Update fall 2018:
- Check out, in the comments, my mother’s review of her Naja after a year of paddling.
- Read my review of the Rebel Ilaga compared to the Tahe Marine Greenland.
It was raining down in Connecticut, pouring really. And a few bolts of cloud to cloud lightning flashed above New London. But this was the day Cheri and Turner had chosen to demo the Rebel kayaks. My Mom had just bought the smallest of the Rebel Greenland line — the Naja, almost an exact replica of her East Greenland style skin on frame. My Dad and Tyson wanted to try the larger boats in the Rebel line — the Ilaga and Greenland Toc.
A few other people showed up at Bluff Point State Park for the demo day. We waited until the thunderstorm moved off, then we jumped in. Isaac wore his brand new dry suit, so he literally jumped in, not even waiting for us to burp the suit. With the suit full of air, he floated on top of the water. He looked like a sea otter rolling over and over.
We had brought four of our own boats to paddle out to the beach on Fishers Island sound after the demo event: our tandem, the Anas Acuta for my Dad, my Tahe, and Mom’s new Naja. We parked the tandem on shore during the demo. Turner and Cheri had never seen it or any of our pre-Greenland boats. We told the story of our progression from plastic intro sea kayaks, to the Bullitt, to the Greenland style kayaks. Turner knew the Current Designs Squall, my first boat, and had worse things to say about it than I do. I convinced Tyson to join me in the Bullitt to attempt rolling together. We succeeded at two rolls, but our third required two tries. Enough, said Tyson, he wanted to paddle a solo after two years propelling Isaac in a tandem.
Dad was scoping out the Ilaga, so Tyson paddled his Anas Acuta. Tyson relished playing in the Anas Acuta. He could turn and roll and carve. Tyson tried out the largest of the Rebels, the Greenland Toc. It fit him just right. He described the Toc as faster than his Anas Acuta, but turning less well. He seemed torn between the fun play boat and the lighter layup and faster boat. Of course, it’s all moot if he has to keep paddling the Bullitt.
I decided to demo the Naja. I knew it was designed by Johan Wirsen, the same person who designed my Tahe Marine Greenland, but I was surprised at how similar they are. The larger Ilaga is identical to mine except for the deck lines and sandwich construction vs fiberglass weave. The Naja is a little shorter and narrower. I paddled the Naja out the cove and back. It handled similarly to my Tahe. With the lower volume, I had to temper my edging lest I scoop water onto the back deck while turning. The size seemed just right for a cheater rolling kayak. So back near shore, I started with a hand roll. Cheri came over.
“Put one hand behind your head,” she instructed.
Boat-side hand behind my head, I tipped over to my off side. I flexed easily in the tulik and came up. Same on the other side.
“Now both hands behind your head,” she said, “and tip your head back more.”
I tipped my head so far back, I clunked it against the gunwale. When Cheri does a straight jacket roll, you see her pull her core up over the boat first, then her torso, and finally slide her head out of the water onto the back deck. I felt that same progressive motion.
“Prayer position,” Cheri said, “and pull yourself up with your core muscles.”
I fumbled my first attempt and recovered with a standard hand roll. I tried again, but the idea of having no arms to help at all was too distracting. I couldn’t achieve the same rhythm of core and head as I had with the simpler roll.
Meanwhile, Isaac was busy commandeering any small kayak he could. Mom’s Naja was his favorite. He could climb into the boat by himself and leap off back into the water. He figured out how to paddle it in circles, backwards, and forwards. At one point, playing in the water with the Naja, Isaac accidentally flipped the cockpit over his head. He swam out from underneath all by himself. Progress towards a wet exit!
We kept playing around until another thunderstorm rolled in and poured an ocean full of water on our heads. The thunder hit while Isaac was in the bathroom. “It went ‘Boom’, ‘Boom’, ‘Boom’!” he said. My Dad bought the demo Ilaga on the spot. If only the weather had been nicer, we could have visited longer with Cheri and Turner, and we could have paddled out to the beach.
Continue reading more about the new Rebel Kayaks when we take them surfing.