Monday, 22 December 2008

NDK Kayaks - The Quality History

I had a welcome comment on the blog this morning from Mr Anony Mouse, regarding the quality of NDK Kayaks in general, in reply to my post about paddling the Explorer for the first time a few months back. I thought it bore repeating on the main page to help to dispel a few misconceptions about Nigel's kayaks & the way they are being made in 2008.

Here's the thread:

Anonymous said...
21 December 2008 20:42
Without a doubt a great design but I do question your comments about the construction of these boats. Heavier does not mean stronger. As far as being "absolutely bombproof". Freya Hoffmeister's boat needed repairs while Chris Duff's Explorer virtually snapped in half during his circumnavigation of the South Island.

Mark Sundin - Expedition Kayaks said...
22 December 2008 07:01
Jeez Mr Anony Mouse, you're a hard judge. I'm not sure if you've read Chris Duff's account of the wave & beach that combined to break his boat on the South Island circumnavigation, but I reckon there wouldn't be too many kayaks on the planet that would have survived such an impact, fully loaded. Basically, Chris' boat was hit by a few bombs - it got through the first one but then got blown up by the next couple. The fact is, there isn't a boat on the planet that has been made to withstand the sorts of extremities the sea can throw at us on the wrong day. As for Freya needing some repairs on her way around the South Island, I would say any realistic expeditioner, undertaking a journey of those epic proportions, would expect to have a few repairs after 40 or 50 surf exits & landings with a fully loaded kayak. I think the fact that they CHOSE to paddle Explorers on a loop of the South Island speaks more about the all round qualities of the boat, than a couple of repair incidents, inevitable in my view on such a trip. NDK boats do have a reputation for being a bit dodgy on the build quality, but what a lot of people don't realise is that they have recently had a significant upgrade in their production & QC to address these problems. The 12 boats we have so far taken delivery of from NDK have all been brilliantly made, with just one small glitch with one paddler, which was quickly & easily fixed. We can directly compare them to the peerless Valley construction, which they're not too far behind, while they were miIes ahead of the standard US Impex layup, until we had those boats up-spec'ed for the Aussie market. I can put my hand on my heart & put them in the 'bombproof' category, based on what I've seen, and what many a good swathe of seriously experienced expeditioners have told me. Thanks for the comment.

Just to follow up what I wrote back to Mr Mouse, while the NDK boats have had their problems with quality over the years, the evidence in front of us - i.e. the boats themselves - indicates that these problems have been conhsigned to history. That's all we can go by as humble importers, & we have been really impressed with the way they present, not to mention their exceptional performance in rough water.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Firstly I would ask you to re-read my entry which states..."I do question YOUR COMMENTS about the construction of these boats" not as you write.."the quality of NDK kayaks in general". I'm fairly certain NDK/SKUK do not claim their boats to be "absolutely bombproof".
However I'm happy we agree on one point. Two Explorers failed whilst being used for their intended purpose, albeit under extreme conditions, thus making the term "absolutely bombproof" somewhat misleading. Calling them a "couple of repair incidents" is not really accurate. I would venture "catastrophic failure" as being a more accurately descriptive term of one, possibly both failures. This is just a guess but I imagine these boats were of an even heavier construction than the ones sold to the general public. Can any kayak be absolutely bombproof? I personally think not, so perhaps while we are consigning stuff to history we can include that misrepresentative term. If I were to put my money on a boat surviving the situation Duff was in it would probably be on a plastic boat such as the one Barbro Lindman CHOSE for her circumnavigation of the South Island.
There may be more to why Duff and Hoffmeister CHOSE to use Explorers than just the qualities of the boats. Were they sponsored? I notice Hoffmeister has CHOSEN to paddle a different brand of boat for her trip around Australia.
As for NDK/SKUK's reputation for "dodgy" build quality I wasn't aware of it. I would have to see one before passing judgement.
Like you and your business partners I paddle a rudderless boat. I'm sure there are many like -minded kayakers around Australia who have welcomed the opportunity to see, hopefully try and maybe buy one of these highly regarded boats.
I believe you just got a little over descriptive in your enthusiasm for what is obviously a very good boat, and that, needed pointing out.Squeak sqeak.
A Mouse.

