I have paddled dozens of kayaks for more than 30 years. It carves turns smoothly in all kinds of wind or water conditions. It has excellent directional stability, and performs well in side braces and 180/360 degree rolls. This kayak provides the best tradeoff of features to weight I have exerienced. The single storage compartment and front bag-flotation makes it sufficiently light for easy hoisting to a roofrack, yet easily provides more than sufficient, secure emergency flotation and storage for weeklong camping trips. I have yet to find a more versatile craft and rugged companion around the rocky streams, lakes, and shores of New England.
I am 74 years old and have been using sit on kayaks for a number of years. The Sport is the first one that I have sat in to paddle and i love it. It tracks like an arrow, glides like an eagle, and turns on a dime. I can spend a whole day paddling and feel great afterwards. I may add another sit in to my fleet.
It is a very versatile kayak as I have also used it to explore rivers and other more calm bodies of water. Mine has a foot operated rudder system which is great for river travel.
Some years later I was buying up a bunch of sea kayaks on Craigslist for a family summer lakehouse vacation where I wanted to have enough kayaks for our whole family (my philosophy was buy used on Craigslist and then sell them off later - much cheaper then renting). Well, I never ended up selling either of the 2 Looksha Sports that I bought because I liked the kayaks too much.
About me - I've been kayaking for 15+ years and am primarily a whitewater boater but equally enjoy sea kayaking and even some flatwater racing. I have owned probably 20 kayaks or more and am particular about the performance of a kayak.
The Looksha Sport is the ideal all-around kayak. It is hard-chined boat with the secondary stability of a whitewater boat - that means it turns easily and is good for coastal exploration, river kayaking, or tight marshes where you require more agility than a 18-20' kayak can offer. The hard chines also make for great carving ability which makes this an ideal boat for surfing waves or getting knocked around in big surf. At the same time, the design manages to offer excellent hull speed for longer distances. I have used this boat for flatwater races and, compared to other boats with a similar length/width ratio, it moves nicely through the water and maintains a very good hull speed considering the width.
As others have pointed out, the stock seat is not very comfortable - a previous owner upgraded the seat in one of my Looksha Sports and it is much more comfortable. Only one of my boats has the oil canned hull that someone described so I don't think that is a problem unless the boat is stored wrong. That same boat has a deformed hull where it consistently pulls left but I think that is also due to improper storage and warping. The other Looksha paddles perfects straight and I rarely use the rudder.
This boat in a composite would be 10 but I still consider my plastic Looksha Sports long-term all-rounder keepers. Oh yeah, one last feature - the rear hatch is also large enough that it makes a perfect seat for a 2-5 year kid. My son grew up riding in the 'rear seat' - you can flip over the hatch cover and secure it in the rear webbing as a nice little plate for snacks. He loved it and it allowed us to paddle as a family until he was old enough to move into the tandem.
Well done - Necky, well done!
With the secondary chine the kayak is very stable and can turn on a dime. We have had these kayaks for quite a few years and with a quick wash down they look as good as when we purchased them. They are light weight and even at our age are easy to carry. We like to kayak in the Sierras and can hit five lakes and a small river in a week thats a lot of kayaking at any age. They are so easy to use we let our fellow campers try them for a few hours and have had many converts to the pleasure of kayaking.
My only complaint is the seat on ours could be more comfortable for the long haul. The seats in the new Neckys looks so much more comfortable that we may have to upgrade to the newer model soon.
The wilderness areas and wildlife we have been privileged to see and the freedom kayaking gives us means that kayaking is our sport for life. Kayaking helps keep us young or at least young at heart. If out on a river, a lake or the sea kayaking is the number one sport for me.
We are, to say the least, happy campers.
While reading this review, keep in mind that there were a couple of issues with the particular boat I paddled that make me wonder whether the characteristics I observed would be present in other samples of this design. In particular, there was a large concave dent in the hull just forward of the seat (it was the entire width of the flat portion of the hull, and just as long), probably from the boat being tied too hard to a rack, and... one rudder cable was broken. Since the rudder pedals slide on tracks, without the tension provided by the cable, I had no foot brace on one side. I either had to spread my knees and push my feet together to try to brace, or just sit straight-legged. I tried boiling water to pop out the dent, but no go. I nearly took the boat back, but it was getting late and I thought I'd just make the best of it. Besides, it was drizzling and about 8°C, and I didn't want to spend any more time in the rain. (As it turned out, soon after I started paddling, the rain stopped and the sun came out, and I was alone on the river. Sweet!).
