“ Perception / Perception Scooter Beach Sit On Top Kayak „
I bought my Perception Scooter Sit on Top kayak because of a friend who was really keen to take up kayaking, but was a little frightened. After some deep psychological analysis (well....a chat in the pub), I discovered she was scared of capsizing and being trapped under water. I'd seen Sit on Tops' at beaches previously, and thought this would be an easy way to introduce her to the basics of kayaking and build her confidence without the fear of capsizing. Now I'll admit at that point I thought of Sit on Tops' as purely beach toys, nothing like 'real' kayaks, was I right?
The modern Sit on Top kayaks evolved from the Surf Skis of the 1920's, which were popularised by lifeguards in the USA. They were a hybrid of kayaks and surf boards and were perfectly suited to lifesaving because of their speed and stability. Over the years the concept has evolved and there is now a huge range of Sit on Top kayaks available, designed for a variety of purposes including kayak surfing, touring, diving and fishing. Perception is a British company that has been producing plastic Sit on Top Kayaks from Ukfield, Sussex, for 30 years.
The Perception Scooter is a moulded polyethylene kayak, it has a moulded seat area for the paddler to sit and put their legs on top of the hull with the feet resting in moulded foot braces, rather than sitting inside the hull as with traditional kayaks. The hull is sealed so it won't fill with water and it has (sealed) self-draining holes so any water that is splashed in will simply drain out. There are built in handles at the front back and on either side, ideal for handling and transporting the kayak. I also use the handles as anchor points when securing it to the roof bars on my car. It has six attachment mountings, three on each side, which can be used to attach thigh straps, luxury seats and a paddle leash (because no-one wants to find themselves at sea without a paddle!). There is a large storage area at the back, which is covered with elasticated netting, I use this to store my dry-bag, containing all my essentials. A moulded water bottle holder is handily located between my legs, so a drink is always easily accessible. It comes in a variety of colours, mine is blue and white (anyone who has read my other kayak review will see a pattern - I'm building up a blue and white fleet). It is 295cms long, and weighs 20kgs, although this seems like a manageable weight, the size and shape of this kayak means I find it impossible to carry on my own, so I tend to pick up the front by the built in handle and drag it along. They are available from £325.00 new, and although used ones can often be found on ebay or similar sites they don't depreciate much so it is hard to find a bargain.
Because it is a sealed unit it cannot fill with water and sink. Anything that claims to be unsinkable is just asking to be put to the test - or is that just me? I've tried my best to sink it, and even when standing up and jumping on it all it does is eventually tip over, depositing me in the sea, and righting itself. It has tracking channels in the hull, and a moulded, built in, skeg. This helps it travel in a very predictable way; it holds straight lines easily and remains very stable.
There are major advantages to this design, particularly for inexperienced paddlers, but there are also a couple of disadvantages.
* There is no danger of capsizing, the paddler simply rolls off the kayak
* A more vertical paddling angle is provided by the paddlers' increased height above the water line, making it easier to control by paddle strokes alone.
* They are great in surf because there is no danger of being swamped; the wave just drains through the kayak
* They are regarded as unsinkable
* They are very robust; I have chucked mine around, dragged it across tarmac and left it uncovered outside for several winters and it barely has a mark on it.
* They retain their value well, meaning they can be bought and played with for a couple of years, without losing much money when it comes to selling them on.
* Helps to avoid the kayakers summer pitfall of brown arms and milk-bottle white legs.
* They feel slower and less responsive than a sit-in kayak
* You will definitely get wet - there is no way to avoid permanently sitting in a puddle
* I think there is a temptation for people, especially children, to get into situations they are not equipped to handle e.g. taking them out in conditions they can't cope with, with little or no safety equipment, with limited skills and knowledge of tides, swells etc.
As I mentioned at the start of my review, my purpose for buying this was to help my friend learn to kayak. We went out on the sea regularly in our Sit on Tops, and she found it an effective and unthreatening way to learn basic paddle strokes and build up her skills. Because it is a heavy kayak, and is not that responsive, she was forced to develop really good technique particularly with strokes like sculling draw and ruddering. This built her confidence quickly and after one summer she had progressed to 'real' sit in kayaks.
We still have our Perception Scooters, and often take them to the beach for a play on hot summer days. They are also very popular when my young cousins come to stay with me, and with my friends' children. I think they are great fun, and certainly have their place. They surf pretty well with the addition of thigh straps to provide sufficient control. They are perfect for a gentle paddle, and we have taken them on day trips along the coast on calm days, but I wouldn't want to tackle an epic ocean voyage on one of these! A fun thing to have, but I don't think they are a substitute for a sit in kayak, they are definitely a different animal altogether.
Etiquette - For anyone interested in getting a Sit on Top to play in the surf I feel I should say a word about the etiquette. Board surfers ALWAYS have priority; they have to wait longer for their waves and they are more vulnerable. Also, I'm sure it goes without saying, but it is always advisable to use these kayaks well away from any swimmers for safety reasons.