The 119 is relatively new to me. Bought used 2011 model. It is well-made and sturdy for the most part. The material is thicker and considerably more stiff than the flimsy-feeling Royalex on the Old Town Pack canoe. The Pack has tons of flex when on the water, like the entire bottom flexes up a lot, where the Guide feels fairly rigid. The "penalty" is that the 119 is a little heavier. The Pack has lower sides and is easier to paddle because of it. The 119 has more protection from waves, being a bit taller above the water.
Neither tracks well. Unless using a J stroke, you pretty much need to switch sides every stroke or two. Indeed , these boats are better suited for a double bladed kayak paddle. J stroke works fine, as long as you are happy to zigzag forward at a snail pace (which could be enjoyable if one is after after a rather slow and relaxed paddling experience). A double-bladed paddle needs to be quite long, mainly because otherwise it needs to be held more vertically, the top blade crossing over the open canoe, and dripping a lot of water inside. For this reason (and because of the somewhat taller than ideal for doublebladed paddling gunwales I prefer to use a single blade with the 119.
The 119 is short and wide, so it is not fast by any standard. But at slow speeds seems to glide nicely and goes straight when I stop paddling, so it is nice to paddle.
The factory seat is too low to allow my feet to go under it comfortably for kneeling (even barefoot). The front of the seat flexes down and causes sliding forward. A comfortable position that does not cause sliding is cross-legged. The high back rest is sturdy and comfortable. The bottom of the seat is also comfortable, but the front needs to be shimmed up to prevent the sliding. I plan to raise the seat an inch or two and rise the front maybe 1/2" higher than the rear to eliminate the sliding. And add kneeling pads. There is plenty of stability for me to raise the seat and not feel tippy.
I am 200lb, 6'4" and I can stand-up on flat water in the 119, but it feels a bit too lively to trust it to paddle upright or do anything else standing. Maybe a short person could be more stable standing. As a reference, I stand-up paddle board on a slightly narrower SUP that feels more stable. And I am comfortable paddling 19 " wide surfskis. I can see how a novice paddler might feel the 119 is a bit lively at first or even flip it by leaning to the side in a way a self-respecting kayaker would never attemput:). Sitting down, the stability is very good for me, both initial and secondary. When the weather warms-up I will test the tipping point and if I can paddle it standing up with a SUP paddle.
If stored upside down in the sun, the bottom will form a concave line along the keel front to back, so best to store this kanoe in the shade or handing down from the front and back handle to keep it straight. Careful heating with a heat gun and loading to straighten the bottom reduced that concavity, but it is hard to completely undo what several years in the sun had done to my particular canoe.
The gunwales are sturdy and do not flex much.
The stock seat position I think is about right for me, even though the trim is a little lighter in the front this way. Moving the weight forward, I think worsens the tracking as it rises the stern and let's it wander more than ideal. I only paddle the 119 unloaded, so with added weight this might change.
I had a chance to buy a Pack for a very reasonable price just after I bought the 119. Test-paddled both, and kept the 119 - feels sturdier, more freeboard for rougher days, not that much heavier. I felt the Pack paddled ever so slightly nicer due to the lower sides, but the overly flexible construction with bottom that popping-up forming a concave surface with the water was not confidence-inspiring and a put-off for me.
The Chatham 18 in fiberglass construction is my current kayak (following quite a few others previously). At 20" wide, it is on the narrow side for touring kayaks, and compared to 22" wide options offers a bit less final stability. For me, an experienced paddler, 6'4"tall at 200lb the stability is plenty good, even in choppy waters. Where I sometimes wish it had just a bit more final stability is when I am rather tired, after a long hard day of paddling, where having a more stable kayak to relax in could be an advantage (not talking about a huge barge, but let's say something like P&H Delphin or Cetus MV offers that extra bit of helpful stability). Perhaps a shorter paddler would feel less need for that, but at 6'4" I have to stay well-centered, and that could be an issue at the end of a long day or if nauseous for some reason. When fresh or not dead-tired, the stability is fine for me and I appreciate the slim long waterline to pick-up speed when needed.
From the side, the Chatham 18 has very little rocker. But the hull cross section and volume distribution is such that it just bursts forward in following seas and surfs swell very well. The bow does not tend to dig deep since there is nice volume building-up quickly. It also gives nice stability when on the wave. That same volume tends to plow after certain speed on flat water, so top speed I don't feel is as high as for instance Nordkapp LV or P&H Cetus, but the Chatham 18 is no slouch.
The cockpit is nicely snug for me, with the thigh braces just where they need to be. Unlike the other reviewer, my legs do not make contact with the skeg slider. You size 15 US feet fit fine with medium weight paddling shoes, with a couple of notches left on the rails (toes somewhat pointed forward though, as there deck there begins thereof get low). People with normal-sized feet and shorter legs will find the legroom even more spacious. The ratcheting back band works nicely. The front deck near the cockpit seems just right for me, but I can see how a short person might find it excessively high.
