The best in sea kayak design
since 1980!

  • Elegantly functional designs
  • Proven performers, the choice of expert and expedition kayakers
  • Carry more gear with less paddling effort
  • Dry ride in wind and waves
  • Seakindly and secure in extreme conditions
  • Excellent tracking in difficult conditions--without a rudder
  • Precise handling and easy maneuverability
  • A tilt controlled "integral rudder" designed into the hull shape
  • Unique sliding seat/footbrace, instantly adjust trim for conditions
  • Comfortable cockpits, secure yet easy to enter and exit
  • Several models, to best fit your size and paddling style

When we designed the first Mariner back in 1980 we wanted to have the pleasure of paddling the ultimate sea cruising kayak. To that end we had several design objectives:

1. Speed and Paddling Ease
We wanted a fast kayak with minimal paddling resistance at cruising speed. A kayak which could also carry large loads with little increase in resistance.

2. Tracking and Maneuverability
We wanted a kayak that would run straight not only in calm waters but in winds and weather as well, yet retain a nimble responsiveness to the paddle. A kayak that would handle any conditions easily, without a rudder.

3. Seaworthiness and Safety
We wanted a kayak that would respond well to conditions likely to be met on the open sea coast. A kayak with capabilities inspiring confidence in challenging situations.

4. Comfort and Convenience
We wanted a kayak that you could spend an entire day in. A kayak that would be a pleasure to take on an extended cruise.

To satisfy these objectives we spent months of library time researching material and information relevant to making our dream kayak a reality. We did not begin the actual design of the first Mariner until we were confident we had acquired the knowledge to do the job right. After twenty years and nine more sea kayak designs, we still have the same objectives. We have continued our researching, experimenting and testing, both with our own designs and by paddling around seven hundred other sea kayak models. As a result we've gained much more expertise to help us achieve our objectives. Each of our models maximizes benefits and minimizes limitations for kayakers with different needs owing to size, strength, and intended use.

Each new Mariner prototype is tested and modified many times before the final mold is made. One reason is to fine tune the kayak's performance in winds and waves. We test each modification for balance in side winds and broaching in following seas and change it further if the performance doesn't meet our exacting standards. We test for how cleanly the bow cuts through the water. We don't want our kayaks splashing water forward at higher speed (increasing resistance) as many kayaks do. We test how softly the bow drops into the water after being lifted by a wave to avoid the harsh jarring ride common among other kayaks when traveling into the waves. We test how well the bow keeps water off the deck and also how well the deck sheds water in those rare times when water does make it over the bow. We fine tune the turning/tracking balance of the hull by modifying the location, shape and depth of the keel. If not entirely happy we make changes to improve the prototype and test and change it again and again until we are satisfied.

Although it is unlikely to be admitted, prototype testing is rare among kayak designers. Usually a kayak isn't tested until the original "plug" is molded and the first production unit is built. A strip-built plug is difficult to waterproof for testing,  making changes to it is time consuming hard work because the prototype/plug must be faired, smoothed, and waterproofed again before retesting. We know because we do it many times with each design. We go through this lengthy and difficult process because a sea kayak's handling characteristics simply can not be mathematically predicted accurately enough to satisfy us. Testing, modifying, and retesting is the only way to get things right.

The considerable extra time and work we put into the prototype is well worth the effort because we are serious about designing, building and paddling the best kayaks, period. We cater to customers who won't settle for less than the best. It boosts our ego and makes the effort seem worth it whenever one of these careful customers, after testing every kayak they can find, ends up trying to decide between two Mariner designs.

Each of our kayaks looks somewhat different from the other kayaks in our line because each model is designed from the start to maximize benefits for a particular person or purpose. Each has some area where it not only blows the competition away but also outshines our other models. Though appearing different, closer inspection will reveal our kayaks have much in common. With each new model we begin with the shapes we found work best and then we experiment with possible improvements or changes that may make it more suitable for a particular person or purpose. We test new ideas in the prototype stage and incorporate them into the new design if they prove effective.

