Looksha IV by Necky Kayaks
TS 5′ 10″, 165-pound male. Day trips in winds less than 10 knots, small waves, boat and ship wakes for surfing.
RS 6′ 2″, 185-pound male. Day trip in winds to 35 knots, seas 2 feet, confused chop with 6- to 8-foot ocean swell.
MH 5′ 10″, 190-pound male. 4-day trip, swell to 5 feet with clapotis and wind waves. Rock gardens and surge channels. 60 pounds of gear.
“The Looksha is one of the cleanest looking plastic boats on the market. Faux-granite plastic mixture seems to ease the ‘Tupperware’ look that many plastic boats suffer from” (TS). Like the Looksha II (SK August 96) it has a double chine.
The Looksha balances well for a solo carry. The 65-pound weight of the Looksha was not too difficult for our reviewers to manage. For a two-person carry the toggle placement is too far in from the ends for easy handling. The placement of the stern toggle is required by the rudder, but the inboard placement of the bow toggle also causes the bow to “bump into your leg while you carry it” (RS). RS and TS thought placement of the grip at the tip of the bow would be an improvement.
The Looksha’s deck layout is “functional”(TS). Our reviewers especially liked the recessed deck fittings. The cockpit is “a nice size for easy entry and exit” (MH). RS would like a “snugger fit and a slightly lower deck” and both he and TS note the need for some custom padding.
The seat is comfortable and long enough to provide some good thigh support. The back rest was comfortable but is “quite high, sticking well above the cockpit, making laying back for a screw roll impossible” (RS). There is an option for a lower seat back. The thigh bracing was usable but did not offer a secure grip: “They could stick out farther and offer more purchase” (RS) or be padded out by the owner.
The webbing/ladder lock slider system for the rudder pedals “is infinitely adjustable and works reasonably well though it does require a little patience to get it perfectly trued” (TS). As with most rudder pedals the system has a “fair bit of give” (TS) when the rudder is retracted. The rudder seems “pretty indestructible” to TS, while RS thinks it could be a bit “beefier.” When deployed it works smoothly and drops back down after riding over obstructions.
On the water the Looksha IV “has a very comfortable stability range. Without being a barge, the initial and secondary stability are good” (TS). “Stable enough to fish from, yet it felt nimble and very responsive”(MH). “Stable enough for most beginners but it turned like a dream when I got it up on edge” (RS).
Although the Looksha has a rudder, our reviewers preferred paddling with it retracted. “Putting this baby up on edge was my favorite thing about the Looksha. It cranks surprisingly quick turns for a 17-foot touring kayak, pivoting like a shorty play boat” (RS). “It was a blast in the rock gardens. Super maneuverable and fun” (MH). The Looksha also tracked well with the rudder retracted. Its quick response to carved turns makes it easy to hold a course. Only MH noted the Looksha, without a gear load aboard, had slight tendency to weathercock in moderate winds, easily corrected by edging the boat. In the strong winds RS encountered “it handles as you might suspect: like most kayaks it was a struggle to keep on course in gusts of 30-plus knots.”
The Looksha has a dry ride in moderate conditions as its bow “has a moderate tendency to rise up over small chop. In bigger water the ride got much wetter” (RS). “It was dry until I got crazy in the rocks” (MH).
While not exceptionally fast the Looksha “does accelerate and hold its speed well”(TS). “I was able to sprint and catch swells easily” (MH). The Looksha handles well for surfing wind waves and boat wakes. “The boat’s maneuverability made it easy to [ride] wind waves without falling off into a broach” (RS). “Course correction on shorter steeper boat wakes was a breeze with the rudder in action” (TS). “Bow tends to plunge in large steeper waves. Side surfs smoothly for controlled broaches” (RS).
There is enough room for a week’s worth of gear in the bulkheaded compartments. The hatches consist of an unattached neoprene cover and a tethered plastic lid. None of the reviewers reported any leakage after rolling or rough-water paddling. The bulkheads are made of foam glued in place. With a load aboard the Looksha IV had additional stability and kept its “excellent” (MH) handling qualities.
“A very likable kayak. I would recommend it to anyone who wanted the advantages of cost, recyclability and impact resistance of a plastic boat that doesn’t compromise on greater touring performance” (TS). “Beginners should be satisfied with its relative stability and solid cruising characteristics. This is a maneuverable and responsive kayak for skilled paddlers to play around in on day trips, and it’ll haul plenty of gear. All things considered, the Looksha is a good all-around touring boat” (RS). “Often when testing kayaks I find myself wishing I were in something else. I didn’t want to get out of this thing. The best plastic kayak I’ve ever paddled” (MH).
