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Valley Gemini ST Review

Posted by on May 22, 2013

 Overview:

“At 37.5lbs (17kg) the first thing you’ll notice about the ST is how light and easy it is to handle. Whether carrying the kayak on your shoulder or loading it on your car, it takes the chore out of getting to the water. On the water it handles like a longer kayak; moderately rockered, good stability, long waterline and a fine bow ensure the ST tracks well and gives it a touring speed better than many longer kayaks.” – Valley Sea Kayaks

 

Valley Gemini ST (Image Courtesy of Valley Sea Kayaks)

Valley Gemini ST (Image Courtesy of Valley Sea Kayaks)

The Deets:

Material: Composite (Dolien)

Class: Light touring/transitional

Length: 14’10”

Width: 22’’

Deck Height: 12.75”

Weight: 37.5 lbs (stripped)

Optimal Load Range: 100-190 lbs

MSRP: $2949.00

 

The Review:

At long last, the 2013 sea kayaking season has arrived and I finally had the opportunity to demo the Valley Gemini ST at the Kayak Centre of Rhode Island’s annual demo weekend! Here’s what I thought…

The Gemini ST (Sports Tourer) represents the touring-adapted version of Valley’s new line of transitional touring kayaks: the Gemini Twins. Its dimensions and lines remind me a lot of the Impex Mystic which is one of the nicest of the smaller touring kayaks that I have ever paddled! I had the chance to demo the Gemini ST for about 20 minutes in moderate ocean conditions (waves 2-3ft, winds 15+mph) and I was very impressed with how it handled. It tracked well even without the use of the skeg, maneuvered nicely thanks to its mild-moderate rocker, and responded well on edge with excellent secondary stability! The Gemini ST comes loaded with a ton of great features including a fully outfitted deck with deck pod, cable operated drop skeg, and top-of-the-line cockpit outfitting. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Gemini ST is a great choice for the small to mid-sized paddler who is interested in day tripping or quick overnights!

Valley Gemini ST 2

The thing about the Gemini ST that surprised me most was how well it handled in the rough demo conditions! I had expected the tracking to be at least decent and found it to me excellent for a 15’ kayak! Holding course through the tight wave sets required surprisingly few corrective strokes while aided by only ¼ skeg. I was especially surprised by the exceptional maneuverability of the Gemini ST given its superb tracking. Maneuverability is the hallmark of its twin sister (the Gemini SP, an ocean-play adapted version) yet I had no trouble turning the Gemini ST around between wave crests or navigating amongst a small rock pile in the demo area! I also had the chance to surf the Gemini ST back into the beach on some 2-3ft sets. It accelerated nicely to get up on the wave face and set in without broaching. Furthermore, the Gemini ST was a fairly dry ride considering that I was launching through the surf and wasn’t wearing a spray skirt. The Werner Paddles rep was quick to complement my paddling skills when I got back to the beach but I must say that the Gemini ST helped to make the conditions look easier than they were!

Valley Gemini ST 1

One of the factors that had me the most excited about this kayak was its weight; Valley lists the composite Gemini ST at only 38-40lbs (minus the seat, hatches, and deck fittings). This seemed particularly impressive given that the Gemini ST is nearly 15feet long and that Valley is notorious for using a heavy layup on their composite kayaks for strength and durability. The actual weight of the Gemini ST was probably the thing that I was most disappointed about after getting the chance to carry it down to the water. There’s no doubt that the fully outfitted Gemini ST weighs in closer to the 45-48lb range which is much more than the +2-3lbs that they claim for the outfitting. This makes the Gemini ST comparable to kayaks such as the Current Design Vision 150 (48lbs with rudder) in terms of weight and thus takes away from the lightweight allure that captured my attention. I will say that Valley stayed true to form with a solid and thick layup. This probably explains where most of the “extra” weight is hiding and at least we can be confident that it was spent on quality construction!

Cockpit fit was definitely the thing that I was most concerned about after my initial assessment of the Gemini ST this winter. I’m not especially flexible (I have never been able to touch my toes) and I’ve found many of the Valley boats to be excruciatingly uncomfortable to sit in on extended paddles due to their characteristically low decks. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case for the Gemini ST what-so-ever! The cockpit was generously sized with a keyhole that was large enough for me to quickly slip in between sets. The thigh braces and foredeck are slightly raised to provide for a “diamond” position that remained comfortable over the course of the 20+ minute demo. I was so excited to get on the water that I forgot to adjust the foot pedals. There was no way that I was going to be able to make the adjustment on the water given my inflexibility and the swell. It hardly mattered as I locked my heels together and put my trust in the thigh braces to lock me in. I wasn’t disappointed as I was able to edge and control the Gemini ST as if it were an extension of me! This is a testament to both the excellent cockpit outfitting and the supreme secondary stability of the Gemini especially considering that I had left my spray skirt in the car!

