Stholquist BetSEA Women’s PFD Review


“Cradle your self in comfort in the new feminine fit BetSEA. The WRAPTURE™ body-wrapping ergonomically shaped torso, built-in cups for a fit like none other. Newly updated with more pocket room, and a small footprint.” – Stholquist Waterware

The Deets:

  • PFD Type: USCG approved Type 3 (Flotation aid)
  • Style: Front Entry, Women Specific
  • Designed flotation: 16lbs, 10oz
  • Pockets: x2 front pockets
  • Sizes (Chest): S/M (28”-34”), L/XL (34”-40”), Plus (40”-46”)
  • Colors: Sage/Gray, Mango/Black, Powder/Gray, Pink/Black
  • MSRP $119.95

Important Note: Stholquist donates $1 for every pink BetSEA sold (and guarantees a minimum $1000 donation) to the American Cancer Society for breast cancer research! Buy pink!

The Review:

The Stholquist BetSEA is a high-cut, women’s specific, type-III PFD. The BetSEA features the ergonomically-shaped and highly adjustable Wrapture torso with built-in supportive cups to hug the female figure rather than crush it! The new updates focused on increasing the pocket space to include two large, zippered pockets and on tweaking the shape of the PFD slightly to decrease the profile in the chest. In my opinion, these changes make for a much more paddler-friendly PFD! Other features that caught my eye are the fleece-lined hand-pockets (wish my PFD had these) and small things like the 4-way accessory lash tabs and reflective trim for increased visibility.

It never made sense to me that for so many years there were only unisex PFDs on the market. Let’s face the facts: men and women are shaped differently and there’s no way that a generically shaped, unisex PFD could be equally comfortable for both parties! I was so excited when Stholquist Waterwear introduced the revamped BetSEA, a women’s cut PFD, last season that I went directly to the kayak shop and started Birthday shopping for my girlfriend early! After a season of paddling in the BetSEA I decided to enlist her help in writing this review:

Kayak Dave: “How does the BetSEA compare to other PFDs that you’ve worn?”

Meaghan: “In general, life jackets feel bulky and cumbersome but the BetSEA is fairly comfortable as life jackets go. There’re lots of adjustments so it doesn’t ride up much and I can move my arms around easily. It still feels a bit bulky in the front but not too much and I understand that this is one of the tradeoffs in choosing a high profile life jacket”

Kayak Dave: “What do you think about the women’s-specific cutouts?”

Meaghan: “The cutouts really help a lot to make this life jacket more wearable for women. You don’t feel suffocated in the BetSEA like you do when wearing a unisex vest. I’m glad that life vests are finally being designed with the female figure in mind!”

Kayak Dave: “Do any other features of the BetSEA really stick out?”

Meaghan: “I really like the idea of the fleece pockets to warm my hands. These should help the next time my crazy boyfriend takes me paddling in the winter!”

Kayak Dave: “What do you think about the color selection?”

Meaghan: “Colors are always an important feature for women. I was really excited when I opened my birthday present and found a pink life jacket inside! It made me feel even better when I learned that they make a donation to the American Cancer Society for every pink BetSEA sold!”

Kayak Dave: “Anything else that you’d like to add to the review?”

Meaghan: “Yes, the one thing that I’m a bit disappointed about is that the pink color of my BetSEA has faded quite a bit after only one season. Otherwise I’m really happy with it so far!”

There you have it…if you’re a female paddler looking for a comfortable and paddler-friendly PFD then you should certainly check out the Stholquist BetSEA. It’s Kayak Dave and Meaghan approved!

Final Verdict:

Pros: Women’s-specific fit, comfortable with great range of motion, hand warmer pockets

Cons: Color fades easily, a bit bulky in front

Size Rating: Fits true to size (adjustable within the three size ranges)

Kayak Dave Rating:


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Where Paddle Boarding Meets Yoga…

The summer of 2012 will probably go down as the “Summer of the Paddle Board” in the annals of New England paddle sport! Paddle boards seem to be everywhere you look on the water these days and they’re flying out of retail shops like pancakes off a campfire griddle! The surge in numbers seems to be driven mostly by popular demand and their appeal as a fitness modality. After paddling one myself, there’s no doubt in my mind that even a short trip on a paddle board is as good as Ab-Ripper-X for your core!

