Frequently Asked Questions

Q     Are these really Frequently Asked Questions? Be honest.

A      In the interests of harmonious customer relations, we are forced to neither confirm nor deny! Judge for yourself. Just about everyone seems to have FAQ’s these days. At least we were polite enough to use the full name instead of the common FAQ jargon. The answers are however, within certain parameters, 100% honest!

Q     My mother-in-law who tips the scales at 135kg will gift us five grand to buy a kayak provided we take her with us.  How can we keep her happy?

A      Order a Southern Light with the large seat option. The front seat pan is 440mm wide! The pan is almost on the floor. The coaming (hole in the deck) is large. The Southern Light will take about a 500kg load. Relieve her of her money!

Q Why has your 2009 Evolution Omega got a gimmicky thing bolted to the bow?

Good question – long answer. There are several reasons that the Evolution Omega has a bifurcated bow. Read on.

The bifurcated bow was old-technology to the Bering Strait Inuit when Joseph Banks (with Capt Cook) and Capt Waxell (with Capt Bering) documented the “impossible” speeds they achieved in their kayaks in ‘the 1740’s and 1770’s. Waxell’s and Banks’s comments are documented in the Smithsonian Institute book ‘Skin Boats of North America’ and Lydia Blacks ‘Russians in Alaska 1732 – 1867’ – page 46.

If you Google ‘bifurcated kayak bow’ you can see that many sea kayak manufacturers are now incorporating this design feature – without fully understanding why the Inuit invented it – hunting speed and stealth.

From my own point of view I was first excited by this forgotten technology in the late 1970’s when Graeme Egarr loaned me his copy of (Smithsonian Institute) Skin Boats of North American. The 1970’s coincided with the common use of ships designed with ‘bulbous bows’ (Google that too). In 1990 I built my first bifurcated bow kayak – which was paddled by Ian Ferguson on several visits to Nelson. This kayak was lost in the factory fire. In 1997 I fitted a bifurcated bow to the Esprit that Ron Wastney paddled so very successfully in the 1997 Classic River Race. All experiments showed better distance-made-good (speed?) at lower heart rates (increased endurance).

Just what a multisporter needs.

Ron paddled the modified Esprit for a further 7 years and did not suffer the perceived breakages and hangups that were forecast.

As a kayak manufacturer I have suffered derision from a younger Andrew Martin for fitting a rudder to a river kayak! I have suffered derision when the first long boat was invented by Steve Gurney and myself (Evolution Edge and Classic). I have suffered derision when the Evolution was originally nick-named “the Revoltion”. And I suffered derision when I invented the multisport kayak as a class and took the Triathlete to the 1987 Mountains to the Sea race. Despite all of the above derision no-one can take away from me the personal contribution I put into the many Coast to Coast records (and wins) by John Jacoby, Steve Gurney and Keith Murray (still stands).

So I have the right to make the following statement. If I release to the market a kayak that makes better distance-made-good for lower heart rate – that is my promise. And the testing by Luke Vaughan (and others) has proven that as a fact.

The bifurcated bow also offers a dryer ride through wave trains. It acts as a ‘shock-absorber’ as the bow slams down into the solid water – thus keeping the deck dryer (less wetted-area drag) and the velocity up. This action is also noted on ships with bulbous bows.

Ships were first fitted with bulbous bows in the 1930’s when the Germans built two fast Trans Atlantic liners. Next the Japanese used them in their 1940’s aircraft carriers and battleships. Then nothing – until the US navy fitted ramming poles to patrol boats during the Vietnamese War. The patrol boats sank a lot of local boats – and surprise surprise – they used less fuel and cruised faster. The ‘Oil-Shocks’ of the early 70’s saw the common use of bulbous bows on large ships become accepted design. Ship designers still argue over the science. There is no record regarding the German ‘invention’ or how they came up with the bulbous bow idea.

The bulbous bow is now being adopted on smaller and smaller displacement pleasure launches. This movement to ever smaller boats will continue as all boat owners demand better fuel efficiency (and easier paddling).

Please do not ask me to explain the science – but my own observations over the past 20 years has allowed me to make an opinion relating to pressure reduction between certain water molecules just in front of the bow. Those ancient Bering Strait people were very clever at their kayak improvement art. With the kindest intentions I am for once a copy-cat – of those almost forgotten ancient Inuit.

The Evolution Omega is drier even though the cockpit (and paddler) are further forward – compared with the Evolution Edge and Classic. At a given aerobic heart rate ithe Evolution Omega makes a smaller wake – and therefore has less wave-making drag. The Evolution Omega is not a sprint kayak. It is set up for displacement multisport paddling. For semi-displacement speeds ithe Omega would need to be fitted with that other amazing Inuit invention – the ‘T’ transom.

As far as I am aware I am the only kayak manufacturer to fully appreciate the real reason these Bering Strait people invented such clever designs. The Evolution Omega seems to be the only racing kayak using a bifurcated bow. All other commercially made kayaks with bifurcated bows seem to be sea kayaks – with the bifurcated bow and ‘T’ stern added for styling reasons – not speed and stealth (small wake wave) when hunting in the ice-leads.

Thanks to my late friend Graeme Egarr who I first debated the reasons for what seemed to be a crazy ancient design. Thanks to the Inuit who really did change the way all boating will be done in the future. And thanks to Bruce Ranga, the Dunedin businessman who helped to keep the Omega project alive.

Please do not try to use derision to make me stop making the Evolution Omega. I have experienced this stupidity before and I remain impervious to its effects. Ignore the bifurcated bow at your own peril.

Q    Footrest:  In my Epic skis and Sladecraft Flash I have footflaps and I am really used to them and will probably go that way.  But, I have never used a tiller bar.  Am I missing the greatest thing since sliced bread? Sorry for all the questions.  But, as you know most boat builders (sadly) don’t give the buyers these options, so it is taking me a bit to work through it. “Help?”

A     This topic is so complicated that all other multisport kayak manufacturers miss the fact that – for the Speights Coast to Coast – choice of kayak footrest is an integral part of individual race strategy. These commercial opportunists seem to just slap on a universal fitzall standard pedal footrest that they purchase by the crate load. Clueless copycats!

Fact – the Coast to Coast ‘kayak’ section contains a tough hilly cycle, a totally anaerobic downhill sprint run to the kayak and a steep climb grovel from the kayak to the cycle for the final ride. By offering optional footrests I provide a wider range of race strategy options to my customers.

All of the Speights Coast to Coast Record Holders have used Tillerbar footrests in their Evolutions. They paddled in running shoes – which saved them many minutes at the transitions. Some did the ‘kayak’ cycle in their running shoes using ‘plates’. The Tillerbar is easy to use with running shoes.

Pedal Footrest in running shoes – Laugh out Loud! Zero record breakers using those. Peddle paddlers winning efforts evaporate as they fiddle with their latest (of 4) shoe change. May as well have a cup of tea at the same time!

There are also other race strategies. In 1989 I used Velcro cycle shoes and climbed the last hill with my feet on top of my shoes. Then I jumped straight into my zip-up-dive-booties-with-Formthotics-glued-in (fantastic running shoes) and sprinted down the hill and straight into my Delaware with Bulldozer bar. In my group of ten I was the least athletic. I was on the river ahead of the most athletic in our group – the eventual Men’s Veteran 2 Day winner. Dave McFee. This strategy would work well with the Footflap-on-Bar footrest too

You can work out your own race strategy and then select your ideal footrest. But you need to consider another variable also – your shoe size. Size 14 – and you are best to use my strategy and a Footflap-on-Bar footrest.

But please remember this. Every year, top athletes can be seen wasting valuable minutes doing multiple needless shoe changes from cycle – run – kayak – run – just to do the KAYAK section of the Speights Coast to Coast. But many Longest Day record holders have not changed a shoe between Deception River and Gorge Bridge – just by selecting the Tillerbar footrest.

And another Tillerbar plus. Zero accidental rudder wiggle-woggle. Come clean. You have seen it on other paddlers boats. DRAG. Lost momentum. Why bother? This is a race? Yes – No!?!?

Q    I have an Evolution Classic. I am new to such a narrow kayak. How do I get into it easily?

A    Place the kayak in the shallows so that it is just floating. Stand astride the cockpit while facing forward. Grip your paddle (close to one end) in both hands behind your body and lower your body onto the deck behind the cockpit.

As your the paddle comes into contact with the deck extend some of your fingers to transfer more of your weight to the kayak directly rather than overload the paddle shaft. Now sit on the paddle/deck and (whilst bracing off the ground with the extended paddle) bring your (one at a time) feet into the cockpit. Next using your arm strength – slide your whole body forward and lower yourself into the seat.

Getting out is the reverse.

If the arms fail you – your arms need building up – head for the gym for a week or two. The extra arm strength will make you go faster as a bonus.

Q      What is the lightest kayak you have built?

A      I must be allowed to answer this twice.

The lightest usable multisport kayak I ever built was a 7kg Vision 2 (no rudder) Wildwater Racer for Steve Gurney. He used it to win a Subaru car in Australia. The course was steep and tight with a rugged rocky corner just near the finish line. Steve made great time on the water – sealing his win – but the boat was a one-race wonder after he hit the rocks at the end.

The lightest usable sea kayak I ever built was the 13kg Nordkapp that Paul Caffyn used to circumnavigate the whole of Japan. He kept on paddling through 13 typhoons just to avoid becoming an overstayer on his visitors visa. Very strong kayak. This kayak still remained Paul’s main Nordkapp for New Zealand paddling for many years. These days he uses one of the Australian circumnavigation Nordkapps for his trips.

Steve needed (and used) the light Vision for rapid acceleration out of the many tight situations on the rough river course.

Paul needed the light Nordkapp (it probably weighed 40kg by the time he packed his ‘minimalistic’ camping gear) to improve his portaging ability. Interestingly – his average speed proved to be the same as his other circumnavigations – but his endurance (average daily distance paddled) doubled.

The standard weights listed on my range of boats are set (by me) to deliver kayaks that Perform-AND-Endure. I WILL build special light boats for enhanced performance at special events. These light kayaks are not intended to be listed as heirlooms in your last will and testament.

