By Alex Matthews
This past summer, I’ve had the opportunity to paddle all three of Current Designs’ ‘Danish Style’ kayaks. These boats are the work of Danish designer Jesper Kromann-Andersen, and represent a very distinct family within the Current Designs range. As I learn more about these boats and get them out in to different conditions, my early impressions are coming together to form a picture of each model.
The first ‘Danish Style’ kayak to be introduced by Current Designs was the 17’ Prana. Next came the 16’ Sisu, and then the 15’3” Karla. Each successive design has been shorter than the last, with a greater emphasis on surfing responsiveness and ‘play performance’. But how do they each compare? Where does each kayak excel? And which one should you pick?
Double that range from 3 to 6
Before getting into any detail on each of the 3 Danish designs, it needs to be noted that 2 versions of each model is available. The standard size, and an ‘LV’ or low volume version. Both standard and LV models come from the same mold, and therefor share the exact same dimensions when it comes to length and beam. But the LV version’s deck is trimmed back approximately ¾”, resulting in a lower volume kayak with a snugger fit. The LV is primarily aimed at smaller paddlers, but it does have some benefits beyond a smaller fit. The LV’s lower deck diminishes windage, as there is less overall surface area above the waterline for wind to act upon. So an LV will get blown around slightly less than the standard size. The lower deck also reduces the back of the cockpit coaming’s height, making laying right back on the stern deck that much easier when rolling.
Of course the downside of an LV is reduced cargo capacity. And for paddlers pushing into really challenging or ‘extreme’ conditions, they may find that the increased volume of the standard size does a better job of keeping their kayak on the surface, and less prone to submerging than the LV. And of course, if you are a bigger paddler, you may simply find an LV far too cramped.
So for the vast majority of us, our physical size will simply dictate whether the standard or LV provides the best comfort and fit. Bigger paddlers will naturally find a better fit in the standard, while smaller kayakers will love the lower deck and snugger fit of the LV.
The two outside kayaks are the LV versions, you can see how the middle boat rises slightly higher
A Strong Family Resemblance
All three kayaks share a number of characteristics. Firstly, the visual aesthetics are consistent: they all look sleekly attractive, with upswept bows, good volume around the knee section of the foredeck for a comfy fit, a more ergonomic seating position, and a positive interface with the kayak, while the stern deck is quite low and flat for easy layback rolls, and reduced windage. All three models are equipped with a skeg - controlled via cable by a slider by the paddler’s left knee.
All have the same fundamental 4-hatch layout, and employ tethered snap-on Kajak Sport hatches throughout. One oddity is the centrally mounted day hatch immediately aft of the cockpit. While some may miss a more traditional, offset day hatch, I can’t say that I feel strongly about it either way.
The low, flat stern deck and day hatch directly aft of the cockpit
The sensibly functional perimeter lines and deck shock cords are laid out in the same pattern, and a dedicated compass recess is molded into the deck forward of the front hatch.
Outfitting is fairly basic, with fixed seat and thigh braces, bombproof adjustable metal footbraces, and a ratcheting adjustable Immersion Research back-band. While there isn’t a ton of adjustability, I find the padded seat comfortable and the setup yields a really positive connection to the kayak without the need to add lots of additional sculpted foam to customize the fit. The knees are fairly high in the seated position, which is more comfortable for most paddlers, and I find that this position better promotes leg drive and rotation.
The hulls of all three models also share a clear connection. They are “swede form” meaning that the widest point of the hull is just aft of the midpoint of the length of the kayak. This creates a longer finer entry to the beamiest section of the hull, and increases speed. It also concentrates the widest, most buoyant section of the hull right around the paddler’s butt, which adds stability, and provides increased maneuverability when the kayak is edged, as that buoyancy helps free the bow and stern from the water when the boat is on an angle.
Featuring a fixed seat with adjustable backband. The boxy shape of the Danish designs is very pronounced by the seat
The Danish hulls all also display a distinctively boxy cross-sectional shape with a defined hard chine. Imagine sawing a kayak in half right at the backband (at a right angle to the length) – this is the cross-sectional shape. At the seat, the shape of the Danish boats is very boxy due to the pronounced chine. This added volume in the corners of the ‘box shape’ increase stability because the near vertical sides of the hull allow the kayak’s waterline to be almost the same as its overall beam. As opposed to a very round cross-sectional shape, where the waterline beam will be markedly narrower than the overall width of the kayak. For this reason, a hard chine kayak with a narrower width will feel more stable than a kayak with a round or V shaped hull of similar dimensions.
The hard chine and boxy shape also increase maneuverability (like the ‘Swede form’ outline shape) by increasing volume in the same key area of the hull, and allows the stern of the boat to break free or ‘skid’ when the kayak is placed on edge.
How full the chine remains, and how much volume it carries out to the ends of the boat, is one of the defining elements of each of the different designs.
When viewed side-on, the Danish kayaks display an asymmetric rocker profile, with the bow having a little more rocker than the stern. Rocker refers to the curve of the hull’s keel over its length. The more rocker (think ‘banana’), the more the kayak will turn. The flatter the keel line (less rocker – think straight as a ruler), the more the boat will track straight, but resist turning.
The combination of the Swede form, boxy cross-sectional shape, and rocker profile yields a hull that tracks quite well on an even keel, but responds with remarkable maneuverability when edged.
