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Boat Review: The Looksha IV Sea Kayak by Necky

Photo Necky Kayaks
Boat Review: The Looksha IV by Necky

Late this summer we had an opportunity to spend a week touring the Tangier area north of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was a combined holiday, scouting mission and boat test adventure on which we had a great mix of paddling abilities and boats. The Necky Looksha IV was one of the boats we took along.

The polyethylene Looksha IV – like its composite cousins – has low profile decks, a double chine and a rockered hull

Yes multi-chine hulls have many performance advantages but it also allows Necky to products a pleasingly rigid plastic boat. All the deck fittings around the cockpit are recessed into the plastic to prevent snagging during from-water re-entries. We did notice the lack of a perimeter grab line, which is now part of all the Necky’s newer designs.

Inside the Looksha IV the large cockpit and seat will accommodate just about any sized paddler although comfort was hit and miss

The backband will adjust up and down by removing a couple screws and reclines forward and back on a rope and cleat system. The storage compartments on the Looksha IV have foam bulkheads and the hatches are sealed with a double hatch system of neoprene and hard polymer covers secured with two webbing straps. This hatch system is simple and stayed dry for four days of normal touring conditions and seeped only slightly after extended rolling and playing in the surf.

The foot pedals are attached to the rudder wires with nylon webbing. There is a ladder lock adjustment ahead of the seat, which was greatly appreciated by tall paddlers who usually have to climb inside the cockpit head first to properly set the foot pegs. With the rudder locked in the up position and using the pegs to transfer power to the boat, we noticed the nylon straps stretched giving a spongy brake feeling with each stroke.

The most noticeable handling characteristic of the Looksha IV is the inspiring secondary stability – the type of stability generating confidence in paddlers who are not used to tilting to improve boat turning radius

Even our least skilled paddler was cranking the Looksha IV over and sweeping it around. In fact experimenting with the Looksha IV we found it takes more than a concentrated effort to push this boat past its stability zone, and when we loaded with gear its next to impossible.

During our rolling practice we noted the Looksha IV had similar righting characteristics. You had to keep your head down, righting the boat by pushing past its edge, and then rolling your body up. Rolling the Looksha is by no means difficult, its just different.

Between the secondary stability zones the Looksha is very nimble feeling and one of the quickest turning seventeen footers any of the paddlers have paddled

Straight-line tracking was moderate, and easily controlled by either quick tilts and minor correction strokes or by simply deploying the standard rudder. Tossed in with larger composite touring boats on our casual touring trip the Looksha was not left behind. Where it fit I the pack depending more on who was paddling it than the length or construction material.

The Looksha IV was the only plastic kayak we had along on our trip and it was a favourite of all the paddlers. It is capable of carrying its fair share of gear, it is nimble and stable. If the polymer Looksha IV gets the new upgraded outfitting we’ve seen in Necky’s new composite boats it will be one of the best general purpose touring boats around.

Specs

Length: 17 ft
Width: 22.5 in
Weight polymer: 62 lbs
Cockpit: 18×31.5 in
Rear hatch: 14.5×10.5 in
Forward hatch: 10×8 in
SRP: $1899 CAD

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Boat Review: The Gulfstream by Current Designs

Photo: Current Designs
Boat Review: The Gulfstream by Current Designs

The Gulfstream is a performance kayak incorporating classic British design features making the boat a pleasure to paddle. The boat comes equipped with a retractable skeg and a small day hatch behind the cockpit on the starboard side. The hull is a shallow ‘V’ configuration resulting in good tracking and excellent turning when tilted.