If you want a light kayak custom built for any purpose – just ask – but be warned – the price goes up as the weight comes down. It costs nothing to ask though.

Q    Do you use a computer program to design your boats?

A    No.

Q   OK, you partly answered my question. Why not?

A   Computer programs are designed to create fair lines for heavier vessels that operate in deep water. Kayaks are different. The vessel mass is low and wetted area, windage, bottom-drag, boil grab are very important considerations(to list just a few). Any kayak designer who ignores the above list is just taking his customers on a joy ride. Garbage-In-Garbage-Out (GIGO). The world’s classic kayak designs still come from common sense coupled with solid personal experience.

Q      I’ve been paddling an Esprit for a while now as my first multisport boat, and have found it great to learn in, but am now looking to move up into something a bit quicker… Still want to have a boat with a fair bit of primary stability (flattish bottom), but didn’t really think that the Nucleus had this – seems more curved like an evo, so has put me off it a bit & I am still looking… I know there are a few other boats out there, so it surprised me that this type of boat is something that seems to be missing from your range, and where a lot of paddlers want to be. Why dont you make a new 5.5m long model by combining the lines of the Esprit and the Evolution?

A    I suspect that the boat you need to look at is in fact the (in the middle) Centrix. Nucleus also means in the middle. Including the Defender we already list 5 (honest performing) mid-range designs.

The most unstable Down River Racer (used by early Coast to Coasters) ever designed was the Delphin 2. The Delphin 2 had a (“stable?”) flat bottom. It also had flat sides. This flat bottomed (box section) nightmare really preferred to sit on its side! Narrow kayaks with rounded bottoms are actually more (with skilled paddler on board) stable!

The Utopian Dream mid-range boat you describe will never be successfully marketed – by any manufacturer. Balancing the kayak through the seat (as suggested by asking for a flattish bottom) is not a viable option in any narrow design. That is because as kayaks are made narrower, the paddler needs to re-programme his or her brain to improve balance skills plus (more importantly) support-off-the-paddle-forward-stroke skills.

The weak link in this midrange market is in fact under-developed paddler skill. Once the paddler takes the effort to gain these midrange skills, he or she would be best to go all the way – select a real boat – an Evolution.

Other manufacturers have made multisport kayak models that are long (speed implied) and (at the same time) wide (stability implied). Some of these models are in fact just high-drag-barges. These Utopian Dream kayaks get blown this way and that by the wind because they are also over buoyant. They end up having too much drag (paddler hits the wall!) inducing high-wetted-area. This Utopian Dream kayak’s (lack of) performance factor cannot be modified without a complete re-write of the laws of physics. To sell Utopian Dream type kayaks the salesman would need to have had training in the marketing of Snake Oil!

In the sport of Multisport (and Sea Kayaking), low wetted area designs will always help the energy-deprived (stuffed) paddler make better distance-made-good toward the finish line. Our customers know that – even if they do not know why.

There is also another poorly understood factor relating to a paddler “falling out” of a ‘fast’ kayak. In fact the paddler may well have been catapulted out! This is because a longer – narrower design usually needs more draft to keep the total waterline design in contact with the water. This draft can act as a ‘spring’. If the paddler moves their mass off the centre line – the kayak says “WOW – I am unloaded and headed up”! The unskilled paddler swims. This would definitely be an disguised ‘feature’ of your suggested Utopian Dream kayak design.

Oh – I wish I was an ‘innocent’ copycat kayak builder. Such total ignorance would surely engender  guilt free bliss! But, at Sison Kayaks we know all of the above mentioned physics factors too well. The reason we do not offer the Utopian Dream model in our range is very simple. To do so would be blatantly dishonest.

Q… Somewhere I have seen some reference to ‘displacement’ boats suited to aerobic endurance paddling and ‘semi-displacement’ boats being suited to anaerobic sprint paddling. Can you please explain this to me please?

A… Sure.

Displacement and semi displacement describe how certain hull shapes cut through (or over) the water. This is the BOAT!

Aerobic and Anaerobic describe in simple terms the ability of the body to produce endurance power and sprint power. This is the MOTOR!

An anaerobic ‘motor’ in a ‘displacement hull will ‘dig-a-hole’ and go only slightly faster. A high powered ‘motor’ in a semi-displacement hull can force the kayak to ‘semi-plane’ and go much faster than it’s lines would indicate.

Aerobic ‘motors’ can push both hull types at their cruise speeds over long distances with no problems.

Anaerobic ‘motors’ can make semi displacement hulls go faster – but only for a short time. The ‘motor’ ‘hits-the-wall’!

The secret to longer-higher-speed performance is to train your body to raise your anaerobic threshold. Better motor! Aerobic power output makes the motor stronger for longer. Then the semi displacement starts to win races!

Aerobic ‘motors’ needing extra stabilty are best to choose a ‘displacement hull that will offer more primary stabity in rough water.

In the Sisson Kayaks multisport range the Eliminator, Esprit and Centrix are all pure displacement kayaks. The rest of the range are semi-displacement.

Q    I have paddled both plastic and composite kayaks. The composite kayaks seem to glide along better than the plastic. Are you able to explain why? Another Nelson kayak builder (on his website) claims that it is because of greater hull flex in plastic kayaks.

A       Sadly Snake-Oil-Salesmen did not all die out in the 1890’s. Beware of false kayak prophets!

If you get a 5000 magnification photo of both boat-type surfaces you will immediately see why the speed difference happens. The composite kayak surface looks like a river bed. The plastic kayak surface looks like multiple houses stacked on top of each other. The plastic kayak answer is good-old-fashioned-DRAG – caused by the rough ‘surface’ yanking what should be the water ‘boundary-layer’ with it. A composite kayak allows the ‘boundary layer to develop into a ‘rolling motion’ – thus allowing lower drag = more speed.

Now – can I interest you in our latest kayaking product – Snake Oil Coating for plastic kayaks – it fills the porous surface. Just NZ$299 per litre – order two before lunch and we will ship …………………………

Q      I have a Nucleus 80 which I now realise is a bit “tippy” for me, however I will persevere! I see in your “instruction Manual” that you mention with pan seats I should add foam blocks. Being relatively new to this kind of sport I could do with some advice on how, what and where. Also – with these additions would you expect that this would help with reducing my “tippiness”?

Any advice – greatly appreciated.

A    Thanks for coming back to me with your problem

I will add some more info on this in the manual.

Basically you should not ‘fall sideways’ when the boat goes over 20 degrees from flat. You should be ‘loose’ in the boat vertically but should not ‘rattle’ horizontally.

So – that means the sides of the cockpit need to be layered with closed cell foam so that you do not have any free space to slide sideways off the seat pan. If extra foam layer is added just below the coaming a ‘hipblock’ will be formed. This gives maximum body reference to the boat.

I personally find that I am much more stable in narrow boats if I glue a foam block onto the ‘floor’ of the kayak between my heels. This stops my feet from falling sideways when I lean the kayak onto its side. To me that makes a great difference to my ability to remain relaxed and feeling in charge of my stability.

Some paddlers pad the knee-thigh brace area to get reference to the boat in rough water. In multisport this area must not be padded too tight – it may upset your paddling technique. Keep that loose but if you want to – you should still be able to deliberately lock your knees under the deck.

Ultimately the stability that you experience will come from being relaxed in your boat. You cannot be relaxed if you are constantly locking your knees under the deck (gripped with fear!) or ‘rattling’ sideways at the footrest and seat.

Go for it with the glue (Fullers Maxbond) and the foam sheet!

There is also an exersize that you can do to reprogramme your brain to hone up your balance skills in a relaxed way. It is listed somewhere else in this FAQ page.

Q    I want to carry a Voyager on top of my rusty old 1970 Mini, is this legal?

A    It is all a matter of interpretation and load positioning. The New Zealand Road-Code states the following about car-top loads. Paddling drivers need to remember the following rules.

The load may extend forward from the front edge of the drivers seat no more than 3 metres.

Taking into account the above rule, the load must not extend more than 1 metre forward of the front of the car.

The load may extend rearward from the axis of the rear axle no more than 4 metres.

Taking into account the above rule, the load must not extend more than 1 metre rearward of the rear of the car.

So – as far as New Zealand law goes – any car-top load more than 2 metres longer than the car is totally illegal. And the for and aft positioning must be precise even if the length is OK. Beware – your insurance may be void. The police, over the summer of 2002/03 targeted and prosecuted many over length trailers and boats on trailers. It is possible that they will one year mount a kayak-over-length inspection at the Speights Coast to Coast. To be legal at all times many car owners will need to mount a front bumper support onto their cars. Some will also need to buy a longer car.

And in the meantime we will refrain from developing new kayak models that cannot be legally carried on any known car. Our model range will continue to be just long enough to do the real job on the water – and not made so long as to turn our customers into a band of criminals while travelling to the races.

Q       A personal question that lots of us would like to know about.You must be getting to the end of your working life. How long do you intend to keep making kayaks?

A     I really enjoy making kayaks and that is the main reason I still do it. Kayak manufacturing is quite physically demanding – so it keeps me fit for the other things I enjoy. In 2002 My skiing (started 1955) hit its peak in many ways. I also took up snowboarding which I enjoy greatly. What I am saying is this. I may have been around for 60 winters but I have not slowed down at all. The factory is set up so that the need for heavy lifting is minimised. I could still make a kayak when I am 80. I have no intention of retiring – just yet. My kayak business is not my main business. I have another bigger business that takes few hours to run and could be described as very boring. The kayak business and the customers I deal with – keep me young. Secret – past 55 – dont look in the mirror too much!

Q      I have never owned a Sisson Kayak. None of my race boats have bow loops and a race director has told me that I need to have them fitted to enter his race. Why do you fit bow loops to all of your racing boats while many other manufacturers do not?

A       At last – a race director with a vision of safety! Clearly it is cheaper (more profitable) for any irresponsible boat builder to ignore bow loops. Ask the builder of your boat “why did you leave them off”? All Sisson Kayak racing boats have bow loops fitted because, more than anything in the world, I love a good night of un-interrupted sleep – every night. Personally, I believe that all boats without bow loops should be banned from all events! Your eyes were your merchant when you laid your money on the counter- shame on you for allowing yourself to get ripped off. Your Grade 2 certificate kayak instructor would have taught you (or maybe he ripped you off too) of the need for strong loops in any rescue situation.

