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Submitted: 10-07-2013 by Kocho
Just got my hands on a used Necky Spike kayak and took it out for a spin on my local white water run. This is supposed to be for my daughter and wife who are inexperienced and a sit on top would be safer for them in case of a capsize. I am a bit over the weight limit at 185-190lb or so before gear, so probably 200lb wet with a paddle in hand. The kayak still paddles fine with my weight, the only issue seems to be that there is an inch or two of water in the foot wells. But, these foot wells are very small in volume, so that means probably a quart or so of water - nothing to notice in a SOT. There is barely any water in the rear luggage compartment due to my weight, but I imagine if one puts something heavy there and the paddler is much more than 160Lb, there will be water in there too. I would not discourage a 200-pounder from trying it, but I think the drainage is designed to work best with someone under 160-170lb and pretty much no load. On flat water one can plug the holes for a completely dry ride, but drips from the paddle will get you wet anyway, so I think best to leave them open. Especially if you paddle in bumpy water.
The kayak edges nicely and turns very well. It turns especially well from the bow, with a bow rudder or draw stroke. There is a built-in skeg line in the rear which stiffens-up the rear and requires quite strong edge to release above water for turning "on a dime" (might be easier for a lighter paddler). But the kayak is short and with plenty of rocker, that it is overall very maneuverable even without special edging or skills.
Where I took it today for its first paddle is an easy class II water - the Chutes off Difficult Run rapids on the Potomac below Great Falls. And the Spike seems almost made for this - turns and maneuvers easy, stable, not too deep of a draft even with a heavier than ideal paddler in it, nice rocker in the front so it does not nose dive in waves, surfs little waves great. The bow is a nice rounded shape - not sharp - and is high up, so it feels loose on the water and the front of waves when surfing and currents when peeling out from eddies or cross-ferrying do not grab it. They would grab the rear more, but that helps with maintaining direction when cross-ferrying or surfing.
There are two hatch openings that lead to the inside of the kayak - there are no bulkheads, so the entire inside is one big open space. There is a minicell pillar in the center between the deck and hull inside, which stiffens the bottom nicely.
I don't like the screw on type covers, as they are hard to screw and unscrew, especially when there is a bit of sand in the threads. The front is a neoprene cover under hard shell. I am not sure yet which of the two covers leaks, but there was perhaps a couple of gallons of water inside the hull at the end of my one hour not the water. The rim on the front hatch is a two-piece design (screwed to the deck) so I would not be surprised if some water gets in through there. I could not see any visible leak points, the scupper holes are water tight, so it is probably coming through the hatches. Granted, I had both of them completely under gushing whitewater more than once today, but I still think more than a cup or two of water is too much to enter the hull. Will have to track the source and deal with it.
The seat is comfortable. There are enough tie down points to rig bungees and thigh straps (will definitely get some as I intend to surf it when the water level comes up a bit on the river). The kayak is very controllable without thigh straps - I had no problems surfing small waves, eddy-hopping, attaining upriver, going down through 2-foot waves, etc. but if you get side surfed in a hole and the like - need thigh straps to avoid flipping.
The only complaint I have is that the foot wells are a couple of inches too short for me. But I am very tall, 6'4" with 37" inseam (measured by road bike method). For white water, even for me the length is OK, but for a more relaxed paddling I would prefer one more notch of length. So for anyone shorter than 6' there should be no problem. Wide soled sandals will not fit in the foot wells, but whitewater paddling shoes will. This might seem like a drawback, but it is in fact a feature - the foot wells hold surprisingly little water when the kayak gets swamped by waves, so the water drains fast and the kayak does not get too heavy and much harder to handle when temporary swamped.
Lastly, this is not a fast kayak, being only 12.5' long, but for its length it is speedy and easy to paddle at a decent pace. For me 28" (or whoever wide this is) is WIDE, but for such a short kayak with lots of flare on the sides, I suppose it is a necessity to be able to handle weight and still have relatively slim lines below the waterline for efficient paddling.
I suppose, new paddlers will need a moment to figure out that the kayak gets more stable as they tilt it. Unlike say some Cobra kayaks that are as stable as it gets when they are flat, but become unsettled in bumpy waters and their edges catch currents easy.
So, this is a "paddler's" kayak, a joy to paddle, relatively lightweight, and very maneuverable while still tracking well enough to not require undue attention. One could fish from it fine, but not with a huge rig - there are no rod holders installed and limited space for gear is available. One can mount accessory rails as a way around this. But why would you fish from it if you can just paddle it for the simple joy of being in a responsive and lively kayak?
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