Necky Elaho vs. Perception Avatar 15.5??


I am considering buying a new kayak and have found some great deals on a new Necky Elaho and a used Perception Avatar 15.5. Which would you recommend?

I am 5’8 and 175 pounds and am an intermediate paddler. I will use the boat in the ocean as well as lakes and rivers.

My current boat (Wilderness Systems Cape Horn 170) does not suit my needs as it just does not fit me well enough. I am looking for a snug fitting, high performance boat.

thanks for your help.


Different Traits

– Last Updated: Jan-02-05 7:25 AM EST –

I think the Elaho has more rocker than the Avatar. The Elaho may be considered a more "playful" boat than the straighter tracking Avatar. It seems like a question of whether you prefer maneuverability and less speed vs. straighter tracking but harder to turn.

You should go demo each and see how it performs for you. If these boats are available at an outfitter, it isn't hard to just rent and paddle a bit first before committing.


PS. Is it my imagination, or has the Elaho been changed? I thought the Elaho used to be a tad under 16' and equipped with a skeg. Necky site shows the Elaho at 16'6" and equipped with a rudder. Hmm....

produced this link for the Elaho:

Interestingly, the pic shows the older model with dropped skeg, 15’10". However, if you hit the link, it shows the newer model at 16’6" with the rudder.

I think I like the older model as a “play” boat better.


Not old/new
Necky has offered both the skeg and rudder versions for years. The rudder boat is a tad longer. The Elaho is a fun boat but I’m not really fond of the skeg at the far stern, operated by gravity and a line to pull it back up.

I suppose they may have dropped the skeg version now that the Chatham is out but I have no knowlege of that.

necky vs perception avatar
Last summer purchased a perception avatar 16’ from a dealer friend (it was a demo) after trying many others. I did trials on many boats and also use in lakes and ocean, I love the perception! Have been out on the ocean three overnight trips last summer and ran into some wind, waves, and not so ideal conditions on two trips, it was a gem! My vote goes to the perception!


The Dealer Explained to me…
that Necky is dropping the skeg option for the Elaho and it will be available with the rudder only. Their Chatham will be available with the skeg. They thought that having both of these boats with skegs was redundant.

Good catch on the change in length----I had not caught that.

I am planning to demo the boats next week (I already spent a lot of time paddling the Elaho but have not yet tried the Avatar), but wanted to get some general feedback first.

The folks at the dealer seem to like the Elaho better, but I am concerned about some of the reviews I have read. I agree that the boat is highly maneuverable and is a lot of fun to paddle because you can really get it up on edge, but on the other hand, I am not just looking for a “playboat” but rather a serious boat for all around use, to include long paddles.




– Last Updated: Jan-02-05 12:55 PM EST –

I had seriously considered the plastic elaho several years ago for an ocean "play boat". That's why I was pretty sure it was shorter. Also, my personal preference is for skeg rather than rudder.

When you say "serious" what does that mean for you? Are you talking longer distance, overnight trips, with loads. If so, you may want a little more length and volume than the avatar 15.5. If "serious" also includes wind and waves, sometimes a shorter more rockered boat is easier to handle and make directional changes that something longer and less rockered. Everything is a bit of a compromise.


Good point…
I guess I need to better define what I mean by serious.

I feel that I have outgrown my current boat (and really is fits more poorly). I feel that it is more leaning toward recreational in nature than performance based. I was something that is more performance-based and that I can continue to grown in to, as I feel that my paddling skills are getting much better. I want a boat aimed at a more skilled and more serious paddler that puts more emphasis on performance than on the traits that a beginning/recreational paddler might want. I want a boat that allows me to get into an aggressive paddling position, and that fits snugly for better performance. I don’t feel that I have this in my current boat.

I am in the Army and move a lot so my paddling applications will change, but for the next two years I will be in the Monterey, CA area.

I expect to do the following:

-Paddling calm seas (on the bay and in the nearby Elkhorn Slough). Most trips will be short, but paddling hard (about 2 hours).

-Paddling some longer day trips on increasingly rougher seas as my open water skills improve

-Some two to three day trips either on the ocean or in slow moving rivers. I am a lightweight backpacer so I pack pretty light—probably not more than 20-30 pounds of gear so storage space and volume is not a super factor.


