I will say upfront: probably every boat review I do for this site for the near future will inevitably start with “Compared to XX Wave Sport boat.” Can’t be helped – I paddled Wave Sport boats almost exclusively for 25 years. But once I had a little time to process Wave Sport moving to Europe where everyone loves them like I did, I realized that I would now have an opportunity to see what else is out there. And in bringing in Liquidlogic kayaks and Big Dog Kayaks, I felt confident that this new discovery of boats would be fun.
Let’s start with Dig Dog Kayaks, as they are not as well known here in the States since they come from across the pond. I will put it out there right away “Compared to Wave Sport outfitting (yep – already doing it) Big Dog outfitting does not compare. The Europeans are not as worried about paddling lounge chairs down the river. At least the Big Dog is not a German company or we would really be in trouble outfitting-wise! But I got past the outfitting issue and realized I was actually not uncomfortable in the Big Dog Kayaks I have paddled. And hey – I started paddling when outfitting a boat took more time to sculpt/fit/glue/shave than Michelangelo took to sculpt David, so I am okay with the outfitting. The outfitting is ergonomic and you sit up well in the boat. Thigh braces– my pet peeve; boats with crappy thigh braces make it so hard to paddle. I wish every company would steal Wave Sport’s…. so the fact that I did not notice any short comings from the thigh braces is a big plus.
Part of the sales appeal of bringing in Big Dog was that they had a deep line of boats. They even have canoes – canoes that real canoers enjoy paddling (that would be you, Red). While I have to leave canoe reviews to Red, I’ve now paddled two of Big Dog’s kayaks: the Havoc and the Force, and want to share of what I learned.
The Havoc. For those of us who yearn for the return of the Wave Sport EZG (there I go again), the Havoc satisfies that yearning. It is a “river runner playboat” – with a slight leaning towards play boat. When Wave Sport retired the EZG and came out with the Fuse, they skewed the boat to a bit more river runner than playboat because folks whined about edginess. The Havoc brings back some of that edginess. In Juliet speak it means it can stern squirt. Stern squirting is my favorite party trick. And what’s more fun than stern squirting on a hot summer day. Anyways….. aside from that, the boat is stable, and its length assures that it will move faster than a slug, making it a river runner as well. [Note: for specs on boats, see: http://bigdogkayaks.com/ as I can barely remember the names of kayaks let alone their specs. And why remember specs when you can look them up!!]
The Force. Okay, I have a long-time love affair with the Wave Sport Diesel, still the most go-to boat out there in my opinion. I consider it a go-to because it is rock solid, but feels frisky to paddle. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Force fits that same description. It has delightful hull speed (not too fast, but not too slow). It has great pick-up-and-go speed. For a boat with little rocker, I was surprised at how easy it was to keep the nose up on boofs. The chimes are not as sharp as a Wave Sport, so while it was not as responsive (by a smidgen) or loose surfing, it definitely might be more forgiving for someone who tended to trip over their chimes.
Bottom line, the boys across the pond coming up with Big Dog Kayaks are doing a good job. I am happy that we made the call to bring them in to compliment our line-up of LiquidLogic kayaks.