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Little Wing 15.5

by Warren Light Craft

Reviews

This is truly an instinctive boat. I mean, simply, that it translates…

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This is truly an instinctive boat. I mean, simply, that it translates desire into motion with almost no interference. The boat never gets in the way of your intentions, whether that means lifting it onto a kayak rack, tracking through confused waves, moving out at speed, or turning almost intuitively without a rudder. Perhaps these things make less difference for advanced paddlers. I'm an intermediate at best--I've had my Little Wing 15.5 since 2009, paddling on the Hudson River, Long Island Sound and the coast of Nova Scotia--and for me these things make a very big difference.

What I love about the Little Wing is how easily it translates muscular effort into motion. I love too the inherent safety of the boat--though safety is of course a matter of personal responsibility and skill. It just feels more buoyant than other kayaks I've paddled, even though it has a lean profile on the water. Nimble is the word that comes to mind. Many kayaks are beautiful--and there are some astonishingly ugly ones too. Should it make a difference to the paddler? I know it does to me. But it isn't just a matter of owning a lovely object. It's a matter of owning a lovely design, a highly streamlined, aquatic form. This explains, too, why I usually use a Greenland paddle while I'm out in my Little Wing. Beauty is efficiency too. I like the way the traditional and the contemporary merge when I'm paddling.

What speaks to me most is this: I leave my kayak on the beach in Nova Scotia, and my wife thinks nothing of putting on her PFD, grabbing a paddle, and lifting the boat into the water. She never really thinks about the weight or about the effort of paddling. She just goes. We thought this summer about buying a second kayak by a different manufacturer--something a little less expensive, something that might take a little more abuse. But in the end, we ordered her a Little Wing too. We thought about getting the 12 or the 14, but because the weight differences are so insignificant, we decided on another 15.5. Having paddled a Little Wing, we just couldn't justify getting any other kind.

Before I bought my Little Wing, I drove to the Warren Light Craft shop and went out for a paddle with Zac Warren and his dad. They talked me through the building of the boat and its design, and then they met me at a local beach with two different models to try out. It was a great way to begin life with this kayak.

My comments on the construction and hull shape of the Little Wing…

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My comments on the construction and hull shape of the Little Wing 15.5 are the same as in my review of the Little Wing 12.5: almost flawless both inside and out, and a fast, stable and 'forgiving hull.

I requested a more rugged "expedition" layup be used for my LW 15.5, since I had some minor denting in the hull of my LW 12.5 after several years of weekly use. The expedition layup consists of a carbon/fiberglass/carbon "sandwich" on the outside of a Corecell foam core with a single layer of carbon on the inside of the hull. My boat weighs 32 Lbs vs. 28 Lbs for the normal all carbon layup. It is still very light weight for a kayak of this size with a 14'8" waterline length.

I have paddled my LW 15.5 3-4 times per week for three months in various types of water including 2-4-ft waves and surf landings in Lake Superior. Like my LW 12.5, the 15.5 is fast for its overall length and stable in rough water, and it is almost 'intuitive' in its tracking and turning - it simply goes where you want it to go. The difference is my 15.5 does not dent when making moderately hard landings or encountering unexpected obstacles under the water. I installed Keel Easy keel strips on the bow and stern sections of my boat, the first and last 2-3 ft, which I would recommend for any composite kayak as it prevents abrasion in those areas.

The 15.5, as would be expected with its longer waterline length, is both faster, smoother-riding and has more glide in choppy water than the 12.5. For comparison, I normally cruise in the 12.5 at 3.8-4.0 mph, but in the 15.5 I can average 4.2-4.5 mph. The hull shape seems very efficient. In group paddles with intermediate-level paddlers on Lake Superior and other large lakes I have no trouble staying at the front of the group; I often have to wait for others in their 17-ft kayaks to catch up.

Overall, I am very pleased with the LW 15.5. Now that I have a Little Wing with the more rugged layup, I cannot think of anything that I would change.