The deck bungies are not very well laid out as they are split into the hero halves side there woo side and are too narrow for a wide paddle blade to fithe under. For example I can't stow a 2-piece Euro paddle behind me, only can do it on the front deck.
Despite the spacious cockpit and 18' length, the storage space is on the small side compared Theo larger volume kayaks. The front and rear decks are low and narrow near the hatch covers. So the one his is more of a day or weekend boat than a week or longer expedition kayak.
The hatch covers were Valley, and mine promptly disintegrated (dry rotted) too quickly. Replaced with SeaLect (sp?) hatch covers that work great - totally water proof, shed water nicely, easy to put on and take off.
The kayak is not very skeg dependent: has a slight tendency to weathercock, which is easily compensated for by partially deploying the skeg. Fully deploying the skeg results is gentle leecocking. This is what a well-balanced kayak should be and this one is.
The ride is fairly dry even in choppy waters. The kayak rolls easy for me and the low rear deck helps with lay back rolls.
Overall, a nice and quite beautiful kayak, which in my opinion is excellent and fun in following seas and choppy waters and windy conditions. Fairly easy to course-correct (not stiff-tracking) but tracks well enough to not require undue attention.
At just under 50lb this is light compared to 60lb+ for Cetus or some other competing offerings in fiberglass construction. It also feels light and well-balanced to carry.
The NRS Adventurer inflatable SUP is a fairly big one: long, wide-ish, and 6" thick. It looks great, the workmanship is excellent too. There are two versions of it, both out of production as of early '17. Version 02 has slightly more reinforced sides and is a hair heavier than v.01, otherwise identical.
I paddled it on the ocean, in protected areas and some small beach break too. It is fast for an iSUP, noticeably faster than my other 10.5' inflatable. There is no rocker and the nose is only slightly upturned, combined with long length, and this is not the best surfing board. Not intended to be. It works well in following seas though and just like any long board can be surfed with some success but it is really meant for exploring by heavier people or with load. I am 200lb and this has plenty of reserve buoyancy for me.
The 6' thickness and added length mean the inflation time for the NRS Adventurer is about 2x that of my 4" thick 10' long iSUP. But it is more rigid a the same pressure, and at 12-15 PSI handles well, without much deflection or bounciness, certainly less than on the 4" thick models.
There is definitely more windage on any 6" thick board, so more affected by winds than my 4" board. Still, not an issue to paddle even in breezy conditions. It tracks reasonably well, but not "n rails" - after all, it is a flat bottomed craft. Better than the shorter models, not terribly stiff. When I step on the rear and lift the front above water, it pivot-turns easily and is stable in that position.
Overall weight is reasonable, packs nicely in a decent backpack (included), along with pump, fins, 3 piece paddle (not included, get your own), life jacket, repair kit, and some small odds and ends, and still comes to under 50lb for airline travel. The board itself weights much less than that, of course, it is actually as light or slightly lighter than my 10.5" model, probably not as bullet proof thick, but solid enough to not have to think about it much.
The foam pad is thin but comfortable. The fins mount and dismount securely and without tools.
For flat water and racing a narrower width would be good, for touring and choppy water, the width of the Adventurer is fine.
I accidentally over-inflated mine once with the included pump to almost 25 psi and it became rock-hard and did not burst, so it can take the pressure ;). But 15 PSI is plenty for rigidity.
In short, I think the Raven is a very well designed hull that is fun and quick-ish. If Eddyline lowers the rear of the cockpit rim to allow a full layback, and does the few other deck changes that I think are needed (see my previous review), I'd give it a 10
With rear quartering seas, the slippery rear of the Meridian is more eager to initiate a broach than hard chined and stronger tracking kayaks. Some skeg I am sure will plant it and it could be paddled easily in any direction - I had no issues with the WS Zephyr with skeg and I imagine a Meridian with skeg will be no different.
That said, surfing following seas (wind chop) with the waves and wind from behind, and zig-zagging on the wave face or just going downwind was very easy. The Meridian is very maneuverable and with good rocker and I found it very pleasant to surf small swells and wind chop. No broaching, easy to correct, a dry ride. Once on a wave it surfed it nicely. Compared to Eddyline Raven, the Meridian was more difficult to speed-up and to climb over or catch a wave to surf. The speed-up unwillingness is due to the lower top speed potential and the hull shape, which makes the front raise up as speed increases. The inability to climb over the front wave is due to the hull shape - the nose goes up and the tail down more than on the Raven, so it is like paddling uphill in the Meridian (and the Zephyr) in this situation. The Meridian responds to body weight shift forward and aft more readily though, so a good lean forward would allow it to catch waves much easier than without it.
The Meridian is a very nice ride in wind chop. It is relatively low profile and the nose does not blow around in strong winds. The tail does get pushed downwind, causing severe weathercocking without skeg, which edging alone is not enough to correct - needs corrective strokes too.
