Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Seakayak test: the SKIM Distance

René preparing the SKIM Distance for a test at the Brouwersdam, November 2006

One of my favourite paddle companions is René. René is a experienced paddler you can trust upon, always enthusiast about last minute ideas for a seakayak-activity under more challenging conditions. When we make an appointment it’s always a surprise which seakayak René brings along on the roof of his car. The last half year it was the SKIM Distance. René is continuously testing new gear. Recently this resulted in a extensive review of the SKIM Distance on “de Zeekajaksite”.

The SKIM seakayaks are rather new on the Dutch market. Distributor is Peter Grobbee. SKIM offers two different totally different designs: the Distance and the Dex. It’s a interesting addition to the market. The SKIM Distance is a long high volume seakayak. Read all about it in René’s review. Personally I am most interested in the SKIM Dex: “a playful and nimble kayak for day and weekend trips where high seas and surfs are more than welcome. A boat for those who appreciate contact in leans, edges and manoeuvres. Low volume. Low profile. Tight cockpit (= orig. Skim-text)."
That sounds good! As a matter of fact I find, the smaller and lighter kayaker is forgotten to long. Even for myself (with 70 kg and 1.80 meter, rather average sized) most popular kayak designs are quit voluminous. May be nice for this big expedition where you want to carry your whole household and food for three weeks… But to be honest: most “expeditions” are day- or weekend-trips with perhaps 10-15 kg of gear. And even for the multiple day/week trips I seldom carry more than 25 kg of gear (including food and water). We are paddling in western-Europe: a populated area… So my kayak should perform best with 80-100 kg load. A kayak designed for 130-150 kg load lies high on the water when I am paddling it. No problem under calm conditions, but with wind it will probably be far more sensitive for lee- or weathercocking…

It’s very welcome that the manufacturers are starting to offer more low-volume editions of their boats. NDK offers since a few years low volume versions of the Romany and the Explorer, Rockpool the Bach version of the Alaw. Last year Valley added a low volume version of the Nordkapp and P&H the Quest LV. While most low volume seakayaks stay close to the original designs with as main difference a lowered seam-line, the Nordkapp is totally redesigned with complete new dimensions and forms. I haven’t paddled it yet, but it looks beautiful and according to Douglas: it performs perfect! Douglas (may I say the Scottish René? ) recently tested the low volume Nordkapp, the Quest-LV and both versions of the Alaw. Tests like those of Reé and Douglas offer a lot of information and can be of great help in comparing different seakayaks. However keep in mind: you should feel comfortable in the boat. And you decide where you want to use it for, and which characteristics of the design are important for you. Preferences are very personal. So make extensive tests before you make your choice!

PS: A buyer has to make choices, a boat designer too. Tracking, manoeuvrability, weather- and leecocking are important characteristics and every design is some kind of compromise. René makes a difference into 3 global categories of seakayaks for "normal-wind-situations":
a- manoeuvrable kayaks that show slight weathercocking without using the skeg;
b- manoeuvrable kayaks that show neutral behaviour in wind without using the skeg;
c- good tracking kayaks that show slight weathercocking in wind without using the skeg.
Read the article in René's blog about the behaviour of these categories under high-wind-conditions. My personal preference has changed in the years: in the beginning I found good tracking very important, over the years I developed a preference for more manoeuvrable designs. Design “a“ has become my favourite. I am curious if the SKIM Dex is really a “type a seakayak”. So René: there still is a lot of testing to do!


Michael said...

I really enjoyed this post! Here in North America we see far too few European boat reviews or boats to demo paddle, so when new ones appear, it's appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Hi Hans,

Thx for your article on my tests. I must agree that I doubted between a test on the Sim Dex or the Skim Distance as the Dex seems fit more to my preferences for a seakayak. But Peter promised I could try the Dex as well afterwards. So...

I am also following Douglas´blog for some time now and read his two tests; The tested seakayaks seems both very interesting to me.
Especially the Nordkapp LV seems to fit my paddling-style perfectly. But having quite a collection of seakayaks already I am still thinking.
I am thinking of contacting Douglas; may be some discussions between testers can be usefull or pleasant.

For your link to my article about the behaviour of kayaks in high-wind-situations: may be you can use the direct link to the article to prevent extensively searching by readers when the post will move backwards in my blog as time goes on:

Anonymous said...

Hello Hans, I have also the same impression. The low volume boats that I have tried are the ones I've enjoyed more.
My height is 187 cm and my weight is 92 kgs. Still, I find the LW performance far better to normal designs.

Douglas Wilcox said...

Thanks for the link Hans. In return I have posted another review. This time of the Rockpool Alaw and Alaw Bach. Reading rene's article, I find myself in total agreement with his conclusions about (and preferences for) sea kayak behaviour in wind and waves.

Hans Heupink said...

Hi Guys!
Lots of respons on the kayak-tests! Thanks. I like the reviews too and find it very good there are now some more different designs to chose in the low volume kayaks. Interesting alternatives for my Pintail! (I am still happy with it though and should write some words about it soon).
Hi douglas! I have added the link to the Alaw reviews in the text. Great pictures on your blog1
greetings, Hans

Janneke said...

Which one of these two do you prefer, the Distance or the Dex?