Santa Cruze

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Santa Cruze Description

The Santa Cruze is a kayak brought to you by Necky Kayak. Read Santa Cruze reviews or submit your own review to share with the paddling community. Check out a few other kayak recommendations below or explore all kayaks to find the perfect one for you!

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Santa Cruze Reviews

Read reviews for the Santa Cruze by Necky Kayak as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!

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I got my kayak around 2000.…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 12/27/2023

I got my kayak around 2000. Here we are, 23 years later, and I still love this boat! I originally got it because of the open cockpit (I was torn between sit in our sit on top, and the openness of this made it feel like the

of both worlds), its stability, and length. I’ve taken it in calm rivers and the choppy bay. To my surprise, it felt very stable in the bay. I haven’t paddled in a year or so and just cleaned this up yesterday to go paddle today…the boat still looks great. So pleased.

It's my nineteenth summer…

Submitted by: paddler2151433 on 7/5/2022
It's my nineteenth summer with my santa! Extremely stable, durable and comfortable!

My 1st kayak love it bought…

Submitted by: p4paddle on 7/13/2015
My 1st kayak love it bought used still have it very stable easy to handle would love another so friends and family could join... Has skeg very durable and bright yellow seen from afar

I got this kayak from a…

Submitted by: paddler228115 on 3/31/2014
I got this kayak from a friend and it has been with me for years now. I've owned several and this is my "go to" any time a long trip is about to be planned. It tracks very well and as long as you are sitting, is very stable. Definitely would refer a friend!

Bought this at an auction to…

Submitted by: paddler235383 on 10/18/2013
Bought this at an auction to have a single when I can't drag my family out in our tandem Old Town Loon. Only used on Indiana lakes and slow rivers. So that's my point of comparison.

All in all, the Santa Cruze compares favorably with the Old Town in comfort and stability, and I would give it much higher marks for tracking and maneuverability. Also, as many of the reviewers note, you don't need the skeg in calm paddling so I took mine off.

The reason for an 8 and not a 10 rating is the seat back, which is a tad lower and smaller than it should be for full comfort. I'm short but still could use more back support. Otherwise, love this boat -- a bit on the heavy side for a 53-year old short woman to throw up on a car, but I can just manage it, and love it once I get out on the water.


The Necky Santa Cruze is a…

Submitted by: paddler235184 on 7/26/2013
The Necky Santa Cruze is a rotomolded HDPE rec boat. The spacious cockpit makes for easy entry/exit. Stability is excellent because of the chine and beam. I've used it mostly in rivers and inland lakes, but also in Lake Michigan where the bow design gives a dry boat in cutting powerboat wakes. The hull can oil can on storage - I'd recommend making a pentagon of plywood to wedge in for storage.

I bought a used Santa Cruze…

Submitted by: tonykiz on 8/27/2012
I bought a used Santa Cruze and I couldn't be more pleased. It's a hybrid design, I guess, being a bit wider than a touring kayak, but with a similar hull shape. At 50 lbs. it was just what I needed in order to be able to carry and load/unload the kayak. It tracks and coasts well, performs well in waves and wakes and is extremely stable. An all around great kayak!

I have now owned the kayak…

Submitted by: paddler234007 on 5/23/2011
I have now owned the kayak some three years having sat in some dealer for two years gathering dust. It has suited me really well and as I am broad across the beam it suits me well, comfortable and easy to get in and out. It needs a floatation bag at the front and cannot understand why front flotation was never fitted by Necky.

Like others reviewers I have tried numerous kayaks before and this one will stay for the rest of my kayaking days.
A great piece of kit.


I have had this kayak for 3…

Submitted by: paddler229284 on 11/1/2010
I have had this kayak for 3 years and I would never sell it. It is the best all around kayak that I have ever used. It has a decent rocker up front and a bit of an edge in the back. This lets it track decently while still being able to manage big waves. I have had it in some hairy 3+ whitewater and it has great secondary stability for this kind of kayak. My friend can even roll it, but my technique is not quite there. This is due to the kayak's fairly slender width.

This kayak comes with a drop down skeg that I only use on lakes. I usually have it totally removed from my boat and it track pretty well. The dry hatch stays dry, the seat is comfy, the foot braces work fine and a sprayskirt is a must in moving water. I also added front flotation It is not the fastest boat or the most stable boat, but It IS the best mix of everything in my opinion. I use it in mostly class 1-3 rivers and creeks but I have used it in dead flat water and in the ocean with good results.

I really wished that they still make these! The Necky Manitou is basically the same boat, but it has no rocker in the front and it is a little wider. I give it a 9 because it is the best kayak for multiple water conditions.