Apparently, they can be good for your flexibility, balance and mindfulness too; in a magical place where paddle boarding meets YOGA. Alex and I decided to test our inner zen (and our luck) by throwing a “crow pose” on one of the new paddle boards down at the shop…

…Not too bad for a couple of kayakers with hamstrings as tight as tympani drums! Seriously though, Yoga-on-paddle board classes are popping up everywhere and they’ll be coming to a beach near you (if they haven’t already). Sign up for a class stat so don’t miss out on this unique twist on this summer’s greatest paddling rage! This Yogo-SUP trend is not just the rage at KayakDave, it’s blasting it’s way across the country. Just earlier this summer, the San Diego Journal Conference held a Standup Paddleboard Yoga Clinic in the beautiful San Diego Bay. Amazing!

-Kayak Dave

Categories: Other Adventures | 1 Comment

Russell Crowe “Rescued” by US Coast Guard While Kayaking

The word on the street is that the actor Russell Crowe was “rescued” by the U.S. Coast Guard after becoming lost while kayaking off of Long Island, New York. As the story goes, Crowe (who has been filming a new movie titled “Noah” in Oyster Bay, Long Island) decided to spend an afternoon paddling with a friend in Long Island Sound this Labor Day weekend. Apparently, their little adventure from Cold Spring Harbor turned into an epic fit for a Gladiator! As darkness fell, the pair reportedly became disoriented and decided to head to shore. A passing Coast Guard patrol boat spotted Crowe at about 10pm and gave him and his friend a lift to nearby Huntington Harbor. This was not considered a rescue according to the Coast Guard. They report that Crowe (a fairly experienced kayaker) was wearing a PFD and simply became a little lost. Crowe tweeted his appreciation to the Coast Guard and tried to set the record straight by denying that he got lost. Crowe blames a stiff headwind on their slow progress which prevented the pair from reaching their desired landing before it got dark. Either way, it’s good to hear that our “Master and Commander” is safe and sound!

-Kayak Dave

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The Slocum Challenge Chapter #1

Chapter 1:  “Summertime, And the livin’ is easy”

Summertime is almost over, but these Gershwin’s lyrics are as familiar as the post paddle bottles of ibuprofen to most every paddler who is fortunate enough to fall into the Masters category for the upcoming Slocum Challenge. Well, actually, that may not be the case for those “just turned 50 yesterday” folks who skew the bell curve of finish times on this two mile closed loop river race in Dartmouth, Massachusetts to be held on October 6th.

This three chapter series of reflections has more to do with appreciating the gift of good health and of being able to partake in the Challenge; than it does with the number of years since one became eligible to be a Masters qualifier. This year also represents a subtle name change from the Slocum River Regatta to the Lloyd Center Regatta- Slocum Challenge. While it is a challenge for all who enter, the notion of challenge carried a slightly different connotation for me last year, when I needed to ask a younger paddler to pin my Race Number to the front of my PFD, because my range of motion is less than it once was.

Part of my challenge involves the dilemma of how much effort to expend and of making peace with a body that chooses not to respond as energetically to the gas pedal being pushed to the floorboards as it did 20+ years earlier, when I started paddling at the age of 40. The age of 40 tends to be a benchmark for many men as it is a time in life when many take a look back and also a look forward.

Regardless of age, whether you are riding in a hilly century or paddling the more epic Blackburn Challenge (the 20mile, circumnavigation of Cape Ann); I suspect that most folks have to make sense of the mental aspect of such endeavors. Do you go out like a jack rabbit knowing at some level that it is not sustainable and cross the finish line at an exhausted crawl or do you pace yourself by starting off too slowly, so that you finish strong.

Either way, there is the mental “face saving” dimension of consoling yourself with: “I could have broke X number of minutes if I went out a bit faster or slower? The question becomes: “Who and what am I competing for or competing against?” Perhaps it is all a bit too existential for a <30-minute paddle.  But perhaps not, for it is within these brief moments of time that reside the opportunity to reflect and to be mindful. It is the journey and not the destination that is worth attending to in such endeavors.

…At least that is my story and I am sticking to it.

