One man's rush to jump on the kayaking bandwagon

2008 East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival

We went down to Charleston again this year for the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival. What was the best part? Nigel Foster? Dubside? Paddling boats I'd never have an opportunity to otherwise paddle? The opportunity to meet and talk with people who share my obsession? It was a great weekend. Here's some random thoughts on various bits of gear I tried over the weekend.

NDK Explorer

I already own an NDK Explorer, but I had never tried one with a foam block back rest. I liked it enough to buy one from the Virginia Sea Kayak Center. I know I could have made my own, and I just might use this one as a template. I also have to admit that I made a mistake by getting the Explorer HV. The standard Explorer fits perfectly.

NDK Romany

The Romany feels very similar to my Explorer. I also have to admit that considering the paddling that I do, the Romany may be a better choice than the Explorer.

Impex Force4 and Force5

I paddled the Impex Force5 last year and I didn't like it. This time around, I was impressed. The boat is quite maneuverable for it's length and the finish is in a class above what I'm used to with my Explorer. The Force5 is a bit too roomy, but the force4 is the best fitting kayak I've ever paddled.

Valley Aquanaut

The Valley Aquanaut is Valley's Explorer. It's boring and predictable and not for me. The keyhole is a little too wide making it uncomfortable.

Valley Q-Boat

The Valley Q-Boat seems like a fun boat. Doesn't track well at all with the skeg up, but then this boat isn't about getting places. I'm sure this boat would just kick my ass if I was to take it out in some rough water.

Valley Nordkaap LV

It's hard to avoid the buzz surrounding the Valley Nordkaap LV. I have to say that it is completely justified. The acceleration is amazing. It is very responsive and feels much shorter than it is. If I were to add another boat to the fleet, it would be this one.

P&H Cetus

The P&H Cetus seemed to be last year's over-hyped boat. Other than the forward day hatch and the built in kayak lock attachment, I just don't see the appeal. The odd orange glitter finish didn't help. I just don't understand the glitter movement.

Wilderness Systems Tempest 170

The Wilderness Systems Tempest 170 was one of the boats I had considered when I was looking to replace my Tsunami. After finally paddling it, I can say that I'm glad I didn't buy this boat. The outfitting is excellent, and the construction is solid, but it's just not exciting.

Wilderness Systems Zephyr 15.x5

This show was the coming out party for the Wilderness Systems Zephyr 15.x5. Stability was high and it was quite maneuverable. It feels like a non-chined Tsunami.

Werner Paddles

I went to the festival in the market for a new paddle. The first thing I did was jump in an Explorer and paddle over to the Werner booth. I tried the Camino, Shuna, Cypress, and the Ikelos. I tried lengths from 220mm down to 205mm, small diameter shaft and the standard diameter, straight and bent shaft.
I ruled out the low angle paddles immediately. While the straight shaft paddles seemed to offer the most control, the bent shaft felt better for a forward stroke. As of today, the 205mm bent shaft Cypress is the paddle that works right for me. But, who knows how long that would last. It wasn't that long ago that I was using a 240.
I highly recommend this post by Simon Willis on Werner paddles.

Lendal Kinetik Touring S

While Lendal was not officially at the festival, many vendors had Lendal paddles available. I tried a crank shaft Kinetik Touring S. From what I've read about it, I really thought I'd like this paddle, but I didn't. The crank shaft just feels odd compared to Werner's bent shaft.


It seems that Reed gear has finally arrived in the US. After seeing it, I now understand why it is so popular. The spray skirts are much lighter weight than normal neoprene skirts. I wonder how well they breath.

Pacific Horizons

I picked up a copy of Pacific Horizons. I haven't watched it all the way through yet, but so far, it's boring. Justine takes me to places I've never seen before. Watching Dubside drag his kayak on a public bus is entertaining at first, but not something I'd ever want to watch over and over again.
The best part was watching Nigel Foster. Nigel is simply amazing. Disappointments include no Seaward's and therefore no Nigel Foster Legend, no Rumor -- except for Nigel's, not bringing my gear, and not signing up early enough to get in on the master classes.
tags: gear, travel

April 21, 2008