Peter Holgate has made a surf kayak. He started with a Mega Neutron, but made a new mould, and has changed it in several important details. The finish and outfitting, too, are all new.
I have to say from the outset that while plastic is a very suitable material for kiddies' buckets and spades, I'm generally speaking underwhelmed by plastic at the beach. Plastic boats in general frustrate me, mainly because of their weight. By the time I've carried them from the garage to the car I've gone off the whole idea of paddling them. I put up with it in kayaks for extreme white water, because of the safety and resilience that plastic can offer. Otherwise, forget it. Surf kayaks, in particular, seem to have no excuse for being plastic. Plastic is heavy, plastic is slow, plastic never seems to stay flat on the bottom of the hull. The only benefit it ever seemed to offer was its relative cheapness. But why not buy a second hand fibreglass boat for the same price as a new plastic one? As a politically incorrect Cornish armchair god of the surf kayaking community once said to me: "Class in glass, ******* in plastic!" (I'll leave you to guess. It rhymes...)
Until today, though. This Venom kayak looks nothing like a plastic kayak, apart from where the plastic has been trimmed around the cockpit rim. It feels nothing like a plastic kayak. It's hard and shiny and when I pick it up. OK, it's not like the one-fingered lift of my pro spec carbon-kevlar boat, but it's an easy one handed lift and carry. But it's when it hits the water that astonishment truly sets in.
|Chris Hobson © Chris Hobson|
Normally what happens when you've caught a wave straight and too early, is that the boat settles down to the bottom of the wave and resists any attempts to make it dynamic, pivoting from the back as it squats into the wave. Not this one - it carves smoothly into a bottom turn with no squat, and I find myself back at the top so quickly I almost throw myself out of the boat in my rush to top turn before I surf straight off the back! Odd.
The boat just doesn't feel plastic. It feels... fluid. Intriguingly slippery, and with an acceleration/speed relationship that defies the basic laws of physics. Bit like a shortboard. This is nuts...
I am struggling, because I haven't outfitted the boat, I can't reach the footrests, and my fingers are in agony from the cold, but I can see that something has happened here. Maybe it's the additional length and width over the original Neutron, maybe it's the profile of the rails, maybe it's just the finish and the exact hardness of plastic. Probably a combination of all of these things. It's very good. Not just as an entry level boat, but for anyone but a pro, probably.
|You'd be forgiven for thinking these are surfboards|
This is just the first test shell from Venom Kayaks. But I think I'm going to be seeing a lot more of them, somehow...
|Cleanest rails I ever saw on a plastic boat|
|This foam back rest with logo imprint is a nice touch|
|The thigh grips are composite, and there's talk of carbon fibre outfittting as an upgrade|
|Pleasing overall shape and balance|
|It's all looking pretty sharp|
|So shiny you can see your face in it|