Recommendations for an all-around sea kayak?

Hey fellow paddlers,
I’m looking to upgrade my touring kayak and was hoping some of you could weigh in on specific kayak model suggestions for an all-around model or your experience with either the Valley Sirona 16.1 or Delta 16/17 kayaks.

Little background, I’m 6’2”, 190lbs, on the athletic side. I’ve been using a 1980’s Aquaterra Chinook 16’ RM with rudder for the last 10 years and have a somewhat consistent roll with it. I’ve had zero opportunities to pilot any modern kayaks for comparison to see what traits I like. After too many hours of research and no ability to demo due to COVID-19, I’ve narrowed it down to what I think would suit me well. A Valley Sirona 16.1 RM (skeg, and I live near a Valley Dealer) or a Delta Kayak 16 (thermoformed with rudder). Budget is $2500 max, but would obviously prefer to be at $2000 or less. I’m not against purchasing a gently used composite kayak that’s 2-3 years old but would prefer new (so stuck with plastic based on price). Intended use is primarily day paddles on the Detroit River or other large bodies of water, occasional 2-3 night kayak camping adventures, and ideally some ability to playboat in the surf.

The reason I’m looking to purchase in the near future despite the limitations on demoing is because of plans for a 3 night paddle at Pictured Rocks with a group in late August. It would be nice to get some experience in the new yak before heading out on big seas.

Any recommendations on a kayak that I can continue to advance my skills with would be greatly appreciated!

Based on your size/wight, the Etain RM would be a better fitting/performing kayak for you.

Personally I steer clear of all thermoform kayaks. I do not trust their construction in challenging open water & coastal environments where I paddle. I have seen students damage them doing rescue practice.

Point 65 Whiskey 16 Rocker. This is a fun playful sea kayak. I’m 6’ 200 lbs give or take. I had one delivered to my house ordered from Dick’s, believe it or not. I think it was a $200 shipping charge, which is reasonable, and it arrived wrapped and boxed undamaged. There was no thigh brace foam, just bare plastic. So I grabbed some thicker foam, a thin sheet of foam, a tube of Lexel, can of neoprene glue, and I filled in some secure thick foam into the underside of the thigh brace flanges, with the thin sheet running over the top of everything, with minimal necessary imagination. The shape is there. It just needs some foam for purchase against your knees/thighs. If I sold these kayaks, I would do this before ever sending one home with anyone.
Beyond that, she’s one sweet performance kayak. Feels stable, very responsive to paddler input, maneuvers and controls very well riding waves. If you can’t afford a Prana or Sisu, this is the stuff for a quick and playful RM kayak. I can’t say the Whisky Rocker is going to babysit you in a rough rear quartering sea in terms of directional control if you’re scared to take off surfing. But if you seek to catch rides and keep up with the seas, it’s incredibly rewarding to a proactive paddling style.
Can’t say I’d mind giving a Sirona a try too. But I can definitely recommend the Whisky Rocker as a fun rough water kayak.

Thanks for the heads up on thermoforms. I was worried about their fragility.

My hesitation with the Etain is it might not be playful enough. Seems like it’s geared for expeditions and going fast in a straight line?

Sounds like you may be working with RKC in Wyandotte. They are good, very knowledgeable people. I’d recommend bending their ear either on the phone or by setting up an appointment at the store. From the look of it, you may also be able to send through Facebook Messenger as well. For P&H & Current Designs, you might give the Power of Water in Lansing a email or a call They are also very knowledgeable.

I have the Valley Sirona 15.10. It is a fun playful kayak, in the surf. It is at home, in rough water. Rolls really easy. But it is sluggish, when paddling long distance. I also have a composite Valley Nordkapp LV & Avocet, as well. I had a Valley Nordkapp RM & Aquanaut RM in the past. All are noticeably faster A to B, than the Sirona.

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