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Reviews for Meridian Kayak by Dagger


Rated: 8.55/10 Based On: 20 Reviews

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11-19-2014
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 5 of 10

     Let me start with the low rating of 5: it applies to the no-skeg version. The skeg version would be an 8. The low rating I gave to the no skeg version is due to the fact that it is really a handful to control in cross winds and rear quartering seas. I don't know how Dagger allowed it to be built without a skeg! It weathercocks severely so any paddling across the wind is a LOT more work than it needs to be. With the wind straight behind it is no problem though. With side winds, it is more work for example than a Nordkapp RM without skeg deployed (which also weathercocks noticeably). I have paddled the WS Zephyr kayaks, which are VERY similar to the Meridian, and they too weathercock to some degree - but with skeg deployed they can be trimmed neutral. It is not so much a matter of skill - this particular kayak just needs a skeg.

With rear quartering seas, the slippery rear of the Meridian is more eager to initiate a broach than hard chined and stronger tracking kayaks. Some skeg I am sure will plant it and it could be paddled easily in any direction - I had no issues with the WS Zephyr with skeg and I imagine a Meridian with skeg will be no different.

That said, surfing following seas (wind chop) with the waves and wind from behind, and zig-zagging on the wave face or just going downwind was very easy. The Meridian is very maneuverable and with good rocker and I found it very pleasant to surf small swells and wind chop. No broaching, easy to correct, a dry ride. Once on a wave it surfed it nicely. Compared to Eddyline Raven, the Meridian was more difficult to speed-up and to climb over or catch a wave to surf. The speed-up unwillingness is due to the lower top speed potential and the hull shape, which makes the front raise up as speed increases. The inability to climb over the front wave is due to the hull shape - the nose goes up and the tail down more than on the Raven, so it is like paddling uphill in the Meridian (and the Zephyr) in this situation. The Meridian responds to body weight shift forward and aft more readily though, so a good lean forward would allow it to catch waves much easier than without it.

The Meridian is a very nice ride in wind chop. It is relatively low profile and the nose does not blow around in strong winds. The tail does get pushed downwind, causing severe weathercocking without skeg, which edging alone is not enough to correct - needs corrective strokes too.

Without wind, that same ease of sliding the tail around with a good edging makes the Meridian very maneuverable and would be a great boat to explore tight places and to learn new skills.

The stability is very good - lively on-center and increasingly and predictably strong when edged. It holds on edge easy and reassuringly.

The cockpit is comfortable and should accommodate well almost anyone between 140 and 220lb. I am 6'4" at 190lb before gear (200-210lb for day paddling) and I think I am well within the Meridian's design weight range. With size 15 US shoes and 36"+ inseam I can't get in seat-first, unless I sit on the backband (with the backband in place where it needs to be my knees hit the front of the cockpit). I had to cut an extra notch on the factory aluminum foot rails, which gave me an extra inch of leg room - that is enough for barefoot paddling for me. I can't fit with any shoe, only socks or barefoot (unlike in unlike in the Raven where I had plenty of foot room and some extra leg room too). However, most regularly sized adults should have no problem getting in seat-first and with plenty of leg room (and of they are not giraffes with large feet like me, also plenty of foot room for low profile paddling shoes).

The thigh braces are well-positioned for people shorter than me, but work OK for me too. The minicell padding under the thigh braces does not extend far enough forward for me (will add some 4" at least, forward of where it ends). The seat is contoured and perfectly wide enough for me to fit without the need for additional paddling. The original backband is surprisingly supportive and sits higher than on any other kayak that I have had - very nice to relax against when taking a break. It does manage to get out of the way fairly well too, for layback on the rear deck.

As for speed, this kayak is NOT terribly fast. I do not know how some other reviewers can say it is fast. Yes, it is efficient to paddle at a moderate speed, but it does not reward increased effort with much more speed. It hits a wall easier than kayaks like Nordkapp Ram/LV and Eddyline Raven. Granted, the Meridian is 9" shorter than the Raven, but that's not the main reason - it is the shape of its hull: the front tends to lift up and create a bow wave when pushed to go fast. Just like the WS Zephyrs do. The Meridian (in Kevlar) felt a bit quicker than the Zephyr 155 in plastic. Being only 42lb (with seat and hatch covers) probably has something to do with it. Also, having no skeg and with finer edge front and aft, it splits the water more cleanly and barely makes any ripples when paddled slowly.

