To point out that it doesn't turn easily or carry a lot of cargo is a bit silly because that's NOT what it's supposed to do. If you want to rock garden or expedition, buy another boat. If you want to do both buy two boats. If you want to get out there and make some miles, maybe get some rolling in, try out the GP for a while: then this is your boat.
Quality is good. Nice looking boat--gets a lot of compliments.
I can also attest to its’ speed as detailed in every review. There is no sacrifice in speed trading down from a 17 footer—even a reasonably quick one. The trade-off as always is turning performance, but only slightly, it’s still a very maneuverable craft.
It tracks quite well without the skeg. These days I find myself using just a tiny bit of skeg when I’m feeling lazy or when I have a crosswind or I’m in a following sea.
The boat has held up quite well to the harsh treatment we are forced to expose our boats to here in NYC. This is a city of very hard edges—there isn’t a soft landing anywhere here—and while it has it’s share of surface scratching, the Viking’s lay-up has fared quite well, especially the deck.
As a confirmed boat junkie (I am averaging more that one boat trade-up a year) I really can’t find an adequate reason to upgrade or switch away from this one. The carbon fiber Chatham 17 is somewhat tempting, but I really don’t know what I’d be gaining over the Viking besides a very slightly lighter boat.
Overall, I am quite satisfied and make no hesitations recommending this boat.
This paddle is light: 26oz on my digital scale. As light as the bent shaft Kalliste by Werner. Despite its weight it feels very solid, much more so than a few of the other ultra-light paddles out there. The edges especially are smooth, taper nicely, and are not too thin.
Much more power. Again to compare it to the Kalliste (I assume its main competition) it is about 5% larger and has a shape that, I believe, provides greater flexibility in paddle angle.
It is also a work of art. It's just a beautiful paddle.
I've been using it heavily for over a month and I honestly can't think of anything I don't like about it. I do believe that there is a certain amount of subjectivity when it comes to bent shaft paddles. Everyone's stroke and grip is different. Different paddle brands' bends won't fit everyone the same. So make sure you try them all.
AT's grip has the mildest bend of them all and for me, it's just right. Your results may vary. Also note that I've had outstanding customer service from AT.
Looking in the day boat class I considered the Romany, Avocet, Chatham16, and the Viking. When it came down to the best combination of speed, comfort and quality of construction there really wasn’t any contest. The Viking’s build and finish quality was far superior to the Brit boats (and much lighter, a nice bonus)—just run your fingers along the underside of the combing seam in the cockpit: perfectly smooth. Its speed easily exceeded all three. I also believe it is the lightest by a few pounds. Though I don’t think it turns quite as well as a Romany or perhaps the Avocet, it certainly turns very well and edges nicely. Despite it’s somewhat deeply vee’d hull I find it to be quite stable and I can fully relax with the paddle down (though on the choppy lower Hudson river reaching into the day hatch requires some balance and concentration.)
I’d love to tell you that since getting the Viking that I am suddenly a faster paddler and lead the pack on trips, alas I still struggle to keep up—though this certainly has more to do with the operator than the equipment. However, on my GPS, I get up to and maintain cruising speed much more efficiently and actually top out at about 1/3 kt. faster than my previous 17 ft British expedition boat—every little bit helps.
I find myself edging more in this boat, not because it needs it to turn, but because it holds edge so well and responds quickly. I have spent reasonably long stretches in the Viking without the skeg down, using edge control to keep her straight, something I never did with my other boats. When deployed, the skeg control was faultless and easy to trim for beam wind and such.
The bow volume was just right bobbing over well spaced chop and plowing through the short stuff without too much wash over the deck. I am more comfortable in a following sea in this boat even when paddling empty than my previous ones, that’s a relief. It surfs a bit better too with minimal broaching.
I am excited to roll this boat but the water’s still a bit too cold for me.
The cockpit is comfortable. The thigh braces hit me in the right spot. The back band needs some tweeking to make it sit right—I still don’t have it perfect yet, but I might just go get an aftermarket one. There are lots of nice thoughtful touches like the rear of the combing which is perfectly contoured to support your back while leaning backwards; the oversized pivoting foot pedals which are dynamite; the overbuilt molded handles; the paddle-float rescue bungee system; and the pre-tied internal lanyards on the hatches.
The hatches are, of course, Kajaksport brand and are super watertight—maybe too watertight as they can be a real pain to put on and off.
- It's the most beautiful looking (non-wood) paddle out there.
- It has, by a narrow margin over the Lendal, the best feeling most comfortable grip of any paddle.
- The build quality is outstanding and confidence inspiring for any high strain activity, ie: beach landings, PF re-entry, bushwhacking, even self-defense.
- A beautifully smooth stroke with negligible flutter.
The Not-So Good:
- It's heavy by carbon paddle standards. Mine is a 220cm 2pc. and it's just shy of 2lbs. Most of the competitors in its price range are several ounces lighter.
