SOT Raptor from Santa Cruz Kayaks Hits the Beach! E-mail
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 21:11

RPTR fishing

The dividing line between mastermind and madman may be gossamer thin, but no one can doubt the creativity and dedication of Santa Cruz Kayak’s Jim Martin. In response to kayak anglers’ requests since his original Sit-In design of 2011, the Raptor line recently expanded to include a new Sit-On-Top version.

Both kayaks share the somewhat startling design concept of a narrow pointed bow flaring to a twin-pontoon stern. Martin’s goal, of course, is to combine the best elements of speed and stability, and he was willing to think outside the box. The result is a few parsecs beyond the classic kayak shape, and would not look out of place in an episode of Star Trek.

But, these boats work, and owners around the country (and the world) have the fish pix to prove it!

The SOT is brand-new, and we caught up with Jim for an initial chat and a short test drive.  Initial impressions?  The Raptor SOT is super stable.  The feeling is like no other kayak we've sat in; there is an ever so slight feeling of initial stability, then the seondary stability kicks in and just sticks you to the water.  You stand up fishermen are going to love this kayak.  Tracking is also very good for a kayak of this length.

Jim, congrats on the new design, how are things going so far?

This SOT is really doing great for only being out less than two weeks (more like 6 weeks at the time of this article publication) ... fingers crossed.      I feel like the guy who ran up to Vegas and spent my entire life savings and lost, now I've pawned everything else and laying it all on black!    Ha-ha...

How long have you been building fishing kayaks and why did you start?  

Thirty years ago my first attempt was actually a canoe built from fiberglass layered foam panels.   Next was a bicycle mounted on pontoons with a paddle wheel drive.  That thing would crawl through 6' tall Tule brush.   The raptor was sort of a spin off from that, intended to be a pedal powered boat. Eventually I leaned towards an electric motor drive.  The beautiful woodwork of that original kayak brought crowds around the dock each time I took it out.   The stability of the design convinced me that I had a really unique and practical concept.

What was your original design process and how bumpy was the transition to mass production?

Wish I'd known what I didn't know then... LOL. Finding the right people is key. I was very lucky to have hooked up with people who believed in the design and worked with me in getting it accomplished.

What's the Raptor count now, and where is the one farthest from Santa Cruz?

I'm sure our numbers are microscopic compared to the well-known brands. We just shipped 4 of the sit inside models to a fishing lodge  Sitka AK, though Korea may actually be the farthest international destination so far. 

Was your new SOT Raptor a direct response to kayak anglers' input regarding the original "sit inside" design?

There has never been a sit inside kayak like the Raptor. Its shortcomings were the ability to challenge the surf zones and the high cost to produce it. Most likely it was a big mistake on my part, but on the other hand we have a growing number of  believers who appreciate the Sit Inside design. I'm amazed by the responses from anglers about the SOT model. We can't seem to make it fast enough to meet demand.

Are there any performance differences with the new SOT design?

The biggest performance change is it's faster by about 20%. I also noticed much better control in the surf zone, both entering and surfing in on a wave. Subtle changes in the hull design made a huge difference.

Can you explain to our readers how your kayaks differ from typical fishing SOT's?

Sure, you won't be able to flip this kayak over without a deliberate effort.

What's the biggest fish caught from a Santa Cruz Kayaks Raptor so far?

I pulled in a 28lb Halibut last September. Got the pix and video too.

What are the worst conditions you've paddled the Raptor in, and how did it handle?

Every boat has its limitations of course. One winter day we took it out  the harbor entrance at Moss Landing to see how it would perform.  There were 10' seas that day and winds were 20 - 25 knots.   I had wind swept waves that crashed over the bow but were easily deflected by the high coaming. Going out that day in those conditions really built up my confidence in what the design is capable of.

What’s the best thing about the Raptor?

For the Sit Inside, It's like sitting in a boat, stable and dry. You can set your gear down inside without worry about dropping it overboard or down a scupper hole.

For the SOT model- the surfing ability! Both have the same unparalleled stability .

What’s the thing you'd most want to improve on the Raptor at this point?

Sales! ha-ha. Seriously, I'd like it to turn easier. There's always a trade off in every design. The trade off is this yak tracks beautifully, even in a crosswind.  It points and paddles a straight course without need for a rudder. 

What warranty do your kayaks come with?

We're very confident offering a lifetime warranty on the hull. These things are indestructible. One had a forklift run through it. It welds easily and that one is back on the water.

How is your entry into the fishing kayak market going?

We survived our first year, this one has been noticeably better. Seems like it takes a while for people to get over the initial shock of this kayak that is so different from what they are used to seeing.    I've heard all sorts of assumptions from those who had never seen or paddled one. I used to get defensive over that, now I just laugh it off and go fishing.



+4 #1 Ron MCGuire 2012-07-30 13:57
This one (SOT) is my next purchase, Just got to make room for it to live with the other 8 Kayaks and one's comin' home. Great boat!
+2 #2 junglejim 2012-11-03 17:59
Just had my new raptor out today. Really like the stability. Was able to stand up and fish with no worries. I have an OK scupper pro and prowler 15 and this kayak is really going to be great for flats fishing in my area of Tampa Bay. Looking forward to getting out some fishing trips with this Kayak!
+2 #3 Prof. Salt 2014-01-27 17:26
I fish the Raptor offshore and it's a great platform! Last October I found myself surrounded sharks and brought a 7.5 ft+ Bull shark to the kayak on video. The kayak never felt unstable. I never thought a relatively short design (compared to traditional offshore kayaks) could be so suited to this type of fishing but it is!

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