kayak suggestion for surfski paddler

-- Last Updated: Mar-20-06 8:38 AM EST --

Hi. Since I'm moving to the land of cold air and water, I was thinking that it might be sensible to get a relatively conventional kayak again. A bit of background- I had a rudderless Mariner 2 for a long time, got into wing paddles, and then have inexorably gravitated towards long, tippy boats, at the exclusion of conventional kayaks. At the moment, I have a surfski (Mark 1), a racing boat (Thunderbolt) and an ICF K1. Although I'm quite comfortable paddling these boats in cold water and cold air, I was reading a bit about Lake Superior, and thinking to myself that it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have a boat where I wasn't constantly thinking about staying upright. Given the boats I have, my thoughts have been revolving around something shorter, perhaps 16-18', relatively narrow, non-rudder dependent, extremely big water capable, and very lively/responsive. I don't like ocean-style cockpits (claustrophobia issues, I guess). I have a passable roll and very good bracing skills (very narrow boats are great for developing these...). I'm not especially big- about 5'10", 180 lbs, with only a 29" inseam. I will still be using a wing with a racing-style stroke, so I need something narrow enough to paddle properly. Price isn't a huge issue, although I usually try to buy used boats. I don't have time to build anything. "Elf shoes" are ok, if it's the right boat- otherwise I don't have too many esthetics issues, as long as its a great boat.

Any thoughts on what I want?

Many thanks in advance,


Hey Andrew,

The non rudder dependent part is a bit of a challenge, particularly given your penchant for fast, tippy boats and bent on torturing yourself in them-smile. Two come right to mind: the QCC 600 (the seating position may put you off though), or an Epic 16. My friend has an all carbon 16 for sale here, paddled maybe thrice, that he’d let go very, very reasonably. It’s quite fast for its length and is slightly ‘beamier’ than the 18, so more stable. I paddled it once briefly and came away impressed. E mail me directly if you’re interested. Another boat that might fit that bill is the Eddyline Nighthawk (skeg). It has a surprisingly good turn of speed for its length and handles well also. Fun to toss around. The Caribou S is a bit longer but very playful, and not exactly slow, also. For big water, you’ve got your Romany, etc., but I think you’d be disappointed in the speed, or lack of, after paddling your current stable.

something different

No, my notion is that I already have enough fast, tippy boats. I’m thinking along the lines of a hugely competent, non-rudder dependent kayak, which I can use in Superior to check out caves, just hang out, without going in the drink. Also, I’m thinking that’s what most people up there will be paddling, so I figure it would be a bit “antisocial” to show up in a total rocket for a group paddle. I’m pretty sure I’ll be fast enough to keep up with most people, even with a more conventional boat.

I don’t know about QCC. I was never really comfortable seating-wise in the 700, and the hatches truly suck. I think I want bombproof VCP hatches, if I have them at all. Epic- maybe. I’ thinking high end British boat or similar American- Valley, Foster, Dennis, P and H, Impex, that sort of stuff.


I like my brother’s Foster Legend for paddling like you describe. I like my Q600 too for that type of paddling but I agree with you regarding the hatches. Got to say though that I hate the seat in the Foster boat.

An Artic Hawk or similar might be nice. They are pretty quick and generally well balanced handling wise.

Impex: Currituck (good handler, comfortable, light in kevlar)

Force 40 (looks promising-haven’t paddled though)

VCP: Aquanaut (very good handler-similar in some ways to Explorer, faster though)

NF: Legend (fun boat with hard chines, reasonably quick, spacious)

WS: Arctic Hawk (another hard chined handler, know someone selling one here at a decent price)

CD: Caribou S (as noted, see Grayhawk has one for sale-today, in fact)

NDK: Explorer (owned this one-premier big water boat)

P&H: Sirius (strong handler in the rough-decent build quality)

I’ll think on it some more…


Tideline 19
Check out the ONNO website and look at the Tideline boats.

Mariner again…
My wife and I own a seasonal (and future retirement)home in the Michigan UP. I personally use a Coaster in Lakes Superior and Michigan, and even do up to two weeks worth of kayak camping out of the boat. Works well for me, though it doesn’t meet your length requirement.

You know, I’d buy another Mariner 2 again in a heartbeat. A great kayak. Even have thought about their smaller one- the Express, I think? The problem is that they are so hard to find now. I see a Max for sale, but that’s too beamy for me.


Problem with most…
… “Brit” inspired designs is the fattest part is forward of seat and will drive a wing paddler nuts.

With a performance background these fishform and symmetrical (fish from cockpit perspective) boats will seem fat and awkward. Some will also wallow when you’d be getting a free ride in a swedeform hull. They have certain positives too - mushier ride can be good in rough - but not enough for me to find one I really like yet.

