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Don't tell my wife, I just fell in love with a new woman
Paddled the Octane today and fell in love.
This is a plastic surfski, 17' 8" long and 20.9" wide. Marginally better specs than the Epic V7.
Very stable for a ski and the amount of adjustment in the footrest is impressive. I'm 6'1" and I could push the peddles out further. It has a hatch in front of the foot peddles and another hatch on the deck behind the rear bulkhead thus allowing for ample storage. This boat offers the choice of overstern or understern rudders, and I have to say, the overstern rudder makes this boat a river running beast.
I was very comfortable in it the first time out and the boat offered more stability than I expected. That said, this is still a very tippy craft for the average paddler. I found it to be more stable than my Cobra Viper and roughly comparable to the Thunderbolt-X in terms of stability. Much more stable than most other surf skis.
I was able to get her up to 7.0mph my first time out with her on a calm lake with a wing paddle so she most assuredly has more speed in her that can be tapped even though she already showed impressive speed for a large piece of rotomoulded plastic.
I think she's my new river marathon boat.
It has a narrow’ish hull and therefore is somewhat tippy on primary stability but has small wings similar to a wild water boat like the Wavehopper so the secondary stability is outstanding. It has a watertight, bulkheaded hatch in the stern to allow for packing gear. At under 15′ long and with the added rudder, you might look at the boat and suggest it does not know what it wants to be when it grows up.
It is on the fast end of the scale for being plastic, it’s plastic so it should be virtually indestructible against rocks, it has a roomy cockpit, it has a sealed hatch for packing supplies, and it is very stable when compared to true racing boats.
Good for somebody who wants to do some fast touring or downriver trips who already has good balance skills but doesn't want to deal with the instability of a faster, racing design.
Let me start out by saying this boat is only for very skilled paddlers with advanced paddling/balance skills. It is very tippy and I found the seat to be very narrow for my hips (and I'm a skinny guy) and too high so as to contribute to the overall instability of the craft.
Yes, this boat is very fast and I very much wanted it to fill a niche in my boat arsenal, but I couldn't find any one aspect of the boat to fall in love with. The cockpit is very small and I can't imagine what re-entry in open water would look like as a result--especially in such a tippy craft-- so I don't see the boat being used as an ocean kayak. This small cockpit also rules out the boat as a flat water racer since it doesn't allow the legs enough range of motion. I can't see the boat being used as a downriver racer since it is relatively long, not very maneuverable, and you can't really lean it to aid in steering since the hull is round with no wings and you can't lean too many degrees without going over.
It is a beautiful boat that looks cool and goes fast so I guess if you simply want to paddle around a calm lake with it and use it to help develop balance skills that would be a good use, but certainly there are better training boat out there.
Aside from that, I don't really see a niche for this boat and perhaps that's why you just don't see many of them anymore.
Like I said, on flat water is is quite fast and the flip-down/flip-up rudder is more than adequate to deal with any wind or tendency to weathercock (of which I've experienced very little.)
What I found most surprising about the boat is how well it actually handles flowing water. I've raced it on Class II+ rivers and it is quite maneuverable for a 17' foot boat because it has a surprising amount of rocker for an ocean kayak. With the rudder up, it just seems to automatically find the best line to run through rapids. It is like it has a mind of its own and just knows where to take you downriver.
The deck rigging is great for holding that gear that you want to keep close at hand and it is nice to have a rudder that you can put down or lift up while paddling by simply pulling on a rope one direction or the other.
I own and have owned many kayaks but this is one I plan to hold onto because it is just so versatile. When the water gets choppy in a large bay or in the ocean this is the boat I feel safest in because of its stability yet it still feels sleek and fast.
If you can find one in good shape buy it. You will not be disappointed.
Two plastic molded seats with cup holders (that tells you the market right there), large cockpit with easy in-and-out that can easily accommodate two grown-up people or one grown up with two small children and/or pets (I'm not equating the two there), very, very stable. Take this boat and you will be the person designated to carry the extra coolers and gear. You can also easily lay back in it to sunbath or fish from it because there is plenty of room.
The seats are connected by two metal rails on the sides plus one rail that runs down the bottom so if you plan on laying down or seating a third person, take some foam or blankets to put on that rail otherwise it will be like, you know, sitting on a hard metal rail.
When it was just the wife and me she would sit up front and I would tell her to paddle as much or as little as she wished which was waaaay better than having her get tired in a second boat. Now that kids are involved I tell them the same thing and it is great to have them in the same boat with me without feeling like the boat needs the efforts of a second paddler to keep it going.
I think this is one of the best, most functional recreational tandems out there.
Admittedly I'm too large for the boat at 6'1" and ~170lbs., but it snow plows like crazy on flat water and I don't see how that would change with a smaller, light paddler. It has a drop-down skeg which is nice for tracking and it handles up to Class II rapids OK, but if you want a boat that does any single thing very well then look elsewhere.
