by Sea Kayaker magazine, Feb. 2002
Courtesy of Sea Kayaker magazine, Seattle, USA.
165-pound male. Day paddles in 10-12 knot wind; roll practice, speed
test; 60# gear load. Wind to 12 knots, waves to 2 feet.
The 500EX appears to have "excellent construction and materials" (MH). "The tubes fit into their sockets with no problems. Nothing had to be forced. The squeeze pump for inflating the sponsons works nicely" (GL). The boat has "an appealing profile. The sponsons give the boat a bit of a paunchy look from the side. They are hardly noticeable while aboard the boat; they do not get in the way of paddling at all. The visual and ergonomic effect from the cockpit is one of a much slimmer boat" (TE).
For a solo carry, "the cockpit support tube provides a good place to grab and lift the kayak. The pressure on the shoulder is concentrated along the tube, but the boat is light and balances well. There are no hand grips at the ends so for a tandem carry you have to hold the boat under the stems"(TE).
The deck lines are laced through short loops of webbing sewn in at the sheer. There is a grab line running the perimeter of the kayak. Bungles laced across the decks provide a place for a chart and a spare paddle. The 1/8 " bungle" will hold gear in mild conditions but is too light to stand up to rough water" (TE).
"The cockpit is a good length with adequate width and easy to exit and enter" (GL). It was long enough for TE, the tallest of the reviewers, to get in seat first, then feet, but "the 14" span between the coaming support tubes is snug for me." "The coaming, segmented for packing, allows the spray skirt to pop off too easily" (GL).
The seat is a contoured foam pad with a nylon cover. The backrest, another foam pad with a fabric cover and an internal stiffening plate, is hinged to the seat. Together they are "very comfortable" (GL). "The fit of the cockpit was quite good and held my legs in their best position without the tension that leads to fatigue and numbness" (TE). The coaming support tubes "offer lateral bracing against slipping sideways in the seat" (TE). The seatback rests against a small plastic bilge pump. To pump, the paddler leans back and forth. It worked, but "rocking to squeeze the pump is awkward and inefficient" (GL).
The coaming support tubes "offer secure thigh bracing. The contact comes close to the kneecaps though and can be uncomfortable if your knee isn't pressed outward. The overall fit seems quite positive, though there are some points that I'd pad a bit" (TE).
The foot braces are "solid, mounted on a rail and easy to adjust while underway, even with the sea sock in place" (GL). The kayak has no rudder and none of the reviewers thought it needed one.
The 500EX's "initial
and secondary stability are excellent. On flat water, chop, wind and
boat wakes, it's very secure. The flex of the boat cushions the ride
and you feel waves pass under the hull. The hull tends to rides over
larger waves, instead of being slapped like often happens in a hardshell"
(GL). TE noted "the secondary stability was moderate at high degrees
of heel, as the sponson becomes submerged and the waterline moves inward.
In between initial and the secondary stability there is a middle righting
moment that keeps the kayak on a even keel, without making it too hard
to get he boat on edge. An interesting stability profile.
Opinions differed on tracking: "Adequate, but bow tends to bob back and forth a bit, and the kayak tends to spin if you stop paddling" (GL). "The Fujita tracked very well. It had some yaw, but the bow would come back to center on its own between strokes" (TE). In light winds GL noted "reasonably well balanced for wind, but with some weathercocking. Holding a beam course required some learning and paddle correction. Turning downwind not difficult." For MH, in stronger winds, weathercocking was not an issue: "I did not have trouble staying on course in 30 knot winds! I think it's excellent."
In rough water the 500EX "tends to flex and ride over waves rather than punch through them, which creates less splash and a drier ride" (GL).
GL rated the 500EX's speed as moderate. MH thought that it "cruises along nicely with minimal effort. I was surprised by how efficient it is at a swift touring pace." TE, using a GPS to gauge speed, could do "4 1/2 knots a relaxed pace, a brisk speed that surprised me. At an exercise pace I could do 4 3/4, not much higher, and my sprints were at about 5 knots. The top end comes pretty fast, but the boat seems very easily driven at a pace that could cover miles quickly."
Surfing wind waves,
MH found the 500Ex"slow to accelerate, but very controllable. You
do feel someflexing,butthiswasnotunpleasant" GL noted the kayak
has "Some tendency to broach on small waves."
"The arched decks provide interior volume that would carry gear for a luxurious weekend or a less lavish week" (TE). The kayak has no bulkheads, so loading is done through the cockpit. There are small access ports on each deck to pull dry bags into the ends. With a load of 60 pounds aboard the 500EX is "very stable, tracks well, turns easily, responds well to a lean and sweep stroke" (GL).
"Folding kayaks have never inspired me, but a kayak like this, with its excellent function and good performance, can open up possibilities. I could have a lot of fun in one of these" (MH). TE found the 500EX "a very lively kayak that maneuvers well and clips along with good speed. It is definitely worth considering if you are looking for a boat to travel with." For GL the 500EX was a super light, easy to-assemble folder with plenty of room for gear. Great for air transport to multi-day outings in exotic places."