Questions for NDK Romany Surf owners

Hi everyone…

I’m potentially look at an NDK Romany Surf for this year. I was able to get some pool time with it yesterday, fits good, I like it.

With that said… i’m looking to upgrade from my BD Baffin P3, as I just got it last spring, but the build quality is just garbage. Two leaking bulkheads, A cracked seat and a broken skeg control bungee.
As i’m getting more into touring and some 1 or 2 night overnights, and I just can’t trust this kayak on the open water.

The thing is, I really like how the P3 paddles. Really comfortable, tracks well, loads of storage (109G).
The Romany Surf is 1.5’ shorter, and has 83 G of volume… significantly less. On a 4 day trip last summer, I had my P3 packed to the rafters. Could I afford to lose a couple things? Maybe… but 26 gallons? That’s a big drop in space!

So for Surf owners… how have your experiences with using it for more than a single day use been?
Have you found that the 10" hatches gave you any challenges when loading gear?

My P3 has an oval hatch at the stern, so it’s easier to fit a larger dry bag in there that houses my sleeping bag, tent etc.

I have also sat in the NDK Explorer HV, cockpit was too roomy for me, and the excel is only bigger, and the volume barely increases, so I think it’s surf or perhaps a different kayak that i’m not looking at?
Any help is appreciated.

I do not have a Surf but I have a lot of land-based camping experience and have an NDK boat on the way…hopefully next weekend.

  1. Pack less. There’s countless benefits from going “light” or “ultralight” when it comes to camping. Do you really need that cast iron skillet, for example? There’s plenty of sites to learn how to trim weight and bulk. Trust me you won’t miss most of the stuff.

  2. The round hatches are standard on NDK boats but you can order oval. You can also order the boat with bulkheads in different positions, which would impact storage volume. When I ordered my boat, the advice given was the round hatches tend to be a little more water-tight over time. Not sure if that’s true. The 2d piece of advice was this: Several smaller dry bags will fit into the round hatches and be more efficient than cramming larger bags into the oval hatches. There are bags on the market that are shaped to fit into the bow and stern (longer than wider). My Lightweight but warm 0 degree quilt packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle. So if you’re using a giant sleeping bag it might be worth looking into something more compact if you are serious about camping out of the boat.

  3. Cockpit size. I think that most NDK dealers would be able to adjust the fit of the cockpit if for example you chose to go with a larger volume boat for traveling/camping. There are people out there that can form fit the seat, thigh and hip braces to make it fit like a pair of jeans. There’s an Explorer LV and MV too that might be worth looking at.

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:+1: Post it up when it comes!

@Photecs If you’re looking at the Romany Surf, you should come buy my Tiderace Xtreme. It’s a wonderful boat but I’m trimming down my collection for a potential move. It will be way cheaper than a new Romany, too.


I’ve owned NDK Explorer LV and Pilgrim Expedition, both of which are excellent traveling boats with enough room for camping gear and supplies. I have also paddled the Romany LV and the regular Pilgrim, both of which have less cargo space but make great daytripping and fun boats for a small, light paddler. (You could still use those for short camping trips.)

In your case, maybe the standard Explorer or the Pilgrim Expedition (with the knee bumpouts) would check all your boxes.

IME and from what I’ve heard from others, oval hatches simply are more likely to leak at the edges than round hatches. The covers do not seal ovals as well as rounds. This is not a dealbreaker by any means. The leakage is very little, and gear is contained in drybags or is waterproof in the first place. If a massive wave dumps on the hatch, that’s a different situation, which I would think makes any large-circumference hatch cover more vulnerable to caving in, regardless of shape.

My Explorer LV arrived with terrible quality level, as if the makers forgot to do some steps, and the front bulkhead was placed in the exact opposite direction from the explicit instructions the dealer had written when ordering the boat. I fixed the bad things and lived with the wrong BH location, heavily padded out. (Dealer said she could outright refuse the boat and make NDK send a correct one, but I had already waited half a year for this boat.)

In contrast, the Pilgrim Expedition was made much more carefully, so it was obvious that quality could vary by a tremendous amount. But I had a one-yr wait for that boat—supposed to have been half a year but NDK ended up sending those ONLY to east-coast dealers that year.

My husband’s Tempest 170 Pro, which was made well and cosmetically better than either of my NDKs, is actually his second one. The first one was defective, and not just cosmetically. We discovered it had been repaired once already and should never have been presented as “new.” So obviously, poor QC/QA is not limited to NDK or to imported kayaks.

Still, I agree with you in not trusting the Boreal Designs you got. Good luck.

Maybe the dealer damaged it and repaired it? I have seen that with jet skis. They just sold them as new. Auto dealers can no longer do that.

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When we had agreed to buy it, the rep said it was “overstock” that needed to be removed from one location. He arranged to meet us on the road and transfer the fully-wrapped-as-if-new (i.e., not able to inspect it first) kayak to my husband. Later, after we discovered on a 10-day camping trip that all three hatch compartments had massive amounts of leakage requiring frequent bailing out and temporary taping (also requiring frequent replacement) and I complained to the rep, he changed his story to “It was a demo and you should have known it.”

I found out later that the defects were not repairable without major cutting out and relayup etc. I guess the company’s move to South Carolina manufacturing site started out really, really badly!

That was no “overstock.” The rep had moved a known defective kayak out of a high-knowledge, sea kayaking mecca region to “flyover country” where they figured the suckers had no recourse. They figured wrongly. The good news was that after much contentious back and forth, the company did provide a new, good replacement kayak from a local reputable dealer. This is the kayak we still have.

