Recently I asked fiberglass guru and kayak builder/designer Sterling Donalson if I could demo the IceKap. I had sat in Dubside’s shiny black IceKap quite a while ago and rolled it a few times in a pool but never actually paddled one. Sterling graciously allowed me to borrow an IceKap for the weekend, so Saturday I was up early in the morning driving to Bellingham to pick it up.
Sterling's Kayaks & Fiberglass is a nondescript big metal shed off a country road. For a boat shop, the smell of wood was conspicuously absent -- instead the strong smell of epoxy resin was everywhere. Another customer happened by the same time I was there. He was getting the leaky skeg box on his Impex Force 5 fixed.
The IceKap I got to use was the standard volume demo model. It is a highly rockered, hard-chined kayak with a pointy upswept bow and stern, 16 ft 11 in long and 19.5 inches wide, weighing 38 pounds (down to 27 pounds with a carbon composite construction) and designed for paddling in challenging coastal conditions. It has full perimeter gab lines and recessed deck fittings, end toggles, rubber SeaDog hatches, a long keyhole cockpit, a retractable skeg, and an optional day hatch compartment. So it’s American, but is really similar to the “British-style” kayaks. Sterling calls it “Greenland-style”.
Sterling’s standard lay-up is a state-of-the art resin infusion technique used with layers of unidirectional cloth. It results in a hull that is stronger and lighter compared to typical hulls built with fiberglass mat. The resins are measured precisely and weights of his boats come out within a pound of each other. All these kayaks are custom built. The design is usually tweaked to meet individual needs: custom bulkhead footrests, cockpit coamings, seats, and deck artwork. The deck can be lowered an inch to cut the standard volume down to a low-volume model. And then the back deck can be lowered even more as in the super low-volume "Dubside model".
Tom Banks said he “literally tried out some 30 different kayaks” and found the low volume IceKap fit his criteria the best. Tom is a BCU-trained rough water paddler, Greenland-style enthusiast and rolling nut!
John Day says that the IceKap is “light, maneuverable, easy to roll and totally forgiving in the surf! It punches out through big, breaking waves better than any boat I've tried. I have used this boat in every condition imaginable….” He also says that it is the best surfing sea kayak next to the Mariner Coaster. John is a ACA certified open water instructor and paddles in insane conditions on the Oregon Coast.
In last year’s Deception Pass Dash, the paddler known as “Kiwi” came in first in his division with an IceKap.
Sterling told me that Heather Nelson did her BCU 5-star in the very same white IceKap I was taking out for the weekend.
So… wow! I don’t think I had ever been so excited about a fiberglass kayak in my entire short paddling life. With that kind of introduction to the IceKap, how can anyone not be totally impressed? I was just itching to put her in the water to find out for myself what the whole IceKap experience was like…
[to be continued]