Only in recent years has Australia started to see an influx of imported kayaks.
Most paddlers are content learning to roll as a mean to self rescue in an accidental capsize. My circle of friends of dedicated kayakers view rolling more than just a practical skill; they like rolling for the sake of rolling.
Once we learned the basic roll to right ourselves back up we started to explore the possibility of different rolls.
Most kayaks are bulky and offer maximum cargo space often sacrificing maneuverability.
For the last couple of years I have observed a growing trend towards a more graceful paddling style where control of the boat is performed by edging of the hull instead of just pressing on the rudder pedals.
The ultimate kayak for this type of paddling is a Greenland style kayak.
Typically recognized by a low profile with a low rear deck and hard chined hull.
Importer Craig McSween of Adventure Outlet now has 3 different kayaks in stock that follow this design philosophy, all from Tahe Marine.
Already familiar with the performance of the Tahe Greenland, I was interested in trying out the larger siblings: the Tahe Greenland T and the Sea Spirit.
Craig was generous to allow us to test paddle them one afternoon in the relatively sheltered water of the Gold Coast Broadwater.
Conditions were mild: wind gusts of max 15 knots with little or no waves with a max of 1 knot of current.
The Greenland T is regarded as true Greenland form while I think that the Sea Spirit is more an all round kayak of Greenland style.
The T is a bit larger than the classic Greenland, a bit beamier and a slightly higher deck: unfortunately still too small for my large thighs and big feet.
Vanilla fitted the T well and Adventuretess found it roomy enough for possible all day paddles with a bit of wiggle room.
(Vanilla’s personal kayak is an Impex Force5 and Tess’ preferred kayak is her Nordkapp LV).
The T and Sea Spirit have a keyhole cockpit making entry/exit a bit easier than the traditional “ocean style” cockpit on the Tahe Greenland.
We had no means for scientifically measure max speeds of these kayaks but I don’t think they are designed as sprinting vessels.
Having a shorter waterline they accelerated easily and to maintain a cruising speed of 6-7km/h required little effort. The kayaks will start to hit the “hull speed wall” sooner than a long kayak.
However, because of their reduced wetter surface they will be easier to paddle, at club paddling pace, than a longer kayak.
The finish and the attention to detail on Tahe kayaks are superb. The external seam is a narrow black Kevlar tape that has a clear textured finish. Extremely neat.
There were no visible print through areas in the gel coat. The inside of the cockpit is finished with flow coat to prevent any possible fiberglass rash where the body contacts the deck.
The hatch covers (Kajak Sport lids), while very easy to secure/remove, maintained a dry interior during our prolonged rolling session.
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I believe that Tahe kayaks are a very good value for money alternative to the well established brands offered locally.
They might not be the ultimate bombproof expedition hulls of some British kayaks but they weigh and cost substantially less.
A novice might find the T a bit on the “tippy” side while the wider hull Sea Spirit will instill more confidence, in a beginner.
The T was fitted with a skeg and the Sea Spirit had a rudder (skeg also available).
In beam winds the T weather cocked minimally (a bit of edging was necessary if no skeg deployed). The Sea Spirit displayed no tendency of turning into the wind. Tess didn’t use the rudder (a spring loaded over-stern design that retracts onto the deck when not deployed) while Vanilla used it.
I did not like the rather diminutive back band on the T: maybe it was not adjusted well but kept on sneaking too low on my butt. It would be a real challenge to find a back band that would be supportive enough but still out of the way when lying back over the low rear deck.
Greenland style kayaks have a hard chined hull that allow for fast maneuvering. Edging drastically changes the footprint of the submerged hull resulting in sharper handling than a round hull.
I see the Sea Spirit as a very good learning kayak that still rewards an intermediate paddler that is interested in advanced techniques.
As expected both kayaks were outstanding rollers, compared to a higher rear decked one.
Both Vanilla and Tess (not expert rollers) could perform moves that are challenging in their own kayaks.
I believe the Sea Spirit would also be an ideal kayak for the beginner aspiring to become a proficient paddler seeking control of the boat.
The seats in these kayaks are hung (bolted) from the deck and supported on the hull with a positive fastener that prevents them from swinging and potentially fail due to stress on the hanger (something that has happened on several kayaks of mine).
I found the Sea Spirit’s thigh braces too low and my legs would not fit comfortably under the deck. Unfortunately that is the case with the majority of performance kayaks: my legs are larger than average.
Adventuretess thought that the thigh braces were great. Vanilla would like to see them just a bit higher (or possibly modified by cutting away a small section of fiberglass).
Tahe offers solid foot pegs that are really easy to adjust, even while seated in the cockpit.
Swapping foot reach between Vanilla and Tess was a breeze: no need to undo any bolts or force a stubborn footpegs into the new position. On long paddles, if needed, one can simply reach below deck, twist a little shaft and reposition the pegs in a different location.
The Sea Spirit had only two hatches and lacked the typical day hatch behind the cockpit. Instead it had a nice low profile mesh bag in front of the cockpit.
I like Tahe’s philosophy on this one: to be able to offer a budget kayak (current retail of under $2600) they reduced the features instead of the quality.
So far I have only had the opportunity to trial just a few of the kayaks from the extensive range available at Adventure Outlet.
Maybe one day I might even try one of the ruddered kayaks :-)