Features and Fit

The Gulfstream is a relatively light boat and is well balanced from bow to stern making loading and carrying reasonable. Current Design’s Gulfstream has a Swede-style upswept bow with a low, flat stern deck giving the boat an overall sleek look. The cockpit rim is set slightly under the level of the bow deck and combined with the recessed deck fittings, contributes to the aesthetically clean lines and functionally smooth deck surface for ease of re-entry during self-rescues. The perimeter lines rest snuggly on the surface but stretch enough to grab easily. The bungy rigging is positioned within easy reach. The rigging also includes an adjustable bowline. All paddlers commented on the Current Designs quality workmanship and amenities right down to the mermaid and dolphin graphic on the bow of the Gulfstream.

The Gulfstream has enough carrying capacity for expended trips. The day hatch add practicality by providing convenient storage for smaller items such as lunch, a first aid kit and sunscreen. It can, however, be awkward to reach in rough seas.  The larger stern hatch is somewhat reduced in size to accommodate the day hatch bulkhead making stuffing of larger dry bags difficult. The hatch covers are rubber, combining a gasket with a bungy fastening system. The cover is tethered but the bungy is not, so accidental loss is possible. A range of medium (170 lbs) to large (235 lbs) paddlers were comfortable in the Gulfstream. The larger sized testers were especially pleased with the roomy cockpit but the narrow seat created pressure points at the front edges of the seat for those with bigger legs. The fixed foot braces and padded knee cups ensured positive contact for the paddler. The backband provides comfortable lumbar support when properly adjusted and unclips to facilitate access to the area behind the seat. Smaller paddlers would do well trying the Gulfstream’s cousin the Slipstream.

Boat Performance

The ‘V’ hull made the initial stability feel a little tippy for smaller or less experienced paddlers. This improved with the addition of gear and forward momentum. The Gulfstream however, really wants to be put on the edge. The secondary stability was excellent. Without feeling unstable the Gulfstream can be comfortably tilted to the cockpit coaming both while stationary and under power.

The skeg deploys with a sliding toggle recessed into the right side, next to the cockpit. The system is smooth and offers various depths of skeg deployment. When deployed the skeg was extremely effective at locking the track of the boat in varying wind and swell conditions. It was also easily retracted for quick beach landings.

The style of the hull design and lack of a rudder makes turning the boat without tilt very difficult. It is necessary to use strong initiation strokes and moderate to aggressive outside tilt to turn the boat quickly. These characteristics make the boat feel very sporty and responsive with more advanced paddling techniques. Minor adjustments in direction are easily achieved with subtle tilt variations. The Gulfstream responds very well to this technique in preventing broaches while surfing or with a tailwind. The boat tracks into the wind well both with and without the skeg. Quartering winds cause weather cocking with the skeg retracted but with the skeg fully deployed, strong 40-50 km/h winds are no match for the hull of this boat.

The Gulfstream is a boat for paddlers who are midsize and up. The carrying capacity is sufficient for longer trips, gear just needs to be reorganized into the three smaller hatches. This boat really comes into its own when paddled aggressively under heavy conditions. The boat reacts quickly and precisely to an experienced paddler’s actions but is forgiving enough to be enjoyed by serious recreational paddlers. The Gulfstream is a boat many will grow into and few will out grow.

Specs

Length: 16ft
Width: 23.25 in
Weight glass: 52 lbs
Weight Kevlar: 46 lbs
Cockpit: 16.5×33.25 in
Rear hatch: 11×16.5 in
Forward hatch: 9.5 in diameter
Total volume: 92 US gallons, 360 litres
SRP fibreglass: $3395
SRP Kevlar: $3945
SRP rotomold: $1895

This article first appeared in the Summer 2001 issue of Adventure Kayak magazine. For more boat reviews, subscribe to Adventure Kayak’s print and digital editions here.