- It feels short for its purported length. My 220cm AT looks and feels shorter in the loom and overall than my Werner 220cm. I don't really notice it when paddling, but I did tape the joint together an inch or two wider than the factory setting and found it slightly more comfortable. If I could buy it again, I'd get a 225cm.
- It's a tweener in terms of blade size. It's not quite a mid size blade, but it's a bit bigger than a small blade. I like it for everyday paddling some may find it tough to get that quick burst when you need it.
Overall I'm pleased with the paddle. My other choice could have been the Werner Kalliste which is a terrific stick and much lighter. But I kinda dig the durability of the AT. I don't worry about it when I drop it or stress it like I would with nearly every other elite paddle out there. I like the way it feels when I paddle with it. I feel it's helped improve my stroke. The grip is superb. And it's so pretty I actually hang it on the wall as art in the off-season.
The Orion is a forgiving, stable sea kayak that can handle any conditions you care to put it in. Very confidence inspiring with one notable exception that may or may not apply to everyone. I am on the light end of the spectrum for this boat (165lbs) and I paddle it relatively empty most of the time. I am also a relative novice. I have noticed that in a following sea this boat can be tough to control. Not "white-knuckle" tough, but a bit unruly. I'm sure another 20lbs in ballast, gear or belly would help.
The boat has the best turning performance I have seen in boat its size (or a bit smaller.) You can pretty much spin it on axis. It puts other boats to shame in this area. It edges well too (though it's hardly necessary.) Learn to edge before you get this boat because you may never learn once you get it.
The Orion is not fast--it's no slug--but don't get your hopes up on winning any races. You'll get your revenge on your paddling partners when they turn back or slow down in tough seas and you just keep plowing through.
Speaking of plowing....the unusual bow and stern of this boat are so fine they just plunge into waves--I happen to think this is a good thing although you do occasionally get whacked by a wave. This is the reason for the wide beam. The Boyancy is around the paddler in the middle so there is less pitching. The ride is more comfortable and you don't loose steam when paddling in a short sea.
The Orion tracks fairly well without but very well with the skeg. The skeg itself is relatively small and doesn't affect speed much at all (thank god.)
I'm not much of an expedition paddler so I'll reserve my comments about the storage. Seems like there is a decent amount.
I think the Orion is a beautiful design, and an excellent all-round boat, it won't get you there in a hurry--but you will get there and have a good time on the way, and dang-it if it's good enough for Derek Hutchinson (see the Complete Book of Sea Kayaking)--it's good enough for you.
PS: I got the 'ocean cockpit' unaware of the extra technique required to ingress/egress from it. It was a week or so of flailing and fretting and then I was fine. Now I love it. I am a major klutz and if I can get in and out of it so can you--it's worth the effort.
The boat looks great with fine upswept bow and an unusual but not unsightly notched stern. I believe this is designed to better accept the rudder assembly. Mine does not have a rudder and at present I do not have plans to get one. The boat is long and fast with good initial stability and rather remarkable secondary stability especially for a rounded v-type hull. Nomad's literature says it weighs 45lbs--I would say that's fairly accurate.
The manufacturer claims the Exocet is primarily for small to mid-sized paddlers which I could not understand as the boat appeared to rather voluminous. I changed my opinion once I got inside and found my size 9's fit well but didn't have much room to spare: I'd say size 11 would be the maximum.
The boat is sold as a kit or a finished boat and is available only in fiberglass construction. The glasswork is quite good: vacuum bagged, with a honeycomb core and very decent layup. Mine was originally a kit and finished well by the previous owner. The kits come delivered nearly complete with the hull deck and extruded joint all pieced together. All the owner has to do is glass the joint and affix the deck hardware.
The hatches are large with neoprene gaskets. I've noticed some leakage but nothing too bad. Mine are not flush but i believe the newer models do have flush fitting hardware an hatches. The cockpit is smallish, 16" x 30"; those over 6' might find it tough but not impossible. The hard molded plastic seat is decent though I found a little cushioning under the seat felt better and would probably reduce the possibility of chafing through the glass.
The Exocet rides a little high in the water and as one would expect weathercocks in wind greater than 15 knots. Otherwise it tracks well and turns nicely especially when edging (which it does very comfortably for a novice paddler.)
I have only paddled it on the Hudson river, along the west side of the island of Manhttan, and for only one season. Therefore, my only experience is in rather brisk 1-4' chop, high winds, swirling current and insane boat traffic. It handles all of this aptly--in fact I felt much more secure in this boat than the handful of the other "big name" yaks I've tried out. I really look forward to paddling this boat on a calm lake.
Basically, I like the Exocet. I am encouraged by it; I feel confident in it; and it suits me well. Others in my club seem to like it as well -- even the snobiest snobs.
I'm giving this unusual boat a 9 rating because I've noticed rather generous ratings by most reviewers. As I progress and try more boats I will revise this review accordingly.