I’ve been paddling the NDK Latitude for about a month now and having had it in a variety of conditions, I have to say I flippin’ love it…
Sea Kayaking UK describe the Latitude as a narrow kayak, designed for the tall, slim paddler, and indeed, the keyhole is long and very narrow. I have long legs, so the extra length means less of the yoga moves for getting in and out, however I also have a big backside and the cockpit rim does skim my hips a bit. If you’re used to extra space in your kayak and/or you’re a swimmer rather than a roller, it might initially feel disconcerting with such a narrow keyhole, but I guess there’s nothing like a lack of oxygen to motivate your escape and exiting the Latitude under pressure presents no problems whatsoever. For those who can, rolling is supremely easy and you can feel super confident that the Latitude will have you butter side up in no time.
As a river boater in a previous life, I prefer a snug fit in my sea kayak and the Latitude does not disappoint. The seat is perhaps a little low in this demo boat, however this is entirely customisable at the factory. In the meantime, the addition of a Jackson Sweet Cheeks raises me up enough, connecting my thighs more fully within the extended knee bumps of the cockpit, giving me greater comfort and more control.
The first outing in the Latitude was in some easy going conditions. We hopped a few rocks and the first thing that struck me was the Latitude’s incredible manoeuvrability. Despite the length and narrow width, it turns as nimbly as a rabbit being chased by a Jack Russell. So much so, I initially had trouble with oversteer, however I’ll put this down to my previous kayak being so unresponsive that I’d developed a seriously over-compensating paddling style without even knowing it.
Once I’d adjusted my style, moving in and out the rocks was an absolute joy and putting the Latitude exactly where I needed it was effortless. I’ve also tried it a few times on the river for a flat water blast and this thing is fast. It tracks beautifully, especially once you crank up the speed, and the easy glide of this boat means you’ll be feeling less fatigued at the end of a long day’s paddling.
The next test was to get the kayak out in some conditions, so out to St Kilda it came. After getting lazy in my big, stable old tank, I was still getting used to narrowness of the Latitude, and with some 3m swell and lively clapotis reflected off the vertical sea cliffs, I noticed it’s twitchiness. Although I’ve not yet tested it, I feel that loading the boat will counter this dramatically and I’ll report back on that following my next expedition. However, the solution in the unloaded Latitude is to drive it well, and wow does it respond! The Latitude gallops through the peaks and troughs of rough water without a single complaint, and it is FUN!
This is an expedition kayak designed to excel in covering distance swiftly in a variety of conditions, but I’m not sure whether surfing falls specifically within its remit. I know lots of people who love the Romany Classic or Romany Surf models for that. However, it’s an area in which I need to hone my own skills, and so why not take the Latitude into the break with me?
I’ll stress now, I’m terrible at surfing and the Latitude’s playful nature is probably not ideal for a beginner surfer like me. However, if I’m going to get the best out of this boat, I’m prepared to make the most of a steep learning curve; Consequently, I spent much of the first session being repeatedly trashed in the white water. Unused to such manoeuvrability, the waves kept catching me out, so scraping my face along the sand was becoming quite a familiar sensation. Since then however I’ve learned how I can use the Latitude’s speed to make catching the green waves ridiculously easy, and its agility means I can just hop off a wave before it closes out, happily avoiding the impromptu facial exfoliation. The Latitude is definitely nimble and responsive in the surf, so I can imagine how brilliantly it will perform in the hands of a pro.
Back in the water it’s designed for and I already feel like the Latitude is just an extension of myself. All I need now is to find a spraydeck to properly fit the narrow cockpit (will keep you posted), but overall, I am absolutely head over heels with this kayak and cannot wait to get it out on expedition!
Length: 524 cm Width: 50 cm Depth: 30.5 cm Front Hatch: 72.5 lt Day Hatch: 38 lt Rear Hatch: 42.5 lt
4 thoughts on “Review: NDK Latitude”
Great review. So far, the most descriptive I’ve come across. Do you mind me asking your height and weight? I’m 5’9″ 160lbs and wondering if this boat is perhaps too long for my height. It might replace my Boreal Design Ellesmere of it turns out to be a better fit and more stable.
Hi, I’m 5’8″ and around 140lbs. Weight makes a massive difference to the stability of the latitude. For me it’s flighty and fun when unloaded, but I’ve since had it out on expedition and, fully loaded, it really sits down in the water and feels very stable and reassuringly predictable. I also haven’t noticed the length being a hindrance in any way. It’s just quick. Unfortunately I’m not familiar with your current boat, but if you can find a latitude to demo, I would definitely recommend it. Hope you find what you’re looking for 🙂 K
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Thanks for your quick reply Kate. I’ve been reading through your adventures and your writing and stories are very inspiring! I used to live in Ireland from 2000 – 2002 and had my first weekend overnight kayak trip from the coast of Wexford which really boosted my interest in kayaking even since. I live on the west coast of BC, Canada and have explored the Broken Group (highly recommended) and am slowly building up my places to explore and conditions to paddle in, going from expedition to hopefully surfing.
You are very brave and obviously skilled to set out on these solo trips of yours and just from reading your posts I’ve learned some good pointers. You would probably be an excellent instructor from the experience you’ve garnered!
I noticed your previous boat (looks like a North Shore Polar?) has hard chines on the side, more like a Greenland style and very similar to my Boreal Design Ellesmere. Can you tell me a little about the differences between them, esp in terms of stability and speed? What made you choose the Latitude?
Hi, I’m so glad to hear that. I love paddling so much, but I really am just the average common or garden sea kayaker. I suppose I trust myself to make the right call when the conditions look interesting and try to safely gain the experience to help me out of an unexpected situation, but really it’s not a lot more than a bunch of day trips all joined together. I know the solo stuff isn’t for everyone, but I do hope I can inspire people to get out there and enjoy any kind of water as much as I do, and the coaching journey is already underway, so watch this space!
My previous kayak is a North Shore Polar, and as an expedition kayak, I have no complaints about it at all. It’s just a different beast. It is quick enough and immensely stable, in all conditions, has lovely big hatches, and tracks very well indeed. The downside to that is that it’s not the most manoeuvrable boat. Rock hopping and any kind of dynamic surfing can be hard work, but they are typically two of things I try to avoid on a solo exped. In contrast, the Latitude has both speed and manoeuvrability, however whilst unloaded, it’s primary stability is far from the Polar’s rock steadiness. But in my opinion that makes it a lot of fun. Fully loaded, the Latitude changes again, to a much more stable and predictable craft, and without losing that impressive swiftness or agility.
Regarding choosing the Latitude, I was very lucky to meet Nigel Dennis at this year’s SKUK Symposium and we chatted about boats for my upcoming Ireland trip. He recommended I try a Latitude, a Pilgrim Expedition and an Explorer (which along with a Romany Classic, I’ve paddled before). I found them all to stand apart from anything else I’ve paddled (which includes North Shore, Rockpool, Perception, P&H and Valley models), but it was the speed and nimbleness of the Latitude that really grabbed me. I loved it.
Keep me posted with your choice, would love to know how you get on. K
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