Over the past two months I have been testing out the new Dragorossi Stinger. The boat arrived fully wrapped along with a Dragorossi Pintail. These two boats were the first Dragorossi kayaks I had seen in the flesh so I was eager to check them out.
From the Dragorossi Web Site:
“The goal: to create a new design that would permit its user to do several things in the same boat, and not feel limited in any of them by compromise. The sort of kayak where you can go creeking on Friday, enter a Rodeo on Saturday, and teach your friend to paddle in on Sunday.”
So does the boat measure up? Well…..
On un-wrapping the Stinger I was immediately suprised by the quality of the finish. Being made from a similar plastic to Prijons and Eskimo kayaks I was expecting a similar finish i.e. that less than smooth surface texture. But the boat was absolutely spotless. Well moulded/finished and clearly well bolted together.
The boat arrived fully built with no additional padding supplied for hip pads etc, however the boats can be purchased with different sized seats! The seat does have a factory fitted but pad to help prevent you sliding around on the seat. The boat did come supplied with a set of fins, an allen key and additional metal hardware for fixing the fins.
The boat comes with two “tape” grab handles both of which are attached to short metal bars. One is positioned on the bow and the other just behind the cockpit. A drainbung is also provided at the stern of the boat .
One of the strangest additions to the boat is the “suit case” style carry handle. It’s an elasticed piece of “tape” so is more difficult to get snagged – as a carry handle for the boat it does its job well. A simple idea!
The backrest is a very rigid affair that is secured to the seat via a stiff piece of plastic/screw. The tension on the backstrap is adjusted by two ratchets (one on each side of the seat) located just below your thighs, which requires you to reach under each leg (one at a time) to adjust. Out of the guys who tried out the boat there were mixed opinions on the backrest. The stiff piece of plastic prevented the backrest from being released enough in some cases. Removal of the self taping screw fastening the backrest to the seat took care of that. I guess the positioning of the ratchet system is some what unconventional compared to just about all other boats on the market, but once you get used to the where and hows of it they are just as easy to use.
The footrest used in the Stinger as well as most other Dragorossi kayaks is system that will be familiar to all those who have ever tried a Riot Booster, i.e. a plastic plate that is adjusted/secured by a ratchet located at the front of the seat. I personally prefer something a little bit more substantial such as a lump of carved foam or bean-bag footrest. If you don’t like it, it is very easy to remove. With or without the footrest there is plenty of room up-front.
Now those thigh things. They do actually work, but for me they weren’t that comfortable until I got used to postioning them on my legs correctly. Some will like and some won’t, either way the shape of the deck provides plenty of thigh grip! If you don’t want to use them you don’t have to. What I can say is that I did a capsize test to see if I could get out, and because you are reading this you know that I made it! But seriously they didn’t hinder my exit. As a dropped out of the boat they rotated out of the way, no problem.
I paddled the boat for the first time at the Teesside Whitewater course (an artificial course). Knowing the course so well allows me to test new boats out in almost identical conditions.
On the flat
If you’ve been paddling flat hulled boats the Stinger will initially feel quite strange as it has a slightly chined hull. The boat has comparable speed with others currently on the market. Cartwheels, bow stalls and rolling are all pretty easy to pull.
I struggled to get on and stay on the waves, including Happy Eater. I felt unbalanced and was sitting to far back. The seat was moved forward one notch at a time until the seat was set at its most forward position. This was easy to do as the seat only needs two nuts to be removed for the seat to be repositioned. Once sorted the boat was staying on/in the wave/hole and was more balanced.
There is no doubt that this boat is fast on a wave. Even the small waves that are on the course provided entertainment once I had the settings sorted out. The strong edges that run the full length of the boat see to that, but at the same time I never fealt as if those edges were trippy.
With new boats I am always concerned the 1st time I run Valentines will result in carnage. At the moment Valetines has a nasty kick to it. Anyway the boat cruised over the stopper, no issues. Paddling down the moving water the boat felt nice and balanced.
The boat was also tried out at the local surf beach on a 4-5ft day. For this the fins were attached but unfortnately didn’t last long. Despite taking great care launching the boat (no sealing launching) one of the fins broke off whilst surfing the first wave back in. The second fin was removed and the boat taken back out into the surf.
One of the guys who tried out the boat in the surf had set out not to like it, but other than minor outfitting issues (as mentioned above) he liked the way it performed. It was fast and highly responsive on all sections of the wave.
Corran gets a load of stick in the kayaking world and as a result his designs get a bit of a licking too, but the Dragorossi Stinger shouldn’t be overlooked. The boat is a performer and one that is easily at home in the surf, on a river or at the local PnP spot.