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I paddle mostly in Everglades National Park and go anywhere from 10 to 18 miles on a good day. It's not easy to maneuver in the tight turns of the mangrove tunnels in the Everglades, but does well in the bays and ocean. Car topping her alone on top of my pick up truck is difficult since she weighs @58 pounds, but I usually go with someone else who helps out.
Overall, a really good kayak that can do almost everything. I would recommend the Shadow for a smaller paddler. It's a tight fit! For more comfort, go with a Wilderness Systems.
I'm planning on doing a long trip with it soon, 400 miles along the Texas ICW, the bays and offshore, It's a tight fit but all my gear and food, including 7 gallons of water, all fits in the boat and it still floats! I'm sure I'll have more to say about it after I do this trip, but all in all I feel this boat is up to it, now I just gotta get over this nasty cold I got! more to come ...
The first day or two in the boat I thought it was tipsy and wondered if I should have bought a wider boat. Within a week it felt fine and after only a few more outings I was very comfortable in it. In comparison to other mid-volume boats I've tried I think it has a very good combination of moderate initial stability; substantial and predictable secondary stability; speed; and maneuverability. Keep in mind that this is a boat that is designed to carry up to 250 or so pounds so it may need some ballast if you are under 150 and not carrying gear. I am six feet tall and 170 pounds and the boat is too small for me in only one way: I don't have enough room for my size 11 neoprene booties to stretch out. I've paddled it with full camping gear and it still had reserve buoyancy.
I've read reviews that say these boats don't track - and I firmly disagree. With proper paddling technique the boat tracks very well with the rudder out of the water and enough ballast in the back to trim the boat. With me - around 10 pounds of day gear pushed all the way to the back of the rear compartment puts the boat into perfect trim. I can sit sideways to a current with a breeze blowing the opposite direction and the boat doesn't weather cock at all. I never use the rudder and will buy a boat with a retractable skeg next time. The boat responds very well to lean and sweep turns - much better than most boats over 16 feet with rudders. I've used it on lakes, rivers, creeks and protected bays. I've done no surf zone or open ocean with it, but the classic Greenland design hull will probably rise to the challenge when I do.
I did not find the original rigid plastic seatback comfortable and replaced it with an adjustable backband - big improvement! The molded seat itself has been very comfortable - I've added some hip padding.
I find the boat easy to reboard front or back after a practice wet exit - and I can plunk my butt down into the seat and still pull my legs into the keyhole cockpit (remember I'm taller than most people who will use this boat.) The rear deck is rigged for paddlefloat support - which is far more important to a beginner than the hull's rolling ability.
All in all I think this is a great beginner's boat that can take you much further along in skill development than many others. I have only one criticism of the construction - all of the reinforcing washers for the deck fittings in this 1998 boat were non-anodized aluminum - which are somewhat salt corroded now. Hopefully Perception changed this in later boats. Even so, they have stood up fairly well and have years of life left.
I am 5-10.5 and was 188 lbs. when I got my boat, and I loved the fit. I lost 15 lbs over the course of the summer and fall and still feel good about the fit. I was never clear on what the dimensions of a large paddler were or where the breakoff point existed to be a small paddler, so I figured out I really just wanted a boat that was easy to load solo, that I could maneuver with ease and would allow for an areobic workout for 2-3 hours at a time (fast). The boat had to be able to allow me to grow my skills. The Shadow has answered all my needs. I live in a area with 4 very good lakes in Northern Idaho, this boat has allowed me to see alot of shoreline. I seldom ever load the hatches with much more than jackets and shoes, however I do plan to try camping this coming season and I belive this boat will carry more than I can use in 2-3 days.
This boat is fast when the rudder is up, there is a definite drag felt when the rudder is in the water, however there is alot more stability too. I have paddled in high winds (20-35mph with higher gusts) and felt very comfortable with the boats stability. In choppy waters the boat is great. I appreciate how well this boat tracks at speed. I have had some issues with the edging too, I have practiced turning around markers and have found with a strong lean, while using the rudder and sweep stroke, I can get a pretty good turn out of the boat. I really enjoy surfing in the Shadow. This boat gets alot of attention too, I have come to my car when the boat is on top and had people just looking at it and asking questions. I can one hand the boat out the water which gets noticed and I always get compliments on the looks of the Shadow. I did not intend on buying a high profile boat, I like to paddle by myself and prefer to enjoy the outdoors quietly, but this boat is a great conversation piece to most people who appreciate what it is.
I put two dings in the boat which cracked the gel-coat and flexed the Kevlar weave(I really thought the hull was breached on one hit). They were easy to fix and are barely noticable. The material is awesome and super strong.
This boat may not be for everyone at first, but over time it grows on you, my family members that have not paddled had alot of stability issues at first, those that had paddled love the boat. My 8 year old daughter can move this boat around with ease in calm conditions. My 6'1" cousin fit in well too.
I give the boat a 9 outta 10, no boat is perfect or can do everything, but this one is close and has certainly met my expectations.
Edging is a problem, but I am sure itís more of a skill issue to be addressed next spring. Bracing and sculling are fine. The fact that my boat is plastic is fabulous. I am pleased that, while I still want to be careful, I don't have to worry about cracks and gelcoats.