For me, pacing and exertion have historically been relegated to the barfing barometer, aka ‘The Barf-O-Meter’.   But exertion and mindfulness will be the subjects of the second chapter.  More to come as the Slocum gets closer.

-Boreal Alvik

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Welcome Aboard, Steve! is excited to announce the addition of Steve A. (pen name: “Boreal Alvik”) to our team of contributing authors. Steve has become a great friend and mentor to Alex and I during our summers at Billington Sea Kayak. His many years of kayak instruction and sales experience will provide the readership with unique insight into the world of paddlesport and beyond! I encourage you to check out his first mini-series where he shares his experience of racing in the Master’s division of the Solcum River Challenge and reflects on the more existential and mindful aspects of kayaking. Welcome Aboard, Steve! -Kayak Dave

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Werner Paddle Comparison: Shuna vs. Cyprus

The final showdown in our head-to-head comparison of Werner touring paddles will be the Shuna versus the Cyprus. Both of these paddles represent the smaller (with respect to blade area) of Werner’s high-angle touring paddles. The blade area makes these two paddles well suited for smaller paddlers or those looking for a solid stroke with a little less impact. Both paddles feature Werner’s adjustable ferrule system and come in a variety of options (small shaft, neutral-bent shaft, various lengths, ect). Here are the head-to-head deets:

The Shuna:

Layup: Carbon shaft with fiberglass blades (Premium); Carbon shaft with carbon blades (Performance)

Weight: 27.5oz (Premium); 26.5oz (Performance)

Blade Size: 610cm2

Cost (MSRP):  $275 (Premium); $350 (Performance)

Feel on the water: The Shuna is Werner’s most popular high angle paddle and it’s easy to see why. After paddling with the larger-bladed Correyvrecken, I was pleasantly surprised by the stability of the Shuna; there was hardly any flutter to speak of! This paddle also provided a reliable brace and oh-is-it-light!

The Cyprus:

Layup: Carbon shaft with carbon performance core blades (Performance Core).

Weight: 24oz

Blade Size: 610cm2

Cost: $400

Feel on the water: The first word that came to mind after paddling with the Cyprus was: efficiency! You can feel the power and stability in this paddle but, unlike the larger-bladed Ikelos, it won’t tire you out. The Cyprus defines smooth transitions, solid braces, and light-weight oh-so-goodness!

The Winner:

This was the closest match-up yet and I feel tempted to call it a tie! It’s like splitting hairs to try to differentiate between the Shuna and the Cyprus when comparing how they feel on the water. On the one hand, the stability of the Shuna’s forward stroke wasn’t compromised by the lack of foam core like the Correyvrecken was in our last match-up. However, one could also make the argument that the foam-core Cyprus provides slightly more reliable brace. To me, they’re both great paddles and in this case I’ll go with the Cyprus for the weight savings!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed our comparison of Werner’s touring paddles! Check back for full reviews of each of these great paddles as they become available!

-Kayak Dave


Categories: Gear Reviews | 2 Comments

Hurricane Excursion 128 Review

The Deets:

Material: Thermoformed ABS Plastic (Trylon)

Class: Hybrid Day Touring (Light Touring)

Length: 12’ 8”

Width: 25.5”

Weight: 47 lbs

Cockpit Size: 38 x 21 inches

Capacity: 275 lbs

Hull Type: Moderate U-Shaped

Hatches/Bulkheads: Bow and Stern

Rudder/Skeg: No Option

MSRP: $1199

The Review:

Hurricane Aqua Sport made an excellent addition to their lineup of hybrid-day touring (light touring) kayaks this Spring with the addition of the Excursion 128. This model was brought on to replace the Expedition 128 and I’m happy to report that the drastic design changes resulted in a far superior craft!

The Hurricane Excursion 128 is 12ft, 8in long and has a beam of 25.5in which places it firmly in the light-touring class. Like all Hurricane kayaks it’s constructed of thermal-formed ABS plastic called Tryon. In general, thermal-formed plastic is as durable, more UV/ heat resistant, lighter, and stiffer than the traditional polyethylene used in roto-molded kayaks. With that said, the gauge (thickness) of the Trylon used across the Hurricane lineup tends to be less than that used by other thermal-formed manufacturers such as Eddyline. This translates into a lighter but more flexible and, therefore, slightly less efficient craft. Surprisingly, The Excursion 128 weighs in at 47lbs which is not super light for a thermal-formed kayak in this class but still manageable to shoulder and car-top.

