I may have accidently discovered the Holy Grail of paddlecraft.
I started my paddlecraft devotion about 50 years ago, with various canoes, which can be great vessels, when used as designed, however, they all just seemed to lack a certain difficult to define ‘something’. My sister suggested I try kayaking, and I’ve never really looked back. My fleet consists of 2 sit in side kayaks, 3 sit on top kayaks, and a canoe/kayak hybrid.
At this point, I should disclose that I am a pretty large dude. Like, big enough that the weight limit on most kayak models are below what my scale tells me, every morning. The list of kayaks which will support me is pretty short, and the boats which make that list are usually pretty slow and heavy. I had almost reached a point where I believed that big guys like me, were forever doomed to paddling at a snail’s pace, when I stumbled across a social media post, selling an Old Town Next canoe. It caught my eye, mainly because of the color, and I popped over to the Old Town website to learn more.
A solo, 12 foot canoe, with a 450 pound weight capacity? And a total weight of 50 pounds? And seating with back support? Okay, what’s the catch? I need to try this boat!
My first test drive was in open salt water, with mild waves. After a couple decades of paddling mostly sit on top kayaks, with excellent primary stability, (the initially feeling of tippiness experienced in paddlecraft), my core reflexes had forgotten what a more rounded hull was like. The learning curve was about 5 minutes, before I could sit still, comfortably. When the boat was moving, it was rock solid.
As most of my paddling is in rivers, I decided I needed a test drive in these conditions, before pulling the trigger on this one. The Next is a canoe/kayak hybrid, similar to one I already own, at least by definition. My current hybrid has a tunnel style hull, which increases tracking, but makes it rather challenging to turn quickly, which can be important on quickly flowing rivers. The Next incorporates a tumblehume hull, which is rounded on the bottom, and narrows inward at the gunwale, resulting in fairly impressive secondary stability, (how far you can lean before going over). Because of this, I can perform slight leaning turns, greatly increasing the maneuverability of this craft. A lighter friend was able to lean all the way to the gunwale, spinning this boat on the proverbial dime. It took me a quarter. Still impressive.
After about 10 miles in the boat, I am as in love with the seat, as I am with the hull. The seat is mesh, set in a full frame, which is reminiscent of sitting in a recliner. The seat rests securely in a track system, allowing you to slide it forward or back, to properly balance the boat. The Next also utilizes adjustable foot rests, which aid in giving you a comfortable seating position, and allow you to brace in turns.
So, is it possible for a paddlecraft to be lightweight, track well, turn sharply, sit comfortably, and carry larger paddlers?
If you are looking for the Holy Grail of paddlecraft, I hope you will at least test drive an Old Town Next. You will not be disappointed.