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Rocker touring Kayak question

Most of my seat time has been spent in long touring style boats with little to no rocker in the hull. I recently bought a Pyrahna Fusion crossover as I am planning on some light river running next year. Over the last few months I have been taking the Fusion out to get used to it and the ability to spin the boat on a dime has got me hooked.
I currently have a WS Tsunami 170, LL Inuit 12.5, Necky Manitou 14 and the Fusion in the fleet. I like all of them for different uses, so I do not want to trade or sell any of them. I am looking at CD Sirocco and WS Zephyr as I have some knowledge of these brands. I am also considering some of the Valley boats based on reputation.
I keep wondering to myself am I just looking at 16+ long boats out of habit (and to keep up with the other people I paddle with) or should I be looking in a different direction.
I am also looking for a boat with a skeg (not a rudder) as I live in Kansas and 30mph winds are pretty normal for me. This will be a boat for open water with the ability to get into rock gardens.


  • Alchemy, Delphin, Reflection
    Faster boat or rock garden boat - I think you should decide. The Zephry and Scirroco are both good all around boats, and a bit faster than what you have in your fleet. So would many of the Valley boats (pretty much all excluding the new Geminis). But none are really great for rock gardening (lack of turning ability - the trade off for that speed). Of course, if you have rocks and you are paddling one of these speedier tourers, nothing wrong with going in to play. But they just are not optimal as rock gardening boats.

    But if rock gardening is a major part of the goal, you may want to choose something a bit shorter. Dagger Alchemy or P&H Delphin are excellent options in plastic, or Sterling Reflection or Valley Gemini SP for composite. The Fusion is also a good rock garden boat, if you don't have to paddle far to the rock gardens. The Alchemy, Delphin, and Fusions are boats of choice of the Neptune's Rangers folks (http://www.neptunesrangers.com/), and Sterling for The Hurricane Riders (http://hurricaneriders.com/).

    All boats mentioned here are skeg boats.
  • What He Said
    -- Last Updated: Nov-25-12 5:42 AM EST --

    I picked up a demo Alchemy last year and have really enjoyed it. If I'da designed it it would be a bit narrower and less boxy but I still like it. Think sea kayak that turns very, very well.

    I had rented a Zephyr and found that it was too similar to my Tempest. I've always been curious about the Pintail with it's reputation as a rough water boat but I never got to paddle one. Discussion on PNet leads me to believe that the Delphin and Alchemy have replaced it; they do the job better with 3 or 4 feet less boat to lug around.

  • I'm not at the same level
    -- Last Updated: Nov-25-12 8:49 AM EST --

    as the other who have posted - at least in the kayaking realm. But personally I found that the Zephyr is significantly more lively and maneuverable than the Tsunami - by a LOT. So for river paddling it is a huge improvement over the Tsunami and boats like the Tsunami. Also, I find that it is reasonably fast and with a touch of skeg it tracks similarly to the Tsunami. So in my opinion for many folks it will meet their needs extremely well. Keep in mind, I'm no expert, not even close. But I do appreciate and enjoy the maneuverability of the Zephyr in moving water.

    EDIT - I see you are talking about open water and I should say that I do a lot of open water paddling as well and the Zephyr does very nicely in rough and close conditions. Whether it is among the best available hulls for salt water rock gardening I have no clue - but I do know several folks that use it for exactly that sort of padding all the time and love it.

  • Zephyr vs. Alchemy
    All said above is good advice, but there is some personal pref. at play. I've got both a Z 155 & Alch. 14S, (& a tempest 165pro as well) like all of them very much. Significantly diff boats IMO. I pref. the Z for most of my "active cond." paddles because it is almost as manuverable as the Dagger, rides the rough water almost as well as the Tempest and I'm just more comfy with the fit. Love the way it surfs in bigger cond. as well. The Delphin was fun as noted, don't much care for the feel of the Valley boats. Personal pref. Try 'em all if you can.

