-- Last Updated: Apr-08-13 11:27 AM EST --
BTW, on the leashes you may want to consider wrist leashes down the road. You can wrap them around the shaft to be out of your way most times, but hook them up quickly if needed. Like in rescues. I rarely use mine, but it is just about always on the paddle in case.
Now more on that size.
One thing I see is a tall seat back sticking up out of the cockpit of the Expression 14.5, on the web site. If you are serious about skills I hope that these boats left the shop with those replaced with a backband, or it is being done as we speak. Those seat backs are a problem for just about everything if you want to advance your skills. Most people can get to their first roll most easily by laying as far as possible on the back deck. A seat back like I am seeing is fatal to that, a taller deck than necessary does not help.
The Expression being inches shorter than the Tsunami 145 is a good thing for GF - the 145 is way oversized for her no matter how you shake or bake it. I just checked the web site for the Tsunami SP, and it does appear the height measurements are quite close to the Expression 14.5. The Tsunami SP is also an inch and a half narrower than the Expression 14.5, a further aspect of its being designed for smaller people. It makes it easier to get a good stroke. One of my boats has a profile to the water an inch or so narrower than the other depending on how you measure it, and over a day of paddling I really notice the difference.
Lower decks make the following easier, and even and inch can be noticeable - self-rescue, bracing, rolling. Until you start actually doing this stuff it isn't exactly clear why. Granted I like low decks, so what I think of as tall enough to be a pain in the butt may be a height that wouldn't bother someone else of my size. But at 100 pounds your GF could be very tiny, with short torso and arms, and at a height where an inch or two is noticeable. I am 5 ft 3.5 inches and the last time I weighed that little and was healthy I was in high school. I prefer a rear back deck height of no more than 10 inches, 8 to 9 inches is even better. I suspect the Expression is coming in at 11 or so inches even after you take away that seat back.
(And yeah, the lower the deck the more you need a skirt.)
BTW, you probably will be adding pads along the side for her unless she is carrying a majority of her weight in her posterior. There is a difference between being nicely loose in a boat and sliding side to side when you try to initiate a roll or hold an edge. I have plumped up to 135 pounds and feel loose in anything more than a 16 inch cockpit. There tends to be a relationship between cockpit width and seat width, though not exactly a one on one.
I get lambasted on this board at times for recommending lessons before buying, at least a basics in on-water rescues and some bracing. But the reason is sound. Until someone gets wet and starts aggressively trying to use a boat for its intended purpose, it is nearly impossible to understand the details of how fit and outfitting make a difference. It is not a matter of anyone lacking smarts. It is just that this is one of those things that you have to do to get it - reading is not going to get you there.
Paddler's Truck Rack
Full Size Sail Rig
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