Coming back to sea kayaking - boats?

I enjoyed sea kayaking 25 years ago on the West Coast and am coming back to it now at 50 years old. I’m looking for boat suggestions for myself and my wife.

I am now well away from any ocean, so our use will be large lakes in Central Europe and the Mediterranean coast, so mostly protected waters but some weather. Unlikely we’d be doing much more than 3 day outings and most likely will be day tripping only but even day tripping will be trying to cover distance and open crossings of up to 10 km. Stability, tracking and easy effort for speed are probably our main priorities.

I am 6’1" (186 cm) and 200 lbs (90 kg) with size 13 (48) feet and a 34-36" waist.

My wife is 5’5" (165 cm) and 126 lbs (57 kg).

I have read tons of reviews here as well as trawled through postings galore. Re construction material, my wife would like to keep costs down although I am a bit more open to spending what it takes to get a good couple of boats. Still, given her cost concern and the rocky shores here I was thinking perhaps a good quality polyethylene set of boats might make sense. On the other hand my wife also wants to be able to easily carry her own boat, so keeping weight down would be a consideration, and my understanding is that often a glass boat is lighter than PE. Kevlar would be out of our price range.

I could not reliably roll my old Nimbus kayak and would love to get a boat that will fit my use as above but be an “easy roller” so I can get that skill under my belt once and for all. I am drawn to the Nigel Dennis kayaks but unfortunately trying out kayaks here is essentially a non-starter. I am afraid that contrary to all wisdom from fora such as this I am really going to have to buy these sight unseen.

I’ve been better at thinking through my needs than my wifes and I have found myself wondering about the Romany Surf RM or potentially the Explorer HV (not sure if I really need that but thinking about the cockpit size and my big feet) for me. For my wife…I am really not so sure. A stable boat that can have her easily keep pace with me and ideally one she can maneuver in and out of storage on her own is probably what we want there.

Really happy to get some guidance here so thanks for any and all suggestions.

Best to all,

Dave M

What manufacturers can you access?
The situation for smaller paddlers has gotten a lot better. The boats are not just small cockpit versions of guys’ boats, but truly downsized in terms of volume expectations.

For you, I am thinking that you don’t need the Explorer HV for your stated purpose - the regular of that (or the Romany) might do better.

But it is hard to answer without knowing what manufacturers you have access to, even if it has to be mail order.

Used Explorer & Romany (LV)
You don’t need an HV and your wife could use either a standard Romany or an LV.

Buy used and if you don’t care for one or either of the boats you can sell them for what you paid. You can often buy used composite for about the price of new PE/RM.

I have an Elite layup Romany which is very light yet has held up well to surfing, tide races, and some rock gardening.

Thanks Celia- good to have your thoughts
Thanks Celia, by the way your posts on these boards have been fantastic.

In terms of what suppliers I have access to it actually seems pretty good. I am in central Europe so most manafacturers with a sales presence in France, Germany, Spain, Italy or Switzerland/Austria are “relatively” accessible for me. I’ve already checked in with a dealer who carries NDK in France and got a quote on delivery so can either choose to have stuff delivered or do the drive and pick it up.

Thanks for the sizing tip…I was thinking as well that the HV would be too big but have gone all my life feeling I have “abnormally” large feet (true) and a reasonably big frame so I had wondered if best not to go with HV even if I would not need it for long haul expeditions. I do indeed want to “wear the kayak” and feel it on my hips without getting into something that will be a bear to get in and out of or give me numb feet after an hour of paddling. I expect I can take out the footrests and go with foam up against the bulkhead but definitely want the views of you people with many experiences here to help me avoid getting into a boat that won’t fit me outright. I’ve no problem customizing the fit…just can’t customize if it is too small to begin with.

Also good news to know that for my wife it will be a more evolved situation than a scaled down guys model. Still…probably makes sense we get the two boats from the same dealer so if we can stay in the same family (NDK, P&H, Valley etc.) of kayak there is a good chance the same dealer will carry one for each of us.

Incidentally the dealer I asked for a delivery quote on says SKUK is not making the Romany Surf RM at the moment…is anyone aware of a hold up in production or perhaps aware that there is a permanent stop to producing this boat? I had been thinking it could be a good solution for me.

Anyway, thanks again Celia and keen to hear more of your thoughts as well as those of others.



Thanks wilsoj - used would be great
Thanks - would love to find some used boats but not so easy I fear…keeping my eyes peeled but the European market for used boats seems kind of fragmented. At least I don’t readily see a major market place where loads of people from the Euro region post their used boats for sale.

