Kayak Reviews

Sea Kayaker Magazine Review:
Looksha II Composite
by Necky Kayaks

Manufacturer's Design Statement:
The Looksha is our new design family recognizable by it's distinct double chine and a "dolphin bow". The double chine gives extra secondary stability. The Looksha II was designed with the athletic person in mind: it is fast and efficient in difficult conditions. To reduce wetted surface and reduce wave making, we've put in a lot of rocker, which also helps in acceleration and handling rough conditions. Fast turning hulls are hard to control unless using a rudder. Looksha II was designed as a rudder-controlled boat with no compromise intended.

Mike Neckar

  • TE 6' 1", 200-pound male.  Several day trips in conditions from calm to winds at 20 miles per hour and waves to 3 feet and cresting.
  • DM 5' 10", 180-pound male.  Day trips and speed trial, waves 1 ½ feet, winds to 10 knots.
  • TW 6' 1", 180-pound male.  Day trips in conditions from flat calm to winds 25 miles per hour, waves to four feet.

     The Looksha II has quite a different look to it.  It's 20' - long hull has a slender stern and double chines.  Its Kevlar layup with reinforcing bands of carbon fiber is "very light but not flimsy" (TW), with "flawless gelcoat and no sign of excess resin on the interior" (DM).
     The Looksha II was so light for DM that he "just picked it up like a suitcase at the cockpit and carried it that way."  TW found the Looksha II was also well balanced for a shoulder carry, but thought the forward toggle was placed too far aft of the bow for a convenient tandem carry.
     The seat is a sloped, but otherwise uncountoured, slab of foam glued to the bottom.  None of our paddlers found it particularly comfortable, but the foam would easily lend itself to custom contouring by an owner. The pivoted backrest, a foam-padded sheet of flexible plastic, provided good lower-back support for TE and DM, though TW thought it uncomfortable.
     The cockpit is long enough for our taller paddlers to get their knees in and out while seated, and the coaming sits low and out of the way of paddling.  The thigh bracing molded into the coaming was comfortable and secure.
     The Looksha II's rudder pedals use nylon straps and slide-lock buckles for adjustment.  "They are adjustable to an infinite degree, but I found it very difficult to get both pedals adjusted to the same length and still maintain a straight rudder direction" (TW).  The manufacturer recommends that the Looksha II be paddled with the rudder down.  The rudder does not flip into a keeper on the rear deck when retracted, nor do the pedals lock.  The rudder is essential to the performance of the Looksha II.  For that reason, TW would have liked it to be a bit stouter in the its construction and a bit more positive in its operation, noting it tended to trail aft from its fully dropped position.
     The deck fittings provide the usual accommodations for chart case forward, and spare paddle and outrigger aft.  "The bolts used to attach the deck fittings were sharp edged, and should be shorter or covered to prevent them from damaging dry bags" (DM).
     "The Looksha II is narrow and feels very tippy at first, but has a fairly confident secondary stability" (TW).  "Not a kayak for the fainthearted" (TE).  "The beginner or intermediate would find the boat very tender and probably not be able to relax until they developed good balancing and bracing skills" (DM).  "Running downwind it [the stability] feels fine.  Going into waves and taking waves abeam or on the quarter, I rolled a lot of strokes into low braces to keep my balance" (TE).
     "With the rudder raised, the boat has a tendency to wander, but with the rudder down it tracks very well.  With the rudder raised, the boat responds to leaned turns reasonably well, with some tendency to keep turning after the boat is leveled again.  With the rudder down, steering good" (DM).
     Speed, our reviewers agreed, was the Looksha II's raison d'être and the payoff for the compromises in stability and handling.  DM clocked 5.85 knots over a measured nautical mile and "felt the limiting factor was [his] conditioning, not the boat."  TW thought the Looksha II was "light and fast"...it accelerates up to and maintains its speed quickly and easily."  TE found the Looksha II "very fast, very quick to accelerate."
     Only DM noted a wet ride going to weather, getting water thrown up by the forward hatch.  TE and TW thought the Looksha II had a pretty dry ride in rough conditions.
     On its own, the Looksha II has a weather helm, but with the rudder deployed, it is easy to maneuver, and hold a course in the winds encountered, from 0 to 25 knots.
     While the Looksha II isn't designed for taking a pounding in the shore break, it is a "speed demon" (DM) surfing wakes and wind waves.  TE "caught some very fast waves and held them.  Picked up waves I couldn't have caught with any other boat I've paddled.  Probably as fast as I've gone in a kayak."  TE and TW noticed that some waves lifted the rudder at least partially out of the water, allowing the boat to yaw until the rudder buried itself again.  TW noted that the bow would bury slightly at times but would drive up to the surface quickly.
     "The narrow hull means that some items might not fit easily, but there's plenty of room inside the hull" for cargo (DM).  To keep bags from gettings stuck in the extreme end they should have some cord attached to retrieve them.  "The two-piece hatch system is well manufactured.  The fiberglass lid is tethered and the neoprene cover fits tightly" TW.  Some leakage was reported into the forward compartment, but the aft compartment stayed dry.  With a 60-pound cargo load in the boat DM commented that "the boat is noticeably more stable than unloaded and still seems to be pretty fast" though he didn't do a measured speed trial with the load aboard.
     All of our reviewers thought the Looksha II would be a great boat for "fast paddling, racing or touring by someone willing to paddle energetically.  It will repay the energy input with increased speed" (DM).  Like TE, DM thought the Looksha II is "probably the fastest sea kayak I've ever paddled."

