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Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 Review

A super solid and stable all-around kayak great for any age or ability level at a modestly affordable price
Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5
Credit: Ocean Kayak
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $750 List | $749.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Extremely stable, great tracking, very durable, comfortable, stackable
Cons:  Heavy to carry, no internal dry storage
Manufacturer:   Ocean Kayak
By Sara James & Dan Kramer  ⋅  Sep 9, 2022
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 11
  • Glide and Tracking - 30% 8.0
  • Maneuverability - 20% 7.0
  • Stability - 20% 8.0
  • Comfort - 10% 6.0
  • Construction Quality - 10% 8.0
  • Portability - 10% 4.0

Our Verdict

The Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 stands out for its blend of performance, versatility, and affordability. The stability and sit-on-top style of this kayak makes it suitable for all ages and sizes. It is incredibly easy to get in and out of on the shore or even from the water. In addition, users do not feel constricted like they might be sitting in many of the sit-inside kayak designs. It is one of the easiest to paddle, and it tracks and glides superbly while maintaining more maneuverability than other popular kayaks at this length. All this comes at a mid-range price, making this a popular choice for paddlers everywhere. And at such a great price point, it is also very easy on your wallet, making it an easy choice for our Best Buy Award for a sit-on-top kayak.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award   Best Buy Award  
Price $750 List
$749.99 at Amazon
$430 List
Check Price at REI
$789 List
$789.00 at Amazon
$600 List
$479.99 at Amazon
$320 List
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Pros Extremely stable, great tracking, very durable, comfortable, stackableVery lightweight, easy to paddle, comes with paddle, inexpensive as they comeGreat tracking and glide, sheds waves easily, durable, fast and stable, great for any age or experienceVery large cockpit, stable, easy-to-adjust seat, includes storage compartmentVery light and portable, maneuvers well, stable, inexpensive, large open cockpit
Cons Heavy to carry, no internal dry storageThin plastic, harder to drain, not enough leg room for tall paddlersStern storage well doesn’t drain, heavy and burdensome to transport, deck plate cockpit console sticksSluggish, difficult to load, drink holder is far away from seat, no cover for storageNo seat cushions, hard to reach and adjust foot braces, not a lot of weight capacity
Bottom Line A super solid and stable all-around kayak great for any age or ability level at a modestly affordable priceThis highly economical package will get you on the water having fun in calm waters, without breaking your bank to buy or breaking your back to carryThis kayak is an outstanding choice for any day on the water but it truly excels on long touring days, especially in heavier wind and wavesA comfortable and stable kayak ideal for casual days paddling on calm water that comes at a reasonable priceThis is a dependable option for beginner paddlers who aren't ready to invest in a high-performance boat
Rating Categories Ocean Kayak Malibu... Pelican Brume 100XP Perception Tribe 11.5 Old Town Vapor 10 Sun Dolphin Aruba 10
Glide and Tracking (30%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
Maneuverability (20%)
7.0
9.0
6.0
6.0
9.0
Stability (20%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Comfort (10%)
6.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
4.0
Construction Quality (10%)
8.0
4.0
8.0
8.0
4.0
Portability (10%)
4.0
8.0
6.0
7.0
8.0
Specs Ocean Kayak Malibu... Pelican Brume 100XP Perception Tribe 11.5 Old Town Vapor 10 Sun Dolphin Aruba 10
Length 11'-5" 10'-0" 11'-5" 10'-0" 10'-0"
Width 32" 28" 30.3" 28.5" 30"
Weight 59 lbs 40 lbs 52 lbs 47 lbs 40 lbs
Height 12" 14" 16" 16.8" 13"
Weight Capacity 360 lbs 275 lbs 350 lbs 325 lbs 250 lbs
Material/Construction Singler layer polyethylene RAM-X Premium polyethylene plastic UV, impact and abrasion resistant, high-density rotomolded polyethylene Single Layer Polyethylene UV-stabilized Fortiflex High Density Polyethylene
Features Tri-form hull with an integral keel and sponsons, AirGo molded in seat and seat pad with adjustable AirComfort backrest, molded-in foot wells and calf rest, paddle holders, side/stern/bow carrying handles, molded-in oversized bow and stern tank wells with bungees, Splash resistent QuickStash dry hatch, 2 molded in fishing rod holders, 3 water bottle holder, replaceable skid plate. 2-piece Poseidon paddle, paddle tie-down, Twin-arched multi-chine hull with drain plug, cockpit table with a bungee cord, bottle holder, Molded footrests, knee pads and an adjustable ERGOLOUNGE padded backrest with ERGOFORM seat cushion. Lightweight EVA foam seat pad and contoured, padded seat back with hieght-adjustable backrest, molded-in footbraces, molded-in bow and stern well with bungees, replaceable stern skid plate, 6" cockpit hatch with cat bag liner, 3 drink holders, molded-in side handles and soft touch bow and stern carrying handles. Adjustable Comfort Flex seat, Glide Track foot brace system ,Stern day well, Molded-in cockpit tray with cup holder, Molded-in paddle rest, Built in carry handles, Thigh pads, Drain plug, Skid plate Adjustable padded backrest, rear gear compartment with bungee shock cord, adjustable foot braces, water bottle storage, carrying handles, paddle holder, padded thigh braces.

