects the buoyancy of the kayak.

Plus, a lot of inflatable kayaks out there are made of super durable materials. As I was looking at all the different options, words like “military-grade material” and “double-stitching” really stood out to me and made me feel a little more secure in trying an inflatable kayak out as well.

Consider a Sit-On Rather than a Sit-In Kayak

Whether I’m out kayak fishing or recreationally kayaking, I’ve learned that I need space to move around when I’m in the water. A lot of the sit-in style of kayaks that I’ve tried really don’t have that extra elbow room that I need. Plus, when you have to sit inside the kayak, there’s really not as much room to move your feet around.

Don’t get me wrong, the sit-inside design is definitely doable if you buy something with a wider cockpit (that’s the empty part inside the boat). It’s hard to know what you need if you’ve never been in a kayak though, so I really recommend going to your local outdoor store and trying a few kayaks out if you can.

Look for a Higher Weight Limit Than You Need

As you look at different kayaks, you’re going to want to pick something that offers a higher weight limit than you actually need. On average, you’ll want to keep the kayak at a maximum of 80% of its total capacity. This gives you a little room for gear, plus a little wiggle room if you gain a few pounds.

This means that if you weigh 280 pounds, you’ll want a kayak that supports at least 350 pounds. A kayaker who is 300 pounds should look for something with at least a 375-pound limit. 400 pounds? Look for a kayak with a 500-pound weight capacity.

Why You Shouldn’t Get a High-Backed Seat

Some kayak companies try to set their models apart by mentioning that they have higher back support or better padding on their seats. While there’s nothing wrong with that extra padding, a high-backed chair actually isn’t the best for kayaking.

Even though bigger people usually float better than the average person, you’ll still need to be safe and wear a personal flotation device or PFD while you’re doing any type of water activity like kayaking. There’s nothing worse than spending your whole kayaking trip arched forward because your life jacket is in the way of your chair.

Tips on How to Get Started with Kayaking for Bigger Folks

Once you’ve purchased or rented a kayak and are ready to get out on the water, these tips will help you get started. Let’s take a closer look.

#1: Watch Some Video Tutorials

You can learn how to do just about everything online these days, including kayaking. I wish I’d learned sooner rather than later about how useful it was as a resource, but I did some research after my first outing and really learned a lot.

I definitely recommend starting with some of the basics, particularly how to get in and out of your kayak and how to properly use your oars. I’ve learned the hard way that if you don’t use your oars at the right angle, it’s rather ineffective as you try to push yourself around. You’re also more likely to strain muscles in your shoulders and lower back.

There are plenty of videos about kayaking for fat people on Youtube. Just check out this handy video on how to get back on your kayak as a bigger person:

Content like this is just further evidence that not only can big people kayak, but big people should kayak! And there’s plenty of people out there doing it, too!

#2: Get Out in the Water with Friends

It can be hard to get yourself out there, especially if you’ve ever felt out of place around other people who are kayaking or like you didn’t belong. But, honestly, kayaking is something that’s really easy to learn.

Even if you don’t feel confident, get out on the water with some friends. Kayaking is a great activity to do with friends or a loved one, even if you aren’t sharing the same ‘yak. Plus, being around someone you love can definitely help with relaxing and having a great time.

#3: Expect to Fall

Few people get into a ‘yak and have the perfect experience the first time. Regardless of the style of kayak you’ve chosen, getting in and out of it is always a challenge. Plus, there’s definitely a risk of making a splash if you lean too far one way or the other while kayaking. This is especially true for bigger people because leaning too far can shift your entire center of gravity. I’ve taken a tumble into the water more than once!

If you go into kayaking with a good attitude and expecting to fall, it’s easy to have a few laughs as you’re getting started. Plus, you’ll be able to get back up again- even if you’re out on the water.

As long as you’re having a good time, that’s really all that matters. And if you’re worried about getting out on the water and falling or having a hard time, then go out and practice along the shore or in waist-deep water the first few times.

Final Word

Can fat people kayak? Yes, they absolutely can. Not only is kayaking a great activity to do alone or with friends, but there are also plenty of health benefits as well.

With kayaking, it’s important that you start out with all the gear that you need. That includes a kayak that will actually support your weight and give you room to use your oars.

Hopefully, this article has been helpful in answering your questions. I’d love to see more big guys and gals like me out on the water!

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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