    All thebest, t.george

  • Down to Dagger or WS
    I think I am down to the alchemy and the Zephyr, I am right on the edge size wise between most manufacturers between LV hand HV boats (5'11" 190lbs) so the Zephyrs larger cockpit opening may give it the edge, it looks like I am going to have to try on some boats for a nice snug fit.
  • The Fit
    I got a real bargain on my demo (smaller)Alchemy so I wasn't shy about modifying it to make it fit better. I took out the stiffening hardware and moved the seat back in it. My buddy at about 6'4" and 190 lb paddled it very comfortably.
  • North Shore Aspect RM
    Check the reviews on for this boat.
  • Raven
    You should also consider the New Eddyline Raven. Just released this fall. Getting rave reviews.
  • Just ordered a zephyr 160
    Similar reasoning. I got the 160 as I'm also on that same border, but felt the little extra room would help me with comfort getting into the boat in particular, since I had hip surgery recently. The cockpit size is the same, but the deck height is slightly higher and the extra volume keeps it a bit higher still in the water.

    Take out any padding before you try a boat, BTW. With all the padding in at a dealership, I had trouble getting in easily; with it out, no trouble at all. So building padding back up from zero seems to me to be the way to fit into a boat over time.

    Tried the alchemy (before surgery) and found it thrillingly agile and quick, but a very very tight fit, even with the L size. People here on the Pacific seem to love it for rock gardening for obvious reasons. It's a sweet boat, but not really much lighter than the zephyr from what I can tell.

    We'll see if I made the right choice for my attempt to upgrade my skills in wide open SF Bay and ocean. So far all reviews, including that of a paddling buddy who has the exact same model, suggest that I will.

    I'm nervous about having bought a boat without being able to try the same boat on the water in real conditions. But the opportunity for a deal and the lack of the same model at most dealers made me jump. Not the way I usually buy and not the advice I would give anyone! But then, do we ever take our own advice???? LOL
  • Love my Father-of-Zephyr
    I have an old Dagger Meridian SK, which spawned the Zephyrs. It's 16', flat-bottomed and rockered. It's also quite fast and very quick-turning.

    Without using the skeg, it's a boat that makes you concentrate to paddle straight. An inch of skeg gives enough tracking to behave nicely. It's the only boat where I routinely use some skeg. That said, I love the quick feel of an easy turning boat like this. I've got paddled a Zephyr outdoors, but I think you will like it. The one time I got in one, it was great for rolling in the pool.

    My Murrelet kit should arrive later this week. It should give me a quick-turner in wood.

  • Kansas
    Kansas and rock gardens??? What about this doesn't sound right?
  • Zephyr fan here.....
    -- Last Updated: Nov-30-12 12:12 AM EST --

    ....Yeah. Totally. Someone else mentioned that you should check out the reviews and they are universally good. I gave the boat a low numerical score because I don't believe in the rating system and wanted folks to read my review which is very positive.

    The Z is a great boat and it is a descendant of the Meridian which was a descendant of the Romany. A great bloodline. Think about it. Never paddled a Meridian but have paddled the Romany and I prefer the Z. So do my Romany-owning friends.

    Read all of the reviews and ignore the numerical scores. Consider your weight and overall size. In my opinion the 15.5 is a boat for medium to large paddlers and the 16.0 is for really big boyz and girlz. There is no Z really designed for small paddlers. The 15.5 cockpit feels larger than the cockpit on the Tempest 170. IMO the T and the Z are very different boats for very different purposes.

    For over two years I owned a Z15.5, a Pygmy Arctic Tern and a Tempest 170 Pro. The Z was always my first consideration and probably ended up as the boat I put on the roof of my car. I think that makes it a go-to boat, right?


  • I agree
    even the 15 Z will fit a big paddler. I am 5'10 240 and I fit in the 15 just fine - but the boat volume is not sufficient so I bought the 16.0 and it is extremely comfortable.
  • Nice Blog Jon!
    Enjoyed reading it.
  • I travel year round for work
    and only get home 1 weekend a month. Seasonal construction, so I see a lot of different water.
  • OK, need some advice
    After one false start (used Zephyr arrived damaged), I ended up locating a new Zephyr 160 at a good price. But before taking posession of a new kayak I had never paddled, I was able to get a demo to try out. Good idea, because the demo didn't make me very happy!

    I tried it in flat water - no wind, no tide. The boat felt tippy the whole time, no matter how I adjusted my position and the fittings. I felt that I could muscle the boat around if needed, but that seemed like wasted energy. It never inspired confidence in me.

    Though I'm used to a 10' rec kayak, I have paddled several sea kayaks in this size before. A few felt tippy, but many felt more stable and did inspire confidence in paddling. Some were outright fun to paddle, in fact.

    What I felt in that demo Zephyr does not at all match what the reviews keep saying about the boat.

