Maelstrom Kayaks

Has anyone out there paddled either the Vital or Vaag?


I paddled the smaller one…
…which I think is the Vital.

The Vital juust didn’t fit nor feel right; in fact, paddling it, although on flat water, was a lot like being in the Impex Force3, a boat whose fit just doesn’t work at all for me. The cockpit on the Vital felt too long but then I have short legs and a long torso and I’d be happy if all boats had OCs, despite what a PITA they can be to enter and exit from.

I wasn’t particularly impressed but that’s not to say it won’t work for someone else. I know of one person in my area who just bought a Vaag after selling his Cetus and seems pleased with the new boat.

Had the chance to briefly paddle CKayker’s Vaag last summer - one sweet boat. Handles like a dream and beautifully built. Check his website, (Canadian CKayaker) and get in touch with him…

Have both…
absolutly love both boats. I’ve had a Vaag since April of this year, and my girlfriend recently purchased a Vital. I’m about 5’9 and 155 lbs and fit ok in both boats, although I carry ballast for the Vaag.

My Vaag is really at home in rougher waters, tracks well, minimial weather-cocking, and fast enough, rolls well. Love the features, especially the fourth hatch. Lots of attention to detail, and for sure the nicest color schemes out there.

It is perfect for what is meant for, ocean play, and injecting some fun into touring.

I can answer any specific questions if you’d like.

Vaag and Force 5owner

– Last Updated: Oct-02-10 2:45 PM EST –

Greetings. I'm the referenced Vaag-owner who sold his clear-hull 50 lb CK Cetus, predominantly as I'm keeping a Kevlar Force 5, a much trackier, quieter tourer than the original similarly-high-volume Cetus; I wanted a purer play/surf kayak...i.e., a large cockpit but lower-volume "Cetus-like player" that I fit into (200lb 5'11", 11.5 feet); I simply couldn't fit into an Avocet nor Romany, and forget that anorexics' Chatham 16! Hence the Vaag.

The Vaag is highly rockered, thus having a short waterline. As expected it accelerates VERY quickly, and yet keeps surprisingly good glide for high efficiency, so it's a good day tourer too! This is a very pleasant bonus, making the Vaag a much better all-rounder than less efficient good playboats like Chatham 16s, Avocets and Romanys. The wind-cocking is NOT minimal, as one noted above, but moderate. However, its ultra-smooth skeg is VERY strong...almost always enough to achieve neutrality, and sometimes cause lee-cocking if desired. Nice!

The rear deck is VERY short (low), keeping the hull well-planted against winds despite the rocker. It doesn't feel like very short, but photos prove otherwise, making a paddler seem heavier!
But this hull's radical stern is interestingly shaped to allow "sliding" on waves in chop (so this is not a beginner's hull). Yet secondary stability, thus though a bit non-intuitive, is high, as the hull seems to "know" what to do. The tendency is to grip tightly, but I'm told that a more loose-hipped attitude is best, and of course achieved with more practice. As the hull ultimately feels very reassuring in heavy chop I simply have to learn to trust in its "instincts", which seem very finely honed.
So it's a busy hull when in beam and quartering seas. That said, the Vaag really shines in surfing down large (6') waves, neither pearling nor exhibiting the tiring and noisy bow-slamming the Cetus is famous for (and that I was getting REALLY sick of). I wanted a hull that didn't require adding FRONT ballast to quench its percussion. As such the Vaag seems perfectly balanced.
IOW given the Vaag's lowish volume it's a surprisingly dry ride in big chop due to the strong bow rocker, yet has a slender enough bow shape to re-enter waves quietly and smoothly. Hooray!
Both V's are famous for their ability to "slide" their sterns to adjust positions on wave faces, as alluded to above. Just remember that they will do this on their own, too! This can cause a heart-flutter of anxiety, resulting in what might be an unnecessary low-brace, as the secondary's not reached yet. So one must learn to relax and let this hull take care of itself....
It should be remembered that the Vaag is was designed by a 6'4", 240lb paddler for his own use.
Indeed the cockpit is nice and long, allowing easy access and egress, the 4th hatch cavity notwithstanding (it's smaller than P&H's) and really well-formed and padded big thigh braces that fit snugger than P&H's. (Note that the Vital has MUCH lower thigh braces, being clearly built for smaller paddlers, not just shorter ones.)
Thus the Vaag may be even twitchier with lighter paddler weights. In that case try the Vital, if your legs fit in it....