The seat back is a little bit uncomfortable, but as I'm not leaning against it very much, it's not a problem at the moment. And it's easy to fix if I ever want to.
The hatches are very roomy and hold more than I imagined. They are somewhat hard to access while on the water, but a little planning eliminates the need. I discovered that there's quite a bit of space directly behind the seat. Miscellaneous items can be easily stashed there with knots to hold them in.
All in all I am very pleased that I purchased this boat a year ago. This has been a great paddling season and I look forward to many more, in the Shadow. Now, how to get through winter...
The standard Perception warrantee requires the owner to pay 50% of the recommended retail price, plus shipping, to have a boat repaired or replaced after two years (25% after one year) even if caused by a manufacturing defect, and this is not practical with my boat.
Due to the quality problem and the weak Perception warrantee, I have lowered my rating on this boat.
Pros: feels very comfortable for the smaller/lighter paddler although the cockpit may need more padding to get better contact if you want to learn any skills; - its plastic, takes lots of abuse; - easy to roll, especially with the low back deck; - have not noticed any weathercocking and I've paddled it in winds up to 20 mph; - has a rudder if you need it, but I've only had to use in strong following seas; - large hatches and the neoprene inner covers work very well if they are on just right; - if you don't have a roll this boat is fairly easy to do a cowboy scramble if you're by yourself and don't want to use a paddlefloat; - the extra straps above the rear hatch are perfect for a foam paddlefloat which I always have with me.
Cons: it's plastic, making this boat heavier; - it doesn't like to be edged very far compared to most other boats, so an edged turn is not as quick and I'll never be able to do a balance brace in this kayak; - the stock seatback is too high and interferes with putting the sprayskirt on, but I noticed that perception has fixed this problem in the newer versions; - the cockpit required quite a bit of padding for me to get a good contact fit.
I've seen many comments (usually bad) about the metal bar that runs along the inside along the keel. Yeah, it's there but I don't think that its presence automatically makes this a bad boat. It hasn't bothered me and I don't worry about it.
Overall, this boat has done most everything that I have asked it to do and done it well. I'm 5'6" tall and weigh 140 lbs. It can be difficult to find a kayak designed for the smaller paddler but this boat is fairly common. Would I buy this boat again today? Maybe. There are newer boat models designed for the smaller paddler that I haven't tried yet! And of course if you increase how much you can budget for a kayak your range of choices also increases. Buying used can help too. Above all, try before you buy. I assume that you are reading this because you are considering a purchase so I'll list other seakayaks that are designed for lighter or smaller paddler: CD Squamish, CD Squall, Perception Solť, Perception Avatar, CLC 16LT, P&H Vela, Prijon Catalina, Wilderness Systems Tempest 165, Necky Looksha IVS, Impex Montauk, VCP Avocet. I'm sure there are others I've missed or don't know about. Good Luck!
Great SmartTrack footbraces allow controlling footpeg position easily while sitting in the cockpit. Very comfortable seat bottom. The waterline length is significantly shorter than the overall length in the composite layups, with a lot of stern above the waterline.
My only complaints are:
(1) The seat back, which is too high for layback rolls (can be modified). It didn't fit me well, either, without shaving some of the some foam.
(2) The weight, which as advertised as 42 pounds (Kevlar) at that time but really weighed in more than 10% higher, at 47 pounds. Perception has since increased their spec weight a little for this boat, but plan on a higher actual weight or demand delivery of spec weight when ordering.
Overall, high quality manufacturing throughout. Many compliments on its appearance when paddling.
shop shop shop try try try. If anything, try the shadow before you decide on a Kayak. Their's nothing worse then buying a Kayak, then trying a different Kayak and liking the one you tried over the one you bought.
I bought a few Kayaks before I landed the Shadow. Just Think, all that money that I spent on the other Kayaks. Feels like a wast. Thats what I get for not taking the time to test. TRY THE SHADOW!!!.
PS. The best time to buy is in the fall or winter. The prices are usually cheaper.
I have a Current Design Gulfstream and there is NO comparison between the two. The Gulfstream inside is very smooth. See many pictures of the Shadow interior at http://www.toytrains.net/SHADOW/ To tell one side from the other I used a different color measuring tapes as a reference. I'll write another note after the repair is made. By the way, I'm an engineer who works on boats (SSN 688's).
is good and snug, letting you feel that you are really wearing the boat. I am 5'9" and 155 lbs and the cockpit is perfect for me. Another paddler was about 5'10" and 170 and he told me at a symposium that the boat was just about perfect for him too. If I could afford the composite I would be confident that there are not many better boats, nor more attractive. The plastic version is also attractive for its niche, and the addition of a metal pole, running down the length, seems to make the boat faster than other boats with similar dimensions. I am not sure how tall would be too tall for this "smaller persons boat" but I suspect it would be about 6 feet tall or over 185 lbs. Your hips could be quite wide as in a medium tall woman with very wide hips and you would still enjoy the boat. All in all a very good effort by Perception that I am told has changed little in 15 years.
I test paddled about a dozen boats and chose the Shadow because it was fast, comfortable, tracked well, easy to turn, had good secondary stability, lots of storage capacity, quality construction and it looked great! I read reviews in Canoe & Kayak that said when you paddle enough different boats you'll know when you find the one that's right for you. Sounds corny but true - best to go to demo days so you can compare models side by side.
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