Boat Review: The Cortez by Dagger

Photo: Dagger
Boat Review: The Cortez by Dagger

Features and Fit

The Cortez is Dagger’s highest performance polyethylene touring boat. The Cortez is sixteen and a half feet long with a narrow softly multi-chined hull. The deep hull is topped with a slightly rounded deck with little rise in the bow or stern giving the boat an overall pleasing but sausage-like like. A rudder is standard, along with full deck rigging of thick stout lines. The carrying toggles are burly, comfortable pieces with a clever bungy system to keep the bow toggle tightly retracted against the deck when not in use. This prevents that annoying rattle during transport or in crashing waves. The compartments store considerably large amounts of gear. One-piece, Sure-Seal rubber hath covers roll on easily and keep water out. The narrow hull allows for only a small hatch in the bow. Anything bulkier than a 5 litre drybag will have to go in the larger stern hatch. The bulkheads are welded plastic and proved to be solid and dry.

Boat Performance

Climbing into the Cortez, we note the large comfortable seat. Our bigger paddlers loved the roomy fit but some of the smaller paddlers would build up the hip area and add foam to the thighbraces. The adjustable backband is attached to the boat independently from the seat but doesn’t tighten forward enough to provide maximum lumbar support in an upright seating position. The cockpit is very long allowing for easy entry and exit but also contributes to an awkward forward placement of the thighbraces that take a little getting used too. The rudder cables run close to the leg area, noticeably coming in contact with the legs when working the rudder.

When putting the boat on the water it feels tippy or unstable initially. Paddlers used to wider kayaks may find getting into the Cortez is a little tricky requiring careful balance at first. Fear not, the wobbly initial stability quickly blends with rock solid secondary stability. With a moderate tilt of thirty degrees or so the boat stabilizes comfortably. But don’t stop there…the deep multi-chine hull allows you to confidently tilt the Cortez almost completely on its side making it feel extremely playful. The multi-chined hull reacts incredibly quickly to its tilts. When tilted it spins quickly – responding effortlessly to sweeps. This is by far one of the fastest turning boats of its class. Under power the Cortez carves through turns on both inside and outside tilts making for outstanding performance. Remarkably, the turning performance does not compromise the speed of the boat making it easily the fastest in Dagger’s plastic fleet.

The quick, playful performance comes at a cost to tracking ability. The Cortez weather-cocks almost instantly in the slightest quartering breeze. The weather cocking or turning into the wind is caused by a lack of lateral resistance at the trialing end of the hull – the same lack of resistance that lets the boat turn so quickly. Dagger went out on a limb with this design creating a boat that would always be equipped with a rudder. This way designers could concentrate on an alternate hull formation that performs as a non-tracking sporty day tripper with the rudder up and as a load bearing cargo hauler with the rudder down. The rudder deploys easily with a firm tug and instantly prevents weather-cocking. The rudder stows easily, retracting into a molded groove on the deck. The pedals operate smoothly and run freely on the standard adjustable sliders.

Dagger stepped out of the mold with the hull design of the Cortez. They’ve produced a sporty plastic boat that holds its own as a day tripper, wave surfer, and multi-day touring boat. Dagger markets the Cortez to intermediate and advanced paddlers but it should not be overlooked by the ambitious novice who sometimes prefers to play with tilts and strokes rather than rudders.

SPECS

Length: 16 ft 6 in

Width: 21.625 in

Weight rotomold: 54 lbs

Cockpit: 19 x 34 in

Rear hatch: 17 x 12 in

Forward hatch: 10 in round

SRP: $1995

This article first appeared in the Summer 2001 issue of Adventure Kayak magazine. For more boat reviews, subscribe to Adventure Kayak’s print and digital editions here.

Boat Review: Riot Groove C1

Photo courtesy Riot
Boat Review: Riot Groove C1

In 1994 while most of us were paddling displacement hull kayaks Ian Thomson and Paul Danks set out on a long drive to Florida fantasizing about and scribbling designs of a boat that could do more than ever before. They wanted it to be a C1 for the advantage of leverage and the total lack of C1 designs on the market. Four glass prototypes later the C1 Groove revolutionized paddling forever. Thomson and Danks pioneered the distinct planing disk, the clean release principal, hull concavity and the foil or airplane shaped deck coined new moves such as the green grind and the counter clock wheel (cartwheeling towards the pile). Now, seven years later, Corran Addison at Riot has tweaked the original shape slightly and the plastic C1 Groove sits among Riot’s concept prototypes.

