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Reviews for Polar Kayak by North Shore


Rated: 9/10 Based On: 3 Reviews


Polar Kayak by North Shore

Length: ' " - Starting at: $
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07-25-2013
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 8 of 10

     If this boat fits you properly and you have a modicum of skill it's hard to believe you won't love it. It's pretty fast, maneuverable, and has awesome secondary stability. It holds a lot of gear and is an easy roller (more so than my WS Tempest) all in a 16'9" package.

It is, apparently, a well known and popular boat in Europe that never really caught on here; don't know why. It has now been replaced by the NS Ocean so there are some great deals on them. Put it on your short list to demo if you can find one!

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05-21-2010
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 9 of 10

     I had actually expected to submit a write-up of an entirely different kayak, so coming here to post a review on the North Shore Polar came as a bit of a surprise! Recently the regional Tri-State P&H, Impex, and now North Shore dealer, The River Connection in Hyde Park was making a boat delivery to Upstate NY. Since the delivery was occurring on 'home waters' in Broome County (between Ithaca and Binghamton) the co-owner of The River Connection, Marshall Seddon dropped me a line and asked if I would like to demo the new P&H Cetus LV while he was in the area. Well of course! The Cetus LV was on my short list of boats to try and the demo would be in my own back-yard. When Marshall showed up at our local paddling venue I was so focused on checking-out the Cetus LV, I totally ignored the third kayak that he had brought along with him (in addition to the boat being delivered). The mystery boat was the North Shore Polar. I had heard of the North Shore kayak line and I was aware that they were owned by Valley, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I quickly got out onto the water to give the Cetus LV a try and to work-off some of the heavy rust that had collected due to my long absence from paddling.

Regrettably, for those looking for a review of the Cetus LV, you are going to be disappointed. "Move along now, there is nothing for you to see here." Perhaps someone else will review the smallest Cetus, or maybe I'll write it up at a later date, but only after I get some additional butt time in the boat. Meanwhile, back to the demo...

After I padded the new P&H for about 30 minutes Marshall politely suggested that I also try the North Shore Polar. In all honesty I really did not want to give up the Cetus LV. It is currently "The Hot Boat" and what I was really there to paddle. The Polar hadn't even garnered a second look from me. It was a lesson learned: Don't always go for the 'prom queen' when the cute, shy girl in the corner may be a better bet. Part of this was my own bias. The Polar has noticeable hard chimes, and I had previously owned another hard-chimed boat, the NF Silhouette. Over time I grew to really dislike many characteristics of the Silhouette. The Silhouette has rounded bottom to go with its hard chimes. It tends to rock from chime-to-chime and it is far more stable being underway and locked on one chime than it is sitting at rest. The Silhouette has a twitchy feel and rather vague secondary stability. I expected similar characteristics out of the North Shore Polar, but I had not looked at the boat closely. I would be quite wrong in my preconceptions. I grudgingly gave up the Cetus and gave the Polar a try.

I immediately noticed a number of positive things that I often take for granted in a sea kayak. The Polar has quite a comfortable seating arrangement, which included Valley's latest seat pan and backband; aggressive knee hooks (more aggressive than on my Aquanaut LV); and easy to adjust Yakima footpegs. The Polar is also equipped with 'bone-dry' VCP hatches (two ovals and the round day hatch). The build quality of this boat was very high with fully glassed-in RDFs; quality perimeter lines and elastics; a clean, even gelcoat; and no sharp edges in the lay-up. It's a nice looking boat. It may not be the 'prom queen', but it's very well done.

Paddling the Polar was another eye-opener. It inspired confidence, even when testing my very rusty balancing abilities. Yes, the Polar sports hard chimes, but instead of a rounded hull, it has a shallow 'V' shape. Its personality is substantially different than that of the NF Silhouette.

