Perception Essence 16 & 17 Kayak Review

These two kayaks are best described as “Quintessential British Sea Kayaks”.
A classic British sea kayak in robust roto moulded plastic at an affordable price – that can’t be bad. Our sea kayaks are world-famous as being amongst the best designs ever to be paddled at sea. The balance of volume, performance and functionality is perfect.

Perception Essence 16 & 17 Kayaks ready for a paddle

Duffer has sold and paddled a great number and variety of sea kayaks over the years and still enjoys paddling different boats – he has his favourite, but that is no longer in production – best he take the hint.

Duffer Bob paddling the Perception Essence Sea Kayak

What and why do I like the Essence?

It’s quite difficult to put into words what you like and what works for you. With sea kayaks it’s about the “balance and feel of the kayak” - it has to be right for you or you will fight against some aspects of the design all day. I have less interest in how much storage space is buried under a fore and rear decks - what I need to feel when paddling is the ratio of fore deck to rear deck and is the cockpit position right for me. So will the Essence weathercock - will it edge a bit - is the cockpit right for me - and do I like the feel of it. This will vary for individual paddlers as not all paddlers are 6’1” tall 14 + stone with a longish body and shorter legs.

The balance of some kayaks I have paddled is just plain wrong for me. An old boat building friend once said “if it looks right boy then it is right”. Cast your mind back to some earlier sea kayak designs like Sea King, Sea Hawk, early Nordkapp’s, Romany’s and (dare I say it, in this review, the Perception Fastnet Sealion) by today’s standards they were just plain wrong. Thankfully everyone has learned quite a lot in recent years and plastics have come on in leaps and bounds. Now we have some great designs to choose from and in that group of very good kayaks I put the Perception Essence 16 and 17.

As this review is about Perception plastic I can justifiably add that the Expressions replaced the Carolina for touring and the new Carolina’s suit those that like a larger cockpit.

Essence replaced Fastnet Sealion and is also now a market leader in plastic sea kayaks.

Perception Essence Sea Kayaks with Looe Island in the background

You can see from all the images that most of the Essence hull is in the water. Whilst I like the Greenland kayak look with long bow and stern you do lose too much wetted length. A 17 foot kayak with an 18” bow and an 18” stern not in the water is actually a 14 foot kayak and as a function of ship speed is wet length, sticky out ends simply bring nothing to the party. Where the kayak bow meets the water is called the forefoot and no four feet don’t make a yard, but the forefoot helps turn the kayak when edging. Essence enables you to edge slightly to turn or compensate for weather and again the long wetted length reduces weathercocking. Both the 16 and 17 footers have sharp bow angles and cruiser sterns – a most efficient hydrodynamic combination.

The hull design has a strong V-shape and well defined chines and together these features help the kayak track very well. The extended wet length gives good forward speed and the combination of tracking and maneuverability are well balanced. The Essence 16 is obviously the smaller of the two and works as well with The Erk paddling at 13 stone (ish) as the 17 does with a heavier paddler like me – we both get similar performance from the boats.

As you all know there is no such thing as a tippy kayak but there are tippy kayakers! Stability, initial or secondary also depends on paddler height and what if anything is loaded in the kayak. The 16 is as stable or as tippy as all the other 16 foot kayaks that are 22” wide and the same goes for the 17 at 23” wide. Tippy is what marathon and sprint kayaks are but Essence is simply a well mannered sea kayak where the balance between forward speed and stability is optimised.

Perception Essence Sea Kayaks on the water


Essence 16

Essence 17


500 cm / 16'5"

518 cm / 17'


57 cm / 22"

58 cm / 23"


150 kg / 331lbs

160 kg / 353lbs


 26 kg / 57lbs

28 kg /62lbs

Retractable Skeg



Rudder Option



Outfitting and Features

Multi-Position Retractable Skeg – Three Bulkheads – Superlinear Polyethylene Plastic - Compass Recess – Adjustable thighbraces – Adjustable footstops
Retractable carry handles that do not rattle – Deck lines - Three hatches bow, stern and day.

Chris paddling the Perception Essence sea kayak in Cornwall

The kayak I rate most highly is my Polar Buccaneer and when that claps out I will be just as happy paddling an Essence 17 – the Polar is about as old as me and should be made from seal skins:

Bob with his Polar Buccanear Sea Kayak


The balance and feel of the Essence is excellent I can do nothing other than highly recommend it. I have always been content with only a skeg but as maturation kicks in I’m warming to having a rudder as well. One or the other for me as I know where I am with either – the combi skeg/rudder (Skudder) is horrible and I won’t be paddling one of them again.

Reviewed By:
Chris, Codger and Duffer
For The Canoe Shops Group Ltd.   
April 2015

For more information on the Perception Essence and details on how to buy, see our website here: Perception Essence 16 & 17