There are hundreds of boats out there as everyone knows. Among these are boats you read about that take your fancy and you think how you’d love to paddle them. There are times when you get to do just that. At Klanocopia and Rock ‘n’ Roll we get the opportunity to do this. Paddling in a klan of around fifty paddlers also gives you a chance to swap boats. The problem is that once you get over a certain size you don’t fit in too many.
Recently, I got to try out several boats at Klanocopia. Most disappointing was the fact that of all the boats Expedition Kayaks brought only a few suited me and of these only two were boats I’d consider buying. Let me first disclose that I am an ex-weight lifter, 186cm tall and 115kg in weight. I have large thighs and calves which add to the problem. So with that in mind, here are the boats I tried to paddle:
- Tahe Greenland T
- North Shore Atlantic
- Valley Nordkapp
- Valley Avocet
The North Shore was the most disappointing because I paddled it a year ago and it fit like a glove. I also loved it and resolved to own one. This time I could barely cram my thighs inside the cockpit. I think that if I were going to buy one I’d have the seat checked to make sure I fit properly. It is such a capable boat it would be worth spending some time modding the cockpit and seat for fit. Strangely I fit in the RM version of the Atlantic and enjoyed paddling it. At $1995 it is a steal and would make a fantastic second boat for thrashing about on rocks or a great budget boat for a beginner that wouldn’t need upgrading for ages. For me, I already have thrashers and the Atlantic RM gives me nothing over the Assateague.
I was disappointed I couldn’t fit in the Greenlander T because it is the sexiest kayak on Earth. I knew I wouldn’t though.
However, I did fit well in some boats:
- Rockpool GT
- Rockpool Taran
- Zegul 535
- Valley Aquanaut
The Taran surprised me. It was comfortable with great contact even from my leg mass. It is very fast with great secondary stability and surprising primary. It is designed to go fast in rough seas and set all sorts of sped records. It certainly feels like it would. It’s long waterline prevents it handling like a classic UK boat and it comes with a rudder unlike the GT but I still managed to edge it and do low brace turns without going for a swim so I was impressed with the Taran. I’m not sure it offers me anything I really need, though, since I am unlikely to ever challenge a speed record. I would like a faster boat but I’m sure the GT would deliver.
In fact, the GT delivers plenty. At Klanocopia 2009 I came away hating the GT but resolved to try it again. This time I set it up correctly and took my time finding balance and learning the boats characteristics. I didn’t want to get out of it. The seat is great and there are no foot pegs but a plate on the bulkhead that is very comfortable and allows different control points for the feet. Secondary stability is amazing and you can just sit on the edge with complete control. The pivot point is just forward of the knees and a tiny amount of bow rudder swings the boat about with no effort. The GT is beautifully made but doesn’t have the feel of invincibility of the Assateague. It doesn’t have the weight either. The GT is now my top contender for my next boat.
The Aquanaut is also a pretty awesome boat. I paddled the Carbon Kevlar version and it was brilliant. Fit is perfect and the seat is very good compared to the Immersion Research in the Assateague. Handling is similar to the Assateague as well and as much as I liked the Aquanaut it is too similar to my own boat to be a purchase contender. If I were starting out, it would be on the shortlist as a great general purpose boat.
The surprise of the lot was the Zegul 535. It is a strange looking thing but I slid into it easily and found it very comfortable. Primary stability is a bit twitchy but secondary was fantastic. It just handled everything I did on the edge. It’s a pity I couldn’t paddle it in rougher sea because I rather enjoyed being in it. It also has a surprising turn of speed and I have a feeling it could easily get you onto waves without much effort. It’s strange but this weird looking fish-form boat took my fancy and at $2990 is a real contender. However the GT is the real winner for me. It is pretty expensive though but possibly worth it.
As disappointing as it is to not fit in some of the sexier boats around, there’s still plenty of choice. The P & H Cetus, for instance is another excellent boat that I can fit in and the klan currently has four paddlers with these. So if you’re on the larger side of average there’s probably a boat for you. If you have one drop a comment and let me know how it is going. My tests were done with very little time and in flat coastal water. My chief concerns were fit, stability and handling. You need to spend a lot more time in variable conditions to get a true gauge of a boat which means either owning one or borrowing one for some time.