The rear deck is nice and low, allowing full layback for rolling. The front deck is not terribly high, so it is not in the way when paddling. There are no paddle cutouts though. And the rearmost front bungee and perimeter line attachment points are too close to the paddler - I kept hitting them with my fingers (in contrast, on the Raven they are forward of where my hands pass by during the paddle stroke, which is better).

The cockpit rim near the thigh braces is quite sharp, making for a bit uncomfortable carry on land. However, at 42lb, the Kevlar Meridian is easy to cartop (much easier than the 55lb Raven or the 65lb Nordkapp RM). The ends of the Meridian are finer and lighter than on the Raven, which make it easier to swing around on the water.

Overall, I would say the Meridian is a VERY good kayak for those who want to explore at a relaxed pace and value maneuverability over speed and tracking. It is also quite nice to surf in following seas. It is great in choppy and rough water. And with a skeg I am sure it will be a pleasure to paddle in any condition and in any direction. I am rating the skeg version an 8 because it does not surf following seas as well and is slower than the Eddyline Raven, which I rated a 9. The skeg-less version is a solid 5: the amount of weathercocking it exhibits in stronger winds borders on dangerous (requires too much effort to correct and one can get in trouble after a while, tiring fast).

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07-18-2014
Submitted by: G. WangSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     It's been 10 years since I've posted my first review of the Meridian. I read it's been reincarnated as the Zephyr by Wilderness Systems; they sure look similar. Bottom line, I still love paddling the Meridian after 17 years. It is a jack of all trades, master of none, but that is a plus since it's my only kayak.

It's swede form hull makes it fast for its length. Swede form also makes it fishtail in following seas/wind, but I've learned to handle it over the years (mine has no skeg). One big change I made was the switch over to Greenland paddle 9 years ago. It's added more skills to master, and it fits well with the Meridian.

There is a bit of a cult following for the Meridian. I get compliments on it from time to time for its well-respected turning ability. On the water, this boat is me.

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01-30-2009
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     This is a very good kayak. Will forgive a beginner a few mistakes but will satisfy you as you become more competent. Careful with the rudder cable. Don't rely on Dagger (watermark) for any support. That's what happens when the mom and pop businesses are taken over by the corp. monsters. My rating 9 of 10.
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07-19-2004
Submitted by: AECSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     We have two Meridians - my husband paddles a glass SK and I a kevlar SKS. I tried many boats before deciding on this one, have paddled it 3 years now, and really like the way it handles. The skeg is sometimes a bit difficult to raise / lower but I rarely use it, even in wind and 3-4' seas. The only real problem we've had is that the glass boat developed a bubble in the gellcoat which popped and leaked an orangy substance. That happened when the boat was on top of the car - and not where it could have been hit by a rock or other object. We'd had the boat only a few weeks and it was in pristine condition otherwise, but Dagger refused to exchange, fix, or otherwise deal with an obvious manufacturing flaw. I finally found a fellow who works on yachts to repair it (can't even see where the problem was) and he also was convinced the problem originated in the Dagger factory. So - great boat, lousy service.
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06-12-2004
Submitted by: Brian L.Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Have paddled the low volume Kevlar model with skeg for 2.5 years (5'9-170 lbs.). Have paddled in the ocean, some crossings (Delaware Bay), short/medium circumnavigations on East Coast (Manhattan/Cape May). Wife has Romany so have a true Brit boat for comparison. Prefer the low weight of the Romany and reduced rocker. That said, the Romany handles better when you're in following seas or when you're snapping (or attempting to snap) hand rolls. Plenty of room to live out of the Dagger for a week if you pack wisely. Space around skeg accomodates small wine cellar without too much trouble or compromise to handling. Static braces in the Meridian work but the Romany is even better for this. I'm keeping this boat as a second and hopefully upgrading to a Valley Quarajaq shortly (new longer, faster, less rockered Anas Acuta)--still trying to nail down if there will be any produced this year as I'd like to paddle one before ordering a customizied version. If you're under 185 lbs and will have only one boat and want it to do it all (expedition of up to week, surf, day paddles)--get the low volume Meridan in Kevlar with skeg--you won't be disappointed.
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06-09-2004
Submitted by: G. WangSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I've owned a fiberglass Meridian for the last 7 years. It is one of the early models without a skeg. I do most of my paddling in San Francisco bay's currents, stiff summer breezes, and inadverently in winter storms. My boat has also been in the surf zone and whalewatching in the pacific. In all these years I've never found my boat wanting. I've always felt my skills were the limiting factor, not the boat. The boat turns when edged, rides following seas, and is easy to roll. I still look forward to growing into my Meridian. Yes, the boat weathercocks in some conditions, but I've never paddled a boat that didn't. Paddle strokes and boat lean were always sufficient to hold a course in wind. There is a slow leak in the rear compartment, but not enough for me to fret over (I should fix it, though). Perhaps I'll look into the lauded British designs when my Meridian gets retired. Until then I'll gladly paddle my Meridian.
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08-18-2003
Submitted by: ---
Rating: 8 of 10

