No, that's not me paddling the Vital. I wish I was that good! It's one of the Maelstrom guys.
Well, the Maelström kayaks have finally trickled into the Ottawa, Ontario area. I think there are probably only two of them around here for now and they are pretty sweet looking demo kayaks at Paddle Shack in Ottawa's trendy Westboro neighborhood. One of each, a red and white Vaag 174 and a blue and white Vital 166. (Update to this post: My paddle partner and I bought both of them after the first test paddle on the Ottawa River.)
They are play boats designed for the high-end paddler. If you aren't a high-end paddler, buying a kayak that is will help you get there. You'll have to learn how to really paddle and will have way more fun in the water!
I sat in the Vital today, on the showroom floor with foams underneath. The weather around here is emulating winter! I hope it's just a bad dream with the hail, rain, then snow and sleet (yes in that order), and cold high winds this weekend. No one seems to be on the water testing new boats.
I noticed a few things I probably won't like about the Vital on the water right off the bat, things another paddler mentioned to me already, but I will have to try it on the water before I decide.
Super low coaming. How will you ever get your neo skirt on that . . . fast?! And in rough water?! Do I have to buy a special skirt?! That's what I didn't like about Valley boats and some Impex boats. Boreal seems to understand this. Their boats have ample room in the coaming for getting your skirt on quick. Boreal is manufacturing Maelstrom kayaks. Maybe they should talk? Or they know something I don't and need to find out?
The day hatch behind you is smack in the middle of the boat. It is stiff and impossible to remove it yourself if you turn around and try to wretch it off, and I'm uber flexible! But I figured out another, smarter, much easier way. Sit facing forward, put both arms behind you, with your first two fingers under the notch of the day hatch, gently push up and snap it off. A breeze. To pop it back on . . . you'll have to figure that one out yourself! And I'll have to test that myself on the water.
The Vital has another handy little hatch right in front of you, perfect for a cell phone, GPS, and energy bar.
In the cockpit, Maelstrom boats don't have backbands, and I don't know if I'm going to like where the foam pad hits me in the small of my back once I hit the water. I can't lay back flat on the back deck without scooting my seat forward a bit as the seat is right against the back coaming. I might have to fiddle with the back pad or make some adjustments, but the foam seat itself is very comfortable, and I'm guessing insulating if you paddle in cold water. Metal and plastic seats can be cold.
CKayaker has a review and photos of the Maelstrom Vaag. I'll follow up with these kayaks and add links to other paddler reviews.
Bottom line is, I still want to get out on the water and play with this kayak. It looks like a fast ton of fun!
To find all my other posts and reviews on Maelstrom kayaks, about the chines, performance in wind and waves, rolling, what instructors and paddlers think about the boats, etc, just use the Search this Blog box in the top right corner and type in: Maelstrom or Vital. And if you have comments or reviews on the Maelstrom kayaks, send me a comment, a review, or a pic of yours. I'm collecting news and reviews of Maelstrom kayaks. 2012 Update: Maelstromkayak and Boreal Design are no longer manufacturing and distributing the Vital 166 or Vaag 174 sea kayaks. Boreal Design declared bankruptcy in 2012. The company was sold to another manufacturer along with the Vital and Vaag designs, which are no longer manufactured in Quebec or in Canada. Maelstromkayak has two new high-performance kayak models with new design features: the Forvag and Flod.