of Nordkapps and Explorers...

Eventually I will get another sea kayak, but in no hurry. I have some familiarity with the Exp. but very little in the Nord, both of which I’m considering.

Funny thing; the Nord is shrouded in mystique and history, yet I have never seen on out on a trip. There is only 1 review on this site of the current model Nord, the H2O, only 1!

I see Exp all the time when tripping, especially in the US. There are 30 reviews on this site for this boat.

Is the Exp head and shoulders better than the Nord? Is the Nord all about hype and marketing, or does anyone (other than Stan Chladek) actually purchase, paddle and like these boats? Do they have some critical shortcomings that works against them?

I have an older Nordkapp

– Last Updated: Sep-23-05 7:58 PM EST –

and love it. It has the integral Skeg and tracks well but really need to be leaned to turn. I found the boat to be blast to surf on large deep water breaking waves. Can't do much more than straight surf, but its a blast!!!!!

the nordkapp is a great straight ahead boat. turning it is however, another story. takes a big lean to get it turning … not that this is a negative necessarily, but it’s certainly not a beginner boat therefor. also, in following and quartering seas, the Nordkapp can be ‘interesting’ to control … again, not a beginners boat.

the explorer is much more user friendly and a confidence builder. it tracks terrifically but turns well at the same time. in my opinion, it’s a better hull design all around.

the ‘new’ nordkapps are targeted in the explorer direction … easier to paddle all around but lack the ‘mistique’ of the old kapps. the reason you don’t see many of those old kapps on the water today is simply that they’re a tough boat to enjoy.

nordkapps / explorers

– Last Updated: Sep-23-05 8:15 PM EST –

IMO the Nordkapp and the Explorer are two very different boats. I find the Nordkapp HM (integral skeg) to track well but takes a lot of lean to get turning. Keep in mind it is only the HM model that is stiff tracking. I do not find this with the boat that has the softer exit line, (the HS in the older model and the new H20). The “new” Nordkapp (H20) does seem to be more user friendly, overall, than the older styles. I like to think of it as a refinement on the old Nordkapp. I say this because it is still very different than the Explorer. I would have a hard time saying the Explorer is a better hull design as that gets more into personal preference on how a boat feels to each person and what they are looking for in a kayak. The H20 is more user friendly than the old Nordkapps but it is a Nordkapp and does not feel like the Explorer. Many have felt, and I agree, that Nordkapps paddle better loaded than empty. I think the H20 still paddles better loaded than empty but it is more user friendly empty than the older models were. Valley is supposed to have a lower volume Nordkapp for 2006. From the catalog the LV is lower volume but not tiny. My understanding is that it is aimed at the paddler that likes how a Nordkapp paddles and wants it to paddle that way empty or loaded for shorter multi day trips. The catalog says it is 6 inches shorter, the same width and 1 inch lower in the deck. Only testing will tell though. Also, keep in mind that when the Nordkapp was first on the market it was a radical kayak for North American paddlers. Add to this it was not the most user friendly boat. The H20 is a user friendly Nordkapp plus there are now many high performance kayaks on the market so the Nordkapp is no longer a radical kayak for many paddlers in North America.
No truths just opinions

Nice summary tcar
The Nordkapp, in all its variations, is very different from an Explorer.

The Nordkapp was conceived and designed as an expedition boat for advanced paddlers. The newer versions are friendlier, but they are still not novice boats. Valley has always been pretty clear about this.

The Explorer is more of an all round boat. It has much higher primary stability and is easier to manuever both laden and unladen. Evolved from the Romany, the Explorer is an excellent schooling boat. A number of kayak centers, such as MIKCo, put novices in Explorers. It would be sadistic to put a novice in a Nordkapp.

Tom Bergh told me a few years ago that he no longer paddles his Nordkapp because in his Explorer he never “has to think about the boat.”

In a recent exchange about my Valley Aquanaut and my Romany, Tom observed that the Romany and Explorer slide better and the Valley boats carve better.

The Aquanaut is the Valley boat that is closest to the Explorer. It is more of an all round boat than a Nordkapp - it paddles better unladen and has less freeboard and lower decks. Its hull section is different in that it derives from the Pintail - though narrower. It is still a Valley boat, so it is livelier in the water, with lower primary and higher secondary than an Explorer. It is also faster than an Explorer and it takes more lean to turn. (Sea Kayaker tests also indicate that an Aquanaut has a longer narrower waterline than a Nordkapp and produces less drag at and above 4.5 knots.)