The Vaag will NOT, unlike the Ceti, lean-turn without an initial stroke, nor continue to spiral unprovoked! I prefer this neutrality to the Cetus' cork-screwing, and in this way it mimics the Force series' "obedience". Some may say it's less "fun", but I got sick of being blown around in the balloony Cetus.

In all other ways the Vaag does NOT resemble the Impex Forces, however. The Force's waterline makes it slow to accelerate, but extremely tracky even in moderate winds WITHOUT any skeg. It can take high loads and maintain fast pace, so is a near-perfect long fast tourer, at the expense of "playability". The Forces also yaw and zig-zag in following seas more than most tracky boats, but their "obedience" in stroke-induced turns is comforting and easy to live with, and clearly more maneuverable than most very fast trackers.

What both 'yaks share is horrible OE seating! After months of pinch-point pains with the Impex glass seat I repinned the deck and hung a P&H Cetus seat in the 5 and have been quite happy, without leg numbness nor lower back issues for years.
Fitting the same P&H seat into the lower-decked Vaag was trickier, especially as it required cutting the rear seat structure into a compound curve to meet Maelstrom's nice rear cockpit forward-sloped "ramp".
Pinning was impossible, but eventually the seat "slid" into a nice form-fit geometry that required only gluing to side flanges at the cockpit edges, as well the rear curve and front bottom edge (both pieces of OE foam removed to allow lowest CoG). This seat is also a remarkable success, being very comfy even for a 3 hr open crossing in constant 5-6', 3 sec. waves recently. Had I been in the original foam seat and hard back-block I probably would've become too sore or exhausted to succeed! But as we all know cockpit comfort is a VERY personal thing. Although untried, I'm also favorably disposed to the excellent-looking plastic Boreal seat used at Maelstrom's producer....

Other very similar playful yet pretty speedy new-comers are the Tiderace Xcite (even better built, and less radical in shape or appearance), the new Cetus MV (still too high volume to be a play-boat?), or the very new Boreal Baffin composites, which I haven't tried. The latter two may be better all-rounders than the Vaag or Xcite, but if you can afford to have TWO (or more) kayaks, I think the combo of specialized hulls perfected for differing functions is better. Think mountain and road bikes rather than hybrids. (I drive a Miata AND my menagerie of Outbacks...get it?) Hence my combo of the Force 5 and the Vaag, VERY differing hulls doing what each does best, but customized with the superb P&H plastic seat my herniated discs and cold feet deserve at my advancing age.

Maelstrom Vital 166

– Last Updated: Jan-01-11 1:18 PM EST –

Hi, I own a Maelstrom Vital 166. If you go on my BaffinPaddler blog, you'll find a number of posts about it from myself and other paddlers and instructors who have purchased or tried it and reviewed it, and Alex Matthews reviewed it in Adventure Kayak Magazine in the Summer/Fall 2010 issue. On the BaffinPaddler blog at, just use the search box and type in Maelstrom or vital and everything will pull up.

I thought the other paddler in this message stream who reviewed the Vaag here did a great write up. I'll link to this message stream on my blog too so other people looking for reviews on the Maelstrom Vaag can find it.

Best thing is to get in and paddle a Maelstrom that fits you best and compare it to other boats. I own a Maelstrom Vital 166 and a plastic Boreal Baffin. I find myself comparing them to each other when I paddle one or the other and wishing I could fuse certain design aspects of them together and create a new boat.

Happy trials!
The BaffinPaddler