Yesterday I went back to Varberg in Sweden to try the Rockpool Menai 18. I had made an appointment with Sara from Escape Kajakcenter in Gothenborg, Sweden, that they would bring a Menai 18 and an Alaw Bach to Varberg for trying. The famous surfing […]
They are only sold in a few places, one of which is Escape Kajakcenter in Göteborg, Sweden. They had a course that day in Varberg where there are often good waves, and they had kindly offered to bring some extra kayaks for me to play with.
The train trip was over three hours but in compensation I was picked up at the train station.
On the beach there wasn’t a single honest wave in sight, but there was a Rockpook Alaw waiting for me. It was an early model, according to Sara from Escape Kajakcenter one of the first five ever made.
The Alaw is recognisable on the characteristic tall fore deck which distinguishes it from most other sea kayaks. Both Rockpool kayaks have an ergonomic cockpit, designed so you can have your legs and feet in many different positions. The most important part of this is the foot plate which replaces the normal separate foot rests. Thanks to this plate you have support on your whole foot and you can sit with your feet and knees in many positions without losing contact with the kayak.
The Alaw has hard chines mid-hull, so it has a sharp edge on the side of the hull rather than a more round shape. It gives it a very good secondary stability, so it can be edged a lot with feeling insecure. The Alaw can be edged to something like 45° and still feel quite stable and controllable.
Edging the Alaw to the limit will bring the keel out of the water both fore and aft, and the kayak can turn almost on the spot.
The kayak is very sensitive to edging and can be manoeuvred easily with a little bit of skill.
The one I tried had no rudder or skeg. It would probably gain some directional stability if equipped with a skeg, but wasn’t bad either, mostly because it was so easy to adjust course by just a sleight edge. Rockpool does deliver kayaks with skegs on order.
The only thing negative I have to say about the Alaw, is that I feel the cockpit rim is too high. It is probably a question of taste and habit, but I prefer kayaks with a low cockpit rim so I can lean over the sides more easily. Especially when rolling it, I felt a bit uneasy because I felt restricted in my movements by the high cockpit rim.
The high cockpit rim must suit somebody. For example, the Nigel Foster Legend has the same feature. I didn’t like it much for the same reason, even though it is a really nice kayak in most other ways.
When the others went to lunch, I stole the Alaw Bach one of them had used. It has less volume than the Alaw, and doesn’t have the high fore deck, but otherwise they are much alike. There isn’t quite the same flexibility in changing leg position, since you can’t lift your knees as much due to the lower fore deck, but the foot plate still offers some possibilities of changing and varying you paddling position in the kayak.
In the beginning I felt really bad in the Alaw Bach. There was a stupid edge on the seat, and the cockpit was really tight around the hips. I had read that the Alaw Bach was for small and mid-size paddler, and I’m 188cm and 90 kg which is not so small or mid-size, so I was about forget about it. Maybe the Alaw Bach just wasn’t made for me.
Now, there is a touch of stubbornness in my character, and I hadn’t done three hours in train to another country and not try one last time, so back to the beach, out the boat, examine the seat. I discovered that each side of the seat was padded with three thick pieces of foam, and that the back support wasn’t tightened properly so it slid behind an edge on the plastic seat. Off with the padding, tighten the back support and back on the water.
It was a revelation. Suddenly the kayak was as if made to measure. It followed my slightest movement, turned left and right as easy as nothing obeying the smallest stroke, and it tracked quite well too. The missing skeg was easily compensated by the high sensibility to even light edging. I was very comfortable in the seat.
It is the best kayak I have ever paddled, and I have tried a few thanks to the confidence of my local kayak dealer.
Now I have a small problem. I have such an itch to buy an Alaw Bach, and if I want to decide colours and design I have to make up my mind within a few days. Escape Kajakcenter has pre-ordered several Rockpool kayaks and must send over colour specification within the 1st of June. I can just imagine it. It is such a marvellous kayak and it’ll look just as good.
On the other hand, I do have an OK kayak, actually quite a good kayak, and there’s so much else I could spend the money on, and many will probably think I’m being silly, but I am a little bit in love.
I guess the coming days will show if reason or feelings get the upper hand.