Without wind, that same ease of sliding the tail around with a good edging makes the Meridian very maneuverable and would be a great boat to explore tight places and to learn new skills.
The stability is very good - lively on-center and increasingly and predictably strong when edged. It holds on edge easy and reassuringly.
The cockpit is comfortable and should accommodate well almost anyone between 140 and 220lb. I am 6'4" at 190lb before gear (200-210lb for day paddling) and I think I am well within the Meridian's design weight range. With size 15 US shoes and 36"+ inseam I can't get in seat-first, unless I sit on the backband (with the backband in place where it needs to be my knees hit the front of the cockpit). I had to cut an extra notch on the factory aluminum foot rails, which gave me an extra inch of leg room - that is enough for barefoot paddling for me. I can't fit with any shoe, only socks or barefoot (unlike in unlike in the Raven where I had plenty of foot room and some extra leg room too). However, most regularly sized adults should have no problem getting in seat-first and with plenty of leg room (and of they are not giraffes with large feet like me, also plenty of foot room for low profile paddling shoes).
The thigh braces are well-positioned for people shorter than me, but work OK for me too. The minicell padding under the thigh braces does not extend far enough forward for me (will add some 4" at least, forward of where it ends). The seat is contoured and perfectly wide enough for me to fit without the need for additional paddling. The original backband is surprisingly supportive and sits higher than on any other kayak that I have had - very nice to relax against when taking a break. It does manage to get out of the way fairly well too, for layback on the rear deck.
As for speed, this kayak is NOT terribly fast. I do not know how some other reviewers can say it is fast. Yes, it is efficient to paddle at a moderate speed, but it does not reward increased effort with much more speed. It hits a wall easier than kayaks like Nordkapp Ram/LV and Eddyline Raven. Granted, the Meridian is 9" shorter than the Raven, but that's not the main reason - it is the shape of its hull: the front tends to lift up and create a bow wave when pushed to go fast. Just like the WS Zephyrs do. The Meridian (in Kevlar) felt a bit quicker than the Zephyr 155 in plastic. Being only 42lb (with seat and hatch covers) probably has something to do with it. Also, having no skeg and with finer edge front and aft, it splits the water more cleanly and barely makes any ripples when paddled slowly.
The rear deck is nice and low, allowing full layback for rolling. The front deck is not terribly high, so it is not in the way when paddling. There are no paddle cutouts though. And the rearmost front bungee and perimeter line attachment points are too close to the paddler - I kept hitting them with my fingers (in contrast, on the Raven they are forward of where my hands pass by during the paddle stroke, which is better).
The cockpit rim near the thigh braces is quite sharp, making for a bit uncomfortable carry on land. However, at 42lb, the Kevlar Meridian is easy to cartop (much easier than the 55lb Raven or the 65lb Nordkapp RM). The ends of the Meridian are finer and lighter than on the Raven, which make it easier to swing around on the water.
Overall, I would say the Meridian is a VERY good kayak for those who want to explore at a relaxed pace and value maneuverability over speed and tracking. It is also quite nice to surf in following seas. It is great in choppy and rough water. And with a skeg I am sure it will be a pleasure to paddle in any condition and in any direction. I am rating the skeg version an 8 because it does not surf following seas as well and is slower than the Eddyline Raven, which I rated a 9. The skeg-less version is a solid 5: the amount of weathercocking it exhibits in stronger winds borders on dangerous (requires too much effort to correct and one can get in trouble after a while, tiring fast).
In brief, this is a very well built kayak (for the most part, as I will explain below). Finish is first-rate and almost flawless. The foot rails are mounted on internal bolts, which do not go through the hull and are not visible from the outside – gives a nice clean look. The cockpit is generously long – I am 6’4” with long legs (36”+ inseam) and large feet (US size 15) and even with the sliding seat a bit forward of center I could enter the kayak seat first without scraping my shins. Leg and foot room is excellent too – tall to average-sized people should be able to wear compact paddling shoes, and people with short legs would be able to wear just about anything.
The kayak is 55lb as outfitted (not the claimed 52lb). And it feels every ounce as heavy. While this is on the light side for plastic kayaks (the Nordkapp RM for instance is 10lb heavier), combined with the sharp edges on the inside of the cockpit, it makes for a somewhat uncomfortable package to handle off the water. On the water it is not a problem and the kayak feels lively and easy to paddle.
The backband is held raised up by two small plastic hooks glued to the underside of the cockpit rim. The idea is good, the execution on my kayak was not – the hooks fell off before I even had a chance to sit in the kayak for a first time (and good that they did, as I would surely had lost them otherwise). The reason – the very strong glue that Eddyline uses did not cover the hooks’ bases fully and being shiny, the rest of them did not stick to the glue. They just twisted off with hardly any effort at all – I noticed they were not secure as I was trying to adjust the back band on the floor before I sat in the kayak. Easy to fix, the glue is available in most hardware stores (check Eddyline’s web site for specifics – watch the repair videos too). The hooks attach to elastic loop on the backband (via plastic triangular pieces), and it appears they will keep the backband in place during remounts, while letting it slide down a bit if you need to layback while in the kayak. The backband is fine when properly adjusted, but it is thick and a bit stiff – comfortable when you need it, but does not get out of the way as easily as ideal when you don't. Also, adjusting it is not as easy and fool-proof as models with ratchets like the P&H Delphin for instance.
