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Sitting still in the water, the Strike seemed tippy at first, 20 years of sitting in a tandem boat will do that to you. Over 10 minutes of paddling however, the stability improves exponentially. The Strike's short length, low volume, and flat bottom translates into poor tracking and extra effort in paddling. If you are looking to fish, trek, or cruise (all noble pursuits) the Strike is not the boat for you.
Cobra designed the strike to do one thing and that is wave riding. Straight, angled, or faded takeoffs are a breeze. Yes it pearls easier than most SOTs, but nothing that can't be taken care of with lean and take off angle. It planes really well and is fast enough to outrun the breaking lip of the wave. Turning is largely intuitive merely by focusing on the water 20 feet ahead of you, just looking ahead is 80% of what you need to do. Everything else is a lean here or an extra stroke there.
The flush decks and well draining cockpit makes it so you don't get bogged down with a bathtub of water just when things are starting to get good. Any instability to the boat disappears with speed (like with a bicycle). The hull has deeply channeled rails that hold when you need to maintain a high line, and break free easily for hard cutbacks. Paddling out and punching through oncoming waves is easier than I expected from such a small boat.
My boat is outfitted with a 5" fin, paddle leash, and foot straps (actually a bungee strung tight). You can get thigh straps and a back rest, I view these as superfluous hindrances. The eyelets on the Strike are plastic and break easily.
I have ridden the Strike in 2-8 foot (faces) surf and have yet to find its limitations. If you are a surfer looking to expand your number of rippable days, the Strike is for you. If you are a novice kayaker seeking new ways to enjoy the ocean, this is your boat. If you are an expert kayak surfer, this is a great boat for your quiver. Yes, there are more high performance boats out there but they cost 3-5x more. When my polyethylene Strike bounces off the rocks I just paddle back out to the peak. Fiberglass/epoxy don't do well with the rocky reef and point breaks around here.
My 8/10 rating is based on performance alone. If you factor in cost of ownership and durability my rating of 8 becomes a 10.
Rolling- I'm getting close to 60, and as much as I hate to admit it Iím not as flexible or as strong as I used to be. While I can roll a whitewater kayak with excellent consistency, some of the bigger boats aren't following my orders they way they used to.
I took the Strike to one of our local pool rolling sessions to try it out. To be blunt, I couldn't roll it. The chine is just too much of a hurdle for me to get round. I gave the boat to a couple of extremely athletic 20-somethings to see what they could do with it, and the results were mixed. George, who is skinny and about six-four, could not roll it. However, his buddy, Rush, who is about five-nine and 155 lbs, was able to roll it. I'm about five-eleven and 185.
The bottom line-- some excellent paddlers might be able to roll this boat, but it's not easy. Smaller paddlers might have an easier time of it, but I don't really have a big enough data set to support that conclusion.
Attachments-- The buckles on the manufacturer-supplied thigh straps dig into my shins. The brass clips on the back brace and thigh straps clog up easily with sand and grit. Spray them with WD-40 before and after paddling. I don't recommend heavier lube, as that tends to attract more grit. The WD-40 has more of a tendency to penetrate into the nooks and crannies and flush stuff out.
I agree with the person who said that the fittings seem to leak a lot.
I got the storage hatch in the rear of the boat, just in case I had to loan out all my other boats for a flatwater paddle. It has a nifty lock/closure system, but it needs to be sprayed with silicon lube on a regular basis, or the stress on the handle during opening might be too much for it to handle.
The skegs do great things for the boat, but in a lot of conditions I prefer to leave them off, especially if the waves are small and I have to shimmy through shallow water to get out into the waves.
Note that this boat LOVES to come back into shore. Of there's even the tiniest bit of bite in the little dregs of a wave rolling in towards shore, this boat will ride it. Yes, there are better performing surf kayaks out there for tricks (all of them glass/epoxy), but the Strike can surf the grodiest little wavelet you can catch.
I took this boat out to the Feeder Canal, which is where the US Olympic Team used to have its training facility. It's class II-III at the top and class I at the bottom (it was built to feed water into the lower reaches of the C&O Canal, which is where it got its name). It got a lot of attention from the other paddlers there, who had never seen one before.
