Saturday, February 2, 2013

Valley Gemini SP

Last year when Valley Sea Kayaks announced the Gemini SP, I was very interested.  I really like shorter sea kayaks (14 foot range) for rock gardening and surf zone play.  Shorter boats are usually lighter weight and more maneuverable.  I have been paddling my16 foot Valley Avocet RM for 3 years and have been looking to upgrade to a lighter-weight more responsive sea kayak for teaching, guiding, and playing on the Mendocino Coast.

In the past week, I have paddled the Gemini twice.  First was at the Golden Gate Sea Kayak Symposium. Then she came home with us to the Mendocino Coast for some rock gardening and surfing. (Jeff shows her off quite well).

First impressions: Lightweight, comfortable, nimble.

Lightweight: I am used to hefting around my Avocet RM and numerous other boats.  This felt like a feather compared to most (both on and off the water).

Comfortable:  The front deck is higher than my Avocet RM.  I liked being able to have my knees up higher like in a whitewater kayak.  The key hole cockpit gives lots of leg room for getting in and out but also has good contour for engaging the legs into the thigh braces.
Photo by Bryant Burkhardt

Stability:  The Gemini seems to have a lot of primary stability.  It definitely has secondary stability but it is a much smaller area than that of the Avocets.  It will be a bit of a learning curve for those of us that perhaps over edge our boats.

On the water: The Gemini was responsive and nimble on the water.  I didn't expect her to be a fast boat but was please with how quickly she accelerated.  This is important in catching waves and timing rides over pour-overs and through surge channels when rock gardening.

On a wave, the Gemini responded quickly to steering strokes.  I have never been a big fan of sea kayak surf sessions as I am partial to short boats (whitewater or surf) with planning hulls for surfing; however, I am looking forward to a couple of surf sessions with the Gemini SP to learn the boat better and dial in my maneuvering and edge control for rock garden play.  On my first few waves with her last week, the Gemini felt nimble and responsive.  The stern didn't lock onto the wave like many sea kayaks but was loose and receptive to steering and edges.
Cate surfs the Gemini.

Rolling:  I rolled the Gemini twice - once in a foam pile after catching an edge and the other time in deep water after capsizing to bail off a ride.  No thoughts or complaints, she rolled easily with my standard Sweep to C roll.

Other thoughts: I miss having a day hatch and will have to get used to the pod on the front deck.  At 5'4" and 120 pounds, I am probably at the low end of who this boat will fit without doing much outfitting (good for me but not for smaller paddlers). 

Rumor has it that there is a plastic version coming out this spring.  Of course we will be watching this closely.

Conclusion:  After only 2 days in Gemini, I can't wait to get out and paddle her again.  This is saying something as my personal boating time is usually spent in a whitewater or surf kayak.  Lightweight is a huge factor especially for us smaller paddlers.  I look forward to doing more testing with her in the surf and rock gardens of the Mendocino Coast as well as seeing how she handles in a variety of conditions.

I think that Valley definitely has a winner in the playful sea kayak category.  Both Jeff and I will be paddling the Gemini SP more and reporting on our thoughts on her over time.

Ocean Paddler did a review on the Gemini SP and Gemini ST versions in the fall of 2012 (issue #33).  Here's a video that they did with an overview and review of the Gemini SP.

PS  Yes, the Gemini that we are paddling is the "Black Pearl" Gemini that went down the Grand Canyon at Christmas time.


  1. I really like your review. Your thoughts on the stability were an interesting twist to what I experienced. At almost twice your weight I found it has very little primary stability ans a lot of secondary stability.

    I was surprised how comfortable the boat was to a fatty like me who thinks of an Alchemy L as a snug fit. I hope they will make a polyethylene one!

    1. Canoe Sailor, Thanks for sharing your experience with the stability of the Valley Gemini. Boats do act differently when loaded or paddled by different size paddlers. One of the reasons that I write reviews are so that people will have a smaller paddler's perspective. It is great that the Gemini comfortably fits paddlers of different sizes.

      We are looking forward to the polyethylene one too!

  2. Thanks for this review. I very much appreciate information about boats relevant to the smaller paddler.

    You may not have anything to say about this question, but who knows, you might... Can you compare how the Gemini handles in surf and rock gardens to the Valley Anas Acuta? I've only paddled the Anas Acuta at kayak symposia for short periods on flat water so I don't have any experience with it in water for which it was designed.

    1. They are very different boats. The Gemini SP is 2 feet shorter with a lot of rocker so much more maneuverable. The Gemini SP is also deeper and wider so more primary stability.

  3. Cate, glad the Black Pearl is doing well on the Mendo coast. For the 2013 models, the Gemini SP has lost the front deck pod and has a day hatch. This will be the same configuration for the poly version due out in the spring.

  4. I've been paddling the poly version of the Gemini SP and will be reviewing it soon. Feel free to email me with questions about it until I get my review posted.