I’ve found the Excursion 128 to be worlds ahead of the old Expedition 128 in respect to both tracking and efficiency. Despite only having ~12ft of waterline, the Excursion 128 tracks as if it’s on rails. This is in stark contrast to the Expedition 128 which had more than some difficulty going straight! The Excursion 128 hull also displays a more moderate U-shaped design with reduced beam and volume when compared to the Expedition 128. These positive changes become evident in just how much easier and efficient it is to paddle! The trade-off is a slight reduction in primary stability but this was hardly evident after 10 minutes of paddling and adds to the improved speed. Overall, the hull dynamics of the Excursion 128 are fairly comparable to the Current Design Vision 120SP and the Epic GPX. However, the $1199 MSRP may make the Excursion 128 an attractive alternative to these composite models for folks who need to mind their wallet!

Unfortunately, many of the flaws in the Excursion 128 can be found in the outfitting. I’m a big fan of the generous (but not overly so) cockpit size which allows you to retain that feeling of “wearing the kayak” without feeling jammed into it. However, the seat and thigh-braces need some work. I found that the seat used in the Excursion 128 is less comfortable (more rigid) than earlier Hurricane seats and sub-par when compared to others on the market. The seat-back raises a good 4-5 inches above the cockpit rim and it really gets in the way when attempting re-entry. The thigh-braces are simple, sticky-backed, foam pads which match the “hybrid feel” of the cockpit but could be replaced by more contoured and performance-oriented pads to take this boat to the next level. My final note on the outfitting highlights the exceptionally small (day-hatch-sized) forward hatch opening which impedes proper access to that space for gear storage. A standard-sized front hatch should be considered on future iterations of this craft.

Most of my paddling in the Excursion 128 has been on flat water in light conditions. It’s clear that the Excursion 128 excels in this sort of environment and would be well-suited for beginner and intermediate paddlers looking to explore lakes, rivers and estuaries. Based on its exceptional tracking and good stability, I’m confident that this craft would also perform well in light, near-coastal conditions. The minimal rocker makes me feel like it could become a wet and bumpy ride if conditions got too big (2-3ft seas, maybe). The addition of a nylon spray deck could help compensate for this at bit. Overall, the Excursion 128 is very nice to paddle and offers a great alternative to the Current Design Vision 120SP for budget-minded paddlers!

-Kayak Dave

Pros: Affordable price point, excellent tracking and efficiency, good cockpit size, Made in USA

Cons: Sub-par cockpit outfitting (especially the seat), small front hatch opening impedes access

Demo Notes: I have test paddled the Excursion 128 exclusively in calm, flat water conditions.

Kayak Dave Rating:

Categories: Kayak Reviews | 6 Comments

Lincoln Kayaks Quoddy Light Review

The Deets:

Materials available in: Kevlar-Fiberglass Hybrid or Kevlar

Class: Recreational/Transitional touring

Length: 12’ 6”

Width: 25”

Weight: 33lbs. (hybrid) / 28lbs. (Kevlar)

Cockpit Size: 17 x 28.5 inches

Hull Type: Shallow V

Rudder/Skeg: Rudder Optional

MSRP: $2,199 (hybrid) / $2,599 (Kevlar)

The Review:

Recognized as a classic, the Lincoln Kayaks Quoddy Light is a beautifully handcrafted transitional touring kayak built in Freeport Maine. Using their unique Paddle-Lite® construction process, Lincoln combines over fifty years of canoe and kayak construction to bring consumers strong, stable, and lightweight kayaks. The Quoddy Light is no exception to this. Built with Maine-pride and incomparable quality, the Quoddy Light is one of the lightest, most versatile kayaks available today.

The Quoddy Light’s performance is reminiscent of a much longer kayak. It tracks well for a 12’6” craft and does not shy away from agile, clean, and predicable turns. Its overall stability is forgiving and allows for an enjoyable paddling experience for experienced and novice kayakers alike. The Quoddy’s initial stability is rock-solid, predictable, and provides a smooth transition for maximized maneuverability. When brought on edge, the Quoddy is exceptionally responsive to lean turns. Unlike many kayaks in the recreational/transitional category which emphasize primarily on initial stability, the Quoddy’s shallow “V” shaped hull allows for a subtle yet predictable transition to secondary-final stability.

