I find that I like everything about this kayak except for one thing, the tracking. The kayak is easy to paddle, going at least a half mph faster than my Equinox 124 for the same paddling effort. It is not quite as stable, but is still good. It has a lot more room for my feet and legs and the seat is very comfortable. I don't think I have enough experience with different kayaks to rate the ease of turning.
But the tracking is definitely far worse than the Equinox 124. The Equinox is a rock. In calm water it just goes in the direction it is pointed. I don't have to pay any attention to it, I just paddle and every 10 to 20 seconds look to see if I have paddled off course at all and correct a bit. The Rhythm 11 is always on the hairy edge of making a turn and if my attention wanders for more than two strokes, it is cutting a turn and I have to fully extend the paddle to one side for a couple of hard turning strokes to get it back on course. In rough water (like power boat wakes) it needs constant adjustments to keep it on track. This is especially true for wake coming up from behind. They will push the boat into a turn and then the boat takes over and turns hard. The back side of the wake is not enough to counter the turn at that point and I have to correct hard.
In quiet creeks when I am trying to creep up on wildlife, I can stop paddling that Equinox and it will just follow its nose. I have lost many a picture because the Rhythm wants to make a turn which can take me too close to the wildlife and scare it away before I can get the picture.
So I am still looking for the perfect kayak. I am going to try a Pungo 120, the Necky Manitou 11 and a Dagger Blackwater 10.5 or 12.
The boat is fast and I think it tracks better than some have reviewed, thanks to the hard chimes. Exactly half my trips have been on flat water and half on rivers ranging from very slow to Class III. I've taken the Element through three Class III rapids multiple times and think it handles great to be 11 feet long. I recently bought a Dagger GT so that I could take the white water to the next level, but I will always keep the Element around to use on those slow moving rivers with Class II rapids.
I love the long day trips on the river in the Element with a lunch packed in the hatch. I am also a fan of the high backrest on the seat, but I had to make sure my pfd had a mesh lower back so that the seat and pfd wouldn't be against each other. The only kayak I have seen that I feel is better as an all around rec boat is the Dagger Blackwater, simply because it is a little faster, although not as stable.
The tracking isn't as bad as i've heard,but with a strong enough wind and/or current it takes on a mind of it's own.great maneuverability and good looks make this a boat one that turns heads.i would recommend this kayak to anybody.dagger really came through on this one.
That being said I have had my Eley now for about a year and have paddled it ALOT and am very happy with the way it has treated me!!!
It's gone the distance on Lake Powell and handled the monster barge boat wakes there with comfort. I paddle it weekly on a local lake near where I live, It does tend to drift with a strong breeze but its easy to deal with that, I've even used it several times on a few Class 2 narrow rock filled streams near Denver where I live, and I did quite well on the rivers in northern Arkansas too. It turns on a dime and leaves you change with a little muscle power will catch an eddy quite well ferry’s nicely and much to my surprise it will even surf on the small waves, just don’t pretend it’s a white water boat!!!
My only complaint is that Dagger needs to put in thigh braces but I made do by using hip pads as knee rests to lock my knees under the combing.
If you’re looking for a fun messing around on all types of water the Element 11.2 is for you.
Tracking – I've got to admit that I have not tried a lot of the boats out there, so I don't have a huge reference to go on. But I've tried a few, and it's my opinion that this boat doesn't track well at all. If there is any breeze or current, serious paddling adjustments must constantly be made. The other edge to that sword, however, is that it turns on a dime. I've become accustomed to the tracking issue, and it's not much of a problem. But this past weekend, I got to try someone's Dagger Charleston 15, and ohmygod. It's like the thing was on rails. Sigh. Maybe next year.
I'm not sure what the purpose is of the funky rigging on the Element. Cool look, sure (very "Spiderman"), but not very practical. Also, the rear-most tiedown bolts of the rigging were so far back that I'd tend to drag my thumbs over them when paddling, and it really hurt if I was bearing down. I finally removed them. The boat is pretty fast, and not too hard on the eyes. I've got size 12 feet and I don't have any problem. It's nice and roomy in the cockpit.
From the "this happens on all boats" dept... I think the "watertight" hatch is only watertight until it leaves the factory. The flexing of the plastic hull breaks the seal made by the silicone goop they apply. I'm working on a rubber and silicone solution to this and don't think it'll be a problem. Hey, if I can't kayak during the winter months, at least I can spend time working on my boat in the cellar!
I find that if I'm heading diagonally into a serious wind, with the waves hitting the boat at an angle, they splash up quite a bit and get blown into me. Again, perhaps this is common among most recreational boats. The only other ones that I've tried extensively are the Loon 111 and 138. The hulls on these are more "ship-like" and the waves break harmlessly off them, rather than splashing up.
But I'm enjoying the hell out of it, and it'll suit me nicely until I buy a touring boat next year. (Geez, I hope my wife doesn't read this.)
The Element seems a hair faster than the Delta, and the Element is definitely a more seaworthy boat. The skirt on the Element's 38-inch cockpit is very secure, whereas it was impossible to get a really waterproof seal on the 4-foot cockpit of the Delta.
The Delta is a great boat for getting you down a nice Class II river, but the Element offers more fun as you do it. It's a little more maneuverable than the Delta, and the Element has little hard chines so that edging a bit enhances the turning. What with the edging ability, the Element tracks better than the Delta as well, particularly in wind. Just get the Element on a chine and you can overcome the slight weathercocking tendency easily.
I'm giving the Element a 9.75 score, which rounds off to 10. The deduction is for the slight weathercocking.
The Dagger Delta looks like a barge, but has amazing performance. The Element, however, is a sexy-looking thing with performance to match. My hat is off to the Dagger hull designer on the Element. It's great in rivers, and I don't mind paddling it in flat water, either, though I mostly use my touring boat for that.
Extraneous notes: I've kept my Delta for a guest boat. The guy who said you can't fit more than size 11's in the Element is mistaken. It all depends what kind of footwear you have. I have size 13's, but I wear neoprene booties when kayaking, and they fit very easily in the Element. I have a 34-inch inseam and I have two holes left on my footrest rails. If I wore tennis shoes, my feet wouldn't fit well, but then I've never sat in a kayak that fits size 13 tennis shoes well. The Element narrows quickly in front of the cockpit so that you don't need a paddle longer than 220 cm. I feel that with the retail price under $600, the Element is a true bargain, and you get a lot for the money. It's a sophisticated hull for a little rec boat. I really think of it as more of a Class I-III river boat. Just add some more floatation in the bow. The little foam block installed by Dagger isn't enough.
Note to other nearly obsessed paddlers who share the experience with others...I bought a nice, lightweight carbon fibre (shaft) paddle (a Swift--so pretty too!) which I use when alone, and my wife Sue gets when the gang goes out...the more comfortable and less fatigued she is at the end of a trip, the more likely we will go out again (including mutiple paddles per day on our vacations). THAT is worth $100 more! As before, I’ve been a bit wordy in my review but when “shopping” via reviews, the more info the better!
Some cons - if you have feet more than size 11 you will not fit in the boat. My feet barely do. The deck rigging, which I thought was neat at first, is not handy and I will have to re-string that. I hate the rear rubber hatch, but that is a personal issue. It is not overly speedy, but is suits my needs. Tracking is okay, not great.
So, good for the money. I will update this review as time goes on.
PS - Large men, 6 feet and above, 200+ lbs, should by longer boats, always. i think I should upgrade when the new Blackwater 13.5 comes out with the raised cockpit next year.
I agree with the previous reviewer that the Element appears to be sensitive to the current and can be a little work to keep on-track but it's not overly bothersome to me. It's easy to paddle and I can get up some decent speed. It's roomy and very comfortable and the waterproof bulkhead is a nice touch for the price (I got it for $477.) It's lightweight and easy to lift on/off my vehicle and it also seems to be more solid than my Sierra - the hull doesn't flex as much when I snug down the carrying straps. The seat is great but it could use a cupholder and a drain plug.
I'll definitely be trying it out in some slow rivers soon. So far, I'm very pleased and I would recommend this to someone looking for a light, fun rec. boat with some decent features in this price range.
PROS: Speed. For a boat of this (short) length and (wide) width, I was expecting it to be fairly slow. But I averaged over 5 km/h without really trying, which suprised me. Comfort. Great seat. Very stable. Relatively light weight. Big stern hatch. Low cost.
CONS: I don't like the funky front rigging. It's difficult to get much of anything in it. If I bought this boat, I'd re-rig that. No rear rigging. I really question how you'd do a self-rescue with this boat. Perhaps as a rec boat you're not supposed to.
I found the tracking to be OK but not outstanding. I was paddling in a current (an outgoing tide) and the boat did consistently want to turn broadside to the current. Nothing severe by any means; all boats do it, but it was noticeable. On the flip side, it was easy to turn. I'd have to agree with a previous reviewer that Dagger has probably found a good balance here.
All in all, a great, comfortable, speedy, boat for the money.