A weekend with a Rockpool GT

Guest Post from Alan

Rockpool GTThere’s not a whole lot of information or reviews on the Internet about the Rockpool GT, so I thought I’d offer my findings based on my short experience of paddling it. I am a 5′ 11” (1.524m), 165 lb (75 kg)  person.

I had been visiting Karitek in Ayrshire to test out a P&H Cetus and a Cetus MV that for various reasons I really didn’t fit (but that’s another story!) and decided to try out the Rockpool GT. In a short 20 minute test, after adjusting the Rockpool seat and footplate a bit, I convinced myself that I could fit into the kayak and was ready to go. A trip around the small loch near Karitek doesn’t afford adequate testing upon which to base a decision to purchase, but initial impressions were that this kayak was quite voluminous, very, very easy to edge and to hold on edge and turn in a really tight circle. I decided that it was worth trying out for longer and in more realistic conditions, so I hired it for the weekend.

On arriving back in Cowal, there was a small F3 WSW wind blowing and creating some wave activity on the Clyde, so I quickly launched and spent 30 minutes trying the GT out in a little chop. Once again I was quite impressed at the kayak’s ease of control. I could edge it with large degrees of comfort, and turn very easily (there is a nice sweet spot on edge that it sticks on and provides maximum manoeuvrability). Again I was quite impressed by the GT.

The GT is marketed as a large boat that has good primary and secondary stability, and handles like a much smaller kayak. This is indeed very true, and certainly as advertised.

On Saturday we went for some rolling practice, and I found the GT to be a very easy kayak to roll (considering the large volume), however, I did find that I had to pull myself around under the kayak sometimes before starting the roll, which I attributed to its volume. The back deck on the GT is low enough to do lean back rolls, but these may be impeded slightly by the freeboard when unloaded with someone of my weight in it.

Rockpool GTI really wanted to take the GT out in more challenging conditions and paddle it for longer, so on Sunday we went on a trip down Loch Fyne from Strachur to Castle Lachlan and back (22 km) expecting the forecast F3/4 SE winds to give us some wave activity. Much to my disappointment, and highly out of character for the weather in this region, it calmed down to F1/2 and even less on the way back . The 5 hour paddle did, however, serve its purpose in terms of finding out that the GT fit was not a comfortable one for me, despite my having played around extensively with the seat and footplate positions. Paddling for short periods of time, I had no discomfort but, after about the 2 hour mark, my feet were aching from their positioning on the footplate (and my inability to stretch them out), I had sore thighs when engaging the thigh braces and, most noticeably, a very achy lower back from the backrest which was much larger than the one on the Alaw Bach/Isel seats that I’ve seen. I decided to make some changes to the seat position at lunch and see how much comfort I could achieve on the return trip. I still didn’t fit the thigh grips without really tensing up, so I moved the seat forward further to make a better connection. (One point of note about moving the seat forward so much is that it creates a lot of space behind the seat, and also makes it that much harder to clamber into to begin with). I certainly felt much better connected when I climbed back in after lunch, but only managed about 1 hour of paddling before my back was starting to spasm once more forcing me to see if anyone else wanted to paddle the kayak for the rest of the day!  It really is true that you have to  paddle a kayak for at least a day (preferably longer) to see whether it is the right one for you.

In terms of size, the GT is a large volume kayak (17′ 10″ (5.44m), 380 litres, 21″ (53 cm) wide), which has a lot of its volume above the waterline. The cockpit is an extremely large one but, with the adjustable footplate and seat, can be made to fit just about anyone. I did, however, feel quite small inside this cockpit. I think perhaps this kayak is geared towards a 6’+ 80kg+ paddler with lots of gear to carry.

Rockpool GTYou certainly notice that, paddled empty, the kayak sits quite high up on the water with quite a few inches of freeboard. At my size, I feel like I sit deeply inside the cockpit (my hips were about 2-3 inches below the cockpit rim, which is really too far). Quite a few fellow paddlers remarked on how high in the water I looked. They mentioned that the bow was often sitting above the waterline. They also remarked at how the kayak looked very ‘big at the front’, which is indeed where much of the volume lies. I tried to block out mental images of the A300-600ST (Super Transporter) ‘Beluga’ plane when they mentioned this!!

My impression is that, if you are a 80+ kg paddler, at least 6 feet tall, and you are looking for a stable, manoeuvrable but voluminous kayak, then the GT is well worth a look. If you are under 6 feet and less than 80 kg, you will struggle to fit the cockpit and the kayak may not make enough contact with the water at the waterline.

What Rockpool have done, however, is produce a kayak that does what the label says ie a large kayak with a small kayak feel and, if they ever produce an ‘LV’ version (I thought that it could do with shedding at least 1” of deck depth), I’d be very interested in trying it out, but perhaps with a different backrest!

Photos courtesy Julia Darby

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