I purchased a demo 2007 Pintail this spring and have paddled it in enough varied conditions to give it an objective review. A lot of the points made by other reviewers are very accurate. It is a fantastic rough water boat and is very fast in this type of paddling. But yes, it is a dog in flat water. The construction is first rate, but then again, Valley has always been one of the quality bench marks used by other manufacturers. I think that the best way to review this kayak is in the context of how it was designed. It has a lot of rocker, soft chines, flared sides and has the typical Valley "fish form" design. It is meant to paddle and play in rough water. It does this as good or better than anything else I have paddled. I am comparing this to the NDK Romany, P&H Capella, WS Zephyr, CD Gulfstream (close, but not quite as good) and others less playful. This kayak was made to surf, rock garden and play in very rough water. I have heard some refer to it as a bit "squirrely". The Pintail is a solid boat that responds very predictably and lets the paddler grow beyond their previous limits.
When I was researching this kayak, I found many reviews by folks who were in the light weight category of paddlers. 120-150 lbs. I am 6'1", 195 lbs and have plenty of room and paddle it with both "Valley" hull logos out of the water. I realized later that the reviews were from some of our British friends who had the peculiar habit of always paddling the kayak with 40 lbs of gear, even if only going out for some play time.
This kayak is definitely not for beginners or those looking for a ultra solid cruiser to take on the pond on calm sunny days. This is an ocean play boat. It takes some skill to paddle and it loves the rough stuff. It turns on a dime with a sweep stroke and some edge. It rolls like it genuinely dislikes being upside down. It surfs amazingly, but asks for the driver to know what they are doing. Valley no longer makes this as a production boat (too bad), but will still make one if ordered. This is a tried and true design and deserves a place in todays paddling community.
Is this one of the best "all around" kayaks.....No. Does it succeed in achieving what it was designed for.....ABSOLUTELY! For those of you who get excited about paddling when the waves kick up, for those who like to surf sea kayaks and those who use the coastal surf as a playground, the Pintail is an elite player among some very strong competition.I've had my OC Pintail for less than 1 year, and returned from a weeklong vacation in the Apostle Islands, in all sorts of conditions. I'm making my evaluation as regards to a tripping boat short of long expeditions.
I've never been in a boat that inspires such confidence in rough seas. Lots of forgiveness, a very loose hull (with the ability to trim it a bit using the skeg and balancing the load), lots of rocker. Feels fast in rough water; I like to say this is where it catches up to the other boats. I've never had problems keeping up with other craft in rough water. Padded out to fit me like a pair of tight jeans, it's easily trimmed and controlled with the hips. The gel oat is very nice, the layup is light but solid. I found it possible to cram a week's worth of gear inside.
The factory backband in my '96 was inferior, I replaced it with an IR right away.
The gel coat finish is nice but I've some cracking at the bulkheads. The skeg arrangement needs work for this boat as a rock gardener and rough water boat. I'm looking for options here as I've kinked two cables already.
In flatwater with wind, the boat is a dog. And if you paddle harder you just get a larger bow wake to fight.
It needs a large oval front hatch, the tiny round hatch is insufficient.
The hatch screws are capped inside the hull with cap nuts - which come off the first time you try to cram gear inside. IMO these should be glassed over.
All in all, having heard the previous cautions regarding speed, I've no reservations using this as a week-long tripping boat in rough seas.I picked up a used Pintail earlier this summer. Keyhole cockpit and no pump. I fell in love with it paddling on a windy, wavy day. At 5'5, 120 lbs. it fits me much better than many other boats, however I am currently working on padding it out some more.
I have taken it on long day trips and a couple of overnighters. With a backpacker's mentality, there is definetely enough room for a weekend trip and I'm confident I could even get enough in there for a two week trip. The boat handles great with some weight in it. The dry hatches are a joy! Even after lots of rolling, they are still bone dry.
Easy to roll, edge, and manuever. If I want to go straight I do drop the skeg, and it does it's job keeping the boat on track.
It is not the fastest boat out there, but on a day trip with a couple of friends in faster boats, I was able to keep up and even get ahead when the wind and waves picked up. Fun boat to surf waves with!! And finally, it's a really pretty boat and ya' gotta love the compliments other people have when they see it on the water. My Pintail followed eight years in an Anis Acuta. So I'm sold on the Valley quality and heritage. The Pintail feels big after the AA, but I've always thought of it as a padsdling sports car on water. I roll it almost everytime I'm out, I ride waves downwind, play in surf, and do long point to points, all with equal eaze. Mine is all pistachio green done up in Kevlar, keyhole and foot-bilge pump. The AA was ocean cockpit, and I went to the keyhole for easier entry and exit and do appreciate that. But sometimes I miss the comfort and fit of the smaller cockpit. I think people should own both in life.
If you have a newer Pintail, beware of pushing the skep cable if the skeg is pinned in. The cable kinks and it must be re-wired (a small job for a skilled kayak technician). Happened to me, but the local Valley shop had it figured out. ( Yes, we have one!)
I'll never need another kayak unless I take to long camping expeditions, or need something under 40 pounds (mine is 48 lbs).Make no mistake, I love my Pintail. I just happen to think that the ratings are a little inflated on this site. Although you probably already know about this boat, let me give a quick description:
This composite boat has a 17'2"length, 22" beam, and 12" depth. The hull has a generous amount of rocker and has a retractable skeg to aid in tracking.
It has a decent amount of primary stability though it is not my first choice for a photography platform. The secondary stability is excellent. This has saved me when I have made some poor braces on occasion. What does this mean? Well, it is sometimes harder to relax in the boat, but this boat handles rough water beautifully.
Because of the rocker, you may yaw a bit when catching swells but you will not broach. Despite the boat's 17-foot length, I find the boat to be extremely maneuverable due in no small part to the rocker. However, the skeg is mandatory when trying to hold a straight line in rough water.
The interior finish is exemplary with no sharp edges from the deck hardware.
My only complaint is the small round VCP hatches. It is very difficult to fit anything through them. The large rear oval VCP hatch is fine though the skeg box takes up some room.
If you have any questions about this boat, e-mail me.