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As for performance, secondary stability is amazing, can easily paddle on edge without much effort. Initial stability is good but always catches me off guard the first time out of the season. Speed is great, and for decent tracking, i always keep the skeg down. The only dynamic issue i have is the way it breaks through the waves, not over them.
Compared to a Neck Vector 14 SOT, the Avatar 16 is more fun through the waves but will not keep you as dry. It is not a bad thing, i think it may be the more efficient way to make it through the surf, just not what initially expected. Combined with windy conditions, the constant spray can get annoying. Storage is okay for a low volume kayak, but don't expect anything to stay very dry.
This was my first sea kayak purchased, after taking lessons and renting a P&H Capella, so I am far from an expert for reviewing this kayak. As a final note, visually this kayak looks great, the low lines and long body always have me looking forward to the next weekend or season when it's in storage.
I have used this boat in a variety of conditions on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It is a great all around small sea-kayak with pleasing lines. The traditional hull shape is at odds or shall we be kinder and say that it contrasts with the colorful plastic used in the construction (my craft is red-yellow fade). Construction is good and there are no leaks in to the front or rear bulk-head compartments.
It is a great play boat, very maneuverable and easy to roll. Credit for the maneuverability goes to the excellent fit you can achieve with the adjustable thigh braces in addition to a hull with rocker, etc. If available as an after-market item I would buy thigh braces like these for my other kayaks!
In light conditions and low speed the Avatar glides very easily and you can travel far with a low effort. The shape does not provide for a great deal of course stability and even relatively small wakes from passing boats has a noticeable effect particularly when coming from a quartering rear direction. A slight amount of skeg deployment counteracts the tendency to turn in to the wind quite well.
The Avatar ride can be a bit wet in confused seas and paddling in to wind and steep waves as the ends and not very buoyant. Getting wet is not an issue for the most part as I have a tough time being out on the water without practicing a few rolls anyway.
I have a West Side Boat Shop Thunderbolt (racing kayak), but didn't have a boat I could comfortably take onto the ocean or the great lakes in windy conditions. The Avatar has proven to be the PERFECT boat for this. I've heard on countless occasions that there's no such thing as a fast, stable and maneuverable kayak, but, for an experienced paddler, this is it! I routinely cruise at 5 mph (can get it up to 6.5), the thing turns on a dime, and handles 3 foot waves beautifully. This is a boat that rides over the waves, rather than cuts through them, so you have to want that (i.e., it's a wet ride). Also, a prospective buyer should be able to put the boat on edge comfortably.
I'll reiterate what previous reviewers have said: this is not a boat for very big people with very big feet. It's not a boat for people who like 100% primary stability. It IS a boat for people who like to feel the boat is part of themselves in moderately challenging conditions. If this boat was a car, it would be an MG (guess I'm dating myself).
The boat was designed, at least in part, by Brent Reitz and it shows. If you've ever seen his forward stroke video (highly recommended!), everything he suggests can be carried out to a "t" in this boat. In short, it lends itself to a proper stroke, including applicability with a wing paddle. The bow is narrow enough that you can really plant the paddle right next to it.
I'm obviously in love with this thing, but it has one strange drawback: the folks at Perception did a lousy job sealing the bulkheads -- there were quarter inch gaps before I fixed them. It took an entire tube of Marine Goop just to remediate the rear bulkhead. Beautifully designed boat, but someone in quality control at Perception was asleep at the switch!
To sum up: GREAT KAYAK!! I told my wife I want to be buried in it, but wives don't seem to have a sense of humor about this stuff.
Even as an inexperienced kayaker, I have never found my self feeling uneasy in this boat. I do wear booties in cold weather (bare foot in summer) so that my size 12 foot will fit, but I knew this up-front and I think that’s all part of “wearing” the boat to take advantage of its performance. I have paddled this boat for hours without being uncomfortable.
I have found the forward and aft storage areas to be dry and of sufficient size for weekend camping trips because I have packed them both full of every thing I needed and then some.