The seat is plastic with a thick removable seat pad. Comfortable for me with and without the pad. I usually paddle without cushions, so I removed it. The seat is sized for someone my size. Quite comfortable and well-shaped. There is no provision for adjustable hip braces for a tighter fit if desired (aftermarket or DIY can be easily added). The seat is adjustable fore and aft on a rail. Very easy, with a single wingnut on the front. It is fine for easy paddling, but with active edging the rear of the seat lifts-up and makes noises when the kayak is on edge. See my video here: http://youtu.be/q5VmP5gUkSU. The hip supports on the seat are also not attached to the hull, so they flex. The seat slipped back from its position when I was entering the kayak and was pushing a bit hard on the foot pegs. So the single wing nut on a smooth plastic-on-plastic rail is a bit under engineered for a kayak that is meant to be paddled actively. A second bolt can beaded to the rear of the seat with some care, but there is no space for a wing nut (only for a regular nut), and the bottom rail would need a short channel dremmeled-out to allow easy seat repositioning. Should be very easy to do for anyone handy with tools (even without tools – just a hot knife or screwdriver might do the channel in the plastic too.
The foot pegs are large and sturdy and well positioned (they are not mounted too low as is unfortunately the case in so many other kayaks). Contrary to some reviews, they can be adjusted fore and aft while seated in the boat quite easily – they can be pushed forward with your feet to the position you need, and if needed, can be pulled back with your toes, then locked in place with the lever by the knees. The foot pegs, however, are very sharp and hurt bare feet after only a few minutes of paddling: you need footwear and/or to glue 1/4" minicell foam on them for barefoot use (again, I tend to do the latter to most of my kayaks, so easy to do and not a big deal).
The rear deck is reasonably low, however, the rear of the cockpit rim is too high for comfortable laybacks. Even with the seat forward of center, the rear cockpit rim is in the way even for a tall person like me – while I can lay back, I feel pressure from the cockpit rim and have to lift my butt off the seat. And if I was doing it without a PFD, I would not be able to lay flat on the rear deck. I do not understand why Eddyline did not recess the rear of the cockpit rim an inch lower – would have been perfect. The actual height from the bottom of the kayak to the top of the cockpit rim in the rear is 8.7" (a touch over 8.5"). The center of the seat is raised about 3/4 of an inch, but that is still not enough to compensate and allow an effortless layback for rolling or relaxing on the water. A less flexible lower back will not allow a paddler to do it without lifting off the seat substantially.
The kayak rolls easy, but a static brace was not as effortless as it is for me in lower volume kayaks: when on its side it floats high, making a static brace more demanding. In comparison, in a WS Zephyr 155 or Tempest 165 the deck is lower and above-water volume is lower – much easier to balance brace and do layback rolls and hand rolls. Again, not an issue for combat rolling, but this is not a Greenland rolling machine (it is similar to the P&H Delphine in this regards, perhaps easier to complete the first half of the roll, from completely under to half-way up: the Delphin's flat deck make it a bit harder to initiate a roll).
The hatches are recessed as is the cockpit rim. This is good, but there are no channels for the water to flow out from the recessed areas – so you are always carrying a few cups of water on the deck in these areas. Not a big deal and I imagine the deck/kayak is a bit stronger and stiffer for that.
And the hull is stiff enough. Even the expansive flat areas under the cockpit are stiff enough – very little give under pressure by hand and none on the water that I noticed. Compared to Hurricane Tracer’s or Perception Sonoma's thermoformed materials, the hull and the deck on the Eddyline Raven are much stiffer and sturdier – no complaints at all. But to achieve that, the Raven weighs about 10lb more than a comparably sized Tracer.
The carry handles are attached with rope and have no provision to retract when not in use. There are small depressions in the deck for them to stay, but they will come off and dangle on the water and during transport on your roof rack. A modification would be needed to add some bungee to retract them when not in use, like many other manufacturers are doing.
The cockpit rim is similar to composite builds – fairly thin. This means a spray skirt is a bit harder to remove, so practice with one hand to make sure you can do it – especially shorter people might have trouble reaching forward of the long cockpit to release a tight the spray skirt easily with one hand. The inside of the rim near one of the thigh braces on my kayak had a fairly thin and sharp edge, which managed to take a bit of skin off two of my fingers while I carried the kayak to my car – make sure yours is sanded well and if needed, round it with a bit of sand paper or a small rasp.