Having said that, I was still able to control the boat without using the rudder. The hull shape is a very shallow V (i.e. nearly flat), with hard chines. The primary stability is quite weak, and the boat will easily roll 10-20 degrees on either side. That's a little disconcerting when you first get in the boat. A slight mis-paddle gets the boat leaning over and you feel like it might continue all the way over. However, secondary stability is quite good. I later tried big leans in a sheltered bond, and I could lean the boat more than 30 degrees ( i.e. water almost up to the edge of the cockpit) without it wanting to tip over.
True to the Sport name, this boat is quite maneuverable. It appears to have a slight bit of rocker, and this gives rise to a complex behaviour. While paddling with speed, you can correct course heading (or maintain course heading) by counter leaning - i.e. lean left to move the nose to the right. However, if you hold the paddle in the water a little too long, or use the paddle to slow down while leaning to one side (say to the right), the boat will rapidly spin around in the direction it's leaning (say, to the right), almost on its own axis. A few times I felt as though the current were pushing the tail around, and it was impossible to stop the spin with a bow sweep. Instead, I had to use a rear pry to maintain a heading. Of course, being unable to use full bracing, I was unable to put as much torque into the hull as a I wanted, which may have had an impact. Also, the big "scoop" just forward of the seat may also have contributed to the directional instability. I know it probably slowed me down a bit.
The maneuverability came in handy a few times when I passed a bridge abutment, then quickly pivoted and tucked around into the downstream eddy. The boat felt much shorter than its 14'4" at that point. The boat also seems quite fast, probably due to its narrow beam (23"), and the few times that I turned back upriver (or was involuntarily turned :-) I was able to move upstream with a few good hard strokes.
The boat doesn't have discrete knee braces, but instead has a padded area to the underside of the top deck. This is probably fine for the intended purpose of the boat. I was told by the retailer that it's possible to retrofit gas-pedal style rudder pedals if desired. That might be preferable in rough water where you want to be solidly braced while still being able to use the rudder.
The seat is quite good. The seat pan is well padded, and the seat back is adjustable while on the water. There's a ratcheting type mechanism on each side of the forward cockpit so you can tighten one side more than the other if you wish (good for asymmetrical people? or crosswinds?). The cockpit opening is not very large (31" x 17"), which is good for bracing, and rolling (a small spray-skirt has more chance of staying in place underwater), but not too comforting for beginners (not the target market for this boat anyway).
I like the neoprene hatch covers, which slip on easily. Putting a knee on one end while you pull on the other with two hands makes it easy to slip them in place (thanks for the tip, Dave!). The hatch covers are protected by a fiberglass lid held in place by two straps.
One last point, the boat is a little heavy (58 lb) for self-loading onto the roof of a car, but any other poly sea kayak would likely be even heavier.
Here's what one retailer (Atlantic Kayak Tours) has to say about the Looksha Sport:
"The Looksha double chined design gives this kayak good edging abilities. The Looksha Sport is a big step up from the Zoar Sport in performance, and it has more flotation which allows for easier self rescues. The Looksha Sport falls solidly in the Kayak Touring range; well above a Rec Boat, but not a sea kayak. We prefer the hatch system on the Necky Chatham series of kayaks, but this system works fine. The cockpit and seat allow for larger paddlers. Smaller paddlers will need to foam out the sides, but most boats need foaming for a custom fit. We recommend that decklines be added, which is not difficult. The Looksha Sport has a high rigid seat back which we don't like as it impedes body rotation and laying back."
After Aquabatics repairs the boat, I'll take it for another spin (no pun intended) as it seems to be quite a versatile boat.
To all the reviewers who complain that this boat doesn't track well, I'd say that they may not have the paddling skills to be in the target market. I had no problem maintaining a relatively straight line through class 1 rapids and 30 cm waves. And that was without a rudder or being solidly braced. In flat water sections I was able to maintain a straight heading at even low speeds unless I got too slow or a little uneven in my stroke, and then the boat wanted to turn, as I've described earlier.
I'm rating this boat 7/10 which I consider fairly good. I see far too many 9/10 and 10/10 from reviewers who admit they've never paddled more than one boat.
Strengths: maneuverability (especially for its size), secondary stability, playfulness, seat adjustment, hatch covers.
Weakenesses: sliding rudder pedals (gas-pedal style would be better considering the intended market), heavy weight.
It is stable, but a leaned turn is still possible. The speed ain't great, but it is a 14 foot poly boat. It is a very noisy boat at speed. The water sort of gurgles at the bow. The cockpit is plenty big, but you will want to pad some areas of the rudder mechanism as it can hit you knees (I have the blood to prove it!).
