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Any advice on a couple of sea kayaks?

Hey all!

I've been reading a forums for a while now, but this is my first time posting. So first I suppose I should give a little background info:

I'm an American living in Japan. My wife and I just started kayaking last year in September. Needless to say, we caught the bug.
Until recently we have mostly joined tours or schools. We've been out about 10 times and attended a roll school once. Our longest tour was 18km.

This summer I'm planning on buying my own kayak. My wife made up her mind early when she fell in love with a Seabird Designs XP480. I'm a little slower to decide.
Since we live in Japan our choices are more limited I think, but I've been looking a few different kayaks and test paddling as many as I can.

Right now I have in mind 3 different kayaks:
Seabird Designs XP507 (or XP480), Seabird Designs Nordr S, and the Tahe Marine Reval Mini LC.

I've paddled the XP507 and a couple of tours. I like it, but it feels a bit... what's the word?... "heavy" to me. Maybe it's a bit too big and stable. The Seabird Nordr S is new this year and looks to be a little more playful than the XP507. We have a relationship with the Seabird distributor in Japan, so I'll have the opportunity to paddle the Nordr in July.
The problem for me is the Tahe Reval Mini LC. I've read some good things about it online, watched some videos for it, and the guy that sells them here in Japan swears by the quality of Tahe kayaks. However, I'm not able to test paddle one. It's not really a standard practice here in Japan to test paddle kayaks, so the shop is unlikely to agree to let me do it.

Has anyone owned or paddle one?
I'm about 5'6 and 165lbs (167cm and 75kg). My experience I would describe as an aggressive beginner. My wife and I will use the kayaks mostly for day trips, maybe the rare overnight trip, and working on our skills. I would also like to keep the kayak as close to 5 meters (16.5 feet?) as possible due to traffic rules about cargo length here in Japan.

Any advice you gurus have would be much appreciated.


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Comments

  • waterfield
    Here's a made in Japan option.

    http://www.wfkayaks.com/products/index.html
  • Japanese Companies
    Yeah, I've looked at some Waterfields. I've also looked at some kayaks from some other Japanese companies, too.

    Norlite Designs:
    http://www.norlite-d.com/kayaks.htm

    Nanok:
    http://www.land-art.co.jp/nanok/kayak/index.html

    They all make pretty nice kayaks, as far as I can tell, but the problem with them is mainly my available budget. Most of the kayaks made in Japan are $3000+, and as I'm just buying my first kayak, I'd rather keep it around $2000-2500 if possible.
  • Nihon wa doku desu ka
    There are a few clubs around. Someonewill let you try out her/his kayak. In July, there is The Amami Sea Kayak Marathon and there are usually a few used kayaks for sale. Its pretty easy to reach by ferry. Folding kayaks should also be an option
  • Good luck!
    Good luck getting advice...Seabird and Tahe are almost non-existent in Canada and the USA.

    I had a Point65N XP18 for 2 weeks. Beneath the logo it said "kayaks of sweden" but after some hard research I found out it was made in China. Nice design but the build quality was horrible.

    Seabird is doing the same thing: "kayaks of Norway" all over the place.... Then you see a little picture of all the Asian / Chinese factory workers (Oops somebody forgot to delete that).

    Based on China's sea kayaking "heritage" as well as their reputation for "quality" goods .... do you really want to waste your money?

    Tahe I believe is made in Estonia so I'd give that the thumbs up even for that reason only.

    Personally, if I was in your position, I'd pick a kayak from either Valley Kayaks or P&H kayaks on-line and then have one shipped over. I'm sure there must be some retailer in Australia that could do this.

    I like to buy kayaks from manufacturer's where the employees actually give a shit about what they are making because they paddle their own products on their free time and are passionate about what they do.
  • Osaka
    We live in Osaka. I'll check out that Amani thing though. :)

    We considered folding kayaks for a while. After we paddled some Fujita Canoe Alpinas we decided that we preferred rigids though.
    Someday in the future we will probably buy folders for traveling however. One step at a time.
  • I hear ya.
    I hear ya about the stuff produced in China. Living in a neighboring country like we do, you see tons of crap coming over.

