Monday 4 November 2013

'Small Boats, Big Difference' Sharon Betteridge's thoughts on the range of skis & kayaks for smaller people.

These are exciting times for smaller paddlers.  For many years the Australian market neglected to cater adequately for these paddlers, offering only wide, stable short kayaks (erroneously thinking women need wider kayaks so they wouldn’t feel unstable), or smaller versions of large kayaks. Both options were still way too big and cumbersome for smaller paddlers to handle.

Expedition Kayaks recently added a new kayak and ski to their range for the lighter weight paddler. Alongside the already popular Valley Avocet LV, there is now the Tiderace Xcite-S sea kayak and the Think ‘Eze’ Ski. Like the two Valley kayaks, these new additions to the range are specifically designed for the smaller paddler.  Not just ‘cut down’ versions of their bigger siblings. All these craft are carefully designed - narrow where you plant the paddle, ergonomic seating, efficient hull designs, reasonable water line length to ensure good forward speed, and in the case of the kayaks the smaller design allows a comfortable fit in the cockpit, easier edging for manouevering strokes and rolling and, with good sea manners on the open water, and still with enough room to pack your gear for overnight trips.

Whilst I have never been a proponent of ski paddling, I couldn’t resist a test paddle of the new Think ‘Eze’ ski when Rob brought it home on his roof a couple of weeks ago. It is shiny and slim, and light enough for me to get on and off the roof of my car on my own, and, after a few paddles on Sydney Harbour in genuine 20 knot winds, I was impressed to say the least. After a few anxious moments on launching, I adapted quickly to the feel of the both the ski and the wing paddle. Into the wind and across the wind I felt pretty much in control, and the ski was going quick. Then it was time to turn around and catch a few runners home. After a few unsettling moments I realized I could make this craft go fast, with little effort. A few days later I was out on it again.

Last week the Tiderace container arrived at the EK warehouse and inside was the new Tiderace Xcite-S. Having sat in so many ‘small’ sea kayaks over the years, I never really know what to expect but I was ‘Xcited’ when the box was opened to reveal that the Xcite-S was another genuine small person’s kayak. Tiderace have the formula right – comfortable fit in the cockpit, cockpit combing height just above my hips, the kayak moves easily when I want to edge, the deck is narrow where I want to plant the paddle for an efficient forward stroke, it has a decent waterline length for speed, enough rocker to ensure ease of turning, and of course all the usual excellent features of its larger relatives. I took it out for a paddle on the weekend, and it was everything I hoped it would be – comfortable, narrow foredeck, tracks well, turns easily, rolls exceptionally well and is more stable than its narrow beam would indicate. Another winner!

Tiderace have also just released the new Pace 17S; I think the market will benefit from the addition of a smaller fast sea-touring kayak in the high performance range for longer expeditions.

Last time a penned a review I was inundated with requests from paddlers asking to buy my personal kayaks. So before anyone hits the send button I am not selling. I love my Avocet LV. The Pace 17S certainly fits more gear for the overnight and extended trips; and the Avocet LV makes a great day boat and instructor’s kayak with its nimble responsiveness, ease of maneuvering and quick turn of speed when managing a group but then with access to the whole EK demo fleet I don’t have to sell my favourites to enjoy these new additions!

At last the leading designers and manufacturers are starting to take the under 65kilogram paddler seriously and provide them with real sea kayaks that they can use in real conditions. Small boats really do make a big difference - just ask any kayaker who paddles one.

Sharon Betteridge

1 comment:

  1. "Genuinely small person's Taran" - Annie is just about wetting herself with excitement at the thought of this, after spending some time in the original model.


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