Resources for new Necky owners?

We have come into ownership of a Necky Zoar 16 footer and. Looshka IV 17 footer.

These were never on my wish list yet since I’m a new kayaker (one summer under my belt and no training), but the price was right and my partner opted to get them.

Soooo, how does a rank newbie learn about things like the rudder on Neckys? I don’t even know how to adjust the foot rests! Is there a operators manual “ or there” somewhere? :nerd_face:
Would it be prudent to get float bags? (We just do day trips of 5-6 hours) Which size shape would be best? Other than these not being boats for fast river runs, are there other areas that y’all would consider 16 and 17 feet too long? (We mostly do lakes, bays, and Florida Springs)

Thanks for any advice!

Both Necky’s are excellent for the conditions you describe where you paddle. I have owned both a Zoar and my first kayak was a Looksha 17. Very forgiving and easy to control hulls. Stow your rudder except for extreme conditions. Both kayaks paddle great.

Other than taking the time to investigate and tinker with the systems on your kayak to see how they operate, the best source of info and hard to find parts is Tom at

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My wife (5’ 7", 120 pounds, age 73) has had a kevlar Looksha IV for many years. It’s big on her, but she really loves it and will not give it up. I glued in some minicell foam so her hips had better control of the kayak.

The footpegs are adjustable via a lever on the back side of the foot bed, When you squeeze that the footpeg can be moved to a new position. Her Looksha IV had the old sliding footpegs which I replaced with the “accelerator” style foot pegs.

The Looksha IV had bow and aft bulkheads providing storage compartments and which also provide flotation upon capsize - no float bags needed.

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Neckys are heavy, but well designed and solid boats. Both models should have stern and bow bulkheads (the walls at either end of the cockpit space) so there is no need for flotation bags (unless the hatches leak terribly, which is a rare occurrence).

Mostly a rudder is useful for correcting broaching waves or wind, for instance if you were trying to paddle parallel to the shore and were being blown off course, the rudder can help keep the boat straight. Many of us never use them and I actually removed the rudder from most of the kayaks I have owned that came with them. But you can fold it up out of the way with either Necky (should be a bungee on the stern deck that locks it down when flipped up). Rudders just create drag if you leave them in the water and make turning hard. Some people use the rudder to assist with turning but that is not what they are supposed to be used for and doing that encourages poor paddling technique.

Neckys have very adjustable seats and thigh braces. There are videos on YouTube that show some of the aspects of adjustment. You may find some good tips by doing a YouTube search. Here is one – may not be your model but might help:

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By the way, search on your boats for the serial number. That will tell you the year the kayaks were made which will help with finding information. Necky made the Lookshas for many years (I got my brother a Looksha 17 that is a 12 years old) so they went through various design and outfitting changes.

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links to specs on the Zoar and a reviewer article on the Looksha IV 17. By the way, the Looksha is 3" narrower than the Zoar and will be considerably faster due to that and the length. It may also feel more tippy to a novice so be prepared for that, though it’s actually a pretty stable boat for that beam:

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My partner is planning on paddling the looksha. Neither one of these is the sport version. The guy who sold them to us said that the Zoar is an inch wider than the looksha. So I’m guessing the Zoar is around 25 inches wide???

Other than being awkward getting in and out of the Zoar due to its length, I found it very stable on the water.

I’ll look up the serial numbers as someone mentioned and find out when these were made. The foot rests didn’t move easily and the rudder along with it utterly confuses me, but I only had a few minutes with them before I had to go. So I’ll play more when I get back in town.

Hmmm, the neckys we have seem to just have a black plastic molded seat with sone neoprene on them. There’s an adjustable back, but it seems pretty rudimentary. I’ll have to look closer when I get back home.