Our Analysis and Test Results

Ocean Kayak brought sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks to the masses, and they still know how to make an affordable, durable, and playful kayak that suits all levels of kayakers. The Malibu 11.5 is an 11-foot, 5-inch, sit-on top-kayak with self-bailing drain holes. It has a tri-form hull and is 32 inches wide.

Performance Comparison


Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 kayak - ocean kayaks was one of the original brands to bring sit-on-top...
Ocean Kayaks was one of the original brands to bring sit-on-top (SOT) kayaks to the masses, and they still know how to make an affordable, durable, and playful kayak that suits all levels of kayakers.
Credit: Sara James

Glide and Tracking


At first glance, the Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 may come off looking a bit bulky and sluggish. At a little over 11 feet, 5 inches long, and weighing in at around 59 pounds, the Malibu 11.5 does resemble a large plastic barge at times. It's not until you sit in the cockpit and push off from shore that you start to feel the incredible stability and smoothness in this kayak's tracking and glide. The overall length combined with the long keel and pontoon-style tri-form hull keeps this boat extremely stable while gliding fast and straight across the water in even the windiest and waviest conditions.


The weight of this vessel does come with its share of advantages and disadvantages when it comes to glide. On one hand, its 59 pounds helps to hold its heading and tracking better than a lighter boat. On the other hand, the heavier weight causes you to work a bit harder to get it up to speed and gliding than with a lighter boat in the same conditions. Overall though, this boat offers decent tracking and glide.

Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 kayak - nothing like a smooth, glassy water days to get the most out of your...
Nothing like a smooth, glassy water days to get the most out of your kayak's glide.
Credit: Tracy Viegener

Maneuverability


Normally, boats with these behemoth dimensions don't maneuver very well, but thanks to the tri-form hull, it is not that bad. Even though it has a very long pontoon-style hull and pronounced keel that would typically make turning harder, this kayak maneuvers surprisingly well considering its size.


It's not until you lean the Malibu 11.5 over onto its side using the hull's secondary stability that you really notice how balanced and competently it holds an edge. This helps it turn much more easily than other boats its size. This maneuverability works well in any condition, from fishing on a nice calm pond to kayak surfing on ocean waves.

If you were to somehow tip this kayak over, it does take effort to re-flip it, and this is a skill kayakers should practice if they expect to leave sheltered conditions. Once you have got the kayak the correct way around (thanks to the self-bailing holes), as long as you can haul yourself back onto this craft, you can quickly continue on your way. Overall, this is much easier than it would be in a sit-inside kayak.

Stability


The length, width, and low seating position make this an exceptionally stable boat. We were even able to stand up on the deck of this sturdy boat and paddle it around, maneuvering it just like a paddleboard. If kids want to move around on a kayak, play games, load up toys, or generally mess around in a kayak, this is a great option.


As this boat has drain holes carefully positioned in the hull, if you take on water, it will easily drain away and not bother your overall stability and performance.

Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 kayak - the malibu 11.5 is wide and, impressively, stable enough to stand up...
The Malibu 11.5 is wide and, impressively, stable enough to stand up on and paddle it like a SUP.
Credit: Val Viegener

Comfort


The low side walls and open nature of this kayak make it one of the easiest to get into. Once comfortably seated the sheer length, width, and openness of this vessel make you feel like you are on your own floating island. You can lay down lengthwise on this kayak and take a nap without feeling like you’re going to tip over and fall out. Its seat pad and adjustable padded backrest give you a place to brace yourself comfortably when you press your feet into the molded-in foot wells. These newly-designed molded-in foot wells also give you several convenient options for the best foot placement along with calf rests for added leg support.