The same sad situation applies to Decklines on seakayaks. There are many ‘racing’ seakayaks on the market that have no Decklines fitted. A Seakayak with zero Decklines is not a true Seakayak!! The disastrous 1990 Xerox Challenge paddle in the Marlborough Sounds proved that strongly fastened Decklines are essential for effective rescue at sea. Some Decklines are crudely attached to thin deck lay-ups with screwed-on fittings that fail even a tiny load test. There are real-life reports of such crudely attached Decklines breaking free and entangling swimming ‘paddlers’ necks and (fortunately not yet simultaneously) rescue launch propellers. Yuck!

Since 1977 Sisson Kayaks has fitted our sea kayak Decklines the ‘old fashioned’ way using glassed-in plastic tubing. The ‘glassed-in’ tubing also forms a ‘tophat’ structure alongside the monocoque void (seat or hatch hole) resulting in a stronger hull-deck structure. To date, we have never  received a single report of a deckline attachment  failure.

Q        Is it true that you have built sea kayaks that have been used in many open sea trips?

A       Yes. Check out the map in the web page “Who we are”. Click here to have a look at the map of the world showing sea trips using Sisson Sea Kayaks.

Q    I am a physiotherapist currently doing my Master’s and am looking at low back pain in multisporters (particularly with reference to kayaking). I am looking at the prolonged sitting position, and effects of different sitting postures. I am interested in finding out a bit more about your “hanging”, “pan” and ‘hipboard” seating systems:

what are the benefits of the different seats (why are they used in different boats)?

are there any differences in seating positions?

are there any differences in tilts of the different seating systems?

does any feedback from kayakers indicate a preferred seating system?

Thanks for your time in replying (hopefully!!),

A    Many multisporters come from a strong running and to a lesser extent, a strong cycling background. Their legs are over-developed. Added to this, over the life of their running career they have not done enough of the correct (for kayaking) stretching exercises.

Modern man has degenerated into a mismatched bundle of back muscles. The connection of the legs to the back (strong) is not matched by the (weak) connection to the arms. The arms are connected to lower back muscles that are underused and under developed. In fact some of these muscles are probably seized in their sheaths! I talk about the arm muscle groups that push – not pull. You will know their names.

Added to their appalling muscle mismatch is their all-too-easy-to-observe ‘novice’ kayaking posture. You should go to Woodstock and watch the Coast to Coasters go past 4 hours ++++ into their paddle. Note the erect-but-relaxed posture of the winners – note the ‘Toby-lean-back’ posture of the (for-the-want-of-a-better-word) losers! Hopeless kayaking that leads to back pain! The losers are usually paddling with their arms only with their lower backs totally curved against their prized and custom-tuned ‘back-rests’. The winners are paddling will their legs, trunk and straight arms with straight spines that rotate with each stroke!

Somewhere in my website I make the statement that there is no such thing as a “British Standard Bottom”. Everyone is different. I have never liked paddling on foam because of heat buildup – but I just love the Gurney foam seat that has never to date caused me to overheat. It is all personal preferrence. So – all of the seats offered are there for pure marketing reasons – personal seat preference made available equals more kayaks ordered. The personal reasons as to why my customers demand this or that seat remains a mystery to me.

I personally feel that seat choice has very little to do with back pain occurrence. Multisporters with lower back pain should spend some time:-

1.. Doing aggressive isometric exercises in a doorway – pushing outwards as hard as possible – with the elevated hands taking the pressure in every contact point possible

2.. Doing lots of proper stretching

3.. Doing less ‘training’

4.. Spending more time relaxing in a Lazyboy chair

5.. Spending more time on skill improvement

6.. Getting some kayaking instruction that is focused on proper posture. Proper kayaking posture is tiring at first – but once achieved it becomes ingrained and comfortable. Good posture makes paddling easier and allows longer endurance. Good posture comes from muscle training and not from seat design.

7.. Observing the winners in the sport

8.. Getting more crafty (training their brain)

9.. Toughen up and stop blaming their lower back pain for their poor race perfomance.

So my reply is less about seats (red herring) and more about the failings of modern man.

Q     I was reading an article written by Steve Gurney and he mentioned that he often uses a Stier Roll when he practices his tip-overs. What is a Stier Roll? None of the guys in my local kayak stores know about this Eskimo roll.

A    This is an ‘old fashioned’ roll technique mentioned in kayak books printed in the 1970’s. It is the perfect roll for use in ‘fast’ kayaks. The set-up for the roll is lying back on the deck – and you strike forward into the normal seating position. Properly executed the set-up will be in place before the face becomes submerged. Then the strike forward (using the forward inertia of the boat) will ‘pop’ you back up into a new poker stroke position with minimal effort. Crafty old Steve!

Q    I have been into a kayak chat room on the internet and someone asked the difference between an Opus and your Evolution Classic. A guy who answered the question said that there was very little difference between the two boats. He went on to add that the Evolution Classic had “too much volume”. What does he mean by this?

A    You should ask the internet guy that very question directly. I suspect that the words of ‘wisdom’ may come from ‘The Scribe’. If you asked Speights Coast to Coast record holder Keith Murray the same question, I am sure he would give quite a different answer. I doubt that Keith (or hundreds of other Evolution Classic race winners) would have any complaints about the volume of their boat. The volume was set to the needs of Steve Gurney when we co-designed the Classic. It is a fact that Keith Murray was still using his race record setting boat – 7 years after the record run – surfing the enormous waves in the Rangitata River – when his Classic reached the end of its life swept onto the rocks. I can believe that at this very point in time, Keith may have been wishing his boat had even for more volume. Keith immediately bought a new replacement Classic!

Internet Chat rooms are very often the lurking grounds of those with thinly concealed commercial agendas. ‘The Scribe’ is certainly one such gentleman. He claims to have been in multisport since before anyone else can remember any available race. He is ‘expert’ (‘X’ is an unknown quantity & ‘spert’ is a drip under pressure) on most things to do with multisport kayaking – but his own performance on the water – in actual races – must surely be a gigantic disappointment to where he sees himself.

But please don’t be too hard on people such as ‘The Scribe’. We need such people desperately. ‘Scribe’ type people reduce the national illness toll – because it is a well proven fact that a good laugh stimulates all sorts of goodness that benefits both our body and mind. And we should all laugh loud and hard at the amazingly hilarious antics of underachieving ‘experts’ such as ‘The Scribe’.!

Q      Do you have any idea, for comparison purposes, roughly what kind of

speed one can maintain for hour or longer races in the Evolutions series

kayaks (on relatively smooth, slow-moving rivers for example)? I’m just

looking at an estimate for comparison to some of the other kayak classes

I have raced. For example, in many of the races I’ve been in, 7.25 miles

per hr. is needed for 1 hr. to generally finish in the top 3 places

while in an ICF kayak. Top 3 places, for an hour race, in a downriver

kayak, might mean that an average mph of 7.0 was needed.

A    Firstly, I do own a kayak speedometer but have never got down to comparing actual speeds because (a) my customers keep winning races in my boats (b) a lot of those races are won on moving water (c) the high achieving kayakers skill level can make them ‘faster’ by shortening their route. To sum up – there is more to a ‘fast’ boat than a ‘fast’ hull design.

The concept of the Evolution was to make a low-wetted-area (low drag) design (easily driven through the water at low heart rates) that will make good progress to the finish line of a race even though the ‘motor’ (stuffed paddler) is failing to produce the power that he or she would plan in earlier training.

Back in November 1990 the Xerox Challenge (Multisport race the length of New Zealand) Race produced some interesting answers that ever since has been reinforced in hundreds of other real races. We had been selling Evolution Classic boats for only 9 months and there were only probably 30 in existance. Allan Roxborough (top NZ paddler who later gained second place) did a lot of testing of boats and ‘proved’ to himself that our Tri Extreme (wingless Jaguar K1 hull) was faster than the Evolution. Alan had unfortunately been going slightly anaerobic due to the feeling-of-elation that K1’s tend to generate. He also ‘felt’ that the Evolution was ‘slow’ because he could not actually see the bow wave that his efforts generated!

In the actual race Alan did well in all of the early shorter paddles. But the Evolution paddlers were never far behind him. Then came the first long paddle on the Wanganui River. Alan cleared out (anaerobic again!) in front all on his own, but 1.5 hours later he was passed by several Evolution (wholely aerobic!!!) paddlers who made a big gain over the rest of the paddle section. Alan later borrowed an Evolution and in the long paddles on the Southern Lakes he maintained places in line with his proven ability. The race was won by (Evolution co-designer) Steve Gurney who did some amazing-to-watch-on-TV paddle section wins.

Check out Race Results in the ‘Comings Goings Windups’ page. In the 1994 Keith Murray set the Speights Longest Day race record (Won a Subaru car) – 238 kilometers in 10 hours 34 minutes. Keith used a 16kg Evolution Classic to maintain his amazing average speed over the whole course. Keiths kayaking section was very fast – proving once and for all the myth of light boats being ‘fast’ in endurance races.

As at May 2003 the Evolution Classic remains my top selling single model – it works – my customers continue to win races! And sales of the worlds original ‘long-boat’ continue to knowledgable paddlers world-wide.

Q    OK, I’ve done the commercial kayaking tours, I’ve figured out that sea kayaking is something I’d like to do more of – enough to warrant the purchase of a boat, rather than continue hiring. To date, I have found it difficult to get a sensible response from kayak retail assistants about the type of sea kayak that would best suit my needs. (Naturally, whatever———–(this section omitted by Grahame, maybe libellous)—– their recommendation) So at the risk of taking a pounding on your website for not knowing too much about kayaking and asking ridiculous questions, I’ve decided to brave the following: (abridged questions)

Do I buy the best I can afford now (even as a beginner) and “grow” into the boat?

Do I buy a cheaper boat now, and upgrade later?