All Mariners perform well without rudders, especially in the conditions, such as side winds, following seas, steep cross-chop and extremes of wind and wave, where most sea kayaks have difficulty even with (and sometimes because of) a rudder. We believe simpler is better. Most of our customers soon have little use for rudders and are overjoyed to be rid of them and their associated problems.

What problems? How about: (1) the lack of solid foot pedals that can be used to add leg power to your stroke, (2) more windage at the stern, which increases weathercocking, (3) decreased maneuverability of the kayak -- that's right, a rudder almost always reduces turning speed, especially when spinning the kayak in place, (4) it can trip the kayak during a broach when the blade reenters the water, (5) cables and cords can wear out, break or become fouled, (6) small parts can corrode, come loose or get lost, (7) a rudder can get tangled with tow lines or fishing lines, (8) it can interfere with rescues (it could be dangerous to straddle the back deck of a ruddered kayak--or even to hang on to the stern--to be rescued out of surf), (9) rudders are subject to damage in surf, in rock gardens and caves, beaching, during rescues, or just being tripped over in camp, (10) it’s more difficult to carry the stern (because of the more forward toggle location required by most rudders the hull bounces against your leg as you walk and it is difficult to switch hands without straining your back and risking your groin to sharp corners), and (11) the cables and pintle penetrating the hull can be a source of leaks.

Rudders can break at sea in ways that make a kayak unmanageable, but even when they fail safely there may still be a problem because the kayaker has become a "rudderer" rather than a paddler. Sea kayakers often are dependent on their rudders because that is all they practice. Rudder dependent paddlers may be incapable of handling the best kayak in difficult conditions without one. Worse, even expert paddlers find many sea kayak models hard to control without a rudder and some kayaks are so squirrelly that even a rudder doesn't help them much. If controlling your kayak in rough conditions depends on a rudder you are relying on the most vulnerable part of a kayak to get you through the conditions most likely to over stress it.

All Mariner sea kayaks have a number of features in common. These include:

  • Responsive turns and straight tracking. Our designs turn easier than most other sea kayaks, especially when leaned. They resist turning when level. Mariner kayaks are both more nimble and straighter tracking than most other kayaks of similar dimensions. This seeming contradiction makes Mariner kayaks easier to keep on course in difficult conditions without a rudder than most kayaks with one. Nimbleness is especially valuable in narrow estuaries, rock gardens and sea caves. Crisp handling is enhanced with Mariner’s:
  • Integral "rudder". We try to keep things simple. We believe one of the joys of paddling is its basic simplicity. Mariner kayaks have a strong ruddering effect designed into their hull. It is initiated and controlled by tilting the kayak. Using subtle body English for control is much more satisfying than pushing loose foot pedals to operate a distant rudder. You feel connected to the process. The kayak feels like a part of you rather than a puppet you are attempting to control at a distance with strings. Tilting is easy because of the:
  • Flared sides and narrow waterlines. Narrower kayaks can be easily heeled (even with a gear load) by just lifting a knee. Flare above the waterline provides excellent secondary (final) stability. This means you feel secure when the kayak is leaned. Another benefit of flare is more gear storage without sacrificing the nimble feel and paddling ease of a smaller, narrower kayak. The progressive increase in width as the load is increased means it can hold more gear weight and accommodate a wider range of paddler sizes. A wider kayak tends to stay flatter to the water's surface. Therefore, waves tip an initially stable kayak. The paddler is pitched side to side or must continuously react to the kayak’s rocking. Because a less stable hull is tipped less by waves a Mariner kayak maintains a more even keel. You’ll feel most secure when it really matters -- in rough seas. Another feature contributing to a Mariner's sea kindliness is its:
  • Narrow dory shape. The volume distribution is low in the middle and high in the ends. This shape fits better into wave troughs. This enhances stability in steep seas because two crests are less likely to lift both ends of the kayak at the same time--leaving the wider middle hanging while the kayak teeters precariously on the narrower ends. This longitudinally flared distribution of buoyancy does for head seas what flared sides do for side seas, it smoothes out the ride and reduces energy robbing pitching motions. Besides flared sides and ends, another feature all Mariners have in common with the one hard-shell boat (a river dory) that can survive extreme whitewater rapids is:
  • Hard chines and a pronounced keel. A distinct edge where the side meets the bottom runs from the midsection to the stern quarter. A pronounced keel starts under the cockpit. The hard chines and strong keel keep Mariners from suddenly broaching sideways down the face of steep following seas. In waves from the side a Mariner stays directly under you while rounder bottom kayaks will skid out to the side as gravity pulls them down the wave face. Keeping your center of gravity over a kayak, to stay upright, while it is repeatedly skidding sideways requires constant nerve-wracking attention. You’ll feel much more secure in a Mariner. Drier as well because of Mariner’s:
  • High bow and buoyant fore-body. This bow shape stays above all but the steepest waves and deflects most of the water to the side, keeping it off the deck. The extra buoyancy also provides more storage room for bulky gear as well as better lift in waves. You’ll have more control because the buoyant bow is rarely buried under a wave. Some criticize a higher bow, citing increased windage. While this can be a problem in high winds if done to excess, Mariner kayaks balance the trade-offs to best effect. When the wind gets stronger and the waves get bigger, a kayak can become difficult to turn. A Mariner's nimble maneuverability is an advantage here because you can turn it further in the trough before again exposing the bow to the wind. In milder side winds this design reduces the frustrating weatherhelm inherent in most hulls. Most designers try to deodorize an annoying weatherhelm by adding a rudder. However, a rudder dragging along at an angle to keep the kayak on course, is also adding considerable resistance beyond that just due to the rudder. When a kayak was towed at three knots in a ship model test tank, the rudder added ten percent to the overall drag even though it was left free to trail straight back. In strong side winds the rudder on a merchant ship, angled to compensate for weatherhelm, has been shown to cause over half of the ships total drag.

