The top of this boat is one enormous round arch, Its one of the easiest boats I've ever rolled, even fully loaded, rolling this boat is just as easy loaded as empty. It's so round on top and bottom that it doesn't care if it's upside down or not, its essentially secondary stability 360 degrees around. Fully loaded this boat shines.
I like the speed and there is minimal reaction to small chop and light wind. It provides for a dry ride and you can paddle in 10 – 15 knot wind and (2 foot) chop at full blast without the conditions having much effect on the kayak. It makes nice and steady progress even at some angle to the wind. At greater angle the same result is achieved by slight skeg deployment. Efficiency is achieved by being able to paddle without much in the way of correction strokes.
The price paid for the speed and steady cruse in most conditions is a boat that is more difficult to maneuver very challenging conditions. Paddling the Viviane is forcing me to be a more disciplined kayaker. But as a couple friends have pointed out and demonstrated: The Viviane turns quite well, “all you need to do is to put it on edge!” And true, this boat will respond very well to aggressive edging but will not turn sharply until you put it on edge. The turning characteristics are not surprising considering the hull shape. The hull is long and straight it has minimal rocker. It also has fairly a fairly deep v-shape at each end and a more rounded center section. The hull shape is very noticeable: If you pull the boat up partially on a steep beach, then the kayak lays down on its side if one end is on the beach and the rest in the water. Pull it up completely and it lays upright.
This kayak rolls quite well with the spray skirt attached as well as in a re-entry and roll “self rescue” situation. You will discover though, just like a previous reviewer, that the cockpit has room for a lot of water besides the pilot. This is a concern in that there is a lot of water to pump out after a typical self rescue. I would have liked less room by, for example, having an angled bulk-head close to the back-rest and less room in front of the (very comfortable) foot-pegs. I have attempted to lessen the water volume by outfitting with mini cell foam in some of the water space but have not had a chance to re-test.
Construction appears sturdy and first rate. There is enough material where needed, no more, this big boat can easily be carried or loaded on a full size SUV by one person. My boat weighs in at 56 lbs.
Summary: The Viviane is a full-size kayak with of room for a large occupant and gear. I can wholeheartedly recommend it to paddlers with good technique and good power, particularly if you are interested in making great progress across open water in all but the most challenging conditions.
I agree with most of what the other reviewers say, the main exception being the position of the front bulkhead, which actually needs moving about 2in forward were I to have the rudder fitted. I have paddled a fair bit of the SW English peninsular and around Brittany, where the tides can be very strong and the seas often very choppy with steep, sometimes very confused seas, and only rarely have I felt ill at ease. I would recommend it to any larger-than-average paddlers such as myself.
The Viviane is a fast, lively, generally responsive kayak that’s easy lean; scull up and real easy to roll upright. For the novice, this kayak would feel twitchy and unstable. Add a load of gear and food, for this trip about 120 pounds, both primary and secondary stability increased dramatically.
The paddle trip involved several long crossings, the longest from the Palisades area of Catalina (33.3082N, 118.3469W) to Del Mar (32.9346N, 117.2602W), a distance of 68 miles took a total of 15 hours including rest stops and bio-breaks, or just over 13 hours of actual paddling. The other long passages of the trip were 51 miles (Santa Cruz Island to Santa Barbara Island), and 41 miles (Santa Barbara Island to the Palisades area of Catalina Island). Paddling varied between fairly flat water with long, low swells and gentle winds, to moderate winds of up to 15 knots, wind waves of 1-2 meters on swells of 4 meters. The roughest day was 2-meter breaking wind-waves atop 4-meter swells in a sustained wind of 12-16 knots, when we paddled from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara Island.
We swapped kayaks throughout the trip and everyone agreed that the Viviane was the fastest of the kayaks but not the most comfortable to paddle, two of us tend to bang the side with our 230 Werners; 235 or 240 would fit us better for this kayak. While I’m at it, for any kind of bumpy surface, a low angle paddle stroke is the better to use for stability; a high-angle stroke can trip you up. Since I’m on the general group consensus, everyone agreed the Aquanaut was the most stable in primary and secondary stability, the kayak I designed and built being the most comfortable and all around enjoyable, being both the lightest and the most attractive of all of them. The Viviane was both the fastest and roomiest. The Nordkapp came in last.
