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Ocean Kayak Demo Day 2008- Field Reviews By Tom Holtey

Featuring Reviews for: Prowler 13, Big Yak, Yak Board, Prowler Big Game, Frenzy, Venus 11

Tom Prowler Big GameContoocook Demo DayWe recently attended a demo day sponsored by Contoocook Canoe & Kayak in Concord NH. The weather was "spring like" with rain, heavy at times, temps were moderate, water temp about 50 degrees or less. Our body of water was a flat-water section of the Contoocook River with a slow moving current and good water quality. We were able to test paddle a few Ocean Kayak brand boats, some that either Athena or I had not previously had a chance to try:

Important to note: Although the trail times were short distance, I tested each kayak for glide, tracking, stability, maneuverability and ease of re-entry. Deep-water re-entry findings are based on well-practiced recovery skills. Your results may differ depending on your experience level.

You will also find comments on open water and surf. They are based on saltwater experience with the kayak in question, or are conjecture based on similar kayak use.

Prowler Big Game, by Ocean Kayak

From our Kayak Search Tool

I have to say that the Prowler Big Game cruises pretty well for a dedicated angler kayak. Fisher-folk like a large, extra stable kayak. While you can certainly fish from any kayak, large or small, tippy or not, I can see why anglers would like such a beamy kayak boat.

The speed of the Prowler Big Game was reasonable for wide kayak and tracked very well. I would have to say that unless you are paddling open water a rudder might not be necessary.

Tom Prowler Big GameThe primary stability was extraordinary; in fact I was able to stand on it. (Personally I think standing in a kayak is over rated and unnecessary, but I can see the usefulness of quickly scouting some fishing grounds, while on flat water.)

The maneuverability was what one could expect from what some might call a "fishing barge". That is not to say there is a problem with the agility of the Prowler Big Game, but it is certainly not a nimble play boat or sea touring kayak.

ConsoleDeep-water re-entry was not as easy when pulling my belly up and over the gunwale near the seat area, due to the side handle and bungee button sticking up that snagged on my PFD. I tried a second time closer to the foot wells and found that solved the problem. I recommend that Prowler Big Game users bear this is mind when practicing re-entry and putting it to use. (It is so stable that I cannot imagine much capsizing, unless you stand of course.)

The many stowage options of the Prowler Big Game will be handy to any fisherman. A large bow hatch is useful for storing the things you need to bring along but do not need "on-water" access to. The central console is fairly easy to access and offers a handy place for tackle and other small things needed "at hand". While my Prowler Big Game was not outfitted with the large center hatch I can imagine that it will be essential for large items that a paddle-fisher would need access to, but I wonder how easy lifting the lid will be when your legs over it. The alongside paddle/rod holders are nice and there is a large cargo well of course.

This model can come as a package (May 2007) and while my test kayak was not outfitted as such I did get a chance to try the Comfort Deluxe backrest with rod holders and found it to be good. The package deal is "bristling" with fish gadgets including a pair of rod holders positioned forward of the cockpit. While this is my preferred placement for a rod holder it seemed like a long reach from the seat.

The foot peg tracks are easy to adjust from a seated position.

Prowler 13, by Ocean Kayak

From our Kayak Search Tool

Prowler 13 re-entryThe thirteen-foot version of the Prowler lives up to its predecessor, the Prowler 15, as an all-purpose touring kayak. The Prowler 13 has a good gliding hull that allows for decent speed, is fast for a 13 footer and tacks well. Maneuverability was as expected, reasonable for a shorter touring kayak. A rudder may be of use for this kayak when on open water, but not needed for casual recreation.

The Prowler 13 (and the 15 too) offers a dry ride, unlike the Scupper Pro's wetter cockpit. Comfort was good and the step pattern foot wells seemed agreeable to my ankles on the 13-foot version of the Prowler. While I am not tall at all, the cockpit may be suitable to longer legged paddles as well.

Primary stability was not issue, providing a confident feeling while still allowing for some feeling of performance. The deep-water re-entry onto the Prowler 13 was excellent, and the recessed bungee button did not pose the problem that the Prowler Big Game presented.

The storage and cargo capacity the Prowler 13 makes for a good kayak camping boat (under ten miles per leg, not for very long distances). It can also be a fine fishing kayak and not a "barge". Over all it is a nice kayak for that size range.

Big Yak, by Ocean Kayak

From our Kayak Search Tool

As the name suggests this is the larger version of the Yak Board. While the weight capacity is only 60 lbs more than the smaller version it is a better-suited boat for a larger paddler who is looking for a smaller rec kayak.

