Submitted: 07-21-2009 by CharlesB
After 8 years of paddling an Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro and renting some rotomolded sit inside kayaks, I bought a used Nighthawk 17.5. I was hesitant to buy such a long boat but I've now put over 100 miles on the boat in the on rivers, lakes and in the Gulf of Mexico.
I'm 6' even and 210 pounds. This boat isn't only large enough for me but would probably fit me better if I put on 30 pounds. There is plenty of leg room. I've got a 32" inseam and there is about 6 more inches of adjustment left in the foot pegs. This is definitely a boat for large and tall paddlers. I'm thinking about putting some padding on the sides of the seat to make the fit a little more snug.
My fear about such a long boat being difficult to maneuver was unfounded. Now that I've learned to edge, turning isn't at all difficult. The Nighthawk doesn't track as easily as my 15 foot sit on top but I just drop the skeg and it holds a straight line with no effort at all. On calm water I don't use the skeg but it does come in handy paddling upstream or in windy conditions.
The primary and secondary stability are both excellent. I've actually put it up on edge far enough to get water in the cockpit without tipping over and I'm not an advanced paddler. The Nighthawk is not a racing boat. It doesn't accelerate as fast as sleeker kayaks but once I get moving I have no problem keeping up with other boats. I glides along really well.
My Nighthawk is a 2006 model with a hard plastic seat and backrest (not a back band). The first couple of times I took the boat out the backrest irritated me but now it doesn't bother me even after 5 hours in the boat. I'm completely satisfied with the backrest and have no plans to change it. The seat is another matter. My butt, specifically in the tailbone area, gets sore after about 3 hours of paddling. After 5 the pain becomes pretty intense. I just bought a gel filled seat pad to help with this. I know someone that has a Nighthawk 17.5 and like me, the hard seat is his only complaint. The gel pad worked for him.
The new Nighthawks come with an integrated seat pad. I might very well rate that a 10 of 10 but I give my 2006 hard seat model a 9.