Thursday, September 1, 2011

Kevlar Valley Avocet Review

What an absolutely fabulous play-boat for day paddles! Not too shabby on a multi-day trip either--both in terms of load carrying capacity and cruising speed.  I am 6', about 180lbs, 32" waist, 33" inseam and have gone on a 4-night camping trip in this boat comfortably.  For longer trips, a Nordkapp HS and the Avocet complements Nordy extremely well.

When I first paddled the Avocet I was surprised at the small speed difference between it and Nordkap HS. There is a distinct difference though and I could feel how effortless the glide in the Nordkapp was at a pace where Avocet hit the wall.  It's just not as noticeable as I expected it to be given the 2' difference in boat length.

I was very pleased with the stability profile of the Avocet which I found to be more similar to my Nordkapp than to a boat in Avocet's class--NDK Romany.  The Romany has a distinctly stronger primary which beginners would relish. I found that Romany fought my attempts to put the boat on edge. When it comes to secondary, the Avocet is way more stable on the edge than the Nordkapp HS but comparable to Nordkapp H2O. However amply rockered the Nordkapp may be, 2' difference in boat length makes a huge impact in maneuverability and in tracking as well.  The Avocet quite literally turns on a dime!  Bow rudder turns with the blade at your knees is a thing of magic.  Neither of these two boats can be paddled comfortably without a skeg in wind and waves--not unless you desire an extreme practice in edging and sweeping on one side, that is.

I absolutely loved the boat in surf! In the Nordkapp, I slide off the face of the wave broach and the straight part of the ride is over. In the Avocet I can steer and keep the boat going straight! Makes for much longer and controlled rides. At 16' it's not a surfing boat by any stretch of imagination but at least I have a shot at some control in it.  And did I say it is much more fun in the surf? :)  I had a chance to paddle the Avocet next to Romany in 10' breaking surf.  This is not a conclusive evaluation but Romany felt even easier to maneuver and spin on the wave crest.  It may have been that the conditions were somewhat different.  On the other hand, Romany does have a flatter and more square hull under the cockpit so it may be that it planes noticeably better than the Avocet and rises higher out of the water during runs enabling the skipper to do more.

The cockpit of the Avocet fits me very well. I miss the tight fit of the ocean cockpit of the Nordkapp but not the getting in and out of it part :) Thigh braces are not as fool-proof method for being one with your boat but I have not gotten to installing any extra padding--have not found the need for it really.  In the Nordkapp I did that promptly after a 4-5' breaking wave sucked me right out of the OCEAN cockpit! I added about an inch on the sides in the upper thigh area for better contact with the boat. In the case of the Avocet, I am at the very top of the fit bell curve and the fit is tight enough (surprisingly, adding some 70lbs of load on top of my own weight, did not seem to overwhelm the boat's carrying capacity).  Can't complain about the back band--it's small and could be much improved but for my paddling style it more than meets the need.  I have a fancy white-water Immersion Research back-band sitting in my garage but have not felt the need to replace the simple back support of the Avocet yet.  My back feels quite happy.

The boat is extremely easy to roll compared to Nordkapp HS.  Given that the Nordy is quite easy to roll in it's own right, this is quite a compliment.  The boat is light, lifts itself out of the water due to the upswept bow and stern, the cockpit is low in the back and wide on the sides so that it does not interfere with the hip snap.

The boat is Pro Kevlar but weighs about as much as my light layup fiberglass Nordkapp. I don't quite understand how this is possible given that it is smaller boat.  A clue may be in the 1/2-inch thick layer of gel coat on the foredecks. I can see the thickness where the foot pump outlet exits on the top deck. It's thick! Could probably take a full tsunami!  It's also cracked because the front deck oil-cans under my weight.  The foot pump adds a couple pounds to the total weight of the boat too.

In summary, a perfect day boat and play boat sea kayak. Distinctly slower but much more maneuverable than Nordkapp HS. Fast enough for casual paddling. Big enough for a week of camping out of the boat.  No shortcomings that I can find.  I give it a 9/10 because no kayak should get a 10. They are all compromises of one kind or another.

Let me know if you have specific questions.


  1. Nice review. I paddled an Avocet for a couple of years guiding day trips. I always felt that at 200 lbs, I was just a touch large for it, but it was a fun boat. For my own boat, I went for a Romany specifically because I liked the primary stability of the Romany over the Avocet. It feels more comfortable to me when shooting pictures. The other boat that feels similar to these two to me is the Zephyr 15.5. I'd have a tough choice today if I had to buy one of these three. They're all really fun.

  2. Thanks for your note. I did not like the feel of the Romany on flat water. Since I grew up on an old-style Nordkapp, the primary stability of the Avocet is rock solid by comparison. Romany felt restrictive but she's quite a surfer!