The first thing I noticed about the Strike is that it handled almost identically to a whitewater kayak in class I water. I just got in and paddled, same response to currents and eddies. However, one thing whitewater paddlers need to know is that this is NOT a dry boat! With my 180-lb weight, I was sitting in two inches of water through the scuppers right off the bat. Of course, since I was in whitewater, I did not use the skeg.
The one huge difference in performance between the Strike and enclosed whitewater boats is in the upstream edge. If you get the upstream edge of the Strike caught in the flow, you are in for some SERIOUS effect. As an experienced river surfer I had the chops to deal with it as soon as I felt it, but later when I was pushing the envelope I did suffer some consequences (more on that below). Suffice it to say that, while it is very similar to a whitewater boat in most ways, if a beginner or an intermediate whitewater paddler catches an upstream edge in this thing, they are going over, and that's that.
On the ocean, of course, that's not as big of a concern, because the waves are more spread and the surf-able part of the wave is steeper, so very little chance of that happening.
I had the boat outfitted with backbrace, thigh straps, and foot straps. My heels were getting a bit cramped, so I took my feet out of the straps. I found myself at the head of the line for surfing the little hole at the top of the chute, and headed in for what I thought would be an easy paddle. However, I pushed things a bit too far during a cut-back and went upside down. Instead of rolling I just came out, mainly because my feet weren't in the straps. However, when I surfaced, I found it amazingly easy to perform a self-rescue and climb back in the boat. I just flipped it upright, reached across from side to side, and pulled myself up. For a boat this small, I did not expect such lateral stability. In a few seconds, I was back up at the top of the Feeder surfing again.
I can't wait to try it in the ocean, but I also can't wait to try it at several other Potomac River playspots...
I had a Frenzy before - it was fun, but all you did was come straight in, now I feel like part of the wave and I am surfing it in. The day ended when a wave closed out on me and snapped my Carbon Fiber paddle, but the kayak did not flip I made it in.
First of all, I'm 5'5", 120lbs. Despite claims that this boat works well for almost all sizes of paddlers, there is no doubt that I was too small for it. For me, this boat was like paddling a bathtub. This boat is SLOW SLOW SLOW, it doesn't track well, and it doesn't edge well. After catching a wave, the boat still required continual paddling just to ensure that I wouldn't go off the wave. This boat definitely doesn't track or control well. It has a vicious tendency to turn parallel to the wave -- far worse than most longer sea kayaks I've taken into the surf zone.
After using this boat, my legs ended up covered in black and blue bruises. The reason: the thigh straps for this boat were just not good and that boat is a lot of volume for someone my size. I like to throw a boat around in the surf to do top turns and cutbacks. This boat would have none of that. Being so massive and unresponsive, it was very difficult to get it to turn.
After using this boat, I find it near impossible to believe Cobra's claims that this boat is good for both beginners and experts. If you're looking for a good boat for an occasional recreational paddle and not to become a serious kayaker, then certainly I would recommend this boat. If you're interested in anything else, do not use this boat.
The fittings are crappy, replace the eyes with stainless, file down the fin to 2/3rds of it's size, use leg straps and wax the seat area! it's light, easy to carry, good for general paddling.
Cobra backup is superb (in New Zealand anyway). It's easy to get back on after a wipeout and surfs backwards superbly. Lean back on the take-off of a big wave or you'll pearl, it's very sensitive to weight distribution.
This is one AWESOME boat I can't speak highly enough of. I have had so many kayaks over the years but this is the most fun versatile boat you'll ever purchase.
I have some trouble with my neck which resulted in several fused vertebrae, and I'm not planning on chasing my skills up to big surf. I stick to stuff below 4' and look instead for longer, outside, rides. But I love this boat. I think this is Cobra's best design ever; in fact I hear it was designed by a waveski designer. Other boats come and go in my garage, but I don't think I'll ever get rid of this one. It is balanced, strong, and so much fun. The hard rails hold faces really well, it does cut backs acceptably although not nearly as well as the waveski, it bounces out when I slide down over the top - which is a lot of fun, and it rises over the whitewater to exit pretty well with either a back or forward stroke.
If youíre interested in surfing with plastic, get this one.
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