I recently took delivery of my new Valley Etain 17.3 and doesn’t she look great. I chose a golden yellow hull and combing, white deck and light aircraft grey seams. I figured if the kayak is upside down I’d need rescuing and I think the yellow hull has higher visibility. (Some of my previous kayaks have had this ‘upside down’ colour scheme for the same reason). Primarily I purchased her for longer trips, and after looking inside her hatches was pleasantly surprised to see how large they are and after doing a bit of a dummy pack at home I think she will carry a good load of expedition gear. To give you an idea about me, I am 49kg and 5foot 2inches.
She has a lovely finish, some nice standard extras like the front ‘glovebox’ hatch on the foredeck to store snacks and a small dry bag. There is also a small stainless rod on the deck behind the seat easily accessible for towing and very handy as a spot to secure you kayak with a padlock if you need to. There are plenty of bungies on the fore and aft deck to store a spare paddle and hand pump, there is also an inbuilt compass mount, and I have ‘ear-marked’ a spot on the foredeck to put a sail fitting.
The seat and back-band are the standard Valley. I find the back band is in a nice low position so it doesn’t get in the way of your forward stroke seating position, nor does it get in the way for back deck rolls. There is a space where you can add extra foam padding at the hips, but I haven’t found this necessary. I did add some thin foam thigh pads which have been very useful for edging and rolling.
She looks long and lean sitting in my hallway, and when I took her out on the water last Friday the Etain 17-3 didn’t disappoint at all. As usual the Valley seating was very comfortable for me. After cinching in the back band a little and packing provisions for lunch and safety gear in the day hatch we were on our way. I felt comfortable all day and didn’t need to make any further adjustments.
For me the front deck is narrow and allows a good forward stroke position without clashing the blades on the deck (as I am prone to do in wider decked kayaks) and there is room inside the cockpit to paddle in the “knees up” position to get the most power into my stroke. The kayak certainly felt fast and, on both the Friday and the Saturday when I took her out my paddling companions made comments about how my forward speed had increased somewhat.
From the forward paddling ‘knees up’ position I can quickly and easily put my knees and thighs back under the combing for strokes requiring more body control with edging and leaning. This splayed position is very comfortable for me in these smaller volume kayaks compared to larger wider kayaks.
On the open water around Jibbon Point and along the Royal National Park Coast the sea conditions were quite messy with swell waves and wind waves opposing each other and a reasonable rebound. The Valley Etain 17.3 handled it well and at all times I felt well looked after in her. When required, just a small edge using body movement would keep her going straight, and when combined with manoeuvring strokes she could easily turn to the left or right, or a full 360 degrees.
After our picnic lunch at Little Marley we launched into small surf and then into a 10-15 knot north-easterly headwind for the return trip. Rob was surprised how easily I could manage to paddle into the breeze. I still can’t keep up with him (and probably never will), but he said he waited less time for me than any time in the past.
On the return journey back into the Hacking River I caught runners easily and using a combination of power strokes and edges I was able to keep the 17-3 online. Every time Rob stopped to see where I was he couldn’t believe I was so close.
Now before you hit your keyboard to send me an e-mail, I am not selling my still treasured Avocet LV. It’s probably a bit extravagant but it is nice to have two so different kayaks (one for day trips and instructing and the other for expeditions), both of which are a joy to own and paddle.
**Sharon Betteridge is the third member of our EK team,