Read reviews for the NC 15 Excursion by NC Kayaks as submitted by your fellow paddlers. All of the reviews are created and written by paddlers like you, so be sure to submit your own review and be part of the community!
This is a follow-up to my first review on 2-17-2014. I'm a very experienced paddler, having spent 30+ summers in either SE Alaska or Vancouver Island on extended camping trips; the last 12 winters in the Everglades and a few Springs in Baja (as well as many other places around the world). I've paddled this boat extensively now, but first a few thoughts on a couple of the slightly negative reviews of this kayak:
(1) if you buy a 15' kayak you should not be comparing it to 18' boats with much narrower beams (and surf skis) in criticizing its speed. It is fast enough and typical really of 15.5' hard shell boats with a comforting 23" beam;
(2.) If you create a 2" crack in the gel coat" just getting it off your rack, you DEFINITELY either didn't mount it correctly or more likely, just left the straps cranked down too hard, for too long in the sun; a fairly typical mistake actually. The Light (LT) layup on my boat -- mine does weigh about 40 lbs on my scales -- has held up very well the last 2.5 years, and I've had it out in all kinds of weather, waves, surf and chop here on the North Carolina Coast. I've also loaded and and unloaded it from the car rack -- after various road trips -- many many times without issue.
One more suggestion for future reviewers -- it would be very useful to start each review with your paddling experience, + approximate age and size. If the review doesn't include that, it's just very difficult to get much out of the it. Ok, so I maintain "if" you are an experienced paddler this boat should not weathercock in winds up to 17 knots. Above 20, it does, but only slightly (and pretty easy to correct with a good paddle and a slight turn of the blade at the end of your stroke, or simply, a harder pull on one side as needed). I can say without a doubt that I've never experienced another rudderless and skegless boat that can do this.
The gel coat on my boat has held up well -- still looks almost new -- even after much use (course, I always rinse mine off, use 303 Protectant, marine wax it occasionally and store under cover).
The seat and cockpit, I still find comfortable. My aging back, from a lifetime of running, biking, kayaking, building, climbing and skiing -- NOT "improper paddle form" -- still requires a pad wedged in behind me -- but no big deal. It's actually pretty roomy but still allows key contact point for my knees to lean into edge turns. At 5' 9 and 1/2" and 210 lbs, I can even pull my knees up out of the cockpit to relieve that ol sciatic nerve. Actually, many boats have much tighter fitting cockpits. My paddling buddies and I recently did a 22 mile day trip down the Cape Fear River, and I only needed one rest stop to get out and stretch along the way.
BTW, as any experienced river kayaker will tell you, it's VERY difficult to have both: meaning if you want to roll your boat, you NEED a low seat back; but low seat backs are just not real comfortable for aging backs; especially for people who still like to spend all day in their boat on long camping trips.
Overall, I still find this boat very pleasing in all kinds of conditions. The 23" beam and 15'8" length is NOT MEANT to be the fastest boat on the water. But it has all kinds of initial and secondary stability, is quick enough and you can put a relative newcomer in it without worry. Plus, you can still do weekend camping trips in almost any kind of weather and not worry too much about stability (and getting home) if rough weather sets in -- as it will on the ocean -- sooner or later!
I would not hesitate to buy another and rate it among the very best kayaks I've ever owned (which has been a lot of boats I'm afraid); as I rarely hold onto them for more than two years -- just so I can try the next one!
All this negative being said, my kayak arrived packed well, is built quite well, has marvelous primary and secondary stability in virtually all conditions and the seat is fantastic. Those that complain about needing a better seat back or padding just need to do more paddling with proper form. The seat is great for hip rotation and there is plenty of back support unless you are improperly leaning back while paddling. This seat reminds me of my surf ski seating.
Another really cool thing the boat does is plow through really big waves with little protest and the odd obtrusive railing that runs around the junction of the deck and the hull really does work in keeping water off the deck. The boat carves ok but nothing tight like a Walrus Griffin does.
NC Kayak states that the boat is good for people up to 6'2" which is about right. I am 5'11" and really have to bend my knees to get in and out. Even though it is not a speedster it is kind of fun to use as a cold water boat or want to paddle the shallows where a rudder/skeg would get fouled.
Recently purchased the lite version of the NC Excursion kayak, by Novus Composite Kayaks, made in Tacoma, WA. The Excursion has one large aft hatch. (However, you can get the same boat with an additional hatch in the bow.)