     This is a nice boat beginning to intermediate kayakers. Because it has a wide flat bottom, beginners feel very comfortable with the surface stability. There is a trade off here, however. That initially comfortable surface feeling from that flat bottom with no flare means there is not much providing horizontal stabilization deeper in the water. I have a Valley Pintail, which is notorious for having its mega-rockers pushed around. When we need to set an oblique course across a current/tide, my wife's Dagger Meridian needs much more skeg than even my pintail does and she gets pushed around much more. This is where my longer, thinner and flared hull gives my boat greater deep stability. When my wife goes kayaking with friends who are beginners, she lets them use her boat. They always feel initially more comfortable and they have a good experience in calm conditions. As an intermediate paddler now, my wife, who has gotten over the more "tippy" surface instability of my boat, greatly prefers it to her boat. If I ever decide to get the Valley Romany for less rocker, we will probably keep my Pintail for her and friends who are beginners and be able to easily sell the Dagger Meridian--as beginners who get into it feel very safe and comfortable right away. When beginning friends use the pintail, they will feel tippy right away and this might scare them off, but the better deep stability ought to keep them from actually tipping over. This remains to be seen, however. Bottom line, the Dagger Meridian is a nice beginner/intermediate boat. At 16 feet, it is lighter and easier to store than my 17+ foot boat. Like others have pointed out, its compartments will leak and the hatch covers are a pain to take off and put on. I simply think that the flat bottom is too beamy, and prefer a more narrow hull for greater speed and deep stability. That said, one can certainly do all kinds of kayaking well with this boat.
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09-06-2002
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I paddled a lot of boats before selecting this one... We are now a three kayak family... I have a CD Expedition which is a great boat for expeditions where you want speed and unbelievable capacity.... My other boats is a CD Storm, which is a great beginner boat although the rudder system leaves something to be desired... now for the boat to be reviewed... I love it... great in surf, turns on a dime, accelerates quickly and is almost as comfortable as my Expedition. I don't think the quality is as good as my Expedition... just doesn't have that perfect finish that CD has... It's light, given it's Kevlar, and is my boat of choice in waves and day trips (or even shorter multi-day trips...)

The skeg has a design problem... if it gets stuck (which it will do), it is very easy to kink the cable and then it never really works right after you straighten it out... I have noticed that Valley kayaks are now using some sort of solid steel cable that doesn't seem as likely to malfunction.... Dagger needs to look into this... If you can afford the Kevlar, do it... the boat in Kevlar is so light it is amazing...

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04-15-2002
Submitted by: D. HughesSend Email
Rating: 7 of 10

