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Necky Vibe - independent review (in progress)

The Necky Vibe is designed for pure aerial wave boating - no compromises. The alloy skeleton outfitting system is outstanding and the boat is a lot of fun to paddle. I tested it on my local aerial wave and this is what I thought.

IN BRIEF:

  • A strict aerial playboat designed for fast waves with reasonable lift and speed.
  • Concave sidewalls will foul in slow waves, holes and features.
  • Prefers an aggressive paddling style and an active paddle blade in the water at all times.
  • Innovative aluminum outfitting makes the overall integrity extremely rigid and light.
  • The "Blunt Box" helps keep the bow from pearling, increasing the user's margin of error on forward leans.
  • Extremely explosive bouncing.
  • Paddling the Vibe on a fast wave feels like riding a marble rolling around the bottom of a mixing bowl.
  • If this boat isn't planing, it isn't happy.

For fast, steep waves: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

for anything else: NOT RECOMMENDED

OVERVIEW

The Necky Vibe has several innovative features; first is the Blunt Box. The Blunt Box is essentially an anti-pearling device. It's like taking the first 1/8th of a creek boat and putting it on a playboat in some ways, but where the bow kick rocker of a creekboat is designed to bounce off rocks, the Blunt Box is designed to work with the rocker and edge to bounce off the troughs and green faces of a wave. Imagine the following scenario: you are at the top of a huge wave, you lean forward to release the hull and start charging down the face of the wave. Suddenly, you lean forward just a bit too much, the bow initiates at hyper-velocity and you get slammed by the oncoming current and blown off the face. With the Blunt Box, you have a lot more room for error on forward leans, and that gives you a lot more room for error on stern leans as well. In short, you don't have to live in fear of getting embarrassing nasal cavity douchings because your bow initiated at the bottom of the wave for the hundredth time.

Second is the egg-shaped cavity in the hull. This is designed to have the effect of increasing the boundary layer off the hull and generating lift by decreasing the amount of pressure from the wave from shunting off to the sides - think parachute. After trying it head-to-head against the Chronic on my local aerial wave, I'd have to say it works - the Vibe bounces all over the place comparatively speaking. That's makes it possible to catch much bigger air from bouncing, but also makes it a handful when it comes to try to get the boat to be obedient.

Finally, concave sidewalls. While the Tekno prototype had concave sidewalls, they never made it to the production boat. Necky seems to think the time is right to bring this concept to the masses. On those rare occasions when I could get the Vibe to come down and settle into the trough, they worked fine, but it is still not as clean and responsive as the Riot Air when it comes to carving, so I'd be hard pressed to say what the obvious advantage is except that it allows for a more rounded chine.

WAVE PERFORMANCE:

Imagine a bowl rocking slowly in different directions, now drop a marble into it. That's the best way I can imagine to describe how the Vibe felt to me on Bliss Wave on the Snake. It plummets down the face and shoulders, ricochets off the trough and keeps moving. Sometimes that means getting sucked back up the face of the wave, sometimes that means carving off somewhere else. For a fairly inexperienced aerial boater like myself, it's both frustrating and fun, but it clearly gives all the necessary tools to be an excellent aerial boat.

The stern has a tendency to generate some suction when you lean back, and this is both a good thing and a bad thing. There are some obvious disadvantages to having the stern suck into the back of the wave - it decreases the carving edge, it can drag off the face of the wave, and so on, and so forth. On the other hand, most aerial moves begin in this position where the stern is down and the boater forces the bow down to initiate the bounce for the move, so having the default position for surfing any wave look like this is actually a step in the right direction. It's especially handy when you don't have a lot of wave surface to carve across laterally.

As I also mentioned, this boat strongly prefers the user to have an active blade in the water at all times. If you use open-faced rudder and draw strokes frequently, you will be ahead of the game, but if your surf style still revolves around wedge strokes, prepare for spanking. When the Vibe gets out of control, it can be brutal.

OUTFITTING:

The alloy skeleton outfitting in the Vibe sets a new standard for kayak outfitting. You can stand on the deck and it won't budge, you can sit in the boat on the floor and it doesn't budge. It keeps the shape of the hull and deck better than any other outfitting system on the market right now. The thigh hooks are great, but they can present a sharp edge that feels very unpleasant against the naked thigh. And the backband is not comfortable or well supported; after a half hour on the wave it doesn't feel much better than just having a piece of nylon webbing across your back. But other than that, the outfitting is truly outstanding. There are more pictures in the pre-review.

SMALL RIVER FEATURES, TECHNICAL RIVER-RUNNING:

Because it is optimized for aerial moves, the Vibe does not do well in small river features. This is important to note because a lot of people might demo this boat on their small local run, decide that it sucks and never fully appreciate what the Vibe is designed for and how well it does. The deck lines on the bow make it hard to initiate ends. If you have a lot of hole to work with, that's not a problem, but in shallow holes that require some double pumping to get started, it's work. On small, slow waves, the Vibe will load pressure on the upstream sidewall. Most people prefer something that spins well on smaller waves like a Disco, Pop, S6 or Delirium. The concave sidewalls can build up pressure and engage if the boat is only partially planing - that will result in some upstream flips and wipeouts for some people. Finally, the buoyancy imbalance can cause a fair amount of stern squirting in river runs. The Blunt Box is definitely a bonus when hitting rocks because it does work just like the bow of a creekboat, but I got ramped up and over a lot of holes and wave holes when I tried it out. None of this should really matter, because this is NOT a general purpose boat.

SUMMARY

PRO CON
  • High lift and bounce
  • Stern suction / Bernoulli effect
  • Alloy skeleton, reinforced deck
  • All outfitting (except the backband)
  • Beautiful, clean lines
  • "Blunt Box" anti-pearling really works
  • Extremely loose hull
  • Solid carve
  • High adjustability outfitting
  • Solid deck attachment points
  • Simple and effective backband cinches
  • Nice "user manual"
  • High lift and bounce
  • Stern suction / Bernoulli effect
  • Brutally unforgiving of user error / inactive blades
  • Backband hurts
  • Not many internal attachment points / or waterbottle holder
  • "Corky" in hole, especially bow
  • Concave sidewalls tend to trip in displacement mode
  • No "grab loops", just alloy attachment points
  • Alloy thighhooks can have sharp edges
  • Limited use: fast waves

I had a lot of fun testing out the Vibe, and I think anyone using it for a full season on a good wave would progress exponentially in their aerial boating ability. It has all the necessary features to get huge air, but it would take some time to get really start controlling it and getting all the energy pointed in the right directions.

Steve Horvath wrote a great review on Boater Talk that summed things up very nicely from another perspective:

http://boatertalk.com/forum/BoaterTalk/393873

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