If you are smaller (I'm 5'5"), the cockpit is actually a little too big. The boat needs the rudder of skeg to paddle with the waves otherwise it will broach (again, it is a 14 foot boat). It also tends to weathercock a fair amount, but it is controllable without the rudder. For me the trick to using the rudder is to deploy it only part way. The drag is noticeable and it is better if partially deployed.
Overall, it is a great 14 foot poly boat and I'm not sure you can do any better in that class. However, if you do stay with the sport and you paddle open water (ocean, Great Lakes) you will likely grow out of it in a few years. If I used it on flatwater exclusively, I'd probably have rated it higher.
pros: a great looking boat, seat very comfortable, fast, maneuverable, not too heavy, good storage, water proof hatches, great secondary stability
cons: felt cramped in at times because of thigh braces, Im only 5ft7in 180 lbs, didn't seem to track really well, get the ruddder if you can because I think It'll come in handy even on rivers.
The Looksha Sport tracks like a dream (even without the skeg lowered), the seat is comfortable, primary and secondary stability are great. I am 6' 180# and it fit me perfectly, although I wish there was a bit more forespace in the cockpit.
It also handles well in all kinds of weather and water - I've had it in 2-3 foot waves on the Great Lakes and in these situations, the rudder comes in very handy. I wouldn't buy this boat without a rudder (unless you only paddle calm waters). Getting the rudder up and down could admittedly be a little easier. Great on creeks, rivers, small and large lakes! A great boat for day use or multi-day trips. The other nice features on the boat are the rear u-hook, great for locking the boat up and the bulk heads are designed really well - definitely water tight. There's also plenty of space for 3-5 day trips.
The only negative thing I have to say about this boat is I did have a slight problem with 'oil canning' - that is the hull dented easily after being cartopped inappropriately in the blazing sun. The dent however was easily removed and my best recommendation, regardless of what boat you ultimately purchase, is to buy and install a quality car rack system at the same time you buy your boat. I have a Yakima system with Mako Saddles - it's simply awesome and when you're not using the boat make sure you always store it in slings or at the very least bottom up on the shore.
All in all - this boat was a fantastic purchase and from bow to stern you'll discover the quality in workmanship. There's nothing chinsy about this boat! I highly recommend this boat to anyone who wants a kayak that's extremely versatile and wants to hone their paddling skills without out-growing their boat.
This kayak handles big water great, it can be a blast to surf (still learning). The speed issue kinda makes me chuckle... it is not a slow boat, mind you no 14' boat will be as fast as a 17' sea kayak. Anyway my advise is slow down and you may see something out there.
The boats stability is great for anyone other than a novice who has never sat in a kayak before, but confidence is quickly obtained. The boat turns quicker than anything comparable, especially if you lean on the hard chine to carve your turns. Tracking can be tricky initially. The rudder corrects this problem....but the use of the rudder in my view compromises turning speed when playing in the waves (likely true of most kayaks)
Anyway...I really enjoy this boat....Man winter is going to be long!!!
I too have waited till I paddled a dozen times before reviewing this boat. It does it all. Why a 9? Sure there are better task specific boats out there but I can only afford one and sincerely feel you can't do better than the Looksha Sport.
It has a good deal of rocker and turns quickly with it's 14'4" size. I think the boat tracks very well and I never use the rudder in calm water. In high winds with 3 foot waves or a strong current, you'll definitely appreciate having the rudder there. The boat handles big water as good as anything out there.
Initial stability is not as good as some wider boats, but secondary stability is great. It may feel a bit wobbly when you get in for the first time, but after you lean a little one way and then the other, you'll be confident that this boat wont tip. When I tried the Perception Corona, it seemed to lack the secondary stability of this boat, and I always had the feeling that I was going to go over if I leaned the slightest bit one way or the other.
This boat is just a tad slower than some longer boats like the Looksha IV or the Perception Eclipse, but then again it turns a lot better and is a good deal less expensive.
All in all this is a great boat and I am very pleased with my purchase. Don't go on my word alone - try one for yourself!
For safety, it has relatively watertight compartments, fair (but not great) deck rigging. The hatch covers and tie downs seem a little flimsy, but have never come loose. Toggles and bow line are fine. Deck bungies are a little lean. There is a compass pad. The rudder gear is fairly good for a lower priced boat. It only needs the rudder in stiff winds or nasty quartering chop. The flat bottom has a tendency to oil can. Maybe it could use a stiffener along the floor.
