($2,310 in fiberglass-carbon-Kevlar/$2,770 in carbon-Kevlar sandwich, foam core, kayakpro.com)
L: 14’9″; W: 23.5″; D: 12.6″; 35/44 lbs., in three sizes: S/M/L
Take a short, sluggish sea kayak—a standard beginner’s boat—hand it to a world-class sprinter, and viola! You get an efficient, fitness-oriented kayak. The force behind KayakPro’s Namu is Grayson Bourne, a soft-spoken, barrel-chested Brit who from 1980 to 1996 competed in five Olympics. Given that Bourne spent three decades slicing through the water in what amounted to a self-propelled 20-pound needle, it should come as no surprise that the Namu weighs only a little more than the complete works of Shakespeare—an invaluable feature for those who car-top or paddle alone, and, oh yeah, anyone keen to catch runs in a rolling sea. Second on the list of this boat’s charms is the user-friendly stability-to-speed ratio: Narrow up front, the Namu has cutouts on the deck to encourage better blade placement. In every other respect, it’s a tidy sea kayak: fore and back hatches, a wide, comfortable seat, fitted deck lines, a pull-up over-stern rudder and the smart track foot pegs that adjust in seconds. Though the rudder tracked well, even in a cranky beam sea, the lone criticism among the testers was the hard, plastic pedals made paddling barefoot uncomfortable, and their position required you to keep your legs splayed. But, bashing about in the raucous chop, one tester called the Namu “playful”—not bad for a short sea kayak named after a killer whale.