First I would like to thank the anonymous testers for what I consider a very complimentary review. I would like to respond to some of their comments. Ideally we would like to fit a boat perfectly to everybody, but that is impossible, especially for ones designed for high production. Our concern is that some paddlers, especially new ones, are afraid of being trapped in the boat, hence the loose fit. To get tighter fits it’s relatively easy to glue a layer of foam and shape it for the perfect customized fit Looksha IV was originally produced with a lower back rest, but the majority of our customers preferred a higher one. The refit is easy, just ask your dealer. The placing of the handles is due to my concern of picking up some loose kelp or sea weed on the bow and not being able to get rid of it. After you use the Looksha a few times you will find that the best way to carry it is by holding it by the bow. Your hand fits perfectly. When it comes to using a rudder or not, there is no doubt in my mind that it is more fun to play in the boat without the rudder. But what we are making is a touring boat, and sometimes you have to be plugging ahead in nasty conditions hour after hour and using a rudder can make things easier. Mike Neckar
Options and Pricing (1996 design)
Standard Construction: Rotomolded, Super Linear Polymer, Metthalocene catalyst technology.
Standard Features: Hatches, deck lines, bulkheads, seat and back rest.
Approximate Weight: 65 pounds
Plastic: $1320 with rudder, 1150 without rudder.
Fiberglass: $2100. Kevlar: $2495 Kevlar. (MSRP in US dollars)
Availability: Through a network of dealers in Canada and the US. Manufacturer’s
1100 Riverside Road
Abbottsford, B.C., V2S 4N2 Canada.
Phone (604) 850-2206.
Phone: (920) 732-3784
SN 5′ 8″, 155-pound male. Day trip in calm conditions, overnighter in winds to 15 knots, waves to 3 feet; gear load of 45 pounds.
DA 6′ 1″, 175-pound male. Winds 5 to 15 knots, small chop. Paddled without cargo and with 90-pound load.
DM 6′ 1″, 180-pound male. Winds 15 to 20 knots, chop to 3 feet, and clapotis.
The Hawk is a pleasure to look at: “Unbelievable looks…like fine furniture” (SN). “A beautifully constructed and finished boat. The quality of the workmanship is superb” (DM). The glass sheathed, cold-molded mahogany plywood kayak has nicely filleted joints on the inside seams. “The finish of the boat seems very hard, slippery. It easily slid over rocks when pulling it up on shore without scratching” (SN). The 46-pound kayak is easy to lift and balances well on the shoulder. The loops at the ends are not equipped with toggles, so tough on the hands for a tandem carry. It is more comfortable just to hold the ends of the boats.
The forward bungies are rigged through holes in the deck, so there are “no fittings at all to catch the paddle during the stroke” (DA). There are short lines at the ends of the deck that are useful for stowing a Greenland-style paddle, but don’t provide a place to stow a conventional sectional spare paddle.
The cockpit is “small but quite comfortable” (DA). There is not much room in the cockpit for stowing gear, but the arched foredeck provides lots of foot room. The unpadded, contoured carbon-fiber seat is “completely” (DA) comfortable. The back band provides support, though it is positioned lower than our reviewers were accustomed to. SN got used to it, but DA and DM thought it failed to provide good support. It also tends to get caught under the paddler when sliding into the boat, and requires some fussing to get it out of the way and in its proper position. The padding glued to the underside of the deck is “adequate [as thigh bracing] but an owner would almost certainly want to customize it” (DM). For SN the padding provides no support but only presses against his kneecaps. The foot braces ware solid and easily adjustable. There is no rudder.
The Hawk has “low” (DM) to “moderate” (SN) initial stability and “good” (DM) to “excellent” (SN) secondary stability: “Like leaning on a wall” (DA). In calm conditions the Hawk tracks well. Though DA thought it is slow to carve turns, SN and DM thought the Hawk turned “very well when set on edge” (SN). It “tracks well, but is very responsive to carved turns when put on edge” (DM). “Because of this responsiveness-among the most responsive of the boats I’ve tested-the boat is a bit nervous in rough conditions. With time in the boat, this trait would be appreciated. I found it fun, but I had to stay on my toes” (DM). SN and DA noted the Hawk weathercocks in winds to 15 knots. In slightly higher winds (to 20 knots), DM “found the boat easy to control. I was able to hold the boat on any course with no difficulty. Particularly impressive was the ability to stay on the downwind quartering course that often results in broaching problems.”