The original older model boat I demo'ed had loose rudder pedals and cables that flopped around. These were especially annoying on re-entries, because the pedals would ride all the way up, making it difficult to get your feet back in. The newer version boat I finally bought had bungie cords to keep the pedals down. After some minor adjustments, they worked great. The original demo boat had a very unsatisfactory seat back, which came loose every time I wet exited and had a high back that made rolls and re-entries more difficult than they had to be. The new model had a combination backband and seatback with a fabric covering extending down over the seat-- very nice! In my original demo, I was thrown out of the boat several times while surfing. I changed out the thigh braces for whitewater braces (wider) and installed hip pads. This solved the problem. The dealer (Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara) was most helpful).
The Looksha Sport, is 14'4" and has a flat bottom with beveled chines. Stability is fair. I would guess that is 60 something lbs., more with float bags, outfitting, lines, etc. It's a bit heavier than some other boats its size but is fairly husky, which is something you want in a boat to paddle rocks and surf. I have beaten the hell out of it, resulting only in a few scratches, so far.
The boat turns on a dime in either direction when edged. It took a little getting used to, since I paddled a more forgiving, round-chined boat before. The boat catches a wave quickly, sometimes too quickly. It responds fairly well to rudder strokes and draws, but the stern tends to get caught on waves, resulting in unplanned broaches sometimes. Tracking is fair, a tradeoff for the great turning characteristics. Maybe I'll improve with more practice. It rolls well, with aftermarket thigh braces and hip pads.
Speed is not great, but it is fair for a 14' plastic boat. My GPS indicated 4.5 knots with some effort and 3.5 knots at comfortable cruise speed in calm water with little wind.
My hips and feet hurt and fall asleep unless I flex them periodically. I will try installing thigh extensions and padding the thigh braces.
Overall, I would recommend this boat for playing and light coastal cruising.
Over a three day weekend, we took a 100-mile trip down a local river, which was far more demanding that we had anticipated, but was a blast all the same. We learned a terrific amount about how to pack a kayak, too. One feature of the Looksha Sport that we VERY PLEASED to discover was that the hatches DON'T leak; everything we had heard suggested that plastic boats' hatches didn't hold. The Sport's hatches are tight. On our next excursion after that trip we found that we had much more control of the boats and could actually handle them without rudders. Basically, the boats have grown on us as we have grown up with them over a season. We're reasonably happy with them, my wife (a small woman) more so than I (5' 10", 185 lb.).
The boat doesn't seem to glide as easily as it seems it ought to, even with the rudder up. Maybe it's just me. The seat (hard plastic variety) tends to make odd parts of the lower half of some people's bodies go numb. The thigh braces significantly in the wrong spot if you're small like my wife or large (6'4") like one of our friends. The manufacturing of our boats isn't perfect. For example, the rudder on my boat is mounted slightly crooked. Also, the hook which holds the strap from the hard plastic seat back is also mounted crookedly. The boat is pretty heavy for a little person at 60+ pounds; my wife has trouble shouldering it.
The boat turns great. It leaves us plenty of room to grow. It's a very versatile boat. We've done lakes, rivers, and even some really tight reeds. It's usually about $200 less that it's big brother, the Looksha IV. It has really handy deck rigging and a nice bow line. The cockpit rim is easy to slide a skirt over and holds onto a skirt well.
This is a fun kayak that glides easily through the water with little effort. I can sit in the Sport and not feel hardly any wobbling side to side, yet fast enough to really enjoy. I purchased it at the kayakcenter.com in Wickford, RI with no sales tax. The Kayak Center will let you try before you buy, and they will have you in testing whatever kayak's your interested in within 5 minutes; the 60 mile drive was certanly worth it!
The Sport is my everyday boat, the one I paddle for exercise and the boat I feel most comfortable paddling. I have a Cape Horn, a Crossover, and numerous whitewater boats. The Sport is a touring kayak for the whitewater boater! Agile, edgy, great secondary stability, moderate primary stability.
I really like the quality of construction, though I have changed out the back"board" for a padded backband. The hatches and rigging are well placed. the rudder is very usable and durable.
My only complaint abou the Sport is that the hull has "olicanned" under the seat. This is not atypical of a flathulled boat, but I think Necky could redesign the seat to help maintain a flat hull. Still a 10/10!
I tried a lot of boats, but the Looksha Sport really met/meets my needs perfectly. Lightly loaded, it's great on the Huron River -- I can sneak up on egrets and herons, float over sandbars and poke around in small ponds and inlets. It's easily cartopped (and I think I can rig a small trailer that will let me tow it behind my bike to the river), and well balanced for a shoulder carry (but at about 62#, it does dig a groove into my skin).
I took it island hopping last summer on the north shore of Georgian Bay. With a tent, sleeping bag, and camping gear and food for a week (fresh water isn't really a problem in the Great Lakes), I still had plenty of room, but it might have been tight if I'd had to also carry a week's worth of water. It's a very nimble boat for poking around the small islets and islands in the Bay, yet (at least when rather heavily loaded) it also tracks well in waves.
