Older/Newer Designs

I managed to get some of the most seasoned people on this board indicating that I had overstepped in another thread, but there is a germ of something in there. There are some older kayaks out there that aren’t sexy now but did a heck of a job of getting people out on the water and home again and were a real advance at the time. One example was the CD Storm, another newer one was the Necky Looksha 4.

These boats seemed to be all over the water where we vacation in Maine a decade ago. Granted we never did see one of them upside down, on its side or being paddled by someone with a skinny wooden stick in their hands. Sea Kayaker’s estimates at the time were that a very low percentage of sea kayakers rolled - I think it was 10%. (It appears from another thread that all the ones who rolled at the time lived in the Pacific Northwest.)


When we go to Maine now we, along with people that we tend to paddle with, are frequently upside down or sideways, carry and use a GP and generally are in what most would call brit-inspired boats.

So question for the boat designers out there - do you think that paddlers’ habits changed with the boats that seemed to make some of this stuff more accessible, or the boats changed as some cohorts of paddlers started wanting to do more of the dark side stuff?

(and skipping the part that we are all stealing from a prior culture on this anyway)

good post…
worth a bump…

more paddlers, more EDU available, and there are alot more choices now for what boat to paddle, roll, take into ‘condition’.

believe me there were alot of rolling sea kayakers pushing the limit MANY years ago, it ain’t nothing new. and we didn’t just sit around and see how many rolls we could do. :wink:


Not a boat designer, but . . .
As one who still has two Chinook NW on the rack, it appears to me that the sport has “matured” over the years and the boat manufacturer’s have followed.

My observation is that those who go to sea tend to have been at it for a while and over the years their skills have improved and the boats they paddle need more performance . The boats these days tend to be much more “sporty” than those of the Chinook generation. On the other hand, the Chinook was a load carrying monster that would knock off a 10 day trip with room left to spare. Heaven forbid you ever had to roll one (they do roll easier than you might think), but they do not fit the “sporty” category in any sense of the word.

On the other side of the coin, every camp on every lake in New England has a couple of recreational kayaks on the beach. Tons more “kayakers” than the old days, but fewer new sea boaters. I think the manufacturers get this and it’s why you see the product mix.

In addition to what others have said
I think it’s a matter of fashion also. There is always an “in” boat or design, and it’s different everywhere you go. As an example, our local club used to be chock full of old school Neckys of various models. Now, the “official” boats are the NDK Explorer, or a homebuilt. That will change as time goes on, I’m sure.

You are right that there is nothing new under the sun in design. “British” kayaks are basically Greenland boats with softened chines and higher volume (As a generalization). Some also have a bit of a Baidarka influence in them, too. The old-school Neckys and other west-coast Canadian boats were mostly based on Labrador Inuit and Aleut designs. I had a Necky Narpa when I first started sea kayaking, which had a huge Labrador influence in its design, and it was every bit as capable as any other sea kayak I’ve paddled. It was just too big for me, and I didn’t like the rudder. I got around the size issue by outfitting it like a whitewater kayak, so that I could roll reliably, but eventually ended up selling it in favor of something with less volume that was a little more playful (CD Caribou, which I still have).

But I think the biggest change has been due to a move away from designing just for expedition use, and moving towards a more skills friendly design approach (Which is in keeping with going back towards original Greenland designs). Accomodation of smaller paddlers has had an influence, too. We have an old Necky Arluk 1.9 in the basement that doesn’t get used much because the cockpit is so large, and the rear deck is so high. It paddles beautifully, and if you look at the cross-section next to an Explorer, you see that they are very similar. The Arluk is faster, but it is very rudder-dependent when carrying a light load, and has high decks. The Explorer is more skills friendly, especially the LV version. So the LV out in the shed gets paddled the most.

People who have been paddling a long time tend, so I have seen, to look for something new to do in their boats every so often. Practicing and learning new skills is a natural extension of that. After doing expedition paddling, long crossings, and such for just so long, you tend to look for the next big thing, be that surfing, tidal races, rock gardening, skills, etc etc etc. That seems to be fashion, too.

