Versatile Kayak

Looking to add a kayak back to the stable. I have paddled both whitewater and sea kayaks in the past, but for the last several years, I’ve only paddled canoes.

I’m 6’2", 230lbs with size 12 feet. I don’t want a massive expedition boat, looking for a versatile boat that can go from rivers to open water with manueverability (play) being more important than speed and to be used for daytrips and weekenders.

jackson Karma RG
There are a few cross over kayaks to you could consider, like dagger Green Boat, Pyranhah Fusion, etc. But the one that stands out would be the Jackson Karma RG, as it has a skeg, hatch, and deck lines (latter are important safety for open water)

Dagger Alchemy
Last year I tried out a Dagger Alchemy 14S. The 14L version would be more suited to your size, but I’ve heard the hull designs are basically the same.

I was really pleased paddling the Alchemy. It seemed like a really good combination of maneuverability and tracking with the skeg. I suppose it’s more on the sea kayak side of things, but it seems many people like it as a play boat. It’s worth a look anyway.

Cape Falcon

Dagger Alchemy
I moved the seat back in mine to get it just right.

What class whitewater
are you considering? How experienced are you paddling?

Nothing above Class 2 nearby (class 3 maybe too much to ask), but it needs to be capable (and fun) in ocean surf.

It has been years, but I regularly paddled class 3 whitewater when I owned whitewater kayaks and canoes. Mostly paddle flatwater (eastern North Carolina) now, but I’m hoping to expand the water I paddle.

I should have asked
I should have asked what class whitewater

I do paddle an Alchemy as my regular boat, and it can work. Good surfer, good coastal, good for overnight trips. The longer length and low rocker (as compared to others) ,may make the whitewater part challenging, but nothing skills can overcome. If whitewater was a key thing, I think I would still stick to a decent crossover.

The Fusion is known to be a dog surfing, so maybe take that off your list.

Check out Neptune’s Rangers blog at They have been reviewing these crossover boats for rock gardening and surfing purposes. Recent review of the Karma, and last summer they had a few reviews of the Liquid Logic Stinger, Dagger Green Boat, P&H Hammer, Pyranha Fusion, and Jackson Karma.

Is it the S or the L?

I’m an S
I’m 5’9" and 165 pounds. I have a buddy well over 6 feet tall and about 190 - 200 lbs who enjoys paddling my S Alchemy with the seat back and all the stiffening hardware removed.

I moved the seat back because wet exiting wasn’t smooth and quick like I’m used to.

Add P&H to the list
The Hammer and Delphin would give you more open water capability and they’re designed for it. They’ve also be used to run some gnarly whitewater.

Looks like a great boat, but…
probably too much focus on the whitewater, and no rock gardens here in NC.

Been doing some research
Jackson Journey 14 seems to fit the bill. Anybody have a comparison between the Journey and Alchemy?

Note: I’ll be demoing the Journey and Delphin today. Still trying to find a place to demo an Alchemy.

Prefer Alchemy
I owned an Alchemy and have paddled Journeys. While both will fit the bill, the Alchemy has significant rocker and will maneuver well in river and surf conditions. It also comes with and adjustable skeg while a rudder is a costly option on the Journey. Also, that rudder is mounted on the stern, which is less effective in surf (note that surf skis have their rudders positioned on the keel, forward of the stern, so they remain fully immersed when coming down the face of a wave). While I enjoyed the Alchemy, I moved on to the Delphin, which has better geometry for surf.

cross over kayaks
I’ve bought two cross over kayaks and sold both because they were absolute pigs on the straight sections of class 1-2 rivers. Basically, they were slightly longer river kayaks with a skeg added. Didn’t work for me.

Late last fall bought a demo Jackson Journey for my cross over needs (class 1-2). With it’s length and soft chines it is less of a river boat, while being much better on the straight sections. It had the optional rudder installed and I haven’t used it in the two paddles I’ve taken. Wlill paddle it more before deciding to keep or remove the rudder.

There is no such thing as a true cross over kayak as the requirements for river maneuverability (short, hard chines) and straight sections or ocean (greater length, softer chines, better tracking) are so different.


mmm, so you say those XP10s that
conquered the Grand Canyon, huge rapids and long flats, carrying self-support food and gear, weren’t really crossover kayaks?

You’re correct, though in that a boat designed for two or more different environments can’t excel in any one.

Consider the 14-ish?
Also 6’ 2" and 230 is often my “winter weight”, size 12’s. Have a crossover (Katana 10.4), 17.5’ glass boat and a 14.5’ plastic WS Tsunami (as well as three other 14-ish boats for friends/fam). Each has merits/challenges but I very much like my tsunami for its relative versatility. Can handle easy ww and I’ve taken it on Lake Michigan when its not too rowdy. Large volume boat (with associated performance tics). Excels at river paddle camping (takes a ton of gear) and is very roomy/comfortable. Summary: Consider the 14-ish ft boats for their versatility. Don’t excel at anything though.

keep us posted dave
I am considering the alchemy for the same versatility.

Demo’ed the…
Alchemy L, Jackson Journey and the Delphin 155. Conditions were very mild, so the demo was limited, however here are my impressions.

Alchemy L was a great little boat, spun easily flat and responded well to leans. Straight forward speed wasn’t bad, and while the skeg helped it wasn’t necessary in the light winds. The only problem was the deck height made it difficult to get comfortable with my size 12s.

The Journey was downright luxurious and roomy. It had a rudder, but I never used it. Again, in the light winds not necessary. Hard to describe my impression other than solid and not near as much fun as the Alchemy or the Delphin. It felt like it would get the job done, and you would be comfortable, but it was like driving your Dad’s Buick.

The Delphin was fantastic. For me, it spun better than the Alchemy, its response to a lean was phenomenal. Forward speed was good, and I didn’t think it would be any problem maintaining normal touring speed especially with the skeg down. Despite the mild conditions, I had a blast, I don’t think class 2 would be any problem and it is easy to believe it would a surfing machine.

As soon as I can get my canoe sold, I’ll buy a Delphin 155, unless I can paddle a Hammer and like it better. Anyone have one I can paddle?

Delphin foot room
Do your feet fit comfortably in the Delphin?

A smaller member of our club has had a Delphin for a few years and is happy with it. Likewise, a club member who is quite large has a Journey and is pleased with it. Different strokes by different sized folks.

Buy what you like after paddling the competition-sounds like your doing this.