    What went wrong here? Any words of wisdom?
  • Depends on what you're used to...
    ...a Z160,(big on me @ 155#'s), was my first kayak and it took me a bit before I could not feel tippy in it, couldn't even sit in it without tipping over at first. It was good to me though, I learned to roll, edge, brace, surf ect. with it. The initial stability can feel tender especially if you're used to boats with high I.S., though the secondary was very predictable for me from the get. The Z spoiled me for a feel that is a bit loose with a quickly firming secondary,(kind of the WS feel). My fleet now contains a tempest 165pro, zephyr 155 & alchemy 14S,(incidently the z160 now resides with a friend that thought it was really tippy when he first paddled it, but with a bit more skill & learning to edge it's a favorite of his now). Without doubt and with less effort, the tempest is faster & the alchemy is quicker. In spite of this I regularly tour, surf & rock garden in the Z. It responds well and is very agile when put on side, not quick at all for flat spins though. You might want to look for a Z155 if you're under 200#s, or if the alchemy did what you want it's a good boat as well. Might give the Delphin 155 a look or maybe a North Shore Aspect if you liked the alchemy but need more room.

    YMMV, t.george
  • 10 ft vs. 16 ft - HUGE difference
    If you are used to paddling a 10 footer, when you sit in a 16 footer that long boat will feel unresponsive and hard to turn and heavy. And it is! But, it is not meant to turn on a dime like the short boats, even the "well-tracking" recreational 10 footers are MUCH more maneuverable than the most maneuverable of 16 footers.

    That said, I fully support what the others say. My first "real" kayak after a short recreational sit on top, was a WS Tsunami 145 - that thing felt tippy for the first few minutes. Then after a few weeks it was rock solid. Similarly, after I moved on from it to a 22" soft-chined (but still very stable, I now realized) 17 footer, I cursed myself for buying such an unstable boat - after a few months it was perfect for me.

    I've owned the Zephyr 15.5 for a while and have paddle the 160 and the Tempests. Any of them is fine for a first-time paddler who wants to progress - very quickly that paddler will be comfortable in them. The alternative is to take a transitional boat like the Tsunami, then sell it after a few months like I did. Or stay with it if that's where your limit is - depends on the person.

    I now own the P&H Delphin 155. It has more solid initial stability than the Tempests and the secondary is probably similar. So it is more beginner-friendly from that prospective. And is also more maneuverable, so it is also easier to turn. I prefer that in moving water over the Tempests, but for flat water or textured water touring the Tempests are nicer.

    I had a chance to paddle an F1, the skin on frame that is touted by some as a great playful boat based on the Mariner. Guess what - it felt like it tracked on rails compared to my P&H Delphin, despite the Delphin being about a foot longer in the water.

    So, you really need to have some experience in different boats to appreciate why they are designed the way they are and which kind of boat fits your needs best. Then you need to find one of that kind that fits you well... And be ready to sell it once your skills/tastes change ;)
  • New P&H Hammer
    P&h is coming out with a new model called the Hammer. It looks awesome!
  • Being on edge
    -- Last Updated: Dec-20-12 9:46 AM EST --

    The Zephyr does not need to be muscled around unless the paddler fails to put it on edge. That sentence alone says the issue was about your unwillingness to go on edge rather than the boat. Even if you are undersized for the Zephyr you had, once you haul your butt into the bilge to get it on edge the sense of having to muscle it around turns should diminish.

    It is possible that the sea kayaks you have tried before included some number that were heavy duty trackers and/or big on you. If you are not comfortable on edge, and/or do not understand how a boat works that way, you would interpret the boat going over onto its edge as "tippiness" rather than understanding it is just settling onto a second quite stable point.

    A more maneuverable boat may drop onto its edge more readily than a heavy duty tracker, for reasons ranging from the conditions to the paddler's own technique (or lack thereof). Remember that you are likely moving around and doing corrections more in a boat that is quite maneuverable - all of that will cause a reaction in the hull.

    This is a normal issue for people coming from wide bargey boats into sea kayaks, especially one that likes to turn like the Zephyr. It just takes time, and often work on paddling strokes, to get around it.

  • Well maybe
    Without being defensive, I'm not totally inexperienced with larger, narrower boats.

    The Zephyr did indeed edge well. Almost too well, and maybe that was the problem that you describe. I didn't have to muscle it to turn at all, just to stay straight, and there was NO wind or tide I was pushing against in that instance (closed canal system).

