Responding to a comment from a paddler who was frustrated by an NDK foam seat repair led Tom Bergh to reflect on what makes Nigel Dennis Kayaks his go-to sea kayaks.
Before I suggest a fix, let me offer a bit of perspective based on having helped put thousands of paddlers in our sea kayak fleet at Maine Island Kayak Co since 1986.
Personally, I want a boat that disappears when I’m paddling on the water: a boat that makes me smile, and makes me feel confident and solid when I’m challenged. When I hear complaints about minor outfitting concerns, I am reminded of my own personal order of importance for sea kayak design and manufacturing variables:
Bulkhead integrity. MIKCo has never experienced a failed NDK bulkhead, even when we’ve snapped boats in two; compare that to rescuing a canoe or big box coffin style boat. Nigel Dennis Kayak’s bulkheads are composite, fiberglassed in place. This matters because we don’t usually swim ashore for rescues on the sea.
High secondary stability. Functional, modern sea kayak designs give us confidence in lumpy and boiling waters. This is the reason so many others have designed similar “shaped ski” kayaks as the ones Nigel Dennis created with the original Romany and Explorer. Their high secondary stability allows these boats to handle challenging conditions. Basically, the boats are better than we are.
Cockpit fit. NDK’s have the best keyhole cockpit design, period. The low rim heights enable them to fit a wide range of paddlers. More surface area that easily receives custom foam allows equal pressure of thigh and hip contact. This enhances paddler confidence in bumpy water.
Expedition grade durability. As the person who buys our fleet, and oversees repairs and maintenance, our NDKs just last… and last. Repairs and rebuilds of standard layups are way simple and easy. I still see 20-year-old NDKs in service.
Outfitting. It’s great that we can easily change from composite to foam seats, change out our back support, install under-deck fasteners, and rebuild the skegs. My advice for our friend with foam seat replacement frustration: a quick fierce scrape with a proper tool, then a grinder to remove the dregs, clean up, and apply a few layers of the simplest adhesive or epoxy for the purpose. (I recommend just full coverage contact cement for foam seats.) MIKCo uses a variety of backrest/bands depending on a paddler’s need for contact and support. Though I find NDK’s foam and composite seats neutral, they’re not for everyone’s shape. Nigel’s simple inside cockpit surfaces make it easy to substitute many alternative seats. The solid build of NDKs makes securing the outfitting relatively straightforward, so change it up.
Remember what’s important, fits your needs, and keeps you on the water.