Kayak Dave taking the Quoddy for a spin

Outfitted with both front and rear bulkheads/hatches, the Quoddy is great for day trips on the harbor or protected bay. Cruising around coastal waters, exploring estuaries, or meandering through tight rivers are all places where the Quoddy will excel. The front hatch and bulkhead not only provide extra dry-storage, but adds additional fore-and-aft buoyancy.

Many kayaks in this class are outfitted with large, spacious cockpits. Designed to fit women and smaller framed paddlers, the Quoddy Light has a small, more performance-oriented cockpit. Measuring at only 17” by 28.5,” the cockpit dimensions are smaller than that of many sea kayaks. While the smaller cockpit is very comfortable and is nicely padded for thigh support, the less-spacious size may deter new paddlers who fear an “enclosed” sensation. For medium to larger sized paddlers, check out the Quoddy Light’s 14’6″ brother, the Chebeague.

The Quoddy Light is one of the most comfortable recreational/transitional kayaks I have ever paddled. It is outfitted with a Valley Canoe foam seat and an adjustable neoprene back band. In addition, the Quoddy can be further customized for padders by using minicell foam blocks.

Overall, the Lincoln Kayaks Quoddy Light comes highly recommended for any kayaker looking for a lightweight, stable, maneuverable, and comfortable boat. Available in a variety of color options and two lightweight composite layups, the Quoddy is designed to turn heads on the water while providing an enjoyable paddling experience.

Pros: lightweight construction, predictable primary and final stability, comfortable seat outfitting, maneuverable, tracks well for a shorter craft, Made in USA, smaller cockpit*

Cons: Smaller cockpit*

*This feature proves to be contradictory for a few reasons. While the smaller cockpit provides refined support on the water for lean turns and boat control, it is also a limitation for individuals who do not like tighter feeling kayaks. All aspects considered, this is still a kayak which falls on the recreational end of transitional touring.  Typically, individuals looking to emerge into paddling for the first time prefer a wider, more spacious cockpit. Lincoln’s Chebeague, designed for larger paddlers, has the same cockpit dimensions.

UPDATE (8-23-2013): Lincoln Kayaks is releasing a Quoddy Light LV for the 2014 season.

See Also: Current Designs Vision 120 SP

See Also: Stellar Kayaks S12


Categories: Kayak Reviews | 3 Comments

Platypus Platy Bottle Review

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stuffed those milk-jug-style gallons of water into the depths of my cockpit before shoving off for a weekend of kayak camping.  Certainly enough times to appreciate that there must be a better way to carry fresh water in your kayak! Those gallon jugs bother me for a lot of reasons including that they’re liable to leak after being opened, not very collapsible when empty, and nearly impossible to stow anywhere except in that space in front of your footpegs.  Thankfully, the folks at Platypus Hydration were on the same page and presented that “better way”!

The Platypus Platy Bottle is a 2 liter water storage system that will put a smile on the face of many kayak campers! The bottle features 100% BPA-free and taste-free polyethylene plastic that weighs in at up to 80% less than a hard bottle of equal volume. Empty, the bottle weighs a scant 1.3oz and fully collapses to about the size of place setting (fork, spoon and knife in a napkin). A threaded spout seals the contents in and accepts a variety of caps including the Platypus closure cap, hyperflow (sports bottle) cap, and drink-tube kit. At an MSRP of $13 they’re about the same cost as a standard Nalgene but with twice the capacity.

This water bottle seams simple but it’s a real dream for a kayak camper. First off, the threaded cap helps to prevent the leaks that happen all-to-often with the push-on caps of the gallon jugs. When coupled with the drink-tube kit the Platy Bottle can be utilized like a Camelbak for hydrating en route. Second, an empty Platy Bottle takes up hardly any space making it an attractive addition to your bail out kit. Finally, full Platy Bottles are small and flexible enough to stow in your forward and day hatches to better disperse the weight of your fresh water supply and to keep it from shifting around during the trip.

