Potential convert, kayak questions

-- Last Updated: Mar-26-04 8:33 AM EST --

So I've been pretty big into the OC-1 thing (flatwater, standard class cruisers) for a good while. I've sea kayaked a bit before, but only in borrowed boats when I headed to the beach and such.

Yesterday I stop by our local outfitter and borrowed a carbon Necky Chatham 18, took it out this morning. Holy cow, that boat is fast! At least, it sure struck me that way. I've got a lot of work to do on my "yak stroke", but I immediately had that thing cruising in excess of 6 mph, and it wasn't too tough to maintain that speed.

So, now the questions start - sorry for the somewhat lengthy list:

I don't think I want a rudder, and I am more concerned with the ability to go pretty quick than I am the ability to handle big water. I would take it off shore now and then, and would be facing boat wakes & the like inland. Is the Chatham 18 the boat for me? I like the looks of the Looksha II, but I really don't want a rudder. The other boat I'm drawn to is the CLC Pax 20, but don't really have time to build one.

My right leg got really tired - seems that the muscles just under my knee were strained somehow. It eventually "went to sleep", at which point I pulled my feet off the foot braces and sat with my knees up for a few minutes - kind of surf ski style. I couldn't adjust the footbraces once I'd launched, but did tweak the back-band a bit. Any thoughts on what I might be doing wrong, or what outfitting adjustments are in order?

Paddles - I know lots about canoe paddles, and very little about kayak paddles. I used a carbon 2 piece Werner today with a bent shaft. It seemed fine, but felt as though it might be a touch short. How do you size touring paddles, and is the bent shaft a big plus or not?

It seemed wet. I know I need lots of work to get my stroke in good shape, but even when I slowed down and focused on doing what I think is a pretty decent stroke, I had water dripping all over me. Is this to be expected, or am I doing something wrong? I was focusing on keeping the paddle relatively low, and getting my power from my back and shoulders rather than my arms.

Finally - how about boat bags? I paddle most every day before work, so my boat lives on my truck. I keep a "boat bag" on my carbon canoe to protect it from UV light. Are there bags available for yaks too?


I have no idea if it’s the boat for you but if you dont’ want a rudder then that leaves out the LookshII and Pax20, actually if you’re looking at boats of this caliber you should leave out the Pax20.

leg numbness, you might try a full foot brace, something to take pressure off the calf muscles, try sitting on a thermarest seat with nearly all the air taken out.

Paddles - 215cm-225 range is “average” , I don’t have an opinion on bent shaft.

stroke, get Brent Reitz forward stroke video,see if you can move the effort from your shoulders/back to your abdomen.

Finally - boat bags, if it’s got gel coat you don’t need UV protection.

some ideas
It sounds like you are a strong paddler who will wanting to go as fast as possible, quite soon. So my advice is to cut to the chase and get the sort of equipment you will ultimately want.

Boat: I don’t know about the Chatham 18 but it sounds like a nice boat. The general concensus among racers/fast paddlers is that the fastest 'general purpose" kayaks are the QCC 700 and the Epic 18. Both are regarded as faster than the Looksha 2. The next level up are the West Side Boat Shop Thunderbolt (fastest) and EFT (also extremely fast, somewhat more specialized than the QCC and Epic). I have a QCC 700 and can routinely hold it over 6 mph, clocked on a Speedmate, at a fast touring pace and can hold 7mph without dying entirely for a good while.

Rudder: An always controversial topic. I used to be a “no rudder” paddler with a Mariner 2. I think that if what you are really trying to do is paddle fast for workouts and maybe racing that a rudder is indipsensible. In wind waves, for example, I can maintain course and very high speed (+10 mph on waves) with the rudder, without worrying about correcting strokes, broaches, etc. Again, essentially all speed oriented boats use a rudder. The easiest option is to get a retractable one and use it when you need it.

Paddle: Get a wing- don’t mess around with a Euro or GP paddle. Incredible bite, forces good torso rotation, easy to roll with. You will never look back.

One final thought- if you live somewhere where it is warm a lot, consider getting a surfski. There are very nice “entry level” models out now from Fenn (Mako XT) and Futura (II). As fast or faster than the QCC and Epic, and a lot more fun when it is hot or in the ocean.

Hope this helps a little with your decisions. Have fun,


Thanks, and . . .
OK, based on these replies plus some email, I’m getting the sense that you folks are suggesting maybe I do want a rudder for this sort of paddling. I can buy that - I guess I assumed it wouldn’t be that important (I can make my canoe track, so surely I could get a kayak to do the same), and was also concerned it might cause drag.

