Probably the most versatile boat I've paddled, Broad rivers, open lakes, swift narrow creeks -- the Expression is a jack of all trades kind of boat. The Perception Expression 11.5 is the shorter, nimbler version of the 14,.5. Like its longer sibling, the 11,5 comes with a retractable skeg for ease of streamlining and keeping straight either on lakes or against headwinds. Unlike the 14.5, the 11.5 has only one bulkhead, in the rear, but that's plenty of storage for a day trip. Bungee rigging on the front and back provides additional packed-gear options, as does plenty of leg room inside. One can easily commit to a small journey of paddling several days in a row without compromising comfort.
This boat handles really well in light whitewater conditions as well. I've used it many times on Class II rapids, and it's always been a champ. It's a little longer than my crossover kayak, but it's been a great creek boat -- especially during low-water conditions. The V-shaped hull and less rocker means it floats a hair higher than crossovers, resulting in less scraping/ getting stuck. Some may find the boat to be a little too "tippy" because of this, but only brand-new paddlers, in my experience.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we all see color differently. For me personally, I don't care much for the color options the 11.5 comes in, but this, admittedly, is a superficial consideration. Besides, the manufacturer is called "Perception"!
Like many boats with retractable skegs, be mindful of keeping backside clear of sand/ mud and pebbles/ gravel, as they will get lodged in the recess for the skeg and prevent it from being deployed.
One last shout-out: this boat accidentally flew off my roof rack while driving down a country highway at 60 mph. (I turned straight into a 30-mph wind gust, and no, I hadn't tied down the bow or stern (a mistake I'll never make again.) The boat tore off the roof rack while still cradled in its J-hooks. Fortunately, no car was behind me or passing in the opposite lane at the time! It landed in a ditch next to an alfalfa field. While the towers of my roof rack and the J-hook clamps were completely obliterated, the kayak was practically unfazed. But for a small scuff at the bow, it was immaculate -- no cracks, no concaving, no dents or bumps or breaks! Now that's a tough boat!
A very good boat for very specific occasions/ environments, but not really a versatile or reliable kayak.
I bought my Fusion with much adulation back in 2012. I chose it over the Jackson Rogue and Liquid Logic XP -- the other two crossover kayaks available at the time; the Dagger Katana was not then an option. It seemed like a perfect hybrid for my paddling druthers: a boat designed for considerable but not crazy whitewater (Class I-III), while having a unique retractable skeg to keep from fishtailing on flatwater or against headwinds. I'm the exact kind of paddler I swear Pyranha had in mind when designing this boat.
Generally speaking, it's a solid boat with those two aspects in mind -- light whitewater handling and flatwater adaptability. One totally deserved shout-out the boat gets is its watertight rubber hatch cover. The hatch itself is quite roomy, but the cover is rock solid and keeps things dry as a bone. The only bungee rigging is in front of the cockpit. The boat would be much improved if there were additional rigging directly behind the seat, in between it and the hatch. (The Katana has this.) On the plus side of the deck rigging, there's a thoughtful, nifty little "hook" to strap your paddle onto. It's a nice touch.
But there are several notable problems and pet peeves with the Fusion.
First, it's a heavy boat -- 50 lbs and change for 10' of plastic (although this weight is comparable for other crossover boats). By contrast, my 15' canoe weighs less (and it's not kevlar).
Second, the backrest of the seat is seriously uncomfortable and non-supportive. You'll be buying an aftermarket cushion or seat rest or whatever to compensate for this. (By contrast, the Liquid Logic XP is downright dreamy!)
Third, the Fusion comes with a plastic container pod that attaches to the deck bungee rigging in front of the cockpit. It's really not large enough to fit anything critical into. Also, you shouldn't, because the attachment is flimsy and half-assed. Mine snapped off during a spill in a set of rapids. I had to wet-exit and didn't even notice the deck pod missing until several minutes later. It must have floated downstream somewhere; never did find it. Fortunately, there was nothing inside it since hardly anything fit into it anyway. So, it's a thoughtful concept, but poorly executed/ designed.
For all that, why not provide a cup holder instead? I'm pretty sure most paddlers drink beverages while on the water.