The hatches close and open fairly easy and are water tight. The rear day hatch could be a bit hard to close well on the water – requires a bit of extra positioning/pushing that is not entirely effortless to do with one hand on the water. The front day hatch is useful for a snack and a small camera, but too small for anything else – can't fit a water bottle or two, which is a pity. The rear hatch is the same size as the front hatch and both are round – bulkier/longer items might not fit through them, so consider that if you intend to pack a tent or 2-piece paddle in the rear or front – you might not be able to put large items through these openings.
The deck rigging is a bit sparse, but functional enough. The first bungee in front of the cockpit is far enough ahead to not scrape my thumbs while paddling.
The foredeck, while allowing ample leg and foot room, is not too high and does not interfere too much with your paddle stroke. Still, cutouts for the paddle to enter closer to the boat would be welcome to add in a future version of the kayak – there is no good reason not to have them and they make paddling a lot more ergonomic: cutouts should be part of any kayak that has pretenses to be efficient to paddle.
The kayak tracks fine, though it is on the more maneuverable end of the spectrum. The Raven turns easy and tight with some edging, the ends releasing nicely on flat water edged turns even with my 200lb weight in it. While it turns easy, it is also very easy to keep straight – it is not demanding of the paddler to have a perfectly balanced stroke technique. Turns begin quickly and can be stopped quickly (unlike some kayaks that, once they start turning, demand a lot of effort to reverse the turn). There is some weathercocking in wind as expected (not much and easier to correct than on some other kayaks). A partial skeg application can trim the Raven neutral and a full skeg lets you leekock and go downwind easily. The skeg is very smooth and easy to operate, is quiet in the water (does not knock side to side, does not vibrate at speed), and does not seem to cause any noticeable added drag when deployed. My skeg behaved like a non-kink design – it would retract fairly easy if pushed-in (that might not be true after some months of use, can’t tell, but when new it was easy to operate and easy to push-in, so it would get damaged if you hit something underwater with it).
The Raven paddled very agreeably in any direction relative to winds and waves. Add skeg as needed to make it neutral and go where you want it without any effort to correct. Or keep the skeg up and paddle it actively and zig-zag your way down the wave faces in following seas. With a good inside edge when surfing following seas, the rear releases and you can link runs across several waves nicely. Bow rudders did not work so well for me compared to some other kayaks that like to turn from the bow when asked – the bow is better planted than the stern in the Raven and requires a good edge to release enough to let you pull it sideways with a bow rudder.
The Raven is a relatively dry ride, though the front hatch can throw some spray towards the cockpit occasionally (water does not flow smoothly over it and the bungee near it like it does in some other kayaks with similarly recessed hatches).
The thigh braces are a bit too low for my liking and a bit too close together to allow good knees together paddling. Being low means long-legged people like me will have to have fairly straight legged position (with low knees), which requires some hamstring flexibility to be comfortable. A half inch higher would have been better. Removing the seat cushion helped enough for me to let me get used to it, but a bit more height there would be nice, given how roomy the cockpit is otherwise. Since the thigh braces are not adjustable, they should be positioned higher and let the paddler pad them if desired. Also, I think they are a bit too far forward in the cockpit than ideal – the seat has to be in the forward position to have the braces be in the right place for even a tall person (and a shorter legged person would find their knees there, not their thighs).
Stability is very good (not huge, but well defined) – intermediate and experienced paddlers will have no issues with it. Beginners might feel a bit wobbly in the centered position, as the kayak is very willing to make tiny movements off-center. But even a small edge, and it immediately begins to firm-up. There is enough stability when flat and when put on edge to quickly inspire confidence in aspiring beginners who want to move up from a recreational kayak and are willing to put a few hours to get familiar with the Raven's stability profile. The primary and secondary stability are a very good thing to have in bumpier waters – you don’t have to think about stability, just paddle and the kayak will ignore and not punish small balance mistakes. On the other hand, the wide flat bottom and strong primary stability mean that the kayak is a bit bouncy compared to more round-bottomed designs (you need to keep lose hips and let it move under you with the waves – it is more affected by small steep wind waves and chop than kayaks like the Nordkapp RM). While the stability is good, it is not hard to edge and keeps on edge nicely.
The full ends mean it does not nose dive much, but (combined with relatively light-weight ends) also means that it will bounce up and down more actively across small bumps than a pinched-ends design. On the other hand, over larger bumps, the Raven will lift/will dive less than pinched-ends designs, and splash less when going over steep waves.
The Raven feels efficient to paddle and does not hit a wall as noticeably and early as some other playful designs like the WS Zephyr or Romany do. On the other hand, being fairly wide and square-ish for a good part of its underwater area means it is not as fast as slimmer and more rounded kayaks in terms of top speed and keeping it there. The Raven is a very good blend of decent speed and above average maneuverability and playfulness. I would not confuse it, however, with a true playboat like the P&H Delphin, nor will I mistake it for a slim and fast cruiser. But it "gets it right" in more areas at the same time than many other kayaks (that may excel in one area at the expense of another). A very well-rounded kayak on the more playful and maneuverable spectrum (and not exceptionally great in any one area).