Speed and paddling ease

Mariner kayaks are easier to propel than kayaks of similar length and beam. This was clearly demonstrated when Sea Kayaker magazine ran a series of resistance tests on kayaks at the University of British Columbia's ship model towing tank. Of the six kayaks that could be compared the Mariner XL was 9% easier at four knots than the next best tested, and had 18% less resistance than one popular model. While it wasn't as initially stable as many, it capsized at a greater angle of heel than nine of the other ten kayaks tested, even though its waterline was the second narrowest of the group. This combination of remarkable paddling ease and secure secondary stability is a hallmark of all Mariner kayaks. There are several reasons for this:

The flared sides allow a relatively narrow waterline beam. A narrower waterline means less wave making and less frictional resistance for a given load.

The bow shape promotes laminar flow over more of the fore-body. Laminar flow has about four times less frictional resistance than turbulent flow.

The stern designs minimize separation resistance (vortex-shedding or eddy-making). Eddy-making causes much greater resistance than even turbulent flow.

The Swede-form shape (greater underwater volume aft of the midpoint) has less resistance moving at the water's surface than either a fish-form shape (its opposite) or a symmetrical hull. The finer bow more gently parts the water for less wave-making resistance and a longer area in laminar flow. (Note: A fish-form shape has less resistance underwater or in the air where there is no wave drag. This has confused some designers who have consulted hydrodynamic texts, but not gotten the full picture of what happens at the water’s surface. Fast ships, canoes and kayaks are Swede-form. Fast submarines and fast fish are fish-form.)

A Swede-form hull has many other advantages over Fish-form. They include: less pounding in head seas, easier and quicker turning, less weatherhelm, more of its volume is usable storage space, and a narrower beam where the paddle enters the water means easier more efficient paddling and less turning moment produced with each (less off-center) stroke.

The raked and flared ends increase the effective waterline length allowing a faster top (hull) speed without the extra wetted surface (frictional drag) at normal cruising speed that longer waterlines suffer.

