Your equipment is beautiful,” said a female passerby as I was changing into my drysuit. “Pardon?” It’s not every day that a man hears that. It took me a minute to realize she was talking about my shiny new mango-coloured Labrador demo boat. The Labrador is beautiful indeed, sleek and fast with capacity for long trips.

Long and skinny for paddlers who have the body dimensions to match, the Labrador’s narrow cockpit and rigid moulded thigh braces provide a performance fit superior to what small- to medium-sized paddlers will get from other manufacturers’ universally adjustable fit systems.

The hard-chine provides enough turnability to make course corrections and medium-fast turns with a gentle tilt—easing predictably from moderate initial stability to strong secondary without feeling floppy. The smooth shallow-arch hull adds speed by counteracting the drag of the hard chine—enough to lead the touring kayak class at races alongside other barely legal legends like the Necky Looksha II.

[ Further reading: Boat Review: Boreal Design Baffin ]

Boreal Design Labrador Specs
Length: 18’4″
Width: 21″
Depth: 13.25″
Weight: 57 lb fibreglass; 51 lb Kevlar; 48 lb carbon
Cockpit: 30.5″ x 16″
Bow hatch: 9.5″, 97 L
Stern hatch: 16.5″ x 11.25″, 120 L
Total volume: 400 L

Experienced paddlers can track straight and control weathercocking in moderate winds with tilt and strokes alone, but will appreciate the rudder’s efficiency for racing or long trips.

British traditionalists can make the boat as pommy as they please by mixing and matching skeg, day hatch and bucket seat options.

Glass, Kevlar, Kevlar/carbon and clear-coat choices provide more fun decisions.

Our large rear Kajaksport hatch cover seemed to leak slightly—something to check out on your own demo—but the bow was bomber.

Overall our demo showed flawless construction with pleasing touches like spectra-fibre rudder cables, strong glassed-in bulkheads, a moulded paddle-park fore of the cockpit and Boreal’s signature funky-patterned seam tape.

If you’re not already getting compliments about your beautiful equipment, put the Labrador on your short list and be ready to blush.

Cockpit of orange sea kayak
Mind the size of thy thighs. Early Labradors came with aggressive thigh braces (shown_ wonderful for paddlers with the legs of a chicken and the heart of a lion. New models have a more democratic pared-down version. Two seat options: Boreal’s new padded “comfort seat” (shown) (standard with rudder version) or a traditional bucket-with-backband (standard with skeg versions). | Photo: Tim Shuff

This article originally appeared in Adventure Kayak‘s Summer 2006 issue. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions here, or browse the archives here.

Get comments about your equipment. | Photo by: Victoria Bowman

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