That being said, I haven’t spent too much time looking as I have been so busy reading all I can about the new boats that have come along since I was in the waters last…

Will even check out classifieds and see if there is much of a Euro presence there.

Thanks again for your time and thoughts.


I think you will find
more selection in polyethylene boats from Valley. The Aquanaut LV, Aquanaut HV might work well for you. The Nordkapp RM would be a little more challenging. Valley also makes the North Shore polyethylene kayaks. The North Shore Atlantic LV RM, Aspect or Aspect LV might work for your wife.

P&H also had a decent selection of polyethylene kayaks like the Scorpio 170 and Scorpio 168 LV, or the two Capella’s - RM 166 and RM 160.

You might also find a Wilderness Systems dealer for the Tempest series or Necky for the Chatham series.

Lots of potential choices, but hard if you have to buy before you try.

What about Tiderace?
Celia, I have found I can really access pretty much any of the European produced boats in what I would call a reasonable drive.

I have been wondering alot today about the Tiderace boats. Specifically Tiderace Xcite for me and the Xcape (S) for my wife. Any thoughts?

Also wondering about the Rockpool Alaw for me and Alaw Bach for her.


what is local - really local
I am not one who likes magazine or web decisions, but think it is more important to get butt time in any boat you are considering. What one person liked and reviewed well could be living hell for another.

Take classes, rent boats, do tours with outfitters, go to demo days, etc. Whatever it takes to get time in different boats so you can make a decision based on what feels good to you. So I would look at who is around that you ave reasonable access to getting butt time in before making a decision.

Only exception to this is if you can buy a used boat for a good price. basically, you buy it to demo it. if it works, you keep it. If not, you sell it (for hopefully as much as you paid - giving you a free, long term demo).

Tiderace, NDK HV, etc
I might offer an alternative opinion.

Re-consider the Explorer HV. At your height, and perhaps your age, the HV will give you a more “knees up” position in the cockpit.

The result is that the boat should be more comfortable, especially on your lower back. A critical part of back comfort when sitting in a kayak for hours on end, is related to hamstring flexibility. Of note is that this muscle group is not only attached to the pelvis, but to the lower leg, crossing the knee joint. With legs straighter, this means the hamstrings are relatively tight compared to when the knees are higher.

One accomplished NDK sponsored expedition paddler, Jon Walpole, is about 5’11", and is selling his standard Explorer…as he is getting an HV.

My first Explorer was an HV; my second was a standard. It is for sale for the same reasons. I am about 6’.

It should be noted that this is not an isolated point of view. The fantastic Pilgrim series from NDK (worth looking at for your wife), are scaled down versions of an Explorer/Romany. Less wetted surface, shorter cockpits (easier to put on a skirt)…and knee bumps like the Explorer HV! Why? To achieve the “knees up” position.

Tiderace is blunt about this. They call it the “modern seating position”, and all their boats have this fit. Of particular note, the Tiderace boats, while their cockit openings are fairly long, are also quite narrow openings. One leg at a time to get in/out. The reason is that, in conjunction with the higher knees, the knees are also less splayed (frog leg). The sitting position in Tiderace boats is with the knees slightly closer to the middle. In the “frog leg” position, rotation of the entire hips is limited due to the outward rotation of the femur. With the femur more straight, the hips are noticeably more easily rotated in the seat pan. Easy to check out yourself- sit on the floor, with knees splayed out. Try to twist your hips, and try to look behind you. Now, straighten your legs, and try it again. Should feel easier. This is particularly nice for forward stroke, and using stern rudders when surfing.

The Xcite and NDK Explorer, while overlapping quite bit in use spectrum, still have some very large differences. One of the reasons I have one of each!

Tiderace are great boats
But they are definitely for experienced paddlers who like boats with little or no initial stability but good secondary stability. If you (and your wife) are comfortable with that then they are a great choice. But, at least in the US, they are on the expensive end.

Pilgrims are not scaled-down anything!
NDK Pilgrims & Pilgrim Expeditions are not scaled-down Romanys or Explorers. They are distinct designs that incorporate elements of Romanys & Explorers (e.g. Romany hull, Explorer HV knee-bumps), but they are definitely different. For those who can fit into them, I think they are far & away the best kayak on the market today.

I got a Pilgrim Expedition last April and would definitely recommend either model for your wife. The knee bumps make the PE accessible to larger paddlers; if you are lean enough in hips & thighs to fit into the 19.69" width, you may find it a good choice as well.

