First the reviews here are good and fair. Second the boats are made in Mexico (they do have some distributors in the US), which roughly translates to excellent quality at a fraction of the cost. Not to mention that I wouldn’t have to drive to Arizona to pick up a boat. And lastly Rafael is one of the fairest and easiest people I have ever dealt with.
Given the prices…roughly $1500 US per boat I decided to buy two. One Performa L (note the Performa L is a modified version of an older boat by the same name.) And one of his new designs the Kanik L. To give you some sort of idea I placed my order and was quoted a build/ ship date in three weeks, the boats arrived with out a scratch at my door three weeks to the day from that order! Rafael and Mayan Seas are really, really good to work with. But all that is worthless if the boats are not good, so here are the reviews:
Performa L. Pros: 16+ feet of fast fiberglass ocean kayak. Great hull design, crazy secondary stability, with a fun element of squirlieness on the primary stability. Very good tracking and as I am 6’2” 235lbs this is no small issue with me, the boat is very comfortable. Easy entry and exit, and while I am no master at rolling it has a design with easy rolling in mind. I have had this boat out in some extreme waves (5-6’ swells with high chop) and it handled it quite smoothly. It surfs very well. There are ample bow and stern hatches as well as a day hatch. A good tight seal on the hatch covers is necessary or you will get some leakage, but that is kind-of universal. Did I mention this boat is fast? I have used it for workouts…with my glory days of rowing Crew in college in mind. Hammering away on a stable platform that cuts threw the water…quite fun!
The biggest Pro is the Price. You will be hard pressed to find as good a boat for the price out there. Not to mention dealing with a company that stands by its products (I had some paddles that didn’t work out and was quickly refunded my money) and has tremendous and justified pride in its design and workmanship.
Kanik L. Like the Performa, the Kanik has the same exact deck but has a more stable platform for a beginner to learn on. Excellent thru and thru, though a lighter person will have a very hard time in this boat. By lighter I mean in the 100 lb. Range. It is a higher volume boat and requires a bit of weight to sit it down in the water or you will get blown about a bit. I have gone out in it and find it to be only a little slower than the Performa, but it cruises like an Olds 98. It’s a very forgiving boat and not the least bit tippy. I actually prefer this boat on a lazy day, or if I am going out with my camera to take shots of the exotic birds around here.
Cons for both boats: Very minor fit and finish details if any. Though given the price I am happy to have that good ole fashioned hand made character than pay a lot more for factory perfection. I would like to see more substantial seat stays…. but that may be in part due to my size.
Over all I think that covers everything. I am really happy to have found Mayan Seas; I think that they make very good boats, at very good prices. Not to mention that they are very accommodating, punctual and stand behind their product. What more could you ask for? I hope that this review helps if you are considering one of these boats. If they ever come out with a longer faster Performa L, I would sell off the Kanik (by then my friends will have learned enough to use the Performa that I have now) and place my order.
The first Performa (probably the one reviewed by "--") fits the description given, with poor secondary stability. However, this boat is no longer manufactured.
The Performa II had a greatly improved hull design, giving it the tracking and edging characteristics you see in the favorable reviews. However, the deck on this boat was rather high, making it difficult to roll for someone who wasn't tall and long waisted. This version also had hatch covers that included a neoprene stretch cover protected by a fiberglass lid held on by straps. The neoprene was about 95% watertight, and the combination was a bit cumbersome to use. This boat is, I believe, also not in current production.
The newest version of the boat, the Performa L, is just about perfect. It retains the excellent handling of the Performa II's hull (straight tracking, easy to edge-turn, etc.) but the deck has been redesigned to be lower at the back of the cockpit, which makes it a snap to roll. At the same time, the redesigned deck manages to retain the commodious storage space, so there is plenty of room for gear. This is one of the roomiest boats I've seen.
The seat and backband are very comfortable -- no sore butt after a day of paddling -- and the cockpit has plenty of room to move your feet around.
I have paddled the boat in 20 mph winds and it handles very well without a rudder. I had a skeg on the Performa II that I had, but found that it was unnecessary weight. Why drag around something you don't need? I attribute the good rudderless performance to the hard chines, which run all the way from the bow of the boat to the stern. One caveat: I am fairly light (130 lbs), which makes the boat float higher and lets it lee-cock in high winds IF my gear is stored in the rear hatch. When I'm expecting windy conditions, I stow all gear in the forward hatch (keeping the bow chine in the water), and then there is no problem whatsoever -- the boat stays neutral regardless of wind or waves. Paddlers who weigh more or who are paddling a loaded boat would not have this issue.
I want to second the comments about outstanding secondary stability. I can lean this boat nearly vertical to the water and feel secure. So I can turn it on a dime by spinning the boat on one edge (or turn more leisurely by edging to the outside of the turn).
The Performa L also has redesigned one-piece fiberglass hatch covers with a rubber compression ring on the underside and "latchable" straps that hold the covers in place. The design is easy to use and 100% watertight, a really nice improvement.
My Performa L weighs about 51-52 lbs.
All in all, I would recommend this boat to anyone looking for true value. It has a somewhat different "look" than most boats because of its hard chines and high hull, but then it handles and performs better than most boats too!
On the other hand Performa L outperformed the previous in several ways. It still tracks very well but it feels stable enough so that I can take pictures in moving waters, let my paddle and stretch, etc. But I can turn very easily with slight edging. I can even speed up and edge to one side and turn and then edge to the other and jerk it a little and it will start turning in the other direction. With good edging and sweep strokes I can make 360 deg turns with 6-7 strokes. The seat is comfortable and the coaming is lower. The previous was too high for me. This is about right. The back coaming is lower and I can easily lie back for sweep rolls making them very easy. The hatches may leak if the straps are loose but if tighten them right and use the leverage handles in the right place, they will be completely dry. My feet are 12 and I can seat in comfortably.
In rough weather, heavy winds and in the surf it is a beauty to handle. I have a feeling of confidence in 4 foot waves and 30 mph winds. Speed is very good for its size and I stay with groups having 17.5 and 18 feet boats.
I consider that for the price I paid, I get the best return possible in speed and performance.
The neoprene internal hatch cover material is less durable than others found on most major kayak brands. The poor initial stability is further compromised by the lack of waterline width that is brought towards the bow and stern. It is a very diamond-shaped boat. There seems to be a lot of resin and not much fiber in the hull layup, and was quite heavy. The boat I paddled had previously had a puncture, but it's hard to really say how much less durable the Performa is compared to other boats.
The Performa may be okay for someone that really wants a new fiberlgass boat at a cheap price, but searching for a better designed and constructed boat, new or used, will probably pay off in the long run.
It has no rudder but is so easy to steer that to think a line is to achieve it. It has plenty of room for packing camping gear for multi day trips. It has pretty good primary stability, but probably not as much as beginners would want, and really excellent secondary stability. I got caught in a blue norther and had my paddle blown across the boat, forcing me over. I never braced but when I turned loose of my upper hand grasp on my paddle, the boat rolled me back up.
And the price on this boat makes it affordable to almost anyone, even those who think they can only afford plastic. I have been paddling it for 2 years and still consider it one of the fastest and easiest to paddle kayaks on the market, especially for smaller paddlers.