Designer Response
     The test boat we delivered to Sea Kayaker for testing was the second Looksha II we produced.  Every kayak we produce is custom made to the customer's specifications.  We offer four different seat configurations, an equal number of back rests and two different types of foot braces.  In an ideal world I would like to see the rudder installed under the stern about four feet from the back, but that would make a beach landing difficult.  The Looksha II is so fast that if the stern gets raised out of the water, the boat is back in the trough in seconds.  Most Looksha IIs are sold with lift-up rudder, but we can install our flip-up rudder; the advantage being the foot braces would be locked in the raised position.  That would make adjusting the foot braces a little easier.
     The highly rockered hull doesn't lend itself to steering by leaning: it will always oversteer.  Kayaks with a skeg-like stern and sharp-edged bow can benefit from a leaned turn because the lean changes the waterline, "bending" it in the same way a rudder would.  Leaning the boat increases the wetted surface dramatically, so you end up dealing with both the resistance of the wetted surface and the skeg-like ends or rudder.  I've always had doubts about using leaned turns in extreme conditions.  It looks very good on the beach, but is somewhat suspect in nasty conditions.  Sometimes you have to use lean and rudder to get where you want to be.
     Looking at boat designs during the last thirty years, there has been a noticeable change in the amount of rocker.  Flat-water racing boats have so much rocker that they're now impossible to paddle without a rudder.  Hawaiian sprint-racing outriggers, which are used in extreme conditions, can turn on a dime.  Even marathon canoeists picked up on the advantage of greater rocker.
     The Looksha II will not break any sales records.  It is not everyone's cup of tea.  To us, it's a concept boat, something you learn from then change to a more forgiving form.  Concept cars developed by automobile companies are not available to the public, but our concept kayak is.
                                                                                                                                                                              Mike Neckar

Options and Pricing - 1995
Standard Lay-up:
Kevlar with carbon fiber, Custom lay-ups available upon request.
Standard Features: deck lines, rudders, bulkheads, hatches, seat, back rest.
Approximate Weight: 45 pounds
Price: $2,545 (US dollars)
Availability: Through a network of dealers in Canada and the US.
Manufacturer's Address: 1100 Riverside Road, Abbottsford, B.C., V2S 4N2 Canada.  






















SeaKayaker Magazine Review:
Looksha IV Polymer by Necky Kayaks

Manufacturer's Design Statement: Looksha is our new design family recognizable by its distinct double chine and a "dolphin bow."  The waterline is evenly rockered and volume distribution resembles a torpedo with slightly more volume in the bow.  This gives you better handling in rough conditions.

The Looksha IV was designed as an all-around touring kayak.  The Looksha IV is sable enough for the recreational paddler and the skilful paddler can enjoy its playful potential.  This is a hard boat to outgrow.  The double chine allows us to have a relatively small wetted surface with good stability on the extreme lean.  A great deal of care and testing was done to design a low and balanced side profile to decrease windage.  The reviewed Looksha IV is available in our special Super Linear Polymer based on a new Metthalocene catalyst technology, or our traditional glass or Kevlar laminates.  We also made a lower volume version , Looksha IV LV, for the lighter paddler.  The overall volume is decreased as is the length, height and width. Looksha IV LV is only available in composite, glass or Kevlar construction.

"The Looksha is one of the cleanest looking plastic boats on the market.  Faux-granite plastic mixture seems to ease the 'Tupperware' look that many plastic boats suffer from" (TS).  Like the Looksha II (SK August 96) it has a double chine.
The Looksha balances well for a solo carry.  The 65-pound weight of the Looksha was not too difficult for our reviewers to manage.  For a two-person carry the toggle placement is too far in from the ends for easy handling.  The placement of the stern toggle is required by the rudder, but the inboard placement of the bow toggle also causes the bow to "bump into your leg while you carry it" (RS). RS and TS thought placement of the grip at the tip of the bow would be an improvement.
The Looksha's deck layout is "functional"(TS).  Our reviewers especially liked the recessed deck fittings.  The cockpit is "a nice size for easy entry and exit" (MH). RS would like a "snugger fit and a slightly lower deck" and both he and TS note the need for some custom padding.
The seat is comfortable and long enough to provide some good thigh support.  The back rest was comfortable but is "quite high, sticking well above the cockpit, making laying back for a screw roll impossible" (RS).  There is an option for a lower seat back.  The thigh bracing was usable but did not offer a secure grip:  "They could stick out farther and offer more purchase" (RS) or be padded out by the owner.
The webbing/ladder lock slider system for the rudder pedals "is infinitely adjustable and works reasonably well though it does require a little patience to get it perfectly trued" (TS).  As with most rudder pedals the system has a "fair bit of give" (TS) when the rudder is retracted.  The rudder seems "pretty indestructible" to TS, while RS thinks it could be a bit "beefier."  When deployed it works smoothly and drops back down after riding over obstructions.