I am looking forward to paddling a Nordkapp LV. The regular Nordkapp is way too high volume for my taste.

Yes there is a mystique to a Nordkapp. I take notice when I see one on the water.

nordkapp h2o

– Last Updated: Sep-24-05 3:55 AM EST –

I've had the new Nordkapp H2O for about 4 months now and though I am far from an "expert" paddler (so take this post in that context) I've had a great time in the boat for both day paddles and loaded to the gills.

The H2O is the HS hull and it turns well with an edge usually being all that's required in calm conditions. It's fun to edge it in calm conditions and steer around stuff. So far, I've found the May 2004 Sea Kayaker (I think that's right.) article about it accurate.

My experience in rougher conditions (open Pacific, 3-4 foot breaking wind waves from all directions), once I got my hip pads in and even as a "non-expert" was great. I felt the boat seemed to like rough conditions and I became quite comfortable quickly in the boat in these conditions. No mystery here.

I've not paddled the other nordkapps or the xplorer so take that for what it's worth.

Good luck.

Today’s Nordkapp

– Last Updated: Sep-24-05 2:39 AM EST –


I think the post above sums the Nordkapp up. People approach it with trepidation only to be surprised by how fun and user friendly it can be.

I think there are a few reasons for its unfounded reputation as an “experts only” boat. Firstly it was primarily designed as a full on expedition boat and therefore performs best with either a heavier paddler or laden, this was especially true on earlier models due to their lower secondary stability accentuating the twitchiness under-loading the kayak created. Secondly Stan Chladek was a big fan of the non standard HM (modified Hull) Nordkapp which has a very hard stern effectively like paddling the regular one with the skeg always full deployed. Because Stan was importing them to the US and championing them this was the one many paddlers tried and subsequently got. Hence in the US the Nordkapps reputation for tracking like a train and needing to be cranked right over to turn. In reality Valley (in the rest of the world) has always sold far more Nordkapps with the standard hull (the old HS) and this is why the current version features this standard stern profile.

Current Nordkapps: The kayak has evolved over the years and is certainly more user friendly than it used to be, fortunately it has lost none of it liveliness and ability to thrive in challenging conditions, still not a beginners boat but certainly not “experts only”. The many incarnations has made it difficult for people to understand its lineage i.e. HS, HM, Jubilee, H2O etc. at one point there being over 8 variations available. To clarify this we have taken a step back to basics, anyone ordering a “Nordkapp” gets the most bang up to date model (what would have been known last year as the H2O) people wanting the hard stern (HM) version need to order a Nordkapp classic (Ocean Cockpit), with hard stern.

To bring the story right up to date the Nordkapp is now available in a lower volume (LV) version removing the “only paddles well laden” tag many had given it. From Jan 2006 there will also be a Polyethylene version.

I hope this helps


LV Interesting
One of the other diff’s between the traditional Nordkapp and the Explorer has been the height and roundness of the front deck. I think that this has been modified a bit in the newer versions, but perhaps we’ll see more of this change in the LV version? I know that, at a symposium a couple of years ago, a couple of the paddlers demoing a Jubilee H2O found the front deck height to be high enough that it got in the way of their paddling.

Then there was the guy from Machias way who had fully mastered his Nordkapp but finally got another boat because he was tired of hauling a 50 pound string of weights out of the boat every time he paddled… Valley may get him back with an LV version.

Peter Orton
Thanks for your input Peter. As per your request on a previous post on Pnet, I emailed you directly about the Nordkapp. You did not respond to my personal email, but have answered here about the H2O being the current, up to date, non nomenclature ‘Nordkapp’ that one would be seeing in showrooms next season. So kind of thanks, um, I guess, for answering here, publicly, weeks later. I do look forward to paddling and demoing this boat rigorously next spring, in anticipation of choosing a new kayak.


I’ve owned
two Nordkapps. One the modified hull, which I quickly sold, the other an ocean cockpit standard hull with skeg which I paddled many miles in, and liked very much. The kayak was very efficient on long days in wind and big water. There are better coastal play boats, which I’ve gravitated towards, but the Nordkapp is just a superb all round sea touring design. For 40 knot days it’s a great choice. When they start infusing these boats and upping the construction materials, I think we’ll see an increase in Valley boats in the USA, which is all good in my mind.