Willow or Eliza

-- Last Updated: Jun-15-10 7:52 AM EST --

I'm debating between the Willow and Eliza. Have paddled both, like them both but would like to hear from anyone who has spent time with either of them and how they feel about their choice. I paddle with a club, mainly flat water and in my Epic GPX at 13 feet it's a struggle to keep up with faster boats.Would appreciate any feedback. Thanks!

Willow or Eliza
The Willow has a flatter rocker line and is probably faster. The Eliza is a lovely turny playful boat. I use it as a rough water play boat.

have paddled both
they are both easy going boats to paddle, well equipped and with great contact points. Both very stable.

The trade off is both are at best moderately fast (nothing wrong w. that if your friends are paddling a typical touring pace of 3.5 - 4 mph). If your aim is to keep up with stronger paddlers who might be paddling longer boats at a quicker pace you might consider other models.

If ranking the the three for responsiveness, first is the glass Eliza, then the Willow, then the roto Eliza. Salty, who posts here sometimes on the Eliza, has said often that the glass and roto versions are two completely different boats, and having tried both versions he is dead on correct IMO.

Check cockpit depth

– Last Updated: Jun-16-10 9:32 AM EST –

I jumped too quick here, failed to account for some things. So ignore what was here and look to the stuff below, in response to my statements about a 13" deck height. I am 5'3 1/2" tall.

If speed is your thing I suspect that the hull speed of the Willow is faster. The Eliza could be more fun though, and regardless if you really want to focus on speed per se you should probably do a class in forward stroke. Most everyone could use that.

Where in upstate - are you in the Albany area after work bunch?

Another suggestion for quickness
For a woman/small person the P&H Vela is a fast fun boat. There is a used one for sale in the mid-Hudson region.


I really appreciate your comments and suggestions. BTW I am 5’6"and 140 lbs. I paddle with CNY Kayakers (Central New York). Have taken classes on strokes, wet exits, etc.

The Willow is 5 lbs lighter but the cockpit is a bit deep as I tend to prefer lower volume boats. However,I don’t plan on rolling (on purpose anyway). The Eliza is hundreds of dollars cheaper. Would love to try the Vela but I would need to find one locally.

Really suggest that you take the drive
My primary boat has become the Vela, because of its quickness. I might eventually end up with something like a Pilgrim, but thus far I haven’t found a low volume boat that I like well enough to lose that quickness, and you won’t find as quick acceleration in either of the other boats you are looking at.

Re rolling - there is no reason not to at least try to learn, especially if you ever paddle solo. The worst you get out of it is a better brace and some more confidence in avoiding a capsize. I understand that newer paddlers regard going for a roll as something for way advanced or very adventuresome paddlers, but that just isn’t so. Also, on a stinking hot day you can get some swims in most no swimming allowed areas by falling out of a boat. Inland on a hot day in July, this matters.

2nd that
good (used or demo) low volume boats for smaller paddlers are not easy to find, bec. new designs in quality low volume kayaks are a very recent trend.

Make the drive, demo the boat, could be well worth it.

I know 3 female paddlers who own P&H Velas (sharonmb who posts here is one of them, as is Celia) and they all love the boat.

If you are trying to go faster (assuming your stroke technique is there)a tall cockpit of 13" like the Eliza is way too tall for you - it will impede you going into the wind… you’ll get there, but slower and working harder.

Boat safaris can be fun… make it an adventure :smiley:

P&H lists the deck hieght for the Vela as 13" also. What am I missing?

Although this is a relatively new boat, with few on the used market yet (although I do know of one here in New England), the AvocetLV is 11" deep, 5’11"long, and 20.5"wide, is fast, and is definitely lively.

It was a toss-up between the AvocetLV and the Pilgrim for me, and I found I preferred the former’s feel, speed, and responsiveness for the type of paddling I do.

I also owned a Vela, which is a great boat, too, although it didn’t fit me as well as my RomanyLV or the AvocetLV, which fits me the best.

good point
good catch on that spec.