This is a good, stable platform for someone new to paddling who wants to paddle a mix of flat water and flowing water but it will quickly be outgrown.
It has a large cockpit which can be a positive or a negative, but I found it to be mostly a positive because when my kids were very young I could actually fit them comfortably in front of me on a foam block and still have plenty of room to paddle.
Stable on flat water and can handle up to Class II+ water just fine. Heck, it will probably handle Class III just fine if you can find a skirt large enough for the cockpit and don't expect to maneuver much or grab any eddies.
I'd say this is a great, all-around boat for the vast majority of recreational kayakers. You can fish out of it, use it for photography, or just take it out for a casual day of paddling with stops for lunch and snacks along the way. An excellent balance of stability, comfort, and speed.
I love this boat! I found mine on Craig's List and bought it from a kid who said he felt claustrophobic in it. I chuckled because I thought he just wasn't used to skinny racing kayaks, but once I tried to get into it and out of it I understood. The cockpit is very small (I'm 6'1") and it is a tight squeeze getting into and out of the boat. Once you are in there it has plenty of leg room with adjustable, aluminum footpegs on rails, but the first two times I paddled it I flipped it trying to exit the boat. You'll probably have no problem if you launch from a dock but it is challenging on an average shoreline.
This brings up another interesting point.
It is a downriver racer meant for flowing rivers. If you plan to take it on flat water, make sure there is no wind. The second time I paddled it I was having a blast paddling it as fast as I could to see just what she could do, and then a storm started blowing in and the winds picked up. I was in the middle of a lake and feared I might never get to land again. It just wanted to go in a circle no matter what I did. Horrendous weather cocking (because it is soooo light at 27-30lbs.) It is not an inherent problem with the boat mind you, it just isn't meant for open/flat water with wind.
I rate the boat a 9 only because of the size of the cockpit opening but otherwise would rate it a 10 for very experienced kayakers with excellent balance skills. If you are an experienced paddler of racing kayaks or skis and can find one of these and want to take it downriver or race it downriver, buy it! If you are looking for a rec boat stay far, far away.
I've got some photos and video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ighbXVP_WBg) of the first couple times in this boat and that video will link to another one that shows it before and after my restoration.
The only minor complaint I have is the plastic cable guides that hold the rudder cables in place on the deck seemed to have been over-tightened and they cracked and two subsequently broke off so I've since replaced them all (which was a pain when you think about trying to get a tool on a nut that is ~7' behind the seat) but other than that minor point the boat is a dream. Very fast. More stable than an Epic V12 ski for sure, but still tippy for anyone coming from an ocean kayak. The craftmanship in this boat is superior on all measures and the boat attracts attention and invites questions wherever it goes. I can't wait to buy my next Bushnell boat.
To put things in perspective, I am able to maintain the Viper at an average speed of 5.7 mph over a 5 mile flat water course and that is more than a full mile per hour faster than I was able to achieve in my previous 17'ocean kayak. Granted, that took me 1 year to achieve with the first few months full of white knuckles and fear to even turn my head but this stallion is not too difficult to tame with some patience and practice.
The Viper is the perfect step between a fast ocean kayak and a composite racing kayak or ski because it is affordable and virtually indestructible while requiring the paddler to learn the essential balance skills needed for the skinnier boats and skis. The lack of primary stability forced me to learn proper technique yet the secondary stability was actually quite forgiving (once I learned where it was) as I climbed the learning curve. Now I find it nearly impossible to go slow in the boat.
How challenging is this primary stability you ask?
Let's put it this way. When you put the boat in the water it does not sit upright. It leans to one side or the other.
It has a fixed, fiberglass hung seat that I found was much better with a small block of minicell foam behind it to give the lower back a little support. I also added a little bit of pad bracing for the thighs so I can "lock in" when going through small rapids (I'd be scared to try Class III's or higher in this boat) yet allows my legs to be free with full movement on flat water.
The narrow hull just in front of the cockpit allows for proper paddle action (especially with a wing paddle) so you can start close to the boat and get full rotation while keeping the blade at the proper angle throughout the stroke. If the previous sentence did not make sense to you then the boat probably is not for you.
The Viper is an absolutely wonderful boat for an experienced kayaker who has a 'need for speed' and is ready to take it to the next level without risking a ton of money for a true Olympic K1 or composite race kayak before they know if they’re going to stick with it and master the long, skinny boats.
Yes, it is very tippy. No, it is not a boat that you are going to lean back and gaze at the stars in without getting very wet. No, you won't cry if you scrape a few rocks with it because it is plastic. No, it is not for the average recreational kayaker with poor balance and paddling technique. Yes, it will deeply reward those who master the balance required to unlock its full potential.