I’ve found the Platy Bottle to be a surprisingly durable and versatile solution to my freshwater needs while kayaking. They’re certainly far superior to hard-plastic bottles based on their high “packability.” The 2L size seems good for this reason but the downside is that you need to carry at least 2 per-person-per-day to meet your hydration needs. Larger groups may consider the more voluminous Platy Water Tank which is available in 4L and 6L sizes. I’m sure that wear and tear will catch up eventually but after one full season mine are still going strong. Also, I’ve only used them for water storage so I can’t comment on whether or not they retain odors if you were to put a sports drink or juice in one. I did notice that Platypus makes special bottles for wine but I understand this has something to do with keeping the wine fresh and free from oxidation more than anything.

Anyway, this is a great product and I highly recommend kicking those bulky, plastic jugs and picking up a Platy Bottle or two for your next kayaking adventure!

-Kayak Dave

Pros:Lightweight (1.3oz), collapsible, versatile, no leaks.

Cons: Questionable long-term durability, need a few to meet hydration needs.

Kayak Dave Rating:

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Hurricane Tracer 165 Review

The Deets:

Material: Thermoformed ABS Plastic (Trylon)

Class: Performance Touring

Length: 16’ 6”

Width: 22”

Weight: 50 lbs

Cockpit Size: 33 x 18 inches

Hull Type: Moderate V

Rudder/Skeg: Rudder Optional, Skeg Standard

MSRP: $1749

The Review:

One of the most affordable performance touring kayaks available, the Hurricane Tracer 165 offers a British-inspired design for half the price of a traditional composite sea kayak. I personally paddled the Hurricane Tracer for over two years as an instructing/guide kayak and for recreational, day tripping, and skill development. As my first touring kayak, the Hurricane Tracer helped me develop important skills as a paddler and provided both performance and stability in a variety of conditions.

At 16.5 feet, the designers at Hurricane developed a hull with a moderate V-shape and subtle rocker. This type of hull is most commonly found on British-style touring kayaks. The moderate rocker hull offers great final stability while allowing for effortless carving. New paddlers may feel overwhelmed by the handling of the Hurricane Tracer because it has a fairly tender initial stability. Upon first sitting in the Tracer, one may feel that its initial stability is very twitchy and may even discourage some novice paddlers. After becoming familiar with the handling characteristics of the Tracer, its performance is impressive. With rock-solid final stability and graceful maneuverability; the Tracer provides paddlers with a playful ride.

The Tracer 165 is outfitted with a plastic molded seat, Mountain Surf back band, fore and aft bulkhead/hatches, an elongated keyhole cockpit, and an integrated drop-skeg. Unlike many performance touring kayaks, the Tracer comes with Hurricane’s own hatch covers rather than Valley Canoe or KajakSport brand hatches. The Hurricane hatch covers provide a water-tight seal, and are easily removed and put on. If one needs to replace the factory hatches or prefers a more traditional look, the Tracer hatch rims are compatible with KajakSport hatches. The drop-skeg is effortless. Although the drop-skeg is cable controlled, it has a smooth action and has a very reliable construction.

In terms of performance, the Tracer handles rougher ocean conditions very well, and even provides a fun, enjoyable ride in surf. The Tracer 165 is prone to weather-cocking (when a forward moving kayak points into strong wind), making the drop-skeg a necessary feature in windy conditions. The Tracer is not the fastest kayak in the fleet although it offers both comfort and efficiency.

Overall, the Hurricane Tracer 165 is a great option for those who want dependable touring performance without the price tag. The stiff, durable construction has both the look and on-water feel of a much more expensive boat…at half the price. Although the Tracer’s primary stability is rather unforgiving, it offers great performance for a diversity of kayaking skills. This touring kayak would be best fit for medium to larger sized paddlers weighing between 150-220lbs.

Pros: very affordable price point, lightweight and durable thermoform design, maneuverability, quality skeg system, spacious elongated cockpit, comfortable seat and back band, Made in USA

Cons: Initial primary stability is tender, prone to weather-cocking

Demo Notes: I have test paddled the Tracer 165 in a variety of conditions ranging from clam flatwater to rough open-ocean conditions.


Categories: Kayak Reviews | 11 Comments