Mariner kayaks catch and surf waves easier than other kayaks. This is not only due to quick acceleration and high top speeds but also to the planing shape in the midsections. This shape lifts Mariners more out of the water at surfing speeds. The hard chines fling the water away from the sides reducing the wetted surface (and therefore frictional resistance) at these speeds. Also, the stern configurations start sliding down a wave face when the kayak is still in a more horizontal attitude allowing you to take advantage of the energy in even smaller waves. The wave crests seem to push you along.

Tracking and Maneuverability

Mariner kayaks are easily kept on course in conditions that are difficult for most other kayaks. The hull design, windage balance and instant trim changing capability of the sliding seat all contribute to this. This excellent tracking is not at the expense of maneuverability, as with "stiff" tracking kayaks. Many kayaks are so stiff tracking that it takes several hard strokes on one side to make a correction every time wave action pushes their long keels off course. Some designs may turn quicker than a Mariner, but most of these also require constant attention to keep on course.

Excellent tracking AND quick turns may seem to be an outrageous claim, "common knowledge" considers tracking and turning as opposites where one must be sacrificed to get the other. Actually it is a lot more complicated but if you understand the details you can even design a kayak with enhanced tracking and quicker turning in just the situations where they are needed most. We have timed and recorded the turning and spinning in place times of over nine hundred different sea kayak designs. The results support our claim.

At cruising speed in calm water Mariner kayaks can be turned more than 90 degrees using only one strong sweep stroke and tilting the kayak towards the stroke side by lifting the opposite knee. We call this carving a turn because that's what it feels like. Leaning the kayak lifts the keel and tilts it, allowing the stern keel to easily shed water and swing around to the outside of the turn. What's more, when a Mariner is heeled the hard chine becomes a curved keel that significantly adds to the turning force already created by the leaned hull's waterline shape. This is what our "integral rudder" is all about. Hold the lean and you will continue carving a turn until you bring your Mariner back to an even keel to track confidently off on the new course. The angle of tilt controls the arc of the turn. Steeper angle, tighter turn. Leaning helps most kayaks turn and a few are quite responsive to this technique but none are as responsive yet still track as well as a Mariner.

In a Mariner kayak you can stop fighting the waves and start using their energy to surf along at amazing speeds. The pronounced keel and hard-chine after sections not only improve tracking but also help minimize the tendency (of all boats) to broach in quartering and following seas. Combine this with the ability to "sit back" into following waves by sliding the seat aft and you gain exceptional control in this normally difficult condition. This is so effective that even when caught sideways by a small breaker a paddler can usually turn to point a Mariner forward down the wave, allowing them the choice of backing off the wave or sliding bow first up the beach rather than skidding into it sideways.

Seaworthiness and Safety

In addition to the decrease in resistance and paddling effort, the narrower waterlines allow our kayaks to sit deeper in the water, improving tracking and reducing lateral drift in beam winds. The rounded "V" fore-body, as well as the narrower bow waterlines (Swede-form) minimize pounding and slapping. Progressive buoyancy from flare above the bow waterlines prevents the bows from plunging under waves and also avoids a harsh ride. Mariner Kayaks rarely get water on the deck in rough seas so the paddler stays drier and more relaxed.

All Mariners perform admirably in whatever surf the paddler is capable of handling. Coming in the bows do not easily dive. Heading out through reasonable waves and soups the bows ride up and over with little or no solid water racing up the deck to slug the paddler in the chest and stop progress. It takes little momentum to get a Mariner through a breaker that would be difficult to punch through at all in a kayak with a low buoyancy bow. Therefore, there is less chance of being accidentally swept backward by surf. This ease of slicing through and lifting over waves also means more speed and a dryer ride beating into the weather. Our most maneuverable kayaks, the Coaster and Express, are so superior in extreme conditions that they have become favorites among paddlers who regularly play in the surf zone.

When running broadside to waves a Mariner kayak will behave better than others because of the hard chines, pronounced keel, greater draft and flared hull. A narrower (deeper) hull is rolled and skidded sideways less by wave action. Of course this means our boats have less initial stability at rest than those with wider waterlines. At first paddlers accustomed to the stable feel of wide flat-bottomed kayaks may feel Mariners are somewhat tender. They soon discover the excellent secondary stability and secure feel in rough water, relax and enjoy the easier paddling, softer ride, and better control inherent in this shape.

