Earlier this spring, I was looking to buy a boat for the kids, I opted for the R5 River Runner, for the simple reason; affordable price, it's level-entry, it came with it's own spray skirt, paddle and skeg. As oppose to not buying a kayak that came fully equipped! Upon reading the catalogue the Excel caught my eye, a little bit more from the price (but not by much), the Excel is a foot longer than the R5 River Runner and comes with a rear deck hatch. The only reason why I bought the Excel, it looked like a boat to grow into (I have one teen and one pre-teen), the rear deck hatch was very appealing and it came fully equipped.
I found the paddle to be very heavy, so I already had a standard un-feathered paddle by dimension, it works very well. The spray skirt is no problem to put on and off, and keeps the water from getting in. Although the Excel did not come with a bulkhead, I'm sure it's possible to make one with the right cocking and foam (I was able to make my own kayak sail, a bulkhead shouldn't be that difficult); The Deluxe version did come with it's own bulkhead.
The bungees on the front deck are conveniently placed; I can put enough gear to go day tripping. With bigger items I can fit just about anything in the rear deck hatch. It's good to know from past reviewers that the Excel can sustain enough gear to go on 2-3 week excursions! The rear deck hatch is no problem to open and close, the gasket covering the hatch is also easy to put on and off. The foot rest can be easily adjusted, the cockpit is roomy with plenty of leg room. The bumper on the front of the kayak looks fine, along with a matching skeg.
Tracking. The polyethylene hull allows the Excel to track well in calm and extreme waters! I do notice whenever the wind picks up a few knots the kayak tends to veer rightward, meaning; for every left stroke I have to paddle 2 or 3 strokes on the right ward side to keep the kayak straight. This only applies to strong wind conditions. The Excel paddles well in very extreme waters! For example, the husband and I took the kayaks into the breakers (4 foot waves converging from all sides). Even though I was scared, I was surprise how well the Excel handle the waves; my husband said the kayak look like it was surfing the waves.
My only complaint is, there's a dent where the left bungee hooks up and I had to replace the standard paddle because it was too heavy.
Overall, I've grown very attach to the Excel in contrast to my Nomad, I found the Nomad to be very heavy and bulky to paddle when compare to the lighter Excel.