     Owned a Meridian Fiberglass SK for 3 years. Tracks very well in calmer waters without the skeg. In rough waters, with the skeg down, it will go straight no matter what the wind or water conditions. Found it to be fairly slow compared to my older plastic Seeker, and is very hard to handle in rough or confused water. The skeg cable attachment inside the boat broke loose last year and is flopping around inside the hull - will re-fiberglass it when I get time. Overall, good boat, but I would choose a different fiberglass boat if I had it to do again.
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03-30-2001
Submitted by: Jerry SSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I've paddled this boat a few hundred times over the two years I've had it in the ocean, sound, and lake. I'm 6'-5" and 200# and fit like a glove in this boat. It is incredibly responsive, carves turns like a sports car, and is very seaworthy (have been out in 5 foot ocean chop). There is adequate room for gear for weeklong trips, although combined gear and personal weight does bog it down a little on these adventures. Several other friends have bought this boat after paddling mine, and each time any one of us gets out of it after a paddle we all say the same thing: " I love this boat". Get one.
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07-30-2000
Submitted by: Birdie OlsonSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     Meridian SK Kevlar This is my second kayak. So far so good. Very fast - able to keep up with stronger paddlers. I am 155 and female. So much fun. Really enjoy it. Had it for about a month in some waves about 3 feet, good secondary stability. Just keep it going forward. No problem going straight with the skeg. Very comfortable to sit. Love it.
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10-26-1999
Submitted by: Eric
Rating: 9 of 10

     I've had the Meridan w/ skeg for about 1-1/2 years and I paddle in the Seattle area. I'm 6' and about 195#. This is the most comfortable kayak I have paddled,and I've tried a lot of boats. I've had the boat out in windy conditions and in waves up to about 3'. It is pretty fast, efficient, easy to turn and just a lot of fun to paddle. I recommend a skeg because in windy conditions the boat does turn into the wind. However with the skeg down the boat tracks straight in all condition. Overall an excellent kayak. Good quality as well.
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09-27-1999
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     Pros: cockpit felt like it was made for me(5'10",200). Longer seat for excellent thigh support, contoured thigh braces and the always desired Rapid Pulse (formerly PD Designs) backband (if its gotta a back REST, sink it!). Nice finish. The secondary stability was so good, on a static brace I closed my eyes and damn near took a nap for 10 minutes until a Coast Guard helicopter curiously appeared overhead! But then my friend in his Romany was doing the same...Incredibly manueverable, but then again it is only 16'. Easy to pack, (mine had no skeg)Fairly light.

Cons: Deck height contributed to major knuckle dusting too often. A lot more work in a following, quartering, or beam sea than a Romany due to the flattenning of the hull between the hatch areas, where the Romany tracks great with the shallow v hull. Small scratches show fiberglass early, whereas the Romany will take deep scratches, then can be sanded out, and wet sanded until the hull looks new again.( of course you'll have 10 yrs. of sanding to do before the Romany gets down to the original weight of the Meridian. Life's a trade-off). Leaky hatches. Just accept it. Kayak Sport is not VCP. (why does'nt everyone go to fore and aft VCP ovals like Nigel Foster's Silhouette,etc?) Hardware from semi-recess deckfittings are exposed, waiting for unsuspecting drybags, etc. Bulkheads are to weak to mount a foot pump on. Broke plastic footbrace on first day of 5 day surf trip in Florida. Spent the rest of trip with foam packed against weak bulkhead. Bummer. Agree with other reviewer!

re; cheesy rudder-skeg thing on Sitka and Lattitude. I thought it made so much sense to do the boat in a 17ft edition, but how can you take it seriously with that little gimmick of a stern. If you can't fit into a Romany, or simply don't want to deal with the weight, get your Meridian with a skeg.

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07-21-1999
Submitted by: Tom GerenSend Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     I've had several big name boats so far but my glass Meridian is my favorite and it's 10-15 #s lighter than the British boats it seems to have copied. I'm not a Maine guide but if you plan to paddle when it's windy,Ya gotta have a skeg; it's just silly to say otherwise. The Meridian has enough space for lengthy trips; geez, anymore and yer boat loses all responsiveness. I like Kevlar boats but weight savings here was only 4#. I rate it a tad slow compared to longer craft but at 50# and 16' its handiness as a dayboat is a good tradeoff. This is all the boat most people will ever need.
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07-19-1999
Submitted by: Jason, NCSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I've had my Kevlar Dagger Meridian with skeg for about a year now. I absolutely love it. Although I've paddled many different boats both larger and smaller, I'm happy with my choice. At 6'0 and 165 the boat is the perfect size for me. Initial and secondary stability are perfect, allowing for the boat to handle rough, rolling waves with ease.