The Hawk is a “fairly fast boat” (DM). “It accelerated and held speed with little effort” (DA). “The ride is fairly dry, but it is easy to dig the bow into oncoming waves, [but] there isn’t anything on the deck to deflect water into my face, so I stayed pretty dry” (DM). “The Hawk flies on wind waves. It catches wind waves easily and is easy to control on the waves using boat lean and stern rudder strokes. It throws much less spray when surfing than other boats I usually paddle” (DM). “Broaches were slow, predictable and I could usually recover from them.” (SN).
SN thinks the Hawk is an easy kayak to roll: “No obstructions, and with the back band and low cockpit it is easy to lay back.”
In the bulkheaded compartments, there is room enough for a week’s worth of gear for a careful packer. The compartments are low and narrow in the ends. The hatches are “adequate” (DA) but “larger hatches would make it easier to pack” (SN). The toggle closure system is simple, but “difficult to operate with cold hands” (SN). The bolts securing the toggles have rough ends and can snag gear bags. On the bright side, the hatches didn’t leak during rough water trials and rolling. “Not a drop” (DM). “The initial instability is gone, [and the] speed felt good when loaded,” wrote SN of paddling with 45 pounds of cargo.
“It was a delight to paddle this boat,” wrote SN. “[It] appeared as if it would be unstable but it ended up being very predictable and stable enough for fishing and photography.” “I liked the boat very much. It is one of the most beautiful boats I have seen. The designer has been more successful than I have been with my own Greenland boat in adapting the design for touring” (DA). DM expected a bit more speed of the Hawk but it was still in the “upper 10% of the boats I’ve tested. Its responsiveness makes the Hawk a fun boat to paddle, and the beauty of the wood generated compliments from others on the water.”
I’m pleased the reviewers enjoyed paddling the Hawk. It was designed for the more experienced touring paddler. The foremost criteria for any kayak is its seaworthiness. The Hawk has proven to be not only a fast touring kayak, but one that is seaworthy and responsive in rough seas. I was equally pleased the reviewers admired our watertight flush-mounting wood hatches. Much thought has gone into their design and construction. The flush hatches keep the deck clear of obstruction to avoid water deflection, and a high quality neoprene gasket assures their watertightness. Custom larger hatches are available, but I feel the standard hatches are adequate. The latching system is secure and the rough ends on the bolts have been eliminated.
I believe kayaks should be carried by their ends and not the rope, hence the lack of toggles on the grab loops. Spare paddle mountings are set up for Greenland paddles only. The seating area with hip plates and back strap was designed to offer comfort and support, and can be easily custom padded. It is important the back strap be low enough to allow the paddler to lean back on the deck. The paddler just needs to become accustomed to entering a kayak with a pivoting back strap.
I thank the reviewers for their compliments on the fine craftsmanship. I take great pride in my work and the beauty of my wood/fiberglass kayaks. Many options are available, including a retractable skeg. To date, I have designed five touring kayaks in various sizes, which I build in mahogany/epoxy and glass. Two designs are licensed through Wilderness Systems for manufacture in fiberglass or Kevlar. Each design is of Greenland origin yet serves a distinct group of paddlers. I am glad the Hawk can accommodate those paddlers wishing to tour in a fast, seaworthy kayak.. Mark Rogers
Options and Pricing (1996 design)
Standard Construction: Cold-molded 4mm okoume mahogany plywood sealed with West System Epoxy and encapsulated in multiple layers of fiberglass cloth.
Standard Features: Bulkheads, wood hatches fore and aft, deck rigging, spare paddle mountings, grab loops, molded seat, hip plates, adjustable back strap, foot braces, knee padding, lifetime warranty.
Options: Recessed compass, $100; VCP hatches, $75; retractable skeg, $100; day hatch with third bulkhead, $50.
Approximate Weight: 44 pounds
Availability: From the manufacturer by custom order.
Superior Kayaks Inc.
108 Menasha Avenue
P.O. Box 355
Whitelaw, WI 54247
Phone (920) 732-3784