SOF Class

I’m looking for thoughts or experiences with different skin on frame workshops. I currently own a Wilderness Systems Arctic Hawk so I’m kind of partial to Superior Kayaks. I’ve read about Cape Falcon Kayaks and it seems that guys has a great attitude. I am interested in thoughts on any different workshops and good or bad experiences. Thanks

Cape Falcon
I recommend Brian without reservation. He’s a good teacher and you will know how to make your own boat at the end of the week. I think the F-1 is a fantastic boat, and is a real eye-opener the first time you paddle it. If you’re going to do a course, the boat you get is as important as the course - an F-1 may or may not be to your liking, but it will certainly be different from what you’re paddling now. That’s why I did the course, to get a new style of boat - luckily it was a great experience into the bargain. BTW, his course is very inexpensive for what you get.

I hear good things about the Skin Boat school course, but that’s if you want to build a Baidarka.

Skin on frame kayaks are exploding in popularity

Cape Falcon
Brian also builds Greenland kayaks. His Disko Bay replica is really sweet. My friend has one that I get to play in on ocassion.Test paddled an F1 also. Great play boat for surfing.


Depends on What You Want

– Last Updated: Mar-11-11 10:33 PM EST –

I have never built a kayak. I have used one of Brian's replicas as my primary day boat for five years. As Brian says, you have to take a replica as it is and not expect it to be similar to a "normal" kayak. I have a WS Arctic Hawk that I bought last year. It is not as quirky as the replica, but a wonderful boat with a distinct personality as well.

I have spent a little time with both Brian and Mark. If you want a replica Greenland boat and a design that will be a decent boat to paddle as your day boat, you will get one from Brian. If you want a modern boat with an attitude (F1), you can get that from Brian. I know folks who have built both replicas and F1s with Brian and they all had a wonderful time and have great boats.

If you want a more generic West or East Greenland boat that will be a nice day boat and maybe you can camp from as well, then I assume you will get that with Mark. Mark is a master craftsman, has a wealth of experience and knowledge about Greenland boats and was building and paddling them long before it was the "in" thing. I have the impression he does not get the credit he deserves. How he managed to design a 18'X22" touring boat that somehow "feels" like a SOF Greenland boat amazes me.

Both Brian and Mark are definite personalities and taking a class with either would be an experience on many levels.

Also, Turner Wilson of Maine is someone to check out. Another master craftsman who I believe tends to make more generic boats as opposed to replicas. And there are classes at the Wooden Boat School in Maine too for making replicas.

So I think it depends to a large extent upon what type of boat you want. Any of these classes will result in a very nice boat.

The problem is once you start using a light SOF, you will be hooked and find it hard to use anything else.

SOF courses
In 2003 I built a Baidarka at the Skinboat School. Cory teaches formal classes at scheduled sites, with him being there helping you all day. You leave with a finished kayak at the end of the class. He also has “open time” where you come to his shop at your schedule, and finish whenever you can. Inr this option, Cory comes and goes by his schedule but is there most of the time and helps you as you need it. This second option works best if you are local or can free a few blocks of time in your schedule. I arranged to build a kayak under the “open time” option and then due to a time squeeze not under my control had to finish in “course” time. Cory worked with me on my schedule and I left with a fine Baidarka. A most enjoyable and successful experience.

Last fall I built a F1 with Brian at the Delmarva site before the event started. Brian came ready to go with some parts precut to fit individual size/weight. He’s totally focused on your progress and won’t let you fail. We were under the threat of severe rain practically the whole time. The class constantly pushed to be ahead of schedule to leave more time for the skin coating to dry-We all wanted to paddle our new kayaks when Delmarva event started. In spite of the time pressure forced by overcast skys, light rain and dismal weather reports, we enjoyed the class and were pleased with the kayaks built.

I recommend both instructors highly and you could select either with confidence that you will leave with a fine kayak.

There are a number of other builders that hold classes. I’m aware of Turner Wilson and watched one of his class held nearby when he lived in CT (he’s now in ME). The kayaks built were excellent. An inquiry on Qajaq USA site will give you leads to other builders.

Have fun,


Thanks eel
Your post is great and very informative but leads me to another question for you since you have an Arctic Hawk. I love West Greenland boats and that is what I would want to build. Would I just be building a lighter version of my Arctic Hawk (again I LOVE my boat)? SoF boats are beautiful but $1500 is one hell of a kayak trip as apposed to having a lighter version of the boat I already have.

I can 2nd the suggestion …

– Last Updated: Mar-12-11 4:40 PM EST –

to check out Turner Wilson. West Greenland all the way. Turner will come to you if you have a good facility and can find enough students for a class, but he now has his own building workshop in Maine, so you can also go to his location.