The PE is fast, maneuverable, stable in conditions and the most versatile kayak I’ve ever paddled. It surfs like a dream, rolls like a log and is outstanding in rock gardens (the almost-flat hull gets in & through where other kayaks would be hung up waiting for the next wave). Despite the “Brit layup”, it is extremely light for its length (probably because of the narrow width) and I can carry and cartop it by myself (I’m a 5’4" female).

As a former outfitter, I’ve paddled many kayaks, and the Pilgrim series is the best I’ve ever run into. As mentioned above, it successfully synergizes many of the best design elements of earlier NDK models. Hope you will consider it!

But if Otterslide speaks…
…at least consider what he has to say.


little or no initial stability?
I’ve only paddled a Tiderace Xcite. Its primary felt to be higher than any of my own boats (Aquanaut, Romany, Nordkapp LV, Elaho DS).My sense is that the Tiderace Xcite has very high and defined primary and secondary. Aled likes a lot of headroom in his boats.

knee bumps
Yes, the major change I would make for my comfort in my standard Romany would be knee bumps. So the advice to try an Explorer HV makes sense as the hull is the same as a standard Explorer…

Romany RM, tiderace, Roockpool, Scorpio
My thoughts:

I’ve heard only terrible things about the Romany RM. Not the performance but that it leaks (I think around the coaming). I haven’t paddled one myself.

I love the Scorpio… very stable, very comfortable, top outfitting, knees are a bit more up than some boats, decent speed, nimble. Basically a very versatile boat.

Rockpool Alaw has the flare on the deck for a knees up paddling position. Wish they sold them in NA.

Tiderace sounds like great boats. They have a newer model, the Xscape, which is supposed to have more stability than the other models, and about $1000 less than the other Tiderace models.

Good luck!

Hugely helpful comments…
Thank you all for such thoughtful input.

I appreciate in particular the comments about sitting position and find the so-called modern sitting position of Tiderace (presumably Rockpool as well in their Alaw design) to be compelling.

When I was paddling before in my 20’s I found I enjoyed really bringing my shoulders, abdominal and thigh muscles into each stroke but doing so required me to consciously increase my splay on the opposing thigh with each stroke. Looking back on it now that was probably a function of a slightly larger than necessary cockpit in my Nimbus that I didn’t foam out.

I must admit I find myself really drawn to the Tiderace Xcite for me and the Xcape (S) for my wife. That being said I can also see us going with the Rockpool Alaw for me and the Alaw Bach for my wife.

Regarding stability someone mentioned primary was poor but my reading of the Xcite is actually both are quite high and it is linear going to edge. I must admit I have seen very little in the way of comments on the Xcape but the design brief seems to be really about stability and giving novice paddlers a very steady platform.

Thanks again everyone for your thoughts, this has been a great place to pose my questions. Been out of this wonderful sport for so long and in the meantime the internet has really changed the information flows around it.

Aled Williams

– Last Updated: Sep-07-11 3:39 PM EST –

Aled is the designer responsible for the Tiderace boats and the founding designer of the Rockpool boats. He is also the designer who worked with Nigel Dennis developing the Romany. Aled's boats tend to be very capable while being reassuring.

Thanks - was aware re Aled
Thanks Wilsoj…I certainly did know Aled Williams is/was the designer behind Romany, Alaw, Alaw Bach and the Tidrace boats. Quite a pedigree!

By the way had a quick peek at your profile and some of your photos - very impressive seeing a mid-size sedan set up with 4 ocean boats on top!

Thanks again,

little or no
I paddled the Xcite and it was much easier to put on edge than my QCC700X. Don’t know about the other boats you mention.

Agree with your disagreement
I’ve paddled Romany LV, Explorer LV (still own one), and regular Pilgrim. Last year I bought a Pilgrim Expedition. While retaining some traits of the first two, the two Pilgrims are definitely a different kayak from them, and they really do suit a light/small paddler very well.

Although I thought Romany LV was the most maneuverable of them, the Pilgrim Expedition is surprisingly easy to turn, without the extra width of the Romany LV (that light paddlers simply do not need). ALL of them are easy to roll, but the PEX wins in my book for combination of quick acceleration, maneuverability, comfort (love the little glass seat with the raised rear lip), easy cruising, and huge secondary stability. The knee bulges seem to boost that secondary quite a bit–and of course the boat has good primary despite having a beam of only 50cm (translates to 19.68 inches). I took it surfing after only about 5 or 6 paddles on calm lakes and felt completely “at home” in it despite the unfamiliar conditions. A year later, I am very, very happy that I bought this boat!