The Nordkapp came out in 1975
The Anas Acuta well before that, the various Hutchinson boats in the 70’s-90’s. NDK in the early 90’s. None of this stuff is new. It is just new to people getting into it for the first time.

A person walks into Zebediah’s Kayak Shop, sees a CD Storm or a Looksha IV on the wall and says she/he wants to get into touring. They paddle it, find it meets their criteria and viola, a star is born. They find out about all the other stuff later, sell it on Pnet after somebody derides it as a rudder dependent sea slob and buys a Chatham, Nordkapp rev 6, Explorer or whatever else the cogniscenti paddle and the star burns brighter, hotter, gets sponsored and the rest of us never hear the end of it. The end.


The Narpa did have Labrador in it…
cuz it sure was a dog. Sorry! I’m a runnin off now, g’bye’eye!


Argument for the paddlers?
Properly pointed out that a lot of these boats like the Anas and the original Nordy have been around a lot longer than 10 years. And maybe I should have said 15 on our observations - time seems to be accelerating as the hair goes to full white.

But these boats were not well-represented among the paddlers we saw when first going to Maine, whatever their presence in the hands of guides and similarly advanced paddlers.

So - seems to be an argument that a big bulge in the numbers of sea kayakers happened somewhere between 20 years ago and now, and those newer paddlers are the ones that have tended to make a different choice about boats.

Oh - and I suppose some have gotten into the Anas Acutas etc due to coolness factors. I don’t personally know any who did - by the time they ponied up the bucks for another boat it was for good reason.

Celia, the best example of boat designs
both modifying, and being modified by, paddler interests is the change from longer, rounder, faster whitewater boats to shorter, flatter, chinier boats. While some of the change occurred for good reason, it has become very difficult to find and buy longer, faster boats that are not mere echoes of obsolescence. Some of us can’t get what we want by way of speed and handling.

I don’t see any comparable change in the sea kayaking world.

well now…
“become very difficult to find and buy longer, faster boats that are not mere echoes of obsolescence”

up till now.

check out the Dagger ‘Green boat’ soon to be in production. I paddled the prototype and it is waaaay cool.

agreed on the sk comment…not a whole lotta inovation and why? status quo seems to work.


One question, though
And that is: where would you go with sea kayak design? I can’t really think of many “innovations” that can be made to a craft that has 6,000 years of R&D behind it, and a wide range of original inuit designs to choose from for inspiration.

The only real “innovations” in the last 50 years have been in materials and safety features, IMO.

I’d think that after all that time, that we’d be down to variations on a theme by now, which is what seems to be the case. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

get a slalom boat :slight_smile:
seriously …try the new torro/ toreto from galasport …great river runner if you know what you are doing (aka …don’t hit rocks)


Hopefully the industry trend…

– Last Updated: Feb-01-08 9:29 AM EST –

...is away from the oversized barges of the past and toward more "personal-sized" boats that fit better and encourage people to develop their paddling skills. It seems that the market is more sophisticated now and the importance of performance and fit are better understood. The best designs of the past are still good designs today and hence, they're becoming more popular. Additionally, advances in construction have made the classic VCP and P&H designs much lighter and more appealing than in the past, where they were more the province of the "hard core" Brit boat enthusiasts.

oldie but goodie
I’m still paddling my P&H Baidarka Explorer which I bought new in 1994. That’s one of Derek Hutchinson’s earliest designs from the 70s. I’m a little guy and at the time that was one of the few boats that fit me well, due to its ~20" beam and ocean cockpit. Today I realize it has much more volume than I need, and it bobs around like a cork in waves with my 140 pound body in it, but I still really enjoy paddling it. Once in awhile I think about changing to something lower volume like an Impex Outer Island, but I just can’t justify spending thousands of dollars for what I expect would be a relatively small change in performance. Plus now it’s like owning a classic car, people often comment on my boat!

And Liquid Logic Remix
There is a move back to making ww boats that actually have some hull speed and are easier to roll.