A    I can still remember being a beginner skier in 1955. I still remember my first kayak trip as a beginner in 1965. I will long remember the help and banter some kids gave me as I started snowboarding August 2002 at Porter Heights. I will never “pound” a beginner because I am constantly reminded that I am one myself. This summer I will master barefoot waterskiing.

So – I just love your questions!

In general retailers prefer to sell the products that give them the best margins. So their answers are not always aimed at solving your problem.

Sea kayaking can be both boring and terrifying – depending on when the next unexpected weather front hits your paradise. If you want to make sea kayaking your main sport this is my recommendation.

Buy a cheaper boat now. Some are much better than others. Ask around for advise from others in your area. Some cheap boats are junk. But some are surprisingly good.

Get your paddling skills up fast by taking a river kayaking course.

Join KASK and go to their symposiums to learn the sea-going skills fast

Develop your group of contacts that you find enjoyable to paddle with

Define your own boundaries of risk. Say “No” if you feel exposed by group decisions. Always plan your escape route in advance.

Once you are happy with the above – shop around for the boat of your dreams

I hope I can then be of real assistance to you

Have lots of fun and be prepared to help lots of other beginners

Q     I hear that you used to do kayak Demo Days all over New Zealand. I find it hard to make comparisons and it would be good if you still did these trips. Why did you stop doing these much needed trips?

A    Yes we did these trips all over, often in mid winter and at night. Thousands of people attended between 1987 and 2001. Then the numbers attending dropped – and those who came only wanted to ridicule us. So we went off on a different tack – like making this website what it is today. For more info go to the Comings Goings and Windups column on this website – then scroll to Demodaze. Gee – I really do love my MGF.

Q    I am a ‘gun’ runner (not an arms dealer) with a handy turn of speed on a bike. Kayaking looks easy! I am moving into multisport and intend to do lots of sprint training in the boat. Next year I intend to take out the Coast to Coast. Would an Evolution Edge help me win? I think Steve Gurney must surely be a wimp because he uses the ‘slower’ Evolution Classic.

A     Steve usually gets a higher performance from the ‘slower’ more stable boat because he can better maintain the condition of the ‘motor’. Steve wins through the use of craftiness, skill, skill skill and some fitness! However, to win the 2001 & 2002 Speights Longest Day race, Steve used an Edge. Like I say, he is crafty. The rest of your question confirms the fact that in 12 months time you will be a far better swimmer than you are now.

Q    I am forever discovering Sisson Kayak models that you do not list on your website. Can you please list all of the kayak models that you have made?

A     Sure. In the beginning there was the Slipper (1975-river), Olymp5 (1976-river), Gap One (1976-compact river, sea), Gap Two (1976-compact family fun), Elan (1977-river), Nordkapp (1977-sea), Cruiser Canadian (1978-open), Bathbat (1978-training) and 8ft Canadian (1979-open-training).

Then came the Muldoon ‘Boat Tax’ which gathered almost zero tax revenue because it killed off most New Zealand boat builders. We created the Nelson Lugger (1980) traditional sailing boat that was tax-free during the latter part of this ridiculous period. We also made lots of Bumpa Boats (1983-84) With the advent of the fairer G.S.T. in 1985, plus that crazy Lion Brown Coast to Coast race, things got started  on kayaks again.

10ft Canadian (1984-open), Delphin One (1985-racing), Surfyak (1985-surf),  Delaware 85 (1985-recreation-racing), Delphin Two (1986-racing),  Triathlete (1987-worlds’ first multisport racing), Prospector Canadian (1987-open), TriExtreme (1987-racing), Puysegur (1987-sea), Trident (1988-racing), Selkie (1988-sea), Vision Two, (1988-racing) Sting (1988-Slalom racing), Southern Light, (1989-worlds’ first centre-hold double sea kayak) Eliminator 91 (1991-racing), Delaware 91 (1991-recreation-racing), Infinity (1991-racing) Woodstock Express (1993-racing), Contender (1994-racing),  Stealth (1994 racing).

That is 30 ‘dead’ models! There may be some others! Some of these boats would still be offered had the moulds not been lost in the fire of 1996. Also lost in the fire was the plug for the (then) new Odysey sea kayak which did not get restarted. So – including the 18 models currently (2002) in production, Sisson Kayaks has offered to the market a staggering (it surprised me!) total of 48 kayak models!

The Gap One (first 100% self design) was the worlds first compact kayak that could do real things – like run the Buller River or surf the Ocean beaches. It also fitted inside a caravan door. The most copied concept in the world of kayaking up to this present day!

The Gap Two is a (smaller original version of) Minnow or Keoiwi or Tadpole or many other ‘similar’ boats. Still my most paddled personal kayak – I use one as a tender.

The original (low deck, no rudder) Nordkapp predates any other serious sea kayak design available in New Zealand by 7 years.

The original Southern Light was the first centre-hold double in the world. This ‘novel’ feature allowed for out-of-sync paddling – another world first. Much (and poorly) copied concept!

So – during the same period that some of our current competition claim to have had “30 years experience” (we had never heard of them till the early 90’s!) – we had the largest composite kayak factory in the Southern Hemisphere set up, were well established in the market place creating 30+ different models and actually delivering thousands (1978 weekly average production was 22 boats) of boats to happy customers in many parts of the world.

Q    Just a couple more questions to clear up the matter. I believe that some of the ambiguity exists due to the differences in the use of the English language between USA and NZ as well as my ignorance of the racing kayak jargon. For example, a spraydeck is called a spray skirt in the US.

1- I am still unclear what a river drink tube is and what it does. I

looked at the options page and I found what appears to be a perforated tube shown

with the pump upgrade.

2- Is there a reason that I could not use a “common” kayak spraydeck ? By that I mean, is the shape of the Evolution cockpit not conducive to the employment of other than your brand of spraydecks ? I own an all neoprene spraydeck with a neoprene tunnel and find its utility marginal due to the heat retention and the physical constriction. In the conditons under which I paddle the boats it makes me overheat and causes nausea. I much prefer to use the lighter nylon/gortex type of a spraydeck.

A    No problem

In New Zealand we also call them sprayskirts – but over the years spraydeck

has come to replace the former – because the former has feminine dress


My GroundZero spraydecks are made to fit my boats. Many other spraydecks are made to aggressively hold tight on ‘plastic’ boats. These can be too aggressive on my boats and make exit difficult. The coaming can also get damaged.

To cause nausea your existing neoprene spraydeck is either:- too tight – old and lost its stretch. A tight neoprene tunnel can make you feel very ill. My Groundzero spraydecks are made of very soft stretchy (expensive) fabric that minimises this problem. From what you have told me though – you would be best to buy locally custom-made one to suit you flat-open-water paddling.

The drink tube is not for you. It is a Stainless Tube glassed into the hull

in such a way that the paddler can drink the river he travels on. This is

not of interest to continental customers paddling over polluted water. In

fact – in New Zealand there are only a few rivers that this will safely work on – for USA use – forget the Drink tube. I will be posting a photo of this option after I fit the next one to a kayak.

Q    I have read on the website of one of your competitors that they have had a university measure the wetted area of their kayaks as compared with “other” (your?) models. How important is this wetted area?

A     Firstly, if the website is the one I assume, these guys are not my competitors – they are quite clearly my imitators. Their sluggish copy of my Evolution Classic concept is easily observed to be 1000 cm squared too wet! That is what will happen when a concept is copied without the understanding of Sisson Kayaks own design parameters when we created the Evo Classic. Steve Gurney and I designed the Evolution Classic  using every trick we knew to help him win a BMW car. He did get to own that car! When launched onto the market in 1990, the Classic was so different some wags gave it the joke name “Revoltion”. Amazing how years later others can come up with “similar designs” when they work with a ‘reference’ Evo in their workshop


Wetted area is a killer of endurance kayaking speed. That is why every Sisson Kayak has always been designed since 1987 to have the minimum wetted area. That is one of the secrets to all our customers success. We have kept quite on this point until now. Suddenly our imitators make a ‘feature’ of the feature that we always had. Can you hear my laughter from here? This what it looks like “HaHaHaHahaHaHa!

Q     It seems that you have been an innovator in many ways. How do you react to others blatantly copying your intellectual property?

A     When I had the responsibility to my staff – I suffered the imitators badly. It hurts at times! These days I could not care less. I just laugh at their pathetic renditions. But they should be aware that one day I may quietly take protection before I pounce onto them. A Taiwanese company that we are associated with has just sent 5 of their imitators staff to the slammer (jail). Those thieves can now spend lots of ‘free’ time coming up with some orginal ideas of their own. Great news for all original thinkers world-wide. But wait – there is more. The honest innovative Taiwanese company is now free to sue the crooks’ (imitators) company and force them into liquidation. Do you realise that under New Zealand law it is actually against the law to create a work of art (kayak plug) while having a ‘similar’ product present as a ‘design reference’? Should we send blatant intellectual property thieves to the slammer? Yes? No?

Q   I have been comparing the hull lines on your Arctic Raider with another brand of  Seakayak also made in Nelson. Why does this Breaksea hull look so similar to your Arctic Raider hull?

A    These days I take little notice of other manufacturers products so I was not aware of this pathetic design infringement until (Nov 2002) recently.The Breaksea plug was made by John Dobbie. I am at present interviewing his x-staff. He has a pantograph device that allows him to copy ‘frame-stations’ of existing boats. At the time he ‘designed’ his Breaksea (he has admitted to me) he had an Arctic Raider in his workshop. Under international Copyright law that makes him a common criminal. He has lately lengthened his single to make a ‘similar’ double to my Voyager. Once again – very similar underwater lines! I am considering following the example of the Taiwanese company in the question above. Interestingly John has recently been running his pantograph machine over some of JKK’s boats. The kayaks using the JKK hull ‘frame-stations’ are being produced by a Christchurch retailer. Gee – imagine old Kirpy and I combining forces to close the slammer behind this common crim! Likewise Breaksea customers may end up with writs on their masts. No mast? No problem – I reserve the right to use a crowbar.

Q   Another kayak manufacturers website celebrates the delivery of 1000 kayaks. Just out of interest, how many kayaks has Sisson Kayaks delivered since you got started?