    I was fully prepared for the initial stability to feel very different and tippy by comparison to my own boat. That wasn't what bothered me. What got me uncomfortable was the inescapable feeling that I couldn't keep the boat upright easily in the easiest conditions you can imagine. I didn't feel that I could take my hands off my paddle for a second to adjust anything, pull off gloves, take a picture or anything else one should be able to do. That is simply a highly discomfiting situation and didn't inspire confidence that it would change.

    I'm on the borderline for 155 vs. 160 in the Zephyrs at 5'11" and 190 pounds. I can't use a really tight cockpit, as I'm recovering from hip surgery and getting in becomes a problem, so the 160, given long legs, hip comfort and shoe size seemed the logical choice, as the 155 (tested only on the ground for entry) felt too confining, while the 160 did not. When I adjusted all the fittings I got more control in the 160, but it never felt like enough. BTW, I don't like being shoehorned in for any length of time.

    My prior brief tests on water of larger boats include: Alchemy 14L (delightful, quick and sufficiently stable, but very tight fit); Delsyk Nifty 430 (overall very comfortable and confidence inspiring, and stayed that way for 6 hours during lessons); 2 different Eddylines (all beautiful but tippier than I'd ever like); Looksha (felt like a barge, though stable); some others I cannot remember. They're all pretty much the same width at beam, though the Alchemy & Delsyk are only 14' long.

    So I'm not fully convinced that it's simply that I'm unused to the larger, narrower boats.
  • Sense of head room
    Some boat and paddler combinations are so "on" that the paddler immediately gets a sense of the head room the boat provides in terms of staying upright and can relax, some are less so. The Alchemy is like the NDSK Romany in that regard, just about anyone can get into it and feel comfortable and relaxed. I don't know the Delsyk boats, in the Eddylines that can be pretty model-specific.

    You and the Zephyr appear to not be that kind of match, and that may just not be your boat. But it doesn't mean that the boat was going to capsize in a heartbeat. It may mean that you need to spend time in more sea kayaks to expand your flexibility in getting to know a boat.

    I say that from some experience. My short sea kayak is not a boat that was an instant intuitive match, at all. But she was so different from my other boat that I felt it was worth learning to paddle her. I was right about that, and by the second season this became my primary and favorite boat.
  • Try lifting one knee
    -- Last Updated: Dec-23-12 9:59 PM EST --

    A lot of boats with some v in the hull are really hard to keep perfectly level. Even the some of the really stable sea kayaks are this way. All you need to do if lift one knee to calm the boat down. A little edge and the boat is stable on the edge. But with both knees up or both knees down it can be like balancing on a knife edge. Lots of really stable boats are like this. The most recent one I paddled like this was the Valley Gemini SP.

  • That's interesting
    But then, how do you do it when you're paddling actively? Sounds like a neat trick when standing still, though.
  • See this ...
    -- Last Updated: Dec-20-12 9:23 PM EST --


    This is me in the 15.5. Quite manageable if you ask me -;), even though at that time I was still relatively new to white water and you can tell I'm not paddling that well.

    I'm taller than you at 6'4" but similar weight at 185 lb or so. You are right that the boat does feel shaky from side to side. I paddled the 16.0 in the same rapids as you see on the video with the 15.5 and I did not see much difference between the two - the 15.5 was a bit more maneuverable and a bit narrower, which I liked better for these conditions. I also paddled the Tempest 165 in the exact same rapids and that is different too - more stable in terms of initial stability (less wobbly) but less final stability too.

    Try the Delphin or a Cetus MV - you will like these better from what I read. They have solid primary stability and good secondary. Although if you do feel the Zephyr too tippy, I would think you probably need to stick for now with 24" wide boats like the Tsunami 140 or 160 - they are more stable and probably a bigger cockpit for your preferences there (too big for mine).

  • You are clearly
    Handling ocean swells and rapids very well! Beyond my current skills.

  • More info
    Celia, I appreciate what you're saying.

    What bothered me about the Z was that I didn't feel as though I wanted to spend the time to learn the Zephyr better. That was a huge surprise. That side to side sense of instability was what got to me. I realize it doesn't mean that it was actually going to capsize. It was nerve wracking to me and it felt as though I was having to expend too much energy dealing with that, rather than simply going forward.