So, if I’m flexible on the rudder thing, I want a boat that is fast, and it will be used daily (almost anyway) on the Tennessee River before work. There isn’t much boat traffic early in the mornings, but we do get high wind sometimes. I’d like a boat that I could take off shore now and then in at least what I’d call moderate seas. I’d also like to be able to handle large wakes from the big cruisers that run by every now and then. I’m 6’ tall, and right around 185 lbs. Lack of stability doesn’t bother me a bit (I’m used to really unstable canoes), but I do want a decked boat so I can use it in the winter (no surf skis).

Lay some suggestions for boats on me. I know I need to consider the Looksha II, the Epic 18, and the QCC 700. What else falls into this category? Did I mention I wanted it to be fast?

Thanks folks!

First things first. Figure out why your leg went numb. You could have a physiological limitation that is aggravated by the kayak sitting position. Rent or borrow a different kayak and see if that solves the problem. Some people put a cushion of some sort underneath their knees to support their legs. If all else fails, consult a physician.

Next, you seem to have a conflict in your requirements. If you want the fastest, most efficient kayak for open water, then you would want a rudder. If you still don’t want a rudder that is fine, rudders are not for everyone, but in windy conditions and especially in a following sea you will not go as fast as you could and you would put more strain on your arms and torso. The choice is yours, just make sure you know what your priorities are.

Next, a bent shaft paddle is the most efficient and the place to start because if you start with a straight shaft it is much more difficult to adjust later to a bent shaft. So my advice is to start off with a bent shaft paddle just as you have apparently done.

Finally boat choice. Don’t pick a boat, pick a dealer. Once you find a good shop tell them what you want the boat to do and they will steer you to a suitable boat. Long and narrow = faster all else being equal. Fiberglass or Kevlar offer finer lines than injection molded plastic and this does make them faster. I can’t help you with your bag question.

Good luck and have fun.



Other options
FG Q700

Kevlar Q700

Kevlar/Carbon Q700

Carbon Q700


The other options were given above, but for what you describe a Q700s hard to beat. More stable, faster (jury is still out with regard to EPIC 18 vs. Q700), better built than just about any…

Yes, there are many other fine sea kayaks that are reasonably fast too. Seda Glider was the standard before the newer designs came out, and is still a fine boat. In the same speed range. CD Extreme too. As a Q700 owner I have no interest in them though as they are longer and wider without really being faster or superior in any other area.

WSBS EFT is one notch faster again for a strong paddler.

If you want extreme speed you’ll need a WSBS Thunderbolt or a racing Surf Ski. These are specialied to speed paddling. If you want to tour or camp or explore and not just fitness paddle stick with the first 3-4 mentioned. If you really just want to GO! - these are the ticket. Oh yeah, NELO FW 2000 too. Also very fast. These are all pretty advanced with regards to balance.

If racing - rudder’s a good idea. For fast cruising otherwise (and some racing) a skeg is fine. Definitely get one or the other on a long fast boat. The first time you do an open crossing with anything but a headwind you’ll appreciate it.

Making progress - thanks
Thanks folks - this is good information.

In response to the last post - I totally agree about the “pick a dealer” concept rather than picking a boat. Trouble is, to do so locally, I’d be limited to Perception, Wilderness Systems, and Necky (so far as I can tell). On top of that, the local shop primarily stocks plastic boats (and I want composite, for sure), and even their plastic boats are mostly rec style boats. Great folks there though, so I’ll be spending some time discussing this with them soon.

Bent shaft?
When you say bent shaft is more efficient, are you referring to kayak paddles or canoe paddles? I don’t see bent shaft kayak paddles being touted for extra efficiency or used in racing.

Bent shaft efficiency
All else being equal a bent shaft kayak paddle is more efficient than a straight shaft paddle. This is true for several reasons: It puts your hands on the shaft at the appropriate points automatically. The angle of your hands and forearms on the shaft are in a position that minimizes stress to your soft tissue. You can put more power into your stroke for the same stress on your body. Or conversely, you can put less stress on your body per stroke which would improve your endurance.

Most current ocean racers are experienced paddlers and are generally finding the switch difficult to make. For new paddlers, who don’t have an established skill set, bent shaft is the way to start. I am sure you will see bent shafts increasingly in use in ocean racing as time goes by.



I guess I’ll believe it when I see it.

bent shaft wing?
doubt we’ll ever see that. short of that, though, i can’t see bent shaft ever really getting too popular for racing.


Yeah, efficiency in one direction
is limitation in another.

Personally I don’t like my hands that fixed all the time. Proper and relaxed grip takes care of any wrist angle issues. I find bent shafts awkward in all but the draw.