In addition to the two bow and stern toggle handle grips, two sturdy molded-in handles on either side of the seat give you an added place to brace yourself when getting in and out of the boat. They also give you another option for lifting and carrying the kayak. A conveniently located splash-resistant QuickStash dry hatch between your legs and three molded-in drink holders round out some of the Malibu 11.5 creature comforts.

Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 kayak - the cozy cockpit of the malibu 11.5 has a decent seating system with...
The cozy cockpit of the Malibu 11.5 has a decent seating system with a conveniently located drink holder and QuickStash dry hatch as well as molded-in side handles.
Credit: Dan Kramer

Although the drain holes help keep the kayak drier in the long run, they do allow some water in and you may expect to get your lower body a bit damp when paddling this kayak. As always, when recreating in water, dress appropriately. If you really want to stay dry, consider one of the SOT kayaks with a raised seat.

Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 kayak - the large stern well of the malibu 11.5 comes equipped with scupper...
The large stern well of the Malibu 11.5 comes equipped with scupper holes, a retention bungee, two extra drink holders and carrying handle.
Credit: Dan Kramer

Construction Quality


One good thing about it being a heavier boat is that it suggests the Ocean Kayak manufacturers didn't spare any expense, using thick layers of plastic to create a remarkably rugged and durable vessel.


Everything about the hull design speaks of long-lasting endurance no matter how many rocky shores and sandy beaches it scrapes over. The seat pad, backrest, and adjustment straps all feel solid. The brightly colored tank well retention bungees appear to be tough and reliable. We also felt good about the material and design used in their new water-resistant dry hatch.

Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 kayak - the generous amount of storage space and the boat's high capacity...
The generous amount of storage space and the boat's high capacity weight limit makes the Malibu a great vessel to load up for long day trips or even overnight camping trips.
Credit: Tracy Viegener

Large wells on the bow and stern offer loads of storage space for anything you want to bring along on your adventures, including a kid or a furry friend. These have a durable bungee cord running over them, enabling you to lash down dry bags or other gear relatively easily. When it comes to storage, the Malibu shone.

Portability


What can we say? There are many more boats on the market that are much easier to

transport and carry than this one. The overall weight of this kayak combined with its 11-foot, 5-inch length makes for a challenging wrangle on and off vehicles, to and from water access points, and when portaging around obstacles.


Ocean Kayaks did their best to make up for this by adding two molded-in plastic handles on the starboard and port sides right by the cockpit. There are also the standard handles that you see on most boats at the bow and stern. This combined with the replaceable stern skid plate at least offers up a couple more options for trying to move your kayak around. The Malibu also has two built-in fishing rod holders for trolling on the lake, space for coolers, gear, or the small family dog.

Another feature that we liked and haven't seen on any other boats is the patented YakLock locking bar at the stern. This is a great feature when you are traveling with your boat on your car and want to lock it to the roof. You can also lock it up to a tree, fence, or other boats when you store your boat outside. And if you decide you really like the Malibu 11.5 and want to invest in a couple of them, it's nice to know that they're brilliantly designed to nest on top of one another for efficient storage.

Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 kayak - the ocean kayak line spares no expense in making some of the most...
The Ocean Kayak line spares no expense in making some of the most durable boats on the market that are equipped with very respectable outfitting.
Credit: Dan Kramer

Value


Ocean Kayak's Malibu 11.5 was one of the least expensive boats in the test fleet, but don't let the price fool you into thinking they cut corners or used inferior manufacturing materials. This is a very strong, well-designed, and a fun boat that will make you feel like you got your money's worth the first day you christen her on any body of water. Dollar for dollar, this is one of the best-valued boats on the water, which is probably why you see so many kayak rental companies using them in their fleets.

Conclusion


The Malibu 11.5 is the perfect family-friendly boat for hot summer days. The kayak paddles exceptionally well in all conditions and makes for a great floating island for the kids. Its long hull and loads of storage make for a great long-distance day cruiser and a decent overnight kayak. Ocean Kayaks has improved on their already proven design to offer a new product with lots of upgrades and additions without pricing too many people out of the market. Other than being a bit bulky, the Malibu 11.5 is just about everything you could need in a sit-on-top kayak. This kayak has plenty of storage space, decent outfitting, excellent glide and tracking abilities, and great overall performance. This vessel shows off its versatility and performance, which rivals similar, more expensive boats at a lower cost.

Ocean Kayak Malibu 11.5 kayak - ocean kayak's very durable malibu 11.5 offers an excellent value and...
Ocean Kayak's very durable Malibu 11.5 offers an excellent value and is sure to make for some long-lasting memories.
Credit: Dan Kramer

Sara James & Dan Kramer
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