Rock-Hoppers

C&K Takes 7 Plastic Performance Kayaks South Of The Border

This review is featured in the June 2011 issue of Canoe & Kayak magazine, now on newsstands.

Photo: Jeff Moag

Look at seals. They know how to enjoy themselves. Swimming in the northern Baja surf, they could have cared less about tracking, hull speed or covering miles. They were perfectly content to play in the rocks and eat fish. So were we for that matter, as our trailer full of hard-driven kayaks (and one overworked roadside taco vendor) could attest.

Our team of C&K desk jockeys had been dodging deadlines for months, and was determined to squeeze as much fun (read: testing) as possible into this three-day Baja escape from the cube farm. After a weekend warmup at San Diego’s Southwest Kayak Symposium, we put the “Gone Boating” sign in the office window and bombed south with a crew of world-class BCU coaches in tow. The group was eager to cut loose after a long week of teaching basics, and we were more than happy to put them to work. Our plan: to test the entire adventure sea kayak continuum, from recreational touring and expedition-worthy to straight Greenland-style, pushing each to logical performance limits, and occasionally beyond. Why all plastic? Well, our last Baja run with this motley bunch sent three high-performance composite Brit boats to the repair bay (“British Invasion,” June ’10), and as one tester put it, “Plastic deals with hitting rocks better than ‘glass.” They also cost less than half as much as their composite counterparts. If you’re a weekend warrior who likes to play hard, a plastic ride can be a smart option.

Our packed seven-boat quiver was designed to take the inherent abuse of coastal paddling sessions: letting loose in the surf, threading narrow lines through barnacle-covered rock mazes and caves, searching for migrating gray whales in 6-foot following seas a mile offshore, and taking turns backing into La Bufadora—the world’s largest blowhole, capable of blasting water 100 feet into the sky.

Back home in San Clemente, Calif., with our bosses jabbering about more deadlines, we took the test fleet to the local rock gardens to put a few more miles under the hulls. Final verdict: There’s a plastic ride that’s right for every size and style of paddler. The seals in our home waters stopped playing long enough to glance curiously—or, as we like to think, approvingly—in our direction. — Dave Costello

http://www.canoekayak.com/gear/dagger-alchemy-140l http://www.canoekayak.com/gear/north-shore-aspect-rm http://www.canoekayak.com/gear/borealdesign-p2-baffin http://www.canoekayak.com/gear/prijon-motion http://www.canoekayak.com/gear/ph-delphin-155rm http://www.canoekayak.com/gear/delta-155-expedition http://www.canoekayak.com/gear/delsyk-nifty-430

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