anyone had a Grand Illusion for a while

I am close to buying one. I see that here though, in the kayak review section, there is only 1 review and it is 3-stars due to fragility. To here Sterling tell it, these are very robust boats, and I don’t put much stock into any one review. I see that two of his other boats (I think its the Illusion and Reflection) have all 5 star reviews and I would think the construction is more-or-less the same. Still, in case there is anyone here who has had a Grand long enough to feel they can comment on its durability, I would love to hear what you think.

The other thing is that I had been planning on moving back down to a smaller boat (16ft range) and even for 17’3", this boat looks big. I am 200 lbs and 5’6". The performance is the performance irrespective of length and I keep hearing good things about the performance, so maybe I shouldn’t worry about this but would be interested to here from anybody who is more-or-less my height/weight or less, to see how they feel about the fit and feel.


Friend of a friend had a Sterling Progression fight :’( with a parking garage. Major damage but it could be repaired it did pop back to shape although major cracks at bow hatch area. He ordered a new one so he must of liked it he had it a few weeks.

No clue what this means “Strong-Lite lay-ups are a proprietary lay-up which delivers: Kayaks 10% to 25% lighter than competitors.”

I doubt I would spand that kind of money without paddling one.

Looking at their website, seems like you’re more in the Illusion range, than the big boy Grand Illusion? Unless you’re going to use it for extended trips? What are you going to use it for; all arounder, day trips, weekends?

I don’t own one, but I have paddled a Grand Illusion. I found the boat to be an amazingly easy boat to handle; it turns on a dime without putting the boat on edge. Another thing about the boat that struck me was how fast it is for a boat with that much rocker–actually, what I mean to say is that the boat is quite fast, which belies the considerable rocker. I sure didn’t notice anything about the boat that made me believe it to be fragile.

I acquired one in fall last year. I’m 6’2" 220 lbs. I don’t think it would be a good fit for your height unless you haul a ton of gear. As to toughness, I haven’t beaten it up yet. But it did suffer a gel coat fracture during shipping FWIW.

magooch comments above are entirely correct. Very maneuverable and surprisingly fast for the amount of rocker it has. And very light.


It does seem like a big boat for me, but I spoke with Sterling at his shop, and sat in it (and a few years ago, paddled one on a calm lake), and he felt it was the right size - even when asked pointedly about whether a smaller boat would be better… He said I could go down to an Illusion or one of the smaller boats but would sacrifice speed and thought that the fit of the GI was fine. He also said that during the design of the GI, they assumed a 200 lb load. I still wonder about the size issue but I don’t see why he would try to sell me a boat that wasn’t the best fit. I don’t live anywhere near there so more test paddling isn’t an option. I am hoping that size is an imperfect measure of fit and performance. I know the fit (i.e., my contact and comfort with the boat when I sit in it) is OK and am hoping that it’s performance will exceed that of many of the smaller boats I’ve paddled, even if all things being equal a smaller boat would normally be a better fit.

To answer JohnySmoke’s question, it is true that 95% of the time I do day trips, but every few years, I have paddled out to some barrier island for a few days and camped. I’d like to think I will continue to do that sort of thing. On the other hand, I can pack pretty lightly, having accomplished such trips in my current Chatham 17 which I think is longer than the Grand Illusion, but looks less voluminous.


Not an owner, but have paddled various ones and am around quite a few here who paddle them here in CA. The Grand Illusion I paddled at a demo day seemed huge for me (6’, 215#). Seems they do make different deck heights, and not sure what this was. I really like the Reflection and if I won lotto, would get one.

Fragility - doesn’t seem all that different than other composite boats, and is repairable as other composite boats are. They do have different layups, but these boats are meant to be performance boats, so it would seem to be a shame to make one in an expedition thickness layup.

I have heard that the unusual Skeg placement and format may make them susceptible to getting rocks in them, so sticking.

For what you are likely going to have to pay (these are not cheap boats), I’d get a boat that works for your 95% usage and rent for the long trips. If your trips are just a few days, you should be able to do that out of a smaller boat. I can do 2 to 3 nights out of a 14’ Dagger Alchemy, so you should easily be able to do it out of a Reflection (my dream boat). Then again, if you are landing on rocks, you might want to use the Chatham (if it is plastic) over a light weight performance composite boat.

I got to jump in a Sterling kayak in some smaller waves near the beach for just a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which it was.

The thing I would remember about fit, is that 5’6" 200 lbs, 6’2" 220 lbs, and 6’ 215 lbs, may or may not have similar sized hips, butt, and thighs. That’s the big part of comfortable and proper fit as far as the cockpit goes. Think Jennifer Lopez and Mila Kunis - 2 undeniable beauties with very different shapes. Height and weight only tells you so much.

One thing that I never get tired of in a boat is speed and if everything else about the boat is about right, go for the faster boat. I’ve paddled a lot of boats that seemed quick off the line, but when you power up, there’s not much left. That gets tiresome when you’ve got a long ways to go and a short time to get there.

Whenever you get the chance to test drive a boat, see if it hits the wall before you think it should. If it does, keep looking.

If you haven’t already ask over at
as that might have more users of Sterling kayaks.

excellent idea dc9mm