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What I love most about my Looksha is how easily it carves a turn in any seas, takes crosswinds, following seas and provides great initial and secondary stability. Tracks nicely and cuts through heavy kelp with ease because it has a knife-edge bow. I've paddled it fully-loaded in 5' seas and 30kt winds, yet love it as well for calm after-work jaunts in the Seattle Ship canal. It's easy to handle off the water too, with great carry balance.
Care about dry hatches? These beat any I've tried including the harder-to-seal rubber ones found on most boats. They are neoprene under fiberglass with great pressure straps. The front hatch cover doubles as my prep tray at camp because I added into the lid a piece of flexible cutting sheet.
Like I said, on flat water is is quite fast and the flip-down/flip-up rudder is more than adequate to deal with any wind or tendency to weathercock (of which I've experienced very little.)
What I found most surprising about the boat is how well it actually handles flowing water. I've raced it on Class II+ rivers and it is quite maneuverable for a 17' foot boat because it has a surprising amount of rocker for an ocean kayak. With the rudder up, it just seems to automatically find the best line to run through rapids. It is like it has a mind of its own and just knows where to take you downriver.
The deck rigging is great for holding that gear that you want to keep close at hand and it is nice to have a rudder that you can put down or lift up while paddling by simply pulling on a rope one direction or the other.
I own and have owned many kayaks but this is one I plan to hold onto because it is just so versatile. When the water gets choppy in a large bay or in the ocean this is the boat I feel safest in because of its stability yet it still feels sleek and fast.
If you can find one in good shape buy it. You will not be disappointed.
The Looksha has been a great boat for me. It fits my 5'11", 190 frame well. It holds up well to abuse and once you learn its quirks a pleasure to paddle. The only paddling issue is a tendency to weathercock in a light quartering wind. This is easily corrected by the rudder or if the winds are constant by leaning. It handles very well when leaned. A peculiar and reassuring trait is that the rougher the weather the better the boat handles and the more stable it feels. It plows through the waves like a U-boat. Chop, waves... it seems to relish them. Decent speed for plastic (ask the angry moose) and the storage has been more than adequate for 4 night trips. Knocked off a point because fit and finish are better on some similar boats. Pick one up if you can find a used one.
It was a bit strange at first, getting used to the length, the rudder, and yes the handling. Mine has the hard seat and high back. It does react to wind but is well compensated by the rudder (once you figure out how to use a rudder). In rougher water, it handles like a dream. Response is almost effortless and it is a speed demon, getting you out of the trouble spots quickly.
This boat is ten years old, well used, but rock solid. I would suggest if you want to advance your skills and upgrade your ride, getting a well maintained used Looksha IV will save you money but will still provide many hours of happy paddling.
Usually when fishing I'll opt for a SOT, however if I need to make a long paddle to fish an area, I have no problem getting there quicker using my Looksha. I learned to kayak fish using it so I'm used to it. For the beginner be cautious as it's a bit tippy when fighting a fish. Plus it's hard to outfit for multiple fishing rods.
I did customize the cockpit to fit the smaller paddler I once was (145 lbs). The seat was too wide and knee braces a bit pathetic. I used foam and polyester to fit the boat to myself. I must say, however, that the Looksha IV was/is designed for a larger paddler but I liked it's handling and speed better than any other boat I test paddled-- the whole lineup at Carl's Paddlin' and Rutabega in Madison, WI.
If Prijon made a boat that I liked the handling of I would have bought one because of the quality of their plastic. My next boat will likely be a wood glue-and-stitch kit.
I'm 37 years old and about 5'11" and 200lbs. I did race kayaking for several years when I was a teenager and got back to the sport just recently. Now, I do kayaking on a big open lake for fun and for a good workout. I paddle about 4 times per week for 2 hours per session and cover almost exactly 10 miles per trip.
I don't do any tricks (lean, roll or whatever) but I enjoy to aim towards the middle of the lake and go mostly straight to reach particular goal points within my set time limit. So keeping the boat straight on track for all kind of weather conditions (wind from any side, up to 3 feet waves, minor current)is important to me - the Looksha IV is doing fairly well in that regard (without ever having to deploy the rudder). I have the air cushion seat but never bothered to ever pump it up.
As I mentioned before, I manage to cover 10 miles within 2 hours (plus/ minus only 4 minutes dependent on the weather condition. Therefore, I consider the Looksha IV fairly fast. I love the lines of the boat and believe the relatively low deck contributes to the fact that wind has such a low impact on its travel speed.