I also went island hopping off Cape Gargantua and Old Woman Bay in the NE corner of Lake Superior. Fully loaded, the boat tracked as if it were on rails, regardless of wind/wave direction. Unladen, the boat is very prone to weathercocking, but the rudder easily makes up for that (as does a 30# sandbag in the rear cargo area). Head on into 2 foot chop, with the nose often under water and water constantly breaking over the bow, both cargo areas stayed completely dry (more than could be said of my companion's boat). The double hatch (neoprene and poly) system is a great asset, though I've heard Necky may do away with this feature in the not too distant future.
I am a total neophyte at this, yet find the boat very stable. It did feel tippy at first, but after I'd paddled it a couple times, I was very comfortable. However, the secondary stability is truly amazing! I can eskimo roll it if I try, but the boat is rock steady on a hard lean, and recovers quickly with a brief stroke -- even when handled by a total newbie such as myself. It's also an incredibly stable boat for photography and fishing (and, presumably hunting, though I don't hunt).
The boat is very attractive (one of the reviews in the Necky catalog) commented that it avoided the Tupperware look of most plastic boats), and the attention to detail is fantastic. All adhesives ( of cockpit coaming and thigh braces for example) are well done; rigging is outstanding; hardware is stainless and finished to avoid poking holes in gear and/or skin. The rudder works easily and well, but I usually only need it if the boat is lightly loaded and the waves are quartering from astern.
The long, narrow design makes for a fast boat, but I have to really work to keep up with friends who have longer boats (but that was the tradeoff I chose to get a boat I could use on the river -- even in mild whitewater). The relatively low deck allows me to use a Greenland paddle if I choose, or even to use a larger paddle with a low-angle stroke -- if you're interested in Greenland paddling, be sure the boat you buy has a low enough foredeck to allow it).
The cockpit is pretty comfortable straight from the factory. I fashioned a backrest pad from some HD foam, and stuck some self-adhesive foam onto the thigh braces, but haven't really wanted (or needed) to make any other cockpit changes.
All in all, I'm very happy with this versatile, high performing boat. I'm also quite pleased with Necky's attention to detail and quality. Next purchase: probably a Necky Zoar Sport for my girlfriend (she finds the Looksha Sport a little to cramped). After that: a pair of Necky composite boats and/or a composite double.
Anyways, the secondary stability is where the Sport really shines. As you may know, primary stability is for beginner paddlers who are just getting used to floating. An advanced paddler wants a boat with lower primary stability so that it will lean over, edge, turn, spin, ... If you're looking for a boat that will perform and you have the paddling skills to manage an edgy, high performance boat, then you will not be dissapointed in the Sport. If you are a beginner paddler, well then you'll either get used to the boat or you'll sell it and buy a Carolina ;) A solid ten for this great design!!
She acts like a touring kayak (except for extreme conditions) on the sea and a great, fast, agile river boat as well. Like Tim said, you can turn this boat on its axis. With a hard moving brace you can spin the boat around quickly (for a sea kayak). The hard chines make this boat a pleasure to lean on. Nice at carving turns into current on rivers or along a shore. Initial stability is good, but I would not say "cowlike". It isn't like a recreational where you can move around without concern.
Great boat for surfing. I've only done small stuff, but she responds quickly to swell, and carves faces nicely due to her agility.
Overall, I could not be happier with this boat. Maybe not great for real ocean work, but anything short of that, including coastal touring, and this boat is great for a reasonably good paddler. And, no, I don't work for Necky :-)
It is a blast to paddle. I can lean the thing over on its side and spin it on its axis. With all the volume up front, you need to spend a lot of time outfitting the boat with pads, but once you fix the fit, it rolls nicely.
Rolling-skills are important with this boat 'cause if you really want to see it at its best, you have to head to the surf zone. The boat is stable and forgiving in the surf. I was particularly impressed with how nicely the high volume bow keeps the boat from pearling.
The boat is rock solid stable. I don't understand why so many other reviewers describe the boat as tippy. I found it as stable as a barge. And once you're moving and "carving your turns", its secondary stability kicks in to delight even the most skeptical play boater.
My only complaint --- the boat is slow and with all the rocker, its tracking is not great. Of course, this isn't surprising since its not designed to be a high-speed cruiser. Still, I imagine a beginner would find the tracking a bit too soft and might have a hard time keeping up with others in the group.
Overall, I wouldn't want this as my only sea kayak (too slow), but as an ocean play boat for a heavy paddler (I weigh 225 pounds), its one of the best boats around.