    As you noted, the Alchemy was an instant hit/fit, and it's unfortunate that it was too tight a fit for me. So was the Delsyk 430(not a commonly available boat), and that wasn't too tight for me. Both are shorter boats (14'), and maybe that's where I need to be right now. I'm more certain that I am probably not ready for a 22" wide boat at this point.

    What "short" boat are you now using that you like so much?

    Could I have just had a bad day? Certainly. Could it be that I'm not the same as I was before surgery? Certainly. I'd posit many possible factors. I'm just going to have to test out more boats on the water after all, it seems. Which will probably mean at least one more water session with a Zephyr, maybe the 155 next time.
  • did you try just relaxing?
    >> It was nerve wracking to me and it felt as though I was having to expend too much energy dealing with that, rather than simply going forward.

    Relax and let your hips swivel. Let the boat and water do their thing, while your torso stays upright.
  • P&H Vela
    Smaller persons boat, 15'8" long, older design. Very short for a full sea kayak in its era. Not a terribly popular boat, never was. But it is a spritely little thing.

    (Sorry, I put this reply in the wrong spot this morning. What happens when you try and do this on a cell phone...)
  • Surprised.
    I have to say I am surprised by the feeling of insecurity you describe in the Zephyr. My experience is almost the exact opposite. I find the Zephyr to be very stable and relaxing to paddle. I'm not sure I completely understand why you have that feeling. The question I think is whether that is a feeling that will go away for you with time in the seat. I think it will, but I suppose one never knows. Just out of curiosity, what kind of paddling have you done in your life and what are your paddling goals looking ahead the next 4-5 years?
  • This is for bartc, yes?
    I think you came in one indent more than you intended.
  • Indent
    Yes. I can't ever seem to get the right indent. Computer challenged.
  • OK
    The assumption I started with was yours: "...whether that is a feeling that will go away ...with time...." But it didn't feel that way at all. I'm sort of in line with the Kayak Academy's recommendations regarding intermediate paddlers choosing a sea kayak, when it comes to that. If you can't feel comfortable on flat water sitting still without holding the paddle, it might not keep you in the seat to want to paddle enough to learn.

    I've been paddling kayaks now continuously for about 2 years. Had paddled canoes, various rowboats, and an occasional kayak many years before that. Past 2 years have included mostly slough paddling in SF Bay Area, but some lessons in sheltered ocean harbor. I am a strong paddler with lower intermediate level experience overall. I can usually keep up with or even lead the longer sea kayaks in the sloughs, but when the wind and tide kick up significantly, then the boat reaches its limits.

    My goals were to learn to roll, learn to handle bay and some light ocean paddling. I would like to try more of that open water paddling as I gain experience, and take short day trips. No desire to do expeditions, kayak camping, heavy ocean crossings, racing, nor whitewater. Not sure about surfing or rock gardening; might try the former with lessons, latter is unlikely.

    So it's pretty basically going up from rec kayaking to some serious stuff, but not gnarly stuff, for day tripping. And I will not get the opportunity to buy up again, so this purchase needs to fit most situations for years to come.
  • Options
    Ever go into a bicycle shop?
    And try an expensive bike. They all have two wheels and many the same gears, yet one or two just feel great. Of course they are always more expensive.