On the water the Looksha IV "has a very comfortable stability range.  Without being a barge, the initial and secondary stability are good" (TS).  "Stable enough to fish from, yet it felt nimble and very responsive"(MH).  "Stable enough for most beginners but it turned like a dream when I got it up on edge" (RS).
Although the Looksha has a rudder, our reviewers preferred paddling with it retracted.  "Putting this baby up on edge was my favorite thing about the Looksha.  It cranks surprisingly quick turns for a 17-foot touring kayak, pivoting like a shorty play boat" (RS).  "It was a blast in the rock gardens.  Super maneuverable and fun" (MH).  The Looksha also tracked well with the rudder retracted.  Its quick response to carved turns makes it easy to hold a course.  Only MH noted the Looksha, without a gear load aboard, had slight tendency to weathercock in moderate winds, easily corrected by edging the boat.  In the strong winds RS encountered "it handles as you might suspect: like most kayaks it was a struggle to keep on course in gusts of 30-plus knots."

The Looksha has a dry ride in moderate conditions as its bow "has a moderate tendency to rise up over small chop.  In bigger water the ride got much wetter" (RS).  "It was dry until I got crazy in the rocks" (MH).
While not exceptionally fast the Looksha "does accelerate and hold its speed well"(TS).  "I was able to sprint and catch swells easily" (MH).  The Looksha handles well for surfing wind waves and boat wakes.  "The boat's maneuverability made it easy to [ride] wind waves without falling off into a broach" (RS).  "Course correction on shorter steeper boat wakes was a breeze with the rudder in action" (TS).  "Bow tends to plunge in large steeper waves.  Side surfs smoothly for controlled broaches" (RS).
There is enough room for a week's worth of gear in the bulkheaded compartments.  The hatches consist of an unattached neoprene cover and a tethered plastic lid. None of the reviewers reported any leakage after rolling or rough-water paddling.  The bulkheads are made of foam glued in place.  With a load aboard the Looksha IV had additional stability and kept its "excellent" (MH) handling qualities.
"A very likable kayak.  I would recommend it to anyone who wanted the advantages of cost, recyclability and impact resistance of a plastic boat that doesn't compromise on greater touring performance" (TS).  "Beginners should be satisfied with its relative stability and solid cruising characteristics.  This is a maneuverable and responsive kayak for skilled paddlers to play around in on day trips, and it'll haul plenty of gear.  All things considered, the Looksha is a good all-around touring boat" (RS).  "Often when testing kayaks I find myself wishing I were in something else. I didn't want to get out of this thing.  The best plastic kayak I've ever paddled" (MH).

Designer Response

First I would like to thank the anonymous testers for what I consider a very complimentary review.  I would like to respond to some of their comments.  Ideally we would like to fit a boat perfectly to everybody, but that is impossible, especially for ones designed for high production.  Our concern is that some paddlers, especially new ones, are afraid of being trapped in the boat, hence the loose fit.  To get tighter fits it's relatively easy to glue a layer of foam and shape it for the perfect customized fit Looksha IV was originally produced with a lower back rest, but the majority of our customers preferred a higher one.  The refit is easy, just ask your dealer.  The placing of the handles is due to my concern of picking up some loose kelp or sea weed on the bow and not being able to get rid of it.  After you use the Looksha a few times you will find that the best way to carry it is by holding it by the bow.  Your hand fits perfectly.  When it comes to using a rudder or not, there is no doubt in my mind that it is more fun to play in the boat without the rudder.  But what we are making is a touring boat, and sometimes you have to be plugging ahead in nasty conditions hour after hour and using a rudder can make things easier.

Mike Neckar

Options and Pricing (1996 design)

Standard Construction: Rotomolded, Super Linear Polymer, Metthalocene catalyst technology.
Standard Features: Hatches, deck lines, bulkheads, seat and back rest.
Availability: Through a network of dealers in Canada and the US.

Manufacturer's Address:

Necky Kayaks
1100 Riverside Road
Abbottsford, B.C., V2S 4N2 Canada.
Phone (604) 850-1206.






















Looksha Sport by Necky Kayaks

The Looksha Sport is my kind of sea kayak; it's relatively short, lively, and hightly maneuverable accelerating quickly with good hull speed.  This is the right combination for an ocean rock garden boat.  It also results in a very versatile kayak that performs well in a variety of settings, from surf, tide rips, and rough water to flat water.  With this boat you have the capability to play in surf and rock gardens, yet cover the miles between play spots easily.  The Sport also has plenty of volume to carry gear for a multi-day excursion and is roomy enough to accomodate a large paddler.  I took the Sport out on a rough day in the ocean and found it to handle well in the wind and waves.  It is extremely responsive to a boat lean; it carves turns and corrects easily when leaned onto the chine.  It also surfs well for the same reason.  We've been using this boat in our surf classes with great success.


By John Lull, California Canoe and Kayak






















Sit-On-Top Kayaks
Dolphin, Spike and Dorado: versatile and fun!

"Before paddling the Dolphin, I took the time to look it over carefully.  It just looks "right"!  The bow and stem are narrow, and taper to a generous width at the cockpit.  The bottom of the bow area is V-shaped with a good amount of rocker.  The V at the bow blends into the deck with enough concave shape to deflect spray outward, and also provides lifting action when punching into waves.  The bottom shape goes from the V at the bow to rounded, and then becomes rather flat under the cockpit area.  It remains fairly flat until just before the stern, where it rounds out somewhat.

The foot wells have several heel positions and the rudder pedals are adjustable.  The foot wells and the cockpit seat each have their own self bailing drains - a good idea, as sitting in a puddle of water can get a bit uncomfortable.  Just behind the hatch is a self bailing cavity that will hold a single scuba tank or several dry bags.