Big YakThe Big Yak is very stable and the comfort is much better than the original Yak Board due to the higher seat and lower foot wells. The higher center of gravity is quite noticeable but does not cause any felling of tippyness.

No, this kayak is neither fast nor tracks well. Bear in mind it is not built for speed or cruising, but more as a beach toy. As a recreational kayak for fun on the water and casual kayaking this kayak has great potential for providing a lot of enjoyment for not much kayak.

The Big Yak is super maneuverable, making this kayak an excellent choice for tight spaces in estuaries and wetlands. This maneuverability would also lead one to believe that the Big Yak has potential on easy rapids and in the surf zone.

I did not get a chance to surf this kayak on an ocean wave, but I have surfed the Yak Board quite a bit and the hull shapes are nearly the same. While the Yak Board is not the best surfboat that Ocean kayak has offered it is very fun for catching steep faced waves in an easy and forgiving surf zone environment. (Anything more challenging than that and a more series surf kayak is in order.)

A single center hatch and rear cargo well are the Big Yak's stowage features, certainly suitable for a part day trip, keys and wallet, water bottle and lunch. The Big Yak is usable as a "fishing platform" but I would have to say that a larger faster kayak is best for a serious fisher-person.

Yak Board, by Ocean Kayak

From our Kayak Search Tool

The Yak Board is Ocean Kayak's smallest boat. While this kayak can be considered a toy it can also be a decent entry-level wave rider capable of surfing some steeper small waves.

If looking for a kayak for children this kayak is not the best, however for teen-age kids it would be very good. For kids less than 150 lbs go with the Ocean Kayak Kea.

The Yak board is super stable, tracks poorly and is quite slow. This kayak is suitable for use a recreational kayak, light duty fishing, wild life viewing and photography, a swimming/snorkel platform and as a beach toy of course.

The foot wells are high in comparison to the seat, so a seat like the Drifter Backrest would be recommended for any long-term paddling.

Knee straps are not really needed for flat-water use, but on the waves they will add greatly to performance.

A deep-water re-entry is easy to perform with the Yak Board.

Frenzy, by Ocean Kayak

From our Kayak Search Tool

The Frenzy has received a "make over" for 2007. Not much has changed but what has is a welcome improvement. What's new? A wider drier seat and a larger rear cargo well.

The Frenzy is supper stable, tracks very well for a short kayak, but is still quite slow. Like the Yak Board this kayak can be a decent entry-level surf kayak, and suitable for a variety of recreational pursuits. Also, like the Yak, the Frenzy is toy-like, but not the best for small children. (I must say that both the Yak Board and Frenzy, even the Big Yak too, would be suitable as an "all ages" family kayak if only one boat was to be shared by all.)

The rear cargo well of the Frenzy is handy for transporting things, coolers mostly, but despite Ocean Kayak's calling this space a "Tank well" I really do not find this kayak suitable for scuba, even the older version. It is however a good snorkel platform.

Deep-water reentry of a Frenzy is not bad, but the higher wider sides may pose a problem to those who have difficulty with self-recovery from a capsize.

Venus 11, by Ocean Kayak

From our Kayak Search Tool

Athena's Comments:

Venus HatchI found the Venus enjoyable to paddle. The center of gravity, or the seat height, was more than I am used to, but the kayak was so responsive and swift for its 11 feet that this soon did not matter.

The tank well and front hatches were great, again for it's length, that I would feel confident loading it for an overnighter on slow river, lakes and ponds, requiring light gear. I feel confident also that keeping up with similar length kayaks, based on my experience attempting such, would be a breeze. I stress lakes and slow rivers because I personally do not feel confident touring on the ocean in a kayak shorter than 14 feet; but if a protected bay is your playground this would be a great kayak to have.

Tom's Comments:

I tried the Venus 11, yes, a pink kayak, and found it to be a nice little boat. It is kind of a fast kayak for its length, gliding along nicely for the effort spent. I found it also to be maneuverable, easy to turn, and reasonable for tracking.

Some people may find this kayak to be a bit tippy on a lean, even a tad startling, but the Venus 11 feels stable when paddled at an even keel. Good primary stability, less secondary. I would suggest that Venus 11 paddlers use knee straps, practice bracing and deep-water re-entry. Bear in mind that a kayak that may feel tippy at first will soon become comfortable with use and allow the paddler to obtain better performance and glide in the long run.

One percent of gross sales from Venus 11 kayaks are donated to the Breast Cancer Fund.

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