Three years ago, when I first inquired about the enigmatic designer behind Current Designs’ emerging family of Danish-style sea kayaks, CD vice president Bill Kueper prefaced an introduction to his collaborator in Denmark with one word: janteloven.
Current Designs Karla
Length 15 ft 3 in
Width 21.5 in
Depth 11.5 in
Weight 52 lbs
MSRP $3,599 USD
Translated from Danish, janteloven means law of Jante, and represents a set of deeply entrenched social norms eschewing personal glory in favor of self-effacing Scandinavian modesty.
So while you won’t find Jesper Kromann-Andersen boasting about his accomplishments, the 48-year-old designer is less rigid when it comes to another of Jante’s tenets: Don’t do things out of the ordinary. His three collaborations with Current Designs—the Prana (released in 2015), the Sisu (2016) and, most recently, the Karla—are powerhouses of innovative design and stylish personal expression. Social protocol aside, the trio cements Kromann-Andersen among the greats of sea kayak design.
At the time of its launch, the 17-foot Prana had the most rocker of any kayak in the Current Designs line-up, making it an agile touring companion with plenty of responsiveness for playing along the way. At 16 feet, the Sisu featured still more rocker and a hybrid hull profile optimized for lively performance in surf and moving water.
The Karla amps it up again, with an even more aggressive rocker profile than the Sisu, as well as a slightly shorter and narrower hull. Kromann-Andersen also added volume in the bow, so his newest creation surfs like a dream and displays nimble prowess in the heaviest waters.
Topside, the Karla sports the same four-hatch configuration and sweeping deck contours as her siblings. This bow-to-stern shaping is not only stylish, it increases stiffness throughout, provides clearance for paddle strokes, and creates space for a positive fit in the knee area—all while keeping overall deck height low.
The cockpit outfitting also shares the Danish simplicity of the other two boats. Instead of the copious adjustments found in many North American kayaks, Current Designs uses robust, well-placed elements that fit correctly the moment you slip into the cockpit. Two sizes—standard and LV, or low volume—ensure a snug, sporty fit for just about anyone. We demoed the LV, which shaves less than an inch of depth—if you’re over six feet tall or 180 pounds, try the standard Karla.
Intermediate and advanced paddlers would be hard-pressed to find a more intuitive kayak. Kromann-Andersen’s design process begins with careful consideration of water flow dynamics, desired handling characteristics and paddler integration. Intuition, experience and innovation then guide the time-honored progression of testing in the sea and refining the shape. A kayak must respond, he says, as a natural extension of paddler input.
In the Karla, this translates to one of the most maneuverable sea kayaks I’ve ever paddled. Want to scribe turns and carve wave faces? Stay loose and avoid purling while surfing? Slalom through rock gardens and thread currents with graceful agility? Unlock more challenging rolls and balance braces? Karla gives you the keys. And what’s more, it does so while remaining surprisingly efficient. Unlike some dedicated ocean play kayaks, the Karla is fun to paddle on day tours and quickly covers the distance between you and the waves.
A narrow beam and shallow-V hull purposely trade a degree of initial stability for exceptional edge control. On bumpy waters, where a kayak’s secondary stability is what keeps it right side up, the Karla feels rock-solid. Its hard chines are at home with any degree of edging. I found it second only to ultra-low-volume Greenland kayaks for restful, body-on-the-water stability.
But it isn’t just experts and rolling junkies who will enjoy this boat; the Karla is also an outstanding companion for aspiring paddlers to develop skills and gain confidence in the surf zone or while messing about on calm water. Get comfortable on edge, and the Karla will make anyone feel like a superstar.
Current Designs enhances the Karla’s wide-ranging appeal with a variety of composite layups. The standard fiberglass construction offers a classic blend of lightweight stiffness and strength, while the Kevlar option brings the weight down to just 48 pounds. A third option, which CD calls their Heavy Water layup, reinforces the hull with an extra five pounds of glass and resin to withstand the abuse of regular rock gardening. All of Current Designs’ laminates are vacuum-bagged, a process minimizing unnecessary weight and yielding a flawless finish inside and out.
Five years after Kueper and his team first laid eyes on the elegant CAD drawings of an accomplished Danish designer, Jesper Kromann-Andersen and his trio of playful, punchy kayaks are attracting global attention. But perhaps acclaim and janteloven aren’t mutually exclusive—after all, the Karla and her siblings elevate allpaddlers.
It isn’t just experts and rolling junkies who will enjoy this boat; the Karla is an outstanding companion for aspiring paddlers to develop skills and gain confidence. | Photo: Owen Marshall