Submitted: 08-02-2004 by Tom
My third kayak purchased in 14 months (and my third review--see Pungo Classic (12') and Prijon Calabria (14.5'). It is SO informative to read "seat of the pants" opinions about all these boats!). I paid full retail ($529, but got an in-store 5% credit). The rear bulk head and nice hatch alone justified the extra $$ over other boats I considered. My criteria for boat #3 were: Stability, light weight, good handling in a short length yak and overal construction quality. The Element scores well in all categories. Oh, there’s one more. Within an hour's drive for put-in, I often put my yaks inside my Chevy Astro and utilize the 3-piece rear hatch for a super-quick "load and go." The other two stick out for a windy, noisy ride...I wanted the next yak to easily fit inside the van with hatch closed, that way, I won’t need a “system” to put three on top when the family paddles together. The Element fits nicely, and if put in stern first, with hatch facing driver provides a nice armrest, with no visual obstruction. Back to the important stuff. STABILITY: Good stability when getting in and out (due in part to it’s decent width) which makes beginner paddlers feel secure. The hull has an interesing set of angles and some flatness right under the seat...at first I thought my boat had a dent but checked others at the store...no, it’s just kind of flat right there...maybe in the water, with weight in the seat, the hull flexes out a little and the tiny keel does it’s job. After a week of paddling, it feels stable in many conditions--river currents, open water with a bit of chop and some off-axis headwinds. HANDLING: stable, as mentioned but still feels “sporty” and the hull shape allows for some quick turns without needing a lot of lean, adding confidence for beginners. I like to introduce others to kayaking and this boat will make many converts. The Pungo excells at tracking with it’s firm and prominent keel, with a bit more effort required to turn (though the multi-chine hull helps), while the Element feels like it could turn on a quarter, if not a dime. I was very impressed at how well it tracks after a few good strokes. The pointy nose cuts through the water and waves and the deck is somewhat multi-tiered. This would be my choice from my flotilla if I expected to do a lot of manuevering on a river (around rocks, obstacles, winding turns)...I did a personal speed test compared to a “contender” (The Necky Sky, which was really fun to paddle too)...and the Element had a distict advantage in speed, though speed consideration drops for oour family when we’re just poking around together. It’s kind of like pushing the speed a few miles per hour when travelling in a car, only to realize when you stop that those who were “slower” end up arriving just a minute or two later. OVERALL CONSTRUCTION,etc: It’s a very nice looking yak, good color schemes too and the lines of it seem to aid it’s overall perfomance too. It appears to be sturdy and firm where it needs to be (like behind the cockpit for entry/exit) and thinner and a bit flexy (which hasn’t caused any problems yet) to save weight. At 45 lbs it’s a one-hander to move it about--I find that the next 10 lbs in boat weight is a huge addition when putting it on car top. For fit, I am 6’1 and 210 Lbs and like the fit of the seating and cockpit. The Element is a nice compromise between my other two yaks, the Pungo having a HUGE cockpit and the Calabria a snug fit (it has adjustable thigh braces). I find when poking around a shore line or paddling a lazy river, it’s really nice to have a decent size cockpit for moving your legs around, and even placing them on the deck. Unlike the Pungo, not much water comes in from paddle drip. I agree with other reviewers about the weird rigging in front...it looks nice but could be improved easily by doing it yourself...I really dug the inflatable lumbar support, except that mine leaks and I need to get that corrected from Store or Manufacturer. I get back fatigue when in one position too long, so in my other boats, I use a 12” long piece of a foam “noodle”, cut in half lengthwise, which I slip between my back and the seat...works like a charm!
Note to other nearly obsessed paddlers who share the experience with others...I bought a nice, lightweight carbon fibre (shaft) paddle (a Swift--so pretty too!) which I use when alone, and my wife Sue gets when the gang goes out...the more comfortable and less fatigued she is at the end of a trip, the more likely we will go out again (including mutiple paddles per day on our vacations). THAT is worth $100 more! As before, I’ve been a bit wordy in my review but when “shopping” via reviews, the more info the better!