A     No idea. Many of the records were lost in the fire. We made over 1000 before 1978. I do know that in 1978 we averaged 22 per week and the best week was 32. That is 1100 in just one year! For at least 15 years we never came below 500 per year which brings the total up another 7500. These days my one-man-band ‘hobby’ business makes well over 100 per year. That is only two per week – chicken-feed-low-volume. At least another 600 in the past 6 years ‘hobby’ mode. To put your question into final perspective my reTIRED ‘hobby’ output is actually higher than the other kayak manufacturer celebrating their meagre milestone. What went wrong? Magazine stories indicate that they are booming. By simple deduction our total looks to be at least 10200 to mid 2002.  The retained business financial reports indicate that 10200 is probably a gross understatement. To answer your question – total sales will soon be 10300!

Q      Recently I purchased a surfski, and the seller gave me an extra wing paddle he had, insisting that the wing paddle is worth the extra effort to learn over a conventional paddle. I can use the wing paddle when in calm water (like a boat marina), but find the stroke very difficult in the open ocean, because the outward motion of the paddle causes me to tip over. Would I be better off with a conventional paddle in the open ocean?

A     It is the year 2002 and I hereby declare that from now on all ‘conventional’ paddles to be wing in shape! The 20th Century flat ones can best be donated to a local museum! The ‘extra effort’ (easy to do technique) needed to make wings work better – also makes the flat antiquated ‘monolithic’  paddles work better. Stick with the wing – used correctly you will get greater distance-made-good with less energy consumed. This equals greater paddling pleasure with the load taken off the arms and spread over stronger parts of the body – like the legs! If the correct technique is used the “outward motion of the paddle” will allow aggressive support strokes to be made, whilst paddling forwards.

I suggest that you take some lessons. If not try this exercise:

Sit in your boat with the paddle held right out in front with both arms straight

Put one blade in the water beside your footrest area (do not reach forward)

Keeping both arms straight, strike out at 90 degrees to the keel-line of you boat (no pulling back at all)

Repeat on the other side (always keeping your arms straight) and the upper hand should pass across in from of your line of vision (always looking at the horizon) until that hand can travel no further sideways, at which time it becomes the paddle – exit pivot

After 6 to 8 strokes paddling (only sideways) you will hit hull speed – amazing stuff.

At hull speed the paddle will be moving out at 45 degrees because you are now moving away from the water. Feel nice? Less effort? Great stuff!

Stop and repeat the exercise descibed above (before you wander off and engrain bad habits).

Support strokes are done (in forward gear) by simply cocking back the (usually right) control hand which will cause the blade to tend to ‘skim to the surface’, thus providing massive support.

It would really be best to take a lesson.

Q     I live in @*@*@*@ (take your pick!) and our Federal Government levies horrendous taxes on all imports. If I buy a boat off you, can you please alter the value shown on the documents to minimise my taxes?

A     No!!!!! The web page “Who we are” outlines the fact that we are honest traders spanning many years. It is not possible for us to be ‘halfhonest’. All documentation from Sisson Kayaks Ltd will withstand any official investigation. You should also be aware that your e-mail has most probably already been read by someone in your tax department. Sad but true because an e-mail message has the same level of privacy as an open postcard.

Q     I am from the USA and I am totally confused by your metric weights and measures. Can you please explain these briefly?


A     Sure. Buy yourself an Apple computer running 10.4. The Widgets are amazing for these and hundreds of other jobs.

Otherwise multiply our KG’s weight by 2.2 and you have the weight in pounds. Most tape measures now have both measurements shown. If you need to convert, 1 metre equals roughly 39¼ inches. On the money side one US dollar could equal (at best) 2 or 3 New Zealand Pesos (just joking!!) depending on how well Alan Greenspan is doing his job for you.

Q     Over the past four years I have clocked up mega-miles trying to get my skills up. The improvement has been slow. Is there a proven way to quickly improve my narrow boat skills?

A     Yes there is a proven fast and easy way. The following advise is aimed at ‘programming your brain! It is based on the way you learned to ride a bike as a child. Borrow a Jaguar K1 (any very narrow kayak).  Travel to a tidal mudflat where the kayak only just floats (push off bottom) and you can touch the bottom with both hands. Leave your paddle locked in your car. Launch the narrow kayak and paddle it with your hands for 3 / 4 hours. Scull with both hands to initially keep your balance. Go backwards – forwards and sideways. After 2 hours you will be able to fold your arms. You will be relaxed. Your brain will be finely tuned for great balance. This works. At the end of the session get a friend to hand you a paddle. Great news! You will paddle off looking just like an Olympic Sprinter! Your balancing skills will be right up there with the best. When you get back in your normal kayak it will feel (stability wise) just like a tub.

Q    Have you got any info on the difference in efficiency between a wing paddle and a flat touring paddle over a long race such as an adventure race?

A    The development of the Wing Paddle is the greatest advance in kayaking since McGregor made his Rob Roy boat in the 1860’s! I have no published info but I am sure that somewhere someone must have done some research on these great paddles. It should be easy for you to experience (provided your technique is correct) the difference in performance and comfort. Wing paddles encourage body rotation and the use of larger muscle groups. Wing paddles always give you a clean ‘catch’ and never tend to ‘corkscrew’ you over if you delay your pull after the catch. Wing paddles allow you to do massive support strokes off FORWARD strokes. Wing paddles reduce the load on the arms and fingers. Wing paddles have ‘lift’ as the blade is sliced sideways toward the blade exit giving more distance-made-good. Wing paddles are fine for rolling. Wing paddles work in sea kayaks. Wing paddles are great!

Wing Paddles have only two perceived ‘disadvantages’. Firstly the high cost factor is no longer valid with the release of new generation injection moulded blades. click to see paddles). The other perceived downside is the water that can run down the blade that feathers ‘scooped’ and squirt you in the eye. This problem of splashed water on the face is a sign that the technique needs to be changed. Easily fixed!

Now for the irony. If you use a flat bladed paddle with a Wing technique – it works better – but still not as well as the real thing. Wing paddles – I am a converted Wing paddle fan!

Sadly I witness lots of paddlers ‘training’ in their ‘fast’ boats with their new ‘fast’ Wing paddles. Over 80% of them are using the old inefficient flat paddle technique! What a waste!

Q   I have just read all on your website, and have two questions. Why do you build your sea going kayaks out of fibreglass instead of plastic which is cheaper? Can I use the sea kayaks in the rivers?

A    If you click here you will see that we are quite happy to retail selected polyethylene kayaks. Now to answer your questions (1) Starting in the late 70’s, the worlds first Polyethylene (plastic) kayak manufacturer, Perception (USA) has just ‘diversified’ their offerings for 2001 by listing up-market composite (fibreglass) sea kayaks. In New Zealand Quality Kayaks made the first Polyethylene sea kayak, the Puffin in the late 80’s. Q K have also in recent years listed fibreglass sea kayaks. Get the picture! You are correct, plastic is cheaper! Plastic is also slower! Plastic boats are often kg’s heavier than their published brochure weights. Plastic does however have a definite place in the market. Polyethylene construction excels in any situation where the kayak is subject to human abuse on dry land. It is great for making low maintenance family kayaks and Sit-on-Tops.

We have never felt the urge to join the hundreds of plastic manufacturers who constantly fight over such market share. But we are quite happy to resell selected models. We will stick with the composite construction of seakayaks for paddlers who appreciate proven long lasting life and rugged performance on the water. Many of the original Nordkapp sea kayaks built by us in the late 70’s are still in regular use. (2) Yes – but if your (lack of) skills allow you to tangle with  willow trees,  rock gardens or other kayaks – you may find that you are over-capitalised!

Q    A friend tells me that you once wrote a column in NZ Adventure Magazine that BRUTALLY came out in favour of ‘wing’ paddles.

A    True. I will find the story and reproduce it here one day. It was triggered by a member of the “Flat Earth Society” (I just love that club full of idiots) who wrote to the magazine suggesting that wing paddles were over-rated objects. In the meantime believe me when I say – flat paddles are inferior to wings in 95% of all situations! The only thing really holding up the universal use of wings is the higher purchase price. I love my wing paddles. The efficiency is higher, the paddling action unloads the arms and encourages rotation, the load is spread over the whole body. Wing paddles are the best thing since sliced bread. Now – back to those Flat Earthers………………….

Q    A large chip of white gelcoat has broken off the hull of my kayak at the bow. I am concerned the fibreglass under this chip is exposed to the water. Is this a problem?

A    No. Because the fibreglass that concerns you is in a kayak hull which will spend most of its life dry, you have no problem. It is true that constantly wetted fibreglass will take on water and degrade. But this is only a concern if you own a larger boat that spends its whole life in the water. Relax. Repair the chip for cosmetic reasons only.

Q     I am thinking of buying a sea kayak. What significance does the exploits of your customers Takehiro Shibata and Paul Caffyn have to do with me? I only want to paddle tidal estuaries, not circumnavigate continents.

A     More paddlers have died paddling tidal estuaries than circumnavigating continents. The sea can be both boring and terrifying!  Sometimes these extremes can be only spaced apart by minutes. The sea takes no prisoners. Always wear a life jacket. When things go wrong you are better off in a kayak that is proven in the hands of the best whilst they were attempting the impossible. Sisson Kayaks was making real sea kayaks for eight years before any other NZ manufacturer joined the market. Our designs have changed little. That’s because the properties of wind and water remain unchanged. In closing off this question, we ask you to note how our competitors boats are ‘evolving’ (copying) into Sisson Kayak look-alikes. The resale value of their early designs is low. A quarter century old Nordkapp is still worth heaps.

Q     I am thinking of buying a double kayak to do adventure races such as the Discovery Southern Traverse. I want a light boat. The ‘other brand’ kayak I am considering weights in at only 26kg. Why is your Voyager made so heavy at 30-35kg?