If that list is the sort of thing you’re after though - add the Impex Outer Island too (nice but noticeably stiff tracking - and I’m comparing to a 700 and a near 20’ SOF). Consider Silhouette instead of Legend too.

Boats like the Skim Dex and Distance look promising - but Dex has ocean cockpit and Distance is over 18’ - and not in US yet.

Otherwise - for Swede, it’s still 700/600 (Just change the seat!), EPIC 18 (but needs rudder), and check out the new Rapier 18. The Rapier should satisfy the speedster in you and still let you hang out with the Brit aficionados on the big lake. VCP hatches of course - but again, odds are it needs that rudder.

I wonder if they would build me a 700 without any hatches at all, and no bulkheads? Then, I would just use float bags and a sea sock, like I did in the Mariner 2. Never had any problem with that system at all, although you have to be anal about your float bags. The seat wasn’t all that bad, really, although I very much prefer a K1 style seat. Probably easy enough to install. I did find the 700 to be rudder dependent, though, and I have good paddle skills. Maybe the 600 would be better in this respect? I’d like to just be able to put a foot bar on it, instead of pedals- i really have come to dislike having my legs splayed apart in a boat.

I think what I’m looking for is a boat that is closer to the Mariner 2 than to the 700. With all repect to the 700, which I really liked a lot with respect to speed, surfing, etc, the Mariner was the kind of boat that gave you confidence that you could handle any kind of water, even if you got in over your head, so to speak.

I seem to be convincing myself that I what I need to do is find a used Mariner 2…


consider using Patricks(ONNO) gas pedal steering and seat for a QCC. Read a post here where someone put Patricks seat in his QCC and said it was the best decision he made. I put in Patricks gas pedal in an EFT.


Good list. I’ll comment on the two…
…I know the best, because they are my two current boats: Caribou and Arctic Hawk. I’ll offer a little mini-review of each):

[by the way, I now prefer to paddle both boats with Greenland Paddles, though I’ve never had any complaints about paddling them with “Euro” paddlers either]

Caribou (fiberglass):

I’ve been paddling my Caribou since 1997 (mine is the pre-skeg model), and in terms of “rough water” open sea handling, it’s brilliant. For its length (17’8"), it’s not a bad surfer either. Though it’s not a “slow” boat by any means, it’s probably not the fastest object on the water either. Perhaps it’s faster than I think though, because whenever I paddle with others (in all sorts of capable sea kayaks), I tend to have to slow down a bit in order to not run away from the pack. In any event, it does have plenty of speed to “get the job done” when needed (working against wind, current, waves, etc.), and that’s all I really care about in terms of speed. It is also a very nimble boat, and can be turned quickly and easily; especially so when edged or leaned. I consider the Caribou to have ample initial stability, and secondary as well. I can comfortably eat my lunch while sitting in moderately choppy open water conditions, and this is the boat I use when I introduce friends to paddling (as the first kayak they’ll ever sit in), and they’ve been just fine with it. While it’s not as beamy as many other boats (21.75"…basically 22"), if one is used to paddling surfskis, it will feel rather beamy; but then, it seems that Andrew knows what he’s getting into with a “standard” touring boat.

Caribou conclusion: I’ve loved this boat since the first time I paddled one, and nearly nine years later, I still love it. It has taken good care of me in many potentially dicey situations, and I enjoy paddling it in everything from quiet wetlands to lakes, to slow rivers, to ocean coastline and long open water crossings. The livelier the conditions, the more spirited - and graceful - the dance. :slight_smile:

Arctic Hawk (home built S&G):

First, I’ll mention that my “Arctic Hawk conclusion” will be pretty much a “ditto” of my Caribou conclusion, though they do have somewhat different characters. I’ll also mention that I much prefer the stiffness of my S&G Arctic Hawk to the somewhat “flimsy” layup of the two WS composite (FG) Arctic Hawks I paddled years ago while trying to decide between the Caribou and the AH (WS may be making them with more stiffness now…I don’t know).

The AH is a bit longer than the Caribou (18’), and though the beam is essentially the same (22"), the “waterline beam” is a bit narrower than the Caribou’s, as the hull sides are angled in a bit more steeply towards the keel, whereas the Caribou’s hull sides are nearly vertical down to the chines. So, the Hawk is a bit narrower from chine to chine. This, along with the slightly longer waterline overall, seems to make a bit of a difference in terms of speed/glide, so the Hawk feels just a bit faster than the Caribou. The AH is a bit less nimble in terms of turning than the Caribou, but given a bit of edging, it turns quite nicely indeed…especially for an 18’ boat, and so I have no trouble maneuvering this boat. Initial stability seems also just a bit more twitchy than the Caribou, but after the first few seconds of noticing this slight difference, I completely forget about it, and it feels just as intitially stable as the Caribou. Secondary stablity is very nice as well, and like the Caribou, I have no trouble trusting this boat in all sorts of conditions.