Viviane’s strong points:
As other reviewers wrote, the Viviane is fast enough to catch up to and drop onto wakes and waves, and the hull is fast enough in design and hull speed that you’ll end up in front of the wake train so you can catch it again and again and again. As others mentioned, you most definitely want to be perpendicular to a wave or wake to surf otherwise you’ll be ending up having to do some serious paddle turning to work the bow back round.
The kayak has a low righting moment, meaning a low heeling moment, or in other words, allowing it to be easily leaned into the sides of steep seas. Also, lacking an extensive defined chine, it doesn’t “trip” over the chine in those awkward side-surfing moments when things didn’t go quite the way they were supposed to when landing. Further, there’s some surprising secondary built into that hull, and when leaned past that, it’s not difficult for a person to scull back up. The simple rubber Valley hatch covers, though not beauties, are easy to get on and off yet are very secure, and definitely watertight. The hatch openings are large to fit most things one takes along on trips.
The kayak is dry ride, when empty it floats over most everything, but with all that positive buoyancy in the bow, it is not the best kayak for beach launches when its very desirable to punch through the crest of a plunging wave in those times when getting out between big waves is just not going to happen. By no means am I saying that it can’t do it, just that there are some kayaks that are just better at it, but then, that means a wetter ride.
The skeg design is really good and mostly flutter-free, strong, so far it hasn’t jammed with gravel, and never binds up or hard to use, but I do wish the control knob was more forward at least 6 inches. Another very strong point is that the Viviane is easy to paddle backwards, and she goes straight, too. To me this is a great and wonderful feature right up there with it’s speed and ability to catch wakes for long rides.
Viviane’s weak areas:
Right off, I can’t stand the friggin’ bulkheads position and construction. By midnight of the same night the kayak was given to me I had them out. The front bulkhead is far too forward and the rear bulkhead too far back. This makes for a tremendous volume in the cockpit, and removes all sorts of volume from the front and rear compartments. So when you find yourself offshore in rough water and the spray-skirt just blew in with a breaking sea, you get to pump out all that extra water and have an even larger free-surface area! This is beyond bad. I repositioned both bulkheads, and added a foot-operated Bosworth Guzzler foot pump, too.
The seat and back-band is garbage. So out it came and I made a minicell throne. Not only is it comfy for 10-20 hour paddles, but it’s much lighter then the original seat and it takes up additional cockpit volume which means just that much less water to pump out. As I mentioned above, the skeg control needs to be moved at least 6 inches forward so that skeg adjustment can be done smoothly while paddling.
Finally, the positive nature of being so long at the waterline and with a deep-V also makes the kayak twitchy in short, steep, confused seas, conditions found when swells come from two directions with a tidal influence over shallow water, where playboats do better.
Bottom line, this is my 17th kayak I’ve owned and is the fastest and most fun of my fleet. It’s fast, roomy, twitchy, and damn does it like to surf, or should I say, how I like to surf! Pick up a used one and do the mods I did and you’ll have a rocketship ride that fits you well. The best color to get is white for a variety of reasons, trust me on this, I speak from over three decades of paddling and many, many long trips and many firsts throughout the world.
Some of the things that have impressed me with this kayak is how dry a ride it is. It's lively, but is a hell of a lot of fun to paddle in rough water. She's a inch wider then my wood yak was, but somewhat faster. The kayak is white so it's cooler then most others, and the room for the feet is perfect because, for those of you who know me and my mantra for long-distance paddles: comfort=safety. The kayak swallows a phenomenal amount of gear and is forgiving for bad weight distribution when tested deliberately. Without a doubt, she's going to be a perfect expedition yak. Spo now that I've said all that, her best feature is how easy it is to surf her while paddling my daily 20-30 miles in training. I've caught all sorts of wakes and wind waves, some standing waves and the breaks over the bar and some point breaks in my area. The surfer punks are getting truly pissed off!
Another great feature is how easy it is to scull back up when knocked over versus setting up for a roll. Speaking of rolling, she's an angel to roll, too. In fact, I can do reliable hand rolls with her.
