Valley Kayaks are a UK based Kayak production-company with a long history of making boats. They can trace the company back to 1959, when Ken Taylor traveled to Greenland to study the indigenous peoples and brought a Kayak back to England, that Greenland kayak, served as the model by which all of their other kayaks have been produced since. Valley Kayaks outfitted the British Norway Expedition in 1975 and can probably claim the longest production run of any commercially available composite kayak with the Anas Acutas. They are fantastic kayaks that enjoy some serious history, pedigree and performance. I can’t recommend them enough. The Etain is considered to be their flagship expedition model and I believe it is certainly worthy of that description.
Valley Kayaks Sirona vs Etain
Where the Sirona is a more playful, day trip model of kayak, the Etain is a full on expedition kayak. This is a Kayak made for long trips in open water. At 17’7” and 17’5”, both models of the Etain are relatively long, fast, stable and react very well to an experienced paddler. As this is a larger kayak, I would say that this is a boat best suited to a Medium-XL paddler. At just over 60lbs, they are a little heavier than smaller kayaks but still manageable.
The Etain is a rigid kayak made from thermoplastic with a neutral-hull shape. This makes it durable, a very balanced kayak and one pretty easy to just get into and get a feel for. It doesn’t feel tippy at all and it tracks unbelievably well in bad weather. In big wind, this is definitely the kayak you want to have with you.
What I Like Of The Etain Kayak
The Etain has a pretty comfortable molded seat, it is sturdy, and however it is unpadded like many other Kayak seats. However the molding is done so well that you really can’t tell. As some friends have pointed out to me, this is a “real” kayak seat, unlike American made kayaks which are apparently “too soft”. I have read past review that have said that cracking in the seat is a concern, but I have never had a problem like that. In addition, the foot pegs while strong, are a bit of a hassle to adjust. You pull a pin and then slide them, which is pretty easy to do on land but is honestly a nightmare if you are on the water and trying to reach down there.
There are four bulkhead compartments on the Etain, which offers a ridiculous amount of storage space. There is one on the bow and stern, as well as a midship bulkhead over your shoulder for quickly reached items and even a small, removable bulkhead pod directly in front of the paddler, which is actually very cool if you want to store things like a camera or go pro in it and then just grab it and go when you get to land. All of this makes for an excellent camping kayak and I think most people would be hard pressed to fill it to the brim. The only negative, is that sometimes the hatch covers are actually quite difficult to close. This is a bit hard to explain if you have never used them yourself, but they are just really tight and require
Last Words On The Etain
It is a really fun Kayak to paddle in. Perfect in open sea, big waves, surfing and it rolls like a dream. At 17+ feet in length, rock hopping can be a little tight, but it can be done for sure. But this is definitely a kayak made for expeditions, as shown when Justine Curgenven paddled the Aleutian Islands in one in 2014. At its price, it isn’t a cheap kayak by any stretch, but you do pay for quality and this is a quality built kayak. Valley makes outstanding boats, have a great history and the Etain is one of their best.
I work as a professional Kayak Guide in Finland, in the Helsinki Archipelago. The Etain was a boat that I really enjoyed paddling from time to time and one that was favored by our larger guides and especially on days when the wind jumped up. It is definitely worth trying out if you have the chance and I believe just about any level of paddler would really enjoy this Kayak.