From our composite expedition kayaks to our most playful recreational kayaks, every Necky is crafted to optimize the performance not only of the boat, but also the paddler. For us this is a process that requires a clear, uncompromising vision of each boat’s expected use; the expertise and tenacity to exceed expectations; and the passion to accomplish this in a design that stirs an equal level of passion in others.
Our kayaks embody what we see as a purity of form and function. The sleek lines and elegant shapes reflect all that is beautiful and adept in the liquid world. In doing this, we bring you a line of performance kayaks that is as unique as each paddler. Engineering a kayak is a complex proposition. For every performance element gained, another may be diminished. Kayak design is a delicate negotiation that, when done well, minimizes this sort of compromise.
The paddler and the water have a say in how a boat performs as well, of course. Each paddler is as distinct as each kayak. The water is an ever-changing medium. So a kayak must be built to come alive and respond to the conditions and possibilities of both.
Stability, because few paddlers want to end up capsized, is very important when choosing a kayak. But stability is a complex issue—not only does it keep you upright, it’s connected to virtually every performance element. Stability is really an issue of volume, which creates buoyancy, and where that buoyancy lies in the hull.
Not every kayak that feels stable is stable. And not every kayak that feels tippy will leave you overturned. Stability is divided into two types: initial and secondary. Initial stability is what you feel when you first sit in a kayak on flat water. A kayak with a good initial platform feels solid. But you can’t always rest easy in a kayak with high initial stability—that very same kayak, when introduced to surf or chop, can become a different craft. When that boat leans over, you’ll find the stability is not where you need it, thus limiting you to calm water conditions.
Kayaks gain stability through hull shape—primarily through beam (width) and flare. Flare describes the angle of the hull outward from the bottom of the kayak to the deck. Pronounced flare increases secondary stability. This secondary stability is vital when you’re faced with rough water or when you lean in to a turn. Lean turns are an efficient way to maneuver your kayak. If your kayak is long, it will likely track well, but it will lose maneuverability. By lean turning a kayak, you reduce the waterline length presented to the water and turn quicker. This is why secondary stability is so important—it helps you stay upright while you orient in a way that makes the kayak move the way you need it.
Chine is another element of hull shape that assists with turning. Chine is best pictured by a kayak’s cross-section—it describes any transition from one surface to another from hull to deck. Chine can be hard or soft, single or multi. The Manitou II is an example of a soft-chined kayak—it rounds gently from the hull to the deck. A double hard chine, like that on the Looksha series, has two angles in the hull itself. The Chatham features a full hard chine which appears rounded but is designed around stability.
Necky offers many different hull shapes to fit your needs—how do you know which is best for you? Know your water and where you want to go. Know your paddling skills and where you want to take them. And finally, test paddle. Preferably in the kind of water you’ll really face, with the gear you’ll really take.
Next to staying in the kayak and out of the water, paddlers like to go places. Rocker is part of what makes a kayak go where you want. If viewed from the side the kayak lies flat, it has little rocker. If the kayak is shaped more like a “u,” it has a lot. If you plan to paddle in tight coastal areas or rivers, or you simply prefer to turn and carve quickly, more rocker makes it easier. Generally speaking, if covering distance is important to you, choose a kayak with less rocker; it will paddle more efficiently in a straight line.
This rule applies in flat or moderate conditions—in rough or confused seas, extra rocker will aid your ability to paddle straight because it keeps you on top of waves (which makes it easier to stay on course). Extra rocker allows you to respond to, rather than fight, tough conditions. Like stability, rocker is not an either/or choice—it’s a matter of balance that works with other aspects of a kayak’s hull shape. We at Necky pride ourselves on achieving this balance across our line.
One thing many Necky touring kayaks have in common is the “Dolphin” bow, which features smoothly flowing rake, generous flare, and buoyancy. Translated: as the bow passes through waves, forward motion creates upward thrust that keeps your deck above water. This keeps you dry, on course, and up to speed. Because of this unique bow, (combined with appropriate rocker) Necky Kayaks are a pleasure to paddle in rough conditions or the surf zone. The Necky stern is also unique—buoyancy is also important behind you.
Clearly, you need enough so your stern stays afloat. But too much buoyancy aft will shove your bow underwater and create a wet, rough ride.
How fast will this kayak go? It’s a common question, especially among paddlers who want to travel as efficiently as possible. Speed isn’t as simple as you might think—in theory, long kayaks track better in a straight line and should propel you most efficiently. In reality, efficiency comes down to wetted surface and how much a paddler can handle. A long kayak has more wetted surface than a short one, which means a long hull has to tackle more water than a short one.
A long kayak in motion tends to stay in motion, but first one has to get it there. If a paddler is strong enough to handle the wetted surface of a long kayak, he or she will reap the efficiency benefits once the boat is up to speed. Weaker paddlers may find a kayak with less wetted surface is quicker for them.