Necky Kayak was one of the oldest kayak manufacturers in North America, beginning in British Columbia in the mid 1970s. It was purchased by Johnson Outdoor, the owners of Old Town Canoe and Ocean Kayak in 1998. Johnson Outdoor moved the production of Necky to Washington State in 2001 and then to Maine in 2009. On June 15, 2017 Johnson Outdoor announced that they were abandoning the Necky line altogether to concentrate on their other lines. Supposedly Johnson Outdoor claims they will still support their lifetime warranty, but practically, they no longer have most repair parts in stock. A number of after market parts are still available through sources like

My main boat is a 1999 Necky Arluk 1.9 manufactured in British Columbia. Necky once manufactured a wide range of boats in plastic, fiberglass, and Kevlar

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Out of what material is your Looksha IV made (it came in polymer, fiberglass and carbon fiber variants)? The reason I ask is that if it is a carbon fiber layup you need to have the standard neoprene hatch covers installed in order for the hatches to actually seal the hatches. I assume these are needed on fiberglass layup too but the poly version may utilize a different hatch system. The neoprene covers are installed under the fiberglass or carbon fiber hatch covers. If these weren’t included by the seller, contact the seller to see if she/he just forgot about including them. You can get replacement neoprene covers, but if I remember correctly, they were a bit pricey.

I emailed Old Town to get specifications I couldn’t find on the internet. They tried to help but they said they don’t have much of an archive available to access when customers make enquiries. Old Town still sells a Looksha 17 although it is definitely different compared to a Looksha IV.

FYI, a neoprene “gasket” was needed under the hardshell hatch covers on my '98 plastic Looksha 17 to make hatches watertight.

Pretty much all of the Necky sea kayaks used neoprene hatch covers which made them watertight. The hard covers were merely protective and also acted to reduce UV degradation, They are still available from suppliers like

The hard covers do not at all prevent the fore and aft compartments from flooding, although they might slow it down a bit.

There are very few Carbon/Kevlar Necky sea kayaks as carbon/Kevlar only became a common option a bit before Necky went out of production. The Kevlar option was fairly common at least for part of the 90s and beyond. I don’t know when the Necky carbon/Kevlar versions first became available.

Thanks for the insight on the hatch covers. Both the Looshka and the Zoar are polymer. The hatch covers are black soft plastic/rubber. I was wonder how watertight they’d be after this much aging. The boats have some UV fade, so I thought those covers might be affected too.

I took a look at the top kayak website. It looks like I can get a few things should I need it, but write s as big of parts are sold out. I hope we can assess the rudder and foot test functionality soon. Fingers crossed that they don’t need much help. I’ll have to learn as I go how those things work.

You have to keep a close eye on the rubber hatch covers made by Valley (Valley made the Necky branded covers as well). They are infamous for UV degradation. After a couple of years or so of moderate use in the sun, they may look fine but will break when to put them on or remove them. Sometimes you can put your hand right through them. Sea-Lect makes replacement hatch covers that are far superior for about the same price, but unfortunately the Necky hatches are an odd size and there is not enough demand for a third party manufacturer to make them.

Installing a new hatch system seems like the only option in this case and is a bit on an undertaking.

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I have an older Necky Looksha IV in Kevlar. The foot rests control the rudder direction. I haven’t adjusted them in many years, but I remember it wasn’t easy. Something like adjusting a bungee cord behind the footrests…I could go look, but it’s well after dark now.

I don’t see this mentioned above… one of your crucial control positions is to have your thighs/knees about to contact the thigh braces. So you can edge the boat etc. The foot peg length should be based on a length that allows that to happen.

I don’t recall how the foot peg and rudder control work in the Necky boats. If the boats are set up with something similar to a Smart Trac system, you just set the foot pegs to the right length then work the rudder angle with your toe. If not they are kind of squishing all over the place when the rudder is deployed. In case it isn’t obvious I tried a boat with that setup once, for a half day tour, and did not like it.

The rudders are used to address tracking for the most part, and that era of Necky boats did tend to weathercock quite a bit. So you deploy the rudder to essentially stop the stern from getting blown downwind as easily, generally in sideways or quartering winds. Rudder is not for turning, That is edging and paddle technique.