Every hull is an amalgam of choices relative to shape, volume and rocker – and these boats are no exception. With the range, the designer has tweaked each model to magnify certain characteristics and capabilities in each kayak.
Prana – The Passage-maker
The Prana is the longest and narrowest of the three models. And in my mind, is a little different and separate from the other two. While they are all ‘variations on a theme’, the Prana design purposely eschews some of the maneuverability and stability of the other two shorter designs, in favor of glide and efficiency. As such, the Prana is what I would term the ‘Passage Maker’ of the three.
The boxy mid-sectional shape is there in the middle, as is the hard chine. But the chine blends smoothly into the tapered sleek V of the bow and stern, reducing wetted surface area for a finer entry, and a cleaner exit. There is no hollow or pinched concavity in the bow or stern, so the volume there is effective, but this boat is focused on a more efficient parting of the waters, rather than all-out play.
And this is reflected in its narrow 21” beam too. The Swede form and chine are working their magic, but the Prana is predictably the least stable of the three. It still responds nicely to edging, but it doesn’t quite spin on a dime like its shorter sisters.
The Prana is certainly the quickest, and requires the least amount of effort to maintain a good cruising speed. It’s fun downwind, and the obvious choice for optimizing A to B traveling efficiency. And it still maneuvers very well and is responsive.
So who is the Prana for? – The paddler who prizes greater efficiency over ultimate play potential. The Prana easily wins on speed and glide, making it a natural choice for tripping or high efficiency day trips. If you’re worried about keeping up with the group, or just love maximizing the return on your physical exertion, then the Prana is the one for you.
The Prana's more slender frame and length make it ideal for long distances
Sisu – The Jack of all Trades
The Sisu is the widest of the Danish designs at 22.3” and the most initially stable. Put it on edge and it carves around beautifully. The increased width and resulting volume give great stability on edge, and make breaking the stern loose for really tight turns a breeze. At 16’ long, it has decent speed, although more volume is carried into the ends of the boat, making it less speedy than the Prana. But the fuller bow and rocker profile do a great job keeping the bow on the surface of the water when in sporty (turbulent) conditions. This is especially apparent when surfing, as the bow is less likely to dive due to that increased volume, leading to better control, less broaching, and more fun!
The Sisu ticks a lot of boxes – there’s enough space below deck for multi-day tripping for a careful packer, and its large oval stern hatch make loading easy. It’s really maneuverable and fun to paddle, and its reasonably quick. It’s comfy, it’s stable – both on edge or sitting level. It’s a very appealing package, hitting a great compromise between play and decent efficiency.
The Sisu, centre, is the most versatile, all-around style of the three
Who is the Sisu for? – A lot of folks will enjoy this boat. While it doesn’t have the speed of the Prana, the Sisu is a reassuring ride that does a great many things very well. It’s terrific fun on edge, responding beautifully with tight turns, and yet tracks well when on an even keel. Skilled paddlers will have a blast cranking it through tight corners and catching waves, but it’s also easy for a novice to paddle, and a forgiving platform in which beginners can quickly build their skills.
Tour, play, daytrip… The Sisu excels with its versatility and good manners.
Karla – The Player
The Karla shares a lot with the Sisu, albeit in a shorter (15’3”) and slightly narrower package that is clearly biased to maximize play performance. Its beam is a narrow 21.5”, but a lot of volume is carried through to its ends (note the long sections of more vertical sidewalls through the length of the hull) and makes the Karla feel more stable than its slender width would suggest. And that volume in the ends does a great job of keeping the Karla atop turbulent water, rather than being ‘stuck’ in it. The bow is particularly full, and its increased rocker improves control when surfing steep waves that would otherwise grab the bow, causing it to pearl. The chines and large flat section through the bottom of the hull make the Karla a very fun play machine that responds beautifully to edging.
Even the hatch configuration gives a distinct nod to play, swapping the easy loading access of a large oval stern hatch, for the better waterproofness of a 9.5” round one (same size as the bow hatch).
Who is the Karla for? – Anyone who loves to play play play in a sea kayak!
Just as you may well miss the glide and speed of the Prana when paddling other boats, the Karla’s out and out ‘toss-ability’ and poise in challenging conditions are addictive. And most importantly to me, while it truly makes rough conditions easier, it continues to be fun and dynamic to paddle on flat water. Some rough water specific boats are so ‘planted’ and slow, that they become positively uninvolving in anything other than sporty conditions, and they are a chore to drive through calm waters. Not so the Karla. While the boat isn’t a speed demon, it does well for its length, and its sporty nature and superb maneuverability and responsiveness keep it involving, and make it far more than just a surfboat.
The Karla, right, is the shortest of the three and designed for play
It’s a cracking little kayak that excels at day paddles and play. And while you’ll work a little harder, there’s no reason why a careful packer can’t easily do a few days tripping out of a Karla. Yes, you’ll expend a little more energy getting down the coast to a play-spot, but once there you’ll have just the tool for the job!
So there we have it – a range of kayaks for a range of applications and paddlers. The one that best suits you will be a reflection of what you wish to do in a kayak, and what performance aspects you prioritize. They are all highly competent designs, and while there is obviously considerable overlap in their performance capabilities, they are to some degree different tools for different jobs. Try them all!