Material: Linear Polyethylene (RM)
Length: 10’ 8”
Weight: 45 lbs
Cockpit Size: 35 x 20 inches
Hull Type: Shallow V
The Venture Kayaks Flex 11 is one of the most unique recreational kayaks on the market today. Blending Pyranha inspired whitewater with P&H inspired touring, the Flex provides paddlers with a unique mix between a flatwater playboat and a pocket-sized day tripper. Don’t let the length of the Flex fool you! Measuring just shy of 11 feet, the 10’8” recreational kayak does not shy away from big water performance.
I first had the opportunity to paddle the Venture Flex a couple summers ago. My first experience in the Flex was one to remember – the conditions were rather unforgiving with gusting winds around 20 knots with a steady wind-driven groundswell. This type of environment is one of my favorites to test paddle new kayaks in. As we have mentioned previously in our demo related posts, almost any kayak will perform well on a calm, flat day. But it is not until you bring a kayak into more demanding conditions where its true performance is revealed.
I was skeptical of the Flex 11 at first. It’s short stature and broad sweeping bow lines gave the Flex a formidable rocker. I was concerned, upon first inspecting the hull design, that there would only be about 6-7 feet of waterline. I didn’t let my doubts sway me before popping the Flex in the water. I knew from experience that any Pyranha developed product, whether P&H, Venture Kayaks, or FeelFree, never faltered in performance.
When I first began paddling the Flex, the first facet I noticed was its responsiveness and maneuverability. As a recreational kayak, one can expect it to be both maneuverable and stable. Venture Kayaks took the term “maneuverability” to another level. With one sweep stroke and lean, the Flex 11 nearly turns 360 degrees, and with a following reverse stroke effortlessly completes the circle. My first experience in the Flex was reminiscent of Pyranha’s Master TG whitewater playboat. Like the Master TG, the Flex 11 was extremely maneuverable but unlike the Master TG it was not sluggish, nor did it labor through flatwater. The Flex 11 is outfitted with a rope deployed drop skeg which helps eliminate the Flex’s desire to turn so effortlessly. With the skeg fully deployed, the hull becomes less efficient and I could definitely feel a pulling drag beneath the water. On that note, the skeg provides ample tracking and quickly moves the boat from a whitewater playboat to a more refined light-touring kayak. The Flex is stable and displaces very little waterline. This performance feature makes the Flex a perfect candidate for exploring tight, shallow, winding rivers or estuaries.
The waves? Wind? Groundswell? These are not terms that the Flex 11 is willing to shy away from. It crashed through the waves and even provided enough planing surface for a fun, responsive surf session. If you’re planning on surfing with the Flex, I would recommend not deploying the drop skeg (at least not fully). The drop skeg sets the Flex on track so well that it becomes considerable less playful in the surf. One fact is for sure, if you are planning on taking the Flex out in surf or rougher waters I would highly recommend a spray skirt, or you can be promised a wet ride.
I was impressed with the Flex’s sea kayak cockpit outfitting. Recreational kayaks are typically outfitted with bulky, often flimsy seats and cockpit rim padding. Fitted with solid thigh braces, the cockpit on the Flex was spacious yet gave me plenty of options for a snug fit. The thigh braces were not only solid and securely fastened to the hull, but they were very comfortable. Venture did a great job in their final finishing stages in not leaving any sharp, unfinished edges throughout the cockpit molding. The only bitter-sweet aspect of the Flex’s outfitting was Venture’s patented Flip-Top backrest. The Flip-Top backrest provides ample support and comfort on the water, but when folded in the downward position I found that the seat back stood about 2-inches too high. Since the seat back rose above the rear of the cockpit rim, it made the process of putting on a neoprene sprayshirt more challenging. In addition, it gets in the way of more advanced paddling techniques such as layback rolls or aggressive bracing stern. If the Flip-Top seat folded a mere two-inches lower and fell below the cockpit line, this would make the seating outfitting ideal.
The Flex 11 is outfitted with a rear bulkhead and KajakSport oval hatch. This is a great feature which adds buoyancy and provides paddlers with dry storage. Unfortunately, one reoccurring problem we had with the Flex’s rear hatch was the mere impossibility of getting them on. The Flex’s are shipped with the hatchcovers removed from the hatch rim. This is understood due to the varying shipping conditions in an effort to prevent damage to the hatch and bulkhead during transport. The hatches are so challenging to get on, in fact, it took three staff members to get a single hatch on. This was not just one kayak, we had this issue with three separate Flex’s from the same lot. It is possible that this particular batch of Flex’s we received had not cooled properly (causing the hatch rim to expand). Regardless of why this issue occurred, it is an indicator of faulty quality control on behalf of Venture Kayaks.
With all hatchcover gripes aside, the Venture Kayak Flex is a great kayak. It provides a unique paddle on the water and combines exceptional performance in both flat and moving water. Highly versatile, the Flex is a wonderful kayak for beginners and advanced kayakers alike and will impress even the most critical crowds. Venture Kayaks gets an A+ for outfitting – every little detail from its integrated drop skeg, Twistlock foot rests, paddle park, to its removable deck pod puts the Flex 11 far ahead of its competitors. At an affordable price point of $749, you can’t beat to Flex when it comes down to combined value and performance.
Pros: great hull design, impressive outfitting, integrated drop skeg, affordable price point, reasonable carrying weight (at only 45lbs)
Cons: Flip-Top seat back sits too high when folded down, hatch cover issue (NOTE: this hatch cover problem may have been conditional to the particular batch of Flex’s we got and does not reflect ALL Flexs as a model).
Demo Notes: I have test paddled the Flex 11 in a variety of conditions ranging from clam flatwater to 20 knot winds and constant 1.5-2 foot swells.