Are Composite always Faster than Polys?

Looking yet again for a new kayak… Have it narrowed down to a CD Kestrel 160 composite or a WS Tsunami 145, both on craigslist used. I was wondering which one would be faster paddling at a regular rate… (Looking to tour Lakes by large paddler 250lbs…) Wondering if composite is always the right choice.

But that’s because the variables are almost infinite. In the end the paddler is the most important aspect of boat speed. Design and conditions are right behind.

Boats of similar waterlines and paddlers that are composite are probably faster.

To the question
Which of the two boats mentioned would be fastest? Without having paddled either boat, one would expect that the longer boat might have the advantage, but not necessarily. I would be more concerned about a whole lot of other aspects of each boat; such as the quality of build, the fit, condition, price and how it actually feels and handles. The actual cruising speed and effort to attain it probably isn’t very different between the two boats.

If worried about speed
You need to put your own body in the boat and paddle it on the water.

It’s likely at your experience level you are not going to notice much difference. When there are the same plastic and composite models to compare if lighter, the composite model will accelerate quicker, and feel like they respond quicker to paddle strokes, but you need to have a fair amount of experience before you will feel the difference. Also the composite model may have sharper angles in the hull design that will influence handling. If you can’t see or feel the difference don’t spend money on the more expensive boat.


– Last Updated: Jun-08-14 1:15 PM EST –

I wrote this prior. In a school program with poly boats both across, up and down current, I would lag behind paddling a Kevlar round bottom Solstice Titan ( see reviews) from my loading schedule. The Titan needs ballast, I carry weight.

Surprise ! I pulled up on the polys without effort, I'm 68, the poly's were 30's and under. Flabby but under.

Composite hulls are more complex, refinements apparently giving more speed. The Titan is mil spec fighter jet/Mulsanne design lines where poly's are more fuel tank.

Phillip AK needs mention. Access 'West Coast Paddler' and look for Phil's video's in Trips. AK paddles a video poly.

AK's strength and expertise overcomes a poly's shortcoamings while beefing up the strong points. I'm weak n need help but if I land on the rocks n crack the composite, how will I repair it miles from 'civilization' ?

The major mistake is buying rocker when you don't need rocker to paddle from A to B. Paddling is done mainly in a strait line with exception coming up turning into the wind in rough seas where rocker helps spin the hull around on wave tops.

Cyclists make the same mistake buying frames to go around stumps when the route is straight 9 of 10.

I agree with Radiomix
It is the paddler.

If you put two equal paddlers in a race. One in poly and the other in the same boat but composite. The composite boat will win hands down, but put a better paddler in the poly boat and he could easily win.

Yesterday, in a race I came in second to a good friend who was in his poly yak while I was in my composite QCC-700.

Jack L

Tsunami 145
Just so your aware the Tsunami 145 is for bigger paddler to the Tsunami 140. There even number kayaks as smaller yet still quite large. I had a Tsunami 140 and it was still quite loose in it with a half inch of padding. Iam 5’8" about 170 pounds. I think of the Tsunami line as SUV’s of kayaks, stable but kinda boring, good to use as a loaner kayak, can put anyone who fits in it and they can paddle it without a problem… No info on the CD as I have never even seen that model but at 16 feet it might be a tad faster. Is the Tsunami the pro version were its fiberglass?

its the gen2 plastic they use in most
Of their boats… i have had the tsunami recommended tme by a number of salesman and happy customers… but for about the same price i can pick up the kestrel… I zn interested in taking a look at the hull design of the 2 boats as mentioned by another poster so i can see if there are any major differences in rocker…

saving time
I save much more time in my plastic Scorpio by running my hull fearlessly up onto sand and rocks for landings. I also save time in the garage by not trying to repair scratched and cracked gelcoat. That’s worth it to me.


Is it the Kestrel in Rochester?

– Last Updated: Jun-08-14 6:39 PM EST –

That's a good price.

I had a Kestrel 140 in TCS. I found the 26" width excessive but the kayak had very impressive glide. It really paddled nicely and I was sad to let go of it. I'm smaller than you so the Kestrel might fit you.

No experience needed
Compare a rotomolded kayak plus a plastic paddle to a composite or thermoformed kayak and a carbon paddle. The difference will be felt immediately: take one stroke with a stiff paddle and stiff kayak and you will feel the kayak leaping forward compared to a softer kayak and paddle.

Speed can also be thought of in terms of effort. Going farther with each stroke, with less effort = less fatigue at the end of the day. For that you need a stiff kayak and stiff paddle.

Try them out
But I’d be fairly confident saying that even at a fairly slow pace under a 250 lb paddler, the composite Kestrel at 16 feet will be more efficient.

yes thats the one

– Last Updated: Jun-08-14 8:21 PM EST –

I'm thinking he might go lower too... hasn't sold it in a month.

Although I just found a third option a Labrador sea by swift for a little less believe it or not. Too many choices!!

Fast and flexible. Thought you posted a question about hull design previously. Speed has more to do with shape and waterline. It’s a subject obsessed about by folk looking at a number of slow options. So it’s kinda mute. Has far more to do with the operator.

Yes composite is slightly more efficient but a poly hull with a better LWL and design for speed will be faster than a composite model with a design less suited for speed.

Why are sea paddlers sooo focused on speed??? Comparing slow options where real differences are minor at best. Gear a legit fast hull and get strong.

Swift Labrador Sea
The Swift Labrador Sea would be a nice boat if you are over 200 pounds. While Swift does not make it any more, it is the same design as the QCC 500x.

As far as composite vs plastic, there is a difference, but the speed difference is not great enough to base a kayak purchase upon. If you had the choice between the same model in plastic or composite for the same price, then pick the composite if it suits your needs. The kayak design from one model to another would probably outweigh any speed difference between construction materials.

You might want to ask Salty about
rocker. The right amount and right sort of rocker can give a sea kayak handling advantages that are very much worth a small sacrifice in speed.

Remember that competition rowing shells actually have a significant amount of rocker. And it’s not there so they can turn around.

the easy answer is red
Red is always fastest. Yellow is always almost as fast as red.

No x 2
Take 2 boats same model, composite will accelerate to speed quicker, than the poly, but the top speed will be the same, given a no wind situation. The biggest advantage to a composite is, car topping solo, and putting it on your shoulder to get to launch site. Tim

they arent the same
One of the main advantages to composite boats is the design. Sharper edges, stiffer unsupported sections and different lines. Even the models that come in both are different. But yeah, point taken, they would generally be the same speed.

fast poly
The Prijon Barracuda in high density thermo was a pretty fast boat.