Wider, more initially stable kayaks are hard to lean at times when it is desirable or necessary, such as to aid turning or to lean into a breaker to avoid a capsize. Tilting becomes even more difficult when stability is increased by the addition of a gear load. Tilting an overly stable kayak requires a body lean out over the water, a lot of effort and very secure thigh braces. Once tilted you teeter nervously on edge between flopping back upright or capsizing. A Mariner’s lower initial and high final stability as well as secure built in thigh braces makes tilting easy, comfortable, and secure with or without a gear load. Simply lift a knee or shift your weight slightly to one side while your body stays vertical above the kayak. Even if your knee were to slip it is unlikely you would capsize.

Expert kayakers don't all agree on how much stability is necessary (and need for stability varies with: a paddler's purpose -- fishing or racing, body size and weight distribution --heavier and higher is tippier, and skill and balance). This is one reason we have several models. Most experienced paddlers much prefer higher secondary and lower initial stability.

Mariners have a good strength to weight ratio thanks to their shape and tough vacuum-bagged construction. We use superior materials and selective reinforcements in the laminate. There is minimal bending and flexing in even the roughest seas. Flexing absorbs some of a stroke's energy that could otherwise go into propulsion. This is one reason polyethylene kayaks feel so dead when you are accelerating or paddling hard. If soft flexible hulls have a speed advantage (as some claim for Eskimo kayaks) racing kayaks would not be made as rigid as possible.

Our concern with safety is evident in the design features common to all our kayaks:

    Paddling ease, sea kindliness, soft ride in waves, cockpit comfort and neutral handling in difficult conditions all mean less fatigue.

    Raked and rockered bows slide over rather than stick into steep beaches. This makes landing in waves (especially dumping shore break) much easier because you can come straight in at full speed and slide way up the beach. With good timing and speed you might even keep your feet dry. A raked bow or stern glances off undersea rocks or unseen deadheads rather than being stopped dead by them--possibly with bone jarring  force. Raked ends are far less likely to spear the bottom in shallow surf (a major cause of damage to kayaks used  in the surf). Shallow raked and rockered ends also slide much more easily over seaweed and kelp.  Imagine you are backing out of a shallow rock strewn sea cave, approaching a mass of  kelp as a set of bigger waves are quickly moving toward you, steepening in the shallows, and about to break. The safety advantages of stern rake, good stern buoyancy and no rudder are obvious in a situation like this. That it is essential to have a kayak that travels easily over kelp when paddling an open coastline is less obvious. Breakers are rare in kelp so it is often prudent to paddle in or very near the kelp when the swell is big and seemingly random "boomers" abound. In some areas, where the seas are generally calm, paddling in the vast areas covered by kelp makes seaweed paddling difficult or impossible to avoid.

    Mariner kayaks have their control surfaces closer to the paddler than other kayaks. This provides better control and gives the wind and waves less leverage on them with which to wrest control from the paddler. Large vertical flat areas (including the rudder) near the bow or stern of many kayaks get trapped in (such as when surfing a wave) or batted around by steep and/or reflecting waves. Vertical flat areas don't shed wind as well as rounder shapes either.

    Mariner kayaks are easy to Eskimo roll due to the low back deck, seat position further forward in the cockpit, good side support at the seat, firm easy to grip built-in knee braces, solid footbraces,  and no rudder slowing the rotation.

    The low flat rear decks make it possible to carry an emergency passenger or other substantial deck load if necessary.

    If correctly adjusted, the spray skirt will not pop open when hit by a dumping breaker but is easily and quickly removed.

    Our sliding seat can be moved back in an instant (even when upside down) effectively making a longer cockpit. This makes entry and exit quick and easy even for those with longer legs. While this is a major advantage when launching or landing in surf, it will be much appreciated anytime you put in or take out, especially under less than ideal conditions.