The Polar has very good initial stability and secondary stability that just did not seem to end. Boy can one really heel this boat over! Fully committed sculling for support was easily. Even with my long unused rolling skills this boat almost rolled itself. The Polar has a low back deck, so lay-backs were a non-issue. The Polar's hull is an interesting design and is better seen in-person than having me try to describe it. It is unique in the boats I have paddled, but it works quite well. The Polar does not have a lot of deck overhang in either the bow or stern as found on most British-style sea kayaks. The bow is not plumb, but neither is it needle-nosed. This helps reduces its windage (susceptibility to wind) and it also increases the Polar's wetted waterline. This makes the Polar as efficient to paddle as many boats that have a longer overall length. In short, the Polar could easily match the pace of the 8" longer Cetus LV (Hey we had a gps and checked-it out).

There was some wind during this flat water demo (10-15 knots) and with no paddler input the Polar had slight tendency to weathercock. That was easily corrected with just a touch of skeg. The Polar's cable controlled skeg was easy to deploy and adjust. It appeared to be identical to the skegs found on my personal Valley boats. The Polar has a bit of rocker, so it is also no slouch in the turning department, particularly when heeled. The Polar also had a surprising amount of cargo capacity even though it has the look-and-feel of a 'low' volume kayak. According to each manufacturer's specs the Polar actually has 60 liters more carrying capacity than the Cetus LV. One would certainly not realize that by looking at the two boats side-by-side!

I'm roughly 5'8", 153 pounds and I have size 10 shoes. Although I could not find any sizing guidance on the North Shore website I suspect that I fall right in the middle of the Polar's intended paddler weight range. I will hazard a guess that the Polar would best fit someone from 120 to 180 pounds. It would not be the boat for a truly petite person or the Johnny Beefcakes of the the world.

Summary: The entire North Shore kayak line is sort of being stealth marketed here in the US, so you may not have heard of them. However, North Shore has been around since 1982. I was so intrigued by the Polar's on-water performance that the Cetus LV received the short-end of the stick at the demo. Ah, an excuse to give the Cetus another spin in the future! I think it can be generally agreed that for many small to medium sized paddlers, who are looking for one, good 'all-round' sea kayak a 17 foot boat, give or take, is often a great choice. That is why there are so many roughly 17 foot boats out there. If that is what you are shopping for don't make the initial mistake I did, and overlook the 16'9" Polar. The Polar's maneuverability, efficiency (speed) and low windage are a real nice blend of characteristics. This is one fine sea kayak.

Finally the icing on the cake is the Polar's MSRP. It runs about 10% less than comparable composite British-style kayaks. I should note that the Polar is only available in a fiberglass/diolene lay-up, but with hatches it only trips the scales at about 53 pounds.

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02-04-2010
Submitted by: View Profile Send Email
Rating: 10 of 10

     Originally my wife and I were introduced to the North Shore Kayaks by Ben Lawry. We were impressed at the performance and finish of the kayaks. Enough so that we brought the line into our Instructional Fleet and Showroom at The River Connection in Hyde Park, NY, following our philosophy of we only carry what we enjoy paddling. So like my review of the P&H Scorpio, I have a bias towards these kayaks as I thoroughly enjoy using them.

My Specs:
I am 6', 188lbs, size 11 shoe, 33" inseam and 34 waist. I paddle with a very high angle style and usually use a Mitchell Black Magic 215cm or a Werner Cyprus 215cm paddle.

North Shore Polar Kayak Specs:
Length 16'9"
Width 21.5"
Volume: 92.5 gallons
Weight: 53lbs w/3 VCP hatches on.

Water Conditions: Hudson River freshwater at Hyde Park, NY. Enough ice has thawed out today to allow me to actually move around without dodging floes. 3 miles to the north the river is still socked in with ice. Barely any wind. Flooding tide at approximately 2mph current speed.

Performance: (using Garmin Oregon 400C gps unit) {YMMV}
Fast Maintainable Cruising Speed = 5.2-5.4 mph traveling abeam of the current
Sprinting Speed = 6.3mph traveling abeam of the current
Weather Cocking no wind present
Skeg Performance makes the kayak track dead on at full deployment. Minimal influence on speed.

