For Necky, the new Looksha Elite represents a return to its roots. Not another British-style kayak or “poke around the bay” rec boat, this is a true North American–style touring kayak, complete with a rudder instead of a skeg.

The Elite has a distinct Swede form, meaning its widest point is aft of the seat. While this creates a lot of volume for storage, racing kayaks also favor the shape for a number of other reasons: better stability; longer, more slender hull entry for increased speed and efficiency; narrower foredeck for a closer, more vertical stroke; tighter turns because the greater curve to the stern lifts more of the stern keel free of the water when edging; and less tendency to “pound” when paddling into oncoming waves and chop due to the finer bow entry and stern-biased volume distribution.

Necky Looksha Elite Specs
Length: 17′ 6″
Width: 22″
Cockpit:2″ x 16″
Weight:7 lbs fiberglass; 49 lbs  carbon
MSRP: $2,999 USD fiberglass; $3,999 USD carbon

necky.com

The Elite is built in Thailand, and while not particularly light (ours was 57 pounds), the build quality is excellent. A honeycomb foam core is used for stiffness, and everything is very nicely put together, with no leaks, rough edges, or imperfections. Hatches remained bone-dry after extensive rough-water play and rolling.

The fit accommodates a wide range of sizes. There’s lots of foot and legroom, but smaller paddlers won’t feel dwarfed. Optimal paddler weight is about 170 to 220 pounds, but at 150 pounds I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The seat is comfy and the back-band adjusts easily to provide solid support. The thigh hooks and the underside of the deck create a nice knee pocket for a very positive grip with the legs.

Initial stability is very comfortable and there is a ton of secondary.

Because the rocker is very pronounced, the Elite has very light tracking and benefits from being paddled actively, or else paddled with the rudder, which uses a SmartTrack pedal system. The downside is that with the rudder up, the Elite has a definite tendency to wander and blow around. The upside is outrageous manoeuvrability! Edging away from a turn will have you immediately carving a hairpin.

It’s a hoot in rock gardens and tight channels, and due to its speed is very quick to accelerate onto waves and swell, while the pronounced rocker makes the boat a blast to carve around on a wave. The clipper bow does a great job of staying on the surface even on steep waves.

If you can’t imagine ever using a rudder, then this is not the boat for you. However, if you like efficient touring, carrying big loads, and accelerating down waves in a following sea along an open coast, then you will love the Elite.

Three photos of different parts of a red sea kayak
Photos: Alex Matthews

Cut it out! (top)

Cutaways in the front deck allow for a closer, more vertical paddle position for an efficient catch at the start of each stroke. Large oval hatches (rigid shells over neoprene gaskets) provide easy access to storage.

Sweet Swede form (middle)

The Swede-form shape and “humped” stern deck create awesome cargo capacity in excess of 200 liters.

Bow up (bottom)

The Elite has a clipper bow (more vertical rather than long and overhanging) which extends the waterline for increased efficiency and provides more volume for better rough-water performance.

This article originally appeared in Adventure Kayak‘s Spring 2010 issue. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine’s print and digital editions here, or browse the archives here.

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