The Esprit Kayak by NW kayaks, built by Wilderness Systems is probably my all time favorite sea kayak. A little history, I have been an avid paddler for 40 years and making a living in the industry for 30 years. I had a kayak business in Florida (Agua Azul) when Andy Zimmerman (owner of Wilderness Systems) drove up in his van trying to sell some kayaks.
Reviews for Esprit Kayak by Northwest Kayaks, Inc.
Based On: 3 Reviews
I have paddled dozens and dozens of different kayaks and few to none achieve the liveliness, comfort, speed and agility of the Esprit. I currently own and operate Kayak Jaco (www.kayakjaco.com) in Costa Rica and we use sit-on-tops for 1/2 day outings.
When I get to paddle for pleasure I am using an 18ft Queen Charlotte by Pygmy that I found down here. But I still miss the Esprit. Great boat: if you can find one, buy it.My Espirit by Northwest Kayaks was marketed 8-12 years ago by Wilderness Kayaks. It is fiberglass/composite. It is just over 16 feet long and is the joy of my kayaking life. It took all of 20 minutes to feel in sync. Who ever designed and built this boat is to be commended. I have paddled beside some awesome kayaks, but my boat still draws positive attention.
I would consider buying a new one if Northwest were to return to production and be true to the original. It has a purple-gold metal flake paint job (original) that is a bit faded but it is a wonderful experience each time we go out. I have grown attached to this kayak and unless stolen or lost I will keep it for a very long time and I would advise people to buy one if possible.Recently bought this boat used for my wife. We were prepared to spend close to $3,000 for a nice new composite boat, but I saw an ad for an older Northwest Kayaks Esprit on Paddling.net, and since it was nearby we figured we would give it a look. When I first saw the boat, I thought my wife would hate it. Hard chines, pronounced V, fine entry, this boat just shouted "old design, not for beginners!". Anyway, she got in and paddled around for a while. From shore, she looked very tippy in one to two foot chop and powerboat wakes. I was letting the seller down easy when she returned and said "we'll take it right now" I couldn't believe it! The Esprit fit her like a glove (5'7", 130 lbs.), and once she got over the slight initial tippiness, she felt very comfortable. I was ecstatic because the price of the boat, which was in really decent shape, was well under $1,000 bucks!
Since then we've had the Esprit out about on about a dozen day trips. The boat tracks quite well and carves turns beautifully. Weathercocking is minimal, and the Esprit is quite fast. Initial stability is only moderate, but secondary stability is excellent. We've both had it leaned waaay over during sculling maneuvers and although we are relative beginners the Esprit makes us look like we know what we are doing! I can't speak to the effectiveness of the rudder because we've not yet had a need to use it, even in 12 to 15 knot winds (inland waters). Also, I don't know how well she rolls because I've only mastered the first part of the eskimo roll - the part where you're upside down :). Our only major complaint is the really mushy foot peg system (no rudder lock) but I guess that's not uncommon for boats of this era (1985). Thus the "9" rating.
I called Northwest Kayaks to find out more about the Esprit. The very nice lady there said they stopped making the Esprit about five years ago because people just coming into the sport wanted a boat with softer chines and greater initial stability. She did say that they still received positive calls about the Esprit. She indicated that they still had the molds and could someday return to production if there were ever a demand. So for all you folks out there looking at expensive new boats (I'm still looking at new boats for myself), if you see an older boat advertised nearby, take a look. You might be pleasantly surprised. By the way, don't expect to save that much money. My wife likes the Esprit so much that after the paddling season she wants to have it completely restored and refinished. Along with retrofitting a Sealine rudder/footpeg system, I calculate I'll be into this thing for about $1,600 bucks!