Stability:
The Polar's primary stability is predictable but sprightly. More like a sports car feel. Quick to respond but not unforgiving. What becomes evident is the dynamite secondary stability. Bringing the kayak up on edge it still had range of secondary stability beyond what my flexibility would allow. At 60 degrees of heel the kayak was still quite happy parking on it's side but I simply couldn't lift any higher. I used a convenient ice floe for a two fingertips balance so as to exaggerate the heel. When I finally tilted past approximately 75 degrees of heel I could feel the kayak start to turn turtle. This is one of the few kayaks I've been in that I can actually do a balance brace in.

Maneuverability:
I've been having way to much fun with this kayak at pool sessions for it's nimbleness. Playing slalom amongst other boaters in the pool has been lots of fun with this kayak. (It's frozen around here at this time of year. Gotta take your fun as you can get it.) The rocker over the length of this kayak is responsible for this with 4.5" of rise in the bow and 3.5" of rise in the stern keel line before the rake to the ends of the kayak. For that amount of curvature in the length of the hull I'm surprised at the quick clip that the Polar maintains underway. On flat conditions a skidding turn (heeling the boat to the outside of the turn) with 45 degrees of tilt and full sweep strokes resulted in a 22' diameter turn. Going in reverse with the same amount of heel and reverse sweep strokes was a 14' diameter turn. My best forward turn with 60 degrees of heel coupled with a bow rudder completing into a bow draw at the end of momentum resulted in a 14'-15' diameter turn.

Construction and Outfitting:
As I mentioned in my Introduction the North Shore line is very nicely finished and appointed. Fiberglass with gel coat is the only available layup with a palate choice of Red, Tangerine, Yellow or White Deck with Black seam and White Hull or Royal Blue Deck with Yellow Seam and White Hull. The North Shore label is amid ships either side of the freeboard hull and highlighted by a "Color Flash" which is a splash of color the same as the deck color.

Starting at the bow, the deck rises from the seam line in a angled flare to a low flatish deck which has a height of 11.5" from the bottom of the hull. The appearance looks much lower from the cockpit though. There is plenty of space for large sized feet and long legs due to the corners formed by the hard chines and foot rails that are placed well forward. Rescue toggles are tethered so as not to dangle but have bushings around the cord to make the toggle stand above the deck for easy grip while in the water. The toggles can unclip from a convenient stainless ring that held by the end recessed deck fittings (rdfs) which I find handy for bow/stern tie downs while cartopping. Low profile rdfs are used through out the hull with stainless Phillips head machine screws that set into glassed in lock nuts so there are no additional penetrations through the hull. A 70P compass recess is standard on all models.

A VCP 8" dayhatch and large 11"x18" oval hatch covers make storage easy in the main bow and stern compartments. All hatches are tethered on to the perimeter lines. The cockpit opening measures 29.5"x15.75" inside of coaming,with a 26.5" measurement from the rear of the seating surface to the front coaming, which is just enough for my 33" inseam legs to clear without contacting my shins against the coaming edge. Thighbraces are part of the coaming and provide good coverage allowing for contact and control. The edges of the thighbraces are not curved dramatically so I did not find them impinging on my legs (23" thigh circumference). The front deck clearance is 11.5" and the rear is 8" from the seat pan to the top of the rear coaming. (9" from the hull to the top of the rear coaming) The lip of the coaming is 3/4" off the recess on deck so it takes a bungee randed skirt just fine but caution should be used if a rubber randed skirt is used. The coaming lip is 1" deep.

The seat is moderately contoured with a seat pan covering of nylon/thermoformed cushion and a 15" width for the hips with the same cushioned hip pads in place. These are on quick release straps so they can be adjusted or removed quite easily. The backband measures 5.5"x14" with a covering of the same style cushioning which rises just above the back coaming but pivots easily enough so as not to get in the way of entries into the kayak. While I usually don't use a back-band I found that I liked this one as it kept me forward in the seat and my tailbone off the rise at the back of the seat. Adjustment for the back-band is by a broad Velcro strap that is best adjusted before getting on the water.

The pricing on the four solo kayaks by North Shore is $3200 which in comparison to other prices of similar class kayaks is several hundred dollars less.

I can see this kayak is going to be a nimble favorite of mine for 2010 and am looking forward to getting amongst some waves to try it out in the surf.

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