This year I was able to get a bit of a head start on demoing the latest and greatest kayaks in preparation for Spring 2014! Here are what I believe to be the six “most-interesting” new models and why they’re worth the time to seek out for a demo:
Wilderness Systems Focus 145
Looking for a sleek, fitness-oriented kayak that’s quick on the flats and capable of near-coastal day tripping at a price point that doesn’t make your wallet say “ouch”?!?! Look no further than the new Wilderness Systems Focus Series. We had the chance to paddle the Focus 145 at the dealers show this past fall (also available in the larger 150 and 155 sizes) and we were very impressed with this modern take on the light-touring kayak. Like most fitness kayaks, the Focus 145 sacrifices some primary stability for its speed. However, we found the secondary stability to be quite solid and were surprised by how well the Focus 145 maneuvers on edge and its quick response to brace turns. This should prove confidence-inducing for entry-level fitness paddlers and makes me believe that the Focus 145 would also be a great choice for near-coastal day trippers looking for a kayak that can tuck into the coves and cover some ground in between!
Stellar Intrepid 18
Long kayaks may be out of vogue but if weight is your only hesitation then passing over the Intrepid 18 (SI18) by Stellar Kayaks could be a big mistake. At first glance, this ultra-light, full-length sea kayak sticks out like a sore thumb in the Stellar line-up that is known for its racer-inspired designs. You’re not seeing things! This is exactly what it looks like; an 18-foot long sea kayak that is designed to handle bigger conditions while retaining the speed and efficiency that Stellar kayaks are known for. The best thing about the Intrepid 18 is that it breaks the “long boats are inherently heavy” rule. Here we have an 18-foot-long kayak that weighs only 45lbs in the “advantage” layup (best bang for your buck)! 45lbs!…18ft!…WOW!!!
Lincoln Chebeague LV
Lincoln has raised the bar with the addition of the Chebeague LV to their exquisite line of Maine-crafted kayaks! The 14ft-long Chebeague LV retains the incredible performance characteristics of the classic Chebeague (lightweight construction, true-to-form tracking, and solid primary stability) while enhancing the experience for the smaller paddler thanks to its newly designed cockpit. The slightly lower deck and keyhole shape combine to make the smaller paddler feel more connected to the Chebeague LV and allow for better control while maneuvering on edge. We were so blown away by this kayak what we gave it a KayakDave.com Gear of the Year Award in 2013 to celebrate its awesomeness!
Venture Islay 14
The Venture Islay 14 proved to be yet another pleasant surprise at the 2013 dealers show! At first I was more interested in trying out the new P&H Hammer with the false expectation that it would perform much like its play-the-sea cousin, the P&H Delphin. The Hammer turned out to be a much more extreme chimera but I ended up finding what I was looking for in the Islay 14. In many ways the Islay 14 can be thought of as a mini version of the Delphin. It has a very similar feel with moderately aggressive rocker and that strange “self-righting” secondary stability that the Delphin are known for. The Islay 14 would be a good choice for paddlers interested in a variety of paddling from surf zones and rock gardens to day-tripping and quick overnights!
Full Review of the Venture Islay 14 coming soon!
Dagger Katana 9.1 & 10.4
One of the holy grails of our sport is finding that one kayak that can do everything. This endeavor has fueled a recent proliferation of the so-called “cross-over class” of kayaks supposedly well-suited for both flat-water paddling and mild white-water (class 2) paddling. By-and-large I have found that many of these corss-over models come up short in both departments being slugs on the flat-water and down-right scary to paddle in anything bigger than a mild class 2. The Dagger Katana represents one of the very few cross-over kayaks that I would consider adding to my fleet. Granted, it may still be a slug in the flats but its white-water-spec hull and superb outfitting would provide confidence in moderate (class 3) whitewater!
Full Review of the Venture Islay 14 coming soon!
We all had our theories about the Eddyline Denali when we caught wind that it was in the works. Most of the speculation centered on the idea that it would essentially be a larger version of the Journey which gave us pause considering that the Journey suffered greatly from a lack of volume in the stern. Anyway, the Denali turned out to be much more than an up-scaled Journey; this is a boat for the big boys! We asked Brett (our tallest staff writer at 6’ tall) to take the Denali for a spin and he gave her good marks for tracking, stability, and overall cockpit fit.
Full Review of the Eddyline Denali coming soon!
Happy Paddling and get psyched for warmer weather!