CD kevlar quality

-- Last Updated: Aug-08-13 5:49 PM EST --

I have the opportunity to buy a Current Designs Suka in kevlar for $2200. It is 3 years old and in "excellent condition with one tiny cosmetic scratch on the top..the hull is in near-immaculate condition". I plan to give it a test paddle in a couple of weeks.

I'm slightly leery about it being kevlar, but only because I have no experience with it and have heard mixed reviews! I'd be more comfortable with it if it were just fiberglass. HOWEVER, in my province it is near impossible to find this boat used, and I flat out can't afford it new.

I've also heard that the quality of kevlar construction can vary from company to company.

Anyone have experience with CD kevlar? Is it good? Should I be worried? Is it worth passing up this boat and getting a glass Necky Eliza instead?

EDIT- I should add that I paddle mostly on medium sized lakes, no surf, and not much chance of cracking into rocks or such things. I don't care about the couple pounds weight difference, or any faster paddling advantages or whatever. I'm interested in this kayak because it is used and in excellent condition and a kayak I am highly interested in(and don't see around my parts). The kayak will be stored in a shed, so out of the sun.


– Last Updated: Aug-08-13 6:07 PM EST –

I dont have experience with CD, but Ive paddled, seen and owned a lot of Wenonah canoes (Wenonah bought CD so they're the same company). Their Kevlar layups are of fine quality, so I wouldnt worry about that.

As im sure others will say, Kevlar is prone to fuzzing if it gets exposed unlike glass, so if you are doing a lot of rocky beach landings and such Glass might be better. But if you're somewhat careful with your shiny new boat you should be fine. Its gel coated anyways so if you're exposing the fabric layers you've already beat up the boat a good amount and you probably have other repairs to deal with.

So test paddle it and get it if you like it!

Reply to your edit:
In that case you should get it! Unless others chime in with some horrible experiences I think the quality is fine.

I have a CD Suka
in kevlar/glass, 2007.

I am not an employee, rep or in anyway affiliated w. Current Designs or Wenonah.

Prior to taking ownership I examined all the work inside and out and found it excellent, no rough patches, no resin drips, no crooked coamings, etc.

Years later absolutely no spider cracks, hazing, soft areas, etc. No skeg leaks and never a problem w.the skeg or slider. Skeg slider is all metal unlike others who are using plastics.

No premature fabric failures w. the seat or backband. I believe CD is now installing an IR backband on all its performance line touring kayaks, a good pick.

No issues w. the kevlar, it remains entirely encased as it should. Kevlar gives the kayak light weight and strength. I weighed mine on a large postal scale… 41 lbs. It has the upgraded H channel seam.

In all this time I have done two very minor get coat touch ups, about 1/8" dots on the hatch covers. And a little touch up around the skeg box. All these were definitely cosmetic.

It’s an excellent kayak in build and performance.

CD builds light, strong kevlar composite kayaks using a vacuum infusion process which removes excess resins. They were the first of mainstream kayak makers to use it, and designed an inhouse training and certification program for their staff which work w. this process. They are also the only ones currently using Dupont Kevlar, a patented aramid. Kevlar is used in the bulletproof vests purchased by various military and law enforcement. The great canoeist Verlen Kruger used Dupont Kevlar in all his competition canoes which he paddled for tens of thousands of miles in varied environments.

The Suka is a joy to paddle and easy to manage. Accelerates fast, turns w. grace. The V hull goes far enough back that it dances and excels in rough water. Surfs admirably too - quick on surf and does not pearl. Cockpit is snug for small paddlers but still provides plenty of leg room This kayak wants to be paddled in a straight leg style, which I favor and use in my other seakayaks.

My main complaint is the back deck is a little high for laybacks but w. body position I can adjust for it.

I have the upgraded snapover straps on both hatches which keep them from snagging on pfds or clothing during rescues. You may want them too if they are not already standard on the Suka you’re considering.

If you fit the boat, and like the feel of it on the water, go for it. Kevlar in the mix shouldn’t stop you.