Ordered this kayak over the phone (after finding it online) at a fantastic sale price. This on a beautiful 39 lb, 15' 9" fiberglass kayak. Communicating with Doug at NC Kayaks was easy and the shipment itself was impressive. They also have a nice website, which is very useful.
Boat arrived in Raleigh, NC in just 6 work days. It was custom boxed and padded, arriving perfectly, without a scratch. Thought the shipping charge ($275) was also reasonable, considering it traveled all the way across the country (and in the middle of the winter). Have paddled it just once but here are my initial impressions:
This boat is fairly fast -- especially for its' length. It also has excellent initial stability. Have yet to test it too much on edge, as the water here is still close to freezing. However, I think it will edge just fine. The two things that really make this boat standout are the weight -- (yes that's right, just 39 lbs!) and its' tracking ability. Keep in mind this boat has no rudder and no skeg. I paddled it in 15-17 knot winds and incredibly, this boat would not weathercock -- at all. In fact, I later told Doug that I could never remember paddling a boat that tracked like this one -- even in pretty significant winds.
Apparently there has been at least one paddler review concerned about the strength of the fiberglass layup -- in the 39 lb version. However, unless you are looking to do big time expeditions and do lots of pretty hard surfing, I would not be concerned with this boat at all. I find the layup just fine and plenty rigid. It is strong enough for probably 99% of the paddlers out there. The seat seemed placed a little more forward than any other kayak I've ever paddled. That, combined with a relatively short (slightly) square stern, should make it very good, if you ever plan to paddle through any surf.
The seat is well designed and I felt no numbness in my legs-- even after my initial 4 hour paddle. It was designed with a pretty low back, which should help if you are interested in rolling. However, for me I would have given this up for a slightly higher back design and more support. Not a big issue though, as I use a pad, wedged behind my back and the seat, for the additional support I desire.
Fit and finish of this boat is very good. Just a couple of very tiny rough spots on the interior, but nothing I couldn't sand out in a few minutes. Quality of gel goat seems exceptional. These are truly some of the more beautiful boats I've ever seen. Hatch design appears fine -- has the typical knobs that rotate (to open and close); then you lift it straight out. It does have a pretty large hatch area; so for those interested in camping, if you pack carefully, you should be able to do a couple of nights w/o too many issues. Another nice feature of this kayak is the paddling position. I found the cockpit just the right size for me -- not to difficult to get in and out of, but also pretty ideal contacts points (with my knees and hips)once inside the boat. In terms of where the seat puts you relative to the water line and your paddle -- which I think is a critical component of any kayak -- I thought it was ideal. I used a 23 oz, 215 cm, two piece adjustable, all carbon Epic paddle - and I felt no extra effort required in my strokes.
One seemingly odd aspect of this kayak is what NC Kayaks calls its "performance flange". Think of this as a kind of rub rail that goes around your boat. It is a kind of hard plastic, and they claim it will never come off. This flange seems to create more lip than any other kayak I've seen, but it did appear to reduce water splash onto the deck (one of the reasons for the design, I believe). Just looks a little funny, but on the other hand is fine -- once you are used to it. My paddling buddies seemed to like it right away though.
I can add more information later, as we will see how the boat holds up over time. Right now, however, I feel pretty confident in saying that I doubt there is a better all round paddling, light weight composite kayak, on the market, at this price.
I admit to having had reservations about the material (fiberglass) and the shape of the seat. I would urge anyone considering one of the NC line to spend some time on their website with the FAQ's. That handled a number of my concerns but I still had some reservations. So, after several attempts to reach them by e-mail, I ended up spending about an hour on the phone with Doug, who dealt patiently and thoroughly with all of my concerns. In spite of there being absolutely no pressure or sales pitch from Doug, by the time we were finished I felt completely comfortable placing the order. Doug assured me that the seat, which I thought looked hard and uncomfortable, had actually been carefully designed with input from an outside orthopedic professional and was quite comfortable. That turned out to be absolutely correct. I love the contour of it and the low back, which makes entry and exiting much easier than my previous boat. I have a gel pad for the seat but rarely use it on this boat.
I also like the performance flange, which, while a bit unsightly, does all of the things they say it does; plus it serves as a sort of fender to prevent scratches when along side a dock (and you do not want to scratch this boat!). The fit and finish of the boat are excellent, although I could have done with fewer company decals. There are no thigh pads, which I like for edge turns, but that was easily remedied with some foam pads and glue.