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Submitted: 06-25-2009 by Nicholas Walburn

I researched kayaks for an entire month, comparing prices, features, portability, durability, and the cost of accessories. I needed a kayak that was:
  1. Tandem.
    Since Kayaking is a social sport for me, and I really like the relationship building that happens on the water (fishing or paddling), I need a two seater. Since I don't have a lot of friends with kayaks, this is a great way to introduce new people to the sport.
  2. A length over 12 feet.
    A camp a which I worked in college had ten "Malibu Two" kayaks by Ocean Kayak. I loved them. I thought they were bomb proof, but heavy. For my needs, I wanted one a little longer, so I could include kids one day on a paddling trip.
  3. One with rod holders.
    I love to fish, and rod holders were a luxury I was willing to pay for. I could do the same with a milk crate and pvc, but built in holders look nice.
  4. Portable.
    In this stage of my life, I live in a little, 400 sq. foot apartment while I'm in grad school. I don't have a wall in my house that is 12 feet long, and I really didn't feel comfortable leaving my Kayak outside. I have a roof rack, so transportation isn't an issue, just portability.
  5. Sit-on-top.
    I don't like the enclosed cockpit set up. I grew up with canoes, and I'm used to the "openness" of a Malibu II. Also, I'll be on flat water most of the time, so a spray skirt isn't really needed.
In the end, it came down to three options that would meet my requirements best.
  1. The Ocean Kayak Malibu II XL Angler Edition.
    (Cabelas had a great price, with twenty dollars shipping.) It has seats and hatches. It has rod holders. It is a kayak I could see myself using for a long time, after I have a family, and on longer down river trips with friends. My apartment is too small. No, I didn't get it.
  2. The Malibu Kayak eXtreme
    Yes, I know it is 15 feet long and only seats one person. A shop in town was selling a fully loaded eXtreme for such a low price. It was a steal, and if I had a garage, I'd have bought it in a heartbeat. I don't, so it was knocked off the list.
  3. Malibu Kakaks Pro2 Tandem
    This is basically the same Kayak as the Ocean Kayaks Malibu II XL. It has a cool hatch, but is too expensive. I didn't buy it.
  4. The Advanced Elements Strait Edge II
    This kayak had two seats, the lowest price, is incredibly portable, and rod holders. It met all of my requirements, so I ordered a demo version from ebay for around five hundred dollars (three hundred off retail) and it exceeds my expectations. (I recommend this option. My kayak came and was very lightly used. In fact, after I wiped it down, I couldn't tell it was a demo version!)
I went on a three hour downstream trip in the James River, near Lynchburg, VA this weekend, and my thoughts are as follows:

Durability- excellent.
AE makes a great product. This will last me for years and years. We hit some rocks under the water a few times with no scuffing or noticeable wear on the underside of the boat. It is tough!

convenience- o.k.
It takes about ten minutes to blow up properly, and when inflated, it is as stiff and heavy as a normal sit on top kayak.

Portability- amazing.
It all fits in the trunk of my car, and fit well in the back of my friend's Honda Fit.

Tracking- ummm yeah.
It was a little sluggish to paddle and had a tendency to spin around, similar to a big whitewater raft that you'd rent for a day. It took some real thought and finesse from the rear paddler, with steering technique like occasional back paddling and braking to keep a true line. This made for some excitement since we were novices to the river and ended up going backwards through some class II rapids right off the bat. We were laughing at our inability to keep it straight, but after a while, we worked up a rhythm and kept it on track.

Final analysis-
The boat is not bad, just different than your typical sit on top. For all the incredible portability, the paddler gives up a slight bit of mobility and control on the water. Since ours was a downstream trip, we still made great time. We just needed to learn how to control the tendency for the boat to spin.

I think that the Advanced Elements thigh straps will help me in keeping the boat on the straightest course, and I'm picking up as set before getting on the water again. Since you steer this boat with your hips, when paddling, it's easy to feel the boat want to oversteer in the opposite direction of the paddle stroke.

I highly recommend this boat, but admit that it is not as mobile as its less portable cousins.

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