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I have the full set-up - both fore and aft hatches and the FC rudder. The rudder provides an extra measure of stability and control in challenging conditions, but most of the time I paddle with it flipped up onto the deck. The boat has been very durable and shows little wear despite how much use it has gotten, mostly in salt water, being dragged on sharp rocky beaches. I couldn't say the same for either my previous two boats - one fiberglass and one rotomolded.
For smaller paddlers (I am 5'6" 150 lb woman) it is easy to cartop, and a dream fit. The sea sock takes a little getting used to, but I find that I really like it. Best of all... I can take it with me on an airplane - both scheduled airline and bush plane and get to amazing destinations. Having my own boat and not having to deal with a rental is worth every penny I paid for the Kahuna. If you are looking to buy a used Kahuna, you should.
Weather cocking can be minimized by placing more weight in the stern so consider this when packing. I spent two weeks paddling the Quintana Roo coast in steady 20+ knot crosswinds and, once I properly arranged my gear, I had little issue with weathercocking. (Remember that moving a seat fore or aft can have a major influence on tracking/turning/weathercocking as you pack.)
I have had some difficulty getting the keel line of the skin to line up with the keel of the frame (on three different boats). It requires a bit of wrestling before final tensioning of the keel bar and inflation of the sponsons. Also, the old style, one piece glass coaming can be challenging but inserting the front and back before the sides seems to work the best from my experience.
The boat is quite comfortable with the inflatable "expedition seat" and holds a surprising amount of gear. I have packed it with gear for trips along the Mexican/Carribean coast, the Maine Island Trail, Florida Keys, many Florida rivers and once I got my system down I found I would have extra space available.
I have also spent some time in high winds and surf. Skin-on-frame has a totally different feel than glass. I usually paddle my Coaster in storm conditions and surf but occasionally use the Kahuna and it handles rough conditions well without the slapping and pounding. The hull flexes and absorbs much of the impact, dampening the power of the sea. It is a beautiful, poetic feeling and easy to get used to.
I also use it to fly fish...sit on the deck behind the cockpit (on a cushion or PFD), dangle legs over the side for boat control and cast into mangroves for snapper and snook, or shuffle across flats for reds. Too much fun! They are great for the apartment dweller with little space for a hardshell boat and it is wonderful to drive down the interstate with your boat INSIDE your car!
It takes me about 20-25 minutes to put my Kahuna together but I spent easily 40+ minutes in the beginning. It takes some practice and efforts. I learn that I can sit in the cockpit and push the bow and stern part of the frame to the position using my foot. I found the stern crossrib to be difficult because the skin is very tight and it is hard to snap into position. It took me few months just to get familiar with this process and be able to install it correctly every time. You need to follow exactly what the instruction say. Also, extending keel, chine and gunwale bars needs practice. You need to make sure two black blocks line up nicely so that you will be able to extend the bars the first time. You can also stand in between the cockpit, turn the kayak side with the bow in front of you when extending the gunwale bars. You may purchase a kneel pad or foam pad to protect your kneel. To disassemble the stern crossrib, I learn that putting my foot behind the stern crossrib, then pull up the cross rib. The rest are pretty easy.
Kahuna is fast and you can keep up with 16-17 feet sea kayak in most of the conditions (except top speed). It is also a very stable kayak and it is not easy to capsize. The only situation that a Kahuna perform less is surfing or paddling against 15+ mph against head wind. Under these situations, you really cannot keep up with 17 ft kayaks. Kahuna does fine with cross wind with a skeg. If someone paddles in mostly calm, even in 10-15 miles wind with some white caps, in other words, 98% of paddling, Kahuna can keep up with most sea kayaks. From my experience, I paddle on average 4-4.5mph (GPS verified) and top speed is never beyond 6mph (more like 5.6mph). I paddle very comfortable at 3.5-4.0mph.
I try to roll my Kahuna and it is not an easy boat to roll. You need to get the rolling rib and the bracing bars from Feathercraft. Without the bracing bar, I come out from my kayak several times once I capsize. One of my good friends rolls my Kahuna at our local pool session. He was able to roll it 6-7 times. It was quite a show. I also heard that someone name Dubside roll with his modified Kahuna and won a competition in Greenland. So it is possible to roll a Kahuna, and it is possible to roll extremely well on it but it is not for everyone.
The rolling stern rib is lower than the regular one by 1-2 inches. It does make your stern deck skin less tight. The Kahuna looks quite different when rolling rib is used. In fact, it is almost a different kayak. It does look like those Greenland Skin on Frame kayaks. You can also use the rolling rib on a windy day, so it has less wind effect on the kayak.