Re: jet skis. That’s why we need federal regs prohibiting such practices! Incidentally, I have read several accounts of handguns sold as new turning out to be used, in some cases both used and left uncleaned. In at least one of those cases, the buyer went directly to the manufacturer with documentation, and the company sent them a genuinely new replacement. The shop where she had bought the gun had been dishonest—and she had been buying from them for many years. Incredible.


Without getting into the specific details, the Romany/Romany Surf has more rocker than the Explorer series. What’s that mean? The Romany series is more oriented for control oriented paddling while the Explorer series does it all but is better for touring due to slightly less rocker.

As others said, the 10 in hatches are great on keeping water leakage out. One needs to learn to pack smaller which initially is a pain, but is wonderful long term. It’s great camping out of my Explorer HV.


I sent you a PM.

Hi everyone, I can get a decent deal on the surf, so let’s keep on topic, really hoping to hear from surf owners if possible. Thanks.

Am watching this topic closely !!
I actually paddled an NDK sport sea this morning and what a ride … so much fun.
I am VERY concerned about the quality issues after very little researching.
That one was a rotomolded and would rather step up personally so found a dealer about 4hrs from me and will be doing that drive tomorrow

Lots of smaller bags and throw in a large bag on top to carry the smaller bags to the camp site.
I also have to break down the tent into separates, poles and rest.

You probably already found this, but it’s a good starting point for info on the different versions of the Romany line. But, having seat/fit time and conversations with a dealer staff is best, especially if you have a sense of what you want from the boat with intended purpose/venue.



What quality issues are you VERY concerned about?
NDK has a long history of building boats and I’ve seen some that are 25+ years old. I have a Romany Excel and it’s built like a tank. The only “quality” issue is I’d tell anyone concerned about seeing scratches (inevitable when you launch and land on sand and rocks) that you should select colors accordingly. Some colors show scratches more than others; black is apparently the worst.

If I’m not mistaken their rotomold line is relatively new, last few years but I haven’t heard anything. Rotomold boats in general seem more plagued by little quirks if they don’t come out of the mold correctly…but I’m not aware of any specific issues with NDK.

I can not speak about the boats themselves from experience whatsoever … After some searches here and other places something which really stuck out to me were quality issues which kept coming up. I thought maybe it was just a old thing however I looked at a local FB group and asked them … Kind of started a war as it was 50/50 with so many members having a love hate with the kayak. Loved riding it but the quality was not there while others had no issues at all. Some of the quality concerns were ranging from fiberglass , skeg boxes/cables and seats snapping off ??
In the brands / lines I have been looking at seldom have I heard about quality issues so it is concerning.
With that being said all the other brands I have tried with my size being what it is everyone is suggesting to put me into some massive expedition kayak which just isnt as “playfull” as I want it. The NDK one although not really testing it in surf I could tell quickly was edgy and fun.

Have you looked at the Tiderace offerings?

I did look online however there were no dealers and no boats near me at all to look at or paddle.
I am kind of limited unfortunately.

If you search this site, you will also find issues raised about quality and weight of Nigel Dennis Kayak (NDK) built and NDK has a divided consumer base about this. However, most don’t dispute the “playfulness” of the Romany design. So, from what I recall, the built doesn’t/didn’t use more updated manufacturing process of vaccuum bagging to reduce the amount of epoxy and gelcoat used in the layup and resulting in increased weight. I also remember reading something about NDK using fiberglass mat as opposed to FG weave cloth. Mat absorbs more coating and is less strong as weave FG.

I don’t know what you budget is but if you want top of the line “play” oriented sea kayaks, look to Sterling Kayaks in Bellingham, WA. Their Illusion or Grand Illusion model would fit your size. (Full disclosure I have a Sterling Progression and LOVE it for longboat surfing.)

Most of the kayaks in this video are Sterling kayaks, except for the orange Delphin 155. The white kayak is the Grand Illusion. That rider in that (Costain) is BIG guy.


Hello everyone… I was the Original Poster of this thread… and a few developments since I posted this in January 2023.
Now Oct 2023, I have owned a NDK Romany Excel since July (ordered in Feb, arrived in July to Canada). I paddled with enough people that have NDK’s that I wouldn’t question their quality at all, no one that I’m aware of that owns one has a complaint about it… which is the major reason I was willing to consider one to begin with. They’re pricey, but after the quality issues I had with my previous kayak in it’s first year of ownership, it’s worth it knowing you have something well built (by hand at that).

As mentioned, I had tried a surf and an Explorer HV, but after trying the Excel, that was the winner. The surf fit me, but I am a “bigger” guy, and I’m not sure if I would have been comfortable after a 4 hour paddle in a surf. The Excel is the big boy’s surf, same design just tad wider, larger cockpit and higher deck, all in the areas that I needed the room.

I paddled almost 200km this summer with it, including a 5 day trip to Lake Superior in some 4 and 6’ waves (2 different days), and she handled extremely well. I knew on the first trip I had it out on it was already a different monster, as it was the first time in 5 years of owning Kayaks with skegs that I didn’t even have to use it. On it’s maiden paddle, I had 2-3’ waves and a 15-18km crosswind, no skeg needed… it really locks in and holds it’s own.
As for my original concern, it was more of me becoming a better packer, and not OVER packing on my trip. My 5 day backcountry trip on Superior was no issue, with even enough room for an other couple 5L bags.

Very happy with my choice, a night and day difference from the previous kayaks I’ve owned.