  • Secondary stability
  • Dry and comfy ride with a skirt
  • Ability to handle multiple water conditions


  • Length(a con for moving water not flatwater)
  • No thigh hooks
  • A bit slow for it's length
(other boats that I own or have owned: Old town Dirigo, Dagger Blackwater,Torrent, AIRE Lynx Strike2, Pyranha h3, freefall LT, Wild World K2

I'm an experienced paddler.…

Submitted by: paddler232725 on 7/8/2008
I'm an experienced paddler. Have owned numerous touring boats. Bought two Santa Cruze kayaks for use as 'tenders' for our mother ship here in Juneau, Alaska.

FAR exceeded my expectations on performance, stability, and all-around practicality. Lots of different people use these boats when visiting us and they all remark on how well they work.

12' length is manageable for loading/carrying on our boat. Large cockpits are a big benefit for entering the kayaks from the deck of the big boat. High bow prevents water over the deck.

A bit less maneuverable than some similar boats, but they track far better, a good compromise.


The Necky Santa Cruze was my…

Submitted by: paddler232161 on 7/6/2007
The Necky Santa Cruze was my first kayak and she is an old "war horse". She is extremely stable so has been a good beginning boat for me - gives me confidence, especially navigating around strainers and rocks. I did take the skeg off because I never used it and it was in the way - I know someone else who did that also. She does tend to bounce on waves but that may because I am on the light side. I wouldn't sell her for the world!

I just purchased the Santa…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 10/2/2003
I just purchased the Santa Cruz and went out on a quiet lake. The wind was quite strong but the boat handled well. I am only a novice but was extremely pleased. I donm't know enough to make recommendations but can say that in my minimal experience the boat was everything I expected and even more.

I bought my Santa Cruze last…

Submitted by: paddler230277 on 7/25/2003
I bought my Santa Cruze last year, after having enjoyed our other Necky kayak, Gannett II, for 2 years. The SC is the perfect kayak for me. Since we mainly paddle quiet rivers, the big hatch is nothing but comfortable, and spray is really no problem. I even fitted mine with a rudder, which makes the ride even more pleasant on windy days, when I use an umbrella as a sail (we have a lot of wind here!). I tried some other boats before, but I couldn't have found a better kayak for myself.

This is my third summer with…

Submitted by: paddler230129 on 5/20/2003
This is my third summer with my Necky Santa Cruze and I couldn't be happier! It's very versatile and perfect for someone who will be paddling in a lot of different conditions. The downside is that it doesn't excel at any one type of water. If you'll always be paddling in the same conditions (white water, flat lakes, etc.)you're probably better off buying a kayak that's more specialized. But if you like variety, this is your boat!

If you're a larger paddler (I'm 6'6" and 240 lbs.) the Santa Cruz is a great choice. I was a little concerned at first with the difficulty in tracking, but after about 20 hours of paddling time, it was no longer a problem. I actually prefer not to use the skeg and compensate with my stroke instead. Overall, I think this kayak is a great choice for most people.


The Santa Cruze is one of…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 3/17/2003
The Santa Cruze is one of those do-anything compromise boats that's either a long, narrow rec kayak or a short plastic sea kayak for someone on a budget. It's the kind of boat that you can get into trouble with, because you CAN take it into conditions that you probably shouldn't, at least without adding floatation and rescue gear. It's quick and responsive, and with its hard chines and shallow V-hull, it's much closer to being a real touring kayak than most 12' boats out there.

The actual dimensions of my Santa Cruze are 12 feet long and 25 inches wide. If you look at descriptions on the web, you'll get various strange dimensions, so I measured it myself.

My only complaint is that the cockpit is a lot longer than it needs to be... not huge like Perception's cockpits, but still pretty big. A spray skirt is pretty much required if you're on anything but totally flat water. Spray skirts that fit the Dagger Bayou will also fit the Santa Cruze. It's also possible to modify the cockpit by cutting a piece of heavy plastic to the right shape and sliding it into the "lip" of the cockpit to give your knees something rigid to push against. It won't change the size of spray skirt you need.. the whole thing is still covered by it. It's possible to get your knees under the deck as is, but uncomfortable and awkward. I plan on making some plastic knee braces for mine.

The Santa Cruze feels tippier than most rec boats, due to the hull shape and the fact that it's narrow for a rec boat. If you're used to pumpkinseed-style boats it may take some getting used to. But what it lacks in initial stability it makes up for in secondary stability. I've put mine up on edge so far water came up to the coaming, without bracing, and didn't flip.

The Santa Cruze is an awesome boat for a heavy paddler. I weigh about 220. A large part of my weight is in my legs, which makes a lot of kayaks plow water; the Santa Cruze doesn't even notice. The high-volume bow rides over waves and submerged logs easily.

I would recommend spending the extra money for one with a dry hatch or else adding float bags, and definitely use a spray skirt. The Santa Cruze has enough volume that it would be really hard to get it bailed out if it were swamped... and with the size of the cockpit that could happen pretty easily.