The Raven has very little rocker – so it is fairly efficient to paddle. Unfortunately, this (combined with the full ends on the hull) also means that in short wind chop it will not “fit” nicely between waves like kayaks such as the Nordkapp RM and LV do – it jumps about a bit more, is a bouncier ride, and sits higher in the water at all times. This is fine when I paddle actively and want to play, but on a long crossing in choppy water I prefer the calmer and smoother behavior of a slimmer, lower profile, and more rockered boat.
In conclusion, if the rear cockpit rim was low enough to allow effortless layback rolls, if the thigh braces were closer to the seat and higher, if there were deck cutouts for a close and ergonomic paddle stroke, if the kayak was at least 5lb lighter, and if the bow was a bit more willing to turn, it would have remained in my fleet.
At full price $2,800 or so puts it in the ranks of some composite kayaks and well above rotomoulded kayaks, so it is a tough choice. The Eddyline material looks as good if not better than fiberglass/gel coat and appears to be fairly scratch resistant too. It will take more abuse in some ways than a composite boat, but it will crack just the same in other cases, so it won’t be a top choice for hard banging on rocks, where rotomulded poly boats still rule. At a sale price of just under $2K it is a much better buy and becomes a better option to consider.
Below is a paddling video in bumpy and windy conditions, and another video showing the seat movement. Finally, a link is provided to my post here on PNet with some discussion about the Raven (and more links for it).
Seat movement video:
The blades are somewhat flat towards the end and rounded towards the loom. Absent is the characteristic "diamond" cross section you will fond in traditional Greenland paddles. The paddle blades are not thick, but the edges are fairly wide and the blade quickly flattens from them inwards.
Like the other review says, I would agree the paddle is a bit stiffer than a lightweight wood paddle. Not terribly stiff though. And that stiffness is not because it is made of carbon - my own carbon paddles are more flexible than most wood paddles - it's a design choice. I suppose, the longer versions will feel less stiff than the shorter ones if they are made from the same stuff (I have the 225cm Oyashio).
What all these features translate to on the water is a paddle, which is very nice to use either to cruise gently or to dig a bit more aggressively. It is forgiving and works well with or without intentionally canting it, but also responds well to a canted stroke. It does not mind how you use it, it won't complain or force you to use it in any particular way like some other paddles would. Low angle and high angle styles work well, as expected with a Greenland paddle.
The blades are nicely buoyant to lift out of the water nicely, without added effort. They are fairly quiet too (not splashing much on entry or lifting much water on exit).
Slicing the water is not as smooth and quiet as I like - the paddle is not a perfect foil shape, so while it is not fat, it is not as slicey as I would like. It does not have as much lift as other some other Greenland paddles K've used. Not bad at all and probably many won't notice, unless they do a head to head comparison with a thin-edged foil-shaped paddle.
I also think that the paddle is gentle and does not have as much bite during the forward stroke as a more sharp-edged paddle would have. That is not to say it is not powerful - I could dig hard and it won't complain or flutter. The difference is like using a wing paddle vs. a regular paddle - both can be powerful, but the wing paddle has that immediate bite even if you don't pull hard, where even large non-wing paddles feel "soft" in comparison. Same with the Oyashio - it has power if you want it, just gives it to you gently and gradually, without the locked-in and edgy feel my own paddle has. And the Oyashio is not as lively in the water as that home-made carbon Greenland paddle of mine (which is more flexible, with thinner edges, and better foil shape than the Gearlabs paddle). This could be good or bad, depending on where you are coming from. My paddle is exceptionally lively, perhaps could be annoyingly so to someone who does not want to think about it at every stroke and just relax and paddle. With my paddle I can feel the lift of the foil-shaped blade at the beginning, middle, and end of the stroke (and I can change the lift's direction halfway through the stroke: for lift going down in the first half of the stroke, and then lift again while going up in the second half of the stroke). Or I can use it as a wing paddle with a vertical stroke, going away from the kayak. And it responds instantaneously and the bite is immediate, even though my blades are considerably more flexible than the Oyashio's. The Oyashio, in contrast, is much more settled: it won't lash out and try to pull out of your hand due to generating a big lift. It won't try to lead you away from the kayak in a wing-style or surprise you and pull you under with a deeply canted stroke either. It is calm and steady, but it almost feels dull due to this, though it could also be described as settled and predictable. So not bad, just different.
Being hollow, you will more clearly feel it ventilating (pulling air bubbles underwater and making "scratching" noises) if you pull too hard before submerging it well. Not that it pulls more air under, you just notice it more. That's good feedback.
It is not easy to overpower it - it won't flutter under hard pulling, such as when catching boat wakes to surf. It won't flutter in easy use either - basically, an easy to live with and pleasant to use paddle. Just, I don't find it as exciting to use as paddles with sharper and thinner edges and livelier personalities.
