A Family Adventure


Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Johan Wirsén first designed a Greenland style kayak for Tahe Marine — the Tahe Marine Greenland. Then that design moved to Zegul, and now Johan is selling his kayak designs under the Rebel brand. The Rebel Ilaga is the closest to the original Tahe, so how similar is it?

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to try my father’s Rebel Ilaga for a day. I have paddled a Tahe Marine Greenland since 2010. Both designs are composite, low volume, hard chine kayaks set up for touring or rolling.

Boat and Paddler Specs

The two kayaks I’m comparing are

My Tahe Marine Greenland:

  • Built 2010
  • LC cockpit (57x40cm)
  • Standard fiberglass weave layup.
  • Length 545 cm (17′ 10″)
  • Width 50 cm (19 3/4″)
  • Approximate weight 23 kg (50 lbs)
  • Customized with keel and chine strips

The Rebel Ilaga

  • Built 2017
  • Sandwich Pro layup
  • Length 545 cm (17′ 10″)
  • Width 50 cm (19 3/4″)
  • Weight 17.3kg (38lb)
  • Custom foam seat and masik

Tahe Greenland and Anas Acuta on a rocky Maine Island

The Paddler (Me)

  • Weight 58kg (130lb)
  • Height 1.7m (5’8″)
  • Shoe size 27 mondopoint
  • Preferred paddling activities: surfing, island hopping in Maine.

See also

Similarities

Stability and Turning

Rock gardening in the Tahe

Edging the Ilaga felt the same as my Tahe. Both have more primary stability than a skin on frame, but less than an Anas Acuta. I can initiate a turn with a slight weight shift, just enough to drop one edge by an inch. Too much edge, and the back deck scoops water, hindering the turn.

Deck and cockpit

Emptying a skin on frame over the Ilaga

The Ilaga deck height is the same as the Tahe. My toes fit, slightly tipped. T rescues were easy, and emptying a flooded skin on frame was doable by myself.

The Tahe Greenland came in two cockpit sizes — OC (smaller) and LC (larger). The Rebel Ilaga cockpit matches the LC. The specs for both are 57x40cm. My Seals spray skirt was easy to put on and take off, and it kept the water out. The cockpit opening is bigger than a true Greenland cockpit, but a good compromise for getting out quickly in surf.

Rolling

Forward finishing roll in a Naja

I practiced a standard Greenland roll and a lay back hand roll in the Ilaga. The Ilaga seemed about the same as my Tahe, though I haven’t been stretching enough recently, so I felt stiff. I didn’t do any combat rolls.

Previously, I have paddled the smaller Rebel Naja. It is noticeably easier to roll, but, consequentially, too small for me to use as a touring boat.

Deck Accessories

Neither the Ilaga nor the Tahe have all the features of a British touring kayaking.

  • no deck compass
  • no day hatch
  • no bow and stern toggles
  • no perimeter deck line

Differences

More deck lines, but worse for storing paddles

Paddle storage on the Tahe

The Ilaga has more deck bungees than the Tahe Greenland. Neither has full perimeter deck lines. On the Tahe, the furthest forward bungee is just fore of the front hatch. That bungee has a ball on it and it’s wide enough to stow two paddles. The Ilaga has two bungees on the bow: one by the hatch like the Tahe, but without a ball, and one narrower bungee farther toward the bow with a ball. This new front bungee only fits one paddle

When rolling and when doing rescues, I found the new deck arrangement problematic. I couldn’t stow both my spare paddle and my primary paddle. Luckily, it’s easy to rerigg bungees and move the ball back to the wider bungee.

Weight

My Dad’s got his Ilaga in the lightest layup, the Sandwich Pro. It weighs 17.3kg (38lb). My Tahe was the standard fiberglass layup. From the specs, my Tahe should be around 23kg (50lb). Tahe did sell a carbon layup that should have been 17kg.

The difference in weight is significant for handling the boat onshore. I can, pick up my Tahe solo, but I’d rather get help. The Ilaga, I could easily pick up by the front of the cockpit and carry it where I wanted on the beach. I didn’t notice a difference in the water.

This summer I’d asked Turner what happens when you crack the fancy carbon layup on a rock. He said you can patch the honeycomb carbon layups just the same as a fiberglass boat. The patch will be heavier than the original carbon.

The hatches were slightly harder to use.

Both kayaks have similar looking big round Kayaksport hatch covers. The hatches are in the same locations. The front and rear hatches fit a helmet and reasonable size dry bags. I’ve never had an issue with my hatch covers. However I pinched myself twice using the covers on the Ilaga. I’m not sure what made them different.

Things I didn’t test

The factory seat

Turner Wilson outfits the Rebel kayaks he sells with a foam backrest and foam masik to best emulate a proper Greenland qajaq. I am less of a traditional Greenland paddler, so I prefer the extra knee room from an unpadded coaming. I also prefer the factory seat in my Tahe because I can stash my water bladder behind the seat and my sponge beside it. There’s no day hatch, so anything I need during the paddle needs to be in my PFD or in the cockpit.

