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Don't worry about nit-picking. To try to answer your Qs:
"What's the difference between a "fast expedition" vs "expedition" boat?"
Expedition boats are traditional 'old school' touring sea kayaks, pretty much 'expedition boats as we've always known them'.
Fast-expedition boats are the 'new school' plumb-bow, long-waterline, surf-ski-inspired touring boats, such as the Epic 18X, Rockpool Taran, and Tiderace Pace family (now 3 boats of this type from them).
"Why can't a Greenlander by marketed as a "transitional" boat?"
Gosh, for any number of reasons I'd think. They're quite different, after all.
Greenland boats tend to be low volume, low initial stability, 'skills-oriented' boats for more advanced paddlers, or ppl who want to become more advanced (be able to do every kind of roll, etc).
'Transitional boats' are more geared to newer paddlers, ppl who want an easy-to-transport, easy-to-store, shorter, more maneuverable, cheaper, higher-initial-stability boat.
It would seem that the goals and design of those two categories are at odds with one another.
Did you think I meant something else by 'Greenland boat' or 'transitional boat'? I know it's hard to keep up with all the marketing-speak.
"Who would use a LV version of expedition boat? After all, you're throwing a lot of extra weight into that boat for your expedition..."
Either considerably smaller/lighter paddlers (such as our own Celia), or regular-sized paddlers who want to use a smaller expedition boat as a 'day boat' that they can easily throw around in the water.
If that answer does not suffice for you, I guess you could ask Valley, since they make even the famous Nordkapp expedition boat in LV. I doubt they would do this unless there was a market for it, so some ppl must be using LV boats (cynics might simply say, "women").
You're not saying that expedition boats should be made in only one size, are you? Don't let Aled Williams overhear you saying that– Tiderace makes the Xplore in *four* sizes.
"Last, which other manufacturer currently offer both surf ski and traditional kayak besides Epic?"
Besides Epic? Stellar comes to mind. Why do you ask? Is there a minimum number of kayak-makers who have to already offer both for the idea of offering both to be valid?
If that were the case, then Epic would've offered only one or the other, and thus missed out on a good number of sales/opportunities.
You can't always play it safe or 'me too' in business. =\
Not sure it is Valley Dilemma, as Valley is a niche player. If you go by numbers of boats sold, SOTs and rec boats more than beat out touring boats, where Valley is just touring (and even within touring, Valley is a bit of a niche player, as none are ruddered boats).
There are niche players in other markets also, such as Cobra and Hobie (SOTs).
I think if you look at the major players out there and what they offer (Johnson Outdoors, Confluence, and Legacy Paddlesports) you will see what the meet the majority of the market strategy is.
Edit - my bad. The OP did say "sea kayak" for the masses, not just kayak for the masses. So maybe Delta or Eddyline would be better examples, though they are both 1 material brands (where to fulfill the wants and needs of the sea kayak masses, you would definitely need rotomolded plastic and a higher end material.
Let's see, we have (in no certain order):
Betsie Bay Recluse
Valley Anas Acuta
Nigel Dennis Sihouette
NDK Explorer LV
Necky Arluk 1.9
Took a lot of years to collect all those, but we don't get rid of what we like, because it may not be built tomorrow.
Kayak models are like women clothing. It's dictated by fashion not function.
By "fashion", I mean it's by what people THINK they "want". Therefore, not necessary what a boat can be made to do.
In terms of function, your list is complete:
- a well rounded expedition boat
- a fast day tourer
- a playful, surf-able (short'ish) "fun" boat.
In reality, there're many "in-between" designs: expedition boat that are playful, expedition boat that leans towards going straight and fast, etc... Because that's what people WANT!
To be fair, for people who only have 1 boat (or even 2 boats), we're already going down the "compromise" path. So someone who want a day boat that can double for mini-expedition do "want" something between the first and second of that list. And the list goes on...
(I myself is guilty of that "compromise": what I paddle fits into 2 categories: a playful one and a fast day tourer. But I only have storage space for one boat: so instead, I got a reasonably playful boat that has decent speed. I even camp out of it too! It's a good compromise boat for me but it's a "in-between" design)
"I believe it's a VERY saturated market. I also think we'll see a swing back toward small companies."
You should tell us more about these things. Seems... important. =o
"IMO there's a lot more innovation in the materials used in various layups than there is in design. For the last few years, the Cetus has been the "it" boat. Now maybe it's a Tiderace Xplore. And there are always the old reliable Romanys and Explorers from NDK. But if you look them all, they are much more alike than they are different. "
Sure, but what about boats like the Rockpool Taran, Epic 18X, or Tiderace Pace series? I'd call it 'innovative' when you can cover maybe a third more water in a day of paddling over more traditional designs in something that still handles and hauls load reasonably like a traditional sea kayak. Freya certainly thought so. And then there's all those circumnavigation records that are falling.
Other than that, excellent post and I agree with everything else you said. You and salty I think are probably the two most interesting posters on Pnet.