Fourth, while practicing rolling on a lake, after owning the boat for only a year, the internal hardware that keeps the right knee brace intact came loose, then fell out entirely (kerplunk! into the lake). Thankfully, Pyranha’s customer service did send me replacement hardware, after I contacted them, but still.
Fifth, the skeg. I and my best paddling friend have had issues with the Fusion's skeg. For me, the thing rarely stays up. Even when I retract it, pulling the cord as taut as possible, still at least 1/4 to 1/3 of plastic stubbornly resists going up. This gets a little dicey when there's whitewater afoot. I have cleaned out all the areas of concern -- the skeg itself, its recess, the pull cord, the plastic tubing through which the cord is threaded -- but invariably, and quickly, the problem reoccurs. It's a pain in the ass. Even the way the cord is designed to stay in place when you wish to pull the skeg up is really unreliable and poorly designed for real-life situations.
My friend's skeg problem was much worse. After having paddled his brand new boat less than a dozen times, the cord mechanism just broke while on a river. The skeg drooped down like a broken limb, just dangling. He of course contacted customer service and Pyranha's response was none too sympathetic. They simply told him what size cord to replace it with. There were no apologies or offer to send him any courtesy cord (worth a whopping 75 cents). So now he carries extra cord in case it ever happens again mid-stream, which is kind of ridiculous. And to be clear, it’s not the easiest thing to fix.
Speaking of not being easy to fix, this is my last issue with the Fusion -- the biggest of them all. After owning my Fusion for 3 years, it got gouged (I guess by a rock) in a shallow-water stream. The result was a 3"-long slice in the hull, right below the seat, resulting in a whole lot of water coming into the cockpit from below. Mind you, under the “key features” menu on the Fusion web page, Pyranha touts the “Super Stable and Forgiving Hull”. Let me be clear about this: this crack occurred on a mostly muddy river bottom (the Kickapoo River in southwestern Wisconsin) where there are no rapids. Stable, maybe, but "forgiving"? Hell no.
I took it to be repaired by the touted boat repair guy at Rutabaga, in Madison. The "repair" took over two hours and cost me $90. Two trips later it cracked again, at the new patch inches away from the original crack. You can imagine how upset I was by this point. Since then, after taking notes from the Rutabaga guy and watching a ton of how-to videos on YouTube, I've taken to repairing the boat myself each time it sustains a new crack or slice, which occurs on average once or twice a year. As my friend takes extra cord along for his skeg, I always pack a huge roll of duct tape to cover my wet butt while on the water.
It seems that this is just my boat's Achilles heel, so to speak. Once damaged, forever compromised. I can't really ever sell it with this known flaw -- at least not without losing a lot of money. So, I'm stuck with a broken boat, all the time, which sucks and makes me feel like a schmuck.
I really wanted to like this boat -- and there are some aspects to it I do in fact like. But for me, the cons definitively outweigh the pros. I do want a replacement crossover kayak, because this style accommodates most of the paddling I do. When money allows, I'll eventually do just that. But it won't be another Fusion (unless Pyranha wants to get right with me and give me a replacement or great deal on a new Fusion).
A smooth comfortable ride in a sleek long boat. A bit tippy though and one of the two hatches leaks. The drop-down skeg feature ensures tracking straight as an arrow.
I purchased this boat in August 2012 as a kind of lake paddling/ river camping/ sea kayaking combo boat. It hasn't disappointed in any of those regards. The dual hatches allow for a fair amount of storage, though perhaps with less capacity as one might think. There's plenty of cording over both decks and around the bow and stern too; thus there's plenty of space to lash gear on top of the boat as well as inside it. (My back hatch has had a small leak from the very beginning, though from an unknown source -- not a crack.)
The foot pedals are comfy and very easy to adjust.
The seat is extremely comfortable, resulting in nicknaming the boat "the Padillac."
The boat is fairly tippy, resulting in not one but two kayak novices taking a swim after using it the first time and having to dodge around.
Overall, a good boat, but if I could do it over again I'd probably have purchased Wilderness Tsunami instead.
Fantastic solo canoe! 15 feet long yet just under 50 lbs. What's more, this boat comes with a crescent-shaped thwart that makes carrying it on your shoulders comfortable and easy -- a unique feature for solo canoes.
