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Submitted: 05-29-2013 by WaveriderXP18

Point 65 degrees North, of Sweden, deserves and hereby gets an apology from me. Not only that, they get my applause.

The Canadian rep of this company has been responsive and instructive; advising me not to when I asked about modifying the XP18 I bought. Instead, he suggested modifying my technique. I tried it and it's fine. Under his advice I have also altered my paddling technique, which, I must add, has been formed for about 45 years. This includes using a very light touch on the pedals, whereas I used to push deeply against all body/boat contact points. I'm sure this lets more oxygen go to the driving muscles. Point 65 advised setting the pedals near-vertical, and that has indeed helped rudder mechanics.

I submitted an objection to their service regarding some foot pedals. I submitted that on the very day replacement parts arrived at my home. I was not home, but visiting elsewhere, for a week. They replaced the parts for which I had waited a long time. I believe the omission from a previous warranty issue was a true, and simple, oversight. They have rectified that to my satisfaction. They have stood behind the product in support of the customer. Best of my experience.

Furthermore, I sought long and hard to find replacement rudder line comparable to the factory issue. My reasoning was that there is too much friction between the line and the tubes into which they are inserted. It would "groan" and bind. After much searching I found a slightly smaller diameter product. The line feels like Teflon, and there is much less drag. The rudder problems I and so many others have experienced seem to have disappeared. I have been out three times today for about an hour each. The first time out, I simply used the old pedals. That way I knew whether the slippery line made a difference. The next two trips were with the replacement pedals which had arrived while I was away. I had to make some adjustments to line-lengths to arrange the pedals vertically, and make the slick cord stay in place by knotting.

The rudder now swings to the extremes and does not lock up, and is able to return to neutral (centre) on its own, without groaning. This is almost like getting a new kayak, it is so different. The design of the XP18 is such that it tracks very well and almost pivots like a slalom boat, when compared with most sea kayaks. The foil-shaped rudder augments this feature wonderfully. Comparatively, it snaps around quite nicely to toe command.

To speak to the issues cited by critics of the performance of the Point 65 North XP18 performance, I present my perspective/ experience:

There are large panels of flat Fibreglas on the XP18. Rather than a fault, this is a common construction method. Such large areas may flex. Many superb paddlecraft are built this way. And flex is not a negative thing. If your body was stiff as glass, you would shatter as it does. Boats that flex deflect damage as martial arts forms do. Flexible, thin panels allow the boat to be lighter too. A thicker hull is simply heavier for its size.

Colour on a glass boat is not "paint". It is "gel coat", a hard resin bonded to the structure that is the boat. Boats can be made without it, but they could be blotchy and bland-looking and thereby less attractive. You can't apply skin beautification to it. Gel coat is thin. Just enough to give a beautiful appearance without adding extra weight. In itself, it adds no strength to the structure that is your kayak.

Dragging a kayak on a beach is going to scratch the gel coat. It scratches hard-painted canvas canoes and motor boats. Larger gravel and rocks will often do a deep gouge. It is accepted as "wear and tear". A plastic kayak is a different creature, with its colour throughout its structure. That makes it more disguising of scratch and gouge damage. It's harder to see.

My XP18 had a sparkling, flawless red finish. The black colour in front of the cockpit serves a purpose as well. Intentional or not, it reduces sun glare. In fact, a fine, fine sandpaper might be a good touch in just the top portion. Alternatively place gear there. The gear will not likely reflect glare.

The cockpit rim of the XP18 has almost a concavity to it. If you were to cut it through, you would find that in profile, the rim is like a trough, or a "U" inverted. In my previous many kayaks, the rims were classically "flat" or straight across. This allowed water from a beam wave to hit the "chimney" (where the rim attaches to the deck), arc upward, and slip between the rim and the spray skirt. The result was often a load of cold water coming into the cockpit and onto my clothing, shortening my paddle time by cooling me. The rim of the XP18 does an unbelievable job of eliminating this flaw. I use a high quality skirt with a shock cord trim. It tucks under and up, for a very snug fit. I just don't get wet this way. One critic of the XP18 rim said to put a piece of hose on the rim to make it easier to remove. I tried that, and it was hard to keep in place, and would come off often. I inquired to Point 65 and their advice was to simply push/pull toward the bow and then up. Works as good as the old pull-toward you method, but I now have a super-fitting skirt/cockpit with no water intrusion.