Skeg control lever

Skeg control lever

The Gemini ST features a cable-operated drop skeg. This style of skeg is prone to jamming as the cable can become kinked if the skeg is forced back into its box. They can be difficult to operate as the cable tends to bend a little bit and cause friction at the skeg control slide. Valley attempted to address the later of these issues by installing a metal rod that extends from the control slide thus eliminating the region of the cable that is most prone to bending. I found that the skeg on this new demo operated smoothly. The conditions dictated that I paddle with the skeg retracted for most of the demo as I favored the responsiveness of the Gemini over tracking. However, it tracked fairly well despite the heavy conditions and I’d venture to say that one wouldn’t need to use much skeg unless faced with a heavy cross or quartering wind.

Gemini ST cockpit view

Gemini ST cockpit view

The deck pod was another interesting feature; it’s large enough to fit a few essentials. Within easy reach of the cockpit, and the entire unit can be removed from shallow well molded into the foredeck. The deck pod is a nice idea in concept but I would have much rather seen a traditional day hatch on the Gemini ST. I noticed that the Gemini SP has a day hatch and I feel that it could benefit more from the deck pod when you consider the conditions that one would be paddling in. Maybe we’ll see a realignment of these features in the future!

I almost bought her...

I almost bought her…

In summary, the Gemini ST is an exciting transitional touring kayak and would be a great choice for the smaller paddler who is interested in near-coastal day trips or a quick overnight. The Gemini ST displayed an incredible balance of tracking and maneuverability despite the challenging demo conditions. The one real put off was how much heavier the Gemini ST was than it was advertised although this extra weight probably translates to increased durability due to a thicker layup. I was thoroughly impressed with the cockpit fit and general outfitting although I’d rather see a day-hatch than a deck pod on this particular model. Little qualms aside, there’s really no way to get past the fact that I had my mind blow by how well the Gemini ST handled on the water! To be frank, I was more than a little tempted to take home the Gemini ST from the showroom and it didn’t help that it had the most magnificent, emerald green deck that I’ve ever seen on a kayak!

-Kayak Dave

 

Pros: Excellent cockpit fit. Great balance of stability and handling.

Cons: Much heavier than advertised. No day hatch. Expensive

Demo Notes: The Valley Gemini ST was demoed in moderate ocean conditions. Winds were 15+mph. Seas were 2-3ft with whitecaps and breaking surf.

KayakDave.com Rating:

4 paddles

 

4 Responses to Valley Gemini ST Review

  1. alan

    Why do manufacturers advertise weight minus seats, hatch covers, etc.? I don’t imagine that people are buying their boats stripped. Is there a good reason, or is it just for the advertising hype (the original number certainly got my attention)?

  2. arrudad

    Hi Alan!

    It’s certainly interesting that many manufacturers advertise the stripped weight. I’m not entirely positive why they do this. Part of it may be due to variability in the construction but I’m sure that part of the motive is hype and trying to be competitive. This was really the most disappointing thing about the Gemini ST for me. I expected it to me a bit heavier than advertised but it was a lot heavier…

    Not all manufacturers play these tricks though. For example, we’ve measured the weight of many of the Current Design Vision models and found them all to be within a pound of the advertised weight, completely outfitted! I can certainly agree with you that we appreciate truth in numbers as both paddlers and consumers.

    -Kayak Dave

  3. Len

    Nice review!

    Some more specific info on what size kayaker would fit well in the boat might be helpful. Valley’s says ‘up to 190 lbs’, but Kayak Academy says more like 210 lbs. Another opinion might be helpful.

    Also, totally agree that Valley is shamelessly inaccurate about their advertised weights. Who would ever use a boat sans seat, deck fittings, and hatches? Makes no sense.

    Tiderace is a company that’s one of the rare honest ones when it comes to advertised weights, and unlike many others, they’re more in love with durability than having the absolute lightest boat. Wish more kayakers understood the trade-offs better here… very light lay-ups can be quite the pain in the butt, long-term.

    • arrudad

      Thanks, Len! Being a smaller paddler (5’6″, 125lbs soaking wet) causes me to approach my reviews from this perspective. Often times, folks consider capacity as how much weight they can get into the boat. In a sense this is true but I like to consider what a kayak will carry in terms of “ideal load.” The ideal load of a kayak is that which displaces the hull to the point where it is designed to be most efficient. Smaller paddlers struggle often struggle to reach the ideal load because their light frame fails to displace the kayak enough.

      That being said, I was impressed with how the Gemini ST handled for the smaller paddler. It had a great stability profile and really responded well on edge for me! I’m sure that the Gemini could handle a 200lb paddler but this would be pushing it and may be higher than what would be considered as the “ideal load” for this kayak. Therefore, I’d put the maximum a bit lower (maybe around 175lbs) especially if you are planning on doing some overnights.

      Also, I totally agree with you when it comes to the weight of a kayak. Ultra-light kayaks certainly have their place and they allow a lot of folks to enjoy paddling who would otherwise be struggling to get their kayak off of their car. However, a heavier kayak is not always a bad thing! They are more durable and will handle a heavy sea better than a super-light kayak would. Everything is a trade-off in kayaking…

      Happy Paddling!

      -Kayak Dave

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