So far I've found the skeg to be pretty useless except in very high winds. Mine pulls to the left slightly with the skeg down, probably because I've hit so many things with it while carrying the boat to the put-in. Being able to put it up or down from the cockpit is nice, though, and it's easy to remove it and put it back on.

Overall, I'm very satisfied with my Santa Cruze. It's slightly more expensive than some other 12-foot boats, but is well worth it. If you want to do a little bit of everything... mild whitewater, lakes, swamps, ocean shorelines, and maybe even surfing for more advanced paddlers, this is your boat.


After trying several boats,…

Submitted by: paddler229546 on 12/14/2001
After trying several boats, my 15-year-old son and I bought a pair of Santa Cruz's and have used them in everything from three foot swells to open flat water. The stability is reassuring, with excellent maneuverability and easy in/out. They aren't as fast as a longer, sleeker boat but paddle easily. Weathercocking from the high bow is a problem but easy to overcome.

I bought a B boat at a…

Submitted by: paddler229523 on 11/19/2001
I bought a B boat at a discount from a local outfitter. Supposedly, it has a soft front cockpit The boat has done well so far. It is fairly stable but it tracks slightly left. I think I can correct this by tweaking the skeg. You can feel a noticeable difference between when the skeg is up and when it is down. I was able to track well into a wind across a lake and surf the discharge coming out of a power plant. I am confident that I made the best decision for what I need. I also found these reviews to be helpful.

I purchased the Santa Cruz…

Submitted by: paddler229508 on 10/26/2001
I purchased the Santa Cruz along with a Wilderness System Shaman as first boats for my girlfriend and myself. I was really impressed with the Santa Cruz's all around ability. It is almost as fast as the Shaman, tracks almost as well and does one thing much much better. Surfing the Santa Cruz is a blast. In light to medium surf it is a great ride, the only downfall is the size of the cockpit, a spray skirt would remedy that problem though. A+ as an all around boat for the paddler who paddles lakes, rivers, and at the beach.

I recently purchased a Santa…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 10/8/2001
I recently purchased a Santa Cruz. After canoeing for 15 years I decided to go the kayak route. I started with a Necky Cruiser but soon realized that, living in Connecticut, if I wanted to extend my kayaking season I need to get "my butt" inside. At my local dealer I did an in-water comparison of the Santa Cruz and the Dagger Blackwater. I found the Santa Cruz more comfortable and better at tracking than the Blackwater. Also the Blackwater's bow seamed to dive when it was brought up to speed, which I felt might be a problem in chop or rough conditions. I have paddled the Santa Cruz on the Connecticut River, lakes, ponds and Long Island Sound. I have found that the Santa Cruz has handled all conditions very well. This kayak is a joy to paddle; it gets up to speed quickly, tracks well, is comfortable, nimble and even the bulkhead stays dry. The skeg is a great feature but I only use it when conditions dictate. This kayak handles very well with out the skeg and it does feel quicker when the skeg is not in use. I would recommend the Santa Cruz to anyone looking for a good solid all round recreational kayak.

In the past I made several…

Submitted by: paddler228916 on 9/19/2000
In the past I made several strip canoes. The construction a labor of love and not very practical from abuse, my wife decided to take the worry out of summer. Kayak demonstrations were being held near by and we were going. We tried several from various manufactures but kept returning to the Santa Cruz. It tracked reasonably well, seemed swift, highly maneuverable (something not used to in the strip canoes) and was rugged. It could be dragged over beaver dams, driven on shore, thrown in the pickup and left outdoors for days on end without worry. We agreed and bought two. The Santa Cruz is really fun to paddle and is able to go places where we never could agree before with the strip canoes. Now we paddle in different directions together. Summation: sturdy, fast, durable, light weight, stable, tracks well, maneuverable, easy cockpit entry, comfortable and reputed to save marriages. What more could you ask for?

I purchased my Santa Cruze…

Submitted by: paddler228897 on 9/11/2000
I purchased my Santa Cruze about a month ago after taking a lesson and a tour in a Looksha! Of course it's not as fast as the Looksha, it goes pretty good with a 250 lb paddler in it! I love it!

It is the first kayak I have…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 9/5/2000
It is the first kayak I have owned being a long time canoeist. I have had this boat out in all types of water. Once you get the hang of kayak paddling it tracks well, with or without the skeg. The hatch is of a good size for day or overnight trips. The cockpit is large, the seat a little hard, but a piece of foam padding fixed that up nicely. I have taken it out in the surf and was able to work it pretty well from the get go. Last weekend I had it out in class II and III whitewater. With the skeg up it was very manuerverable. We attempted a 6' drop and I was the only one to make it through first time with out dumping. Put a spray skirt on and it just keeps going. Secondary stability is awesome. I was broadside to a standing wave, put the edge of the cockpit in the water and still did not dump it. I would recommend this boat to anyone wanting a boat that will do everything well.