You don’t know if they used glass for
the outermost layer(s), as they should? Not a deal breaker but the strongest layup in terms of impact resistance is glass/glass/Kevlar/Kevlar.

The Kevlar used in bulletproof vests is not the same as the Kevlar used in structural layups.

Some very good aramid comes from overseas. Dupont Kevlar is like Kleenex. It doesn’t wipe noses any better.

I really wish
That my Caribou had a kevlar hull rather than its 53 pound Fiberglas hull.

Not sure

– Last Updated: Aug-08-13 8:28 PM EST –

I have no idea whether the boat has an outer layer of glass..I can't see anywhere on the CD website where it says one way or the other. I'll email them and see.

I used to have the CD Extreme
Aka Nomad in Kevlar and the build quality was excellent. Kevlar seems fine for your needs.

Do check for soft spots though - mine had one in the cockpit area from being transported sideways on J-racks and probably strapped-in too aggressively.

The right price is in the eye of the buyer, but I’d try to knock off a few $100 off the asking price as it seems on the high-side of average, even for a boat in excellent condition.

kevlar is fine
Comparing Suka to Eliza is an apples to oranges comparison.

I would recommend not chasing a deal but choosing something that fits your paddling needs instead.

apples to oranges
I’m choosing between the Eliza and the Suka because of their fit for small paddlers, not because I think they paddle/feel similar otherwise. Most other kayaks for supposedly smaller paddlers are still too big. But the Rumour is too narrow-beamed for me.

I think either of them will suit my paddling needs, as long as the fit is good.

I’ve heard some talk about kevlar kayaks having less longevity. Is this true? Even if it is stored inside out of the sun and I don’t bash it up?


– Last Updated: Aug-09-13 10:55 AM EST –

Ive owned a 1979 Wenonah and still own a 1988 Crozier kevlar canoe and both are structurally solid, so I wouldnt worry about longevity. I use this example because these were both skin coat layups and thus are much more susceptible to UV degradation and skin coat kevlar is much more delicate than a gel coated boat like your kayak. Both were well cared for (meaning stored indoors and not beat up on the water or land) but still had plenty of life left in them.

Any new boat should be good basically forever or until you beat it up too much.(ie wrap it around a rock, drag it over the ground, paddle shallow water where you bottom out, leave it outside in the sun/snow a lot, do hard rocky beach landings...stuff like that)

Suka and Eliza
as noted, an apples to oranges comparison.

I paddled an Eliza in both Plastic and in someone’s fiberglass Eliza. I found the latter much superior.

imo Eliza is much more a British concept, Suka a more Greenlandic concept. I can push the Suka to accelerate faster, hold speed faster. Both are very agile kayaks, responsive and fun.

One deciding factor might be the fit of the seat for OP. Suka seat pan in one of the narrowest out there (it was pointed out in the Seakayaker review and by the woman they recruited to demo it.) She was 5’1" and 150 lbs before gear - actually just past the target paddler weight which was originally 95-145 lbs, also before gear, and which is not in the CD catalog anymore. I weigh 125 before gear. I can put a finger easily on either side of the seat when I’m in it, and less than that in a drysuit. Which suits me fine. YMMV.

Eliza has a broader seat pan and the boat a more concave area around the hips. The designers were seeking to accomodate women w. robust hips (is that OK to say?) this was designed for women however many men took to the Eliza (composite) as a playful day boat.

glassed on either side nfm

seat fit
Yes, I’m wondering whether the Eliza might have too wide of a seat for me, because I have hips on the narrow side. I’ll just have to try it! It’s frustrating that the poly and composite versions are so different fit-wise, because I won’t be able to test a glass Eliza until next spring…the shop in my area only stocks the poly version. That is, if I don’t end up buying the Suka!

I got a response from CD about whether their kevlar has a glass layer. All the response was “Yes, our kevlar has a layer of fiberglass.” I wish they could expand on that a little, but I guess I"ll have to be content knowing that it isn’t just kevlar.

