by Nick Delprete
Lots of talk on here about the Sportive recently and I've been paddling one for just about two years now; figured I'd throw my own little review out there. I've used my sportive in rough water, as a primary guiding boat, and for weekend trips. Let me say first that I love this boat and it's my go-to at the moment. Like any other great boat, fit is important and this was one of the first boats I had sat in that immediately felt like it fit. For reference, I'm about 5'7"(1.7 m), 155 lbs (70 kg).
My first day ever paddling the sportive was a pretty good surf and rock garden day in Casco Bay, Maine, USA. We unwrapped it that morning at Maine Island Kayak Co. and I didn't do any fitting or foaming aside from adjusting the pedals and back band. I was instantly impressed with how the Sportive kept the characteristics that we love about classic sea kayaks but was able to stay loose on a wave and navigate rocks with ease.
I love that I can paddle miles to a play spot and not feel like I'm fighting a bow wave the whole time (you know who I'm talking about). For a plastic kayak with a good amount of rocker, the Sportive feels fast, I have no problem keeping up with anyone on the water. The relatively small volume of the sportive makes the kayak feel incredibly responsive and I feel as though I can really drive this boat. Other plastic kayaks have always felt huge and needed LOTS of foam to feel really locked in.
As for a guiding kayak, the sportive is great! I brought mine up to Prince William Sound, Alaska for a whole season and spent time guiding in Maine. I can fit enough gear into the kayak for weekend trips but not much longer than that. It's pretty maneuverable on flat water and I am able to perform and demonstrate pretty much any rescue with ease. I love how big the day hatch is, I can fit lots of snacks and goodies in there along with the standard rescue and safety equipment.
Now for the cons (there aren't many): When the sportive is fully loaded with gear, I can feel the boat flexing an uncomfortable amount when in rough water. I have also noticed some oil canning on the hull (which may be my own fault); anyone else noticing this? The skeg control box is constantly digging into my thigh and I've had to replace my foam padding on that side a couple of times as it's worn through. I wish I could pack more gear into this kayak for extended play trips but then we'd lose a fair bit of the performance that I love so much.