Some have complained that the XP18 hasn't a "back band" and no seat paddling. My best boats had no padding. When I bought a bunch for my adventure business, I found the padding attracted animals who like the smell of human contact. They chew it. The padded seat covers rip, exposing the internal foam which looks bright against the black finish. The padding holds water, keeping you cold in the fall and spring. Padding raises your centre of gravity. That's an important thing, once you get into intense paddling. Padded seats reduce or stop any rotation. There's friction. A bare seat does away with these issues. There's less maintenance issues. I even wax the Fibreglas seat.

Some models of the XP18 were supplied with back bands (back rest) and some were not. The back band is to provide comfort when you relax. It really isn't there for support during paddling. The back, from the hips up, should be allowed to pivot, bend forward or backward. This facilitates reach for strokes and rolling the boat upright. A tall backrest impedes all of this. The back band, likewise, should not be placed high. The stroke is better performed with a low back band or none. Like every other aspect of your kayak, try it all ways and settle on the better.

XP18s were supplied with either or both of the skeg and rudder. Some ask why both. Well, I don't know the designers intention, but my reasoning is that if one fails, as things do, you still have the other. Like a second boat motor or a spare paddle (you DO carry a spare, don't you). Each of these is useful to minimize the amount of energy expended to keep the boat on a "track", "tack" or course. In practice, I have used each. In fact, I have used both at the same time during a long crossing with a beam sea. Using both seemed to reduce downwind drift significantly. I still retained directional control by using the feet rather than the ever-busy arms. It's better to use either of these than to use corrective strokes. Olympic boats have skegs, ocean racers have skegs. It saves energy. It's good to be able to control the boat with paddle strokes if the steering system fails. So by all means learn to paddle well, but the XP18 has backup built in. Use the skeg or rudder. You'll be more efficient in the long run.

Deploying the skeg is easy, and parking it is just as easy. My XP18 has a slider on the left, while some XP18s have a rotary device on the right, which bumps the skeg up or down by small increments or by complete rotation.

The rudder deploys with utter ease. Squeeze the button on the "lock", slide it back, and the rudder is deployed. Squeeze again and the rudder parks. Unlike my previous experience with rudder parking, however, the rudder of the XP18 actually gets easier as it comes up. It doesn’t hit a "heavy spot" like so many do. This is a lightweight rudder of some form of plastic, with a shape, viewed from the side, that is like an airplane wing. It is rounded, rather than just flat with a chamfered edge. The leading edge is the thicker end. This affects the turn dramatically better than the old-style flat plate type of rudder.

The XP18 has hard chines; almost box-like edges where the deck and hull meet. There is a small, angled flat surface along this length, and it strengthens the boat visually and structurally. Where the hull and sides meet, the interface is simplified with an almost square profile. I can "hold an edge" quite well in the XP18 due to its excellent secondary stability.

The boat is heavily rockered, with a predominantly flat, planning-hull-like surface. These are what give the XP18 amazing stability for a 21" beam. It has a near-vertical cutwater that means for its 18' length, most of the hull is in the water. This gives a low drag coefficient. It's a fast sea kayak. It loves to surf. The bigger, the better.

Many comments have been made about the XP 18 wanting to turn upwind, or being difficult to run downwind for the same reason. However, set an XP18 on a windswept body of water. Lay off the paddles and let the wind move the boat. Each time I've done this, the boat simply "lays to" or sits sideways to the wind. It doesn’t turn away from or toward the wind. That means it's not fighting your strokes as much as other kayaks might. That too saves you energy. I've found that using the skeg can be useful on either upwind or downwind travel, because the XP18 isn't as strongly affected by winds as some other kayaks.

The deck of the XP18 has a wonderful angle to it near the cockpit. With a beam of 21", this allows easy access for the paddle to the water without "ticking" the deck. I don't have to listen to the noise of such contact, either. I use a high angle stroke, borne of my whitewater tradition. My paddle is short, less than 200 cm by a good bit. That gives me, with a wide blade, an easy stroke with a high cadence. It's low gear rated. The bigger blade helps my roll, but this boat rolls easily without a paddle.

I know that all boat designs have shortfall. Once we get a boat, it's like any other relationship, in that we are familiar enough with it that we can find and pronounce its faults. Each individual boat has some hand-done work, and this may vary the quality of each component or its manner of setting to the boat. But all in all, the XP18 has been the best boat of my nearly fifty years of kayak paddling. It's 18' long, so it has material heft. At 55 pounds (remember, each boat may vary), it's not a bad weight at all. I've had many boats of 13' or so that weigh 45 pounds. It's weight is pretty good, really. I love this kayak, and Point 65 has provided support. Can't say enough good about it.

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