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Name: jsmarch

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Paddler: Greenland style, intermediate 5'11" 175# with BCU IV skills looking for an expedition kayak that would be fine for day trips, fitness paddling, and weekend camping.

Other kayaks: BBK Aral, Black Pearl, Outer Island OC, and keyhole Pintail.

Review conditions: ocean, lake, winds to 25mph, waves to 3 feet, clapotis.

Finish: Fabulous. All the things that people say about build quality for TR kayaks are true. The finish and attention to detail on the 2012 Hardcore layup is superb.

Fit: After years of paddling Greenland-style kayaks, I was more than a bit apprehensive about getting used to a keyhole but without need: I love the ergonomics of the Xplore cockpit. On longer paddles it allows me to move around a bit, but mostly I paddle Greenland style with legs to center either flat on hull or a bit elevated and to the side. Seat is very comfortable as is the backband. Thigh braces are rock solid and comfortable w/o being obtrusive. Boat control ergonomics likewise are superb requiring only a bit of foaming out to tighten the thigh braces. Foot pegs are slanted and easy to adjust - eventually will probably pull them and foam out the bulkhead, but the fact that I haven't done so after several months of paddling says alot.

Speed: As the reviews attest, the Xplore is fast, very fast relative to many other expedition class kayaks and specifically in my experience relative to the NDK Explorer. (For more info on speed, see the Kayak Academy website.) Hull seems to have noticeably lower drag and a higher top end. I'd compare it to the OI, which is known as a fast A to B kayak, but the XPlore is much faster than the OI in conditions because it is so forgiving and easy to control in wind and waves.

Stability: Primary and secondary are both solid even with the kayak unloaded - am not sure where the idea of soft secondary comes from as I found it firm and easily identifiable. Perhaps that fast that I'm used to skinny Greenland kayaks plays a role here?

Boat control: The Xplore is largely neutral in wind with only a bit of weather helm in beam winds. Dropping the skeg allows easy control of weather cocking and when fully down provides a bit of lee cocking to assist with downwind turns. Tracking is a bit short of stiff meaning the Xplore holds a line easily in neutral conditions without a lot of correction. In wind and waves, it likewise is easy to keep on course again with a lot of correcting strokes. When edged, the Xplore turns like a much shorter more playful kayak. On a long paddle, the ease with which I could maintain course saved a lot of energy. In clapotis, the bow isn't anywhere as loose as the Pearl or Pintail or for that matter as a Tempest, but the Xplore nonetheless is very reassuring with a lot of headroom and ability to maneuver easily with a bit of edging.

Rolling: I found the Xplore easy to skull, but balance brace was more difficult that with the BP or the Aral. No big surprise here. Excellent cockpit ergonomics, a positive up, and low back deck made a variety of Greenland layback rolls easy to perform.

Surfing: In 2-3 foot surf, I found the Xplore easy to catch waves and easy to control on wave face. It will broach eventually, but controllable. In downwind conditions, the Xplore make it easy to catch waves without much tendency to broach. With speed and acceleration, I had to be careful not to outrun the wave. Even in quartering seas, I could control the kayak with edging and a little skeg--rarely needed a stern rudder.

Compartments: Lots of room. New KS hatches are easy to put on and secure. TR has installed tethers, but they are a little thin and long for my tastes so will eventually replace. No need to vent bulkheads. The center hatch allows storages of small bits and (unlike the Cetus LV) doesn't intrude into the cockpit.

Summary: Except when feeling the pull of tradition, the Xplore M has replaced the BBK Aral as my go to kayak for day paddles and camping. Simply stated it is fast, very comfortable, beautifully made, strong, and has lots of "head room" in conditions. I've owned 2 NDK Explorers, a P & H Quest, and paddled all sorts of 16-18 foot kayaks and the Xplore hands down is my favorite so far. I thought about an Xcite, which would be a better choice for day paddles, surfing, and rough water play, but I wanted a kayak for extended camping, and the Xplore suits this purpose perfectly.

Plug for Savannah Canoe and Kayak--I ordered my Xplore through Nigel and Kristin and found them a pleasure to do business with.

