I've got to say that this kind of neglect is totally uncalled for and completely unacceptable. While it's true that I can always obtain a seat somewhere else, or better yet, make my own custom foam seat, I think it's required of Azul to answer requests for customer service. Evidently, warranties mean nothing to Azul, and I'd caution anyone against purchasing any product from Azul, or any of the associated companies: Riot, Sun, etc. Perhaps if sales drop far enough, they'll take note.
Apart from the above, it's very well made, and has a 'kevlar' (I believe) layer in the cockpit floor area. However, it is slightly heavier than the older Sultans, but that only really matters when lifting it around. Hatch design was a main 'selling' point. Paddling is excellent: great edging, surfing, flat water, rough water, rolling. Can't quite layback fully on the rear deck (without bum out of seat). It's an exciting boat to paddle, but may not necessarily be the best performing in all areas, but is extremely enjoyable and predictable. Definitely a boat that an advancing beginner could paddle, enjoy and grow in to. It can handle a lot of abuse, of all kinds. (This kayak is now made by Riot as the Aura, with a 'monocoque' assembly).
Unloaded, I have not run into situations where I needed the skeg. Loaded, I found I needed the skeg when going downwind. Maybe my load changed the trim of the boat, but it wanted to turn towards the wind unless I used the skeg.
The kayak seems well made. However, I have three quality issues: the bulkhead aft of the cockpit leaks. I usually end up with a bit of water in the cockpit, especially if I am rolling, and the water finds its way into the rear compartment. I was told that a friend of a friend who had a Sultan also had leaky bulkheads. If you decide to buy one, don't leave the dealer without checking for this. Have the dealer fill the bulkhead with water and see if it leaks into the cockpit. Second, the adhesive used on the knobby rubber pads under the thigh braces must be water soluable. Both mine came off. While wet, I'd put them back in place, and when the boat dried, they'd be okay. Then when they'd get wet again, they'd peel off. Presently, both are lost and I don't miss them much. Third, the line that holds the rear carry-handle in place is badly frayed and will likely have to be replaced.
Contacting Azul is absurdly difficult. Check their web site. They don't give you contact info. My dealer is a four-hour drive from where I live, so I'd rather not have to depend on them for service. I have called and e-mailed their customer service guy and have gotten nowhere. The guy, Normand, just asks me for my serial number and promises to get back to me. After three e-mails and a half-dozen calls, he never has. I'd rate them an 'F', but am I'm still holding out hope that they'll either fix my problem or they will at least tell me what type of caulk to use to fix the leaky bulkhead.
One is that it was hard to match the color and I had to settle for a white, kind of "racing" stripe where the patch was because the new color would not match up well. I was told that the boat faded so the original color would be no help. Additionally that paint was "toxic" and it would cost a lot to get it across the border from Canada.
However I was told several times over just how well made the boat was and that the fibreglass was incredibly well done. The hulls on my glass boat are reinforced with Kevlar and the matting they use adds a lot of strength without adding weight. I got kudos all around for the quality of the workmanship.
However, when the seat was removed to have the repairs done, my mechanic looked up from inside and saw two holes, one about 3/16 of an inch on a place that the skirt would not cover. This should have been, I believe, epoxyed so there would be no holes. It makes sense that this would be where I felt that cold water hit my legs as it probably ran across top of the outside of the seat to my thigh. The holes could not be seen until the seat was removed.
I have yet to test this in the water but to you who have a leak problem, you may want to look into that to see if it is common for Azul to have made this mistake. I have since put many miles on this boat and I love it as much as the day I got it. I can not say as much for the company.
I was surprised than none of the reviewers mentioned the quality of craftsmanship of the glass job. I don't know of any other manufacturer that does such a clean job. Nothing is that smooth on the market. The attention to details is out of this world! The molded fiberglass bulkheads are very nice. The curved one behind the seat is installed in such a way that when you put the kayak upside down to get the water out not a single drop stays in. The skeg is profiled and easy to operate. The rope and cleat system is efficient and won't stick like these slider systems.
There are no gimmicks, just the very high quality of craftsmanship, very good performances and the best deckrigging, footbraces (Yakima type) and hatchcovers (Valley) available on the market. By the way, the front hatch is the same big oval one used for the stern compartment not one of these smaller round ones used by all other manufacturers. You get all that for less money than any comparable (if there is!) kayak on the market! And as if this was not enough, it comes standard with carbon fiber reinforcement in the hull!
I've checked out the other models at my Azul dealer and all of them are made with the same quality. Find the closest dealer and test ride that boat, you'll buy one! I've owned NDK and Current Designs and paddled many others but this is the best I've seen so far.
It paddles beautifully. It is fast, able to cruise without really trying at 4.5 mph. With some oomph, it's at 6. It weathercocks very, very little. I've not had to use the skeg yet. And, it turns when I want it to; provided it's put on edge, which is also very easy to do. In fact, on edge, this boat is not much more difficult to move around than my Pintail. For those who know, the Pintail is the sports car of sea kayaks.
I find that the initial stability is very good. One could take pictures out of it. Secondary stability is also very good. The boat can be put on edge and held there most of the day if needed. I should modestly say, that I'm a BCU 4 star paddler and an ACA open water instructor, and don't mind a boat that's a bit lively. My definition of stable may not be the same as a novice to the sport, so beginners should take my comments with a grain of salt.
Still, it's a good boat. On a recent outing, paddling through a 3 ft. chop, the boat just works through it! No need to do any fancy gymnastics or hyperbraces; it just goes where you point it.
