Last session I took the Viking kayaks Profish 400 out for a play in some messy conditions at my local beach Stanmore Bay (see that report HERE)..I had planned to head out for a fish for part 2 of my review, however mother nature has other plans and the onshore wind is even stronger which has picked up the swell a little more…so rather than sit by, fishing can happen another time, I take the Profish 400 out in this to see just how I handle it..I would pick the onshore wind to be 25knts gusting to 30+…it is hard to tell that from the video as the Pohutukawa trees are not blowing all aver the place (takes more than 30knts to shake these branches!) …the fact that only a small number of Kite surfers and some land sailors are out in this should tell you enough…no other surfers or kayaks, just me.!
With these strong head winds and a cockpit full of water every time a wave dumps on me it was hard going, I added some extra saddles to the kayak before heading out so that I could fit a set of thigh braces…these offer greater control catching waves but are equally as important to have when paddle out through the waves…I would have taken a few more swims this session had I not had the thigh braces!
Click on the image below to Watch the Youtube video from this session ..
OK so the key things I was looking for in this session are
- control on a wave without rudder
- stability and hull speed
- speed of water drainage from cockpit
- how the bow handles going through the surf and catching wave
Speed of water drainage from cockpit
For me this is probably the most important of all the things I am looking at… when launching a SoT kayak through any surf you are at your most vulnerable at the point where a wave has filled your cockpit with water and stopped your forward momentum..this usually leaves you right in the line of fire for the next wave or set to finish you off! weather you have timed it wrong or just cant avoid it, a cockpit full of water is bad and will instantly add litres of weight to the kayak… keeping forward momentum us important to let the water drain from the scupper holes fast so you can lessen the weight and get through the sets… The Profish 400 handled this well and dumped water pretty quickly, the nature of the bow sees the kayak wanting to punch through the wave rather than lift over, the downside being a lot of water in the cockpit, the upside being fast hull speed off the back of the wave to dump the water. The lightweight nature of this kayak also made it easy to paddle forward (having a base weight of 24kgs “vs” other heavier roto moulded plastic kayaks makes all the difference in this environment) .. so a big tick there.. Never for a moment did I feel in trouble padding out in these waves.
next up lets talk about the stability… big tick!! hardly surprising given that Stephen Tapp, arguably NZ most experienced and influential kayak angler, had so much say in the design of this model. This kayak has been designed with landing big fish in big conditions in mind, 2 things Stephen does often..the low seat position creates a greater sense of stability and gives you greater feeling control in the rough…not feeling like you are sitting on top of a cork bobbing around out of control like many Fishing SoT kayak that choose to promote a higher drier seat position as a feature…yes the lower seat and sharper bow of the Profish 400 make for a relatively wet ride, but I can assure you this configuration is user friendly in surf launches and rough conditions..your mind would be put at ease if caught out in some big swells or paddling close to rocky shores with swell bouncing back from the land while hooked to a big fish of course!…although the bow has very little lift in comparison to my personal fishing kayak it was surprisingly easy to control after a couple of runs to get used to the difference.
Having thigh braces helped me to gain great control when surfing the kayak, all of which you can see in the video, there were only a couple of occasions were I got my timing wrong and the bow buried too far to recover, which bucked me out.. the bow does want to bury quickly when on the swell but as you can see from the video footage it recovers well and pops back up (assuming the paddler does not panic too early 😉 … most of the time leaning the kayak on its edge was very easy, it was stable in this position and easy enough to correct when sideways with a good lean on the thigh brace and using the paddle as a rudder (I do not have a rudder fitted to this kayak but that is an optional extra…it tracks so well that I would find it hard to justify a rudder on most occasions..the only exception being if you paddle in areas with a strong current).
Given the nature of the environment in this session I will comment further on Hull speed and tracking on more normal conditions … but as a quick overview both hull speed and tracking were hard to fault. The hull is fairly easy to turn using only your paddle and a slight edging of the kayak. Given it was only my 2nd time in the Profish and the conditions were less than desirable (unless your a kite surfer or other wind sport fan) I felt very much at home and comfortable in it… this meant I spent less time looking for faults and more time having fun…I am sure you got that from the video! …so in a nutshell this was a good session and I would think this kayak has a lot to offer those of all abilities.
For me as a paddler these 2 sessions pretty much make up my mind for how the Profish 400 will handle the kayak fishing/hunter gathering trips I would use it in… without fault! The handling of the kayak is 80-90% of my decision making, the deck layout and functionality of features etc is very much secondary as these facts can mostly be modified to suit your needs. Extra reassurance for me is knowing Stephen Tapp had a say in the deck layout, I have the utmost respect for his ideas and techniques and have learnt much of what I use and do through his wealth of knowledge… so in Part3 I will take it for a fish putting focus on the layout as it comes from the factory and how I would utilise this layout plus add extra gear for my personal preferences… until then thanks for reading and be sure to head on over to Viking Kayaks. com to find out more about the Profish 400…