Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Which Kayak for Me….?


The most often asked question we hear, with boat choices available from EK now numbering in the high teens, and each craft selected to slot ever so slightly into a niche of it's own.
Although it's impossible to provide intricate details of each & every design in a single blog post, here's a summary of where the kayaks in our range fit into the broad scheme of things. I've categorised them into three main groups:

1. 'Smile on the Dial' Kayaks

These are the boats in the range that seem to have universal appeal, paddled by a wide spectrum of paddlers with varying skill levels. They are the boats we tend to steer newer paddlers, or paddlers coming to rudderless paddling from a background of ruddered boats towards, as they are typically sympathetic in rough water and very predictable on edge.
  • Valley Etain Series, 17'7, 17'5, 17'3, RM - A successful combination of the sympathetic secondary stability of the Atlantic, combined with a harder tracking hull typical of many Swede form kayaks. The Etain series were designed to flatter, encouraging paddlers out onto the ocean in a kayak that will look after them, while still inherently being fast enough to make them a genuine expedition boat. The Etain boats all carry gear well, their performance isn't hugely influenced by a decent expedition load. Price $4190 (composite), $2395 (RM - Etain 17'5).
  • North Shore Atlantic & Atlantic LV RM - Returned to EK's range in 2016 by weight of request, this cult alrounder has been sorely missed. This is the enrty level rough water skeg boat, in a standard size & also in the LV for lighter paddlers that has universally put a grin on paddler's faces. HERE'S a review Ocean Paddler Magazine did on the Atlantic back a couple of years.
  • Valley Sirona 16.1, 15.1 -  Valley's latest offering in the 'look after you on the sea' category in two sizes, a shorter more nimble boat, with bouncy secondary stability reminiscent of the North Shore Atlantic but with flatter planing hull as is the modern trend. A great starting skeg boat, or a day/play special for the experienced paddlers. Here's a video of the Sirona in action in some fun surf:
  • Tiderace Xcite - A difficult kayak to categorise, straddling as it does the 'smile on the dial' and 'performance' genres. Summarising the Xcite, it's hard not to sound all gushy, the boat is well fast enough for club paddling, runs downwind as well as any longer waterline kayak we've paddled, has rock solid initial & secondary stability & looks after the less confident paddler with aplomb in the rough stuff. Not as elegant & laced with 'vibes' as a boat like the Nordkapp LV, but it's way easier to master. It also surfs like a demon - see our video comparing it to the Valley Gemini below. Price $4390 (G-Core)
  • Tiderace Xcite S - See above for the characteristics of the Xcite, then plant your 55kg frame into the cockpit and have the boat do all the same things for you. Tiderace's only genuine small person's design, with universally good reviews around the place. The latest boat to land into the EK stable. Price $4390 (G-Core)
2. The Performers
These boats are aimed at either skillful paddlers aiming to enhance their paddling with a boat that will not limit them, or ambitious beginners who back themselves to get good, fast!
  • Valley Nordkapp Forti - the original British sea kayak revived in 2015. Not a huge load carrying expedition boat, but as with it's low volume sibling a paddlers boat in every respect. For coastal expeditioning & touring the Nordkapp is a joyful sports car of a kayak, a demanding mistress for those with a lower skill base, but the rewards are in the paddling. Here's Rob's thoughts on Five Years in a Valley NordkappPrice $4190 (composite), $2395 (RM)
  • Valley Gemini SP - A game changer in many respects, short enough to fit into the standard car spot available in a block of units, fast enough to foot it on a club trip which clips along at 6-7kmh, and a ball-tearer in the surf (see our video of the Gemini in action HERE). Although designed with the surf in mind, a clever hull shape with more V than you'd normally associate with a play boat gives the boat solid tracking characteristics, and also a surprising turn of speed. If you measure a sea kayak by the ease with which it holds a cruising speed of 6-7kmh, then the Gemini loses nothing for being shorter than the traditional sea kayaks we have come to know. Available in Valley's superb RM layup for just $1990.
3. The Future of Expeditioning
We've firmly held the view that next few years will see a whole new genre of sea kayak popularised, as the idea of fast & athletic touring gains a foothold. It's hard to argue with the numbers even from a single design like the Rockpool Taran, with old sea kayaking speed records falling one by one to paddlers with good technique, fitness & a plan. Our thoughts on what makes a fast tourer are HERE.
  • The Expedition Kayaks Audax - Our own design, launched in 2017 after more than two years of development, testing and prototyping, and proving to be a very accessible, stable and user friendly addition to the fast touring market. It's also the fastest hull in the genuine sea kayak range that we have ever measured. A cracking boat downwind, fast enough to put a sub 11 hour Hawkesbury Classic within reach of a reasonably fit paddler, and built in Australia for tough expeditioning. You can read all about the Audax HERE. Priced from $4490.
  • Rockpool Taran 18 - A reasonably fast boat on flat water, although not exceptional in comparison to designs like the Valley Rapier, this boat has a hull that is unlocked once the sea starts to build from astern. There are about 40 Taran owners nationally, & they're all good paddlers, ambitious & technically sound with a zest for downwind speed. The boat excels with a load, and has the right amount of buoyancy to provide a reassuring ride in the rough stuff. Most definitely a niche kayak, not one for paddlers who aren't aggressive in rough water & competent in downwind conditions, but the most exciting sea kayak we've ever paddled. Price $5290 (composite)
  • Tiderace Pace 17 Tour - A fast plumb bow touring sea kayak, with enough rocker and stability to look after a paddler with average ability, and enough room for a multi day trip, stretching to multi week, has occupied our thinking for the past few years. There is no question that the Taran is a boat that rewards skill, fitness and sea skills, however the new Pace Tour 17 has allowed entry to the world of fast touring boats to paddlers who don't necessarily paddle aggressively all the time. A very exciting development and the sign of things to come in the sea kayak expedition market. Price $4990 (G-Core Lite). Here's a video of Mark shifting the Pace 17 along in some small runners.
  • Tiderace Pace 17S - A scaled down ergonomic form of the full sized Pace 17 Tour, same length, slightly narrower & a little bit quicker, with a cockpit designed to fit paddlers in the 55-75kg range. Price $4990 (G-Core Lite).

