Reviews Touring Kayaks

Venture Kayaks Islay 14 Touring Kayak Review

The Islay 14 is the latest design from Venture Kayaks. It’s a short touring kayak aimed at allowing its paddler easy access to a wealth of inland and coastal touring adventures. As soon as we unloaded it from the roof-rack we were impressed by the Islay’s lines, it looked like a fun boat and bow and stern bulkheads, and hatches, plus a really neat removable deck pod for essentials & valuables it had all the storage we could want for weekend adventures.

RRP: £699
More Info: www.venturekayaks.com

Specification:

Length: 427cm
Width: 60cm
Weight: 374 litres

Features:

  • Semi flat mid hull with a slight V: Gives stability, manoeuvrability and great tracking.
  • Full volume bow: Helps lift over waves and give you a drier ride.
  • Volume in bow and stern: Carry all your gear with ease on calmer water.
  • Rear weighting & squared off stern: Long water line allows you to keep speed up across the bay.
  • Ergonomic cockpit position: So you can paddle all day in comfort.
  • 2 large hatches and paddle park: Store all your gear for longer trips.
  • Removable Storage Pod: Easy to reach access to essentials while paddling.
  • Deck elastics: Store map and spare paddles for easy access.Fishing rod holder flats:
  • Fishing rod holder flats: For optional fishing rod holders.
  • Security bar & Paddle recess behind the cockpit
  • Rudder Ready: Optional rudder can be attached.

On The Water

Our first planned trip in the Venture Kayaks Islay was to one of our local touring rivers, slow moving, but beautiful and bursting with wildlife it seemed a good place to test out the Islay’s inland touring credentials. Right from the moment we climbed aboard, it was obvious that the Islay had something a little special about it. It has a long waterline and asymmetric hull, which made it surprisingly fast for a boat of its length. This is excellent because for touring it means you get more distance for your paddle stroke, which means you save energy; especially important if you want to do longer trips.

What really struck us was how well the Islay tracks, it’s like it’s on rails. It has a drop down skeg, but on this trip, we didn’t need it, even under a fairly stiff stroke rate and with little feedback from under the deck the Islay just kept slicing through the water, straight as an arrow. Not only will this make the Islay really friendly for beginners, but combine this with its speed and it makes for a kayak that is very efficient at racking up some miles. And here’s the really cool bit…

The design team at Venture have managed to blend this tracking ability with user-friendly stability, and real manoeuvrability. This makes it really fun to paddle. Engage an offside edge and the Islay responds immediately to carve a smooth tight turn. This nimble nature comes from its semi-flat hull that has a slight V in the mid-section. We were really impressed that they’d managed to get all of those performance characteristics into one diminutive design.

It was a real pleasure to paddle and we guess that’s exactly what this kayak is all about, it’s about getting out and having a great time on the water. Be that a bimble down your local river or around your local lake. Or hitting the coast and exploring coves, bays and estuaries.

Our second outing was over to the Norfolk coast and again the Islay impressed us with its paddling performance. This time we loaded her up with some basic camping kit. There’s plenty of storage and after a little time spent making sure the weight was properly distributed between bow and stern with took to the water. The Islay handled the extra load well with little change to the handling. We had a fairly stiff cross wind and the tracking was still impressive, but by releasing the drop down skeg the stern stayed firmly anchored and weather cocking was all but eliminated. The Islay’s parentage owes much to one of Venture Kayaks sister brands P&H Sea Kayaks and their popular Delphin design, this can especially be seen in the rear weighting and squared off the stern. The full bow rides high and despite not being a full blown sea kayak, you can feel the Islay is at home on the briny.

Fixture & Fittings

Our test boat was really nicely fitted and the large ergonomic cockpit area was very comfortable. It had a large padded seat, well-placed thigh braces for added control and an adjustable flip-top backrest that gave all the support that you could require. Well-placed bungee cords, paddle park and deck-lines make the Islay useful in lots of situations and the removable deck pod is a simple, but very useful piece of kit. The Islay can also be easily fitted with rod holders for those that like a little fishing from their kayak. It can also be fitted with a rudder should you require, although it’s so easy to control with its edges that we don’t really see why you’d want to.

Conclusion

There are some really good touring boats on the market to survive paddlers who want to get out on the water for fun, recreation and adventure and the Islay really does sit right up there with the best of them. It doesn’t try to be a jack-of-all-trades it’s a touring kayak in the true sense and it’s, and we don’t say this lightly, perfectly designed for recreational kayak touring. If you want to get out on the water and explore, rack up a few miles, do a bit of kayak camping, get closer to nature and generally have a really nice time then the Islay could certainly be the boat for you. It’s able to put smiles on the faces of beginners with its easy tracking and confidence inspiring stability and it will still appeal to intermediate and expert paddlers with its fun nature and impressive performance. Quite simply we loved it.

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