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Submitted: 07-27-2005 by Ceric

My Kahuna is a 2003 model with 2 hatches, rudder and one piece coaming. I am about 5’10” 150 lbs. I rate myself as an intermediate paddler. My paddling haunts are mainly in Wisconsin lakes and the Green Bay/Lake Michigan area. I have categorized my review based on several criteria below:

Performance:
This is a nice performing boat for a 14' 9" boat with a 25” beam. I find the skin to be both tight-fitting and watertight. The boat moves through the water very well and is easy to paddle at a decent pace. I find my top (short burst) speed to be 4.5 mph, with a relaxed cruising speed of 2.5 - 3.0 mph. I have yet to paddle with hardshells, so I can’t make a comparison of performance between the Kahuna and hardshells yet.

The Kahuna performs well in chop, but it is a wet ride- The front hatch in particular deflects spray straight into my face when heading directly into the wind in rough conditions. However, I can stay upright with hip action in 3-4 ft. chop by concentrating on balance, and I rarely have a need for bracing.

The boat doesn’t surf especially well and has a tendency to broach on a wave, but most sea kayaks do this, so this boat is not unusual in this regard. I plan to buy the strap-on skeg and see if that helps. In calm water the boat tracks very well, without the need for a rudder. In windy conditions the boat does weathercock quite a bit when it’s unloaded. The rudder minimizes this problem nicely. Again, we’ll see if the skeg fixes this problem also.

I don’t prefer the rudder because it is difficult to operate through the sea sock, which I always use for safety. The boat turns easily with a few sweep strokes. The cockpit is narrow enough to make it familiar to any hardshell owner, but spacious enough that you can move around in it a bit. The sponsons make deep sculling a chore, at best. There is a point of no return when you put the boat on its side, so a good slap brace is a more appropriate tool to have in your quiver than a sculling. However, in most conditions it won’t be necessary to use deep sculling, again because of the sponsons! Other paddle strokes are no problem.

I am able to get back into this boat fairly easily under average conditions. I just do a cowboy re-entry. I haven’t tried to roll it, but I imagine the sponsons would make it challenging to do well if the boat is unloaded, which is how I paddle the boat most of the time.

Quality:
This is a high quality boat. It looks, and is, very cool. The seams are watertight and the workmanship is excellent (these are hand-made boats). The boat is able to take a lot of abuse both on the water and on the beach. The hatches help with assembly and are well designed. As kayaks go, this is a very comfortable boat. The inflatable, adjustable seat combined with the soft skin is fantastic, making the boat much, much more comfortable than a hardshell during a long paddle. The cockpit coaming is a one piece fiberglass unit and works very well- I have not had the skin pop out during any kind of paddling.

My one gripe is the foot pegs. They tend to rotate down toward the center of the boat and I have to lift them up with my feet every so often, which is annoying, especially through the sea sock. Ralph Diaz has a couple of solutions for it in his book “Complete Folding Kayaker”, but I haven’t tried them yet. The footpegs are, however, very solid otherwise when screwed down tightly, and provide a good brace for your feet (when rotated back up).

Feathercraft is very good with customer support and looks like it will be around for a long time. It appears to be a quality company overall.

Portability:
The boat packs down into a very large suitcase-sized bag. It has backpack straps, but I cannot walk much farther than a couple hundred feet with it on my back, as it is an awkward carry. I think this boat is fine for car/bus/air travel, but I wouldn’t want to bike with it on my back! However, it fits easily into my closet with lots of room to spare, and I love that I can carry it safely inside my car and never have to put it on the roof. I can carry this boat in ANY car without a problem, which greatly enhances my ability to take it anywhere I want. In the winter, it stays safe inside.

Assembly:
This depends. If I do everything right and don’t forget a step, I can assemble it in as fast as 30 minutes (without the rudder installation) at normal speed. I suppose one could speed-assemble it in 20-25 minutes. Typically though, it takes me about 40 minutes because I am careful to assemble it properly. My first assembly took almost two hours! However, when you get used to the assembly steps, everything gets easier, even the two center crossribs.

Overall Impression:
This is a quality boat that does what it was designed for very well: taking day trips and weekend trips with fold-ability thrown in for greater versatility. The shorter length is great for small bodies of water but still long enough for coastal paddling or island hopping. It is an all-around boat for many different conditions, which is why I bought it. I have not been disappointed at all with my purchase, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to paddle protected coastlines or other smaller bodies of water.

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