I also own a plastic Necky Chatham 17 with a drop skeg. Although 2 inch longer and 1 inch skinnier I need about 10% more time in the Chatham to cover the same distance. The only thing I wished I could adapt to my Looksha IV is the drop skeg since one can partially engage the skeg and improve tracking without adding to much drag. However, without rudder and skeg the Looksha IV tracks much better than the Chatham 17. Also the hard chines and keel shape of the Looksha IV create less of a bow wave than the Chatham 17.
Really, this boat is the great allrounder - getting up to the speed of a good glass hull (and faster than some), so group paddling isn't an issue. It is comfortable to sit in all day (5'8", 70kgs), it plugs into wind as hard as you want to push, it copes with quartering and side chop as well as any boat, and it turns more quickly than most 17' tourers. I never manage to paddle far without the rudder down, but that seems to be the trade-off for the chines and manoeverability. It is very stable in chop - the chines just seem to set it up. Slews on a rear sea, requiring a bit of rudder work, but these days I don't find that unsettling - and it seems no worse than other boats.
It carries a good load of gear, and the hatches have never let in a drop so far - even on rolling clinics. No, it won't win races against 'glass, and no, it won't catch waves like a 'glass hull. But for allround, everyday workouts, loaded or not, it performs better than any plastic boat I paddle with. Judging by the range of reviewers here, it works for a wide spectrum of sizes and weights. At 29kg, I find it easy to manage - and it copes with small drops in my awkward carspace. It's so easy that I've stopped using my lighter playboats.
The performance is hard to beat (it turns and rolls as well or better than any boat Iíve tried) and no other plastic kayak is going to be any better at covering distance. As would be expected, a boat so easy to turn does exhibit some weathercocking, but the skeg takes care of that--when the skeg is down, the boat tracks extremely well. I intentionally didnít get the rudder because its only real purpose (maintaining course in windy conditions) is satisfied by the skeg, which is simpler and cheaper. In addition, the foot braces are more solid without a rudder. If you have only paddled ruddered boats, please do yourself a favor and try a boat without sliding foot braces. After you feel how secure the non-sliding braces are, it will be difficult to go back to the sloppy feel that a ruddered boat has. Its initial stability is good (but loose enough that it is very easy to lean) and its secondary stability is very goodówhen edging, there is an angle that the Looksha IV will settle into that feels very secure.
Storage space is very good, though not as voluminous as a true expedition boat. Itís simple--if youíre not very comfortable with a Looksha IV on trips less than a week long, then youíre not packing efficiently. The hatches do a good job, too. Rarely does more than a tiny amount of water get in--and this is after the boat has been capsized for some time.
I initially had some problems with comfort. Even though the boat was a good match for my size (6', 194 lb), it was common to get aches in my hips after long sessions. I finally traced the problem to the position of the backrest. My legs and hips were forced into an uncomfortable position and I had to tense them to maintain a solid connection with the backrest. Replacing the backrest with a back band made a huge difference in comfort. The back band is also better in that it allows for lying back much further than the backrest didóa more comfortable position for resting as well as bracing. It was easy to add the back band and it greatly improved the fit and feel of the cockpit. I strongly recommend you try it. If you want to know how I did it, just send an e-mail and Iíll be glad to pass it along. The addition of a thin layer of neoprene where my legs contact the thigh braces and cockpit also improved the comfort of the boat.
I gave the Looksha a "9" because, as great as it is, it can still be improved. Welded plastic bulkheads would make it better because they are stronger than foam, absolutely watertight (so far, mine have been rock-solid, but Iíve heard that foam bulkheads leak eventually), and would increase storage space. In addition, a day hatch would be very convenient and, for reasons stated above, a back band would be welcome.
To sum up, the Looksha IV is an excellent kayakóif it was a car, it would be a sport sedan. It handles very well, carries a lot of gear, is built well, and it looks great, too. It should be on your list of boats to demo.
The Looksha is very responsive for a 17' boat. You can move well with a draw stroke, and corrective sweep strokes will keep you on track. Even in chop with boats trying to swamp us, this boat is a kick! I'm looking forward to more open water and rougher conditions.
The initial stability/tippyness can be a bit daunting at first. But within half an hour you'll completely forget about it and enjoy a quick responsive boat with dry hatches and a sexy profile!