I’ve not paddled a Vela so cannot compare w. the OP’s original two candidates.

13" high deck is IMO quite high (counterproductively so) for the smaller paddler. Perhaps the Vela’s V hull makes it quicker, or a number of other design factors. There are many factors that go into a quick hull & I don’t pretend to know all of them.

It’s pretty difficult to score, say, a used Avocet LV, CD Suka, or Impex Cat Force 3. The Impex Mystic at 14 feet is not quite so rare, and might be a great choice for this paddler. So might a Hurricane Tampico 135S or 140S. A few others besides like a P&H Scorpio LV, the Romany LV, and more I’m too sleepy to think of.

But since she did ask to compare the CD Willow and what I’m assuming is the roto Eliza, my vote would go to the Willow, for more reasons than the purported speed in the hull (since neither is noted for speed).

Vela deck height
Me bad re that part - I keep forgetting that I padded the Vela down an inch. Sooo - question would be how the contact fits front to back in terms of the padding ending up over a juicy part of your thigh. It does in the Vela. The boat is narrow enough that it hits me well - but I am a smidge shorter than OPer hence shorter thighs.

I tried and liked the Avocet LV on a number of scores, borrowed one to paddle for a day trip. I felt like it plowed water a bit more than the Vela, haven’t had a chance to get into a Pilgrim yet.

more thoughts
worth what you pay for 'em…

It bears repeating that a high deck is not only detrimental to learning a roll (which is not the OPs goal anyways)but a real PITA going into the wind, or a beam wind. Not at all conducive to making good speed.

A high deck usually means a barrel of a cockpit for the small paddler, which will have to be padded out for good contact at the thighs. This is not just about rolling, but leans and edging, skills just about anyone wants & needs.

Minicell padding is fine but only to a point. And raising the seat starts to alter the center of gravity. Sitting low - ~1/2" off the kayak floor - enhances stability and that “connected” feeling.

The roto Eliza cockpit feels like a barrel to me and the high deck like a tent. I felt less of that in the Willow.

While very reassuring to edge and lean, the Eliza was not very quick to respond. That was my experience. Always tradeoffs. Lots of folks love the boat, it’s a big seller for Necky acc. to an old post by salty.

The Avocet LV is a very nice kayak, hard to find used. I have seen excellent paddlers (both women) with strong form make the boat move and it can certainly dance. However, I think they would be even faster w. a more aggressive V’d hull and less rocker than the Avocet LV.

But if I were looking for a first seakayak (or a third) this one would be high on the list.

The Pilgrim I look forward to trying. I’d like to see how it differs from the Romany.

Road Trip!
I’m a bit confused. The specs on the cockpits for the Eliza, Willow and Vela look to be almost the same. Willow and Vela both 13" deep, Eliza 12.5". Anyway, you all have persuaded me to pay a visit to the Vela so I’m going on Friday.

Front deck height, speed and boats

– Last Updated: Jun-16-10 9:31 AM EST –

This is a place where, as usual, there are trade-offs. If the sole fact of a higher front deck made a boat slower in wind the racing boats would be differently configured than they are. But they are purposely high in order to allow for pedaling, to make a stronger forward stroke. The value of being able to pedal outweighs any windage issues from the deck right in front of the cockpit. In fact Ben Lawry specifically recommended a local paddler to a Vela because they could pedal in the boat. The guy tried mine before he made the jump, and to get the height he needed for pedaling he had to keep his knees vertical and not even under my padded down thigh braces.

The ability to pedal is a reason that some like Lawry are not wild about the approaches taken by some of the manufacturers who have set up a more flattened leg position, like I find in the Avocet LV and in my Explorer LV.

I am not a forward stroke expert so won't offer an opinion as to rightness here. But it bears saying that there are different views on this one, from very well qualified people.

Overall freeboard is a problem, and that's about more than what's in front of the cockpit. A boat like the Vela that has a disappearing stern could have less overall freeboard than a longer, lower boat which is more plumb in its design, for example. A more rockered boat could have a surprisingly high amount of freeboard for its length because of the ends.

