Submitted: 07-25-2005 by Bonneville
This reviews the Airalite model, which differs somewhat from the plastic edition in dimensions, design and outfitting. The design is time-tested and very good, but quality control isn't top drawer. A grap loop was poorly affixed and let go with little use. A material (adhesive?) was spattered several places around the hull and virtually all decals appeared to have been applied sloppily (numerous air bubbles). The cockpit is fairly roomy, but outfitting is just adequate. The cockpit rim is relatively thin and has some roughness on the edge, making it less than skirt-friendly. The backband is a little high to accommodate back deck rolls. The method for securing hatch covers in place is not entirely effective, and they sometimes get a little askew.
Enough of the nitpicking. The boat is an absolute hoot to paddle and is drop dead gorgeous, especially with the silver deck. It's fast, but not a rocket. The upswept ends make it very easy to turn, but rob some waterline length and, therefore, speed. With maneuverability, you surrender some tracking, but the rudder takes care of that. The round bottom buys some speed, but trades off some initial stability, possibly making it feel a bit twitchy to some. But, secondary stability is good, so I'd say it's a stable boat. That said, I respectfully disagree with those who disqualify it for beginners. Paddling skills and instincts progress rapidly from inception, so my philosophy is that neophytes should buy boats they'll learn from and grow into. Not skittish high performance designs, but boats like this that reward proper paddling and maneuvering technique with results.
Bottom line is that this popular design is a great balance between speed and maneuvering, and it doesn't hurt that it's a looker.