I had a chance to try an OK Prowler, outfitted with a rudder, on Oahu's windward coast. I joined up with Hui Wa'a kayak club with a borrowed kayak from Go Bananas.
Our trip route started at Kualoa Beach Park Oahu - Chinaman's Hat (Mokoli'i) on to Kahana Bay, The winds were 15 to 20 miles blowing directly onshore and" storm surf" was breaking on the reef that fringes this coast. I estimated the surf height to be 4-6 feet. The plan was to paddle in two groups; our group to go up wind out of Kaneohe Bay past Chinaman's hat, through the channel in the reef and out side to paddle with the wind on our side then into Kahana Bay with the wind at our back.
The other group elected to paddle inside the reef along the same basic path. The first mile in K bay was easy of course. As we passed Chinaman's Hat the effect the wind driven waves was felt under our hulls, Waves were breaking in outer channel. We commenced to claw our way to the out side up and over the swells.
The waves were crumbling at the tops as they found the shallower waters of the reef. The Prowler, like its sibling kayak the Scupper, handled well in the surf zone. The bow rode up and over each breaking wave, keeping a steady pace that prevented back surfing.
The further out we got the tougher the going got. Nonetheless, it was full steam a head. Then our trip leader was un-horsed by a wave and swept back many yards. He and the rest of the party were paddling Scupper Pros. I was able to turn around the Prowler easily to paddle back to the capsized kayaker. The Prowler handled well while riding a good-sized wave in control without pearling. The trip leader's leash broke and he and his boat were washed a considerable distance by the wave. I got there in time to help pick up the "yard sale" while others in our party helped reunite the paddler and his kayak.
A quick decision was made to abort the outside route and take the path inside the reef. So we resumed our coastal journey inside the breakers, probing the reef for channels and a possible opening to the outside, through the surf zone. One of the group members, a rogue paddler, did make it outside and paddled that route alone. Along the way we encountered patches of reef and coral heads with breaking waves.
A vast shallows tested the strength of the plastic hull. We came finally to Kahana Bay with the wind and waves at our back. I rode the Prowler into the bay on some easy breakers and there we joined the first group.
Over all the speed and stability of the Prowler was good. The same, more or less, as the Scupper Pro. The Prowler tracks well and the seating was comfortable. With this combination of traits the Prowler will make a fine touring kayak. The foot wells did rub my ankles, but this will be different for different people. A solution for me would be full ankle kayak booties, and some fine-tuning of the seat and foot peg adjustments.
The Prowler handled very well in the surf zone, even riding waves nicely. At first I thought the sharper lines would effect its ability to respond in control down a wave face, maybe even cause a nose dive but this was not so at all. The Prowler handled as well as my Pro ever did. Also the rudder was very responsive, and the OK rudder system is one of the few that can handle the surf zone with out breaking.
The cockpit was dryer than a Pro and drained quickly after flooding in breaking surf. I was concerned about the large hatch gasket. OK has gone back to a single rubber seal. While I did not "test" the seal with a tip over, I was exposed to considerable surf and breaking waves at times across the decks. The seals held fast and there was little water in the hull when we landed at the take out. One improvement for OK would be to make a drain slot in the deep "moat" around the hatch opening.
The Prowler is a heavy kayak, but that is to be expected. Every one wants a "large boat" when on the water and a small boat when on land. The Prowler is smartly outfitted for fishing, scuba and camping. (I would like to see a two-hatch version some day) I recommend this kayak to any one who is looking for a multi use touring boat with a tank/cargo well. If you already have a Scupper Pro than I would suggest that you keep it, unless the Prowler is something you really want. In other words: no need to trade up.
I do however see the Prowler as taking the place of the Pro. No doubt that OK plans to "retire" the venerable Pro in favor of the Prowler. If I were shopping for a kayak today I would choose the Prowler over the Pro.
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