Kayak designs and opinions.

10 Apr


Impex Assateague

Impex Assateague

The trade aspects of RnR were disappointing. The three main suppliers were Expedition Kaykas, Gudu Kayaks and Rafta Kayaks. I know Australis were there but made no attempt to display themselves. There were sponsors like Roaring 40’s who don’t really have much to put in a show tent but all in all it was a great opportunity missed for vendors. They could really use some Retail Intelligence! Anyway…


Mark Sundin

Mark Sundin

I met up with Mark Sundin and Rob Mercer from Expedition Kayaks who sell Impex and Valley boats. Mark is very animated and great to talk to and he had certain views about kayak designs. Nigel Dennis was the star guest and he had some very strong opinions about Australian boats that caused a stir in some circles. His view is that if a kayak needs a rudder to be turned then it is either a bad design or contains a bad paddler. Mark echoed these views and naturally I’ve read these things before but here was Nigel Dennis right in front of us and slamming our boats. Given the preponderance of Mirages it’s no wonder there was lengthy discussion. 

Mark urged me to take the Impex Assateague out on a trip which I did. I gave him a full description of the problems I was having with Eco and he felt sure the Assateague would fix this. Henry van der Kolk led a trip up Cullendulla Creek which gave me a great opportunity to test the Assateague. It performed exactly as Mark said it would. Straight tracking, awesome secondary stability, comfortable. I paddled with skeg up most of the time and this boat can spin on it’s axis – almost. We left the creek and went to sea in a gentle 1 metre swell. I felt in control and much more skillful than in Eco. It is clearly a superior boat. It’s not as fast as the Mirages I was with but who cares? This boat can easily out handle a Mirage and an Eco Bezhig. I want one.


Rjimlad and Assateague.


I also talked to Laurie Geoghan about his Nadgee expedition boats. They are beautifully made with some impressive design elements like a recessed rudder which both protects it and allows the full length of the rudder to be in the water. Still, it’s a rudder and I already have one on Eco. He has really good skeg options as well but unfortunately I didn’t get to paddle one. The Nadgee is a dedicated expedition craft and I don’t think I’ll ever do a big expedition.

Bob from Rafta was there with the new Sea Leopard. This is a boat with a famous Australian pedigree and a popular choice for Tasmanians and Victorians. It’s built for speed and high sea stability. I could barely fit in the thing though. Once again I didn’t get to paddle it. A shame.

I am firmly convinced now of the need for a rudderless boat. I know it will be the Assateague but to be fair I will test others. I’ll keep Eco because it has it’s advantages but I believe it when Mark said many paddlers who buy Mirages find their skill level plateaus and they become lazy. You can’t help it. The integrated rudder of the Mirage means it is always on. At least in a pull-up rudder you can go rudderless. Nigel Dennis ruffled a few feathers but he has convinced me. 

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Posted by on April 10, 2008 in Uncategorized


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8 responses to “Kayak designs and opinions.

  1. tassiejohn

    April 23, 2008 at 3:29 am

    Sounds like a good event, pity there weren’t more boats to check out though.

    Much though I hate to get involved in a rudder / skeg / nothing debate I think it’s really personal choice. No one says a yacht is a poor design if it needs a rudder!? I sail in my kayak, which necessitates a rudder – and I like the reduction in effort that sails and rudders afford. Yeah it’s not traditional, but I’ve had some great trips around Tasmania and Bass Strait, and that’s what I want.

    But I’ve got no objection to people paddling different boats for different reasons. I will agree that the Mirage rudder makes you lazy though, I sometimes take the rudder off mine so I get some practice at edge turns and stern rudders – plus surfing is good practice – the Mirage rudder does bugger all in the surf…

  2. rjimlad

    April 23, 2008 at 7:51 am

    Hi John thanks for the post.
    I agree. My Eco Bezhig is useless without its rudder. It will weathercock in doldrums. I paddle with it up a lot of the time but for long stretches its exhausting. The Assateague tracks like an arrow and it felt so good to paddle. I guess the whole event changed my outlook a lot although I’m certainly not dogmatic about it. I do however, enjoy a good brawl over almost anything. Particularly if its something as subjective as a rudder/skeg/nothing debate.

  3. tassiejohn

    April 24, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Yeah, I must admit I’ve never paddled a kayak with a skeg. I used to have a plastic RPM sea kayak which was described in the marketing as having a rudder as an ‘option’. The reality was it weathercocked like a bastard and was useless in any decent weather without a rudder. And – just to add fuel to the arguments of the no rudder camp – the rudder broke off half way across Banks Strait in a 10-15 knot cross wind, making the next 15km very frustrating. On the plus side at least I’d regularly practiced paddling with the rudder up…

  4. rjimlad

    April 24, 2008 at 11:39 am

    I’m reading in places that some boats are fitted with rudders because they weathercock. That’s just bad design. I don’t know how true this is or how prevalent but having paddled recently some boats without rudder I’m starting to suspect. Laurie Ford has some very firm ideas about design and certainly Nigel Dennis but neither are saying the same thing. Laurie believes a v-hull is essential yet the Mirage has done dozens of big expeditions without it. I guess the only way to make an informed decision about a boat is to paddle one.

  5. Gnarlydog

    June 4, 2008 at 5:43 am

    Tassiejohn, I thought the same as you do in regards of: rudders are needed for sailing.
    Not so.
    I have an Assateague and I sail it better then my other two ruddered kayaks. Pictures at

  6. rjimlad

    June 4, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Great pix Damiano. Good info on the Assateague. I’m pretty sure I’ll buy one so the feedback is really useful.

  7. Laurie Ford

    August 27, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I own Nigel Dennis greenlander. It is the worst kayak I have ever owned. I therefore wouldn’t take notice of his opinion on any thing to do with sea kayaking.

  8. rjimlad

    August 27, 2008 at 9:39 am

    Bloody hell, now I’ve got Laurie Ford weighing in to the argument. I’m a little bit overawed. I’d like to have further input but I actually don’t know anything since I paddle a yellow lunchbox.


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