After having taken sea kayak classes and rented kayaks for a few summers, I decided it was time to buy a kayak for my very own. What I was looking for was a British design touring kayak. I also had a budget in mind so roto-molded boats were in, fiberglass versions were out.
I settled on shopping at Riverside Kayak Connection in Wyandotte, Michigan based on both their reputation as well as their selection. Riverside carries predominantly sea kayaks while most of the other kayak dealers in my area cater mostly to either whitewater or recreational boats.
I decided upon the Valley Nordkapp RM sea kayak after test paddling several boats. Tested were Valley’s Avocet as well as the Aquanaut RM, Current Designs’ Sirocco. The Avocet was too small for my 6 foot, 200lb size while all the others seemed to fit fine.
The Valley Nordkapp sea kayak is a legendary design with a storied history. It has an almost cult like following. And for good reason too. It is indeed a very sea worthy boat although it is a bit of an acquired taste. It is low on initial stability like many other British soft chined boats. This trait tends to make beginner paddlers a bit nervous as it feels tippy. The Nordkapp is known for having a high degree of secondary stability which really shines in rough conditions.
Long Term Impression
I have now paddled the Nordkapp RM for seven seasons. During this time it has taken me on trips to four of the Great Lakes and dozens of small inland lakes.
On flat water, the boat is indeed tippy “feeling” but it is actually quite stable. As one builds expertise and skills, the boat’s primary stability or “tippyness” fades away. On rough water and larger waves, the secondary stability really shines. The worst conditions that I have paddled were on Lake Michigan in 4-6 foot waves with 20-25 mph winds. Much more commonly, I have paddled seas in the 1-3 foot range.
Edging the boat is an easy roll of the hips. Being soft chined however, the point of distinction between primary and secondary stability is vague (at least to me).
My only complaint with the boat fit has been my feet. The soft chines cut into foot room if your feet are size 11 (American) or larger. My heels are jammed together and I have to be very conscious choosing footgear. I have resorted to wearing NRS Freestyle water shoes in order to gain as much room as possible without going barefoot or using neoprene socks.
I also have switched out the stock seat for a Valley foam seat to reduce the seat height for added stability. I had no complaints with the stock seat and back band.
All boats leak. All of them. Over the last seven seasons, I have re-caulked the bulkheads twice. In both case the amount of leakage from the cockpit into the hatches has been minimal.
The roto-molded hull has been durable despite a few minor gouges from a few rocky beach landings in the Pictured Rocks of Lake Superior. In fact, this is one of the most appealing features of the Nordkapp RM is the roto-molded construction. This makes the kayak perfect for rock gardens and rough beach landings where a fiberglass or composite boat would take a beating. Overall, it is a great choice if you need the extra durability or prefer the lower maintenance compared to fiberglass or composite.
The skeg is cable operated and has required only a squirt of silicone lubricant every few years.
The Nordkapp is a better boat than I am a paddler. It is a boat that you will never grow out of and will challenge you to improve your skills. Highly recommended!
What do you think? Share your comments on our review of the Valley Nordkapp RM!