I would not consider myself as a careful paddler. I drag the boat on sand beaches and hit some rocks while paddling. It is true there are some marks on the skin but that’s about it. I think the skin will last very long. If you have any questions, you can either contact Feathercraft directly and you can also contact Folding Kayak Adventure (a Feathercraft dealer in US). They are all very knowledgeable and helpful.
This is a nice performing boat for a 14' 9" boat with a 25” beam. I find the skin to be both tight-fitting and watertight. The boat moves through the water very well and is easy to paddle at a decent pace. I find my top (short burst) speed to be 4.5 mph, with a relaxed cruising speed of 2.5 - 3.0 mph. I have yet to paddle with hardshells, so I can’t make a comparison of performance between the Kahuna and hardshells yet.
The Kahuna performs well in chop, but it is a wet ride- The front hatch in particular deflects spray straight into my face when heading directly into the wind in rough conditions. However, I can stay upright with hip action in 3-4 ft. chop by concentrating on balance, and I rarely have a need for bracing.
The boat doesn’t surf especially well and has a tendency to broach on a wave, but most sea kayaks do this, so this boat is not unusual in this regard. I plan to buy the strap-on skeg and see if that helps. In calm water the boat tracks very well, without the need for a rudder. In windy conditions the boat does weathercock quite a bit when it’s unloaded. The rudder minimizes this problem nicely. Again, we’ll see if the skeg fixes this problem also.
I don’t prefer the rudder because it is difficult to operate through the sea sock, which I always use for safety. The boat turns easily with a few sweep strokes. The cockpit is narrow enough to make it familiar to any hardshell owner, but spacious enough that you can move around in it a bit. The sponsons make deep sculling a chore, at best. There is a point of no return when you put the boat on its side, so a good slap brace is a more appropriate tool to have in your quiver than a sculling. However, in most conditions it won’t be necessary to use deep sculling, again because of the sponsons! Other paddle strokes are no problem.
I am able to get back into this boat fairly easily under average conditions. I just do a cowboy re-entry. I haven’t tried to roll it, but I imagine the sponsons would make it challenging to do well if the boat is unloaded, which is how I paddle the boat most of the time.
This is a high quality boat. It looks, and is, very cool. The seams are watertight and the workmanship is excellent (these are hand-made boats). The boat is able to take a lot of abuse both on the water and on the beach. The hatches help with assembly and are well designed. As kayaks go, this is a very comfortable boat. The inflatable, adjustable seat combined with the soft skin is fantastic, making the boat much, much more comfortable than a hardshell during a long paddle. The cockpit coaming is a one piece fiberglass unit and works very well- I have not had the skin pop out during any kind of paddling.
My one gripe is the foot pegs. They tend to rotate down toward the center of the boat and I have to lift them up with my feet every so often, which is annoying, especially through the sea sock. Ralph Diaz has a couple of solutions for it in his book “Complete Folding Kayaker”, but I haven’t tried them yet. The footpegs are, however, very solid otherwise when screwed down tightly, and provide a good brace for your feet (when rotated back up).
Feathercraft is very good with customer support and looks like it will be around for a long time. It appears to be a quality company overall.
The boat packs down into a very large suitcase-sized bag. It has backpack straps, but I cannot walk much farther than a couple hundred feet with it on my back, as it is an awkward carry. I think this boat is fine for car/bus/air travel, but I wouldn’t want to bike with it on my back! However, it fits easily into my closet with lots of room to spare, and I love that I can carry it safely inside my car and never have to put it on the roof. I can carry this boat in ANY car without a problem, which greatly enhances my ability to take it anywhere I want. In the winter, it stays safe inside.
This depends. If I do everything right and don’t forget a step, I can assemble it in as fast as 30 minutes (without the rudder installation) at normal speed. I suppose one could speed-assemble it in 20-25 minutes. Typically though, it takes me about 40 minutes because I am careful to assemble it properly. My first assembly took almost two hours! However, when you get used to the assembly steps, everything gets easier, even the two center crossribs.
This is a quality boat that does what it was designed for very well: taking day trips and weekend trips with fold-ability thrown in for greater versatility. The shorter length is great for small bodies of water but still long enough for coastal paddling or island hopping. It is an all-around boat for many different conditions, which is why I bought it. I have not been disappointed at all with my purchase, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to paddle protected coastlines or other smaller bodies of water.
I find the boat does not edge as well as a hard-shell but makes up for it by being quite easy to maneuver with paddle strokes.