Fit and finish are good, not perfect, though nothing serious to complain about. I have the matte carbon black finish. It is not made of one continuous piece or sleeve of fabric - there are several places where you can see pieces overlap. That's cosmetic only, and does not stand out much - you have to look for it. If you buy the white one, the white finish hides that from you. The black "naked" finish shows it all. The two halves fit very snugly, yet easy to put together or separate. No play or wiggle when in use. Can twist rotationally a bit if you tried, but that does not happen on the water.
Overall, a nice paddle that I could be very happy with, had I not had the chance to paddle (and prefer) other designs that offer a livelier feel, more bite during the stroke, and smoother slicing action.
The hatches are still bone-dry. I've shaved a couple of mm off the edge of one of the covers, so it fits a bit easier in the channel around the hatch opening. I also tethered the big oval hatch covers with a rope through the included little loops on them. That allows me to easily lift one edge by pulling on the rope, so opening is now easier.
The skeg is just as smooth as the day I bought it - in fact, it behaves as a non-kink type: if I push in the skeg itself, it will retract and push the slider in the skeg-up position rather than kink and damage the cable. So if I run over something with the skeg down, it will just retract and need to be redeployed.
The flattish hull with vertical sides behaved as expected: solid (though not too strong) primary stability. Little additional stability was gained when edging the boat, unfortunately. Perhaps a lighter paddler might find it different, but at nearly 200lb with my day's gear, I felt I was loading it pretty good. The sides have little flare, so a boxy shape like that gives you this kind of stability profile. Compare this to an Epic V6: the Epic has very lively on-center feel due to its roundish hull - it feels unstable just sitting in it (wobbles side to side very easy), but it builds progressively stronger secondary stability very fast as you edge it more as it has lots of flare and its final stability on edge is higher than the Eze. It feels (and is) wider all over though. On calm flat water this is a very different feel from the Eze I thought. I have not paddled the V6 in bumpy conditions so can't compare how that translates to its handling compared to the Eze.
The flat and fat rear with narrow front on the Eze result in some interesting behavior that took me a few minutes to adjust to in the steep short waves. Most skis do that to some extend, but it is more pronounced in the short Eze. The rear tends to get pushed around a lot as it gets lifted up by waves and blown by strong wind. When the wave is a bit from the side, the flat bottom in the rear tries to follow the curve of the wave (it tries to edge for you), while the narrow front offers little resistance to that. Thus, the rear gets tilted down-wave and I broached a few times until I got the hang of it. Seems that more aggressively controlling the angle of the boat (edging it) and counteracting directional changes with the rudder earlier is a good cure for this. After I made these adjustments, I made several more runs up- and down-wind and did not broach any more.
The decent primary stability (not stiff, predictable) allowed me to paddle with full power while not feeling like I am pulling a lot of boat. The lack of increasingly strong secondary stability when on edge was a bit odd at first, but I got used to it. Still, I would not mind having a bit more of it, even the expense of losing a bit of primary stability.
The 7" rudder is probably the smallest you want for steep waves. No issues in the strong wind, but I felt it was at its limit occasionally on steeper waves. Still good enough for zigzagging down he small waves wherever I wanted. With more speed on bigger waves that would not lift the rear so abruptly) it might perform even better.
The drain is ineffective (slow and needs a relatively high speed to work). The drain plug leaks too much to be if any use - I left it open after trying it initially on the flat water. On the plus side, at 6'4" and 200lb with my gear (in a dry suit) I seem to fill up the cockpit pretty good and there is never much water there.
The nose catches leaves more than ideal. Perhaps I'm on the heavy side of things for the Eze, though I felt the boat performed well otherwise for my weight - did not submarine or get washed over by waves much. Perhaps folks over 200lb dry weight should look elsewhere though.
The cockpit is narrower overall than on my new V10. The tightness is mostly at the calves and thighs and the sides of the seat are more vertical. The width between the foot rails is 9", but half an inch is wasted in the center for attaching the dual foot straps. The V10 has 8.5" width (1/2" less than the Eze) but offers the same if not a smidgen more foot width and more room for my toes to spread outwards if desired, above the rails. The dual strap setup on the Eze was more restrictive but effective in terms of leg drive than the single strap setup on the Epic. I barely fit my paddling shoes in the straps on the last notch, and felt a bit too tight still. The foot plate is more solid than in the Epics, the adjustment fore and aft is finer too (but more cumbersome, and the straps adjustment is really time consuming and requires you to be on dry land or you will lose the washers and nuts).
The leg length in the Eze is perhaps just a 1/4" longer than the V10, so about the same. With booties over neo socks over my dry suit's latex socks and over another pair of thin socks inside, I have about 3/4" left behind the foot plate. I got a 36.5" inseam, measured by the road bike method. Barefoot usually gains me about 1/2" more leg room.