Hi Matt,
You may want to look for a boat in 16-17 ft range, for the types of paddling you are planning in the Monterey Bay. My personal preference is for a drop down skeg, and I paddle an avocet (which several MBK instructors own, but MBK doesn’t sell). You may also want to look into the Chatham 16. Kayak Connection sells the Tempest, if MBK doesn’t carry that boat. That may be another higher performance boat, with features well suited to paddling in our local waters, that you may want to demo. I know you can rent one from Kayak Connection.

I have found that there seems to be a slight preferance among BASK and WSK paddlers for Brit style boats with skegs. I didn’t know that when I got my avocet. I just liked the way the boat handled in following seas.

I don’t know if the new Elahos are higher volume than the 15’10" skegged version sing mentioned, but if not, you WILL have to pack very carefully for camping. I rented the old Elaho for a couple of days and liked the low, flattish deck.

It was super-easy to maneuver but I noticed it weathercocked at the slightest hint of wind. Then again, I am much lighter than you are, so you might not have this problem.

the Avatar 15.5 is might tight,do you fit in it ok? I’d rather have an Avatar 16 over the Elaho. And a Chatham over either. The Elaho is the end of a line of Necky boats that seem to appeal to a particular set of aesthetics with handling a secondary consequence. The skegged Elaho being a good example,the skeg is pretty ineffective. The Chatham may need some mods to fit well but I like it a lot.

Elaho skeg
Agree, the skeg made virtually no difference whether deployed or not.

Elaho skegged 15’10"
I’ve paddled an original model Elaho since Autumn of 2001. It is a very responsive boat with wonderfully low decks, positive thigh braces, etc…

It is not a tracker. I did find the skeg was necessary in following and quartering seas. I have found that the skeg does make a difference, though in truly challanging conditions one does feel one is wrestling with the boat.

It is a very quick boat, but not fast. By this I mean that it accelerates very quickly, but really hits the wall when pushed to high speeds.

The 16’4" Elaho is actually quite different. Not only is it longer and ruddered, but the tracking and handling is so much better that it shows the hull was tweaked. The person responsible for the refinement noted such on this board some time ago.

I’ve camped out of my Elaho, but my Thermarest pad would end up on the rear deck.

The Avocet and Chatham 16 are both responsive boats that are better behaved than the original Elaho. They also have more storage capacity.

Neither fits as nicely nor has as low decks. A full layback in the Elaho is the easiest and most comfortable of any production boat I’ve paddled.

The avocet has a low rear deck.

Thanks for all of the information so far. It is helpful (and I do welcome more).

From what I have read in this post and what I have read in the reviews, I am starting to lean away from the Elaho. Sounds like a great boat, but I am leary of something that is not going to track well.

Most of what I have read about the Avatar is pretty positive. I am going to try it out this weekend and see what I think. They have both the 15.5 and the 16 foot model. They pretty much told me that the difference really is in boat volume and fit, and that with my size (5’8 and 175) that the 15.5 might give a better fit.

I do also like the Chatham as was mentioned above and might like to get it over either of these boats, but they don’t have any on sale or used and price is a factor.


not as low as Elaho

avatar 16
we’re about the same size, and I absolutely love my Avatar 16. The fit is near perfect, and it performs like a dream. If you like to take extended trips, I would definately recommend the 16 over the 15.5 as even the 16 is a little tight on storage space when I take a 3 or 4 day trip. Whatever you end up with, have fun.


Too bad you do not live near Syracuse NY. I would swap you. I have a Elaho that I got a good deal on. Love it and enjoy it but like to have a little more room. I am 6’3" and I have to remove the knee braces to fit. California is a bit far though…good luck. I have enjoyed the Elaho and hope you find what you are looking for.


I am probably going to buy a kayak here locally, and will probably be selling my boat. I can ship it fairly reasonably I imagine. Email me if you are intersted at:


My friend Sean (Teidyo) has one. We paddled around Tahoe this past summer. It seemed to track fine. I will let you know when we are paddling again. I think he will let you try it.