    The Seabirds that we've paddled on our previous tours, and my wife's XP480 seem to be pretty solid though. When we first got her kayak I checked the sanding around the cockpit because I heard it was a common place where the quality would suffer. Her kayak is well sanded though and quite smooth.

    I suppose not everything from China has to be low quality though. After all, the iPhone I'm typing this on was produced there.
  • I Don't Know Nuthin'...
    about what boats are available for you to buy but we're close to the same size so I can speak to that. Try to go with as little boat as is necessary. Battling a boat that is too big for you on a windy day really detracts from the fun of paddling. Don't be afraid to move the seat back to make a smaller boat fit you.

    If the local shop won't let you demo a boat for free offer to pay rent on it for a day or a weekend. I wouldn't buy a boat that I never got to paddle.
  • Try Qajaq Japan group on Facebook
    There are are few Tahe kayaks among the membership
  • If I were you
    I would only consider the kayaks you can test paddle. Buying a kayak because somebody here likes it is a mistake.No idea about any of the kayaks you mentioned but test paddle as many differant kayaks you can get your hands on then pick the one YOU like best.Good luck.
  • Options
    Tahe/Seabird Designs
    I've paddled kayaks from both, but not the models you're eyeing.

    So I'll confine my remarks to build quality.

    Tahe/Zegul is a huge boatbuilder in Estonia. The early Tahe Greenland series (going back a few seasons) was built too light and problems w. durability surfaced. Problems like seam separation,rapid cracking, etc. Tahe has since switched to a different 'honeycomb' layup which so far is proving more durable. I know ppl who have the old and new variations and they all agree that the newer is better. There are a few Tahe dealers in the U.S.

    Seabird Designs - not a single dealer in the U.S. that I know of. I do know of one in the SE U.S. that carried them a couple of years, dropping them due to QC problems among them leaking bulkheads. There is one dealer in Canada who started carrying them last season but I don't know how he's doing with them.

    I paddled one of their Black Pearls (which they build w. permission of designer Bjorn Thomassen).

    At this point if it were my purchase I'd wait til Seabird Designs ups their QC. The fact that they have one dealer in North America is not encouraging. As for Tahe the limited number of dealers here in the U.S. gives me pause (the quality does not).

    Since you are in Japan I'd go for the Waterfield qajaqs. I know several highly skilled paddlers in Japan who have them, and speak very highly of them. I'd rather a used Waterfield than a new Seabird Designs boat. I'd go w. the Tahe over Seabird Designs as well.
  • Seabirds
    2 retailers that carried Seabird here in Ontario Canada dropped the line after 1 year.

    I am angry at China right now. The stereo on my 2yr old Kia Sorrento stopped working. Turns out the stereo is made in China ($380.00 to replace). My wife has had her Volvo for 8 yrs no problem!

    Unlike the iPhone or my iPad(or stereo!), if your kayak falls apart on you while you're paddling offshore you could be in for some memorable moments. A big mistake kayaking novices make is to under estimate the possible dangers associated with kayaking. I've been there....

    Wether new or used, get the best kayak you can afford from a reputable manufacturer. I'd also rent a kayak and try it a few times in various conditions. Every kayak is nice to paddle in zero winds and flat water. It's only when things take a turn for the worse when you truly find out how good a kayak is.
  • Thanks
    Thanks everyone for your advice so far. I really appreciate it.

    I'll keep an eye on my wife's Seabird and let you know if there are any problems or issues with it. Maybe I'll even post a review of it sometime later this year.

    As for my own kayak, I'll keep my options open.
    So far, I've been following the rule of "paddle it before you buy it". I asked about the Tahe because if it is a decent choice in some people's opinions, then I would push the dealer to let me demo it. Otherwise, I wouldn't want to cause the trouble for him. Like I said, demoing kayaks here seems to be unheard of.

    Often, when we go on tours there are friends of the tour guides that come along just for the hell of it. A few times they have offered to let me paddle their kayaks. Maybe if I'm lucky, someone will have something that wows me. You never know.
  • second this
    I second this. Buy only what you can test paddle. if Seabird and Tahes are all you have around, don't be afraid to buy one of those.

    I personally like Valleys, which were suggested before, but I wouldn't buy one without getting time to paddle it myself.
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