It goes, it turns, it keeps me up; what more could I ask? I do agree with Lazlo though that any skirt that I've used with it leaks around the coaming. Minor, but kind of irritating. So since nothing is perfect, I give it an 8! Points off for the leaking coaming, and a point off for having a small leak in the middle bulkhead which by the way, Louis had guided me through the fix effortlessly. I love it.
The Necky is highly rockered, 14 feet long and 22" wide. I loved the way it handles in rough conditions and how nimble it is. I have struggled at times to keep up with the fleet of 16 to 18 footers on some of the paddles. If the water wasn't rough that boat is slow. Also when I read the reviews I would hear people say how poorly the Necky tracks, others said it tracked well. Without knowing about the paddler you can tell little more than whether or not the paddler likes the boat. In my case the Necky tracks fairly well but that's because I sink a lot of the boat and create a longer waterline. As well as it performs, I realized I was probably choking its performance with my weight.
So after testing the Nigel Dennis HV Explorer, the Impex Currituck, the Current Designs Caribou-S and a Pintail (for laughs, a boat I could love if I was smaller) I tried the Sultan and fell in love with the boat.
I am not totally pleased with the company, who may be new and going through some growing pains, but I like the performance of this boat. As you can tell, at this point there are no reviews around, save for the guy before me that didn't leave a return address and one that I read in some online mag. I fell for the lines of the boat and the advertising which read: "The comfort of Sultan for bigger guys has been compared to wearing a glove - a silk one. Sultan has a positive feeling of control in swells, wind waves and surf which is unlike any other kayak. So much so that its almost a sensual feeling."
Well let me tell you, after seeing the picture and reading the hype, I had to try this boat. When I saw it for the first time I was impressed by the finish. It is so well made. I couldn't find a single flaw in the glass layup. Seams were perfect. Azul's attention to detail was outstanding, just as I had heard. When I sat in it, it just felt right. Azul puts foam on the seat, knee area, and thigh area for you. It was already there. It worked for me. It felt better than all the other boats.
I took a demo out in the Hudson River where there was wind, plenty of chop and boat wakes of all sizes. Though I was used to my 22" Necky, at 21.5" with a rounder hull design this boat felt like it had to stay moving. It seemed effortless to propel and the glide was amazing. Most all of the boat was in the water yet it seemed to turn better than the other boats I tried. It did handle the rough water effortlessly though I was a bit afraid of the boat at that time and wasn't about to lean it to far to put a lot of the skirt in the water to see how sharp a turn I could make. The Necky had multiple hard chines that would allow me to seemingly "ratchet" the boat into one of three leaning positions. The Sultan seemed to have that "point of no return" that you get on a hard chined boat. I didn't want to try to find just where I was about to tip over.
I purchased a Sultan a few weeks ago and have had it out in all but the roughest conditions. It runs straight as an arrow. At 17'10" with a noticeable amount of rocker it doesn't want to weathercock very much at all except in wind and chop and even then I haven't needed the skeg. I found it to be seem faster than the other boats I tested. I am able to pull away from a friend that has always had a faster boat and who is a better paddler than me. I have taken to using a Greenlad paddle with this boat and it surprises me how fast the boat really moves. Yet it turns well because of the hard chine and the rocker.
So, like the unknown guy before me said in his review, "Speed, handling, comfort, seaworthiness and man is it perfectly finished to the nth degree!!! Perfection". I totally agree.
Now for the negatives: The cockpit leaks. I am working on this problem and if I get a solution I will certainly post it. The Azul skirt, when I leaned the boat putting two inches of skirt under water, let in a lot of water. I purchased another skirt and it is much tighter but it lets in an unacceptable amount directly on my thighs. the other day the water was COLD! I tried other skirts to no avail. I wrote Azul 10 days ago and got no response. It appears that the design of the combing is such that the distance between the outside of the combing and the underside where the elastic of the sprayskirt fits tightly to make a seal varies at different spots around the combing. In the area between where the keyhole cockpit is large and where it narrows, that distance between the outside of the combing and the spot that the skirt should touch against is greater than it is everywhere else. The elastic doesnt pull flush agains anything and water gets in. On other brands with the keyhole cockpit, this distance remains about one inch around the entire cockpit. This appears to be a design flaw. My boat was off the shelf 2001 model. For 2002 they increased the height of the deck a bit. I don't know if this situation with the cockpit has been changed. In fact, I wrote email number two to support at Azul tonite and phoned with a msg after hours to speak with them in hopes of a remedy for this situation. If they can provide me with one I will certainly report that as well as if I get no response or no satisfaction.
I have another problem with Azul. I am hoping that they are so new they are getting it together but I am never impressed when a company's Website is inaccurate or unfinished. It is hard to find a Sultan for someone in New Jersey. I went to the website looking for dealers. I click on dealers and get several in NJ. None of whom handle Azul. I go click on Maryland, see several dealers, same thing. When I phone they tell me they never heard of them. One dealer figured out that since they handle the line of whitewater kayaks, "Riot Kayaks", that they just got put on the site. None of these people have ever seen an Azul kayak. One dealer, when I asked him if perhaps he had the Azul line in one of his other stores told me there was only one other store. I gave him the address that was listed. He told me that was his mother's home address?? I drove 350 miles to purchase this boat.
So for now I will wait for a response from the company. I will not reserve my rating however as I want people to know that this is one very very nice boat. I will post another review later with the results of my request for a remedy to my problem.