A    We build the Voyager strong enough to withstand the envisaged abuse that only a secret course can dish out. In addition the Discovery Southern Traverse race rules say that no kayak can be raced weighing less that 50kg. So even our Voyager runs the event ballasted! Clearly any manufacturer who makes a ‘sales feature’ of a light 26kg Adventure Racing boat is (take your pick) either (A) unaware of the race rules, (B) an ego driven ‘weight freak’ who is also into the business of selling 24kg cast iron ballast blocks. Buyer beware. The light structure displacing  200-250 litres (250 kg payload) will surely crumple when it goes up on the rocks. The Voyagers’ extra weight comes partly from our exclusive ‘rock smashing’ (up to) 69000 unidirectional glass fibres laid along the keel line – bow to stern! Sensible kayak design plus reliable construction is a proven race winner.

Q     Why are the standard hatches on your sea kayaks so small?

A     Because big hatches are more difficult to make waterproof. Bilge water is normal in most boats. In a sea kayak it can make you trip miserable. Most sea kayaks with large hatches have permanent bilge water. The paddlers use dry bags to keep things out of the water. Fact – Paul Caffyn never uses dry bags! Fact – with a little detail work Paul makes his Nordkapps so leak proof that he never has bilge water. The small hatches remain secure in all sea conditions. See the Manual for advise on packing boats with small hatches

Q    I left my boat lying on its deck, in the rafters of a hot shed for two summers. Now it has got two big dents in the deck. Is my boat damaged beyond repair?

A     No – check out the Sisson Kayak manual for a simple fix.

Q    Looking inside my new Evolution I note that although the construction is Kevlar, the area around the cockpit is plain fibreglass. Is this normal and if it is – why?

A      The area around the cockpit is constructed of fibreglass because, should the kayak ever be folded around a tree in midstream, the paddler (you) can escape easier. In short – fibreglass can be torn open whereas Kevlar will stay intact but ‘hinged’. The reason is safety – safety – safety!

Q      I notice that your stable multisport designs have hull designs that are very wide at the footrest. A salesman at our local kayak store states that a narrow footrest is best because the paddle can be entered into the water faster.

A     The salesman is correct – if you are a top racer in a narrow boat. However, if your skills are such that you must paddle a wider boat, faster paddle entry is really a dead issue. The main issue is that no matter what the water and wind conditions, you will always maintain your body mass over the centre of the hull lift. As you paddle forward you (should) will be transferring your thrust to the footrest. This moves your mass forward. Drop into a river ‘stopper’ hole and your mass moves even further forward. Ask the salesman to explain where the stability will feed back to you when the widest part of the narrow footrest boat – is behind you as you plunge into the gaping hydraulic ‘hole’. Wider boats stay stable longer in rough conditions if the footrest is wide! If paddle entry time is an issue – you should get skilled up and be paddling an Evolution!

Q      My local kayak shop has a kayak that looks quite a bit like an Evolution but I am told it was designed by an Americas Cup designer. Why do Sisson Kayaks not use a sailing boat designer?

A      To get a good kayak design – go to a kayak designer. Sisson Kayaks are all designed to have the lowest wetted area in their class. Low wetted area is very important. Sadly, if I tried to design an Evolution Classic wider, it too would become a drag. Reportedly Team New Zealand may have some gaps in its ranks due to offshore defections. Maybe I should offer my services to Team New Zealand. Could I do worse? If and when Keith Murray ever sets a new sub-10hr 30min Speights Coast to Coast record, whilst paddling this other (yacht designers) kayak that looks similar to his own Evolution Classic, I will need to visit my doctor demanding sleeping pills. In the meantime I will sleep soundly!.

Q      My local kayak store slags your Sisson Kayaks designs and says that they are dated. Why?

A     Sour grapes! We do not and will not supply them – ever!. Since 1997 all Sisson Kayaks have been sold as Wet Stuff DIRECT only from Sisson Kayaks. These retailers just sell what they can get. Good luck!

Q     Along the centre of the cockpit floor of both my Sisson Kayaks I notice a ‘lump’ that runs the length of the keel. What is this?

A     What you see are a bunch of 23000 unidirectional glass fibres which we place into every hull and foredeck that we make. In fact, at two points in the hull about 1 metre from each end, we double that up to 46000! Because of this I am happy to do the ‘hammer test’ on my demo boats. I remain disappointed that no-one has yet let me do a ‘hammer test’ on a boat of different manufacture. Suffice to say – every Sisson Kayak has a keel that is almost as strong as a crossbow spring! Perfectly normal to have that lump. The Voyager has 46000 with 69000 in places.

Q     When you shipped me my Nordkapp I found short pieces of cord under the hatch covers. Why are these cords placed so that they interrupt the seal surface of the hatch cover?

A     Yes the seal surface is deliberately interrupted.  These cords are placed to allow the watertight (and hopefully airtight) compartment to always have equal pressure to the surrounding atmosphere. We recommend that owners do the same when they transport their kayaks. At Sisson Kayaks, we do our best to make the compartments dry. We cannot guarantee perfection but we do try. Therefore, if the hatches are sealed and the outside pressure changes, the kayak may suffer structural damage.

Q    The Decklines on all of your seakayaks are simply tied with a bowline at one end and hitches at the other. Why are they not spliced or at least sealed off under shrink-wrap?

A    It has always been our opinion that sooner or later, one day, a 10 metre length of rope may be handy in the campsite. So – we have always fitted our Decklines so that they can be easily removed for other emergency use ashore.

Q    I was cruising down the motorway the other day and I saw a kayak fly off the roofrack of the car in front. Is this avoidable? It looks dangerous!

A    It is extremely dangerous and can generate large fines if the flying-kayak is seen by the law. Check out the Sisson Kayak Manual for tips on safe car topping of kayaks.

Q     I have just bought a new kayak. It cost me $3800. Do you think that my Home Contents Policy will cover this boat?

A    No! Issue 86 (April – May 2000) of the KASK newsletter has a copy of an e-mail from State Insurance on this matter. Under their policy, they will pay out up to “$575 (inc GST) for any surfboard, windsurfer, dinghy or canoe (including their parts and accessories)”.

It is fair to assume that this cover is typical within the industry. You need to purchase a Pleasure Craft Policy if you want to fully cover your kayak form loss.

Q      I am into Adventure racing and need to buy a double. How does your Voyager stack up against the others?

A     Our Voyager (started out as Duplex – just to give the others some good name ideas) is basically a double Arctic Raider sea kayak. Rather than slapping onto a Delaware midsection a bow off this boat, a stern off that boat , we started from scratch and designed the hull lines to flow from stem to stern. Next we pioneered the Humps© which give the stern paddler a relaxed paddling position whilst adding to the strength of the boat. Furthermore we added the Sidetanks© which double the midsection strength of the hull whilst adding considerable flooded flotation volume. Our Voyager is constructed to meet the demands of durability. The speed of the Voyager exceeds our own expectations. The Voyager is fast, rugged, and reliable and is the first kayak in the world to come with Gurney Bumfortible seats standard.

Q     Someone told me that Grahame Sisson is the designer of the Minnow. Is this correct?

A    Yes. In 1975 the Sisson family were away in the caravan most weekends. The 10ft Parkercraft went onto the roofrack. Horrors – no room for one of these new-fangled kayaks we now found ourselves building. To solve this I built an 8ft compact kayak. It filled the market gap between a ‘real’ kayak and the (common) toy canoes. I called this boat a Gap1. It fitted inside the caravan. We sold thousands of these. Ann Dwyer of California Rivers took the design to the USA, started Kiwi Kayaks (I am the Kiwi) and renamed the (slightly different) boats Minnow, Polywog and Tadpole. The Perception Minnow was developed in NZ from a Gap2 (larger cockpit) and the Anne’s Minnow name was ‘borrowed’ by them. For a time I received royalties from both companies. In 1975 local kayakers thought I was crazy making a kayak shorter than 4 metres long. Would they still think that? I was the first kayak designer in the world to sell thousands of short ‘real’ (rollable) kayaks.

Q    Why do you cover the joins on your multisport kayaks with plastic tape?

A    Our moulds are generally precise enough to produce a join that looks great (and seals out water) without any other covering. In fact for many years we made sold our kayaks with now covering. Around 1990 we started putting gelcoat seams over our sea kayak joins. About 1994 we started putting plastic over the racing boat joins. Its light, easily replaced and really only cosmetic. Other manufacturers do not make their moulds so precise – they need to cover their (untidy) joins and some even rely on the outside join for strength. All Sisson Kayaks have strong internally applied joins which are then ‘post cured’ with the hull and deck to make one cross linked unit. We put the plastic tape on for the cameras!

Q     My local kayak store told me that a kayak turns better if it has ‘wings’. Is this true?

A     No. The wings are designed into K1 kayaks and Down River Racing (DRR) kayaks to comply with man-made rules which list a minimum beam measurement. The wings place the minimum measurement above the waterline resulting in a faster design. Not really what the rule makers intended! The turning effect that a DRR paddler gets by leaning the kayak to the outside of the turn comes from the ‘rail’ on the bilge of the hull. Level (both bilge curves cancel each other) paddling results in straight ahead direction. Leaned (one bilge out of water) results in the buried curved bilge ‘carving’ a turn through the water. Because we hate man-made rules no current Sisson Kayaks has wings. Wings catch the wind badly on open water!

Q     Why do your sea kayak deckline fittings rely on glassed in plastic tubing? Other sea kayaks have much nicer looking screwed on fittings. Why don’t you use these too?

A     Screwed on fittings create a stress concentration local to the point of attachment. Our glassed in tubes spread the stress over the bigger area than the back of a nut. In addition, the glassed tube forms a perfect ‘Tophat’ section on either side of the hull monocoque (hatch and cockpit openings) voids. The deckline tube actually replace the strength that is missing because of the ‘thin air’ construction in these openings. Weight for weight – our boats are stronger.

Q   Why don’t you deal with all kayak retailers?

A    We used to. The change to us only selling direct is really their choice. They cancelled their forward orders against our first post-fire production. That was going to finish us off. Sisson Kayaks went 100% direct through the necessity to survive. These days this website sells our boats at just the right rate. Retailers love to embrace the latest and greatest but they seldom make suggestions for change or new models. They mostly order too many boats far too late in the season and then apply ‘pressure’ to get boats into their store faster. They (too) often sell the ‘new’ “faster” (too unstable) model to beginners and consign their customers to dreadful swimming lessons. Overall we have a better personal life without retailers. Our business is more viable. You will get better advice by phoning us while you are looking at our website. The experience is just like being in a ‘virtual shop’. A very small part of our production is sold to 1 retail shop under the Phoenix Kayaks brand. This part of our trading activity just about funds the purchase of my Kelloggs Miniwheats!

