Submitted: 07-16-2012 by instig8r
I'm a very experienced (25 years) whitewater kayak paddler, ex-instructor and slalom racer. I got the Cobra Strike because I go beach camping a lot and it was a pain using my whitewater boat for ocean surfing.
I took this boat out to the Feeder Canal, which is where the US Olympic Team used to have its training facility. It's class II-III at the top and class I at the bottom (it was built to feed water into the lower reaches of the C&O Canal, which is where it got its name). It got a lot of attention from the other paddlers there, who had never seen one before.
The first thing I noticed about the Strike is that it handled almost identically to a whitewater kayak in class I water. I just got in and paddled, same response to currents and eddies. However, one thing whitewater paddlers need to know is that this is NOT a dry boat! With my 180-lb weight, I was sitting in two inches of water through the scuppers right off the bat. Of course, since I was in whitewater, I did not use the skeg.
The one huge difference in performance between the Strike and enclosed whitewater boats is in the upstream edge. If you get the upstream edge of the Strike caught in the flow, you are in for some SERIOUS effect. As an experienced river surfer I had the chops to deal with it as soon as I felt it, but later when I was pushing the envelope I did suffer some consequences (more on that below). Suffice it to say that, while it is very similar to a whitewater boat in most ways, if a beginner or an intermediate whitewater paddler catches an upstream edge in this thing, they are going over, and that's that.
On the ocean, of course, that's not as big of a concern, because the waves are more spread and the surf-able part of the wave is steeper, so very little chance of that happening.
I had the boat outfitted with backbrace, thigh straps, and foot straps. My heels were getting a bit cramped, so I took my feet out of the straps. I found myself at the head of the line for surfing the little hole at the top of the chute, and headed in for what I thought would be an easy paddle. However, I pushed things a bit too far during a cut-back and went upside down. Instead of rolling I just came out, mainly because my feet weren't in the straps. However, when I surfaced, I found it amazingly easy to perform a self-rescue and climb back in the boat. I just flipped it upright, reached across from side to side, and pulled myself up. For a boat this small, I did not expect such lateral stability. In a few seconds, I was back up at the top of the Feeder surfing again.
I can't wait to try it in the ocean, but I also can't wait to try it at several other Potomac River playspots...