My first impression was that the boat tracks nicely and is easy to paddle.  Anyone who has paddled a rudderless kayak any distance with the wind off the bow will tell you how tired you can get.  A rudder comes into its own when paddling downwind with any kind of following sea. This rudder is a nice feature, particularly since it can be retracted for beach paddling in shallow water.  It is braced right down to the water line, which should prevent bending in heavy surf.

I was drawn to the surf even though I knew this boat was not designed to be a surfing machine.  I paddled hard into several waves and found the nose of the kayak lifts nicely.

I lined up and waited for a good wave to ride.  One of the nice things about a kayak with good speed is that you can enter a wave before it becomes too steep.  As I started to slide down the face and pick up speed, I could feel the flat bottom under me start to plane.  The bow deflected the spray to each side, and there appeared to be no tendency for the nose to bury.  As long as I kept my angle across the wave under thirty degrees, the rudder would prevent the kayak from broaching.  At greater angles, some enthusiastic ruddering with the paddle keeps the boat straight.

The wind increased, and I was delighted with the boat's ability to punch upwind with a minimum of effort .  This is an important characteristic.  Paddling any distance upwind in a "clunky" boat is hard work!

I found the Dolpnin to be much better in the surf than any other general purpose kayaks I have used.  Although most kayakers do not spend much time surfing, the surf is a good place to find out what a boat is made of.  This one is the best all around kayaks I've ever tried, and should be a great source of fun to anyone who ends up owning one."

David L. Bigelow, prototype tester






















Sitka by Dagger

Manufacturer's Design Statement:

The design concept for the Dagger Sitka was to create my boat of choice for long distance paddling.  I wanted a responsive tool that I could take anyplace I desired, in comfort, whether I was carrying heavy gear or just out for the evening.
Aware of the drawbacks of most rudders, we developed the Sitka's integral "trim tab" rudder.  As a result, the boat is noticeably faster due to reduced drag, and also has increased durability, lighter weight and no need for a flip-up mechanism.  The lock out lets you paddle the Dagger Sitka as if it had no rudder, so you get the best of both worlds.  If you have been using an old style rudder, it may take a short while to adjust to the integral rudder, which has a softer feel since it runs inside the streamlines of the hull and works by lifting force.  I keep it locked out when not adjusting the weather helm, but I have used the rudder in serious surf play to kick the boat around between waves.
With its substantial volume, speed and excellent handling, the Sitka seems to love harsh conditions.  We've been there, done that, liked it, and we're going again.

Steve Scarborough


  • DM 5'10", 180-pound male.  Day trips in chop to 11/2 feet, winds to 15 knots.
  • TW 6'1", 180-pound male.  Day trip in light winds with gusts to 15 knots.  Small wind waves and large boat wakes
  • TE 6'1", 200-pound male.  Day trips, flat calm to winds 15 to 20 mph, waves 11/2 to 2 feet and whitecaps.


Dagger's Sitka has "very nice lines"(TW), "a clean lay-up and a high standard of workmanship" (TE).  The hull and deck are joined with an plastic extruded seam and glassed inside.  Its rudder is faired into the hull and its controls are hidden under a small cover on deck.

The Kevlar Sitka tested was "relatively light and easy to lift on a shoulder and balanced well" (TW).  Toggles at the extreme ends make for an easy tandem carry.

"The cockpit is roomy enough for large paddlers"(TW).  "I could get in seat first then legs, making for easy reentry"(TE). "Kudos to the recessed deck fittings.  In addition to adding a finished look to the kayak, they are positioned in a standard, but useful, format"(TW).  In addition to the bungies, there is a nylon grab line the entire perimeter of the boat.  There is a water bottle holder under the foredeck.

The deeply contoured fiberglass seat was comfortable for TE and TW.  "The center [of the seat] has a molded-in hump that gives the feeling of sitting on a saddle and helped keep me positioned in the seat" (TE), though he would add some padding to prevent sliding laterally when bracing and rolling.  TW would have liked a bit more support under the thighs and DM would have added some foam for a better individual fit.

The back band by PD Designs "provided good support"(TW).  "A perfect fit for me.  It was very comfortable and provided good support without restricting movement"(TE).

The thigh braces are molded into the coaming and padded with foam.  "The best I have seen.  The braces fit around my thigh without any edges digging in, [and are] hooked down to provide a solid grip"(TE).

The foot braces have pivoting foot pads for steering and provide solid support for bracing.  The webbing-and-buckle attachment to the rudder cables makes it easy to adjust.  The system impressed all the reviewers.  The secure grip provided by the foot and thigh braces makes rolling easy.

"The rudder is an interesting one:  The advantage is that it doesn't hang down to snag on things and pick up weeds.  The disadvantage is that it isn't a very effective one.  I found the boat's response to the rudder to be somewhat sluggish" (DM). TE agreed that the rudder "doesn't have a powerful turning effect.  Initially, my tendency was to oversteer, putting the full rudder angle on.  Later, I learned to wait for the rudder to take effect.  Once I got used to its limited power, I found it worked well for maintaining a general course" (TE).

On the water, the Sitka's initial stability was described as "comfortable" (TE), and "slightly tippy"(DM).  Its secondary stability is "very solid" (DM).  "The combination makes it easy to set the boat on edge for carved turns" (TE).  "The thigh braces and rigid foot braces complement the ability to execute bracing and leaning" (TW).

The Sitka's tracking drew a divided response, with DM noting that it had a tendency to wander, TE noting that it did not.  With the rudder locked, the Sitka responded to leaned turns:  "the bow won't swing around immediately, but once the turn starts the Sitka turns well" (TE).  "When leaned completely over, the Sitka turned easily" (TW).