Beautiful, functional, well crafted WRC GP. Great ergonomics /attention to fit. No flutter, easy forward cant, easy exit. Beautiful. I gave up my Superior CF for my Lumpy.

I bought an OI for two reasons: (1) fast long day paddles in conditions and (2) working the GP roll progression. It is a marvelous craft for both purposes, and perhaps the best boat I have paddled in following and rear quartering seas. It wouldn't much fun to camp out of nor is it very good for surfing, poking around in rock gardens or for teaching rescues where you need to maneuver quickly. Though you can get it to turn with a bow rudder edged away from the turn, the OI turns best with a lot of edging and extended paddle sweeps. Impex quality and service are outstanding. I'd change two things. First, I'd get the ocean cockpit--for rolling and edge control, the smaller cockpit has it all over the keyhole. Second, I swaped out the IR backband for a snapdragon: personal preference. Great boat!

I switched from Euro (AT) to GP a little over a year ago, beggining with a BBK Grenlander, which is a great hybrid for making the switch. I then tried a Cricket before getting an 86" carbon fiber Superior GP. Expensive but well worth it. This paddle is light, has a lot of floatation, is soft and smooth in the water (no flutter), rolls like a charm, and is very comfortable in the hands. It is also strong, much stronger than a WRC GP. As a black paddle it gets hot in the sun, and yet it doesn't feels as "warm" as wood in the hands. It is also slippery--I've missed a roll or two as a result--though I haven't tried paddle wax. Highly recommended.

I've been using the Rapid Runner Bilge Systems lithium battery bilge pump in my Impex OI for about 4 months. This pump set up, which except for the on/off switch that is on the foam bulked is mounted entirely behind my seat. The thru hull is behind me to the right. Looking back, I kind of wish I'd put it forward so that I could replace it with a bulkhead mounted manual foot pump if they ever go out of business. Hope not as the set up is convenient, reliable and a real safety boon. The pump/switch/battery is light, runs for 90 minutes, and can empty out the entire cockpit in under two minutes. On a reentry and roll, you can kick the pump on before rolling back up and have the cockpit empty about the time you get the spray skirt on. Workmanship and materials are first rate. One drawback: I had to install a check valve to block water ingress through the thru hull--a bother as water accumulated rolling and bracing. With the check valve, which I understand that they are now including as standard equipment for kayak installations, this is not a problem, but it took a while to sort out. Jeffrey Valen, president of the company, was incredibly responsive during this process even calling me on a holiday weekend. I don't think I've ever had better service from a small business than I have had from these folks. Very highly recommended!

After carefully considering the alternatives, I recently switched from the Werner Camano to the Onno Carbon-Carbon mid-tour paddle. The difference between 30 oz (Werner) and 16 oz (Onno) is incredible. (Note that the Werner Carbon is 10 oz heavier and $100 more expensive.) The Onno paddle is as if not more efficient in the water, with less flutter and, for some reason, a much smoother exit. High and low braces, skulling and sweep/draw strokes are easy. Haven't got a roll (it is on the agenda) but I can't imagine a paddle-related problem. Workmanship is exemplary. Service from Water Walker kayaks was great--also highly recommended.

After carefully reading reviews and paddling a variety of boats, including the Cape Horn, Perception Carolina, Dagger Magellan, Necky Looksha IV, I settled on the Capella RM as my first single. At a beam of 22" and an emphasis on secondary over initial stability, it was a boat to grow into. Having done so over the past year, I am more than ever convinced that the Capella likely is the best plastic boat on the market. You wear the boat, bracing/edging/J lean turns are easy, even in 10-15 mph winds the boat is mananagable without the skeg down so it is great for working on technique, and (am learning as I write) it should be easy to roll. The seat is incredibly comfortable and the workmanship first class. Importantly, the Capella is at home in open ocean, lakes and narrow blackwater rivers. Plenty of room for 2-3 day trips and the hatches and bulkheads are watertight. The Capella came highly recommended--all the staff at the shop I most often frequent in NC paddle it in preference to other boats, at least those that haven't been able to afford a P&H Quest.