I just acquired a Diesel for those times when my I3 is just too much of a slug :wink:

You are all Ignoring the obvious
There have been dramatic improvements in sea kayak design in the last 2 decades or so. These new sea kayak designs are incorporating basic hydrodynamic principles for displacmenet craft that have been in practice for about 100 years in power yachts, war ships, sailboats, even canoes. Sea kayaks seem to be the last type of vessel to incorporate scientifically proven hydrodynamic theory.

Its very interesting to me to see the traditionalist culture of sea kayaking ignore, misunderstand and/or misrepresent the new sea kayak designs that are gaining footholds. It seems the conventional wisdom still wants to believe that the kayaks used by ancient Greenlanders and Aleiutians have some magical properties. The truth is that the traditional designs and any modern boats influenced by them all follow the same laws of physics.

Some designers, many of them coming out of sailboat design, enter the sea kayak discipline without any preconcieved notions of what a sea kayak is supposed to look like. Some have even studied ancient designs in great detail and then gone on to design spectacular kayaks that bear little resemblance to the ancient boats they studied. They are putting science ahead of style and their boats and the people who paddle them are better off.

These modern sea kayaks are more efficient, faster, more comfortable in waves, nimbler feeling and usually lighter than a traditional looking sea kayak of similar dimensions. I’ve found them to alow me to paddle further, faster and exploit the seas energy much easier. But they don’t look like a 500 year skin on frame boat designed just as much to be hauled across ice fields as a sled.

I’m not gonna mention brands or models because most you know them. Yet not one of you has mentioned them in this thread yet. You all continue to only talk about traditional looking boats or even claiming that there have not been improvements in sea kayak design in 500 years. Its a world-is-flat mentality that astonishes me.

Meanwhile amazing paddling is going on in these modern boats. Regular paddlers are averaging 5+ mph and the fitness minded paddler cruising at 6+. Surfing runs are routine with long rides in between 8 - 15 mph. This is in sea kayaks 18 ft or less.

Then there are the surfskis. These are true modern sea kayaks that have embraced scientific principles and applied them to the extreme for paddling craft. In some of the best paddling locations of the world, surfski paddling is thriving. Even in New England and the Northwest, lands of cold water and short seasons, surfski paddling has grown tremendously in the last few years.

So the truth is there have been some revolutionary improvements in kayak designs in the last couple decades. More and more paddlers are discovering the benefits of these modern designs. Yet there continues to be traditional forces that will continue to do everything to hinder progress. This includes many of the major manufactureres who have found success marketing style over substance.

I have a Dagger Zealot C-1. The Toro
would require major cockpit rim work before I could get in it.

As for the Dagger “green boat,” I doubt it would handle any better than my old Animas.

If the Prijon Athlete weren’t too small, I would have one.

Remix needs to be a foot longer.
It is a step in the right direction, but still too short. It is hilarious to see people describe it as “fast.” My old Corsica would smoke it in straight line speed, and the Corsica is a slug.

better designed barges
The Narpa was a barge, the Looksha17 is a better designed barge. I’m all for improvement.

Gradual changes
Many boat manufacturers learned from Valley Canoe who was the major innovator in the field.

Drop down skegs have now become the norm.

Deck lines.

Everyone now uses the push/pull cables.

Many kayaks now use VCP hatch imitations.

Molded in seats and good thigh bracing are also now the norm.

Recessed fittings and attention to the details of self recovery like Impex and a few others who have an indentation for the paddle for a paddle float reentry. That stuff was never even considered in the boat design before.

Remember the Valley Chimp pump - it’s making its way back with some manufacturers.

I think as far as rolling or GP use it’s just the proliferation of the sport and more cross exposure to many things like the internet, and the availability of instruction and gatherings / symposiums and clubs.

I remember being at the Sweetwater BCU event two years ago and Cheri Perry was about to give her GP rolling event and instruction and all these hidden GPs came out of nowhere. Everyone there had one. The times they are a changing.