Submitted: 11-08-2007 by jamie_higgins
I consider myself an all around boater. I paddle whitewater, flatwater rivers, lakes and coastal waters, ICF sprint races and fitness paddling. I'm female, 5'6", 150 pounds. Since I live in Atlanta, I usually paddle mostly lakes in my sea kayak. I started off as a WW boater so I appreciate a responsive long boat, but I've recently gotten into fitness paddling and racing. I am mainly looking for a kayak to race and do overnight kayak camping trips so it's hard to find a boat that fits both of those requirements.
I had the opportunity to demo the new 18x. It wasn't the 18x ultra, but one of the performance 18xs. It weighs 41 pounds and I could see how this lightweight boat would appeal to women. I liked the fact that it weighs only 41 pounds and the construction seemed solid. Many racing sea kayaks seem rather fragile and I wouldn't dare load it up with gear and do an overnight trip. I also recently demoed the epic endurance carbon layup (predecessor to the 18x), and I thought it too fragile to handle lots of gear.
The 18x is very fast and very responsive. I like the fact that you can paddle the boat racers style (knees together) or traditional style (knees under thigh braces). I also loved the pedal style rudder system. I also loved the solid foot bulkhead. It made it very easy to pedal your feet while paddling (racer style). Even when I'm not racing or a doing a work out paddle, my hip flexors get very tired and sore when I paddle long distances using the thigh braces.
I paddled the boat on a flatwater, deep river and there was quite a bit of wind and chop. The boat handled great! It is tippy, but compared to a sprint boat it is stable. Although, I didn't roll the boat, I think that it would be very easy to roll.
I also liked the integrated rudder. You just get in the boat and go...no having to put down the rudder or worry about the rudder system. The only disadvantage to the integrated rudder is that you must be careful with it. The rudder sticks out a bit so you must be careful about what you paddle over. A rock or log could possible snag it...unlike a traditional rudder that would simply bump over an underwater obstruction. Since the rudder is integrated and fixed, you can't pull it up if you see something ahead that might snag it.
I do think that this is a small disadvantage and the other great, thoughtful construction of the boat really outweighs that one disadvantage. The hatches seemed sturdy and there seemed to be plenty of storage room for a weekend trip.
I really liked this boat and I could see many hours of paddling it. Now, I just gotta come up with the money to buy one!