I organized a workshop with Turner in 2008 and four students built SOF kayak in 10-12 days. These were all in the West Greenland tradition, but custom fitted to each individual - no two boats alike.

Here is a slide show of our workshop:

You can be the judge of whether we had fun or not. I will say we had a bit of a giggle.

BTW, I have Mark Rodgers designed WS Sparrow Hawk in my stable.

Branch out
I think you maybe answered your own question - why spend the time and money to build a SOF version of a boat you already have? Why not try something different? Can you tell that I think you should try an F-1?

I vote for Turner…
…The other two will build the boat they want…Turner will build the boat you want.

Not correct
What do you base this uncharitable statement on? Brian tailors his F-1 design to the paddler, so your statement seems like a cheap shot that isn’t based in fact.

No, Not necessarily
Although the SK review indicated the AH’s volume is only a little bit more than say a Cetus LV, it is simply a huge boat (it was designed for touring) compared to the West Greenland boats that are actually “big” and suitable for a typical American male like the Fram, Ken Taylor or 1935 Sis. The size of and experience of paddling a replica Greenland or a generic Greenland as Turner would fit you would be very, very different. I likely mislead you by saying the AH has a “feel” like a SOF Greenland boat. It does, but it is not remotely the same as paddling one. Personally, I find the AH and my SOF compliment each other as they are best for different paddling endeavors, but they share some traits which I find good. However, getting a totally different type of boat makes sense too. Especially if you paddle in a broad range of conditions and for different purposes.

Second carldelo

– Last Updated: Mar-13-11 8:22 PM EST –

Blackboat, you are simply wrong.

Turner is a friend, superb rolling instructor (as is Cheri) and a fine teacher of SOF construction. I recommend him highly, without any reservations, as a superb instructor for SOF construction classes. While I haven't built a kayak with him I did drop in daily when he was having a class nearby.

Cory loaded a trailer with kayaks and took me to the harbor for trials to help me decide what I wanted to build. He did not force a specific width, length or depth on me. We talked, I paddled about 6 kayaks and then after further discussion I decided what to build. He was most helpful in guiding me but never forced anything on me. I greatly enjoyed my time at his place and it was an excellent experience in building my first SOF.

Brian offers a few designs for construction. Last fall we built three F1 kayaks (his own design-sort of a second cousin to the Mariner Coaster) and three West Greenland style kayaks. One builder wanted to have a circle cut out in the stern of his F1 (inside the skin) and Brian helped him do that. Another builder wanted to substantially lower the back brace in his replica and Brian helped him do that. All six boats were scaled for the specific height and weight of the intended paddler. He gives builders a choice between multiple kayak models to build in a class. A fine experience and I really like the F1 I built.


Design not Sizing
I think he is saying Turner will design/build a boat for the paddling endeavors for which a customer says he will be using the boat and the customer’s preferences. Brian and others will undoubtedly size the boat to the paddler, but they have a few trusted and true designs from which the customer can choose. The downside of a custom design is it may or may not end up “right”. The downside of having to select a given design is the compromises being made.

Experience with Superior

– Last Updated: Mar-13-11 10:19 AM EST –

I built a baidarka at Superior with Mark in 2009.

In the same workshop, a young man built a West Greenland kayak.

My boat performs extremely well. It is very light and well-designed. Mark took great care to measure me and fit the boat to my build and skill level.

Mark will work with either canvas or nylon; depending on your preference. He is a perfectionist and will reprimand you if you make a bad stitch. He considers the boat to be a representation of him so you will not leave his workshop with a bad boat.

He has an idiosyncratic disposition which you will have to deal with for a week. You'll need a thick skin (not as in a boat) to work with him.

You drive away with a complete boat except for additional coats of paint, deck riggings and keel guards which you have to put on at home.

I am extremely happy with my boat.

Good luck to you.

You’re too kind

– Last Updated: Mar-13-11 11:27 AM EST –

I don't think that's what blackboat was saying, but OK.

splitting hairs
I think we have been spending our time trying to split fine hairs. All the mentioned course instructors (Brian,Cory, Mark and Turner(listed alphabetically), have excellent reputations. A post on Qajaq USA with the same question will give names of other course instructors.

People who do such ventures are usually unique and individualistic people. Sometimes someone can catch them in a bad mood or have a conflict between their personality and the instructors personality. I have heard tales of sharp conflicts, but not with any of the instructors mentioned. I enjoyed the distinct personalities of Brian, Cory and Turner. While I’ve never met Mark he seem to also have a good reputation. Choose the type of kayak you want to build, contact the instructor you would like to work with and ask if he builds that type. Also ask how many of them he has built. Does he have one around or can he borrow one you can try paddling?

Be less over-focused than we have been and just select an instructor-go-build-paddle-have fun.