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Submitted: 11-03-2003 by George Miller
I bought my Kevlar Extreme 6/03 (my prior boats were a Perception Eclipse, Neck Kyook, Necky Looksha Sport), When I acquired the Eclipse in 2000, I also looked at the Extreme, but thought it was too much boat for me at the time. Now, I can grow into it a little more gracefully. I’m middle-aged, in fairly good condition, 5'10", 172 lbs, paddled for 9 years, took advanced lessons, rate myself intermediate. I’ll update this review when I get more experience aboard.
Hull and outfitting: - The boat has a fish form, sleek shallow round bottom design, 18’10,” long, 21.5” wide, a light, car-toppable 48 lbs. Fit and finish are mostly excellent, although mine has some uneven spots and roving texture showing through the gel coat at the stern.
Hardware/outfitting are mostly excellent. The inside is finished as well as outside, Hatches have heavy rubber gaskets and flush hatches. Bow hatch leaked at first. The dealer (Southwind Kayak) refit it for me and provided a loaner hatch while they did it. Hatch tie down buckles are undersize, brittle and have broken at times. The dealer quickly replaced them.
Steering gear is very sturdy, but uses conventional pedals and rails. There are no bungies to hold the pedals down, an annoyance that I shall correct. There a very nice low drag rudder assembly, designed to pop off if it is struck very hard, presumably being left hanging by the rudder cables and waiting for someone with a very large screwdriver to reinstall it. The rudder raise/lower controls are primo. Some people say that skegs are better than rudders and nothing is better than both. Some might eat those words, if they try to do a 27 mile open ocean crossing with one knee raised, leaving them feeling like an exposed dog by a fire hydrant, lifting its leg in a hurricane.
The Extreme is fairly comfortable, but with arthritis and heel spurs, I badly needed heel pads. My first long paddle, while wearing soft booties, left me in agony and cramped my calves up, as well. The seat back is relatively comfortable and adjustable, but it is anchored by a bungie loop which sometimes pops off at inopportune times, like re-entries. The seat bottom could use some foam padding. I recently installed a Yak-Pads gel seat pad, which works great.
There is a little room for safety gear, jacket, food and water behind the seat in the cockpit. The cockpit does not drain easily during a rescue, or beach dump-out. I keep my pump on the front deck in a specially included bungee loop, with a cord to secure it. The cockpit entry is a little short. Wet exit is not hard, but with the short opening and narrow beam, it’s a little more difficult to re-enter than I am accustomed to.
Under-hatch storage space is pretty good, but substantially narrower than my other kayaks, requiring some new skinnier dry bags.
The deck bungees are a little thin and cheesy, but most other hardware is first cabin. There is a built-in rudder tie down bungee, nice for those 80 MPH trips back home at night. The rear deck lacks real straps for tying things down. Bungies just don’t cut it when the waves/weather get rough.
There is a stainless steel anti-theft ring aft to fasten your lockup security cable to, but the boat is so darned long that my cable won’t reach forward to the kayak car top rack. The coaming is recessed into the hull- very nice- and still easy to fasten the spray skirt, but not that easy to grab in a paddle float rescue.
I have a fabulous factory–installed, deck-mounted Ritchie compass, which is a little hard to see at night. Kayak manufacturers should consider incorporating a GPS mounting pad, too- Maybe a PC also?
The Extreme’s center of gravity (CG) is a little too far forward for a comfortable shoulder carry—one must balance it right on the thigh brace extension, which digs into the shoulder. I remedy this by leaving my first aid kit in the rear compartment when I carry it, adding extra weight. However the CG seems to be good for handling at sea, which is what really counts.
Regarding performance: Now for the best part- The Extreme is one of the faster production sea kayaks you can buy, that still is fairly stable and handles acceptably. It's not an all-out racer, though. I tried the big Sedas, Neckys and Seawards, but they all seemed to me to have unacceptable tradeoffs, although they were excellent boats for what they appeared to be designed for. Although the Extreme is fast, it is a lot of boat and requires a very strong paddler for best results—that speed is not without cost. I find that I’m using different motions and muscles, due to design differences from my last boat. The speed advantage is not huge, but even a little can be decisive. It lets me now easily cruise at 4.5 knots. 5.5 is doable, with significantly more effort. I can exceed 6, when conditions are right.
Edging is good-- if you lean the boat hard, it will carve pretty well, but it won’t turn on a dime like my Eclipse or Looksha Sport. I find myself using more extended sweeps, draws and rudder strokes.
For a 19 footer, the Extreme handles surprisingly well in the surf zone. It maintains an edge well and punches through moderate waves. In surf play sessions, it stays upright when most around it capsize. It surfs OK, but not in dumpers. I haven’t done more than six footers yet. It has more of a tendency to broach than my last boat, but I’m getting the hang of it.
Primary stability is fair, secondary stability is good. The boat handles very well fully loaded, perhaps better than empty, with relatively little performance loss.
Tracking is good, but not great, without the rudder. Cross/following seas and wind effect are considerable. I leave the rudder down on long crossings or when there is any real weather influence and then it tracks like it is on rails. That way, I can focus on forward progress, instead of practicing the BCU strokes class. However,in 30+ knot winds off Santa Rosa Island last summer, weathercocking was significant, even with the rudder down.
The Extreme has a high bow and and large forward cross-section, great for plowing over waves, but there is a performance loss in rougher seas (as well as additional weathercocking). I don’t mind paying that penalty, because I believe that it is a safer boat that tends to rise over and through waves, rather than merely plow through them. However, it doesn’t simply bob over waves and pound down like a Malibu2. I’ll update this report when I encounter more difficult circumstances to test my hypothesis—assuming that I live to write about it.
I find that, unlike in my Eclipse, I can’t just sit in the cockpit reading a book out on the ocean, but must actively control the attitude of the craft by bracing or hip flexing. In a recent following sea, I had to throw braces regularly.
The boat rolls surprisingly easily for a nearly 19’ craft, because of its roundness and low back deck. The seat back is a little too high, but the support is welcome. The thigh braces are only marginal. It would be easy to slip off them during a rough roll. I think that I’ll add some foam wedges.
The Extreme is a top quality, fast, seaworthy boat, worthy of extended ocean open touring. The only real tradeoffs are less stability and maneuverability, as well as more snug accommodations.