Submitted: 04-26-2006 by cooldoctor1
The Prijon Barracuda is the ďperformanceĒ boat under the Prijon name, and itís a wild HTP plastic ride. With a 21 inch beam and just shy of 17 feet, it feels like a sleek boat from the first entry into itís padded cockpit with adjustable thigh braces (but no factory hip pads). Much more snug feel as compared to the Prijon Calabria, and with a shallow V-hull, also less stable. My first dump was a dry one on my garage floor. Clearly a potential bucking Shamu, and red color seemed fast and the slender profile had the most blade-like stern and bow of any plastic yak Iíd ever seen. This profile was confirmed as I took it out on the lake and was forced to wet exit on not only my inaugural paddle but also the two subsequent outings. Once was in flat water, and twice more in wavy inland lake in windy conditions. The cheeky devil seems to have a penchant for throwing itís rider, and this hapless victim was beginning to see that this was a very different paddle than my 25 inch beamed rec Prijons, Calabria and Capri. I made it my mission to tame this sharky boat. This included video instruction on bracing and edging, exits and rescues, plus loads of advice and encouragement from paddling.netters. A nice set of immersion clothing (wetsuit, etc) further enhanced my confidence in riding this biting fish.
With this knowledge, the Barracuda has become a manageable vessel, and I have been out about twelve times. I have taken the boat on motorboat wakes, confused shoreline rebound, and long-fetch wind chop (all inland) and found the boat to respond well and remain upright. It can be a twitchy bugger if I show it any tension in the hips. Like a dog sensing fear, it can still chomp. But itís general demeanor is one of obedience and speed. The long line and British bow follows a slender track and keeps fairly steady except on quartering stern seas, where it wants to cock. I am 165# and find that, likely, I am at the low end of the weight scale for this boat, which in my opinion, adds to its tender quality as its water line is thus low. A heavier paddler, or a laden boat (I will try this next), will almost certainly be more stable Ė a key fact not so much for inland flat-water but certainly key for seas and oceans. A second stabilizing feature would be the rudder, which I bought but have yet to install, which by all accounts from other Cuda owners, can be very helpful in confused chop. A very large paddler, say 220# plus, would likely fare better in the Prijon Kodiak, as the beam and cockpit are more generous. A paddler my size or smaller, paddling day tours and with unladen boat, might consider the Catalina (a boat I am anxious to demo). But for a fast sea kayak with a performance bent and for a paddler willing to put in the learning curve and the seat time, the Barracuda is ideal. I have yet to touch upon this sea kayak's most endearing attribute, and that is speed. Flat out "voom vroom".
With stability sacrificed, the upside is speed. Online comments, and even that to me from the owner of a famous kayak retailer, confirm that this is one of the fastest -- if not the fastest -- plastic kayaks on the market. I find it best with a high angle paddling style, where it finds a groove and keeps on going. The glide is remarkable, and the ability to edge at speed is commendable. The Barracuda is, as its name implies, a very sleek and fast watercraft, mentioned often in the top ten of kayak races, often beating its composite brethren. Some kayaking research on hull efficiency has, in fact, documented that the Prijon Barracuda is in the top of its class, beating many famous fiberglass boats. Once up to speed, the stability is fine, and this paddler has learned that keeping the throttle up and crashing through the chop with loose hips and an equally loose mind allows the boat to perform at its best. I have not tried re-entry self-rescues in it yet, nor rolling, but have learned from others that this can be difficult in choppy conditions as there is a tendency for overcorrection and re-dumping; I did not deduct a point for this trait, but would if I found it to be overly true. Note that the SJ 6/03 review (see below) found it to be a good roller, however.
There is a stellar review of this boat in the June 2003 issue of Sea Kayaker, and the three testers found the boat to be very fast and a strong performer. They did mention that the boat is more stable with 30-50 lbs weight (the tested boat did not have a rudder) in its hatches. I find this boat to be everything that it is meant to be: a fast, well-made performance plastic kayak for the advanced paddler. I have deducted two points, however. First, in that Prijon seems to market the boat (and all its boats) to a very wide range of paddler heights and weights, and I find this boat to be best for the 165# to 200# weight class (fairly narrow range). The second deduction is for the limited comfort of the seat, which can be a knock on all Prijon boats. The seats are with a low back, no flexible backband, and the metal seat stays pop out of their slots easily, even with adjusting oneself in the cockpit; this is somewhat remedied by bending the seat tabs with pliers so that they stay in place better (but still not ideally). The Barracuda would be very amenable to custom cockpit outfitting, however, as the seat is removable.
A fast plastic boat with tender tendencies that can provide the intermediate to advanced paddler with a lickety split ride on inland big water. Email if any questions.