Submitted: 02-16-2012 by Kristen
I bought the "Griffin" on a whim, not having heard much about the company and having read only two reviews. I was in the market for a replacement for my 4 y.o. Eliza. I wanted a boat that still fit me well (I'm 5'4" and 110 lbs), was stable enough for me to comfortably use a digital SLR camera (not in a waterproof housing) but ably handle waves and wind. I don't know how to roll and sometimes paddle alone, so stability was a safety issue for me. My main factors, though, were weight and value. If I can't lift a boat onto my car's rack by myself (or if I can but might die in the process), I'll never paddle it. I looked into various lightweight options from other manufacturers (Impex K-Lite and Necky Carbon) but they were mostly out of my budget and a bit heavier.
I contacted Walrus through their website, got a somewhat-delayed response and an invitation to stop by their factory and borrow a boat to try. A friend and I took them up on the offer and tried out the Griffin and Griffin LT. Giving us the opportunity to paddle the boats for a few hours was brilliant selling on their part... We went back and placed an order for two new boats. After a few months in the boat, I feel that I've had more than enough time to give a fair review...
Things I like:
-The boat's darn light! It feels much lighter than my Eliza ever did and the shorter length makes swinging the boat around a whole lot easier. I have a black car and had an Eliza with a white hull. My car's paint around the trunk area has quite a few white streaks from collisions with an unwieldy kayak. My Griffin is all lime green; there isn't a single lime green scuff on my car. The few pounds of difference between the Eliza and Griffin seem to make all the difference. I used the boat much more, often went out for longer, and just generally enjoyed kayaking more. Much of the hassle-component was taken away.
-I don't think I'll ever break it! The Griffin feels much more solid than the Eliza with no "softness" anywhere. On many of the boats I've had, the floor deforms a bit if I sit on my deck on dry land. Despite its weight, the Griffin is much "stronger-feeling" and doesn't at all.
-The seat's comfortable for long paddles. The seat is hard (fiberglass, I think) and I was initially skeptical as to its comfort. I mentioned this after first ordering the boat and the Walrus guys gave me a seat pad that can be stuck on the hard seat. At their suggestion, I waited and didn't stick the pad on immediately. Even without the seat pad, the seat doesn't seem to cause any pressure points or sore spots. I never ended up sticking the seat pad in but have never felt any discomfort in the seat even after paddling for 6 or 7 hrs straight. The entire cockpit is very comfortable, with padding everywhere I make contact with the boat. It did take me a bit to get the backband dialed in, but love it now. I usually keep it ratcheted pretty tight to force me into a better paddling position, but loosen it when I'm lazy and feel like slouching.
-It's fast! It may be shorter, but the Griffin feels just as fast as the Eliza. I seem to paddle at the same pace I used to and have no trouble keeping up with anyone. The Griffin definitely accelerates faster than the Eliza and seems to be at least as fast.
-It's stable. I still haven't learned to roll but have never unintentionally flipped. It's not a barge, and it still feels like a slick and athletic kayak, but it's predictable when you lean it. As the boat leans over, you feel stable all the way onto the edge. There's no twitchyness or wobbliness that makes you feel off balance.
-It's made in Vermont! If you're looking to buy a boat and live nearby, you should stop by their shop. We watched the guys working there for a while and though we had little idea of what they were doing, the work had a cool mix of craftsmanship and space-ageyness. They're working with amazing hi-tech materials, but they work like carpenters or artists or something that's not at all like what I imagine a factory to be like.
Things I don't like:
-The hatches on my Eliza were a lot easier to pack big things into. The Griffin's hatches aren't tiny, but they're not huge. If you're used to huge oval hatches, you might have to pack differently, but it's a pretty easy habit to get into. I've actually grown to like it and think it's great having several smaller and more-specific/organized dry bags. The smaller hatches are also more waterproof and I get virtually no water in my hatches.
-Nothing else I can think of!
So, short story long, I couldn't recommend it enough!