Legendry Aussie made Sea Kayaks

The Original Sea Leopard Sea Kayak


The Sea Leopard seakayak

The Original Sea Leopard Sea kayak
For photos of the Origonal
Its different, its fast, its so stable, its sleek, it turns well, it doesnt leak, it handles extreme conditions exceptionably well, it looks fantastic, it tracks exceptionably well in surf, it carries a large capacity load(203.5 lt), what more can I say.
I say New, but actually its an older seakayak design,(designed by Adrian Dean of Tasmania and named after his liking of the sea leopard seal, when stretched out in attacking prey they are very sleek and fast), just never been produced commercially, till now. I have to question, why it has never been so, as a lot of people have so far test paddled the first Leopard produced by Rafta and have all had exceptional comments as to the merits of the seaKayak and have shown interest already in owning one.
Of course anyone who is into kayaking and has searched around or been about kayaks much will have heard of the legendary Laurie Ford of Tasmania, who has had various Leopards spanning some 25 years or more and has aptly put the Sea Leopard to the most arduous testing over time and in all sorts of conditions, is hooked on the seakayak and was lookng at a new Leopard to replace his now ageing boat.
A few alterations are needed to the mold, especially a slight widenning of the cockpit,( to fit us older wider type people) and an addition of a day hatch is under way, as an option.
For those who dont know the boat ;
  • Dimensions 5820mm          Width 540mm
  • Maximum depth of front hatch 270mm           Maximum depth of back hatch 160mm
  • Capacities, front 91.5 lt, rear 112 lt, total = 203.5 lt, more than most sea kayaks yet decieving looking at it. (New Look Sea Leopard 220lt+) 
  • Front hatch 250mm internal diam .               Rear hatch 295 mm internal diam.
  • Deck lines 6mm and used to carry boat         Mast step22mm
  • Electric bilge pump, Rule 360,                           Map lines
  • Plastic rudder peddles                                Plastic rudder 
  • Vinyl/rubber backed hatch covers, as they never come off even in extreme conditions.(tested for 20 years by L. Ford )
  • Options: -Day hatch, sail, sail cleats, sail cover tube, Rear deck storage lines


Sea Leopard advantages

The main advantage of the Sea Leopard above other sea kayaks is the low decks both front and rear. The rear deck sits only 110 mm above the water and this contributes enormously to being able to steer the boat in extreme conditions.

  • Being easier to turn in all conditions assists those paddlers who are weaker or less experienced.

Multi chined hull assists in turning and contributes to enormous stability for a fast narrow boat.

  • They are easy to turn both under sail and running down waves.
  • The chines make the boat very strong with virtually no hull movement or distortion.
  • The boat is narrow with a maximum width of 540mm, which makes it a very fast boat. It is however very unique as it is more stable than most boats that are significantly wider. This is because of the hard chine construction, low deck and low sitting position.
  • The Sea Leopard Eskimo rolls easily, and still maintains excellent stability.
  • Low rear deck also makes it significantly easier if you have to climb onto the boat for re-entry and can be done easily with or without additional gear in the hull.
  • It is also a boat that is equally versatile as a day expedition boat or for long expeditions.
  • A fully setup Sea Leopard for expedition with sail tube, pump, 8mm continuous deck lines, mast step etc. it weighs between 24 and 26 kgs and this includes additional strength in the hull.
  • A lot of people like the look of the boat as it is unique and when one gets up close details like the pump battery is in its own housing and incorporated into the rear bulk head behind the seat makes this very neat and practical. A lot of thought has gone into where fittings are placed and the type of fitting and this has come about with thought and significant paddling experience in extreme conditions



  • The Sea Leopard is my favorite sea kayak. But I know it does not suit everybody. It has a small cockpit, which I love, as you really feel locked into the kayak.

The back deck is low and great for rolling. The kayak is extremely stable, and I always put beginners in it for their first few trips.

Taken from Laurie Fords’ web site.


NEW SEA LEOPARD : Review  By Peter Treby, former VSKC president
Club member Bob Mitchell has made a number of improvements to the Sea Leopard, the Adrian Dean designed sea kayak which has long been a favourite of Tasmanian paddler Laurie Ford  ( http://members.iinet.net.au/~lford1/ ).
The Sea Leopard is a very distinctive design. It is a hard chined design, with a high deadrise, or deep V hull cross-section. It has a small cockpit, something which goes against the fashion in sea kayaks, but which is very seaworthy. It has low decks, particularly the back deck, which makes for an easy layback when rolling. It has a small fixed skeg which runs for around the last half metre to the stern. The stern finishes in a small triangular transom. The bow has a long rake and overhang, and low volume.
Bob has made a number of useful modifications and improvements. The mast step is now housed in an under-deck cone, avoiding any issues with foot entrapment with the full height aluminium tube of the demo model. A great innovation is the fore-deck glove box, accessed by a small hand sized Kajaksport rubber cover. This would be great for cameras, charts, food, water and the like, and is in addition to a day hatch behind the cockpit, which is suitable for larger items needing to be accessed while on the water. The day hatch is covered by a larger round Kajaksport cover. The main hatches are covered by light sewn marine vinyl covers with a glued on rubber backing, sealed by a double thick bungy around a coaming. These remain watertight after a long rolling session.
The seat coaming is enlarged, which with the addition of a back band, makes the boat more comfortable. Like any kayak, after you acquire it, the personalised fitting process begins.
Here are some of the new Sea Leopard’s vital statistics and fittings:
LOA: 5820 mm
Beam: 540 mm
Front and rear compartment storage volumes combined: 203.5 litres
Deck lines: 8 mm diameter
Rule 360 gpm electric bilge pump, with 3+ amp hour battery fitted in the day hatch.

When thinking of buying any any sea kayak, take it for a test paddle for as long as possible, in as rough conditions as you can find and handle. Roll the boat, turn it in all directions, paddle it without rudder, flood the cockpit and paddle it, hit it with a rubber mallet all over, be thorough and punish the boat when you put it through its paces. Check all compartments for leaks. The Sea Leopard comes up looking pretty good after this sort of testing. Put it on your short list.
Peter Treby

Price and options available from Bob Mitchell,
0418366922 or 03 52515922



  • The credentials of the Sea Leopard are impressive and it spans about twenty years. People like Laurie Ford who has owned several Sea Leopards reinforce this. Laurie would be considered one of the more experienced sea kayakers in the world. Laurie paddled his boats both in Tasmania on the mainland and overseas including Japan and his newsletters and trip reports bear witness to his impressive history and skills as a Sea Kayaker. I do a trip each year where I pack for up to 7 to 10 days but like most people, I also want a boat that is stable and fun for most to the year when we are not doing over nighters. This is also a unique feature as most boats are designed to include additional gear and without this weight they are inherently unstable and in most cases impossible to sit on the rear deck for re-entry. 
  •  I have paddled my own boat across Bass Strait and around Tasmania for at least 6 years.

           Phillip Barrett Level 3 instructor Tasmania




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