This is my first kayak (I'm…

Submitted by: paddler228666 on 6/12/2000
This is my first kayak (I'm an experienced canoeist) and I'm pleased with the Santa Cruz. It tracks well and is reasonably maneuverable. The workmanship is top notch. The rear bulkhead and hatch is a big plus, and I added a front float bag. Full of water, it rides a good half foot out of the water (though I have yet to flip it except on purpose). Its stable, suitable for fishing. I have yet to go down any rated white water, but I think the boat will do well.

First time Kayak buyer…

Submitted by: paddler228598 on 5/10/2000
First time Kayak buyer purchased Santa Cruze second hand and thus far I am very please. @6'4'' tall, room was a concern, and I have found the S.C. very comfy. Paddles and Handles great, very confidence inspiring. So far only rivers and lakes, but looking forward to getting it out in the Salt. Has a tendancy to wander a bit presumably due to rocker in bottom, but this is offset by tremendous manueverability. Build quality seems superior. All said a great boat for a beginner or for general recreational use. Fly fishing from this boat is no problem. If it works out in the Ocean, it'll be a 10 for me!

Having had a slalom and a…

Submitted by: paddler228508 on 3/23/2000
Having had a slalom and a downriver racing kayak in my youth,I was interested in buying a general recreation kayak for day trips,lake and river use. My old kayaks were relatively uncomfortable and I wondered if I would be able to find a kayak that my aging body could tolerate for a few hours at a time. I attended a paddlefest and tried out many different models.I finally selected the Santa Cruz for handling and comfort. I certainly have not been disapponted. It takes large lake waves like a cork and is manouverable enough for swift river use. At 230 pounds,it also supports my weight well. Very tough plastic and quality rigging.I may someday buy a faster boat for touring,but you can bet it will be a Necky.

This is not the first kayak I…

Submitted by: paddler228488 on 3/16/2000
This is not the first kayak I have paddled, but IS the first one I have owned. Having now used it for a year, I am pleased with it as a recreational boat. It will also do well day tripping, with its very dry rear storage hatch. And as a novice's boat, it's the greatest! My 14-year-old niece, who has never paddled before, got in it and couldn't be stopped. She was hooked. I have used it in lakes, slow rivers, and salt marshes. It is wide and comfortable and relatively fast for its dimensions (12' Long, 29" wide). It handles well without the skeg lowered, except in following seas with a stiff breeze.

I have been paddling the…

Submitted by: paddler228373 on 12/2/1999
I have been paddling the necky santa cruz for a year on class 2+3 rapids and 12 mile river trips. It is easy and very comfortable. The dry well stays dry, not the case on other kayaks.

Use this nice little boat for…

Submitted by: guest-paddler on 8/18/1999
Use this nice little boat for wildlife watching, fishing and generally messing around. Have been extremely pleased with its handling (rarely use the skag except in extreem cross current/wind or large following swells. Nice and stable, leans well. Only gripe is cockpit is a bit large, making it hard to reach stuff on front deck. Have made 1/2 skirt to stay a bit drier. Otherwise, perfect for general recreational kayaking, even if it does look a bit like a duck's bill!

I'm new to kayaking, but…

Submitted by: paddler228241 on 8/17/1999
I'm new to kayaking, but after a week in my Santa Cruze in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, I'm very happy with my purchase. Much faster and more responsive (for me anyway) than my wife's Dagger Bayou. I have some difficulty with tracking, but suspect that's got more to do with my novice stroke than the yak. A great all-around boat, that I think I'll be able to grow with. Wish it wasn't so conservative looking ... the Dagger looks much cooler.

The Santa Cruz is only 12 ft…

Submitted by: paddler228185 on 7/19/1999
The Santa Cruz is only 12 ft long, not 12 1/2 as indicated in the review summary. It is very maneuverable and has surprising speed in a slight chop. It almost feels like it gets up on a plane. It accellerates well, but takes more effort to keep going than some other boats in its size range. The large cockpit makes it easy to get in and out of, but allows a lot of splash to get to the paddler, especially dripping from the paddle.

I like the boat very much and have a lot of confidence in its seaworthyness. It is a great boat for a someone who is starting out paddling. I wish it were drier in the cockpit and took less effort to maintain speed.


Great boat. Mine has a watert…

Submitted by: paddler228054 on 4/11/1999
Great boat. Mine has a watert tight bulkhead which I highly recommend. Have used it for fishing, light river trips, touring, up to 26 miles a day, and generally having fun. Great capacity for day gear or overnight. Would recommend a rudder (which mine will soon be getting) just to increase maneuverability.