TE thought the Sitka was "a pretty fast boat": he could easily hold 4 to 5 knots, sprint short distances at 6 knots and hold 51/2 knots for longer periods.  DM thought the Sitka had "average speed."  Paddling at fast cruising pace over a measured mile, he clocked 4.8 knots.

The Sitka rides fairly dry.  DM noted "the bow hatch tended to deflect a bit of spray into my face when paddling directly into chop  " TE noted that "in 2-foot waves I only occasionally took water over the bow.  Water that got on the foredeck was not thrown up by the deck hardware."

TE thought that the Sitka was "fairly well balanced" in winds to 20 mph.  It showed "a slight and slow weather-cocking, but it was easily corrected by edged turns or with the rudder."  DM thought the Sitka "tended to weathercock when paddled with the rudder locked in the center position."

On wind waves to 2 feet, DM and TE found the Sitka surfed well.  "The rudder may come out of the water as the wave lifts the stern.  Once up to speed, the rudder doesn't have the power to steer quickly.  Fortunately, the Sitka has enough maneuverability in its edged turns to provide good control" (TE).

The Sitka loads easily through two large Kayak Sport rubber hatches fore and aft.  There is plenty of stowage space for extended cruising.  The tethered day hatch opens to a flexible pouch.  Its small volume keeps items from getting too far out of reach. TE reported a slight leakage into the aft compartment, TW noted about three cups forward and one cup aft after an afternoon of rescue practice.

The fiberglass bulkheads are glassed in on one side and caulked on the other.  The aft bulkhead is "hard up against the seat and sloped to reduce floodable volume and to make for quick and complete draining" (TE).

"The Sitka is a very nice kayak with some outstanding merits, the day hatch for one, and the thigh braces for another.  It will meet a variety of paddling styles and will appeal to a wide range of boaters" (TW).  For DM, the Sitka was an "adequate performer in many respects, though not really an exceptional boat in any way I noticed."  For TE, "the Sitka is on my short list.  Once I changed the way I thought about the rudder, not as a substitute for paddle and edged turns, but as a supplement for course holding, I grew to like it.  I think it is a great choice for a cruising kayak.  It has the capacity to carry a lot of gear, and it is no dog when paddled without a load for fun."

Designer Response

Wow! Great review, guys. Sushi's on me.  The Dagger Sitka has found quite a following since we introduced it in 1996.  The problem with an awesome review like this is that I don't have much of anything to discuss.
Any performance kayak is going to engender differences of opinion, and we expected as much with the new ground (water?) broken with the Sitka.  The trim-tab rudder drew the most attention and found a reviewer who appreciated it.  Most folks quickly learn how to paddle the Sitka and no longer need that monster blunt instrument of a sea kayaker's crutch, the rudder they've gotten used to.  Even so, if enough people requested it, we would develop a more powerful rudder blade, since it can be replaced with no tools, but so far this has not been the case.  Our experience with the Sitka has been positive to the point that you will soon see other new touring kayaks from Dagger with the integral trim-tab rudder.
As for hatch covers, expeditionist Bob Powell chose the Sitka to circumnavigate South Georgia island off the coast of Antarctica, and for the entire 52 days (in 8 meter waves and 30 knot winds at times) he only got a small amount of water one day when he failed to put a cover on straight.  (There are alignment marks on the hatch cover.)
The Dagger Sitka is easy to paddle and will serve you well in a variety of conditions.  While no kayak is perfect for every paddler and paddling style, and even though I have several boats to choose from, I now find myself drawn to the Sitka as my personal boat of choice in many situations, and nearly always when it looks rough out there!

Steve Scarborough, designer

Options and Pricing

Designed: 1996
Standard Lay-up: Glass/Spheretex or Kevlar/Spheretex
Approximate Weight: Kevlar, 50 lbs.; Glass 56 lbs
Standard Features: Integral urethane foil rudder with internal lock, PD Designs backband, neoprene-padded thigh braces, Yakima foot braces with "butterfly" pedals, carrying toggles, water bottle holder, deck rigging, recessed deck fittings, hatches witbuilt-in day hatch bag, bulkheads, recessed compass mount Price: Glass, $2,300; Kevlar, $2,650

Options: Thigh brace kit, under-deck tray, seat and backrest pad custom-fit system. Availability: Any Dagger dealer

Manufacturer's Address:

P.O. Box 1500
Harriman, TN 37748






















Magellan by Dagger

Manufacturer's Design Statement:
Performance touring kayaks don't necessarily have to be high-priced composites.  Plastic touring kayaks have gotten an undeserved rap for some time now.  With the new EXL plastic to work with, we decided to see just how good a modern plastic touring kayak could be.  The Magellan hull form extends from the Meridian with "next-generation" ideas incorporated.  We geared the Magellan for a little more extended touring.  It's slightly longer (6") and a little stiffer than the Meridian, but still lively and easy to lean and carve a turn.  This boat has speed and efficient glide, but it is the bow-to-stern innovation that says this is a different kind of plastic kayak.  The injection-molded deck fittings are recessed, and designed to make it easy for paddlers to customize the lacing patterns.  The bow toggle doesn't flop around annoyingly, but is ready when needed.  The Magellan bulkheads are welded to become one piece with the boat, and take up much less storage space than foam-type bulkheads.  The bulkhead's complex geometry adds rigidity to the hull while still being able to flex under severe stress and retain its watertightness.  The clear material of the bulkhead also lets light into the compartment, a welcome feature when unpacking and hunting for that elusive item you know is in there somewhere.  The seat lets you lock in when you need it, and thigh braces from Dagger's whitewater boats can be added for the hard core.  With EXL polyethylene construction for rigidity and durability to top things off, the Magellan makes a great package.
Dagger Canoe


VS 5'2", 160-pound female.  Day trip in wind to 10 knots, 1-foot chop.
DL 5'10", 185-pound male.  Pool session, day trips winds, to 15 miles per hour with gusts to 25.  Waves to two feet. Gear loads from 25 to 85 pounds.
TW 6'1", 180-pound male.  Day trips in calm conditions.

"The appearance of the [Magellan] was excellent.  The strength of the deck and hull was exceptional" wrote DL, noting that the hull and deck supported his weight with some flexing, but without buckling.  The blended blue and red color drew a little flak: VS thought the color combination was too dark for visibility, and TW just thought it was "ugly."  The Magellan has a feel of "overall sturdiness" (VS) and strength "to withstand rougher beaches" (TW).

The Magellan balanced well for a solo carry, but at 59 3/4 pounds, all of our reviewers thought it heavy.  For VS, it was at the "limit of being too heavy for me.  "The carrying toggles are set in from the ends, the stern one placed where it would be if a rudder were present.  The toggles have a length of bungie cord that pulls the toggle tight against the deck when not in use.  The deck fittings are "excellent" (DL), "great" (VS).  A safety grab line runs the perimeter of the deck.  Bungie cords are located forward of the cockpit for charts and aft for paddle-float rescue.  The lines and bungies are fixed with recessed deck fittings.

The large cockpit is "roomy and comfortable" (TW) and allows "very easy access and egress" (DL).  DL's spray deck "kept popping off while stretching to scull or roll."  The rounded edge of the coaming and the slickness of the plastic makes the coaming more sensitive to the fit of the skirt than a fiberglass coaming.  When using a neoprene spray deck, it is important to use a spray deck that is cut to fit the Magellan's coaming shape.  Sanding the sides of the coaming provided enough friction on the spray deck to keep it in place.

The seat is equipped with a fabric-covered pad.  While it was a comfortable arrangement, it slid around when paddling or bracing.  It also remained wet after sponging it off, a problem if you are expecting to keep your backside dry (DL).  The seat back "was comfortable and infinitely adjustable while paddling" (DL).  The back support can fall forward during a reentry but "it is not a problem to grab and put back in its place when necessary" (DL).

The underside of the deck is padded "for comfort and provided more thigh support than many off-the-shelf kayaks" (TW).  Dagger also has thigh braces available as an option to provide an even more secure fit.

The foot braces are adjustable by means of a nylon strap.  Because the foot braces do not lock in place, they are not as firm as they could be for a rudderless boat.  The pegs can also slide aft, occasionally requiring some fishing around before you can get your footing on them. DL thought the plates on the foot braces were small enough to cause some discomfort on the balls of his feet on a long stint of paddling.

The Magellan's stern is molded to accommodate a rudder, though none was provided on the kayak we tested.

The Magellan has comfortable stability characteristics.  "The boat felt secure to be in and was responsive to leaning" (DL).

"The responsiveness to turning the boat by leaning was directly related to how much I leaned it.  Very maneuverable and a joy to turn in tight quarters" (DL).  The Magellan is not stiff tracking, but because of its responsiveness to leaned turns, it is "not hard to keep the boat on course" (VS).

The Magellan has a slight tendency to weathercock (for VS only when going across or slightly off the wind), but this was easily corrected by edging the boat.

For VS, "the configuration of the deck and hatches shed water well."  DL found the hatch and deck lines could flip some water up into the paddler's face in winds over 15 miles per hour.  The reviewers thought the Magellan had average speed.  "It accelerated quickly and maintained a touring pace with ease" (TW).  VS thought the spongy foot bracing and slippery seat made it difficult to apply her paddling power.

Only DL had surfable waves to test, but he was paddling with a load of gear aboard and wasn't able to catch long rides.

The Magellan has more than enough space for cruising gear for a week.  The hatches are large enough to allow easy access to gear.  The neoprene lids were difficult for DL to put in place because of the slick, rounded hatch opening flange.  The plastic hatch lids are tethered. DL reported the only leakage-a couple of gallons in the forward compartment during a pool session.  The plastic bulkheads are welded in place and watertight.

When carrying a load of cruising gear the "loaded boat felt extremely stable, turning and steering was nearly as good as when unloaded, no problems experienced.  Tracking was excellent with no weathercocking experienced" (DL).

DL thought the Magellan wasn't up to heavy load carrying, but thought it made a "good day and short-trip boat."  VS liked its "stable and responsive feel" and felt it is a "very comfortable boat that should appeal to a wide range of paddlers."  TW thought the Magellan was "fun to paddle and [it] nicely fills a niche in the market for a smaller, less expensive, maneuverable sea kayak."