Q     How long does it take to build a kayak?

A     Wow – In the famous words of Mark Todd – that’s a curly one!. I have a large investment in good tools, huge factory area and good moulds with perfect flanges. I am very efficient. If I employ ‘helpers’ the efficiency will evaporate and I will close the business down. I would personally become full-time repairer of smashed tools. At times my current production output exceeds that of the three hired helpers I employed in the old days. The profits however, all seem to go to our ‘silent shareholder’,  the IRD!

Q    Why do you not use clear gelcoat to show the fabric weave?

A     1/   UV degrades Kevlar strength rapidly.  Opaque gelcoats halt UV in its tracks. Clear gelcoats may contain UV inhibitors, but they are just to protect the gelcoat – not the lay-up. Even worse, some clear boats are built with no gelcoat. Fabric fibres can be exposed to the other surface. Each fibre has a capillary air void and ‘wicking’ through the laminate can percolate water into the boat. Such lay-ups are not impervious – light boats become heavy as the structure sucks up water!2/  Our construction places the Kevlar inside the lay-up – clear lay-ups would look disgusting. Kevlar is strong in tension and weak in compression. Certain types of glass are extremely strong in compression. Most kayak hull failures are compressive. We place the glass where it adds true compressive strength and the Kevlar where it adds fantastic tensile strength. We will never build our boats for the cameras!

Q     Most sea kayaks on display in shops have lots of black nets, straps and cords fitted to the deck. Sisson sea kayaks have very few fittings on the deck. Why?

A     Firstly I answer the reason why we keep our decks as clean as possible. In the late 70’s we started copying the new trend that was starting in North America. Then some of our customers reported that they were getting tangled up on this stuff when they were swimming with their boats in big breakers. So we took the minimalist route. Furthermore it had been proven that the very best way to lose your cherished gear was to keep it under the deck bungies!

Secondly the reason the mainstream kayak industry fits all these black nets, straps and things is really quite obscure. Admittedly, for some obscure reason, the kayaks fitted with this stuff do look better in retailers kayak racks. Clearly there is a ‘race’ between certain manufacturers to ‘win’ the black nets and straps race. These nets, straps and things have limited function for real on-water use. To find the answer, we consulted Dr. Y. Duyu a leading subliminal mental exponent on such matters. His report came back headed “How sex sells sea kayaks”! He claims the black nets, straps and things are subtle outpourings of the sort of stuff mainly seen in men’s magazines. If that is the case my advise for real sea kayaking is this:- If you want that sort of stuff around you at your campsite, take a minimalist boat with a hold full of men’s magazines. It will be much safer on the water and far more practical in the campsite.

Q     When did you design your first boat?

A    1946. It was a blackcurrant pickers tray with the gaps plugged with clay. I must have been age 4 because I was still pre-school. The ‘boat’ was launched into a large tub. I remember this well mainly because I was dressed ready “to go to town”. The post-launch smack hurt! I quite clearly got my volume/payload ratio wrong. The ‘boat’ sank faster than an Aussie Americas Cup Yacht! The tray displaced maybe 10 litres to the top of the sides. I guess I must have weighed 20kg!!! I learned two things painfully that day. Lesson one. Never test a prototype in your best clothes. Lesson two. Calculate your boat volume carefully.

My first kayak design was the compact Gap 1 (1976) which was taken to America by Anne Dwyer. Anne formed the Kiwi Kayak Company (I am the Kiwi) and developed similar variation models under the Polywog, and best selling Minnow names. The New Zealand Minnow was developed by Perception NZ (they ‘borrowed’ Anne’s’ name) directly from a Gap2. For a time I received royalties from both companies.

Q    I recently repaired my sea kayak with a fibreglass patch over a small hole. I carefully followed all of the instructions on the resin tin. The patch has now separated from the boat. What did I do wrong?

A    You failed to wash the salt crystals / seawater from the broken area. You failed to grind the oil impregnated (comes from the surface of harbour water) gelcoat surface. You did not grind your own body grease, urine /sweat crystals (true) off the inside of the hull.  Proper preparation is the key. Literally!!!!

Q     The last time I used my trusty Eliminator I found a square block of foam plastic just in front of the seat. What is it? Where did it come from?

A      The foam block was originally glued between your seat pan and the hull. Our Eliminator, Esprit and Centrix kayaks all have these blocks. This foam is actually a very important part. The seat strengthens the hull and the hull strengthens the seat. Chances are the glue has failed because waterproof glues are not as waterproof as they once were. We now use Fullers Max Bond which comes from any builders merchant store. Glue the block back into its correct position fast, before your seat or deck breaks.

Q    When you designed the Voyager, I think you made some mistakes. It should have hatches big enough to take a Coleman double burner, zero keel rocker, more volume in the bow to keep my partners hair-do dry in the surf and the cockpits spaced further towards the ends. When are you starting the Mk2 version incorporating my clever ideas?

A    Never! Your ‘design features’ contradict each other! You are a twit! Read my lips. The Voyager is the last new Sisson Kayak model planned and there are no new moulds planned. It was designed to do a job as a race winning platform for adventure racing. It does that job. The world is already awash with kayaks such as you desire. Go buy yourself a Necky Amaruc.

Q    Wow – you suffer fools badly. Why?

A    Before I started Sisson Industries Ltd in 1974 I had been a Service Manager in two Ford dealerships. I literally met the lady who pulled the choke knob out to hang her handbag on – then threatened legal action because of her Anglia’s high fuel consumption. I really did ‘meet’ the farmer who’s son who ‘staked’ the truck radiator – then drove to town – and ruined the motor – and then concocted the ‘story’ that it was the fault of the dealership!  When I started my business I decided to only seek nice customers.  It has worked. My customer base is full of intelligent, nice people. I say “thank you” to my nice customers.

Q    A friend of mine who used to live in Nelson tells me that you used to rope off the kayak factory in the late eighties. That I can understand, but why did you also have lots of offensive signs around the factory?

A    The super-offensive sign was only visible after he or she ignored five others! Successful kayak manufacture demands concentrated attention and timing is imperative. It is not unlike the demands on a chef. In early 1988 we had 125 customers waiting for their kayak to be built. About 35 ‘Tire Kickers” (motor-trade term for time-wasting-dreamers) were simply wandering into the factory each day. The combined effect of the “Tire Kickers” and the 50 irate customer phone calls (received each day – pre cordless phones – heaps of walking to the office) was zero kayak production. Our ordering customers were correctly identified as the most important people. The Tire Kickers were effectively ejected from my life. Fifteen years later they still flinch. By the time they walked past five signs (“hey – those signs don’t apply to me, do they”?) and climbed under three ropes the sixth sign sent them packing. Great stuff. Our business became solvent again. Our most important customer is the owner of the new kayak we are building today. Even today, the presence of anyone who may slow production of the kayak being built for “my customer of the day”, may lead to a spectacular ejection. I say “thank you” to my nice customers. I am always ready to personally defend the quality of your kayak. I also love the structured day offered by e-mail and freedom offered by the Internet and this website.

Q    Why do you no longer sponsor the Speights Coast to Coast?

A     We sponsored and helped to grow this event for 13 years. We needed a rest from each other! Robin (Judkins – race director) and I remained good friends and still ‘slag’ each other at any opportunity. GroundZero Wet Stuff Direct will be back (in a more fun manner) at the 2003 event. Yehaaa – it’s time to have fun again!!

Q     I see that Sisson Kayaks now sponsors the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. How come a kayak company sponsors a bike race?

A     The organisers approached us. They wanted a new angle to their spot prize list. We were impressed that all of the profits from this race go to charity causes. We are committed to return to the 2002 event. I will be challenging all other 60 year old ‘fun’ riders to a race!

Q     Can your kayaks be Eskimo rolled?

A     Yes – every one of them. Our wing-less racing boats come up easy compare with other branded winged boats. Our single sea kayaks have greater volume at gunnel level and they almost roll themselves. And yes – I have witnessed the Southern Light being rolled.

Q    I am wanting to order a kayak that incorporates every colour you can get. Will you build this floating rainbow for me?

A    No! The colour layer on kayaks is not paint. It is a coloured polyester resin called gelcoat. Gelcoat has a minimum application thickness. Every colour change = double layer of gelcoat = heavy = brittle boat. The lightest boats that survive rocky encounters the best are the ones with simple colour schemes.

Q    With regard to kayak model selection, I notice that you always tend to be very conservative. Why? My local kayak store wants to sell me a boat similar to your Evolution Classic. I have been kayaking 6 months. Should I buy the boat recommended by the kayak store or should I accept your conservative recommendation?

A    Why? – Because this sport is all about paddling not swimming. Check out the other boat recommendation carefully. Are you being fitted up with ‘dead stock? Are you really capable of paddling a river in such a boat? Is this boat the new ‘Retailers-flavour-of-the-month’ model (got to buy new because there are no used ones) that they are ‘pushing’ just because you can buy most other boat models second hand. If you choose the kayak stores recommendation, I hope you remember my conservative recommendation as you swim down the river towards whole river ramping up the bluff……………………….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Q     Why do you not list the colour black on your e-mail order form?

A      Two reasons. Firstly, most of our moulds have polished black surfaces. To spray a black kayak colour onto the surface of a black mould is a nightmare that tests the skill of the applicator to the limit. Secondly, a black kayak, when sitting in the summer sun, quickly exceeds the maximum recommended temperature. The kayak will go soft and bend. As it cools the bends will stay in place. Refer the Manual for the method to remove such dents.

Q     I have a transparent boat that has no bow loop. Why do you put bow loops on your racing kayaks? Why are your loops not big enough to get a hand through?

A     Bow loops make swim towing possible. Bow loops make rescues easier. Bow loops make roof racking at high speeds safer. A further plus is the fact that the flexible resin we cast the loops into the bow makes the bow really strong when ramming into solid rock bluffs. The loops are made so that your hand cannot go through – so that a floating, spinning boat will not wind its loop up onto your wrist. To manufacture river kayaks without bow loops is irresponsible. They are safety devices that work – on and off the water.

