In Greek mythology, Castor and Pollux were Gemini, the twins. Like most twins, the brothers were similar in appearance but disparate in personality and talents. Both were adventurers and Argonauts, but Castor was a skilled horseman while Pollux’s talents lay in boxing. (Unlike most twins, the Greek heroes also had different fathers—mortal Castor’s a human king, immortal Pollux’s the god Zeus).
Improbable genetics aside, the Gemini myth demonstrates the Ecclesiastical adage that two are better than one.
Valley Gemini SP Specs
Length: 14 ft 10 in
Width: 22 in
Weight: 45 lbs
Designers at British boat builder Valley Sea Kayaks reached the same conclusion when they decided to enter the compact touring kayak market for the first time. As Valley puts to develop a proper sub-16-foot kayak was complicated by the spectrum of reasons a paddler might seek out a shorter kayak.”
The solution? Twins. Valley split the egg, creating two boats from the same design and tuning each for a specific purpose. The Gemini SP (Sports Play) is the playful twin, prioritizing maneuverability, agility and strength. The Gemini ST (Sports Touring) is more journey-oriented, emphasizing speed, tracking and lighter weight.
Of course, Valley is quick to point out, you can still play in the touring version and tour in the play one, but “the further you get to the ends of that use spectrum, the more you’ll benefit from the specialist.”We put this claim to the test in the mercurial waters of a late autumn rendezvous on Lake Superior. When
the hoped-for witch of November fails to come stealing, I find myself paddling the Gemini SP on a scenic tour of the coast, sprinting across placid waters with a pod of Nordkapps and Explorers.
Considering the SP’s pronounced rocker, hard chines and flatter mid-hull profile—not to mention the two-to-three-foot longer waterlines of conventional expedition kayaks—I am pleas- antly surprised that it is able to keep pace. While I am undoubtedly working harder than my companions, the SP doesn’t possess the chelonian flatwater performance of some play- biased boats. Tracking is more than adequate with the skeg deployed, I discover when a beam wind teases us on a crossing.
Getting in close and scooting through clefts in the cliffs at Montreal River is a highlight of our tour. Unlike many bigger boats, there’s no need for dramatic edging to make effortless turns. Combined with forgiving initial and secondary stability, this makes the SP as much fun for developing paddlers playing a shoreline in calm water as it is for more advanced folks throwing it around in surf or rock gardens.A day later and 500 miles to the south, the wind is blowing furiously on my local lake, hurling steep, short-period waves against the shore.
Hardly the sensuous swell of the ocean, but the SP doesn’t mind. It accelerates quickly with just a few strokes, matching speed with the impatient breakers. The high volume bow stays out of the troughs and the stern stays loose while surfing, making the boat easy to turn and resistant to broaching.
Like Castor and Pollux, the Bryan Brothers and Ashley and Mary-Kate, the Valley Gemini twins demonstrate two really are better than one. Both boats are spacious enough to accommo- date weekend tours, but if your inclinations lie toward cover- ing distance look to the Gemini ST. From placid gunkholing to rollicking rough water, however, the Gemini SP is a play partner nonpareil.
Sit and Fit
A keyhole cockpit and con- toured thigh braces provide a secure fit with room to relax. No ratchets or risers here, just a padded seat and low profile backband.
Twice as Nice
Both Gemini benefit from impeccably finished vacuum- infused composite con- struction, a new technique for Valley that allows up
to 20 percent reduction in weight. A reinforced lay-up for roughhousing adds 7.5 pounds to the SP. A polyeth- ylene version is also available.
Peel and Stick
Three rubber hatches—stan- dard round bow, oversized oval aft and teeny-weeny day—provide a bone-dry seal.
This article first appeared in the Adventure Kayak, Spring 2014 issue. Subscribe to Paddling Magazine and get 25 years of digital magazine archives including our legacy titles: Rapid, Adventure Kayak and Canoeroots.