No boat is too long for a given environment as long as you are able to maneuver it and it is not longer than the available depth to float. You can always solve a problem if you do get cornered by just paddling backwards. I am always amazed at the number of paddlers who will spend 10 minutes struggling to turn a boat around on a smaller creek when they could be out of that spot immediately by just paddling backwards to a wider spot on the water.

Float bags are really for two purposes, one is to provide flotation in case of a hatch breech or hull failure. The other is to stop stuff in the bulkheaded areas from rolling around. I spent a day once paddling with someone who had a water bottle rolling side to side in the back of their boat and it was making me nuts. Unfortunately it did not bother them enough to take me up on my offer of stuffing a float bag in there.

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From the little bit of time I got to spend in the Zoar, it didn’t seem to be the smart trac system. We didn’t deploy the rudder for the tiny lake we were in, but despite the foot pegs being too far out, I could reach them a bit with my legs fully extended. They felt squishy as you put it even without the rudder being down. I wasn’t impressed, so I hope it’s something I can make feel better.

I have to admit that necky wouldn’t have been on my short list for a touring boat. I’m happy with my little Perception Carolina 12. Maybe the Zoar will grow on me though. My partner got them essentially for free, so there was no reason to not get the neckys. Time will tell what I prefer and how I grow.

Thx for the info!


Do both the Zoar and Looksha have rudders? For rudder controls, you’ll see a metal cable running inside the cockpit on either side of the seat (the cable could be inside a plastic tube). That cable connects to the foot tracks. How does it connect? Does the cable connect to a piece of flat nylon webbing which in turn connects to the foot tracks, or does the metal cable connect directly to the foot track with no intermediate webbing?

As far as I know all of the Necky boats had rudders or nothing. Skegs are pretty much a British boat design feature, I’m also not aware of any that utilized the SmartTrack rudder or comparable design. They used a sliding pedal design which many did not like as the foot pegs were not fixed when the rudder was deployed. I’d have to look, but what I remember is that the cables connect directly to the sliding foot peg track. With no bends it is a fairly bulletproof design. My cables look brand new after 21 years. The bungees in front of the foot pegs are just to keep a bit of tension on the foot pegs so that they don’t slide back where it can be hard to get your feet on them. The now use something called “support track foot brace system” which looks like a sliding design, but may be able to be locked in place with a manually adjustable rudder angle. I forget how the cable lengths are adjusted, but I think it’s relatively straight forward, and will be obvious if you take a close look at it.

The Lookshaw is about the only sea kayak produced by Old Town that is anywhere similar to the boats that were produced by the original owner in British Columbia, and is not available in a composite build anymore. Old Town stopped production of Necky composite boats, and almost all of the classic designs, in 2017 or earlier. I think the Aruks were discontinued in 2003 when Old Town desided to concentrate of play boats. Now in addition to plastic play boats the offer many SOTs and short rec boats.

Whether or not and when you need to deploy a rudder, or skeg for that matter, depends on several factor such as boat design, weight of the paddler, loading of the boat, position of the seat, etc. With my Arluk 1.9 with me in it and no load like camping gear, it neither weathercocks or leecocks. It will turn broadside to the wind. This makes it easy to turn in any conditions, but may not be desirable if I want to take a break on the water with significant waves. I generally never use the rudder except in a very strong stern quartering wind. There are probably entire years that I have gone without using it. Many boats need a rudder or skeg in all but dead calm conditions.

I took a look during my lunch break. I see the wires. They’re on either side of the seat and attached to a nylon strap which is attached to the foot pegs.

I adjusted the straps to move the foot rests closer, but it’ll probably be trial and error to get them even. I got used to fixed foot rests during the summer. So it take me a bit to get accustomed to these “squishier” feeling ones.

Time will tell how the boat behaves in the wind/waves. I’ll see when/if I ever need to deploy the rudder.

Thank y’all so much for the tips! The boat seems a bit less intimidating now.