Performance in wind

I can’t evaluate how the Ilaga behaves in the wind, because it was only blowing 5mph the day I tested the Ilaga.

Surfing in 3’+ waves

Surfing a small wave in the Ilaga

Similarly, the waves were all small. On the small waves, the two kayaks seemed similar. These kayaks have fast hulls and not much volume in the bow. Once I catch a wave, I learned at a surf clinic with John Carmody, I need to back paddle to keep the bow out of the water. If your primary goal for your Greenland kayak is surfing, the Anas Acuta is a better choice.

Racing

I regret to say, I didn’t think of paddling the Ilaga as fast as possible, so I can’t say if the bow wave is the same.

Build Quality

At first glance, the Ilaga looks good. But so does my Tahe. The Tahe Greenland had a reputation for the back deck cracking, but mine never has. My Tahe has held up well on occasional rock gardening expeditions, especially once I added keel and chine strips. I did not approach any rocks in my Dad’s Ilaga.

Summary

The Rebel Ilaga is a minor update to the Tahe Marine Greenland. If you are looking for a low volume, composite kayak, the Rebel line is the way to go.

Discussion

12 comments already.

Let us know what you think

See the Comment Policy for appropriate content.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments (12)

  • One note, we had installed additional deck lines in a rectangular pattern on both the ilaga and the naja. These lines allow attaching a shock-corded deck compass or chart bag.

  • I am interested in purchasing a second hand Tahe Greenland oc, carbon-kevlar construction: it would be my first Greenland hull.
    Today weather was bad here in Italy, so I could not demo_paddle it but only slide into it onshore.
    I was surprised about a few aspects like weight (around or over 20 kgs and not balanced; it felt heavier in the bow), very poor and painful backband.
    I also sat in an ilaga which seemed to me more comfortable and definitely lightweight.
    How much does weight matter on such hulls according to you ?
    I understand the lighter, the better, is that right ?
    Thank you

    Ale

    • I would suggest that for paddling, the weight difference will have limited effect. Consider for yourself if the cost difference justifies the easier carrying and better build quality of the Rebel.

      I would replace the backband with foam. This page shows a few examples:
      https://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=64374

      The seat bottom is likely fine and only the backband needs replacement.

      Maybe John or Trudy can post a picture or two of Turner’s amazing foam work?

      • Hi friends !
        I bought an ilaga eventually.
        I followed your tips and put a foam back band ( as per your suggested pictures) that replaces the factory”s one. I also tweaked her deck with perimeteral lifelines and a home-made Qoorutit in front of my cockpit, to better store paddles.
        The only issue I have with my ilaga is her seat, as it feels a little uncomfortable and anesthitizes my butt after 3 hours of continuous paddling (touring). So, I will put an adhesive foam-padded cover seat, to try relieve my tailbone.
        Let’s see how it feels…
        For rolling, a masik is a must! My home-made one sucks really: any tips or pictures about how I should make it the best ?
        Also, I feel my hips are a little loose and this affects my leg drive, I am afraid.
        May I post the pictures of my unique 🙂 ilaga for your review ?

        Thank you for your precious support so far.
        Greetings from the Italian waters !

        Ale

    • I got some photos of the cockpit while I was out paddling this weekend.

      Photo of the masik installed. The foam masik can slide forward to make it easier to enter the cockpit.

      Closer photo of masik. You can cut the masik with a constant cross section, or you can bevel the edge closest to the paddler like this one.

      Photo of fully outfit cockpit. The other photos showed the bare hull. For paddling, add a flat piece of foam on the bottom and sides of the hull, and the curved foam backrest.

      I would definitely be interested in seeing pictures of your Ilaga. The website software doesn’t let you post pictures in the comments, but you can link to pictures you have posted elsewhere.

  • I have the tahe and like most everything but the cockpit. Im 5’7″ and laying back the coaming digs into my backbone badly no matter how far forward i move. Dont understand how a rolling designed kayak has such a bad rear coaming.

  • Thanks for detailed comparison.

    About the Naja, you wrote its too small for you, do you mean it’s carrying capacity (hatches) or the kayak does not fit you (I’m 64kg 1,73m and I consider buying it, a mistake?

    • It has been a few years. I don’t think I checked out the hatches. Trudy has no issues packing her Naja for a day trip, and I think she has done one camping trip with it.

      My evaluation was based on comfort for a full day paddle out on the ocean. For an hour of rolling, the Naja fit fine. For a longer trip, I remember that my feet felt a bit squashed. With my weight in it, the deck was low enough that I thought it wouldn’t handle well in tide races and surf.

      I am about the same height as you: 1.7m, a little lighter at 59kg, and shoe size 41 European.

      I can’t give you a definite yes or no on buying the Naja. It depends on how you want to use it. Flat water rolling — go for it. It might be the boat that lets you get a hand roll. Day trips out in exposed water with possibly rough conditions — probably best get the Ilaga.