Big boats, thin boats, long boats, short boats.  Some of the most recent kayaks to hit the sit-on-top market have offered a greater amount of options in both size and fishing friendly features.  The eXtreme from Malibu Kayaks is certainly no exception.

At 15ft long and 31 inches wide, the eXtreme is a big boat.  On a bathroom scale, mine weighed in at 73lbs with the large front hatch cover attached.  With the hatch cover removed, itís closer to 67lbs.  Iím still struggling a little with loading and unloading the kayak.  The scratches on my car will testify to that.  Though with practice and technique, this process has become more manageable. 

Customers have the option of a 38 inch long front hatch, a mid rectangle and rear rectangle utility hatch.  This hatch is large enough to accommodate some of the longest fishing rods.  These mid utility hatches are a must for any angler.  Hopefully more kayak manufactures will take notice as Malibu has made me realize the importance and appreciation for these hatches.

The inside of the hull is sprayed with high-density foam.  The manufacturer says this adds buoyancy, density and improved safety.  I was optimistic but guarded about this attribute.  My main concern was with odors later down the road.  Thereís quite a bit of organic matter in salt water.  Would this foam absorb excess water thus causing a stench and discoloration that would be difficult to remove?  After taking it out several times now, I havenít noticed any foul odors coming from inside the hull.  

The deck layout is incredibly fishing friendly.  There is plenty of room for tying new rigs and handling fish.  The tank well is shallow but can still hold plenty of gear.  I can access the front hatch when I need to but like any kayak with a front hatch, it can be a little tricky at first.  Just like anything, with practice it becomes routine.

Upon my first inspection of the hull, I noticed it was very flat.  Thereís no rocker to be found and the tip of the bow sits low (very little rise), almost equal in height to the rails at the seat well.  With the tip of the bow sitting so low, I was concerned with an excess of water sloshing around the large front hatch.  It's not easy making a 38 inch long hatch 100% impervious to water.  

I took my first test drive with the eXtreme in the ocean.  The conditions were calm with just a light breeze blowing.  The surf wasnít a factor this day but there were some 6Ē-12Ē wind waves rolling through.  I jumped in and paddled out. 

Upon first paddling the eXtreme, I was a little disappointed.  It felt like the front end (bow) was fighting with the back end (stern).  Itís possible that a rudder would help this motion.  The tracking was pretty good but the sensation of the stern fighting the bow was enough to take notice.  With so little of the kayak sitting below the waterline, it doesn't take much to move it around.  Like a raft, this reduces surface resistance, helping it glide and drift.  Conversely, some control is surrendered because of the flat shape of the hull.  There's very little area for the water to hold onto since so little of the eXtreme's hull rests below the waterline.

I decided to paddle against the 6Ē-12Ē face wind waves (fairly mild for open ocean standards) to see how it performed.  The bow would bob up when it hit the crest of the wind wave and crash back down into the trough of the next wave.  My model for describing this action would be similar to footage Iíve seen of battleships cruising in rough weather.  The ship strikes a wave, bobs up and crashes back down into or over the next wave.  After striking the crest of that initial wave, the eXtremeís bow almost pearls as it hits the trough of the next one.  I would call it a false pearl since the kayak bobs right back up.  The kayak is very buoyant so this false pearl doesnít last but more than 1/2 a second.  The draw back to this bobbing motion is that it creates resistance and places a large volume of water over and around the large front hatch area.  The more water that sloshes over that front hatch, the more water got inside the kayak.  I would guess about a gallon of water made it inside after about 4 hours on the water.  It's fairly splash resistant but certainly isn't 100% water tight.  The tighter you make the hatch straps, the better the seal holds.   The resistance was more of a concern to me than taking in a gallon of water over a 4-hour period.  The bobbing motion affected the glide and slowed the kayak down a bit.  As long as I could stay away from this bobbing motion, the kayak glide was excellent.  With so little of the hull resting below the water line, this action is predictable and more or less expected.  

Fishing from the eXtreme was very luxurious.  The whole kayak was stable from bow to stern.  I was able to move up and down the kayak with ease.  Its stability is such that you can shift, move around and reposition yourself without the fear of tipping over.  I tried rocking this boat back and forth and it just didnít want to flip.  There's a lot of deck space for tools, tackle, sonar and other fishing or paddling related accessories.  With a mid utility rectangle hatch, thereís almost no need for me to access the front hatch other than to pull my fishing rods out or placing them back in for a surf launching and landing.  Fishing from the eXtreme was a real treat.

The tank well is shallow but still very handy for placing your catch and extra gear.  Everything placed in the tank well should be secured (as always) especially since it's so shallow.  The shallow tank well does allow for some splash to creep over the sides; excellent drainage clears excess right out.

For the most part, the kayak is a dry ride.  The foot wells are well designed and drain excellent.  The seat well doesnít drain quite as well.  At 200lbs (my weight) plus added gear, the water does raise up a little though the scupper hole.  Once there, the drainage is slow.  If water in your seat well is a concern, I recommend using a scupper plug (just one) for the seat well and bringing along a bilge sponge to remove any excess. 

I decided to take the eXtreme out into the more predictable harbor environment.  There I could paddle the kayak in glassy and tame conditions.  Removing the wind and wave variables allowed me to see how the boat was possibly intended to perform.  It was much faster and glided even better.  The design seemed to better suit the calmer conditions.  Many kayaks have drawbacks no matter what the conditions are.  I found most of the performance drawbacks diminished in this kind of environment.  As long as it was calm, I didnít feel that the stern was fighting the bow.  Since there were no wind waves or swell in the harbor, the bobbing motion I previously experienced wasnít a factor.  

I exited the harbor for more testing in less than glassy conditions.  At times, I felt like I was at the mercy of the rougher conditions.  I was in full control and safety wasnít compromised but the ride seems to be sensitive to ďless than glassyĒ conditions.

The eXtreme has a fair amount of hull slap and ripple from the cupped chines.  Iíve heard worse hull slap but it is something that should be mentioned.  I havenít found hull slap to adversely affect fishing.  I do most of my fishing in depths from 15-100 ft deep.  If hull slap does affect the type of shallows or flats fishing you do, try approaching certain areas slowly.  The hull slap and the ripple from the cupped chines seems to greatly diminish if not disappear as the kayak's speed is reduced.

Iíve since taken the eXtreme out several times.  The paddling drawbacks have been for the most part tamed by the luxury of the fishing-friendly deck and layout.  With added rocker and a raised bow, I think this kayakís performance would be improved.  Nevertheless,  the more I fished from the eXtreme, the more I was willing to accept any of its drawbacks.  


October 15, 2003
by Jason Morton