REI Necky Manitou
Necky Manitou

I want a kayak that’s light and fast. Should I get a sit-in or a sit-on-top?

I’m looking for a fast and light sit-on-top kayak that tracks well. I paddle a Feelfree Move on the Russian River with a couple who have a tandem Hobie, and I can never keep up with them. What do you think about the Cobra Explorer or the Hobie pedal kayak? Chrissi Cloverdale, California

REI Necky Manitou

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Well, yeah, I’m not surprised you have a bit of a struggle keeping up with a tandem Hobie. They have twice the paddling power that you do, in a boat only slightly heavier than a single kayak. Same principle applies in bicycling; there aren’t too many single cyclists who can keep up with a tandem crewed by cyclists of physical ability equal to the single rider. And the Feelfree Move ($545; is a stubby little thing.

REI Necky Manitou

REI Necky Manitou Necky Manitou

While I have absolutely no quibble with a design such as Hobie’s pedal-powered Mirage Revolution ($1,600;, I’m doubtful that it would offer any speed advantage over what you’re using now. Likewise, the Cobra Explorer ($460; is a perfectly fine sit-on-top. But I wonder if you’d be better served by an enclosed kayak. It certainly would be faster—you’re lower in the water, less wind drag, etc. I can imagine that heat would be a factor in your area, but some boats have big, roomy cockpits that vent well.

With that in mind, I’d certainly suggest you take a look at something such as the Necky Manitou ($799; It’s a “hybrid” boat, one that you sit inside of like a traditional kayak, but that has more stability and a bigger cockpit. It’s easy to paddle and you don’t feel as if you’re wearing the thing. There’s also a storage compartment for extra gear. I really think you’d find it to be easier to paddle and keep up with your friends. Wilderness Systems Pungo 120 ($775; is similar, as is the Dagger Blackwater 12 ($679;

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