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Submitted: 09-27-2005 by DVMPADDLE

I wanted my first kayak to be a tough, compact boat that I could explore a variety of water with, and I wouldn't become bored with as my paddling skills grew. I chose a rudderless Calabria, and after a season paddling waters from narrow creeks to Lake Michigan, I am happy with my choice.

The Calabria is tough. Prijon's HTP plastic is stiff throughout and very damage resistant. I have done some pretty dumb things to this boat, yet it bears only minor scars from my more spectacular mishaps. The hatch, bulkhead, and other fittings have stood up well to a normal season of wear. The front flotation bag has withstood several dunkings during practice rescues. The adjustable foot pegs, thigh braces, and seat allow for a custom fit and have remained secure once tightened. Storage is ample for overnighters.

On the water I found the mix of maneuverability, stability, speed, and tracking I was hoping for. The Calabria can follow a 10' rec boat down all but the narrowest creeks and dead fall "slaloms". On open water, it lives up to its reputation for excellent secondary stability and carving. A couple of trips through the chaotic chop and rebounding waves of the Upper Wisconsin Dells were a blast and really sold me on the Calabria's overall handling characteristics. I also like the boat's speed and efficiency. I have taken 20-mile day trips that required sustained upstream paddling on the outbound leg. As to tracking it is sensitive to weather cocking, but like some other reviewers, I found some gentle leaning and/or occasional stroke adjustment sufficient to correct course in most conditions. No doubt some hull designs in this category reflect a greater emphasis on tracking. For example, the Current Designs Whistler exhibited better glide and tracking during a test paddle, but sacrificed too much maneuverability for my tastes.

Two minor features that I wish skewed more toward touring considerations are the back rest and internal space behind it. The back rest is held in place in part by two metal posts that tend to pop out during entry. The space behind the seat is great for storing non essentials during a casual paddle, but a hassle to drain after capsize.

In sum, I think the Calabria is a great looking, versatile, tough little boat that is a lot of fun to paddle.

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