It is a very comfortable boat if you are tall. A great camping boat as there is lots of room for gear. Set-up seemed like a snap to me but then again, I used to own a folboat. :-)
I called Frontier about ten days before flying to Vancouver Island to make sure I'd still make weight restrictions on a flight leaving the US. Maybe Canada doesn't count as outside the US but max weight was 2-50lb bags with an overall dimension of 63". That left me scrambling to light my gear by 40lbs!
One of the reasons I like kayak camping is that I didn't have to be as weight consious as backpacking, that is til now. Which brings me to why I'm heaping more praise on the Big Kahuna.
I left the PFD in [to pad the rudder] took out all other non Feathercraft parts and the footpegs and made the 50lb limit. Last year I was lusting for a K1 in the bigger must be better mode, I have forgotten about that thanks to the airlines! But am very grateful for my Kahuna [Fiona] and all the beautiful places she has carried me. If you'll excuse me I need to go drill some holes in my toothbrush!
I really like my boat. Once I was able to get my roll reliable in it (which was a function of simple slowing down my sweep roll), deep sculling and high braces were not difficult. It weathercocks somewhat (as all good boats should) but a bit of edging/leaning I find my self rarley using the rudder. I am usually in the front of the pack when paddling with hardshells and find it very fast in following seas.
What I don't like: when using the rudder, there is no mechanism to keep the peddles forward - I have to make sure my feet find them when reentering after a wet exit. The loose fit makes a roll and re-enter extremely difficult (but a cowboy scramble is easy...). The sponsons need to be topped up after 15 minutes or so of paddling on the cold water (same with other folders I have used). I find the seasock (all sea socks) a bit uncomfortable.
Should you decide to get this boat, I would strongly suggest getting the hipfit kit to help with boat contact. The upgraded seasock if you plan to roll (less water in the boat), and the hatches if you plan to do any camping out of it. Also plan on having groups of people watching you assemble the boat, asking inane questions ;)
MATERIALS: The deck is made of polytech and the hull is duratek. The deck is welded to the hull in a 100% waterproof fashion. Absolutely no water leaks into the kayak (through the deck or hull) when paddling. The deck and hull material is dimensionally stable; meaning it will not shrink or stretch. This make assembly alot easier than with kayaks who have skins that stretch or shrink. It is amazing how strong the deck and hull material is.
PADDLING: Paddling this kayak brings more confidence to me than when I paddled a hardshell. The kayak isn't beat by waves, rather it flows with them. Very nice is rougher conditions. The inflatable sponsons on the insides of the kayak also add to it's stability as well as tightening the skin over the frame. I have yet to need the rudder; as it tracks very straight.
ASSEMBLY: Assembly is rather straight forward; expect about 1 1/2 hours + the FIRST time you do it. Afterward, expect about 40 minutes thereafter. I take longer because I am very exacting and take my time during assembly. It also takes longer because I have the expedition package with 2 hatches, and a rudder. The only part that seems to be a pain is the large stern crossrib; you have to work at getting it in place without being too forceful. I don't like to force anything too much. To me, the cockpit coaming is very easy to put together. I find that you can put the frame into the skin and it not be perfectly aligned. I suggest that you insert the bow frame assembly into the skin, then sit in the cockpit and use your feet to push the frame snugly into the bow while eyeballing it for exact alignment. I also make sure the clips on the deck bungee cords face away from the beautiful deck; as the clips may scratch the deck. If you get the expedition package, use the bow hatch to access your rudder controls to adjust them; its alot easier than reaching through the cockpit. I would like to find a way to place a plastic/rubber tube over the exposed rudder cable - a rubber tube only partially covers this cable's length in the cockpit. I'd hate to see the cable saw into a crossrib or frame piece over the years. I apply Boshield T-9 to the joints of the frame; it protects from water and salt-water very well.
HATCHES: The hatches each have a coaming similar to the cockpit. I use spring-loaded gripping jaws (find them anywhere) to hold the skin on one edge of the coaming while I stretch the rest of the skin over the other parts of the coaming. Its like having an extra pair of hands and makes assembly much easier.
OTHER: I highly recommend purchasing the inflatable Hip braces - makes rolling alot easier. The kayak comes with a bow and stern inflatable float bags - very nice; I always use them. I also recommend using your sea sock at all times. Keeps your kayak from completely flooding, keeps splash out of the kayak, and (what I like) is that it keeps sand and dirt from accumulating inside.