All up, a great general boat and good enough for rough stuff - I've paddled all day and still kept up speed and comfort til we beached. This boat has had me out every weekend since I got it - so easy and so much fun. Other boats have been a bit of a chore at times - not this one, ever. (Like the last guy said, why no day hatch?)
Tracks well with minor weather cocking empty (easily fixed with lean), much less so laden. Leaned onto the hard chine, it turns faster than many of the playboats I tried out (what IS that black thing on the stern?). Whey-heh! Not a huge amount slower than the Aussie and NZ 'glass boats, either. The more rockered, softer chined poly boats simply couldn't match speed, tracking and response. Yes, it is hard for an open water beginner to get back into solo because of moderate initial stability (good job I can swim), but no drama with an assist. If that's an issue, stick with sit-on-tops! This boat isn't daunting, and I can see its potential once I get more confident. Tippy? Try my Prijon Cyclone!
I put my Pacific peso (yes, joke about low Aussie dollar) where my mouth is - I've ordered a poly Looksha IV with an electric pump (one less worry for a neophyte) - and I guess I'll need a day bag, too. Plastic looks excellent and seems more durbale that most (not as good as blow-moulded boat, but OK). If it had a day hatch, I'd give it a 10.
I got it for use mostly in the rivers of North Central Florida, and I must mention that the sales people tried to talk me out of buying the 17 foot long Looksha ... they said that it was too long for use in rivers. They said I should get a Looksha Sport. I'm glad I didn't listen to that advice because after taking it through some very tight spots, I must say that the 17' length has not been a factor at all (except when the river is less than 17' foot wide!). I find that the boat is only slightly more difficult to turn then a shorter Looksha Sport (my wife has a Looksha Sport so I know it also). On a scale of 1-10 I can't give my boat a 10 because the seat isn't very comfortable, the carry handles are uncomfortable and there is no thigh padding (unlike Perception boats).
Additionally, I will mention that it cartops just fine on my Dodge Caravan with Thule racks and Yakima Mako saddles. The Mako saddles were quite a lengthy purchase decision ($220 for 2 boats from rackwarehouse.com) but they are perfect for these boats and they have integrated straps. Also, I will mention that the 2000 model does not come with a padded seat and it is very uncomfortable. I e-mailed Necky, and they shipped me a padded seat for free (apparently the 2001 model comes with a padded seat). Good customer service definitely!
Having said that, she paddles like a dream! Just HINT at what you want her to do and she's there already. For the medium sizes paddler looking for a little excitement, the best choice I've paddled so far. Not for the beginner unless you plan on growing into your boat.
P.S. My wife got a Perception Shadow, which she really loves, it was my 2nd choice - if you can, you owe it to yourself to demo several boats, you will know which one is right for you!!! (on paper, I thought the Dagger Cortez was perfect for me, but I hated it on the water, that would have been an expensive mistake)
Frankly, I was amazed at how comfortable I was in the Looksha IV HV. We are relative novices (although we are very familiar with these waters from our sailboat). But the Looksha definitely felt more stable the rougher the water, and the crowning event was being at the point the wakes from the (very nearby) Mosquito Fleet Ferry and the Victoria Clipper crossed - 2 to 3 foot confused, breaking waves. And the Looksha loved it! This same boat, in Lake Union, definitely feels "tippy", but get it in some chop, and those hard chines (I guess) seem to kick you back upright. Unlike some other boats Iíve tried, there was never any time the boat did something I didnít understand and couldnít control. It was completely predictable at all times. The tracking was amazing, we took a GPS along, and you can actually see the homing effect from pointing directly at a destination while the current sweeps you to the side. Turning, once again, is amazing with a knee lift in the direction you want to turn (or butt-drop in the other direction, as Iím beginning to think of it). Still never used that rudder all weekend! I had the newer seat, with the adjustable back rest, and it was fine. My quads fit perfectly under the thigh braces. I used neoprene diving booties, and kept my heels to the centerline most of the time. If I have any complaint, it would be lack of height for size 12 feet which seems to preclude me using soled shoes of any sort. I also noticed the boat tending to want to turn parallel to beam seas we encountered in the Wasp Islands, to the point of being very difficult to correct without a rudder (at my skill level). However using the rudder would presumably take care of that? On the whole we really loved our Lookshas.
Will I put my money where my mouth is? Yup, my wife and I have placed deposits on two Kevlar Lookshsa IV boats (an S and an HV) which we should have in two weeks.
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