As I stated before, I’m an inexperienced kayaker with only time in other boats at the Demo. Day sale so I will not attempt any technical info in this review. I will say that I agree completely with “JW’s” review before me.
I have the yellow/red fade color and have had a lot of comments on how good the boat looks. Looks, comfort and performance…..I’ll keep this boat for a long time.
This boat responds to your every input, turns on a dime, accelerates quickly and holds its speed, and rolls like a dream. I have found the fit and finish to be well above average for a plastic boat. Ninety percent of being happy with any boat is knowing what you want out of your kayak. If you want a performance-oriented, British style kayak with a skeg, but don't want to fork out the cash for a composite, this boat should be on your short list. If you want rock-solid initial stability, get a bath tub, not an Avatar. If you want to wear your boat and make it an extension of yourself, buy this type of boat. Please don't buy a British style performance kayak and then complain that it is not a Lazy Boy.
I do not recommend this boat for people with large feet, or those who wish to wear hiking boots while paddling. British style boats are shaped differently from conventional kayaks and require that you make some adjustments to how you position your feet, and are much more comfortable if you wear booties or water socks. In my opinion, this is one of the most comfortable boats on the market.
Storage capacity is limited in the front by the sloping deck, and in the rear by the skeg box, so it is not suitable for month-long excursions. I have found the hatch covers and bulkheads to be virtually water tight even when rolling and practicing safety maneuvers. Deck rigging is adequate for most uses. The skeg operates well, though it is sometimes necessary to adjust the bungee and clean out the skeg box. The seat and backrest are quite comfortable, though the slotted back rest does not facilitate the use of rolls requiring the back deck; I replaced my back band with an aftermarket Harmony for about $25. The cockpit measures 34"X19" so spray deck choices are practically limitless.
I can not stress enough that a potential buyer needs to decide what type of boat they want. There are advantages and sacrifices made with every boat, no one kayak can do everything. If you buy an Avatar, don't turn around and bash it for not being a Carolina. If you consider yourself to be an aggressive paddler who wants to wear your boat and do things you didn't know you could do in a boat, the Avatar is a fine choice. Accept this boat (just like any other) with its limitations. In the case of this fantastic kayak, I believe the advantages FAR outweigh the limitations.
At 5'8", 145lb, I fit nicely into the Avatar 16. I recently had the chance to compare it head-to-head to a Shadow 16.5, also a good fit for me. The Avatar is NOTICEABLY faster AND more maneuverable than a Shadow. Hard chines make it very easy to lean way out on a wide sweep stroke, and extraordinarily narrow entry lines mean very little boat is in the water when it's on edge.
As for the downsides: There isn't a version of the avatar for the "big guy," which is rather surprising. If you're over 6' tall and want a Perception touring kayak, you'll need to look at the Eclipse.
Also this certainly isn't a good choice for the novice paddler. I've been paddling for almost 20 years, and when I first sat in the Avatar, I was surprised at how "shaky" it felt. But, like every kayak, you get used to its feel, and find that the secondary stability make up for it.
Overall, I rate it a ten. I can't take away points from this boat b/c there isn't a larger size, and any good dealer should know this isn't for beginners. Perception really hit it big with this one!
Unlike the previous reviewer, I find the outfitting of the cockpit just about perfect. The seat is comfortable and the thigh pads are placed just where I want them. It would be nice if the foot pegs were adjustable while paddling like the ones in Wilderness Systems boats, but you can't have everything.
I'm 5'6" tall, about 165 pounds with a size 9 foot. I can see how someone who is quite a bit taller may feel a bit cramped, especially if they have fairly big feet.
All in all, a really good boat for someone looking for a fast and manuverable touring kayak. Maybe not the best first boat for someone just getting into the sport, due to its lower level of initial stability and fairly snug cockpit, but a great boat for someone looking to take their paddling skills up a notch or two.
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