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Boats that work... kayaks evolved for the purpose of working in cold water and keeping the paddler (pilot) warm. No sit on tops evolved in the Arctic. Speed and capability - the ability to control the boat, to brace, to roll, to support a harpoon throw are all parts of that capability.
In 2011, as I write this, there are many boats being built, many choices one can make. But the measure of capability remains at essence to the why and what of the boat to be chosen.
Just as a paddler chooses their boat, a builder makes many choices in the process of design. One works with the materials available and shapes a boat to best fill the short list of what is being designed. At times the shortlist may include carrying capacity, stability and speed (Kodiak) while others it will be whitewater maneuverability, surfacing, strength and control (Pure). Other manufacturers have chosen to make boats at the lowest price or the highest speed or lightest weight. All elements have real values, but one cannot ever combine them all. Speed is normally balanced against maneuverability. Strength is often balanced against weight and in any situation building both strength at low weight is always a challenging task.
I often say that Kayaks are like Golf Clubs. One has many choices and the choice one makes is often the one for a specific situation. Still, with kayaking one can not carry a full set of rivers once one gets in the water. I often settle on my favorite few -- my favorite on the river, my favorite on the lake. I like speed combined with comfort. I don't like to be upside down but I love to carve turns. Big water is a joy, waves and whitewater..
In the end though, the shape of a boat, its outfitting must be coupled with its build and its longevity. Kayaks that can be used for many years are my favorite. I like to use boats that I know well and paddle boats that can be paddled for years and even decades. Boats should not be built destined for the garbage heap. They need a life well lived and well cherished. They are an extension of ourselves.
A magic thing is to make a boat that fits your dreams. Even more magic can be found in finding the one that fits yours, and which in turn will accompany you as you live your dreams and explore those places that become your life.