Submitted: 03-13-2006 by medicineman
Wanting to add to my initial review I write this after 3 days of rolling at the Sweetwater Symposium.
The Wisper out of the box (backpack rather) is fine for all the forward leaning rolls as are most kayaks but fails for layback rolls (maybe if you are much much smaller then this might not be the case). It fails because the rib behind the seat will knife into your lower back. Fortunately for me I hooked up with Dubside for some one on one. He also uses a Wisper and after a quick trip to shore my Wisper was instantly converted into a folling machine. This was accomplished by removing completely the rib immediately behind the cockpit.
Feathercraft doesn't recommend this of course but realize that for rolling we were less than 30 feet off shore with Dubside standing in the water critiquing my every move. After the session was over I examined his Wisper which has a custom rib behind the cockpit, a rib Dubside fashioned to render his own rolling machine (this must be said tongue-in-cheek because on this same day I witnessed him rolling my QCC700 via elbow and hand rolls)...
The custom rib was fascinating because it is a 'floating' rib. Picture the typical Feathercraft rib more as a rectangle and then remove the sides leaving the top and the bottom. The top and bottom of the ribs are where the longerons and chine bars connect. This keeps the longerons and chine bars in place (with a little help from velcro straps)but allows the rear deck to flex as you roll up and onto it AND removes the knife in the lower back of the OEM rib.
The only caution I can see in this setup for rolling practice is in entering the kayak, just go slow and dont place your entire body weight on the rear deck which at this point is not truly supported via the rib. Just as obvious is the need for the OEM rib in place when doing serious paddles.
I plan on making my own custom rib, maybe not a floating rib, preferring to keep the four sides of the square, but a rib that is 2 inches lower than the OEM. This would yeild about an inch of freeboard on the back deck.
I've noticed that cutting boards can be had for cheap, are made of the same HDPE, and can be found thick enough. I will experiment with them.
Some more thoughts on the Wisper. After assembling/disassembling many times now I would recommend all who get the Wisper to get the optional bow hatch...it makes it so much easier to get the longerons in place and if you get the float bags it makes them easier to install too.
Back to the 'rolling machine'. After Dubside removed the offending rib, 2 minutes later I had a balanced brace that felt wonderful. Almost as good as the feeling I got in Hoffmeister's Qaajaaq SS.
One more thing at this juncture. At my height---6'1"----I need the calf plates offered by Feathercraft, when rolling my shins are in line with the forward cockpit rib and get a wee bit too much pressure....which reminds me of why I think the Wisper is so easy to roll, my knees and Dubsides knees actually push into the fabric (skin), with your knees jammed this weigh your legs form a diamond which allows much more torquing of the kayak compred to when your legs are straighter. I think it allows a larger movement from the hips when you begin to turn the boat right side up.