    Human powered craft shows small tiny differences because we are so in touch with it. You have to try boats, literally. Try friends boats and see how things feel for you. Paddlers are never really satisfied simply because the water conditions are always different and each boat does things a little better in each condition. I've been in highly recommended boats that a lot of people like and really didn't like them that much. So, the answer is to have lots of them. Or... just be more acceptive with them.
  • Really different boats
    When I take out a rounded bottom or soft chined boat versus a hard chined boat I have a few minutes of getting used to changing how aggressivly I can edge to boat. Once you get used to a hard chined boat you may like the way it "locks in" while leaned over. I find it comforting to have the secondary stability with a hard chined boat. I have rolled over many more times in soft chined boats (not meaning to) by not having the more defined limit of secondary stability.
    One way I think of it is a rounded hull rolls with your hips, a sharper boat "clicks".
  • similar zephyr disappointment
    When I was looking for new boat this fall I was looking seriously at a zephyr 155 after hearing everyone on here rant and rave about them. I was looking for a sportier touring boat that I could expand my skill set in after deciding that the inukshuk that I had was kinda like driving grandma's mini-van, especially for someone my size (5'8",115lbs). I scoured this site looking for suggestions and advice on which boats I should be looking at in order to compile a sort list, and it looked like the zephyr was going to be the clear choice, until I test paddled it. Don't get me wrong, it does have some great features - like that seat that adjusts every way you could possibly think of. I didn't have a problem with stability at all but I found it very slow and sluggish. I tried quite a few boats that day, some were eliminated as soon as I sat in them (necky eliza), and the short list was quickly reduced to two boats after paddling, the valley avocet rm, and the boreal design baffin p100. Both were quick, playful skeg boats that turned nicely and tracked well even in a cross wind. It was a tough decision between the final two, but I went with the baffin, I liked the seat better in the baffin and it edged really nicely. I would have been very disappointed if I had just gone with what everyone on here was saying and ordered a zephyr from the local outfitters.
  • IMO.....
    .....115 pounds is light for any Zephyr. I feel like the Z's work well for Medium to Large paddlers (15.5) or Large - Xtra Large paddlers (16.0). At 190 pounds I used the 15.5 and the 16.0 felt too big.
  • I think if you have a Zephyr
    that fits you reasonably well feelings of instability go away quickly. In the grand scheme of things in my opinion it is on the stable side of the spectrum. It does take conscious effort to keep it tracking in flat water but with skills that issues is much reduced and just a touch of skeg makes it track like a non-rockered boat. As far as speed, it is important to keep in mind that a boat with a lot of rocker is really much shorter than other boats and so you will lose some speed. There is a compromise being made - maneuverability is gained but tracking (and a touch of speed) is lost. So its all a matter of what you want. My choice may not be yours. But I do think that the Zephyr has high primary and secondary stability and so I think you will get adjusted with time in the seat. Have you paddled other boats to compare? What boats?
  • Too small for the Zephyr at 115 pounds
    -- Last Updated: Dec-22-12 7:11 PM EST --

    It wasn't a problem with the boat, but the match between paddler and boat.

    I am a little curious about your statement that "everyone here" recommended the Zephyr 155 for you. If you provided that weight, there are several regulars here including myself who would have steered you to something like the Avocet LV or similarly really small scaled boat. Granted a given post might be missed, but that is just way far off the usual results.

    That is assuming these correct numbers... is it a typo? 115 pounds would be light for me at 4 inches shorter.

  • kayak rocker
    I like big boats that can maeuver. That means rocker is good. I like the old Eddyline Raven.
  • OK, tried more boats on the water
    Great to paddle on a gorgeous X-mas Eve Day!

    First up was the Zephyr 155. Compared to the 160 that I had found so tippy, this one was more stable and controllable for me. It's a candidate, but would still take getting used to, so not an immediate winner.

    Then tried 2 WS Tempests, the 165 and the 170. The 165 immediately felt more stable than the Zephyr and felt a bit faster, but it was too tight a fit for my legs and feet. The 170 felt that it fit my body the best and felt the best in terms of stability, but didn't want to turn very easily. That's the trade-off that everyone speaks of.

    Tried a Valley Aquanaut (?), but it was so small as to be impossible for me to even get into!

    No Alchemys available, unfortunately, as comparing with that boat, which I recall liking, would have been illustrative.

    All three WS boats had the same seating system. I'm not used to a back band and don't particularly like it as yet, but I realize better boats go that way. Only the T 170 felt high enough to be remotely comfortable. What I felt from all 3, however, was fatigue in my thighs, which I assume is an adjustment issue and not due to the boats themselves.

    There you have it so far. I'm now more convinced that I need significantly more seat time, plus maybe a good edging class, before trying to buy a new sea kayak.
  • The T 165
    Lots and lots of folks move the seat back in the 165 to make getting in and out easier. It might solve your leg/foot comfort issue. Also, an old compressed foam block tucked under your calves or ankles feels great.
  • At 190/5'11" it still might be tight..
    At 185lb at 6'4" with a 36" inseam and large feet, with the seat back on the T165, I actually felt quite comfortable barefoot over a couple of hours active paddling. The T170 is doubtless more comfortable for me, but as mentioned, tracks harder and is more boat to deal with. But my legs are skinny and the main issue with the T165 is the low deck (and it is its a major advantage too). A shorter heavier-set person might have bigger tights and feel less comfy...