The seat bottom did not feel like it was trying to keep me upright. I also felt a bit crammed in it side to side and against the hump. I felt more tendency to lean back than I do in the V10. In the V10 I have a bit of a tendency to slouch, but in the Eze I felt a tendency to lean back, which is more tiring to counteract. I thought the Epic's seat was more ergonomic from this perspective, but the seat in the Eze offered more contact through my calves mostly. Adjusting the leg length (bringing the foot plate closer to me) helped a bit, so I will revisit this next time I paddle both skis.
The upper rear of the seat pan is also a bit steeper on the Eze (I prefer the one on the Epic, which allows me to more freely lay flat on my back over the rear deck to rest, looking up to the sky).
The inside of the ski stayed dry, despite the one swim I took (remount was easy) and the really bumpy conditions with waves washing over the deck fore and aft. Having an inspection port is nice (even though seeing the pink construction foam inside was not too confidence inspiring).
The outside width of the cockpit at my feet in the Eze (where the paddle enters the water) is 13", compared to 10" on the new Epic V10, which has nice paddle cut outs there. The gunwale height on the Eze also feels higher there. So initially I felt I would hit the sides with my paddle but I adjusted to this quickly. Paddle cutouts would be really nice to have, but they are not there, unfortunately.
The Eze has tubes for the rudder lines leading to the rear where an over stern rudder can be installed in the provided hole (I got the under stern rudder).
The Eze felt solid (no flex) in the bumpy water, but given its short length, this is expected. As for build quality, based on my 2013 model year Eze, it trails behind Epic on some counts. Specifically, the stiffener/stringer inside the ski is made of what appears to be pink construction insulation foam (does not compress well, separates easy from glue points, but is lightweight). Gel coat is a bit unevenly applied - can see brighter and darker areas where light shines through the hull when I look through the inspection port. It is also easily scratched and there are occasional micro dimples from the painting process. The seams joining the deck and hull are invisible from the outside, there is tape on the inside (good). The seams are a bit wavy as are some other areas on my boat (sides near the bow, bottom of the hull, sides of the hull near the rear). This is I assume mainly cosmetic and not too bad visually, but is easy to see without even looking hard. The fiberglass is a bit flexible in many areas, including the upper sides of the cockpit, the deck, and the sides of the bow (more so than on my Epics of similar construction grade and weight). A bit of flex in the deck and sides is OK on light duty craft like this, but the seat area (where one holds the boat during portages and the full weight of the paddler is) not being fully reinforced bothers me. I've seen cracks in these areas on a pair of Think Evo II skis, hope the Eze will fare better as it is shorter and presumably subject to a bit less stress due to this.
Carrying the Eze at the take out was not as easy as its short length and relatively light weight would suggest. It was a bit awkward, because the hull is too wide to wrap my arm around it when up on my shoulder. It is slippery (and there is some flex in the fiberglass) so carrying at the hip was awkward too, but worked better. A carry handle in the cockpit would be a nice addition.
The gel coat (or whatever paint it is) is very easy to scratch off. It has less resistance to abrasion than the stickers (!) that Epic uses on the front and rear. I've bumped my new V10 and my older V10 Sport against concrete many times, I've slid over rocks a few times - with barely a superficial scuff mark on the stickers and bottom. A similar bump today took off the entire gel coat layer and some of the fiberglass on the edge of the bow on the Eze. First scratch, no biggie, but the little it took to get it tells me this ski should be babied in terms of touching bottom and other hard objects with it.
I also paddled for a first time today the Think wing paddle (smaller of the two they make). It has considerably less area and power than the Epic mid-wing that I also had with me and which is my primary paddle. I swapped between the two paddles a few times today. The Think paddle feels a bit heavier even though it is smaller. The shorter blades mean a shorter overall paddle length is needed compared to the Epic mid wing. The 208cm of the Think seem to correspond to about 212 on the Epic (to maintain the same spacing between my hands on the shaft and to the blades). The feel of the Think wing is also different - I don't remember the last time the Epic curled in under me. The Think wing did that several times initially, until I got the hang of it - perhaps of the smaller area but I think there is also a different shape. It requires more precise technique and more finesse when using (as it won't offer as much bracing power during the stroke and for braces). The Epic is also noticeably smoother through the entire stroke and lifts less water at the exit, despite being bigger and more solid. Got to paddle more to get a better feel for the Think. The metal lock lever on the Think feels more solid, though I have not had any issues with the plastic one on the Epic. The shaft is oval at the hand. It is also made of concentric circles that you can feel (not smooth as the Epic) - hard to tell if there is any advantage or disadvantage to this.
At the end of the day, I thought the 17' Eze was more fun in the short period waves than a long ski. That's what I got it for and it performs as advertised for this. Felt overall a bit more stable than the intermediate skis like the Epic V10 Sport and the new V10, considerably less stable than a V8, different stability profile than a V6 (for better or worse, depending on your needs).
For a video review, go to: