I was looking for a low volume day boat that fit me well and that I could grow into as my skills developed. The Viking met all of my requirements. I am at the upper end of the recommended paddler size range at 5'8" tall and 185 lbs, but I don't feel like I am maxing out the boat's load carrying capacity. Primary and secondary stability are just fine and the boat rides well through rough water.
Kajak Sport says that the Viking is suitable for people up to 6 feet tall. I would question this - I have relatively short legs and wear size 9 shoes, but I find that I have the footpegs at the end of their travel and the tops of my shoes sometimes rub against the deck. Anyone considering the Viking should definitely try it out for fit.
I can also attest to its’ speed as detailed in every review. There is no sacrifice in speed trading down from a 17 footer—even a reasonably quick one. The trade-off as always is turning performance, but only slightly, it’s still a very maneuverable craft.
It tracks quite well without the skeg. These days I find myself using just a tiny bit of skeg when I’m feeling lazy or when I have a crosswind or I’m in a following sea.
The boat has held up quite well to the harsh treatment we are forced to expose our boats to here in NYC. This is a city of very hard edges—there isn’t a soft landing anywhere here—and while it has it’s share of surface scratching, the Viking’s lay-up has fared quite well, especially the deck.
As a confirmed boat junkie (I am averaging more that one boat trade-up a year) I really can’t find an adequate reason to upgrade or switch away from this one. The carbon fiber Chatham 17 is somewhat tempting, but I really don’t know what I’d be gaining over the Viking besides a very slightly lighter boat.
Overall, I am quite satisfied and make no hesitations recommending this boat.
Looking in the day boat class I considered the Romany, Avocet, Chatham16, and the Viking. When it came down to the best combination of speed, comfort and quality of construction there really wasn’t any contest. The Viking’s build and finish quality was far superior to the Brit boats (and much lighter, a nice bonus)—just run your fingers along the underside of the combing seam in the cockpit: perfectly smooth. Its speed easily exceeded all three. I also believe it is the lightest by a few pounds. Though I don’t think it turns quite as well as a Romany or perhaps the Avocet, it certainly turns very well and edges nicely. Despite it’s somewhat deeply vee’d hull I find it to be quite stable and I can fully relax with the paddle down (though on the choppy lower Hudson river reaching into the day hatch requires some balance and concentration.)
I’d love to tell you that since getting the Viking that I am suddenly a faster paddler and lead the pack on trips, alas I still struggle to keep up—though this certainly has more to do with the operator than the equipment. However, on my GPS, I get up to and maintain cruising speed much more efficiently and actually top out at about 1/3 kt. faster than my previous 17 ft British expedition boat—every little bit helps.
I find myself edging more in this boat, not because it needs it to turn, but because it holds edge so well and responds quickly. I have spent reasonably long stretches in the Viking without the skeg down, using edge control to keep her straight, something I never did with my other boats. When deployed, the skeg control was faultless and easy to trim for beam wind and such.
The bow volume was just right bobbing over well spaced chop and plowing through the short stuff without too much wash over the deck. I am more comfortable in a following sea in this boat even when paddling empty than my previous ones, that’s a relief. It surfs a bit better too with minimal broaching.
I am excited to roll this boat but the water’s still a bit too cold for me.
The cockpit is comfortable. The thigh braces hit me in the right spot. The back band needs some tweeking to make it sit right—I still don’t have it perfect yet, but I might just go get an aftermarket one. There are lots of nice thoughtful touches like the rear of the combing which is perfectly contoured to support your back while leaning backwards; the oversized pivoting foot pedals which are dynamite; the overbuilt molded handles; the paddle-float rescue bungee system; and the pre-tied internal lanyards on the hatches.
The hatches are, of course, Kajaksport brand and are super watertight—maybe too watertight as they can be a real pain to put on and off.
My requirements were: a boat around 16 feet (space in garage), skeg (I hate rudders, but want to be able to track well in crosswind and high surf), low volume, sure fit.
So, I narrowed my field to: Meridian, Elaho, Romany, and Viking. I couldn't test the Romany but I directly compared the Meridian, Elaho and Viking at the dealer. Of the three the Viking was the clear choice.
The Meridian was too stiff, felt wide, turned poorly. The Elaho was a great boat. It was easy to lean, turned on a dime, great fun to paddle. But the Elaho couldn't track well. Two strokes and I was veering left. The gravity skeg wouldn't deploy. And the boat was slow.
The Kajak Sport Viking Expedition has a lot going for it. It doesn't go up on edge as easily as the Elaho, but once there it turns very well. It tracks straight, although I did experience some weathercocking. Deploying the skeg about a third down solved the problem. It feels comfortable, very snug, like a second skin. It was more challenging to put up on edge. But once there it turns nicely. This is a more technical boat that will make you a better kayaker.
I'll write another review after a few months when I have taken her out in varying conditions. I'm just learning to roll now and will asses that aspect of the boat as well.