    That said, years ago when I was shopping for my first "real" kayak, I felt the T170 was barely the minimum I could fit in. I chose the Tsunamy 145. Both feel rather big now and, while I like certain room for my long legs and large feet, I've gotten to be comfortable in much smaller volume cockpits just as well and tend t prefer them over large and lose fitting ones. I think it just goes with the amount of time spent in boats and what you do with them. So, I would not force someone who is at a point where they prefer "biger" to go "smaller", until they feel they need smaller. I would also suggest buying used at this point, as their tastes are very likely to change in the near future. So, a used T170 would seem like a good choice. Or a Tsunami 160? I think they come with the higher seat supports too but can be "upgraded" to the backbands in the future...
  • Yes, i understand
    I'm 5'11" (down from 6'1", sadly), 190 lb. and size 12 shoe. Also recovering from hip surgery, so not as flexible as I used to be! It was the shoe situation that got to me in the 165. My feet were crammed together uncomfortably and that put my legs also in a bad position. Wasn't fat thighs, I can assure you, nor a fat ass, as I've never had either to brag about.

    Usually I paddle with a Seattle Sport double paddle float partially inflated under my thighs and that works wonders for fit and support. The WS seats all have that thigh lifter adjustment, which I used, but it isn't quite enough for my taste.

    Adjusting those backbands, and in fact, adjusting to a backband at all seems to be a challenge. I'm used to a supportive backrest in my rec boat and I like it. Have lower back problems, so not the best with a low backband, though a higher back band might suit me. Couldn't get a good adjustment on any of the boats except the T 170. That one seemed to be just high enough to be less uncomfortable and barely supportive. Now, all 3 boats have exactly the same seat/backband systems. So I don't know if I finally got one done right or if the back deck height is just that smidge higher as to make it more adjustable to my needs. Wouldn't take more than an inch or two to be noticeably different.

    Yes, you're right. If I could find a decent deal on used, that would be a good way to go. Still need to figure out which one, though. I'm still early in the learning process and have many skills to pick up, plus need to try some surf and open ocean to even get an idea if I'll ever take to that venue. Short of that, I'd put my money on a 14-15' boat with high maneuverability and stability, as I remember the Delsyk 430 and Alchemy L both felt to me.
  • Boat fit for people new to sea kayaks
    I think it is worth saying that my experience with this is that when I started kayaking about 2 years ago all the boats of the same ilk you are considering felt terrible small and uncomfortable and the lack of a high seat back really bothered my back (i too have back problems and poor abdominal fitness). But, two years later, and I am 100% comfortable in my Zephyr. If anything it feels loose. Also, I am completely adjusted to the back band and I can paddle for hours on end in complete comfort. As I gain experience I find that I paddle with almost no pressure from the back band at all. I sit erect and I can do it comfortably. I think my experience is common. What feels tight and uncomfortable now as far as fit will feel loose in a year or two. The feeling that you need a high back seat will disappear and you will feel that a high back is limiting your paddling progress. Just a thought. I wonder if others have had the same experience that I did.
  • Yeah
    I think I paddled and piddled in my Tempest for a year or more with the back band strap broken. I wasn't leaning back against it so there was no hurry to fix it.
  • Yup, I third that
    I like having a backband for various reasons (keeps me in the seat when upside-down and in lumpy conditions, plus I do like having some support to lean my back against to stretch). But I don't use it while I'm paddling. I too don't touch it much if at all while paddling. I suppose, I like very little support under my thighs, which allows me to have a more straight-up position. With lots of support under my legs, I tend to slouch, thus relying more on back support. But fit is individual and depends on conditions (and conditioning, initially it is tough without it and it does take quite a seat time to get comfy with little or no support). I suppose a nice supportive back system is nice to have on long days ...
  • Alchemy vs. Zephyr
    Any experience with both that you can share? Why would you pick one over the other?
  • Think different sports cars.
    Let me start by saying I am not an expert surf/ocean guy in any way. I paddled the Zephyr 155 and Alchemy S back to back and this is my take on them. The Z is straight line faster, better in rough or active water than the Alchemy. The Alchemy seems more forgiving when edged over and you catch a boil or wave when on edge, and turns a little faster in moving water. The Z wants to go over steep water, the Alchemy will plow in a little.
    I think the Alchemy is a better boat for a newer paddler as it seems to have a little better primary stability, but secondary stability is not as defined as the Z has.

    Having said that I have ordered a Z now and am going to order an Alchemy S once the tax situation gets squared away and winter pricing is still in effect. Both good boats for different uses. Try to paddle them back to back.
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