Having sold the popular Brittany 16.5 from Riot Kayaks over the past few years I decided it was high time to take one out for a paddle and see precisely what paddlers who chose this sea kayak get for their money. Having been fortunate to have only used composite sea kayaks during my 30 years of sea paddling, it was with some trepidation that I ventured into my first roto-moulded plastic sea kayak. Having been spoilt by begging, borrowing and acquiring various composite boats I am used to paddling incredibly stiff sea kayaks, with minimal flex and having to be extremely careful with them so as not to damage the outer gelcoat. This has meant wet launches (including wet feet), gingerly tip-toeing around barnacle covered rocks and taking special care when landing on rocky beaches. The advantage of a plastic sea kayak such as the Brittany over a fibreglass sea kayak is in its impact resistance, durability and virtually maintenance free hull construction.
On a mid winter day off from the shop I loaded the Brittany onto the van and headed for the North Wales coast for a paddle around Conwy Harbour. This would give me the chance to paddle the kayak on moving water as the tide flowed out from the estuary, test out the onboard features of the Brittany and maybe spot some local wildlife along the way.
First impressions of the Riot Brittany before launching it were of a well made sea kayak and rich in features. These I would be putting through their paces throughout the morning and the next day. The tide was being to ebb as I launched of the cobble beach at Deganwy, and straight out against the tidal flow. First thing to mention is that I was using the wrong size spraydeck and I would recommend a Keyhole or N4 for this model of kayak. The Brittany made good headway into the strong tide and I was soon eating up the miles to the town of Conwy.
I was very impressed by its stability (even though I’m 6ft 2”) and also the forward speed, as I was making good headway up towards the harbour.
Comfort wise, the Brittany has an adjustable padded seat and backrest. I left these in their neutral position, but did adjust the pedal footrests down to their lowest position for my long legs (anyone taller than myself may struggle with the standard footrests in this kayak). The other nice piece of outfitting I liked is the deep thigh-braces that offer lots of support, and a well connected feel to the boat.
Paddling into the harbour opened up great views of Conwy Castle, the Town walls and also the first rays of sunshine to break through the grey clouds.
I decided to drop the spring loaded skeg into the down position which although hampered the boats manoeuvrability, definitely improved the straight-line tracking performance as expected. With the skeg lifted the Brittany paddled well between the moored boats of the harbour with ease, and edging to the outside of turns helped with the turning circle.
After a trip around the harbour I headed back to the starting point, and paddled past some Shags in early breeding plumage fishing in the tidal flow. Back on the beach I went through the outfitting I hadn’t the chance to test on the water. The retractable end toggles were a nice feature, meaning they were silent when paddling, and not loose or flapping around. Just in front of the cockpit is a handily located paddle keeper to secure the paddle when taking photos or accessing the day hatch.
Only being out for a couple of hours, I didn’t take advantage of the Brittany’s storage options. But as with most sea kayaks of this length, there are two watertight bulkheads fore and aft with oval hatch covers for carrying overnight camping kit and provisions. There is also a circular day hatch behind the cockpit for smaller items that need to be accessed whilst out on the water.
On-deck storage for small items can be achieved using the existing bungee webbing and deck-lines. And an unusual feature is on the underside of the deck there is a small mesh shelving area that can be reached by taking the spraydeck off. Maybe useful for a windproof jacket or woolly hat?
The other feature I explored on the beach was the 2x buckle straps located behind the cockpit. These are designed to hold a paddle in place when performing deep water rescue techniques. Something I wasn’t prepared to do in the middle of January even for the purposes of this review! However, it did secure my paddle well and ticked the box as another feature for paddlers wanting to practice self-rescues, of if the need ever did arise to use them.
Loading the Brittany back onto the van, I also got to utilise the Security Bar on the back deck. Using a Rackguard, I was able to lock the boat onto the van and give me some of mind whilst I got some lunch. Deciding that there was still an obvious feature I hadn’t yet tested, I made up my mind to paddle it again on the River Weaver on the way into work the following morning.
Setting off in the dark, I met Colin and launched onto the River Weaver at Runcorn with an early morning mist rising up from the water. Straight away I dropped the retractable rudder system as I hadn’t done yesterday at Conwy. I’m always of the opinion with sea kayak rudders that I can take them or leave them. On a 20ft plus loaded tandem sea kayak, yes I think they are more necessary. On shorter boats, for me they are less useful, unless crossing a bay with a strong side wind or needing to do sharp corrections in cross swells. Although there wasn’t any difficult conditions on the mighty River Weaver the rudder behaved well and was simple enough to pull on the line next to the cockpit and swing it back up into its stored position when not in use.
I was very impressed by the Brittany, although I did feel that I was towards the top of the ideal paddler weight for the kayak (90kg). However it did paddle very well under the conditions and the huge list of useful features makes it an excellent boat for the money. I would recommend it for light to mid-weight paddlers looking for a robust, fast kayak to cover the miles, without having the need to spend over a thousand pounds on a triple layer or composite sea kayak. With all the features and performance you could want from a sea kayak for learning the basics, such as edge turns, self-rescues, right through to multiday island hopping expeditions. Personally I would make a couple of minor alterations and additions if I owned a Riot Brittany:
- Change the Fishermans knots on the deck lines to Figure of Eight stopper knots.
- Add hip-pads or shims to provide less room in the seat area, for a tighter fit.
- With lacking a forward day hatch, I like to have a handy area up front for items such as binoculars or sunglasses without having to remove my spraydeck. The addition of a deck bag clipped onto the deck-lines would be a must for me.
After paddling the Riot Brittany and interviewing others that have, here are my own recommendations for paddler weights in the Brittany 16.5:
55-65kg- a good boat for light paddlers, wanting to load up for overnight trips and expeditions. Or possibly add some extra kit/ballast for day trips.
65-80kg- the ideal weight range as an all-round plastic sea kayak, fine for day trips and multiday use.
80-95kg- great to paddle empty, unloaded as a day boat for shorter trips or with minimal cargo.
Reviewed by Jim and Sally the Dog for:
The Canoe Shops (Group) Ltd.
For more info on the Riot Brittany 16.5, with details on how to buy, please check out our website here: Riot Brittany 16.5 Sea Kayak
A few more photos of the Riot Brittany Sea Kayak being paddled by our staff members: