Submitted: 05-30-2007 by canoedancing
My whitewater kayak is a Wavesport Diesel 75, my sea kayak is a P&H Capella 173. I want something in between so I can run moderate rapids easily and still have enough speed to keep up with tandem canoes on the river without having to hustle all the time.
The Combi fills the requirements quite nicely. It is very stable, plenty of freeboard and will carry my 220 plus day gear with no problem. The deck box day hatch is easy to work and holds quite a bit. It is neoprene sock however so not waterproof if you flip. It also heats up a lot during the day transferring the heat to anything in the compartment and to my legs. The rear hatch is excellent, dry, easy access and roomy. Plenty of space for minimal camping gear. The hatch is a standard Prijon hardshell over neoprene. After rolls and wet exit practice the stern hatch remained dry. The seat is adjustable fore and aft but won't go any further aft than mid point because it hits the backrest which is limited by the back cockpit rim. As a result it's not possible to move paddler weight further back to lift the bow enough to keep it from plowing. The back rest is adjustable with a cord and keeper and offers good lumbar support although the keeper gradually lets the line out so the seat back needs to be readjusted several times per day. The front of the seat itself is too high and hit my thighs causing discomfort after 3 hours of paddling. I tried several thicknesses of minicell to raise the buttocks high enough to relieve the pressure on the thighs. The footrests are adjustable, by turning the hand wand to mid point then moving the foot peg fore and aft with toe until it reaches the right position, then turn the hand wand to lock position. Foot pegs are sturdy and comfortable. There is plenty of room in the bow forward of the foot pegs for a couple 20L drybags.
On the Combi Touring model, which I have, the pegs are not rated for intensive whitewater use. The WhiteWater model has a forward bulkhead instead of pegs. The bow is fairly pointy but bulbous, so at any speed over slow cruising the bow pushes up a wave which makes it harder to maintain speed and causes the bow to want to wander. Backing off the speed until the bow wake recedes gives a fairly comfortable cruising speed and requires very little paddling effort to keep it there. As soon as you stop paddling the boat will wander to which ever side it was leaning when you stopped paddling, and the bow will veer more abruptly the faster you are coasting. There is a nice little glide at the lower speed. It only takes a couple power strokes to get the boat up to cruising speed, but that isn't very fast, and pushing only a slight bit more will create the noisy bow wake. The boat loves to ferry, forward or backwards. I am able to cross the river with a slight upstream ferry and a few well placed strokes.
The Combi turns fairly easily with a hefty lean, easier when underway. From a stop it takes 3 strong paddle strokes to turn 180. The rear hatch cover has 4 tie points for strapping on gear. The weight at 54 pounds (average of 4 weighings on bathroom scale) is a tad heavy for a whitewater kayak, certainly heavy for a 12 foot recreational kayak, but okay since this is in essence a 12' whitewater downriver boat. Thigh pads are easily adjustable to a variety of angles and positions. The bolt on wear strip in the stern is very rugged. I didn't purchase the bolt on skeg, but it seems an easy matter to use the (supplied) allen wrench to take out two screws and remove the wear strip and replace it with the bolt on skeg).
The Combi is a whitewater kayak that is recreational capable, for real. Compared to a "recreational kayak" that claims to be whitewater capable. A good boat for someone moving up from a recreational kayak to more whitewater and downriver use. I feel better about the weight knowing the Combi is made from recyclable plastic that doesn't use any of the agents that are harmful to the environment.