Submitted: 08-25-2004 by DJ
I've been paddling my Element off and on for several months now, so I can give a thorough review. First, I find Dagger's new plastic to be very tough, and also stiffer than their old plastic. I basically replaced my Dagger Delta with the Element, so I'll compare the two boats. The Delta had much more flex to the plastic, and it seems softer, too, in terms of scratch resistance. The Delta had so much initial stability that you really couldn't lean the boat at all. The Element is much more sporty. It has strong initial stability, but it's not hard to lean it onto the secondary which kicks in before you've edged too far, which is good in my case because I'm a T7/8 complete paraplegic (no trunk control). I used a plastic school chair's seatback to make an extenstion on the Element's factory backrest. The extension reaches up into my functional musculature, giving me some control over the boat. I cut wood blocks to fasten between the backrest and the rear of the cockpit coaming, thereby achieving a nice, rigid backrest which gives me good sensory input as to what the boat is doing.
The Element seems a hair faster than the Delta, and the Element is definitely a more seaworthy boat. The skirt on the Element's 38-inch cockpit is very secure, whereas it was impossible to get a really waterproof seal on the 4-foot cockpit of the Delta.
The Delta is a great boat for getting you down a nice Class II river, but the Element offers more fun as you do it. It's a little more maneuverable than the Delta, and the Element has little hard chines so that edging a bit enhances the turning. What with the edging ability, the Element tracks better than the Delta as well, particularly in wind. Just get the Element on a chine and you can overcome the slight weathercocking tendency easily.
I'm giving the Element a 9.75 score, which rounds off to 10. The deduction is for the slight weathercocking.
The Dagger Delta looks like a barge, but has amazing performance. The Element, however, is a sexy-looking thing with performance to match. My hat is off to the Dagger hull designer on the Element. It's great in rivers, and I don't mind paddling it in flat water, either, though I mostly use my touring boat for that.
Extraneous notes: I've kept my Delta for a guest boat. The guy who said you can't fit more than size 11's in the Element is mistaken. It all depends what kind of footwear you have. I have size 13's, but I wear neoprene booties when kayaking, and they fit very easily in the Element. I have a 34-inch inseam and I have two holes left on my footrest rails. If I wore tennis shoes, my feet wouldn't fit well, but then I've never sat in a kayak that fits size 13 tennis shoes well. The Element narrows quickly in front of the cockpit so that you don't need a paddle longer than 220 cm. I feel that with the retail price under $600, the Element is a true bargain, and you get a lot for the money. It's a sophisticated hull for a little rec boat. I really think of it as more of a Class I-III river boat. Just add some more floatation in the bow. The little foam block installed by Dagger isn't enough.