Submitted: 06-06-2007 by Steve
I've had the Stearns Spree 1 for a couple of months now and have fallen in love with it completely. Performs above my expectations, tracks straight (a small bit of wagging), very stable and nimble. Can stop and turn on a dime. Picks up speed nicely and I can keep up with the smaller hardshells on the lake.
I'm a big fat guy (6 foot, 250 or so pounds) and I was worried I'd be too big for this. But I fit in snugly... it's a bit tight, and I've had no trouble getting in and out thanks to the zippered skirt. I don't swamp or overload the boat.
The only drawbacks I've found so far are that it could be more roomy (or I could be less roomy, a smaller person will be fine) and storage space is limited.
I had my heart set on a Sevylor Rio, but couldn't find one. I checked out the West Marine version of the AE dragonfly but it looked a bit tight for me (I've seen these out on the water, and they do look pretty good). I found the Stearns on sale and decided to take a chance. I am so glad I did. I get compliments and questions about it almost every time I'm out. I'm glad now I got the yellow over the blue Sevylor as I paddle alone and the extra visibility is comforting. I'd advise anybody getting one of these to also spend a bit more on the basic safety equipment, good PFD, throw line, paddle leash (very important as an inflatable can run away in the wind quickly if you go over). It's worth it because once you see how this kayak handles, you'll want to keep on using it.
Finally, the portability is awesome, and the bag is large enough so that it's not a chore refolding the boat and re-stowing it (I've gotten it in first try every time). Keep a sponge or microfiber towel on hand to help dry it off, especially under the floor.
I also want to note that I've got the newer, B521 version of this kayak, which has a redesigned spray skirt to avoid the leaking problem others have described. It's also significantly lighter at 23 lbs.
I love this kayak. It's allowed me an inexpensive way to get onto the water without the storage and transport requirements of a hardshell. I'm on the water 15 minutes after zipping open the bag. I'm sure it takes longer to launch a hardshell.