  • Tiderace Pace Evoke - a 15 footer with radical manoeuvrability in line with it's waterline length, but a terminal hull speed to rival most long-haul traditional sea kayaks. Designed for paddlers in the 65-85kg who don't want to be left behind, light, fun & well capable of extended touring. Price $4990 (G-Core Lite)
  • Epic 18X - Now ensconced in it's second incarnation, that features a revolutionary rudder system, sound & adjustable ergonomics & a proper expedition fit out that includes a day hatch as standard. Off the shelf it's hard to imagine a more comprehensively fitted out kayak, with little or nothing to do to customise other than make use of the factory fitted adjustability. The 18X is probably too quick for the average paddler on the flat to ever reach, and has a proven track record of, well, epic expeditioning to stand on, having recently been piloted around Australia & then Cape Horn by Freya Hoffmeister. Price $4290 
There you have it, a brief summary of our range & where they fit in relation to one another, and their design strengths.If you have any questions or queries please feel free to to give either or Rob or myself a bell, or drop us a line. We have a demo boat available in each & every one of the models mentioned above, & will take you out on the sea for a test paddle in live conditions.

3 comments:

  1. EXCELLENT article, Mark... with so many choices in boats these days, it's very helpful to have an overview such as this.

    I hope you revisit it once the Tiderace and Valley Gemini boats come in and you've had time to assess them.

    Btw, aren't there TWO Gemini boats, a play one and a 'light touring' one? I'd actually be more interested in the latter, from what i've read it'd be the perfect day boat, compact in size and very light, for super-easy portage and storage.

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  2. Yes, two Gemini boats about to launch. We figured the Sport version would do pretty much everything the rec style would do, so for now will just be bringing in the higher performance model. We'll publish our thoughts on the Gemini once we've had some decent water time.
    Mark.

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  3. So nice to read honest opinions about a boat from somebody selling them. Even tho I have to buy in my country you have helped me narrow my choice to just four kayaks! Your honesty and integrity is very much appreciated by myself and my paddle friends here in Norway.
    Takk!
    Astrid

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