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Going up to the HV, I was looking more for additional cargo space and waterline length than anything else. It provides some extra storage but, retaining some performance lines, isn't a fat boat.
The layered plastic is rigid and relatively light. The kayak performs all maneuvers well, but has a tad more rocker than I prefer for covering distance. The bow flare seems to function effectively in heavy waves, obviating the need for excessive volume. It thrives in the rough stuff. The deck lines are well thought out. And, its visual lines are pleasing to the eye.
Quibbles. I'd like more aggressive thigh braces and a lower back brace that isn't as apt to fold forward. I don't mind balky hatches if they seal but I do get some forward leakage in heavy seas. I'm not a big fan of grab loops that dangle over the ends of the boat.
Bottom line is that you get a true sea kayak with the price and durability of plastic. Great boat for hauling the goods over long distances.
The Aquanuat is a good teaching platform, and would also suit large people as a first sea kayak that can hold its own with the pack I haven't had any problems with the skeg, but do give it a good hose out after a trip.
The outfitting on my kayak is inadequate - Valley really need to take a look at what the competition is doing, and get a decent backrest. More importantly the knee/thigh grips are more for show than go - I have replaced mine with grips off an old creek boat. It may be that having short legs for my height I would have been better suited with the smaller RM version.
The hatches are a constant source of annoyance- I don't have any leaks, the day hatch is fine, but the oval main hatches are a nightmare to get off. I understand they are less of a problem on the composite kayaks.
Conclusion- a good all round kayak, although not very exciting. Fix the outfitting and the hatches I would give it an 8, maybe 9.
I am a 6'5" paddler weighing about 250 lbs. My shoe size is 13.
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