BACKPACK: The backpack is huge; however the shoulder harness assembly is rather poor. It always slips, which throws the weight off of your center of gravity. It has gotten to the point to where I am searching for a Jansport backpack that all of this could fit into. The backpack is just so huge and unweildy; it is not kept at your center of gravity - it has the feel of a poorly designed military pack with too much stuff in it. If you want to cart it around on wheels, then its a good pack. When packing, I keep the frame separated from the skin by placing them into the sea sock.
CONCLUSION: Practice will make assembly alot easier. It assembles rather straight forward, but he instructions can be too brief at times - too abbreviated. The assembly video fixes this shortcoming. The materials are the best of any folding kayak - totally water proof and dimensionally stable. UV/fade resistant too! Paddling this kayak is a dream, though inflatable hip braces helps with rolling. Backpack suspension system needs to be redesigned. I highly recommned this kayak!
Quality of construction is great, showing only moderate wear so far. Again, pay close attention to how to assemble it to avoid unneccessary wear on the parts.
Orginally I typed in an "7" for the paddling experience itself in this boat, but when I thought about the quality of materials and construction, and the extras that Feathercraft provides, I bumped it up to "9".
And not to knock another manufacturer, but the Kahuna gets used a LOT more than my Klepper Aerius.
The kahuna does weather cock,but not a lot.and how many 14 1/2" kayaks don't? You can correct just by altering your seating position,and or decentering your paddle grip,keep low,keep the paddle low,avoid the wind,dont stack the deck with to much kit, I promise you will manage the weather cocking.
About the coaming,as I said before we bought two kahunas, and on one we found that the coaming was a v tight fit.I had trouble fitting the rubber even with rock climbers thumbs, so i emailed feather craft, who asked me to tell them how many identification marks (bumps) were inside the front section of the coaming channel they said okay and sent me a replacement direct to me in london,at there own expense no quibbling,or whinning,they just wanted the boats, and our enjoyment of them to unquestionable. These people truely believe in their products and are willing to stand by them. For them to have been any friendlier we would have had too have been been related. The new coaming made all the difference. The Kahuna really is the the perfect combination of quality,ingenius design,and ascetic design,matched with total reliability,and bombproof construction.
Why cant everthing be so well made and well considered? suffice to say we had a totally enthralling 2 weeks paddling the north west scottish coastline in perfect weather and calm seas and also in foul weather and rougher seas than i ever thought i would paddle in the only thing that scared me was my own lack of ability. The kahuna holds no terrors for any one who paddles one. Buy one today.If I could take on the franchise to sell Feathercraft kayaks in the south of England I would give up my job and do it tommorow.
thanks for reading my thoughts if i could fault the kahuna i would i cant. get the deck hatches get the flotation bags get a quality paddle from lendal or werner get a throw line and get a pdf get out on the water and be prepared to have more fun than its decent for one person to have whilst paddling themselves.
Paul "still grinning like a 12 year old at his fisrt school disco" Harvey
The assembly is frustrating at first, but with practice I have found that it can be consistently accomplished in 30 minutes or less. The key is to concentrate so as not to skip a step. The more the boat is used the easier it becomes to assemble. I have found service and support from Feathercraft to be outstanding. I cracked the cockpit combing and bent the pin on one of the deck bars while levering the keel. In both cases Feathercraft replaced the parts promptly with no questions asked. (And they were friendly!!!)
The one criticism I have of the design is the lack of fasteners to secure the skin to the cockpit combing. (Hence the "9" rating.) I have found that the skin often pops out of the cockpit combing during paddling no matter how tightly it is secured during assembly. I hope Feathercraft comes up with a fix or retrofit to this problem.
I have purchased and would strongly recommend the upgraded sea-sock and spray skirt as well as the touring seat. Recently I have also added the hip-fit kit as well and have found it to be of great help in providing more contact and leverage for hip-snapping, edging and leaning.
Although the assembly is a bit of a pain, the flexibility more than compensates. I store this boat in a small NYC apartment and have the possibility of using public transportation. If one considers the time spent driving to a storage location, mounting and dis-mounting a hard-shell, the added assembly-time of the Kahuna becomes less of an issue. Not having to return to the original put-in also opens up new paddling possibilities. I have flown with the boat as checked-baggage twice without damage or additional charges.
All things considered, I am a very happy customer and would not hesitate to recommend this boat.
My Kahuna (the larger cockpit) also sports an upgrade seasock which is very comfortable and solid. I also bought a Snapdragon heavy duty deck which is good in colder waters. Overall Feathercraft has designed a classic.It is stable in rough waters and flows delightfully with true responsiveness and a dynamic entry. It also packs and travels just as advertised, the deck material is tough and with its sponsons inflated, tight as a seal's butt.Asthey say here in Topanga:"I'm stoked."
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