22 December 2008 22:11  
Blogger Mark Sundin - Expedition Kayaks said...

Apologies Mighty Mouse for my overly descriptive term. I absolutely promise not to say absolutely about anything anymore, although if we do get nuked in the next few months I'll be heading for my nuke-proof Explorer. As for all the yelling, I think it's a bit paternalistic to suggest that paddlers of the stature of Chris Duff would take an unsafe boat on a desperately dangerous trip like the circumnavigation of the South Island because they got a discount. The Epic 18 about to go around Australia is an interesting one. Freya seems to have been doing a lot of ski-type racing lately, and I can see the attraction of the 18 when A to B is your goal, having paddled another John Winters design for a few months earlier in the year. Epic make great boats & I'm sure they will have had the engineers out gearing this boat up for the big surf zones she will encounter. What a great testing ground for a manufacturer. As for the Explorer, I think if you got one out in some big water you would very quickly realise what all the fuss is about, they are absolutely.... whoops there I go again......bloody good kayaks at the sharp end. And.....the build is rock solid.
Anyway, thanks for the debate, it's great that my blog is provoking informed comment. Could I ask that you sign you name to any future posts though? I wouldn't walk up to someone in the pub & start a conversation without introducing myself, & I don't blog anonymously. My blog, my rules; I have always been more of a fan of Castro than Kennedy.
Merry Xmas......

23 December 2008 06:58  
Blogger Mark Sundin - Expedition Kayaks said...

Sorry mate, one last thing on re-reading your post there. The plastic boat thing is also pretty debatable. If I was going to get crunched by a 3m breaking wave onto a rocky beach in the middle of nowhere with nobody else around, I would rather have a boat that smashed to bits, & released my to swim for it, rather than a poly boat which could potentially fold under such pressure. Sounds unlikely I know, but I've actually seen it happen, which is why my faith in plastic boats isn't quite as unshakeable as it once was. Again though, this is an extreme event, to test the absolute bomb-proofness of even a Poly kayak.

23 December 2008 07:03  
Blogger A Mouse said...

And a Merry Xmas to you too.
I'm not sure what you mean by yelling but no where in my response did I claim Explorers to be unsafe. What I have tried to make clear is that they can and do break. Are they tough boats? Can't say from first hand experience but it certainly sounds like it. I was suprised to read John Winters designed the Epic 18 although I have read it is a similar boat to his QCC 700. Can you give details of the plastic boat failing? Sounds interesting. I hadn't considered being in a folding(plastic) boat. You may have a point there.
As for anonymity that's my choice just as you can choose to display comments on your blog page, leave them here or consign them to history. Whatever suits. Perhaps in time you can come accept me as....
A Mouse

23 December 2008 08:47  
Blogger Mark Sundin - Expedition Kayaks said...

No problem Mousketeer, you're clearly a character, & the world needs more characters....
Your IP address actually gives me a whole bunch of info about your identity, never assume you're anonymous on the internet....!
I'll refrain from going into too much detail about the plastic boat that folded, as it would mean naming a competitor brand, & I make it a rule that if I haven't got something nice to say about someone else's boat, I won't say anything. Suffice to say that no kayak i going to survive a freak occurrence in a breaking surf wave, especially where a shallow bottom & gnarly shore dump is concerned.

23 December 2008 10:48  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi guys,
I recently had the pleasure of spending some time paddling with the aforementioned Chris Duff and I can definitely state that he DID NOT use an Explorer because he was sponsored, he wouldn't be so stupid on such a committing trip. He used a Nordkapp HM on his Irish circumnavigation but found the fixed skeg/keel a handful under certain conditions, as did Paul Caffyn. He chose the Explorer because it was the right boat for the job. I paddled that same Explorer last September in Washington state, he was in the Nordkapp. A great paddler and a very genuine person.
Geoff Murray

24 December 2008 09:09  
Anonymous Geoff said...

Quoted directly from the Seakayaking uk website "WE MIGHT NOT USE THE SEXIEST LAY-UP IN OUR STANDARD KAYAKS BUT IT IS BOMBPROOF!!"
And I might add that Chris' Explorer was a standard layup.


25 December 2008 00:19  
Blogger Mark Sundin - Expedition Kayaks said...

One final postscript to this little debate. Straight from the horse's mouth, the failure of the Explorer on Freya's South Island paddle was due to a stainless steel clip binding the 3 piece construction together being damaged when she was thrown backwards on a surf launch, which in turn dislodged the stern section of the boat. Remarkably, she bashed it back into place with a rock & carried on. So, it wasn't a smashed boat, like Chris' catastrophe, just a single fitting taking a hit & weakening the rest of the bindings. It was easily fixed, & she didn't have any major repairs on the way round. Remarkable really when you consider the demands a trip like that puts on a kayak. Im not sure if Justine or Barrie had any problems with their Explorer's, but if the now silent mouse wants to know I can find out.....

31 January 2009 21:15  
Anonymous Scotland Sea Kayaking said...

very nice blog.

5 October 2009 22:43  

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