After being absent from water and therefore paddle sports for a long time, I am finally living back near the water and am enjoying rekindling my enthusiasm for kayaking. I had been following the rise of ocean paddling and was super keen to give it a go. I still had my old surf lifesaving spec ski, but I wanted the thrill of speed on the waves that the new ocean racing skis could offer.
Before my first purchase, I surfed the web looking for product reviews, forums and for the actual race results of the different skis in the market place. In the end, I went with the ski that I just simply saw the most of - a Fenn Elite. The Fenn craft seemed to be everywhere and have had a great deal of success at ocean racing events. I thought that if a majority of the paddlers I saw bought this boat, then it must be a good craft.
The Fenn Elite is a great craft, but to my dismay, it was not the best boat for me. Everyone is different, and for me this ski was immediately the wrong purchase decision. Whilst the ski handled and performed much to expectations, it was the paddling position that I could not tolerate. The bucket is very low, almost following the cylindrical hull. Thus, the bucket is extremely curved, forcing my hip bones to rotate in. The low position did not allow for kayak like drive, and the hump between the bucket and the footwell was in the way. I’m not sure why, but the bucket shape made me lean back, instead of forward like in a K1 and I just couldn’t get any power through my stroke. I chocked up the bucket with inches of foam, trying to get more height and to flatten the seat out so my hips wouldn’t be rotated in, but this sacrificed stability and I just couldn’t get the right feel that I wanted from the boat.
At this time, it is important to qualify that I have a six foot (185cm) mesomorph body type. A mesomorph has a large bone structure and large muscles. When lean, I sit between 95kg and 100kg, so I am much larger than the average guy. Obviously the problems I experienced with the Fenn’s bucket may well not be a problem for you, and this is obvious by the number of people happily paddling and racing on Fenn craft.
If at first you don't succeed...
In despair, I started searching for another craft – determined this time to try the boat before making a purchasing decision. I tried a number of boats from brands that you would all well recognise, all of which were very good. Though not the last boat on my list of boats to try, when I took the Vajda Orca for a paddle on Sydney Harbour, I knew straight away that this was the boat for me and that I did not need to try any others!
The build quality of Vajda Orca is superior to all the other ski manufacturers that I have seen. It is light and strong, and has great looks to go with its beautiful design lines. I don’t want to name any brands in particular, but this ski is miles ahead in build quality and aesthetics. I’m sure that other manufacturers will be clamouring to catch up with Vajda’s build quality. This ski has already been blown off my racks onto the concrete floor in my garage. I watched the ski bounce a foot into the air after it slammed in the concrete. I was convinced that I was going to witness total destruction, but to my amazement the ski did not even have a mark on it!
Aside from the build quality, the Vajda Orca performs extremely well in all conditions. I believe the Vajda Orca to be at least as fast as any ski on the market in both flat and in downwind conditions. On my local training time trials, I am consistently covering more distance on the Vajda Orca then I was on my previous ski. I believe this is mostly due to the fact that I am more comfortable on the ski, but obviously this ski must be fast as well.
The boat has a great trim and tracks very nicely but can turn on dime, thanks in part to the clever position of the rudder and the rounded tail section. In flat conditions, the boat runs like a K1. In small chop the boat is very settled and very quiet, with none of the slap that I felt on some other skis that I have paddled. In the ocean, the rounded tail section allows the paddler to feel the runs early, and helps to accelerate the ski early so that catching runs is all too easy. Both the front and rear decks seem to have the perfect volume and the giant scupper works a treat.
Stability and Comfort
The Vajda Orca Ski is easy to handle with great feedback from the rudder and has great primary and secondary stability. But most importantly, in my opinion the Vajda Orca Ski has the most comfortable bucket on the market; because when you can’t sit comfortably in a craft, you can’t perform at your best! The bucket is raised so that it is higher than the footwell, like in a K1. This allows the paddler to sit upright or forward, rotate through the torso and drive with the legs to generate real power. The higher seat also made it possible for Vajda to flatten the seat, so that the hip bones don’t get pushed in and up. The hump between the bucket and the footwell is no problem on this ski. I can sit comfortably on this ski for hours.
If you are in the market for a new ski, don’t make the same mistake I did. Make sure you paddle the ski before you buy it. What may be the best ski for someone else may not be the best ski for you. But whatever you do, make sure you try the Vajda Orca before you buy any ski, it’s a ripper.