Another unique feature to the seat is that it sits on a sliding track, allowing you to sit closer to the bow, middle, or stern, depending on your preference, weight distribution, leg lengths, etc.
It tracks well and has plenty of space for solo adventure trips, whether down a river or in lake country.
The only complaint is the seat. The original caning tore years ago, and replacing it would be a nightmare of meticulous work. The stern-side of the seat itself acts as the crescent-shaped thwart, which is cool and unique, but prevents converting the seat from a cane to a woven webbing; the curves of the thwart prevent 90-degree angles, which in turn would make stapling the webbing difficult and inevitably sloppy. I just use a canoe seat with a back rest instead.
Overall, a fine paddle in terms of weight and width, but for a paddle that is $180 I had two weird problems with it, not to mention glib lip service from Werner itself, which left me not wanting to give them my money again.
Problem 1: after using this paddle for 3 years, suddenly one day the two shafts stopped clicking in place. Somehow the clasp button feature that snaps the two shafts in place and then allows you to separate them, once connected, got damaged in such a way as to prevent them from staying in place. The paddle was still usable, but it felt very compromised -- especially if paddling rapids when all of a sudden the paddle comes apart!
Problem 2: when portaging around a huge logjam once, I threw the paddle atop the tall bank that I had to pull my boat up and over since it was muddy, I was frustrated, and I knew I needed both hands. When I relocated my paddle I found the shaft broken at its clasp. Just smashed. Now the paddle was totally dysfunctional, so I had to "doggie-paddle" with each blade/shaft in each hand, for 4.5 miles. I was not a happy paddler!
Werner offered no sympathy and stated that a "technician" would look at it, but (a) that alone would cost something like $60 (not including shipping it out to Washington),(b) there was no guarantee that it could be fixed in the first place, and (c) even if it could be fixed, that would cost additional money. Or...I could just buy a new paddle from a different manufacturer, thank you very much. Which is what I did.
I have two of these bags, each a different size (20 and 15 liters). The larger of the two leaks at the seam (something I discovered when I wondered why my "dry" bag of clothes would always be wet if water got into the hatch where I stowed the bag. And the smaller of the two got a knick in it, practically brand new, from where or what I have no idea at all.
So I'm not at all impressed by the material of these bags and would not purchase another or recommend the product to a friend.
Sometimes it's hard to know whether it's the boat itself you love or the places you take it on. The Pyranha Fusion is the first boat that I've used on Class II-III whitewater. In such conditions it's been great! It turns on a dime and is very agile. Between the foot brace and the hip pads, I feel totally locked in the cockpit, the kayak and I a grafted union of harmonious synthesis. The raised lip of the cockpit prevents my lap from receiving excess water, which is nice when a surprising wave or drop comes my way in colder weather and/or when I'm not wearing a skirt. The drop-down skeg does a very admirable tracking the boat straight. On a light current you'll still veer left or right, and eventually go backwards, without continually paddling to keep straight. But the skeg is truly a godsend on flat water sections.
The back hatch is totally water-tight, yet not at all difficult to take off or put back on. Very spacious too.
The bad: originally this came with a detachable plastic container that set on the deck in front of the cockpit. Nice idea, but it really wasn't wide enough to stow anything significant. After one dump on a Class III set of rapids, the cord that this container was attached to broke and I never did find it afterward, washed downstream...
The pull-cord for the drop-down skeg can stubbornly refuse to engage sometimes, but often is difficult to keep retracted. Also, my friend has the same boat, purchased brand new in March 2016. On his second trip using it the pull-cord snapped entirely off.
There are no cords to attach any gear behind the cockpit.
The back-rest to the seat is next to nonexistent and not terribly comfortable. I bought a seat supplement just for back support.
My boat has had three cracks beneath the seat in the last year. Sure, these things happen. But three all in the same area all within one year -- after zero cracks in four years? Seems suspicious.
Overall, a solid boat. Great for beginner whitewater and combined whitewater/quietwater day trips. Great for narrow, meandering creeks. Agile and responsive. But the seat is uncomfortable, the skeg can be problematic, and the boat has some definite vulnerabilities.