Designer Response

Thanks to your intrepid reviewers for getting out there and test paddling the Magellan over the cooler months.  Their remarks were interesting, and I appreciate their noticing the performance and quality of the Magellan and its outfitting.  We put a lot of thought into the boat and it shows.  I have spent quite some time in a Magellan and agree with the comments on its quick acceleration and the ease off maintaining a touring pace.  Most people will find that they do most of their paddling in day trips or weekend excursions and the boat suits that style perfectly.  We've put the Magellan through its paces in fairly good conditions with a load similar to DL's and found it to be more responsive than he seems to have.  (This can easily be the case with two good paddlers with differing styles.)  Even with a load we could run out in front of a break on a long surf, though the Magellan takes a bit more coaxing than the Meridian or Apostle in this respect.

I don't know which version of the seat pad you had, but we have a newer one that pops out for drying and none of us has noticed VS's slippage problem.  Different boaters are sensitive to different things, so we'll take a look at our seat pad system.  (You gotta admit it's comfy though!)  Sorry about DL's skirt popping.  I'd have loaned him one of ours, since this is probably due to the skirt not matching the cockpit rim.  The Magellan cockpit is molded off the same master that the Dagger whitewater boats use and we have excellent spray-skirt retention even in severe conditions.  I agree with the comment on the slightly spongy foot pedals, but they allow you to easily add a rudder to a stock boat if you desire one in the future.  The rudder attachment point is molded in, not a possibly leaky "bolt on."  The deck fittings we designed allow paddlers to re-string shock cord in several different patterns according to preference.  As for the color of the reviewed boat, well, we can make them in plain old red or yellow for those who think brown pelicans are a bit gaudy.  Most people order the multicolored patterns and we receive a lot of requests for custom-molded touring kayaks in special colors.  Are sea kayakers starting to let loose a bit?

Steve Scarborough

Options and Pricing

Designed: 1996
Standard Layup: EXLª polyethylene
Standard Features: Bow and stern rubber hatch covers, deck lines, inside security loops for gear and flotation, seat with adjustable backrest, padded seat and backrest cover, recessed deck fittings, keyhole cockpit with built-in neoprene padded thigh braces, welded-in rigid plastic bulkheads, adjustable foot braces, carrying toggles, molded-in graphics.
Option: Retractable rudder
Approximate Weight: 60 pounds
Price: $1095
Availability: Worldwide dealer network
Manufacturer's Address:

319 Roddy Lane
P.O. Box 1500
Harriman, TN 37748






















Tofino Double Kayak

I love this kayak.  This is the white Tofino we picked up from you in Monterey on our way to Baja at Christmas 1986.  Here it is years later off Cape Cook after spending four days waiting out a gale in Klaskish Inlet.
This Tofino has been in continual use by Outdoor Adventures for years.  It has allowed hundreds of novices and experts to experience Baja, Pt. Reyes, Desolation Sound, Barkley Sound, Brooks Peninsula, and other natural destinations.  The Tofino is safe, stable, stores all our gear for 1-2 week trips and performs magnificently in rough conditions.  
We sold this "good karma" Tofino yesterday to two of our guides who will give it a loving home and plenty of future use.  
Thanks for creating the Tofino, Mike.
In your debt,
Dennis Johnson
Director, Outdoor Adventures
University of California at Davis

























Sea Kayaker Magazine Review:
Elaho Polymer by Necky Kayaks




Manufacturer's Design Statement:
The Elaho is a great little high-performance cruiser.  Its low profile deck and multi-chined rockered hull create a very playful and maneuverable craft.  A snug fitting kayak with recessed deck fittings, perimeter lines, three bulkheads and day hatch, the Elaho is equipped with a drop skeg, adjustable to changing wind and wave conditions.  The bow and stern hatches feature innovative flush covers, effectively eliminating kick up from spray across the deck and providing a very clean, integrated look to the boat.  A low stern deck, positive thigh hooks, rock solid pedals and Bomber Gear backband makes lean-back rolls very easy.

Necky Kayaks - 2001


  • GL: 511 ",165-pound male.  Day paddles, calm conditions, 5-10 knot winds; speed test; load test; roll and rescue practice
  • TW: 61 ",180-pound male.  Day paddles, calm conditions, wakes to 3 feet.
  • .MH: 510",190-pound male.  4-day tour.  Tidal rapids, rock gardens, waves to 5 feet, winds to 20 knots.