Summary of the rudderless/skegless performance of both boats:

As you know, the Caribou has been, for several years now, manufactured with a retractable skeg. Unloaded, and in certain conditions, I can understand how some people might appreciate the skeg, but even at these moments, the weathercocking was never enough to cause me to wish I had a skeg on my Caribou. A bit of edging and/or paddle adjustment works for me (not necessarily even wide sweep strokes all the time, as simply sliding my hands to alter the leverage for a few strokes is usually enough for correction). I’d say pretty much the same about the Arctic Hawk.

If day paddling these boats basically unloaded, I’d recommend putting any stowed gear in the aft compartment just behind the bulkhead. Even just a little extra ballast right there can mitigate some of the tendency to weathercock. Paddling either of these boats fully loaded makes weathercocking even less of an issue, though packing to maintain a good trim is still pretty important.

Finally, “ditto” on the “Caribou conclusion”. I love to paddle this beautiful wooden boat in all sorts of conditions.

Mini-review Disclaimer:

Naturally, these two boats are boats I’ve chosen to paddle myself, so my opinions will be rather biased (after all, I did choose these boats over several others, so they must represent an indication of my personal bias). :slight_smile:


First you leave the dear deep south for points further north. Northerners already think “usins” in the south are a few watts dimmer than the rest. You then take a new “fancy” job which I’m sure is going to break your nose permanently upward. Now you want to leave behind all your true kayaks ways and all the great people you know who drive ruddered boats and join the “British Contingent”. That will surely take care of the rest of us poor hapless ruddered boat drivers. Next you’ll have your secretary respond to our queries on Paddling.net. Will the carnage never stop! If God wanted us to drive skeg boats surely he would not have made rudders…I could be wrong!?


Gosh, this is heartrending
I had no idea you would take this so personally, Franklin. I will definitely be sure to tell my secretary to respond quickly to your posts.

It’s not really a question of whether God made the rudder or not. The rudder, skeg, and rudderless boat all represent different aspects of the Godhead, manifested in different ways, much as the Euro, GP and wing are simply the multiple arms with which we embraced by the Divine.

Hare kayak!


If I Wuz You…

– Last Updated: Mar-20-06 5:24 PM EST –

I would cross the QCC600 off the list. The back deck is incredibly high.

My skegged Tempest 165 does great in rough water. You're saying "skeg = yes, rudder dependent = no" right?

Personally, I'm in the market for a faster ride as a second boat. Definitely want to rat race with my buddies and possibly enter some real races. I'm looking carefully at Pat's Mermaid for speed...


Same issue–Chatham?
I’ve been grappling with the same decision for a while now. I was almost ready to order a Chatham 16 about a year ago, then put it off with the thought of picking up a V10 to replace my Mako, but recently have gotten enough more comfortable in the Mako that I’m thinking again about doing the closed-deck boat first.

I paddled the C16 briefly on flat water and liked it, but it’s definitely not a fast boat and I’m still grappling with how much downwind performance I’m willing to give up for maneuverability, surfing, and ease of paddling in high wind. I can get a Necky boat quite a bit easier and cheaper than anything else because of OK being a sister company, so that’s a factor too. Sooner or later I’m going to have to just pay my money and take my chances. I’m still leaning C16, but C18 is also a possibility, and I kind of want to try a Legend.

My 700’s skegged
Never felt need for a rudder in it. Maybe if only racing. New skeg control was a must though(mine 700s not setup like most in several ways).

Not trying to push one on you of course, you’ve already been there.

Johnathan had a custom 700 with no hatches. I’d still opt for bulkheads personally - moved in to reduce cockpit volume - and access hatces added in the bulkheads. From there you could even add VCP hatches - heavy though, and not pretty if the QCC hatch outlines still show.

Split the difference with a C17? NM

If I had to own
only one boat, and it couldn’t be a Mariner, it would be an Arctic Hawk. I’m about the same size as you, and just loved that boat. It takes a little more skill and strength to manage it in rough water than a Mariner, but it’s very predictable, and seems to me to have more character than some of the other boats mentioned, as well as to be faster than them (e.g. the Explorer). The Greenland lines are beautiful, and it’s fairly narrow forward of the cockpite for your wing paddle, though it will no doubt inspire you (as it did me) to pick up a Greenland paddle.

GPing is big around Lake Superior, and, depending where you are, you may want to visit the Arctic Hawk’s designer, Mark Rogers, at Superior Kayaks. An even more perfect boat for you might be one made yourself, under Mark’s instruction, at one of his workshops.

Sanjay (I own a Hawk, a wooden version of the Arctic Hawk, slightly narrower and longer, but similar in handling, i.e. delightful.)

Mariner’s website
has an optimistic message about getting production started again, for what that’s worth.