At a recent kayaking skills workshop, the roar of turbojet CT-114 Tutors from a nearby airshow silences classes with every flyover.

Norse Kayaks’ Bylgja Sea Kayak Specs
Length: 17 ft
Width: 21.6 in
Weight: 53 lbs
Paddler Size: 130-249 lbs
Price: $2,999 CAD
norsekayaks.com

We can’t help but pause to search the skies for the aerobatic planes. After glimpsing one of the winged wonders, a student tells me, “Your sea kayak looks just like a Snowbird!” Indeed, with its bold red-and-white decks, sweeping lines and crisp angles, Norse Kayaks’ Bylgja I’m paddling turns nearly as many heads as the unmistakable jets of the Elite Canadian Forces Air Demonstration Squadron.

My Norse is on loan from Trailhead Paddle Shack (www.trailheadpaddleshack.ca), an eastern Ontario outfitter bringing these kayaks across the Atlantic and making them available to North American paddlers.

The Norwegian sea kayak

As the name suggests, Norse is a Norwegian brand that began producing composite sea kayaks in 2013. The boats are designed in Bergen, on the fjord-fractured west coast of Norway, and built at a dedicated factory in Sri Lanka.

[ Read more: Buy a Kayak: How To Advice Part I ]

Trailhead co-owner Jason Yarrington sourced the boats on a visit last year to Germany’s PADDLEExpo trade show.

I was looking for a composite sea kayak company that was well priced and well built. “I found that with Norse,” Yarrington explains. “They also paddle really well and have some great designs.

The finish on my fiberglass Bylgja is not only eye-catching, the vacuum-infused glasswork is lightweight and reinforced with aramid in the keel and chines for added durability.

Norse Founders, Kjetil Sandvik And Torgeir Toppe, saw an opportunity to apply their combined experience in paddlesports sales and instruction to building kayaks.

As long-time Boreal Design distributors, the partners noticed demand for affordably priced performance composites remained high after the Quebec, Canada-based company filed for bankruptcy in early 2012.

Production of Boreal Design boats resumed later that year after the brand was acquired by Kayak Distribution.

a view of Norse Kayaks' Bylagja sea kayak's upswept bow on shore.
Upswept bow and stern, combined with hard chines and a v-shaped hull make Norse’s Bylagja sea kayak for nimble maneuverability. | Photo: Virginia Marshall

Norse’s reinforced fiberglass kayak

The Greenland-inspired Bylgja, a Scandinavian word meaning wave, I am paddling is just one member of Norse’s diverse family of kayaks, which includes designs for touring, expedition and fitness paddling.

Also in the line-up are four ruddered models, a tandem tripper and a crossover with a surfski-derived hull.

Fans of Boreal Design will notice Norse Kayaks bear a resemblance to those boats. Borrowing details such as the signature printed seam tape and molded paddle rest in front of the cockpit.

The founders say their familiarity with the brand informed both their designs and building methods.

The finish on my fiberglass Bylgja is not only eye-catching, the vacuum-infused glasswork is lightweight and reinforced with aramid in the keel and chines for added durability.

Even more impressive is the price point: sub-$3,000 CAD for the fiberglass layup, with a 44-pound carbon version available for $3,499 CAD. That’s at least a grand cheaper than most comparable composite kayaks.

Norse Kayaks’ playful sea kayak is easy to handle in rough waters

Okay, I can hear you asking, but how does this fiberglass kayak paddle?

“Bylgja is designed for medium to large paddlers who are looking for a playful kayak easy to handle in rough conditions, but still tracks well for touring,” says Sandvik.

I spend most of my time in softer chined, more rounded hulls, so getting the most out of the Bylgja’s V-shaped hull and boxy chines requires some experimentation and adjustment.

larger paddlers looking for a nimble, hard-chine touring kayak won’t be disappointed.

Before long, however, I can see the advantage. For intermediate paddlers, these hard lines translate to effortlessly carved turns and coaming-below-the-water edging.

I’m able to balance brace with relative ease, relaxing and allowing the boat to rest comfortably in a deep edge. Filling the generously sized hatches for a multi-day trip increases primary stability.

Touring in two-foot chop, the loaded Bylgja loses a bit of hull speed and feels less lively than paddling with empty hatches. Tracking is on-point in all conditions; dropping the skeg tames gusty crosswinds and following seas.

Norse’s touring kayak hatch system

Reaching my first campsite after several splashy crossings, I am disappointed to discover water puddled in my day and stern hatches.

Refitting the rubber Kajaksport hatch covers helps but does not eliminate the problem.

Every hatch system is a trade-off between ease of use, dryness and durability. Kajaksport covers have a proven track record for longevity, and many I’ve used—including the Bylgja’s bow hatch—are perfectly dry. However, I find it’s a struggle to get these fitted just right.

On the subject of hatches, it’s worth noting the deck hatch just in front of the cockpit accesses a small mesh bag hanging below the deck.

This offers less dry storage than a molded-in compartment, but doesn’t reduce volume in the cockpit.

Norse’s best kayak for larger paddlers

The Bylgja’s 33-inch-long oval cockpit opening privileges larger and taller paddlers who will find they can enter seat-first, then bring their legs inside—just like us shorter folks can with a smaller keyhole cockpit.

The drawback for mid-sized paddlers is items stored under the front deck bungees—bilge pump, water bottle, map case, etcetera—are out of reach, and even accessing the deck hatch or skeg slider is a stretch.

The rear coaming also catches me too high for comfortable layback maneuvers, which is unfortunate, since the Bylgja rolls just like a Greenland-style kayak should.

I’d love to see Norse offer a smaller, sportier cockpit to match the sporty performance of this new boat. Still, larger paddlers looking for a nimble, hard-chine touring kayak won’t be disappointed.

At a retail price lower than nearly any other full-size composite we’ve tested, Norse Kayaks offers outstanding value. Factor in their flashy looks, and squadrons of Bylgjas could soon be sighted on waters near you.

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a Bylgja. Feature Photo: Virginia Marshall

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here