I am wondering if the Suka is going to be TOO responsive for my skill level, plus the 21 inch beam. I haven’t paddled anything that narrow, so I have nothing to compare too.(But then I always find larger/wider kayaks barge-like…) All I can do it test it out and see if I can handle it. The owner is including a “paddling partner” with the boat(uninstalled), but I don’t particularly want to rely on a crutch to be comfortable in it.

It’s the resin that degrades in the sun,
not the Kevlar. But you shouldn’t store it in the sun. Of course, if the outer layer is glass, the Kevlar is totally protected.

Some makers of Kevlar kayaks and canoes build them too lightly. An all Kevlar boat is less likely to crack than a fiberglass boat, but it may start delaminating, getting soft.

Wenonah gets acceptable life out of their all-Kevlar canoes, but their Tufweave polyester/glass weave canoes are more durable, for just a little more weight.

And SS/KK boats like canoes made by millbrook are very light, and more durable than KKKK boats. The S-glass on the outside stiffens the boat and makes it stand up better to blows.

I suspect you’re pretty easy on boats, and if you buy the used one you’re looking at, you’ll probably be happy with it.

What does “nfm” mean? This kayak has glass on either side of the kevlar? I asked a more pointed question to CD’s, and the guy who wrote back said that it has one layer of glass on the outside.

Sukarno stability
Though I haven’t paddled the Suka I’ve owned a Caribou for six years and have always found it more than adequate so far as stability goes. The Suka is a scaled down version of the 'Bou and you should find it to have very good stability, both primary and secondary. Store your boat out of the sun and you won’t have problems with deterioration.


– Last Updated: Aug-09-13 6:08 PM EST –

is internet shorthand for "no further message" meaning the title of the post conveys the message.

If you mean by "CD's" you talked directly to the factory, what did he say the was the coating on the interior. And who was it? I am OK w. learning and if it is coming from someone credible.

There is a clear covering on the inside which is why the kevlar weave is so plainly visible. And a reason why it's so smooth. Now that I think of it, it could be clear coat and not glass, in that case I stand corrected.

But the bigger picture is that the kevlar is not exposed on one side, in this case, the inside.

On the exterior there is the kevlar is covered in glass, then gel coat (impregnated w. color pigment) then clear coat.

The seam is also glassed.

He didn’t say
whether there was glass on the inside or not, but I’m guessing it is only on the outside, because I wrote back and asked how many layers of glass exactly, and he said a single layer. He also said that they repair kevlar boats with fiberglass. (I had asked what they recommend for minor repairs). His name is Nate Wohlfeil…not sure how knowledgeable he is or not. I wish when you asked a question about the layup they would say exactly how it is done and what layer is, instead of a short one liner. sigh Anyway, essentially I got my answer.

what the heck is a paddling partner?
in the sense that your seller means? and why would you need it? It does sound like a crutch.

I happen to know a member of the Suka’s design team, Bill Kueper of CD/Wenonah. I spoke w.him in Spring 2008 right before I got my Suka. While CD licensed the design for the Caribou (10 yr license w. designer Barry Buchanan which expired 3 years ago), the Suka was designed by CD inhouse.

Bill essentially said “the Suka is designed for the small paddler who is intermediate to advanced. We knew we were designing for a small niche in performance boats, but we wanted to do it”.

You list yourself as a beginner. You may be fine w. the Suka, you may not. I dislike those categories anyway, go and try it. And realize that w. seat time

your initial uneasiness goes away. A boat that makes you stretch your abilities is a boat that you will learn from in a valuable way.

The Eliza in contrast I found noticeably more stable, in flat water, rescues, and in active water, although in carving waves and handling rough water the Suka’s stability firms up, it really shines,it accelerates on a wave, it is a nice blend of tracking and turning, at least for me, which is why I got one.

The Eliza starts out more stable and stays that way, although it is plenty playful. The Suka demands more attention at times. The Eliza does not and is a forgiving boat, like the Romany is. But beginners and experienced paddlers enjoy the Romany, they just use it in different ways.

This is not to diss either boat, just explaining how I found them to be different.

Paddling partner
Six ft tall, 180 lbs, dark eyes…

or maybe this?