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