What did we think of the Riot prototype? The most incredible plastic C1 ever built! The Groove measures in at 7’9”, is incredibly stable and has a familiar asymmetrical C1 feel. The cockpit is a true C1 racing shape, supporting your lower legs with the top of the deck, ah the good old days. Going from converted kayaks back to a real C1 is a revelation in stability – it’s like it’s supposed to be when you’re sitting seven inches off the water. The hull is twenty-nine inches wide at your hips, producing a planing surface that is almost three feet long and two feet wide. Remember riding those Flying Saucer toboggans? That’s the Groove on a wave, get it going down hill and hold on until you’re dizzy. The Groove has very little rocker and a long water line make it the fastest boat I’ve paddled in years. I enjoyed the simple pleasure of smoking past kayakers on the flats between sets. On a short, steep wave you need to keep this long, fast boat carving or spinning to avoid burying the bow and wide stern. At 165 pounds, I found ends in a hole and on flatwater to be no problem, incredible fast but less stable and smooth than newer kayak designs with more cockpit volume and more symmetrical hull shapes.

Coming from paddling converted kayaks it was pleasing to experience the characteristics that different a yak from a true C1. The Groove is a fast, stable, traditional feeling C1 that spins like a top. The market potential for C1’s is small and whether or not Riot will produce a plastic Groove is unknown. The Groove was so far ahead of its time that even seven years later, if released, it would be the hottest production C1 on any river. If they build it, people will come.

This article first appeared in the Early Summer 2005 issue of Rapid Magazine. For more great boat reviews, subscribe to Rapid’s print and digital editions here.

Boat Review: Dagger Super Ego

Image courtesy Dagger
Boat Review: Dagger Super Ego

Finally a real freestyle boat for people with long legs and big feet. At 6’1” this boat is big for me, with loads of knee room and a comfortable foot box. The slight bumps at the feet are effective and don’t hamper performance in any way.

The Precision Adjustable thighbraces and seat makes fine tuning and overall balance easy. The boat comes with tons of foam and a clever Thigh Booster that can be easily contoured or built up to provide leg support. An Immersion Research ratcheting backband completes the outfitting to ensure a snug, yet adjustable fit.

The volume in the Super Ego is more evenly distributed than some of Dagger’s other freestyle boats, which makes it more predictable while back surging or flatwater flailing. The super slicey nose ramps up quickly to knee volume creating comfort but also a big surface to vertical stall on. The stern, although shaped differently, offers the same slice and stall characteristics.

Stern squirting and flatwater cartwheels are easy, even with the relatively big volume. Very stable on end, especially the stern. On a wave this thing rocks. I found it easier to continue flat spinning rather than trying to stop it. Once the hull cuts loose it literally lifts off the water and skips through the spin. Beyond the original flick to get it going, it takes no effort to keep it spinning. Insane. Besides comfort, the hull is the second greatest selling point.

Being the shortest boat I’ve paddled, I found flat water/straight line speed slow. However, the Super Ego has no problem catching waves, as it accelerates to plane VERY quickly. Things seem t happen fast, as the short length allows change in direction so quickly. Paddling boily water the boat goes no where, and doesn’t provide much charge across strong eddy lines. It seemed easier to boof across eddy lines, to keep the nose up and water off the minimal deck.

Overall – the most exciting new design on the market. Comfort, wicked spinning, super slicey.

Specs

Length: 7’6″
Width: 24.5″
Capacity: 140-220 lbs
Volume: 51 gal
Cockpit: 34″x19″
SRP: $1520 CDN

This article first appeared in the Early Summer 2001 issue of Rapid Magazine. For more great boat reviews, subscribe to Rapid’s print and digital editions here.