At 22 inches in width, this hull may be slim for some, but provides for excellent speed and gives the boat an awesome "snugness" factor, which I personally favor.

As far as tracking goes, with the skeg "enabled" the boat goes dead straight even at a maximum sprint. I am constantly amazed at how effective the skeg is, and plan for my next boat to have one as well. To make minor or major course changes, just pull up the skeg, change course, drop the skeg again, and voila... you're on your new heading. For loooooong trips, the skeg is indispensable and reduces fatigue immensely. I've found myself a few times trying to make slow speed 180 degree turns with much difficulty, only to realize the skeg is down, once you put it up, the Meridian is very easy to turn.

*Sidenote- if the Dagger people are listening* Get rid of that cheesy rudder thingy on the Sitka and other boats, either put a skeg on it, or nothing at all. I avoided buying a Sitka specifically because of it.**

Storage capacity is limited, but if you are in a "REAL" expedition mode, I think you could live out of it for 1 month. There's plenty of room to stock it with essentials, a tent and plenty of freeze dried food. I hope those complaining about storage capacity are not trying to stick the kitchen sink in it. ;) I've also tested the handling of the boat while it is fully loaded. If you'd like to try this at home, just fill both bulkheads half full of water, and paddle it around some. The Meridian handles very well with the added weight, although stability does diminish.

Hmmmmm.... another plus... since it's Kevlar, its a light, stiff, and very durable kayak. As with any boat, there are many personal preferences, so before dropping $2600 on a boat, demo it for at least a full day.

All in all, two thumbs up.

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12-06-1998
Submitted by: Ken JohnsonSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     Have paddled a kevlar Meridian with skeg for a little under a year (my 3rd kayak) and find it the most enjoyable, fun, comfortable, and responsive kayak to paddle. Great cockpit (comfortable, but room for large paddler but great fit for hip/thigh control), easy to roll, handles well in heavy wind and waves, and just as fast as my 19' Seda Glider except when sprinting. Disadvantage; a little small for more than 1-2 day trips.
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12-03-1998
Submitted by: Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     My First Kayak 8)!. I'm 5'3", 125# and the boat is Kevlar w/o skeg. Love it, though have to agree with the tendency of it to head into the wind. Have taken a 5 and a 10 day trip on Lake Powell with one friend and found there is plently of packing room for gear. Have replaced day hatch cover because of leakiness but other hatch covers keep things bone dry.
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11-24-1998
Submitted by: DaveSend Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I am 51 and weigh 235 lbs. The boat is a bit tippy for me but is very stable in a leaning situation. It has enough storage for at least 3 days and is much more stable when loaded for a long weekend camping trip. It is very sensative to loading be sure to keep more weight in the stern or you will not be able to steer. It handles well in waves to 3ft. I have not been in anything higher. It also did well on the Altamaha in south Ga. going through some tight swamp areas. I am very happy with it even if I am too big for it.
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10-27-1998
Submitted by: P. A. WitheySend Email
Rating: 7 of 10

     I just bought a kevlar w/o skeg. I paddle on the South Gulf Coast of Texas. I found that the boat does not do well in big or confused water. It pulls hard to windward. When I get back from a windy and rough day on the water, I'm tired from the struggle to keep the boat on coarse. Pro's: It is very light. It handles in calm water just great. I found it to be comfortable.
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09-26-1998
Submitted by: Mike RaySend Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     My first composite boat--so of course I'm going to rate it highly. The 8 is actually an average: the Meridian without the skeg gets a 9, w/ a 7. Paddled them these last two summers just about every day (am a guide w/ an outfitter in midcoast Maine). They were just what I neede--for little 2 hour tours, half-days, or overnites. Turn on dime (w/o the skeg--even when up, of course--MUCH more responsive tho) Get it on edge w/ no effort whatsoever and its going to stay there as long as you want. Wicked comfortable seat (I can spend 8 hours sitting in that thing easy). And an easy carry. Cons: it's not a huge boat so, even w/ a skeg, it takes somes work handling it in big water. Won't take the kitchen sink either so have to do some planning when packing. And the skeg--in a kevlar model the skeg, box, cable and some other stiffening they build into it all add some weight that affects performance. But what're you going to do--the boat needs one for extended touring in waves! GREAT BOAT. (and well built, too)
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