I went over to Epic's site and looked at the specs on the GPX. Frankly, I think I screwed up here. Looking at that, I am not sure that a new boat is the right first stop. I do think that the 25 inch width is a problem for a good forward stroke - a few inches narrower would make all the difference in the world. But the OPer is a bit taller than me so maybe not such a big deal for right now. The GPX is pretty darned plum, and at nearly 13 ft not super short. It has an 11" deck height, which may be in the territory for the OPer of restricting pedaling if they ended up in a class with someone like Ben Lawry.

I think that the OPer may ultimately want to get to a narrower boat. But it may be that spending the bucks on a good forward stroke class, like a full day, is a better use of funds right now.

As to rolling - a lower deck makes it easier for some including me. A deck can also be too low - not everyone can roll comfortably with their legs out in a pretty flat position. The biggest factor, after having cockpit contact, is the overall volume. The Vela rolls fine because of the volume being low.


– Last Updated: Jun-16-10 9:26 AM EST –

The Vela and the others are a good bit narrower than the Epic - that's where you'll feel it. Just keep loose hips and trust that the boat is quite stable where you need it. See next post.

25 inches is WIDE
which negates the other fine attributes (plumb bow, lower foredeck w. room to pedal pump) of the Epic the OP is paddling. Good points there, Celia.

We’re all different in terms of balance of course, but the OP might easily handle a boat of 21 inches after she gets the feel of it. Her ideal boat might be the QCC 10X since it has the plumb bow she is used to, but is narrower (21") and longer (15’3"). A very hard boat to find used, tho. The used market is rather merciless to small paddlers (and the large ones, too)

yup, we want a faster boat, but in addition to that there is usually more we can do in the way of forward stroke improvement.

OP, the most definitive answer will be to try more boats - the Vela being one - just to give you more feel for what you like and what feels fast/responsive to you.

And a little expert critique of your stroke by another paddler or an instructor is never a bad thing. I had to re-do my forward stroke entirely after 15 months of thinking I had it… I was mainly arms and little torso. Credit to Ken Fink for getting me on the right track and Jim Tibensky of CASKA for keeping me there.

No matter which boat I’m paddling it is quicker.

Good luck & come back w. your experience w. the Vela.

That Epic
If I’m right, that 13-footer is an unusually fast rec kayak. I know someone who owns one and loves the ease of paddling it at a pretty good touring pace.

Without knowing your paddling background and those of your companions, I wonder if you might be better off for now working on forward stroke and seeing if that helps. OTOH, maybe your companions are fast and/or competitive (“we have to stay ahead of the short boat”).

Willow vs Eliza
I just talked with a friend who owns both the Willow and a glass Eliza. She works in a kayak shop, is about 5’ tall, I won’t hazard a guess on the weight, and is a very experienced paddler with a solid roll. She bought her Eliza a year ago after paddling her Willow for several years. She was convinced to make the change after she had the opportunity to paddle the Eliza. She told me she was happy with her Willow and still really likes it but really prefers the handling of the Eliza. She specifically mentioned the stability and comfort when practicing advanced stroke maneuvers. She said she finds the Eliza to be more’ relaxing’ for her to paddle.

So what does that mean for you? Maybe nothing but it is another point of information and confirmation of the number one rule in boat purchasing. Paddle before you buy.

Hope this helps;


glass vs. roto Eliza

– Last Updated: Jun-17-10 10:15 AM EST –

Not surprised your friend prefers the glass Eliza. I liked it a lot also, very crisp & responsive. The roto was OK, a decent boat and wellmade, but performance-wise it seemed flat & a little doggish compared to the glass version. That's my impresssion FWIW - I like narrow, low volume, livelier boats & my own seakayaks reflect that - as others may really like their roto Elizas.

I did the review of the roto Eliza here on pnet.

Roto and glass are two diff. boats, the glass Eliza is an inch narrower and the foredeck stands a half inch shorter at 12.5" (which I still find overly tall)The glass version is skegged, the roto is ruddered.