     The rotomolded Elaho has a "nice-looking shape, with smooth lines" (GL);  "a unique shape that definitely grows on you the more you paddle it" (TW).  The Elaho was an "easy carry for its weight.  The kayak rests comfortably on the shoulder and is easy to swing about" (GL).
     The Elaho's recessed deck fittings hold grab lines and bungies for securing a chart case on the foredeck and a spare paddle on the aft deck.  The grab lines aft serve for rigging a paddlefloat outrigger.
     Thecockpit provided "just enough room to sit down in the seat and bring the legs in one at a time.  I had extra room in the hips that I would pad.  For comfort and function, this [cockpit] is hard to beat" (GL).  TW thought the cockpit was the "perfect size for my build.  Not so big that it did not allow secure fit and not so small that I needed a shoehorn to get into it.  Slipping in and out was a breeze."  "Whitewater fit and feel, and large enough for reentry and roll.  Best off-the-shelf fit ever for me" (MH).
     The seat—contoured plastic molding with a fabric-covered foam pad—and back band are "what they should be—supportive, comfortable and non-confining" (MH). "After an hour of paddling I found myself consciously noting how comfortable the seat and back support were" (TW).
     The thigh braces are set on molded flanges that create a keyhole cockpit opening "narrow enough that you must slide the legs in one at a time when seated—the perfect compromise to give great comfort and control.  Thigh braces worked superbly, offering great control without stressing the knee" (GL).
     The foot braces "felt stout and provided secure footing.  The real joy of them was how easily they could be adjusted while in the cockpit.  Tabs extending up from the foot pegs allowed easy adjustment of the pegs while sitting" (TW).
     The skeg is a 5/32-inch thick aluminum blade that is housed in an open-ended slot in the stern.  The blade remains partially exposed when retracted.  The skeg extends by its own weight when the line is released.  GL reported that the skeg jammed on three occasions, but was easy for a paddling partner to push free.
     The Elaho's initial stability is "moderate.  Secondary stability excellent; very secure on its edge" (GL).  It is "just tender enough to keep a beginner alert, but quickly feels very comfortable and is very responsive to leaning.  The Elaho felt predictable from upright to fully edged" (TW).
     The Elaho is "a breeze to steer.  A bit of edging combined with a sweep stroke allowed for quick directional adjustment or a full turn, if desired" (TW).  "It does what you want it to, from gentle corrections to on-the-side spinning.  This is the most maneuverable sea touring kayak I have paddled" (MH).  MH and TW thought the Elaho tracked well even with the skeg retracted.  GL noted that it "veers off course almost like a whitewaterboat if you stop paddling," but with the skeg deployed, it "tracks like on a rail."
     "In light winds, the Elaho can be easily balanced in a beam wind using the skeg.  With the skeg retracted, the Elaho weather-cocked slightly and when the skeg was fully deployed in the same wind, the Elaho tended to blow off wind" (TW).  "Twenty-knot winds had no noticeable effect on maneuverability or tracking" (MH).
     When TW paddled into wakes, the bow "shed water off of the foredeck easily and there was not an annoying amount of spray thrown by the bow or any rigging." In "big steep tidal rapids, I rarely stuffed the bow.  It's very buoyant and offers a great rough-water ride" (MH).
     TW summed up the Elaho's speed: "Quick, but not fast.  From a sprinting start, the Elaho comes quickly to speed and did not offer a lot of resistance at cruising speeds.  Maintaining3-plus knots was not difficult."
     When TW was surfing "large boat wakes rolling in on a shallow beach, the Elaho's quick acceleration made catching the swells a breeze and its agility made staying on the wave or exiting at the end of the ride a simple matter."
     "Solid thigh braces, a lower deck profile and narrow beam made the Elaho an easy boat to roll.  The secure back band and low back deck prevented back discomfort while the thigh braces provided for a secure hip snap" (TW).  It's a "great kayak for showing off a multitude of rolls" (GL).
     For doing reentries GL used the "single line aft of the cockpit to secure the paddle for a paddle-float rescue in calm conditions.  It was easy to re-enter, with care not to get caught on the thigh braces.  You may want to devise a more secure holder for the paddle.  Re-entry and roll is very easy."
     The Elaho has three compartments.  "Stowage is good for multi-day trips but the 3-hatch system will not work for bulky items.  The day hatch is handy, but a trade-off because of the loss of a larger rear stowage area" (GL).  The main hatches have neoprene covers and plastic lids.  The day hatch is a 7½" round Valley Canoe Products cover.  TW found the neoprene covers on the main hatches difficult to install, but GL and MH reported only a few drops leaking past them.  MH found a cup of water in the day hatch after a lot of rolls and rescue practice.  The curved plastic bulkheads were securely installed.  The location and shape of the middle bulkhead made it easy to drain the cockpit.
     With a load of 65 pounds aboard, GL reported the Elaho "tracks OK without the skeg and turned easily with a load, but water comes up over the gunwale: not a big boy's boat."
     GL thought the Elaho would be "a joy to paddle for beginner to advanced paddlers looking for easy bracing, rolling, and maneuverability in currents or rock gardens, but suitable for multi-day outings."  For TW it was "a fun boat to paddle.  Its quickness, great maneuverability and skeg-assisted tracking would make it a great kayak for weekend paddles in rough water.  It is a great candidate for short trips. " The Elaho is "a kayak that a day-one beginner or seasoned expert will love for its agile performance and super fit. I'd like to have one as a touring playboat" (MH).

Design Response:
     Thank you to Sea Kayaker magazine and the kayak testers.  It is always nice to have our enthusiasm for a new design confirmed by the industry.  The review perfectly captures the strengths of our brand new Elaho.  Long hours of tweaking the cockpit have paid off with a boat that, as one reviewer put it, is the "best off-the-shelf fit ever for me."
     We also strove to hit that fine balance between great maneuverability and tracking, resulting in a kayak that is an awesome touring playboat.  Again we'll let the reviewers do the talking:  "It does what you want it to;" "The most maneuverable sea touring kayak I have paddled."  Thanks again, and see you on the water!
Necky Kayaks

Options and Pricing
Standard Construction:  Rotomolded superlinear polyethylene   Optional: Composite Fiberglass or Kevlar
Standard Features:  Drop skeg, recessed deck fittings, perimeter lines, three bulkheads, day hatch, Bomber gear back band   Optional:  Rudder
Approximate Weight:  Polymer 63 pounds
Price:  US $1,349
Availability:  Call or visit www.necky.com for a dealer list.
Manufacturer's Address:  Necky Kayaks, 1100 Riverside Road, Abbotsford BC, V2S 7P1, Canada. Phone: (604) 850-1206

























Mountain Sports
Texas On-the-Water Center
Heart of the Texas Hill Country
Guadalupe River: Hunt, Texas