    Self rescue capability and extreme stability are available using the outrigger paddle float system we developed and first introduced to kayakers back in 1981. Our rescue, now in wide use, is especially easy with Mariner's flat rear decks and deck lines.

    A spare paddle placed under the rear deck lines with a paddle float on each blade (sort of like training wheels or outriggers) provides extreme stability, with paddling still possible. This outrigger set-up provides far more stability and much less drag than sponsons strapped to the hull.

    Our spare paddle holder is secure enough to hold the spare in surf, yet so handy that the spare paddle can be removed and assembled in a few seconds, from the cockpit.

    Our paddle park holds the paddle securely in front of the cockpit while keeping it available for instant use, just grab the shaft with both hands in the paddling position and pull back.

    Solid stainless steel U-bolts 3/8 inch thick, embedded into both the bow and stern, allow you to securely lock your kayak to a car bumper or tree using a cable or chain.

    We provide four detailed manuals. They cover (1) safety, (2) rescues, (3) the kayak and its features, and (4) a detailed guide to paddling a Mariner kayak, from your first strokes through handling tips, expert strokes, and surfing skills.

Comfort and Convenience

A very dry ride in all but the stormiest conditions is another benefit of peaked fore-decks and flared buoyant bow sections. The higher fore decks also allow more foot room and gear storage than most other kayaks. However, as well as being narrower just in front of the cockpit our decks are relatively low there so your paddle strokes can be comfortably low yet still easily clear the deck. The hump in front of the cockpit seen on many kayaks is a last ditch effort to divert the green water that comes running up over lower and skinnier bows and fore-decks. This hump not only interferes with a low hand position, but the water racing up the low deck in front of it just gets diverted higher up on the paddler (or catches the coaming and sprays up in your face). It is far better to keep waves off the deck in the first place with a higher, flared and more buoyant bow. In the rare instances when water gets on the deck and makes it back to the cockpit of a Mariner the pointed coaming diverts most of the water to the side and down the built in knee brace channels rather than deflecting it up to your chest or exploding it into spray.

The relatively narrow cockpit provides secure thigh bracing but at the same time its length and the sliding seat provide ample room for bending knees up, stretching hamstrings or moving legs around. The longer cockpit means getting in and out is quicker and easier. The ability to stand in the cockpit from a sitting position, or sit from a standing position, makes exiting or entering to or from a high dock easy. Most paddlers can also get their feet in and out while still sitting in the seat. This means you can maintain stability by keeping your weight low (sitting in the seat) while straddling the kayak with your legs. This technique allows you to enter or exit your kayak in shallow water when the shore is too rough to slide the hull against. Sitting up on the back deck to wiggle into or out of a smaller cockpit will raise your center of gravity considerably making shorter cockpit kayaks extremely tippy in the above situations.

You can use the sliding seat/footbrace unit to instantly adjust trim at sea without opening the spray skirt or taking your hands from the paddle. With a little practice trim adjustment can be made on the fly with only a stroke or two lost. The bucket style seat on this unit is high enough to provide the back support essential for long paddling days and low enough for laying back during an Eskimo roll. It is easy to modify with foam padding (or a saw and file) for a truly custom fit. This seat unit makes loading and unloading gear through the cockpit a breeze, just slide it out of your way. The sliding seat is removable for use in camp, however, anyone sitting in even the most comfortable seat for several hours of paddling is unlikely to choose to sit in the same seat in camp. Several other more conventional seats are also options.

Toggled grab loops attached with husky nylon rope to the stainless U-bolts at the very ends of the kayak make carrying a loaded Mariner as secure and painless as possible.

A wide variety of options and colors let you customize your Mariner kayak the way you want it.

While you may not need all of the capabilities of your Mariner Kayak  you will soon love many of them. Since there are no major disadvantages to having an abundance of capabilities it's nice to know they exist and you have them in reserve if needed.

copyright 1999 & 2008 Matt & Cam Broze
Mariner Kayaks