Submitted: 09-03-2003 by somalley
This review is based on a week long demo of a plastic Shaman on sheltered flatwater lakes and Class I moving water. I am primarily a river paddler and this review reflects that bias.
The Shaman is a very nice flatwater boat, but it would be a handful on anything more than easy Class I rapids. The full-length keel ridge is pretty grabby when crossing eddy lines and confused currents. Also, because this boat can't be spun unless edged, it's tough to reposition yourself in a small eddy. Eddy turns also tend to degenerate into "eddy deflections" unless you lean the boat hard and plant a huge duffek stroke.
That said, the boat does roll easily and is very maneuverable for a narrow, keeled hull. On flat water (moving or lake), you can initiate and control turns just by edging (though I would need a lot of hip padding to keep me from sliding side to side on the seat). I don't know how it compares to a "real" sea kayak, since I've never spent more than 10 minutes in one, but it glides beautifully compared to pretty much any other rec boat. It threaded its way through lots of downed trees in current on my local river without much ado, and it had great speed for attaining upstream.
But it's definitely not a whitewater crossover boat--more of a high end day tourer, if there is such a thing. Can't say how it performs in "open" water, since I'm not a tourer and don't have access to such conditions anyway.
The Phase 3 seat was incredibly comfortable, mostly due to the adjustable under-thigh support. First factory kayak seat I've ever sat in that didn't put my feet to sleep within minutes. If I bought a boat like this, though, I'd probably rip the backrest out and replace it with a backband. I just don't use or like backrests, high or low.
The plastic is of average toughness, I suppose. I scratched the heck out of it in the week I had it, but then I was banging over rocks and t-boning the riverbank (before I figured out that the boat NEEDS a duffek stroke to complete an eddy turn :). It also deformed where the roof rack contacted the front deck, but what do you expect from unsupported plastic?
Overall it's a very cool rec boat, I suppose, if you want the look and feel of a sea kayak but don't need something 17 feet long.