So, aside from the mods I discussed above, she would be far better if made with carbon fiber. Other then that, she's been a real joy, and in the 30 years of paddling, she's my 17th kayak, and she's easily one of the best production kayaks I've had or paddled. For me, she's up there with the Aquanaut (which I busted up and patched together when we did the first winter circumnavigation of Tasmania). Nothing will replace my wood yak for the perfect kayak, but the Viviane is real close.
It's not especially playful (the stern should read "makes wide turns", although the Viviane handles better than some other long boats) and will broach in surf (responding predictably to a brace), but then again it wasn't designed for rock gardens. The little design details are great: the long slope to the rear of the coaming to ease laybacks, the comfortable oversized footpegs, the watertight hatches, and the quality of the lay-up (super strong, yet only 53 lbs. for a 19'2" boat).
I have had the footpegs come loose twice in three years, and each time the customer service has been great....on the last occasion, I was expressed replacement parts and received them in two days from Europe, at no charge. (I noted a re-design of the part which should prevent any future problems). Kayak Sport cares about after-service, clearly.
Definitely a great boat that excels at what it was designed to do....a 9 only because I don't believe in 10s! :)
The Viviane is a slow turning but wonderful Kayak. I have been out in the ocean swells and wind chop while able to paddle right through it. It did take some getting used to the knife edge bow, and don't ever let the bow touch the beach while getting in or out. The construction is top cabin and light enough I can put it ontop of my Trooper by myself.
I am 6'2" and have long legs. There are few kayaks that alow me into them without bruises up and down my legs. This has never been a problem with this kayak and the rim is well designed so that even after many practice rolls, one after another, the skirt remains where it belongs. If you’re a big person or want a fast boat that can hold a lot of gear this is a boat you should look at.
The Viviane is one such boat. Make no mistake: this is an exceptional sea kayak. Exceptional. But it was not intended to be an all round boat or a fun playful, quick turning, boat. It was intended to handle well in big water and has a very round hull and lots of volume in the bow. It was designed to be very fast and it is extremely fast for an honest to goodness expedition sea kayak. I have raced the Viviane and stayed very close to a Fenn Mako surf ski and a West Hill Thunderbolt, both of which are extremely fast racing hulls. I capitalized on the stability of the Viviane's hull and was able to paddle at full power thru wind and chop when the race boats were not.
What the Viviane does not do well (and was never intended to do) is turn quickly, this is an open water boat and would be a liability in a rock garden. There is nothing like it for hour upon hour of fast paddling. I paddled the entire coast of Georgia (nearly 100 miles) in 48 hours carrying what I needed: shelter, food and water. The boat performed wonderfully.
The rod actuated skeg is wonderful and I have never seen it's equal. It works well in most conditions. The Viviane is sensitive to trim and may require weight placed toward the stern to avoid weather cocking in stern quartering seas.
The big surprise in the Viviane is how well it rolls considering it's size. This is a voluminous hull yet the way the deck and cockpit coaming are shaped it enables a very efficient position for rolling. I can easily hand roll this boat, loaded.
The Kajaksport people make no false claims concerning their largest single kayak. They never claim it is a great all rounder and in the language of kayaking they paint a clear picture of what they intended this boat to do: Hold lots of stuff, go fast and provide good stability in rough water. They have accomplished these goals admirably.
This is a fast boat, and I use it for normal paddling, plus touring class racing. Shape of beam means it is narrow just in front of cockpit, which means one has great flexibility in paddle strokes - you can paddle close in for sprints, or with normal touring stroke.
I have paddled a Mariner II, and that is the only long boat I would consider better handling than the Viviane. The Mariner II has a slightly lower coaming height, so it is less suited for larger paddler than Vivane. Mariner II will handle surf better.
Cockpit, seat, and footrests in Vivane are supremely comfortable for larger paddler (over 5'10" and over 185 pounds). Footrests appear to be proprietary to Kajak SPort, and have large plate so whole foot is supported. Very easy to adjust footrests while seated in the boat.
Although this is a large boat, it is extremely well balanced to carry, and has rounded edges on inner cockpit that make it comfortable for one-hand carries (no load).
Only drawback is weight - but it is about the same as all 19 foot boats.