explorer vs. nordlow

I’ve owned an explorer for awhile now but I’ve been looking at a nordlow as a replacement. What I like about it is the lower volume and livelier behavior. 80% of may paddling is day tripping. Have any of you paddled both, and if so can you compare and contrast the two? I’ve paddled the nordlow but I haven’t OWNED one.

Wife vs. Girlfriend NM

Nordlow was pretty tippy for me as I am not the intended size range.


What Greyak said…
maybe South American girlfriend.

Good one Greyak!
But an apt analogy I think. To carry it a bit further, I’d rate the Explorer as the more stable and predictable. The Nordlow demands more attention, but what a ride.

good friend has one
good friend has one. He has both a Aquanaut, Romany, and Nordlow, loves them all for different purposes.

The Explorer is not as efficient up to 4.5 K as the Nordlow, and it is just a very different concept boat, it has a reserve that makes it one of the few unique boats that is both confidence inspiring for beginners and used all over the world for the most dangerous crossings and expeditions.

The Nordlow is exciting alright in a beam sea! Sneeze and you are bracing. In rougher waters it is superb. However, my friend says even the expert paddlers find that in really rough stuff it is very very demanding and perhaps not their boat of choice.

For me, it is really fun and challenging and a skill refiner. But, that said, it has so little heeling resistance (about 2 or 3 lbs vs about 8-12 for the Explorer) that I thought twice about how much I would want to be in it off the Maine coast on a nasty day.


– Last Updated: Jul-02-09 7:06 PM EST –

I also have one and live on the coast and find it to be an excellent coastal kayak for challenging conditions.


The heeling resistance was a concern, but after two months have no regrets at all. appreciate the efficiency, responsiveness, and it's ability to handle high winds.. it is very efficient in any winds or current..

I didn't test the Explorer that much.. one look at that bow and wake it was putting out.. not for me..

I really think the hull of the Nord LV takes some getting used to even for advanced paddlers.

probably not the best kayak for tide races but does have the advantage of less resistance against strong currents..

it's all a give and take but the Nord LV doesn't give much at all for the right sized and skilled paddler..

Edit: the Valley hatches also have the double seal that allows for oval hatches in the front and back.. while NKD uses the small round Kajak Sport ones because they don't have the option for a double seal.. I get spare paddles ripped off the front deck even when strapped down..

what conditions are you
paddling in to have spare paddles ripped off the front deck when strapped down?

I have mounted spares on a Nord LV and sometimes they move around a bit (under the bungees) but they are not strapped down.

The paddles are secured into a custom made paddle park: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gnarlydog/3327747748/

In this pic the conditions are rather mild: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gnarlydog/3580480103/

this is my set up



just a 3.5’ wave will take both paddles out of the holsters and that mesh pad underneath all the bungees…

I tend to use a high brace if the wave is crashing down hard… then slip out of the surf when I’m ready… If I’m not careful the Nord LV can get rolled in low brace but also can slip over waves easily…

have you tried a quick release strap
have you or anyone else foregone the bungies and tried a quick release strap?

I have massive bungies on my Tiderace Xcite, and no problem with moving around or losing paddles even in big surf.

However, I am wondering what you all think about the ease and quickness of removing and re-stowing of a quick pull release strap that you could even release eyes closed under water to snatch the paddle out to roll up.


xcite vs nordlow

Have you done a direct comparison between your Xcite and the Nordkapp LV in rough water?

not sure
IMO, if someone can’t keep a grip on the first paddle to roll up on either side, they should plan on a wet exit to a safe position.

The strap I use is a Thule for holding down kayaks on the roof rack. Maybe your massive bungees are stronger? Why don’t you try securing your new Tiderace to the roof rack with them and let us know how it works out? Video would be nice :wink:

nordlow and Xcite moderate rough
I have to place a big big caveat here before comparing. I have been in very very tender kayaks and got allot out of them and they definitely helped me refine my skills.

But for the last 5 years I have been in an Explorer, an Outer Island (Babina design) and now the Xcite. I think I have good balance and decent skills but I have gotten completely used to and even entranced by the idea of a boat having a certain reserve, and a definite balance point than can be sensed when well heeled. The OI is the lowest volume of them all and quite narrow but it has a definite point one can sense.

Basically, for me at least, these boats create a marriage of me and the boat that PROMOTES my being able to edge deeper, to make carved turns in rough stuff, and to push myself much more than a boat that has little or no point one can sense.

So, I am a poor one to make this comparison. The first time WilsoJ lent me his Nordlow I was passionately happy with its quickness, turning ease, and acceleration. It is a fast boat for such a design. And in moderately rough water it settles in and is less tender.

But alas, I was almost ready to buy one, but I realized it just required too much of my constant attention in beam seas and it did not give me the sense I could push myself as far as the Xcite does.

I think they are my two favorite boats though, and any time WilsoJ lets me I hop in gladly. It has a great design, good looks, and in moderate stuff it is a great adventure.

For others I can see why it is their premiere boat.

Yes, and these super Bungies also were used to take other paddlers equipment when they made fun of me or my boat!!!

Actually, whether rolling up or not, I do wonder if a quick release strap might be really more secure than anyone’s bungies, as then the paddles might not shift around in surf.

In high winds
the Nordlow in incredible. I’ve had it out in 30 knot winds on the harbor and the Nordlow was flawless in any direction.

The edging techinque is more refined and I don’t think it’s possible for someone to give a fair review who has only paddled one a few times. It takes a lot of conditioning to keep it on edge with a good balance point.

Ive gotten it through some nasty stuff that I don’t think I could have done in an Explorer or Tiderace.

So far it hasn’t been limited to moderate conditons and a day doesn’t go by when i don’t appreciate the low wind and water resistance.

For sure
For sure. I tried to be clear I was only giving liimited imprssion

and I am biased or favoring a different concept for me

It is a very dynamic and interesting boat. !!!

agree that
you touched on the main characteristics of the hull design with the lack of heeling resistance… I can totally understand why that wouldn’t be right for a lot of paddlers… however after using it for two months in some dynamic conditions, I’m getting used to the transparency in the primary and secondary… and most of the time think it is an advantage for the conditions I paddle in… I’m still waiting to give it a review because it takes a long time to adjust and find just the right time and place to test how it handles more extreme open water conditions…

anyway anyone reading this entire thread would get a good idea of what to expect from the Nordlow… and what might not be right for one person is right for another…

Explorer = boring, Nordkapp LV = FUN!
Oh and as for the heeling resistance on the Nordkapp LV, that’s an issue for me right when I jump in the kayak for the first time that day but after I do my first roll, its no longer an issue as I know my edging limits. Also the lack of heeling resistance makes for some extremely quick and smooth rolls particularly finishing forward.

My best laugh of the week!

thanks all
I’m getting closer based on this feedback, thanks.

(I already have a girlfriend. And she’d kill me if I got married!)