Submitted: 07-17-2003 by Nonsense9
This is a nice kayak for the money. It compares reasonably in handling qualities to a Carolina or a Monterey, which run about $100 more unless you find a good sale. Maybe not perceptibly as fast, but they have a lot of the same feel to an inexperienced person like me. (Just because you're not Mario Andretti doesn't mean you don't appreciate a fine car, does it?) Speaking of cars....
In my limited experience in a demo of the America, it reminds me of a Cadillac--quite smooth, comfortable, not jackrabbit quick, but fast enough once you get going. You don't have to spend a great amount of effort to go straight, either, even with a wind. The hull turns fine--not as quick as a Swedish hull or a much shorter boat, but I preferred the tracking of the America to the amount of work needed to make a shorter kayak go straight. No, it is not paddling technique in this case. In calm water, a double stroke or two will straighten you out in just about anything. In wind, and a poor boat, you could stroke on one side forever. I didn't find this necessary in the America.
I am neutral on the value of the large cockpit. While it is easy to enter and exit, it also leaves you with nothing on which to brace your knees--unless you want to brace them on the hard cockpit edge. To be fair, you could probably pad this, but it doesn't look like the design will be too forgiving of this modification.
The America also offers a hatch--nice if you need to store gear. However, if I don't do overnight jaunts or trips requiring a lot of gear, I don't plan on accessing that hatch in the water, either!
Thanks to its cost, the America just made my "short" list for next year. I've also seen reviews which comment on the America's weight range (advertised as 57 pounds). For me, it would get lifted six times per trip--out of the garage rafters, onto the car, off the car to the water, then repeat in reverse. The majority of the time it is in the water holding ME up, weighing just about nothing. If 7 pounds makes that much difference, maybe I should just carry 7 pounds less gear! Another note--this is an honest 8. I don't give out "modern Olympics" 10's. I haven't paddled a 10 yet.