Q     Why do your aluminium rudder blades not have a foil shape?

A     Because we make them out of flat metal. Our blades work just as well up to 15 degrees which is all you should need anyway. Our blades are lighter. Our blades do not fracture front metal fatigue. We will offer carbon foil blades on our rudders later in 2001

Q     When paddling down a rapid I find the rudder looses its effect. Do I need a bigger rudder blade?

A     No. If you are using your rudder in a rapid you need to change your paddling technique. Rapids are the result of the water accelerating to a faster speed. You need to dig in your paddling and accelerate your 100kg mass and keep your boat speed faster than the water. Fiddling around with your rudder control will not achieve the speed increase you need. In fact it will let the water become faster than your boat and the rudder will work in the opposite direction to the one you request with your big toe. Think about it. Dig into the water -paddle hard!

Q    Why do you only join your hulls to the decks on the inside?

A    We use a rapid gelling resin system which allows the hull and deck to be trimmed and the moulds clamped together within 2 hours. The join is applied immediately to the gelled (but uncured) hull / deck. The join resin migrates into the gelled resins and the complete kayak then cures out as one complete cross-linked unit. This ‘timing’ factor makes our joins very strong. External taped joins (onto cured, hard fibreglass) are not needed.

Q     Can the Southern Light be paddled solo by only one person?

A     Yes. But only once you are at a campsite and provided the water is protected (not open sea), the Southern light can be considered an ‘Open Canoe’. Provided the unused cockpit or cockpits are sealed off with cockpit covers the Southern light can by paddled from the aft seat (ballasted front cockpit with 40 kg sandbag) or the centre hold (fishing etc with both cockpits sealed of with GroundZero cockpit covers). Warning: – On no account should the Southern light centre hold be used as the solo paddling position unless both cockpits are covered and sealed off with GroundZero cockpit covers.

Q     I want to glue some foam into my cockpit. What is the best glue?

A     Go to a builders supply shop and buy a cartridge of FULLERS MAXBOND. This works far better than so called ‘waterproof contact glues’. Refer the manual.

Q     What is this Speights Coast to Coast race that you keep mentioning?

A     The Speights Coast to Coast Race was where kayak triathlon (Multisport) started back in 1983. Speights is a beer brand and the brewery is the naming sponsor. The race event is owned by its creator Robin Judkins (Phone (64) (3) 326 5493). The course is stunning. It starts on the South Island west coast at Kumara (just below Greymouth) and crosses the Southern Alps at Goat pass. Then a 67km grade 2 paddle down the Waimakariri River the Canterbury plains. The final cycle passes through Christchurch to finish at Sumner, a seaside suburb on the East Coast. Keith Murray, a Christchurch doctor of Scottish birth holds the course record (set in 1994) of 10 hours 34 minutes. Keith used an Evolution during that race. My friend (and Evolution co-designer) Steve Gurney has won this race more times than any other entrant. Most competitors enter just for the adventure of experiencing the course and meeting like minded people. I was the first event sponsor to enter and complete the course way back in 1989. Magic two days that will never fade from my memory!  The fact that I finished is proof that anyone can enjoy this event and reach the finish line still in one piece! When the current website (trashy) is replaced shortly, I will place links to that site. All Sisson Kayaks multisport range have been designed primarily to perform well at the Speights Coast to Coast.

Q    How important are the foam blocks in the racing kayaks? My second-hand boat has several pieces of loose foam just lying in the ends.

A     The foam blocks in the racing boats are more than just flotation to stop the kayak from sinking. They are part of the structure of the kayak. They must be maintained so that they support the ends of the kayak from water compression loads. Refer to the website Manual for more info on foam block maintenance.

Q     I have a lot of problems getting comfortable in all of the kayak seats I have tried. Why?

A     There is no such thing as a kayak seat that suits everyone. Kayak manufacturers have to work in the shade, in fact, sometimes in the dark to provide a seat for a kayak model that might suit 60% of the users. In the absence of a ‘British-standard bottom’ the best we can do is take stabs in the dark.

If your kayak seat is uncomfortable pad it, modify it, change it, and if all else fails, cut it out! The replacement can be home made (or buy a foam seat) out of multiple layers of closed cell foam, tailored and glued to shape. In the end, the finished foam seat can be given the ‘ORTHOTIC’ treatment in the oven, which more than one or two top competitors in multisport do. That is one of the reasons they are top athletes. You can use this to your advantage as a sea paddler in that you can get superb comfort.

Q    Whats the story with resins? It seems to me that some boats made with Epoxy have shorter life spans. Please also explain the advantages and drawbacks of carbon fibre and Kevlar.

Carbon is stiff and brittle. Kevlar is slightly less stiff but very, very tough. Carbon fibre is an excellent fibre for making non-contact sprint boats. Kevlar is great for hitting rocks. As both sea kayaks and multisport racing kayaks are prone to be used in rocky surroundings, it should be clearly understood why we specify Kevlar rather than carbon fibre. Following a recent Waimak kayak race held in high water, many alternate carbon fibre boats lost their bows. Zero Sisson kayaks were returned to the factory for repairs. We will continue to specify Kevlar.

WARNING Kevlar’s strength degrades rapidly when exposed to ultra violet light, which explains why Sisson Kayaks do not build kayaks with the Kevlar showing through a clear gelcoat. It might look fancy – but it rapidly degrades the properties of this magic boat building fabric. FAST!

Some of our competitors claim that Kevlar kayaks should only be made of Epoxy resin. There is a suggestion that our polyester resin is ‘weak’! Not so! Our construction durability is legendary! Steve Gurney’s original 1989 Evolution is still being raced regularly!

At a recent seminar we explained why Epoxy resin was (and still is) a banned substance in our factory. Afterwards, a seminar participant told us of the health problems he (cancer) and his business partner (deceased) had experienced after building kayaks using Epoxy resin.

Q   How important are light kayaks for endurance paddling in multisport?

A    Actual race results prove that ultra light kayaks offer little more than psychological advantages of speed. A 5 kg reduction of boat weight results in the all up on water displacement reducing from 100 litres to 95 litres. The increased flex allows ‘popping’ of the form with resultant high drag levels. The main advantage of a light kayak is the easier handling (on calm days) off the water. Sisson Kayaks will build any kayak model to any requested weight. We recommend our standard weight listed as the best compromise.

Q    You were the very first to make a ‘long boat’. Why do you not just keep making ever longer models?

A     The reason we made the Evolution Classic 6.1 metres long was to reduce the pitching and pounding when going through standing waves on a real river. Hull speed was secondary! A kayak used in endurance events must be paddled aerobically and remains a DISPLACEMENT vessel. Those race directors, concerned that knowledgeable kayak manufacturers will continue making forever longer boats, have nothing to worry about. For an all-out straight-line ‘blaster’ the Evolution is probably already too long. Longer kayaks than the current long boats we build will invariably suffer from excessive wetted area with the nasty energy consuming drag that factor generates. Beware of longer ‘alternate’ imitations. The Classic is the proven original long boat. Bar none!

Q    What is a fast kayak?

A    There is no such thing as a fast kayak! Only paddlers go fast! However a chosen kayak will not impede the progress of the paddler toward his goal, the race finish and victory. All of out multisport kayaks owe some of their design to real sea kayaks because in the sea, windage can be a killer – in a race it wastes energy! All of our multisport racing kayaks have design tricks we have learned from our close involvement with top athletes in the sport. Hull-speed alone seldom wins real races! A mixture of comfort, durability, manoeuvrability, low windage, resistance to bottom drag, low wetted area and light portable weight all combine to create a package that may mean the following bike ride goes better.

Q    What’s the story with the ‘fishform’ hulls used on the Eliminator, Esprit and Centrix?

A     In the late eighties, millions of dollars were spent on hull forms for “go fast” yachts. One of the Americas cup syndicates were doing drag tests at a tank in Vancouver. The benchmark model was a Sparkman and Stevens design which had won the cup in earlier years. A lateral thinker towed the model backwards. The drag was reduced! Basically fish are “fish shaped” because it works. Most “go fast” kayak design stems from ICF race rules which encourage boat designs that are the reverse of the fish. These work when paddled anaerobically in sprint mode.

Multisport has no such rules and this makes the fishform kayak a great choice for aearobic paddlers – giving high performance at low heartrates. Another great advantage is the bigger hull volume forward near the footrest giving lots of lift out of river holes. Also there is much greater room for the feet to be moved into different comfort positions instead of being cramped in one position.

Q    What is your work background? I work in a dogbox office and would like to break free like you have.

A   I am a motor mechanic by trade. In 1970 I was the youngest Ford Motor Co Service Manager in New Zealand and I was responsible for 45 staff. I had a great boss, big sunny office and I loved my job. Then I was ‘headhunted’ to another Ford garage by 7 written promises, 5 of which were never kept. My boss was weak and my office was like yours. I was sick in bed every 3 weeks! I was headed for an early

death. After 2 years I resigned and decided to catch up on engineering

consultancy hobby that I was helping a neighbours brother with. I never yet

made the actual decision to become self employed – I just never found the

time to look for a new job! And I have been sick off work 3 days in the past

30 years – one (only recently) for illness and the other two very much self

inflicted due to some very (at the time of consumption) smooth wines!! I

intend to still be active at age 90. If I dont make that goal – I will not

be concerned – but it is a real thing I will aim for.

Q     Why do Sisson Kayaks hold their value so well?

A    We never – ever have a ‘clearout’ sale of ‘dead-stock’. We never degrade the value of our kayaks by setting low ‘clearance’ pricing. All of our kayaks are custom built to firm order.

When considering value for money in sporting equipment, always consider the price that you can expect to realise when the gear no longer suits your needs.

Our customers report that very often they are able to sell their Sisson Kayaks at very high prices. Initial acquisition costs may be high but the value really shows when you sell your boat. That is because we care about our customers long after they buy their kayak.

That’s our policy!

Open all hours

Contact Grahame

For all enquiries and orders please contact me directly:

Phone: 027 2755 499


Phone: 027 2755 499Email:

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